Friday, February 27, 2009

Farrell's 15 (or more) Albums

So Facebook has been urging peeple to make lists of their innermost feelings and thoughts for all to see. Not one of these prospective lists has appealed to me at all; I just haven't felt like showing people I haven't seen since Hanson was relevant that, at 30, I'm as insecure as a 12-year-old girl. (I like to restrict that information to useless blogs.)

Then, a friend gave me the following challenge: Think of 15 (or more) albums that had such a profound effect on me that they changed my life. He wanted me to "dig into my soul", find music that brought me to life when I heard it; music that royally affected me, kicked me in the balls or literally socked me in the gut. When I was done with the list, I was to send it around to people I know and inspire them to devise their own lists. This I could do.

Unfortunately, the "15" number wasn't going to work; there was no way I could limit it to just 15. Still, after abusing my brain for an entire night and early morning, I came up with the following list of recorded greatest, a bit of a walk down Memory Lane with Michael Farrell. Obviously, some albums had to be eliminated, like Huey Lewis & The News' Sport. I received this tape for Christmas when I was five, but these Italian girls down the street used it, broke it and spilled the tape's inards all over the sidewalk along Morgan Parkway, the first street I lived on. If I could've ever listened to the damn thing, had some life-altering experience in kindergarten while listening to "This Is It", it'd be on here, I assure you. Still, I have plenty of backup.

In no particular order, and with a little story or commentary attached to each, here we go:

1. Astral Weeks - Van Morrison
The most beautiful album I've ever heard, and will probably ever hear through the rest of my life. If listening to this during a nap, though, always skip over "Beside You". Van's wailing will wake you up every time.

2. Magical Mystery Tour- The Beatles
Was obsessed with this album as a kid, and not just because of its many clues into the infamous "Paul is Dead" hoax. Loved "I Am the Walrus", and, in an ideal world, would like to exit down the aisle of my wedding to "Flying". Probably not going to happen, though.

3a. Blood on the Tracks - Bob Dylan
Listened to this album over and over again while I wrote Running with Buffalo. Not recommended unless you like to bathe yourself in depression . . . or need to write a novel.

3b. Exile on Main St. - Rolling Stones
Was always firmly in The Beatles camp over the Stones. Then I heard this album, which I consider to be better than any Beatles album except maybe "Abbey Road". If someone held a gun to my head and demanded a verdict, I'd go with this one.

4. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - Wilco
I remember picking up this album at Newbury Comics in Boston. I remember holding it, staring at it, buying it, then becoming obsessed with it. That might be the measure of a memorable album amongst the 800 or so you may (or may not) own. Do you remember the purchase and its immediate aftermath?

5a. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel
In my music department days at WSBU of St. Bonaventure, we had a huge box called "The Shit Bin". In it, we tossed every terrible album sent to us by crappy bands or labels. If there was an absolute opposite of an album tossed in that bin, it was this one. That's why I stole it from the station and it never saw the airwaves. It's still the most inventive album I've ever heard.

5b. Z - My Morning Jacket
If you were born before 1983, you've probably asked your parents once or twice if they used to listen to Led Zeppelin when they were younger. If you're a parent now or are going to be one, get ready: your children are going to ask you if you listened to My Morning Jacket. If you haven't yet, download the songs "Gideon" and "Lay Low" off this album. Now.

6. Whatever & Ever Amen - Ben Folds Five
Simply put, this is the soundtrack to my WSBU radio career. I wore this thing out from '96 to 2000. Also, still gorgeous arrangements from start to finish.

7a. The River - Bruce Springsteen & the E St. Band
So many amazing songs, and so many moods covered. There's a song to score nearly every human emotion somewhere on either Disc 1 or 2.

7b. The Joshua Tree - U2
When my sister bought this tape in '87, I was listening to Heavy D & The Boys. Soon after, I stole her copy and pretended it was mine. Thankfully, I now have my own copies on CD and LP.

7c. Ten - Pearl Jam
When I was 13, I woke up from a nap on my basement couch as Eddie Vedder sang "Alive" on MTV's "Unplugged". Right in the thick of puberty, it was one of the first times I remember being sincerely affected by a song.

7d. Shakespeare, My Butt - The Lowest of the Low
If you grew up in Buffalo, did you have your first beer between the years 1989 and 2002? If so, you've heard this album, and it was the soundtrack to countless hilarious underage weekend catastrophes. No album reminds me more of home than this one, and that includes anything by Molly Hatchett.

