Definitive Albums Of My Life

What this is:
Vern called it a list of albums that 'made him a man,' - for me it means a list of albums that define segments of my life. With each album I recall certain memories - good, bad, or otherwise. When I think of these albums I attach memories of a time past. Whether the memories are significant (my first realization that music is great) or insignificant (wasting hours playing video games) these albums are bookmarks, landmarks if you will, in my life. These aren't the best albums, rather they are just markers in my life.

(in reverse chronological order)

21. Roots - Rising Down - when meryl and i first moved into the house that will one day be ours i listened to this album quite a bit on her boombox. i especially remember listening to it while cleaning the house for the first time. it was an interesting time moving into the biggest place i've lived in since i moved out on my own. most of our stuff was still in transition so we didn't have the stereo setup and we just grabbed a few albums to listen to while we moved and made the place ours. it's probably my least favorite album on this list of 21. it's not an especially excellent album (i like tipping point by the roots more, for example), but it's a fine album that marks a unique time in my life so for that reason it's on the list. going forward there are going to be fewer and fewer entries here as it appears as though i've officially transitioned out of the album-era.

20. Amadou Et Mariam - Dimanche A Bamako - This album will always remind me of the time right before my grandfather's death up to the time when I left Davis. It was a strange four months for me. Meryl and I got more serious, poppa died, I quit Tower after four years, and I left Davis after eight. It was the end of an era in a lot of ways, but, to me, the album is much better served as the soundtrack to new beginnings. It's lively, different, and (mostly) upbeat. That said, the first track begins in a minor chord mood as if it is transitioning from sadness to the rest of the album. And what a rest of the album it is. I love the layered production: the interplay of the vocals, amadou's guitar playing, and the rhythm section all work so well together.

19. Beatles - Abbey Road - seems as though this album, like dark side of the moon, holds some significance to everyone...for me this album will forever remind me of my trip across the country. melanie and i played this one more than any other album while we were on the trip. we spent many hours talking about, listening, and singing the lyrics to this album. i was first exposed to it by johnny and vern my freshman year of college. sure, everyone's heard "come together" or "something" in the past, but it wasn't until then that i really experienced the album in its entirety.

18. Soundtrack - Pi - this album shaped my musical tastes more than any other album with the possible exception of the first album i owned, and the first album on this list. i had already been interested in electronic music by this point, but this soundtrack (the only one on this list) really exploded my interest in three of my top four electronic acts (aphex twin, autechre, and orbital) and opened me up to a few others (banco de gaia, david holmes, clint mansell and massive attack). a great collection and very instrumental in my interest in IDM and electronic music.

17. U2 - Joshua Tree - i'll always attribute this goodie to freshman year in college, and more specifically the first quarter thereof. Johnny had about 3 CDs and this was one of them, so that's all we listened to. I hung out in his room most of the time just keeping him company while he did HW. i never did much of that stuff, but then again freshman year wasn't too much of a success either. this was my first real exposure to u2...sad as it is. this was around the same time the whore said she never wanted to talk to me again; it was a fun time for me. i had no friends, except johnny, and i wasn't very motivated, until i was on academic probation for two quarters. around this time i was discovering how great music could be, this cd helped, of course. more than anything, though, this cd and the prodigy cd were just two examples of my branching out more musically. i had always loved beethoven, but my collection was still very focused on hard rock. u2 brought the woose out of me.

16. Prodigy - Music for the Jilted Generation - yet another video game album. this is the greatest rave album ever. this is the greatest video game soundtrack ever. Also a freshman year of college purchase this album reminds me of several things...most revolve around video games. One lonely night vern, jon, and I were listening to the CD while playing Bond on Nintendo 64...I was depressed and thinking about the whore. 3 Kilos came on and they were whistling along...I was pouting. There are good memories too - playing Fifa Soccer 98 to this album has always rocked...playing quake to this album is the ultimate gaming experience. the album rocks and makes me want to drive fast and shoot lots of people. well maybe not the last part.

15. Daft Punk - Homework - My first real techno album. I had Fat of the Land, but that is less technoish than Daft Punk. Introduced to me by the singles 'Da Funk' and 'Around the World,' which I got on MP3 from Jon. I remember buying 'Homework' at tower one night and hoping the rest of the album was as good as the aforementioned singles. It wasn't, but nevertheless it remains a solid album. Certainly not as good as fatboy slim, westbam, orbital, or maybe even propellerheads, but still good. I remember going to sleep while listening to this album. I thought a lot while listening to it - about being in debt, number one. It was freshman year in college and I was in serious debt so I thought about that a lot. Of course buying this album only made the debt worse, but it was well worth it. I equate debt and loneliness with this CD. Loneliness because I also thought about the ex-girlfriend a lot around this time...I would play red alert, listen to the CD on expensive headphones (another symbol of being in debt), and think about how to kill the ruskies (in the game) or how to get over the ex-girlfriend. it was overall a sad time at night. the album is good though.

