Our digital director, Scott Lewis, likes to challenge us with assignments like this one. A few weeks ago, our challenge was to make a list of "7 Songs I Can't Live Without" and that was pretty tough. Now, we have a new challenge.

The challenge is '7 Albums I Can't Live Without.' It's another fun but tough assignment.

Let me make one comment before I show you my list. I can live without any album, artist or song. Having said that, here are 7 albums that I played until they were worn out or changed my taste in music. These are albums that really impacted me and gave me different ears.

Just like my list of artists, this list (with a few exceptions) can change depending on my mood, but as of today, these are my favorites. Now, I know the traditional favorites "Sgt. Pepper's" and "Pet Sounds" aren't on here, but the artists behind those two great albums are represented.

I hope you like them. This list of albums is in no particular order. I intended to include Bob Dylan's 'Highway 61 Revisited' on this list, but due to copyright restrictions, I was not able to include it.

Yes, I know I have strange taste in music.

 

 

 

  • 1

    Time Out

    Dave Brubeck Quartet

    It was late at night and, as usual, I was listening to the radio instead of sleeping. I would wait until my parents were asleep and put my radio next to my ear and listen until I feel asleep. One night in particular, a song caught my attention.

    Keeping in mind that, at that time, with the Top 40 charts consisting of Bobby Vee, Pat Boone and Ricky Nelson, this song stood out like 'Louie, Louie' at a Mozart concert.

    I won't go into all the technical aspects of the fact that the song was in a very unusual time and key signature; suffice to say it was hypnotic to my 10 year old ears. I became a jazz fan right then and there.

    The album, 'Time Out' had been released a full two years before the single was released and when the single hit the airwaves it was revolutionary. From start to finish, the album was a study in everything you couldn't hear on the radio.

    As much as I love other cuts on the album like, 'Blue Rondo a'la Turk' and 'Everybody's Jumpin', the hit from the album is one of those tunes I never get tired of hearing. Special credit goes to Brubeck's sax player, Paul Desmond, who wrote the song and provided that hypnotic melody.

     

  • 2

    Reet Petite

    Jackie Wilson

    What can i say? Jackie Wilson was at the same time, very popular and vastly under rated. There was nothing the man couldn't sing and he put that powerful voice together with amazing showmanship.

    The entire record is a great listen, but 'Reet Petite' is just plain fun to hear.

    Wilson fared much better on the British charts than he did here in America. 'Reet Petite' didn't even chart in the U.S., but in England it went to #6 and stayed on the charts for 14 weeks.

     

  • 3

    Rubber Soul

    The Beatles

    Rubber Soul instead of Sgt. Pepper? Yeah, I have to admit that song by song, I much prefer the former and for several reasons.

    One of the main reasons is that the album is pretty much pure Beatles. The guys had really taken their song writing to a new level at this point and it didn't sound anything like the 'moptops' we all knew and loved.

    Secondly, and I know I'll take some flack for this, I feel that 'Sgt. Pepper' owed as much to George Martin as it did The Beatles. That's not a slap at the group or the producer, but I think The Beatles could not have possibly done 'Sgt. Pepper' without George Martin.

    My favorite track on 'Rubber Soul?' That's an easy one. For my money, 'In My Life' is the best song John Lennon ever wrote.

     

  • 4

    Freak Out

    The Mothers of Invention

    I bought this album because it looked so strange there in the album racks next to The Buckinghams, The Association and even The Doors.

    I had no idea what kind of music I would find on this bizarre (for the time) looking album, but I had to find out to the tune of $4.99. It was five bucks well spent.

    Now, I have to confess that I didn't fully grasp everything on the album. Cuts like 'Return of the Son of the Monster Magnet.' still sound just so much meandering in a studio, but over all, I loved the record.

    I think Pete Johnson, music reviewer of the Los Angeles Times summed it up best:

    "I guess you might call it surrealistic paintings set to music. Not content to record just two sides of musical gibberish, the MOI devote four full sides to their type of 'artistry.' If anyone owns this album, perhaps he can tell me what in hell is going on...The Mothers of Invention, a talented but warped quintet, have fathered an album poetically entitled Freak Out, which could be the greatest stimulus to the aspirin industry since the income tax."

    Here's a sample for the album. It's Zappa's homage to teen angst called, 'You Didn't Try to Call Me.'

  • 5

    Moby Grape

    Moby Grape

    Ah, yes. Another album I bought based solely on the cover. What teen-aged boy could pass up an album where a group member is (not so subtly) giving the one-fingered salute?

    By the way, may I just interject here that, while that was quite daring back in 1967, it is no longer hip, cool, rebellious, daring or even funny and I'd appreciate if everyone would just find another way (other than duck lips) to look cool when a camera is near. Thank you. Now, if I can just get down from this soapbox.

    The stories of record companies killing perfectly good records are legion, but one of the worst cases was the eponymously titled album, 'Moby Grape.'

    Jeff Tamarkin, the editor of Goldmine Magazine really hit the nail on the head when he wrote,  "The Grape's saga is one of squandered potential, absurdly misguided decisions, bad luck, blunders and excruciating heartbreak, all set to the tune of some of the greatest rock and roll ever to emerge from San Francisco. Moby Grape could have had it all, but they ended up with nothing, and less."

    It's a great album all around. Find a copy and listen to it. You'll hear shades of The Doobie Brothers that came well after Moby Grape.

     

  • 6

    Ella 'Live' in Berlin

    Ella Fitzgerald

    I'm not given to hyperbole, but Ella Fitzgerald is the best singer of popular music ever. There! I said it and I mean it. Her voice was a true wonder and you never doubted for a moment that she felt every word she sang.

    Ella was an artist who could tear up 'Mack the Knife' or softly sell the bluesy "Man I Love.' For me though, the scene stealer on this album is her amazing take on the Erroll Garner song, 'Misty.'

    There have been a million versions of this classic song, but no one can touch Ella. What a treasure she was.

  • 7

    Smile

    Brian Wilson

    The year was 1966. Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys had just released their now classic album, 'Pet Sounds.' The album was taken as a wake-up call by Paul McCartney who wondered what The Beatles could possibly do to match Wilson's masterpiece.

    McCartney and company aside, Brian Wilson was wondering how he could top his own work. Wilson had an idea of exactly what he wanted and in October of 1966, we all got to hear a sample of Wilson's vision when 'Good Vibrations' was released to instant success, but the darker side of Brian Wilson was about to succumb to excessive drug use and would leave the genius behind the Beach Boys in a near catatonic state for decades and his proposed album was to remain on the shelf until 2004.

    It was great to finally get to hear this legendary work. It's very unusual even by today's standards. I can only imagine how this album would have shaken The Beatles if it had come out in 1966 or 67.