Top 20 Influential Albums (10-1)

Here’s the second part of my list looking at albums that have influenced me musically:

10. The Beatles | Revolver (1966)

I wasn’t sure what Beatles album to include in my list and it could’ve been one of many. There was a period before and after the hype of the Anthology series and albums when just about all I was listening to was The Beatles. The first Beatles albums I had were the Red and Blue compilation albums but I fairly quickly collected all of the other albums. The Beatles have probably influenced most of the other artists in this list and they were such great songwriters and innovators along with George Martin and his crew. It’s amazing how much they achieved in a relatively short time.

Stand out tracks:

  • Here, There and Everywhere
  • She Said She Said
  • Tomorrow Never Knows

Revolver

9. Blur | Parklife (1994)

This album instantly transports me back in time to the mid-90’s when I was approaching the end of school. I remember a bus journey from Glasgow to France in particular when I was listening to this album on repeat and it helped me get through the tedium of seemingly endless motorways through day and night. Blur were one of the best bands of the 90’s with Damon Albarn an incredible singer/songwriter; Alex James’s melodic basslines perfectly complementing Graham Coxon’s brilliant guitar riffs; and Dave Rowantree tying it all together beautifully.

Stand out tracks:

  • This Is A Low
  • Girls and Boys
  • End of a Century

blur-parklife

8. Travis | The Man Who (1999)

Travis were the big local band in my town as the guitarist went to the same school as me (although a few years above me). I didn’t really take any notice of them thought until the release of The Man Who. I was at uni at the time this came out and I can remember listening to Writing To Reach You on my headphones while walking across George Square in Glasgow and just feeling like there was something magical about it – the production just works so well. This album came out when I was taking writing songs a bit more seriously and it was certainly a big influence on me at the time.

Stand out tracks:

  • Writing To Reach You
  • Driftwood
  • Turn

Travis_-_The_Man_Who_album_cover

7. Sigur Rós | Ágætis byrjun (1999)

If you’ve asked me at any point in the last 18 years who my favourite band are then the answer would’ve been Sigur Rós (for many years before that it would’ve been R.E.M. but more about them later). When I was living at my mum and dad’s house, I had a small TV next to my bed which would often be on later than it should’ve been. One night, I was channel hopping (didn’t take long to get through the five channels) and heard something unlike anything I’d heard before. It was beautiful. The video immediately captured my attention too with a group of actors with Down syndrome dancing in angel wings. I found out that it was the music video for the Icelandic band’s single Svefn-g-englar and I had to hear more. I bought this album and immersed myself in it and everything about the band. I travelled down to London with my sister to see them in 2000 for the first time and have seen them many times since. I wanted to know everything I could about them, including how they recorded their music, and it certainly changed the way I listened to music and inspired me to learn and experiment more.

Stand out tracks:

  • Svefn-g-englar
  • Viðrar vel til loftárása
  • Ný batterí

sigurros

6. Radiohead | The Bends (1995)

I bought this album in a supermarket on a shopping trip with my mum. I got back home and put it on my Bush ghettoblaster and I remember being mesmerised by the opening track, blown away by the guitars on the second track and then moved by the acoustic guitar/falsetto combination of the next two tracks. It’s pretty flawless from start to finish and this was another album that I bought the TAB book to play along to on my guitar. I remember also playing a cover of Fake Plastic Trees at my one and only gig under the band name Reckoning.

Stand out tracks:

  • Street Spirit
  • Just
  • Fake Plastic Trees

the bends

5. Crowded House | Together Alone (1993)

I first heard of Crowded House on a compilation album which included the song Distant Sun (I’ve checked Wikipedia and discovered it was Now 26 – funny looking back at what else I must’ve been listening to). Distant Sun was certainly one of the stand out tracks on that compilation but I didn’t explore their music any further until they were recommended to me by Phil, the bass player from my band Sundown, who was heavily influenced by Nick Seymour’s melodic bass parts. It didn’t take long until I had all the albums and was slightly obsessed with Neil Finn and co. The album opener, Kare Kare, sets the scene so well and it’s another song where the production is just perfect. During the time I was playing covers with the band, Pineapple Head was a regular on the set list. Private Universe was another song I played a lot and it definitely influenced some of my songwriting. The song Where This Is Going started out after experimenting with similar chord movements to Private Universe. It ended up a very different sounding song but I guess that’s how inspiration can work.

Stand out tracks:

  • Kare Kare
  • Private Universe
  • Distant Sun

togetheralone

4. Oasis | Definitely Maybe (1994)

Oasis were probably the main influence behind me picking up the guitar for the first time. I loved this album and still think it’s one of the best debut albums around. It wouldn’t be in my top 10 favourite albums but it was a huge influence in my fledgling years as a songwriter and guitarist. I certainly went through a phase when I just wanted to try and emulate Noel Gallagher and I taught myself to play guitar by working out chords to play along to some of his early tracks. I remember sitting listening to B-side D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman (from Shakermaker) and trying to work out how to match the chords as I didn’t know any chords at the time and was just basing it on what notes sounded right together – no YouTube tutorials in those days but I got there eventually!