14. AC/DC - Back In Black - Back in Black has always been a great album - especially when it was first released - back in 19fucking80! talk about not having aged a any rate, I owe this one to Phil also...he had been listening to AC/DC for a while...pretty much all the time for a few months and since I was always over I listened too. I remember listening to this on his new system, with his new HUGE speakers. it rocked and for me pretty much epitomized hard rock...still does. After I got the CD I, like Phil, listened to it over and over for a few weeks until something new came along, but it remains one of the albums that has shaped my musical interest and raised the bar for me. sure van halen and alice in chains are good, but ac/dc's back in black, for me, re-emphasized their dominance in hard rock. i had a girlfriend when i really got into this album...that was a long time ago. i remember coming home and laying on the bed and listening to this CD while pretending to study. that's what i remember most when i think about this junior year in high school. ahhh.

13. 2 PAC - All Eyez On Me - Although released before The Score and although I had heard this album before the Fugees' - I didn't allow myself to like it. 2 PAC, to me, was a thug and a good example of what kind of shitty rap was being released at the time...the kind of rap that made it so hard to like rap in the first place. Of course NWA was always good (not good enough to buy, but still good), but most rap, to me at the time, was shit. 2 PAC was the essence of this shit. I let myself like one song - 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted...and it was downhill from there. Eventually I bought the album. This album, along with Houses of the Holy, I equate most with spending time with Phil. We would bump this album louder than we should have and do things we shouldn't have. I don't regret doing either. This album reminds me of all of those late night outings. note to parental figures: To have sheltered me from this would have been a mistake. When 2 PAC died I didn't give a shit. Of course I hadn't discovered who he really was yet - I hadn't purchased the CD. Later, I finally did. When I did I immediately was attracted to the beat and slowly picked up some of the lyrics. Now I hate that 2 PAC is gone...he'll be more missed, for me, than Kurt Cobain even. Of course his memory lives on. I've cried many times while listening to 2 PAC's thugish it retarded, I really feel 2 PAC through his music...more so than any other artist I listen to. All Eyez on Me is the best Rap album ever. I hope that others are willing to give him a chance like Phil forced me to do. Thanks again Phil.

12. Fugees - The Score - the beastie boys were the first rap i allowed myself to listen to for a long many white boys, the beastie boys were acceptable rap for me. but after the b-boys came the fugees in my history of listening to rap music. yet another Phil story - I was at his house doing something on the computer, of course, and he was going to take a naturally he turned on some music. I didn't know it, but the album was the Fugees' 'The Score' soon as I heard that rapping was coming up I braced myself for some gay music, but i didn't notice the album at all. The only thing I noticed was that whatever was playing was damn good. Finally 'killing me softly' came on and I realized that the album was the same one that was being played everywhere. I asked Phil what it was and later I bought the album. It was pretty much the first real Rap album I ever had gotten. Later I got fu-schnickens, but, although good, they didn't stack up to the Fugees. I was a senior in high school, and I had just discovered the beauty of good Hip-Hop.

11. Led Zeppelin - IV - In yet another BMG shipment I got a few Led Zeppelin CDs because I knew they were classic and I wanted stairway to heaven...sadly I didn't know exactly what song it was...of course I had heard it, but I couldn't put a tune to it at all. Every song on the album rocks, this we know. But for me Led Zeppelin IV has been not so much a marker of a single period, but a reminder of several scenes in my life. First was at camp whittle, Seth and another cabinmate were talking about stairway to heaven and I was interested in getting the CD that it was on...he didn't know, but I remember making a mental note to look it up when I got home. I remember looking at the liner notes one of the first few times I listened to it and thinking "how could singles like black dog and rock and roll reach only #15  and #57 on the U.S. pop charts?" This was the first moment where I realized that in the music industry there is no justice in regard to commercial success. I also remember watching part of some john grisham movie with susan sarandon (the Client, I think) wherein there is a short conversation about the album...I think susan wows the kid with her knowledge of the album, but from what I remember she didn't know anything that any well-bred music-lover shouldn't. I also remember thinking 'if i could listen to only one song for the rest of my life, what would it be?' - stairway to heaven of course. 'if an alien came to earth and asked to hear one song which epitomized rock n' roll, what would it be?' - rock and roll of course. 'does led zeppelin IV have anything to do with my musical tastes becoming what they are?' - of course.

