15 Influential / Impactful Albums

A friend, Nate, tasked me with listing out 15 of my favorite albums. Well, I went for top 15 albums that influenced / impacted me, instead of top 15 favorites. Not poking at anyone who’s done this before me, or will do this after me, but I didn’t set my sights on seeming cool. I’m not. This is an honest representation of the 15 albums that had the greatest impact. Some are going to be laughable to folks. That’s fine. I don’t really care. These are in chronological order, best I can remember.

Rap’s Greatest Hits (1986)
This was the first tape / album ever owned, that was my own. Don’t know why I got it. Probably seeing Run DMC, The Fat Boys on MTV…back when MTV played music videos. This truly set the stage for what I listened to all the way through today. The quality of rap on this mix tape has a better batting average than most rap that comes out today. Though it feels like, in the past 3-4 years at least, some truly dynamic rappers have come out the woodwork.

Bill Cosby – The Best Of Bill Cosby
My first comedy album. Had already been watching specials from HBO (including Robin Williams: Live At The Met which I was WAY too young to have been allowed to watch). But this was the first thing that I could listen to on long bus rides. I can pop this in today, and still mimic ever moment.

Garth Brooks – No Fences
I remember when “The Dance” came out, and how big an impact that had. Got this album on CD. Used to set a program of certain songs, and go to sleep to it every night for a long time. There are still tracks that are good some 24 years later. And I will defend this one. Garth may be a caricature, and have ushered in a wave of truly awful music called “country.” But this album I will stick up for. Except for “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House” and “Friends in Low Places.” Those suck.

Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves score
My first classical(ish) album. Got it for the Bryan Adams song. But found myself listening to the score portion more than the song. Still remember talking about this album with one of my favorite teachers in high school, Mr. Bailey. Ended up letting him borrowing it, and he and his wife really liked it. He then started bringing me real classical and operatic music to listen to. Which opened a whole different world to me.

Dr. Dre – The Chronic
Even though I grew up listening to copious amounts of profanity in stand up comedy, profanity in music seemed like something I’d get in trouble for listening to. Reckon paired with the fact that stuff like 2 Live Crew was getting banned, never really sought out profanity-laced rap music. Stuck with my Fat Boys, Run DMC. Then a buddy let me listen to The Chronic. Holy balls. I immediately went out, picked up the CD, and promptly wore it out. Subsequently bought every West Coast rap album that even the faintest whiff of Dr. Dre or Snoop… which is why I know who The Dove Shack and the Twinz are.

Tool – Undertow
For me, Ænima is their best album. But Undertow is what introduced me to the band. At a point where 90% of the music I was listening to was rap, Undertow was something completely outta left field. It was dark. It was heavy. It struck a chord.

Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
At this point, during high school, the only two things I was watching on the regular were Batman: The Animated Series and BET’s Rap City. A video came on Rap City one day of a group out of NYC. It was dynamic. It was different. It was striking. It was gritty. It was grimy. It was completely different than everything West Coast rap was trying to accomplish. That videos was “M.E.T.H.O.D. Man” by the Wu-Tang Clan. The next day, I found a plain white cassingle at the mall. “Protect Ya Neck” was the A-Side, “M.E.T.H.O.D. Man” the B-Side. Listened to that cassingle over and over and over and over and over. Then the day Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) got released, and I may have skipped school that day to get the album. The album used elements from old school karate flicks, and painted a picture of how life was in the up north projects.

Obituary – World Demise
Got this album in high school. Jeff told me to get this and Korn’s first album. Got ’em both, and they opened up a world different from the Tool realm of heavy metal. Obituary, though, was the one that got me into the really heavy stuff.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Chronicle, Vol. 1
Hate putting another greatest hits on here. This came to me in the first few days of 98.7 The X. They were playing non-standard, classic rock music, along with newer, straight-up rock music. I’d never really listened to CCR, but they played a lot that I liked. This lead me down the path of picking up albums of classic rock bands that my folks weren’t into, and discovering them on my own.

The V-roys – Just Add Ice
This is the album I’ve probably listened to the most in my life. It was also the first “local” album I owned. Not only is it a favorite, it’s in my top 25, ever. The back and forth between Mic and Scott on “What She Found” is amazing. It is, by leaps and bounds, a perfect album.

DJ Shadow – Endtroducing….
Every time previously mentioned how something was different, how something was a game-changer for me, it was the truth. But I don’t know that any album, save possibly the Rap’s Greatest Hits one, has impacted me as greatly as Endtroducing…. I used to subscribe to a ton of magazines. Endtroducing…. received universal acclaim. Sought it out, picked it up, and it was held up as the the greatest album amongst my wide collection ever since then. Think the only thing that comes close to it is Sigur Rós’ Takk… But still think Endtroducing…. is up there for good. It’s jazz, it’s classical, were it made by the masters in this day-and-age.

Morphine – Like Swimming
Picked up a cassette of Like Swimming at the cash register at Disc Exchange. Price was $1.99. Whomever did that, I’d like to give them a massive bear hug. The introduced me to the world of Morphine. If it not for that person, would have never heard “The Night”, which ranks in my top 5 songs ever.

The End Of Violence soundtrack
Picked this one up back when I was a completist. Needed it for the DJ Shadow track. This was my introduction to both Whiskeytown and the eels. I’d heard the eels before, but never really got into them.

Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun
This one because it was my introduction to the band. From all places, Napster actually showed videos at one point. I caught the video for “Svefn-g-englar”, immediately went out that night, and bought the album. Takk… is the better album, but this is the one that got me started, and every single thing they’ve done has been utterly brilliant.

Radiohead – Kid A
This was a tough one. I didn’t like Radiohead when “Creep” came out. I loved “High and Dry”, but not enough to buy The Bends (funnily enough, the first Radiohead album I owned, a friend gave it to me.) OK Computer came with a great rush, and I love it to pieces. But Kid A. Kid A is it for me. After those first three albums, as out-there as they’d gone with OK Computer, those opening tones from “Everything In Its Right Place” really hit me like a ton of bricks. I, quite literally, stopped breathing and my eyes welled up. I can still remember, it was a cold day, I had the heater on in the Montero, driving to my job at HomeTour, one early morn.


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