As I’ve been inspired as of late to wax poetically, ad nauseum, about things musical that have tickled me, I’ve decided to highlight my eleven (sorry ten just isn’t enough) “desert island” discs, which I could not live without. These discs were formative in my start and growth as a musician, songwriter and artist, each shaping and honing my voice and vision to where they are now. Listen without prejudice folks, you may find something you connect with yourselves here.
The Who “Tommy’ – The first album I learned note for note as a budding bass player. The album that cemented my reputation as a bass player in high school and John Entwistle’s playing/tone which has informed everything I have done since as a bass player.
Rush “2112” – Rush was the band that made me want to become a professional musician. They wrote the music they wanted to hear and was able to eke out a career for themselves, even when their record company did not believe in their direction. This album was the pivotal release for them as a recording artist and set the foundation for later triumphs such as “Moving Pictures” and “Permanent Waves.” Not a bad track on this album, despite the first side being taken up by one song!
Pink Floyd “Wish You Were Here” – the record that made me want to learn how to play guitar. The broken arpeggio played against the sustained G minor keyboard pad in the earliest minutes of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” was simple and earth shattering. Not to mention the first song I learned in its entirety on guitar: “Wish You Were Here.” David Gilmour’s tone on this album is why my first guitar was a Fender Stratocaster. The guitar which remains my heartfelt favourite to this day.
Led Zeppelin “III” – the often overlooked third album with lots of acoustic guitar and some incredible song writing, this album means a lot to me to this day. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” was the first song where I felt comfortable improvising a solo on bass while the guitar and drums held down the rhythm and it brought the house down! “Tangerine” is a song I play in my live shows to this day. Such a simple song with such beauty…it is just one facet of this complex album.
Mike Keneally “hat.” – Mike Keneally was a member of Frank Zappa’s last touring band, playing guitar and keyboards with equal ease and finesse, all while singing and doing a mean Johnny Cash impersonation. He is also an incredible songwriter and composer, “hat.” is a CD, which showed me that an artist with a definitive vision can create a career for themselves and find their niche audience, given perseverance and a strong belief in their abilities.
Frank Zappa “Hot Rats” – is it jazz? Is it blues? Is Captain Beefheart’s contribution necessary? Who cares? Frank Zappa’s album again shows that music can transcend boundaries imposed by industry types and people wanting to pigeonhole their songs into comfortable boxes. This album is freewheeling disc of musical improvisation played by a group of musicians each at the top of their individual games.
Phish “A Live One” – the summer of 1995 was a formative one for me, as I had moved away from home and was exploring the outer reaches of music, especially live improvisation. Phish showed me that interesting things can happen when four like-minded musicians perform as one and push each other to new heights creatively.
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones “Live Art” – another 1995 summer album prompted by my seeing this band live in a small club and being shown that virtuosic level musicianship means nothing if the shit doesn’t groove and BOY do the Flecktones groove! Thanks Victa, Futch and Bela!
Terry Bozzio, Mick Karn and David Torn “Polytown” – Three iconoclast geniuses, each known for pushing the limits of their instruments walk into a room and improvise an album of ambient music and sonic soundscapes. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, however the ensuing tour proved otherwise, astounding musicians and music fans alike with an evening of mind opening exploration and sheer creativity. This CD is still a touchstone for me and always manages to pick me up when I’m feeling lost and at an impasse. Mick Karn’s fretless bass weaves and slithers throughout Torn’s soundscapes and Bozzio’s hypnotic propulsion and makes me WANT to play my bass even more than ever.
The Residents “Wormwood” – “Wormwood” combined my love of avant-garde composition, performance art and an interest in the parts of the Bible that you rarely got told about in Sunday School. Sometimes the “good book” was actually the “not so good book” indeed! They took this album on the road and produced an incredible live show, depicting the darker tales and parables in the Bible and some of the lives that were destroyed to teach Christians and Jews alike a lesson about disobeying G*d and personal sacrifice.
Oceanship “Oceanship” – I’ve talked about this one before, I’ll talk about it (albeit briefly here) again. A CD of concise, well crafted song writing with incredible production values, making it something equally as inspiring to listen to on headphones as it is on a loud sound system.