Stand out tracks:

  • Rock ‘N’ Roll Star
  • Supersonic
  • Live Forever

definitelymaybe

3. Elliott Smith | Figure 8 (2000)

Elliott Smith’s Figure 8 was another album that I bought without hearing any of it beforehand after reading a review in Q Magazine. After immediately falling in love with the album, I quickly caught up with his back catalogue and discovered what a great songwriter he was. I found the arrangements of the songs on Figure 8 really inspiring, in particular the way he used harmonies and doubling up of both vocals and other instruments. I love pretty much everything about this album and it would probably be in a similar position in a list of my favourite albums. Thankfully, I saw him play live a couple of times before he died way too soon. There was a bizarre moment at a gig of his I was at in Edinburgh when somebody stole one of his pedals before his encore and I still remember his disappointed voice…”why would anyone do that?”.

Stand out tracks:

  • Son of Sam
  • Junk Bond Trader
  • Everything Means Nothing To Me

Elliott_smith_figure_8_cover

2. Neil Finn | Try Whistling This (1998)

Neil Finn is one of the best songwriters around. His songs from his time with Crowded House, The Finn Brothers, Split Enz and his solo work are an amazing body of work and his first solo album, Try Whistling This arrived at a time when I was spending a lot of my spare time playing guitar, singing and songwriting. The first song I heard from the album was She Will Have Her Way and it’s another one of those songs that just hits me every time I hear it – from the opening drum loop to the jangling guitars, hypnotic bass line and, of course, great vocal melodies and harmonies. It was also a song that prompted me to experiment with different open tunings for the guitar and I ended up writing a lot of my songs in different tunings (e.g. Hold On, Don’t Stop, Dusty Angels, Melting Ice, Follow Her and many others). When playing gigs I usually had three guitars each with different tunings. My copy of this album was signed by Neil after an in-store performance in Glasgow: “To Andy, Go well. Neil Finn”.

Stand out tracks:

  • She Will Have Her Way
  • Last One Standing
  • Astro

trywhistling

1. R.E.M. | Automatic For The People (1992)

R.E.M. were my first proper favourite band (although I did go through a phase in the 80’s of thinking New Kids On The Block were the coolest guys ever!). It was a friend who introduced me to R.E.M. and I remember then borrowing Automatic For The People from my local library (I can’t remember borrowing any other albums) and it had a weird yellow jewel case for some reason. It was the first band I really took seriously and I started to think about music more deeply, analysing song lyrics and arrangements. The first album I owned in CD format was their previous album, Out of Time, and I collected all of the other albums as quickly as money, birthdays and Christmases allowed. I’m not sure if this is my favourite album of theirs although I think it’s their best (if I could only listen to one R.E.M. album it would probably be their debut, Murmur). However, Automatic is just a beautiful album from start to finish. It was another album I had the songbook for and played along to regularly on the guitar and piano. There’s no doubt the album had a big influence on the chord structures/patterns I was starting to incorporate into my own songs.

Stand out tracks:

  • Try Not To Breathe
  • Sweetness Follows
  • Find The River

rem-automatic-cover-big

That’s the end of my list and hope you enjoyed checking it out – all just a bit of fun. Here are some other albums that nearly made it into my top 20:

  • A-ha | Analogue (2005)
  • Ash | 1977 (1996)
  • Ben Folds Five | Whatever and Ever Amen (1997)
  • Bob Dylan | Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
  • Cocteau Twins | Treasure (1991)
  • Finn Brothers | Won’t Give In (2004)
  • Garbage | Version 2.0 (1998)
  • George Michael | Older (1996)
  • Goo Goo Dolls | Dizzy Up The Girl (1998)
  • James | Whiplash (1997)
  • Longview | Mercury (2003)
  • Moby | Play (1999)
  • The New Pornographers | Brill Bruisers (2014)
  • Nirvana | Nevermind (1991)
  • One Sonic Society | Forever Reign (2011)
  • Paul Simon | Graceland (1986)
  • Semisonic | All About Chemistry (2001)
  • Simon & Garfunkel | Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
  • Smashing Pumpkins | Adore (1998)
  • Tim Hughes | Love Shine Through (2011)
  • Tom McRae | Tom McRae (2003)

2 thoughts on “Top 20 Influential Albums (10-1)

  1. Love the website, Andy and a great choice of the ‘top 20’ with some favourites of my own there too. I was particularly interested in the acknowledgement of Private Universe as a strong influence on Where This Is Going, the latter is my favourite track on Embers and it has that, ‘hmmm, this is new but sounds familiar’ quality to it, well, now I know why.

    Liked by 1 person

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