Post #11 of 20... Bill Bruford's "One Of A Kind"... After the demise of "U.K.", I was crestfallen after seeing them open for Al DiMeola at Painter's Mill, MD. My disappointment was short lived however, as Bruford returned with Dave Stewart, Jeff Berlin and the "unknown" John Clarke, (replacing Allan Holdsworth), arriving at Louie's Rock City in VA for this tour, and again for the Gradually Going Tornado tour at the Bayou in DC. I can still hear the clanging of Bruford's rototoms, and all of those killer compositions have stood the test of time. Bruford considered this one of his favorite albums and I can't disagree!
Post #12 of 20... Frank Zappa's "Roxy & Elsewhere"... I'd been a fan of Frank Zappa since his first Mothers of Invention album, "Freak Out" with "Let's Make the Water Turn Black"; It was the first record I ever bought. I'd seen Zappa at least a dozen times, but this tour is my favorite. I had "obstructed view seats" at the now defunct Capital Centre in Landover, MD, which meant sitting front row behind the stage above Chester Thompson's monster drum set and George Duke's keyboards! With Napoleon Murphy Brock, Tom Fowler and Ruth Underwood also in tow, Zappa totally blew my mind. Chester would unleash his now legendary drum fill on "More Trouble Comin' Everyday", and I was hooked for life. I wasn't alone, as Phil Collins would later ask Chester to reprise that drum fill live on the Genesis tune "Afterglow" on the album "Seconds Out"!
Post #13 of 20... John McLaughlin Trio's "Live at the Royal Festival Hall"... OMG... To say this album has had a major influence on me is an epic understatement, After seeing and hearing various incarnations of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Shakti, McLaughlin then rolled out with the amazing Trilok Gurtu and Kai Eckhardt, and completely blew my already blown mind. Trilok's customized hybrid kit and solo on "Mother Tongues" was just ridiculous, and Kai's playing was so gorgeous and beautiful; He continues to astound me to this day! As for McLaughlin, are there really any words? Honestly... Pure genius and a MUST have album in any collection...
Post #14 of 20... David Torn's "Cloud About Mercury"... When this album came out in 1987, I was completely enthralled. Torn's textures and brilliant guitar craft, coupled with Bill Bruford's Simmons drums, Tony Levin's Chapman Stick and Mark Isham's trumpet and synthesizers were simply ahead of its time. I was fortunate to be able to see the band live in LA, with the late Mick Karn on bass, (Torn's original choice), and Michael White on trumpet; They were amazing. If had to come up with a few "desert island" classic albums to take with me, this would definitely be on my list.
Post #15 of 20... Todd Rundgren's "Utopia"... My first Todd Rundgren album was "Something/Anything?", purchased at the old American University Coop record store back in 1971. So many great tunes on that album, that I couldn't wait to get the ones soon to follow; "A Wizard, A True Star", and the double record set "Todd". When I finally got my first chance to see Todd at D.A.R. Constitution Hall, it was for the Utopia tour, an incredible show. I would see Todd and his Utopia bands dozens of times after that, but that first show, that album and that music was astounding, and left an impression on me to this day. Todd's subsequent Utopia line ups with bassist Kasim Sultran, keyboardist Roger Powell and drummer Willie Wilcox were perhaps my favorites and considered by many his finest quartet. As for the genius that is Todd, he has surely influenced me and countless others with his gorgeous voice, searing guitar riffs, mind bending lyrics and messages of love.
Post #16 of 20... Oregon's "Ecotopia"... I first saw Oregon at the ECM Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center in DC back in the mid-'70s, alongside an incredible line-up that included Gary Burton (with a young Pat Metheny), Eberhard Weber's "Colors", Jack DeJohnette, and John Abercrombie. I'd been a fan of Oregon beginning with their Vanguard label albums, so seeing Ralph Towner, Paul McCandless, Glen Moore and the late Colin Walcott was a treat. Following Walcott's sudden death in 1984, the group added percussionist Trilok Gurtu and produced 3 albums with him, the first being "Ecotopia". Seeing this band without Walcott was an emotional moment for me, and the addition of Gurtu, (one of my all-time favorite percussionists) made this bittersweet concert all the more poignant, as Gurtu was Walcott's choice to replace him if he left group. The following albums, "45th Parallel" and "Always, Never and Forever" also featured Gurtu, however it was "Ecotopia" that has stayed with me. Towner's beautiful 12 string guitar, piano and synthesizer playing were gorgeous; McCandless' oboe, English horn and soprano sax were as lyrical as ever. With Moore's acoustic bass grooves and Gurtu's drumming on his hybrid kit, Oregon was in a new place for me, and shaped how I looked at compositions and Indian flavored music. There are many great Oregon albums, both old and new, but for all the reasons mentioned above, "Ecotopia" has had the biggest influence.
