Music That Inspired Me

Here are ten albums that greatly influenced my taste in music. This list is in chronological order. 

Hot August Night by Neil Diamond, 1972

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This was a live double album recorded on August 24, 1972 at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. I was 13 when this came out. This was the first “adult” music I listened to. I think I was as impressed by the album photos of Neil in his jumpsuit with his long hair as I was by the music! I Am… I Said and Play Me were and still are favorites. Neil is one of the more prolific songwriters of our time, and he taught me the importance of melody and lyrics. I have listened to him off and on over the years, the most recent song of his that caught my attention was Delirious Love in 2005. 

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Sing It Again Rod – Rod Stewart, 1973

The album cover was designed to look like a highball glass. It was a greatest hits album, and I remember playing a lot of the song Mandolin Wind because my father liked it (he played the mandolin as a boy). I had this in vinyl and on eight track tape. Rod Stewart was the first concert my cousin and I ever attended. It didn’t go well. Blue Oyster Cult opened. The lights went out, and the crowd rushed the stage. We were terrified and left. We were clueless at the time, but so were our parents for letting us go in the first place! Sir Roderick’s unique voice and sense of style (Rod the Mod) are noteworthy. I do prefer his earlier rocking music (Every Picture Tells a Story) and was a fan of his music with The Faces. His cheesy disco-like songs (Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?, 1978), in my opinion, were a complete waste of time. 

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Love Gun – Kiss, 1977

The year I graduated from high school this was what I was listening to. I had joined the Kiss Army. I remember long telephone conversations on an old landline telephone party line, discussing this album with a high school friend. I remember my mother telling me it was time to hang up as we giggled and discussed the lyrics of songs like Plaster Caster. Gene Simmons joined the growing list of bass players I admired (Bill Wyman, John Entwistle), if for nothing else than his tongue in cheek audacity. Songs like Christine Sixteen and Love Gun were my favorites on this album. I saw Kiss live in the early 80’s in full makeup, sadly playing to a half-filled War Memorial (Blue Cross Arena). The stage was set up in the middle of the floor with fully half of the arena blacked out with curtains. I don’t know if that was by design or because of lack of ticket sales. They were still awesome. 

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Screaming for Vengeance – Judas Priest, July 17, 1982

Back when MTV used to play actual music videos they ran the video for You’ve Got Another Thing Coming in their regular rotation. That video changed my life and solidified my love of heavy metal music. The intricate dual lead guitar solos of Glenn Tipton and KK Downing and the soaring lead vocals of Rob Halford caught and held my attention. I can’t believe this album came out thirty-eight years ago this year.  My cousin and I saw Priest live a few times, including driving to Erie, Pennsylvania on January 18, 1983 to see them and then driving home afterwards in a blinding snowstorm. I remember following the taillights of a tractor trailer up the Erie run of the NYS Thruway while driving my 1982 Pontiac Firebird. That seems so foolish now, but the show was certainly worth it. I saw Priest again in 2018 at Darien Lake. KK Downing left the band in 2011 to be replaced by Richie Faulkner, and Glenn Tipton had recently retired from touring because of his Parkinson’s disease. Andy Sneap stepped in as second guitarist on the tour. Faulkner is very talented, but it just wasn’t the same. I missed the old Glenn and KK One-Two punch on guitar. Rob at 67 hadn’t lost anything vocally. I don’t know how he does it, but he sounded great as did Ian Hill on bass and Scott Travis on drums. Ian is the only original member continuously in the band from the get-go in 1970. I am thrilled that I got to see them one more time. Priest! Priest! Priest!

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Long After Dark – Tom Petty, November 2, 1982 

This was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ fifth studio album, and the first to feature the late Howie Epstein on bass and high harmonies. I started listening to Tom Petty a couple of years before this album came out, but this album quickly became a favorite of mine. Songs I liked from this one include You Got Lucky (I loved the video), Change of Heart, Straight into Darkness, and A Wasted Life. Classed as Heartland rock, Tom is one of the few artists that we all agree on at my house. There aren’t many artists that my hubby and I will both listen to. We enjoyed him with The Traveling Wilburys, too. Regretfully, Tom is gone now, too, and is one of the few artists I really liked and followed but never got to see play live. Sad. Researching this post made me feel sad and miss him and his talent. 

