292: My 10 Life-Changing Albums

Today’s the last day of my Facebook Album Challenge, during which I chose 10 albums, 1 per day, *which made an impact* on me. “Post cover, no explanation,” said the mission statement.

For some of you, that might be a whee little jaunt down memory lane. For an obsessive-compulsive music nerd baby-boomer like myself, it’s torture.

First of all, define your terms. The challenge has been floating around for a while, and it’s been painful for me to watch you lay folks (i.e., normal people with a Real Life) abuse the concept of “Top 10 Albums” so crassly.

You talk about your ten “favorite” albums? That just drives me batty. What the hell is that supposed to mean?

Your ten most loved albums?

Your ten most esteemed albums?

Your ten most listened-to albums?

Your ten most impactful albums?

Those are such different questions.

So as is my wont, I distilled the question down to “most life-changing” for the challenge.
And being the rule-abiding nerd that I am, I made no comments on my postings.
Guess what? I’ve held it in too long. Here comes.

#1 “Meet the Beatles”

For the excitement.

Do I really need to explain that I don’t think this is The Beatles greatest achievement? Or can you figure out that as a 15-year old boy, just like those dumb girls on the screen were screaming outwardly, so I was screaming inside, even as I watched them poker-faced?

128: The Isley Brothers, ‘Twist and Shout’

251: The Maysles Brothers, “The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit”

229: The Beatles: ‘I’ve Just Seen a Face’ (“Rubber Soul” at 50)

053: The Beatles, ‘In My Life’

214: The Beatles, ‘You’re Gonna Lose That Girl’

252: The Beatles, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’

207: The Beatles, ‘Rocky Raccoon’; and Bob Dylan, ‘Frankie Lee and Judas Priest’/’Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’


#2 “Another Side of Bob Dylan”

For opening my eyes.

Eight months and a million light years after the aforementioned, it was Dylan’s third album, the first one that I met in real time. I remember my head exploding, trying to grasp Bob Dylan. Fifty-five years later, I’m still working on it.

248: Bob Dylan, ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere’

190: Bob Dylan, ‘Boots of Spanish Leather’

008: ‘I’ll Keep It With Mine’, Fairport Convention (Bob Dylan)

016: Bob Dylan, ‘Percy’s Song’

176: Chuck Berry, ‘Too Much Monkey Business’ (Bob Dylan, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’)

201: Bob Dylan, ‘All Along the Watchtower’

126: Bob Dylan, ‘Tears of Rage’ (The Basement Tapes)

262: Bob Dylan, ‘Went to See the Gypsy’ (“Another Self-Portrait”)

087: Bob Dylan, ‘Black Diamond Bay’

204: Bob Dylan, ‘Idiot Wind’ (NY Sessions)

164: Bob Dylan, ‘Tangled Up in Blue


#3 The Beach Boys, “Pet Sounds”

For the unfathomable beauty.

I’ve been plumbing the depths of this album since it was released, and never grow tired of it, 52 years. Through the decades, over and over, I’ve listened to all 8 CDs of the bootlegged “Unsurpassed Beach Boys!” studio recordings, listening to how Brian built the tracks pulse by pulse, measure by measure, genius at every stroke. I’ve watched and rewatched all the Pet Sounds documentaries, and read all the books. I’ve listened through atomic earphones to every one of the dozen or so remastered versions, from duophonic to mono to stereo to whatever. That line in “Here Today” where the ukulele and the bass harmonica play in unison? I’ll let you know when I get tired of it.

230: The Beach Boys, ‘Here Today’ (“Pet Sounds” Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 14)

004: The Beach Boys, ‘Kiss Me Baby’

269: Brian Wilson, ‘Sandy’/’Sherri She Needs Me’/’She Says That She Needs Me’

158: Paul Simon, ‘Surfer Girl’

118: Brian Wilson, ‘Surf’s Up’ (“SMiLE”)


#4 Laura Nyro, “Eli & the 13th Confession”

For the holy spirit that filled her.

I fell in love with Laura the day I heard her, and will love her till the day I die.

This album has inspired me throughout my entire life. Still does.