Post #17 of 20... Peter Gabriel's "Secret World Live"... OMG... When I saw this tour in 1993 at the Capital Centre in Maryland, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I never saw Gabriel with Genesis, however this was my second time seeing a Gabriel tour and it surpassed anything I'd seen him do before or since. With singer Paula Cole reprising lyrics by Kate Bush, drummer Manu Katche, Tony Levin on Chapman Stick and bass, David Rhodes on guitar, Shankar on violin and Papa Wemba, et al, Gabriel just killed me with hit after hit and song after song. I wore out the CD and DVD so much I had to buy them again! Gabriel just killed me with "Diggin' in the Dirt", Solsbury Hill", "Red Rain", "San Jacinto", and "In Your Eyes", to name just a few. This album remains on my regular road trip playlist, and made me a fan of drummer Manu Katche for life. I loved the music from this tour, spanning several Gabriel albums, but to have them all on one album, performed marvelously and paced to perfection showed what a live album could and should be like. Gabriel's stagecraft was amazing, yet the album stands on its own as a testimony to the writing, genius and musicianship of Gabriel and all involved. Influential? Oh yes indeed...
Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin's "The Big Idea"... I'd long been a fan of British keyboardist Dave Stewart, (not to be confused with the bloke from the Eurythmics of the same name!), ever since his days as Bill Bruford's keyboard player and the group National Health. Stewart and his wife, singer Barbara Gaskin are an amazing songwriting duo, that have never gotten the recognition they sorely deserve, in my humble opinion anyway. Nevertheless, when their album "The Big Idea" came out in 1990, I was determined to see them if they came to the states. As fate would have it, they were scheduled to perform at the now defunct Bayou in D.C.; It was cold night and due to a very late start the place had emptied considerably by the time they took the stage. Stewart and Gaskin didn't disappoint. Alongside a guitarist, they tore through those tunes and even performed some of their earlier efforts. I was able to meet them back stage after the show, reminding Stewart I had seen him here with Bruford 10 years earlier, and how much I loved this album. Both were so gracious, humble and happy. Those tunes, "Deep Underground", "Grey Skies", "Heatwave" and covers of "The Crying Game" and "Subterranean Homesick Blues" were awesome. Stewart and Gaskin inspired me and showed me that like guitarist Steve Hillage and his wife Miquette Giraudy in "System 7", love and music can happily coexist with mutual respect, talent and admiration.
Post #19 of 20... Lenny White's "The Adventures Of Astral Pirates"... Of all the drummers that I followed, Lenny White has had the most influence on me. His open handed style and approach was a little different than that of Billy Cobham, Simon Phillips and Rayford Griffin. Unlike those double bass drum monsters, Lenny's baby blue Gretsch kit was identical to that of the great Tony Williams' yellow Gretsch kit, who had influenced drummers everywhere, including me. Following Lenny's career with Chick Corea's Return to Forever was an obsession for me and I devoured his first two star-studded solo albums, "Venusian Summer" and "Big City". When Lenny came out with "The Adventures Of Astral Pirates" in 1978, I jumped on it right away. This album was an epic musical adventure, which reminded me of something Yes might do, except it was jazz rock fusion at its finest. When Lenny and his "Pirates" rolled in to the Cellar Door in Georgetown later that year, he had with him the late Don Blackman, Nick Moroch, Alex Blake and Jamie Glaser, basically everyone that was on the album. That band just killed it as they tore through the album with energy and at times, even humor, donning oversized sunglasses during a climactic solo! Lenny's next album "Streamline" and subsequent efforts are great, but "Astral Pirates" was special, a huge influence on me, and has to rank right up there as one of his best.
Post #20 of 20... Stanley Clarke's "Stanley Clarke"... This 1974 masterpiece was Stanley's second solo album, and was perhaps his best known effort. When I first heard this album, I couldn't believe it. Stanley's Return to Forever bandmate, guitarist Bill Connors, Jan Hammer of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and drummer Tony Williams! Every tune was a riveting foray into music that I didn't think possible. Influential is putting it mildly; Tony's driving grooves would become the stuff of legend, Hammer's keyboards seemed to begin where the now defunct Mahavishnu left off, and Connors conjured all those incendiary riffs from "Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy", his last album with Return to Forever. Not to be outdone, Stanley's Alembic bass lines were like nothing I'd heard before. His acoustic bass playing and his compositions for those string and horn sections were just beautiful. There were a handful of solo albums by members of that so called jazz-rock-fusion era of the mid 1970s that also influenced me; Billy Cobham's "Spectrum", Tony Williams' "Believe It!", Lenny White's Venusian Summer", Herbie Hancock's "Headhunters", Bill Bruford's Feels Good to Me", and Chris Squire's "Fish Out of Water". At the top of my Technics turntable was this album by Stanley, one that simply has to be considered an all-time classic for the ages.