10. Beastie Boys - Ill Communication - Ill Communication up until about 18 months ago was my favorite Beastie Boys's dropped lately, just because I found out how great Paul's Boutique is, but Ill Communication will always remind me of playing Tie Fighter. Like Check Your Head, Ill Communication flows amazingly well and I discovered was a great soundtrack to Tie Fighter. Everyday for a whole summer I would break out the wingmaster joystick and the B-Boys CD and just waste away hours at a time. It was as fun as it gets. I put the CD on repeat and enjoyed every song on it. I still think of Tie Fighter when listening to IC. More importantly, though, IC showed me how great the beastie boys are. I soon thereafter purchased root down and LTI (licensed to ill)...later came paul's boutique. Because of IC, I became in love with the beastie boys. It wasn't until freshman year of college, incidentally, that the beastie boys finally moved ahead of rage against the machine...even with only 2 albums rage was able to hold on for such a long time.

9. Beastie Boys - Check Your Head - At first I was pretty disappointed by this CD. Of course it had solid tracks like 'so what'cha want' and 'pass the mic', but the instrumentals were weeeak and the other rap tracks didn't have the same gusto. I listened to it once in a while just to give it an extra try and slowly more and more tracks were added to the list of ones I liked. It wasn't until a fishing/camping trip with Phil that I realized how good it was. I had lent the CD to him and he liked it. We listened to it while 'fishing' (although this usually just meant casting and sitting while talking about nonsense). we had what we thought was the most pimp system ever...his broke-ass computer speakers hooked up to his clunky, but state of the art for the time, portable CD player. it worked. while listening i realized that the whole CD flowed and had quirky samples like "professor what's another word for pirate treasure? I think it's booty, booty, that's what it is!" wasn't long before i was listening to this on a regular basis. I thanked Arash for the good recommendation. It led to my buying Ill Communication, which had recently been released.

8. Rage Against the Machine - Self Titled - In my second shipment of CDs I got Rage Against the Machine because Arash had recommended it. I turned on the CD and started to play Fifa Soccer on my computer. I remember being so happy that I finally had a Pentium 90 so I could play games and that's pretty much all I did at the time. Rage quickly became the soundtrack to soccer and up until just last year all I could think of when listening to Rage was playing soccer and Seth. Seth came later. After school was over it was time for another week at camp whittle. I brought some of my favorite CDs with me - Rage being one of them. I remember being so surprised when I heard the end of Killing in the Name "fuck you I won't do what you tell me" - it was surreal. At any rate, Seth liked it just as much and we were in the same room with Louie, Ben, and over packed room...and that's all Seth and I ever wanted to hear. Eventually we listened to other songs too, but track 2 was by far the most fun. dodging counselors who constantly told us to turn it down or watch the language, etc. It rocked. Later I read the lyrics and, naturally, was blown away. I got goose-bumps when reading the lyrics for bullet in the head and know your enemy. Listening to this CD was when I first realized how great music can be. Up to this point it hadn't given me goose-bumps or gotten me as charged. For a very long time this was my favorite CD. It was the first CD I had where every song was a good song.

7. Black Sabbath - Paranoid - One of the greatest albums ever was also in my first shipment of CDs ever. I had just gotten a portable CD player and yet another membership to BMG. I got this CD along with a bunch of others just because I had heard of the bands. I remember hearing paranoid and remembering having heard it before. When I heard Ironman I finally realized where Beavis and Butt-head got their ubiquitous riff from. That first shipment of CDs ushered in the modern era of music for me - the digital age. This album was the best of those in that first shipment of CDs. Because of CDs my desire for music increased greatly. Since then I've acquired over 1500 CDs (a conservative guess). I've sold many, bought them back, and sold them again. Some, like woodstock's greatest hits, are not to be purchased again, others like Green Day's last two I wish I hadn't sold. I never sold paranoid. I think this album was as close to a perfect album as I had at the time...the only track which wasn't perfect was 'planet caravan.' I remember reading the CD liner notes and being really interested in how they went from a small band (Earth) to a huge hit in just a year or two. I remember many moments in my life while listening to the tracks on this CD. lying in bed listening to it reading the liner notes, listening to it on my headphones while lying on the floor, listening to it on a mix tape coming down from camp whittle...i was listening to 'hand of doom' that was the time when i realized that that song rocked major ass and was my favorite on the album.