8. The Very Best of Otis Redding- Otis Redding
No artist has ever made me want to be in love more than Otis Redding. If you can listen to "Pain In My Heart" or "These Arms of Mine" without feeling similar, I pray for your blackened soul.

9a. London Calling - The Clash
The "Sgt. Pepper" of punk albums includes "Clampdown" and "Hateful", two songs I'd want to play in a musician fantasy camp. Also the album that showed punk bands how to evolve.

9b. Loco Live - The Ramones
If you own nothing from The Ramones, find this live from Spain effort. From "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly" intro and all the way to Joey asking a crowd of Spaniards "Has anybody seen the Stephen King movie Pet Cemetery? Well it's the name of our next tune!", just a time machine back to '92 to '95.

9c. Energy - Operation Ivy
Ordered from the Lookout Records catalogue for $10 in '93, and I still haven't found another like it. Over 25 songs, and every one will make you want to punch something--while smiling.

9d. Maniacal Laughter - The Bouncing Souls
No album reminds me more of drinking canned beer on the way to Showplace Theater in the mid- and late-90s than this. "Quick Check Girl" and "The Ballad of Johnny X" are like portals.

10. Axis: Bold as Love - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Borrowed this tape from a friend in the 8th grade, and the rest is history. "Castles Made of Sand" is possibly the most underrated Hendrix song of all time.

11a. The Beatles (White Album) - The Beatles
Some of my most vivid music memories include raiding my father's record collection, which was full of Beatles LPs, as a kid. This was the one that ascended John Lennon to the top of my heroes list.

11b. Abbey Road - The Beatles
The most complete Beatles record, as well as their most bittersweet. Also, no album reminds me more of Allegany, New York's legendary Burton than this one. Damn you, Burton for getting an Internet juke.

12. Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen & the E St. Band
While listening to "Night", I grabbed note cards and scribbled down the first ideas for the manuscript that became Running with Buffalo, so there you go. Also, "Jungleland" saved Clarence from a terrible cocaine addiction, dammit.

13. The Last Waltz - The Band
If I died and had to come back as a drummer not named Phil Collins (legend), I'd return as Levon Helm, if just for the red beard and chance to play "Caravan" with Van Morrison.

14a. Weezer (Blue Album) - Weezer
Just the right album at the right time for me. Not only is it a tour de force, but every spin takes me back to Blind Melons, a Buffalo club I saw Weezer at in high school. The morning after said performance, I was grounded for stealing the bottle of Black Bush Irish whiskey I took to the show.

14b. Ill Communication - Beastie Boys
In high school, I watched my friend be proofed at Media Play to buy this Parental Advisory-stamped effort. Soon, we all had copies, and were whistling the intros for "Sure Shot" and "Flute Loop", as well as yelling, "If it's gonna be that kinda party, I'm gonna stick my d*ck in the mashed potatoes." Buu-hah!!

15a. In Concert - Jimmy Cliff
In the summer of '99, I interned for NBC and worked as a busboy/waiter at a vegan restaurant in the Alphabet City area of NYC. An Asian bartender who used to bum me Lucky Strikes played this album through the place while he worked. Every time I hear it, I think of that sweaty, poor and transformational summer.

15b. 40 Oz. to Freedom - Sublime
When I look back on the famous rocker deaths of the early and mid-90s--Cobain, Shannon Hoon, etc.--Brad Nowell always makes me the saddest, if only because of this album. His passion and soul is all over this, and I remember being struck by that when I first heard "Badfish", and the covers of "Scarlet Begonias" and "5446", sitting up in an SBU dorm room during Spring Weekend of '97. Beautiful stuff.

Honorable mentions:
Navy Blues - Sloan
The Clash - The Clash
We Were Born In A Flame - Sam Roberts
Led Zeppelin IV - Led Zeppelin
American Beauty - Grateful Dead
Actung, Baby - U2
Legends - Joe Cocker
It Still Moves - My Morning Jacket
Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan
Let's Go - Rancid
If I Should Fall From Grace With God - The Pogues
Doolittle - The Pixies
Big Red Letter Day - Buffalo Tom

All right, blood has started to seep from my ears. Also, I'm sure this list will all be different tomorrow. Hope you enjoyed it, and Godspeed in making your own lists of stuff.