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I have a Facebook account, and I admit – I love it. I’m not going to sit and here and act like I’m too cool for that kind of thing. It’s been great to reconnect with old friends and be more involved in the lives of current friends, even if it’s only online. Anyway, the one thing about Facebook that I haven’t participated in is the “25 Random Things” craze. If you don’t know about it, it’s a “note” that you post to your Facebook friends, and in it you list 25 facts about yourself. All the cool kids are doing it, but… I’m not one of them, because the random part of the idea seems pretty unproductive. However, a few weeks ago one of my musician friends altered the idea and started a “25 Records That Changed My Life” version. Anyone who reads this blog knows how I feel about the importance of listening to music, and the geek/nerd part of me enjoys listing out influential records. It was a ton of fun to think back over my junior high, high school, college, and recent listening and pinpoint the records that were responsible for the major shifts in my perspectives on music and the drumset. Here’s the list I posted:
1. Pearl Jam, Ten… This record is what showed me that music could be more than just something you listen to.
2. Counting Crows, August and Everything After… This is where I learned that music doesn’t have to “rock” to be cool. Furthermore, I know now that Steve Bowman’s playing on this record is definitely not “normal,” but I didn’t know that when I bought this disc at age 13. So, I repeatedly listened to this album, all the while thinking that the unorthodox drumming I was hearing was just “how it’s supposed to be done.”
3. Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream… Jimmy Chamberlain plays a lot of complex stuff on this album, or at least it was new/interesting to me at the time. For example, his hihat foot is always going, and it’s really hot in the mix, so I learned to do that from this album.
4. Green Day, Dookie… Tre Cool plays a lot of fast fills in these tracks. I sat in the basement practicing them for hours so I could show off to my other drummer friends, and it probably produced some chops that I wouldn’t have otherwise had in junior high.
5. The Posies, Frosting On the Beater… The fills and energy on this record are completely awesome. I was in a band with some older kids in 9th grade, and they introduced me to The Posies.
6. Phish, A Live One… In 10th grade I thought I had “rock drumming” all figured out, and I was getting bored with it. The instrumental complexity of Phish drew me in immediately, and for about two years they were pretty much the only band that existed to me. The “jam” nature of their music put an improvisational tendency in me that has never left.
7. Medeski Martin and Wood, Friday Afternoon in the Universe… This band is the logical next step for someone who liked Phish for their instrumental qualities and not their connection with the drug/hippie culture.
8. The Motion Poets, Standard Of Living… In 11th grade this band came to my high school and did a clinic. This was the first time I had heard/seen a real jazz drummer play jazz. I could not believe my ears/eyes. I bought their album and listened to it 10 times a day for a month, and I tracked down their drummer, JT Bates, and took some lessons from him.
9. Miles Davis, 1964 Complete Concert… My band director realized that I liked jazz but only owned a Motion Poets album, and he told me to buy some Miles Davis. I bought this – a live recording with Tony Williams on drums. Williams remains in my top five favorite drummers list even today.
10. Happy Apple, Blown Shockwaves and Crash Flow… In 12th grade, my new bass player friend, Chris Morrissey, took me to see this avant garde band at the Artist’s Quarter. I again could not believe my eyes, and I again bought this album and listened to it 10 times a day for a month. I also tracked down this drummer, Dave King, and studied jazz with him for my first 3 years in college.
11. Radiohead, OK Computer… Dave King turned me onto a ton of cool records, and this is one of them. I completely missed it when it originally released during my high school years, because I was so wrapped up in jazz. Interestingly, I’ve never really liked this drummer, but I learned from this album that music was about more than just drumming.
12. The Love-Cars, I’m Friends With All-Stars… The Love-Cars were a Minneapolis indie band that King played in. This album, along with OK Computer, helped me to fall back in love with rock, after my long affair with jazz.
13. Bjork, Homogenic… This album showed me how musical electronics/programming can be. Bjork also helped me to see the difference between commercial music and true art – not that the one is mutually exclusive of the other, but there IS a difference. And, her phrasing as a vocalist is unreal.
14. Keith Jarrett, Standards Live… Toward the end of college I became more interested in melodic players than drummers. Keith Jarrett plays the piano with more melody than anyone I’ve ever heard… plus, Jack DeJohnette plays drums with Jarrett, and he’s had a tremendous influence on how I comp behind a soloist.
15. Bill Frisell, Live w/ Kermit Driscoll and Joey Baron… This is another album I listened to in my “not-interested-in-drummers” phase. However, Joey Baron totally rips too, so his playing definitely affected me.
16. Branford Marsalis, Requiem… same as 14 and 15. Jeff Watts on drums. Killing.
17. D’Angelo, Voodoo… Besides the great live drumset hip-hop playing from Questlove, and Neo-Soul just being a really cool sound in general, the heavy lilting on this record is so grooving I can’t even stand it.
18. The Police, Synchronicity… It wasn’t until after college that I discovered this legendary band. Stewart Copeland’s level of energy and creativity is more than one man should be able to produce. This album also helped in my decision that rock music was cool again.
19. Pedro the Lion, Control… This was the first record to really hit me hard lyrically, and the album’s musical interpretation of the lyrical content gave me a new appreciation for the art of crafting a song.
20. Peter Gabriel, Secret World Live… Manu Katche on drums. He totally tears it up, but he also accompanies sequencing and drum loops, and his performance on this record taught me a lot about how to play along with tracks live.
21. Aphex Twin, Come To Daddy… I went through a period (and it hasn’t really ended) of listening to a lot of straight up electronica (drum ‘n bass) records, and this album birthed that. The rhythmic ideas of programmers are especially interesting to me because they aren’t hindered by the physical difficulty of having to actually play their ideas on an instrument.
22. The Wallflowers, Bringing Down The Horse… I had this album in high school but didn’t listen to it much. A rediscovery of it a few years ago prompted my current preoccupation with studio playing. Matt Chamberlain’s time feel is incredible, and his groove/fill vocabulary is both innovative and accessible.
23. Jonny Lang, Turn Around… Michael Bland = solid time feel. I met Michael right around the time this record came out, and I gained some wisdom from conversations with him that really changed my approach to hitting cymbals.
24. John Mayer, Continuum… Steve Jordan demonstrating how to play pop music, serve the song, and still be creative as a drummer. The drum tones on this record are crazy good.
25. Keith Urban, Love Pain and the Whole Crazy Thing… Another record I listen to for time feel and studio inspiration. Chris McHugh is as good as it gets.
I think I’ve come up with a pretty accurate list of records that LITERALLY changed my life. It’s not necessarily a list of albums that I currently think are cool, nor am I just name dropping to make other people think that I’m cool because of the music I like. This is, as far as I can remember, the actual listening progression of my evolution/development as a musician, and without these records I would definitely be a different player than I am now, for better or worse.
Some honorable mentions would be…
– Toad The Wet Sprocket, Dulcinea
– Stone Temple Pilots, Purple
– Rage Against The Machine, Evil Empire
– Led Zeppelin, all
– Bela Fleck, Live Art
– Jellyfish, Spilt Milk
– Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin
– Mile Davis, In A Silent Way
– Owsley, self-titled
– Bob Dylan, Time Out Of Mind
– 12Rods, Lost Time
– both Halloween Alaska records
– Jeff Buckley, Grace
– Brad Mehldau, Trio Vol 3