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Yes – 90125, 1983

I thought the version of Yes that included South African guitarist, singer-songwriter, and producer Trevor Rabin was phenomenal. At Mutt Lange’s suggestion, Rabin was introduced to bass player Chris Squire and drummer Alan White. Most of the music on 90125 has Rabin’s stamp all over it because most of the songs were originally Rabin’s demos. With the return of Tony Kaye on keyboards and Jon Anderson on vocals (because management thought Squire’s and Rabin’s vocals weren’t distinctive enough), the band was complete. Anderson’s voice is classic Yes, but Rabin made that album. He breathed life into the band that it hadn’t had in years. The music was fresh. The songs were more commercial and pop-oriented and less complex, bombastic crap. My opinion of early Yes music is twenty minute songs that sound like self-important garbage. 90125 was a breath of fresh air in their music catalog. My cousin and I saw them live in 1984 touring in support of this album. We saw them in Toronto, Rochester, and Syracuse. 

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Can’t Look Away – Trevor Rabin, 1989

Not everyone will know this album. I certainly do. I got into Trevor’s music when he was with Yes. He’s a very talented musician. He played all of the instruments on his 2012 instrumental solo album except for the drums on one track played by his son. This 1989 solo effort of his quickly became a favorite. I can remember belting out Miss You Now thirty years ago when I was pregnant with my oldest son. When he grew up and put that very same song onto his own MP3 player, it made me smile and wonder if subconsciously he somehow remembered hearing it somewhere before. 😁

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There is Nothing Left to Lose – Foo Fighters, 1999

This album is significant to me because it was the first Foo Fighters album to catch my attention. It’s hard to believe it was released twenty-one years ago. It was seen as a departure for the band in that it showcased a softer sound. Dave Grohl has stated that it was “totally based on melody” and it might be his favorite album that they’ve done. At this point in time Foo Fighters was a three piece band of Grohl on guitar, Taylor Hawkins on drums and Nate Mendel on bass. The album was made in Dave’s basement in a makeshift studio without any record label presence, and it was a relaxed atmosphere. The band felt there really was nothing left to lose. There was no pressure, and they had a good time recording the record. It also won a Grammy for Best Rock Album in 2001. I heard Learn to Fly on the radio and it turned me into a fan. The band was new to me, different and unlike anything else I was listening to at the time. Now all these years later I’ve rediscovered the band. I had hoped to see them on their twenty-fifth anniversary tour this year (I even bought tickets), but that like everything else got canceled. Maybe next year. 

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Echoes from the Underground – Vertical Horizon, 2013

I wanted to include some more recent albums and not just my favorites from the 1980’s. I’m always looking for and downloading new music. I listen to pretty much anything that I can sing along with, although I generally prefer rock and pop. One of the groups I discovered along with my son was Vertical Horizon, an alternative rock group. He prefers their earlier material, but I have stuck with them as they have shifted to a more mellow type of music.  I enjoy the songs and the vocals. Instamatic from Echoes From the Underground is the most played song in my iTunes music library. That particular song featured the late great Neil Peart on drums (the YouTube link below is from the tracking session with Neil on drums). I also like You Never Let Me Down and Broken Over You from this album. Vertical Horizon makes great songs to sing along with. 

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Def Leppard – Def Leppard, 2015

For a band that first caught my eye and ear way back in 1983 when MTV first began playing their video for Photograph, you’d think I’d have posted about them before this. Their 2015 self-titled studio album was their first release in seven years. According to Jie Elliott, it was called Def Leppard “because that’s what it sounds like”. June 27, 2016 was the first time I saw Def Leppard live. They were touring in support of this album, and we saw them in Syracuse at the Lakeview Amphitheater. This album was classic Def Leppard, but it was also different in that it had a little bit of everything on it. Favorite songs here are Dangerous, Let’s Go and We Belong. We Belong is unique in that all five band members take turns singing lead. They have always had great harmonies in their music, and this song showcases their individual voices. They blend well and sing beautifully together because they all have decent voices. I’ve always liked their blend of the two lead guitars and the catchy vocals with Joe singing lead, and the others singing responses throughout the songs. It’s unique for rock bands who often have members who don’t sing or who only sing small, barely discernible snippets on the choruses. Def Leppard lets them all sing, and I’ve always liked that. 

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