6. Denis Leary - No Cure For Cancer - This album is a very time specific piece. I was at YMCA summer camp in big bear (Whittle), different from the day camp mentioned above, and was reunited - wouldn't you know it - with Seth my cohort of just a couple years ago. the first track on the CD is "asshole." this is relevant because it had everyone in the cabin chanting "A-S-S, H-O-L-E!"...a counselor's nightmare I now realize, but inspiration for endless ranting at the time. after the first song denis leary goes off on a tirade about drugs, smoking, meat, death, etc. it was the funniest thing i had ever heard. hours of laughing came from this CD - two years in a row it was a camp hit. I never heard the CD outside of camp...I didn't purchase it until just a couple weeks ago...the album reminds me of my first camping experiences at whittle...the friends...the rock back riding...everything great about whittle. although the album is funny, it's not the funniest i own, but it evokes some of the best memories of all my's a must for this list.

5. Rolling Stones - Hot Rocks - Around 12 my dad saw that I was getting into music. He was also buying up a storm - purchasing every tape in sight. Hot Rocks was one of these. I ended up borrowing it and listened to it every night for a few months. At first I only liked side one...can't get no satisfaction, time is on my side, 19th nervous breakdown, get off my cloud, etc. later the second side grew on me too. this album was, at the time, my second favorite, next to appetite for destruction. and even though i like all the other albums above more than this one now, it will always have a special place in my heart. vern ended up giving me the CD - what a nice guy. i remember i never ended up giving my dad the tape back because it got ripped and i tried fixing it with tape, but it didn't work so I threw it out after it had been sufficiently screwed up. sorry dad.

4. Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy - Sometime in the early 90s CDs started picking up. Of course I was a skeptic and of course Phil was on top of the technology - he was the first person I knew to get a CD player and his first CD was Houses of the Holy. So whenever I went over his house, which was at least every friday from 6th grade to 12th grade, we would listen to this CD. Later we listened to other CDs, naturally, but for the first year or so this was the only CD we listened to. We played Little Nemo on Nintendo and listened to this CD. For a long time this is what Led Zeppelin was to me. I didn't have the album until much later, but that was all the better to define an even more specific portion of my early years. I equate this album with Phil - always have, always will. As I've listened to the album more and more it has grown in my mind. The meaning of the music and lyrics have expanded as I've gotten older and, to me, that's the sign of a great album.

3. Nirvana - Nevermind - I remember the radio playing 'smells like teen spirit', 'lithium', and 'come as you are' over and over...I couldn't get enough. smells like teen spirit was the first single I got. I always equate this album, more than any other, with my days at the YMCA summer camp. The outings, first hearing 2 Live Crew's 'We Want Some Pussy', the city wide treasure hunts, the friends, the girls, the days playing foosball, etc. Nevermind wasn't only a great album it was a great soundtrack to my early teen years, as i'm sure it was for many youth at the time. this album, more than the others above, has stood the test of time.

2. Metallica - Black- I had heard Metallica's best (...and justice for all) and then I heard 'enter sandman' and 'sad but true' on the radio. this album reminds me of Pirate Radio and KNAC 105.5...both deceased radio stations of the LA area. I was 13 and going to YMCA summer camp...when i would get home i'd listen to this or one of the above tapes. For a long time I just listened to the first side and rewound because it was so great. As a result I didn't get as attached to the second side, but both sides are good. Enter sandman was one of the first videos I remember. I'll always remember this album a) because it's great and b) because it was during my teenage years - I was getting in trouble around this time and it was one of the first albums I talked about with other people, namely Phil. Recently I've soured towards Metallica - they've more or less sold out, their music sucks, and the genre is less relevant now.

1. Guns N Roses - Appetite For Destruction - the first tape I ever really listened to. I was 10 or 11 years old and my friend, Ryan, who lived down the street, introduced me to Guns N Roses. I liked it from the very beginning and ever since I've always had a soft spot for the genre. It took a while for me to move on after this album from hard rock to anything but stuff like GNR, Metallica, and AC/DC...eventually I moved on to stuff like the Beastie Boys thanks to another friend, Arash, who also introduced me to Rage Against the Machine in 1993 - to him I'm forever indebted. I would listen to Appetite for Destruction every night for months, memorized all the lyrics, guitar solos, etc. For this reason I might know it better than any other album I have. In that respect, having only one album was very good for me. Now, with so many albums, I hardly ever listen to an album repeatedly.