036: Laura Nyro, ‘Sweet Blindness’ (“Eli & the 13th Confession”)

170: Laura Nyro, ‘Luckie’ (“Eli & the 13th Confession”)

202: Laura Nyro, ‘The Confession’

233: Laura Nyro, ‘And When I Die’

270: Laura Nyro, ‘Stoney End’ (Seattle Bootleg, 1971)

154: Laura Nyro, ‘Save the Country’

271: Laura Nyro, ‘Walk on By’ (Bootleg Collection)


#5 Bill Evans, “Live at the Village Vanguard”

For the aesthetic.

So passionate, so restrained.

So subtle, so intelligent, so refined. Rarely a week goes by without me listening to it.

060: The Bill Evans Trio, ‘Gloria’s Step’ from “Live at The Village Vanguard”

096: Bill Evans (solo), ‘Easy To Love’

244: Bill Evans/Miles Davis, ‘On Green Dolphin Street’

124: Bill Evans, ‘Nardis’

209: The Real Group: ‘Monica Vals’ (‘Waltz for Debby’)


#6 “James Taylor” (the Apple album)

For being my friend in the darkest hours.

James’ first album, the obscurity before “Sweet Baby James”. An 18 year old from a patrician family with a heroin addiction and a stay in a loony bin already under his belt. Remember how overwhelming the world was when you were 18? This album is unadulterated existential pain. “Road maps in a well-cracked ceiling.”

205: James Taylor, ‘Something’s Wrong’

112: James Taylor, ‘Yesterday’

056: James Taylor, ‘Secret O’ Life’

132: James Taylor, ‘Enough To Be On Your Way’

291: James Taylor, ‘Valentine’s Day’

136: James Taylor, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel – ‘Wonderful World’

046: James Taylor, “Never Die Young”


#7 The Swingle Singers, “Bach’s Greatest Hits”

For the doors it opened.

Their very first album. I bought it the day it hit arrived at Neumark’s in Swifton, captivated by the cover engraving. I was 14. It was my introduction to J.S. Bach, to vocal jazz, and to genre-busting. Still today the very sound of the album transports me to places long gone and places yet to be discovered.

139: The Swingle Singers, ‘On the 4th of July’ (James Taylor)

161, The Swingle Singers, ‘Sinfonia from Partita No.2 in C Minor’


#8 “The Buddy Holly Story”

For the honesty. And for the cool.

I was only 10 the day the music died. When I was 16, my sophisticated cousin took me to a bohemian bar in Cocoanut Grove, where the singer, one ‘Duane Storey’, performed an acoustic ‘Peggy Sue’. That performance is a centerpiece in the novel I’m currently engrossed in writing, 54 years later. Not to mention that Garcia and Weir and Lesh let me sing with them because I was the only one who knew the words to ‘That’ll Be the Day’.

070: Buddy Holly, ‘That’ll Be the Day’

155: Buddy Holly, ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’

002: Buddy Holly, ‘Learning the Game’

122: George Harrison (The Beatles), ‘You Know What to Do’ b/w Buddy Holly, ‘You’re the One’



#9 Lee Konitz, “Subconscious-Lee”

For proving that ice also burns.

He was brilliant at 17. He was brilliant at 50. And he is still brilliant today at 91. I own over a hundred Lee Konitz recordings. Every one of them contains the sound of surprise.

040: Lennie Tristano Quintet, ‘317 East 32nd’ (Live in Toronto 1952)

027: Lennie Tristano, ‘Wow’

037: Lee Konitz, ‘Alone Together’ (w. Charlie Haden & Brad Mehldau)

134: Lee Konitz, ‘Duende’


#10 Glen Gould, J.S. Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier”

To JSB for bringing order to a chaotic world.

To GG for going all the way.

Anyone can play notes. Gould makes them come alive. He taught me about engagément – in theater, in life.

Bach? I can’t imagine the world without Bach.

005: Glenn Gould, Toccata in Cm (J.S. Bach)

077: J.S. Bach, ‘The Art of The Fugue’ (The Emerson Quartet, ‘Contrapunctus 9’)

113: J.S. Bach, ‘Prelude to Suite #2 for Unaccompanied Cello’ (Casals)