Viewing: Music Influence Monday - View all posts

Influenced by "Crisis What Crisis" 

Supposedly not one of their best albums of the 70's era, Supertramp's "Crisis What Crisis" looms large in my collection in that it was the album that introduced me to this excellent band. While their sound is anything but current, I don't think anybody could argue with the standard of musicianship, songwriting and production that went in to making their records.

This record influenced me in that it made me realise that there was room for excellent musicianship and prog rock elements in pop music.

Fortunately, I was introduced to this record on tape and was therefore spared the artwork on the back cover. Guys not wearing shirts on album covers was a very 70s thing, in some ways its good that we have moved on since then.

Influenced by The Roches 

This record is certainly not everybody's cup of tea and many who have borrowed the album from me have commented that they wonder what I see in it.

It produced by Robert Fripp formerly of King Crimson, so he must have seen something in the act and the material even if it doesn't really resemble his own.

The Roche sisters act is pretty much three girls and a guitar. Without the benefit of autotune, sometimes their harmonies are a little off key, but I think in the most charming way. They sing songs about their lives, their loves and their troubles.

How this influenced me on Musical Influence Monday? It showed me that simple songs about simple things with simple arrangements could still a great record make.

Judge for yourself from this live footage taken a few years back. It doesn't sound too different to the original record.

You can also hear them do back ups on Paul Simon's "There Goes Rhymin Simon" album.

Influenced by Abbey Road 

Abbey Road is one of the half a dozen albums I used to listen to in the old Perth Music Library (I have already written about this early in discussing the Coltrane album "My Favorite Things"). I always used to think it was kind of cool that there was no writing on the front, nothing that said "The Beatles". I suppose at the time everybody new who they were. Having no writing on the cover became a 70s type thing. I suppose it is still done now from time to time but it would be the brave record company (of those remaining) that would put out a record like that. I'm surprised actually that Sony haven't gone back and printed Abbey Road - The Beatles on the front cover.

Probably the most influential thing about this record, for me anyway, was the second side with all the song fragments stitched together. It sounds wonderful but its a difficult thing to pull off. Brian Wilson got it right on "Good Vibrations" but probably didn't get it right on "Smile". Somewhere out there in internet bootleg land you can get alternate versions of the medley with the songs done at different speeds, versions that don't quite work as well as what was released. Much time must have been spent in the control booth getting this record to be the best that it could be.

In general I am always surprised when I listen to it how contemporary this record always sounds. Great playing, engineering, production, tasteful use of synthesizers and the available technology of the time.
Any artists that keeps trying to make something as good or better than this can't be doing too much wrong.

Here is a link to the Abbey Road web camera where you can see idiots disrupting traffic and endangering their lives any time of day or night trying to recreate this album cover's artwork.

Influenced by Actually 

The Pet Shop Boys have been successfully producing dance music for more years than I wish to remember. I on the other hand, have never produced a dance track and although you should never say never, it is unlikely that I will in the future. I don't frequent places where this type of music is played and none of my family or friends would listen to it.

How has it happened then that I could have been influenced by it and want to discuss it in my Musical Influence Monday blog? Well, back in the days when this album came out (think mid eighties) I used to work in what you would call a real job. An office job. Not a horrible office job (that was yet to come), but nevertheless a position where I was wasting my potential at the time. Well one of the perks of this not quite horrible office job is that it was on the 14th of a building that had a lovely view over the Swan River. One early evening, I was the last to leave and just sat in the office an extra half an hour just to watch the beautiful sunset that was happening.

Somebody had left the radio on in the tearoom and I hadn't bothered to turn it off. The DJ on at the time played three tunes by the Pet Shop Boys. I thought the first two songs were pretty good, these were their radio hits at the time, but not really my thing. Everything changed when I heard their third song, a song from this album called "Rent". I thought the whole thing was just amazing.

The next day, I went to the local CD store (remember those), and bought a copy of this album. It was $30. 30 bloody dollars, I could probably have taken my girlfriend at the time out to dinner and come home with change for that in those days, but I decided to buy the record anyway. Bloody EMI.

It turned out to be a wonderful record. Sure I didn't like dance music, the fashion, the image, was not into their lifestyle choices if  you catch my drift, in fact I wasn't into anything about the record. It was just that the thing was that good it couldn't be ignored.

Up until that moment in my life, I thought that people that produced music in genres I didn't like just didn't get it, or were perhaps mentally disturbed. How this record influenced me and what it made me realise, is that good is good, no matter who is doing it and it what genre it is.

Influenced by Bare Wires 

Veteran British blues artist John Mayall has brought out a number of albums that I have found to be influential that I will discuss over the oncoming weeks. 1967 release Bare Wires is one of those albums.

I never really had this album until recently. My friend Peter Woodman had this on vinyl and I used to listen to it over at his house. I did buy the CD sometime in the 80s, but I was living in Victoria Park at the time and had my CD collection knocked off once every 18 months or so and one of these times was shortly after buying this album. I didn't bother to replace it until last year, but I try to get to everything eventually you see.

Bare Wires experimented with the traditional Chicago blues formats that Mayall had been playing with previously. A product of its times, it is sometimes psychedelic in nature (check out the trippy cover). This influenced me in that it made me realise that with a little bit of tweaking, the blues could be turned into something a bit more hipper and arty. Not that the blues is ever unhip, but the sequencing and experimental approach on this record make it better than the sum of its parts.

If you listen to this album, don't turn the volume up when Mayall does the whispering thing, he is not saying anything significant and you will likely blow your speakers or your ears or maybe both.

Influenced by Celtic Harp 

Whenever I am delving into some new style or I have a recording project on for somebody and I am unfamiliar with the territory, I will buy a bunch of "reference CDs" to get me acquainted with the type of material I am working on. Early on in the piece I was fortunate enough to by the retrospective CD Celtic Harp by Scottish harpist Savourna Stevenson. It was one of a number of CDs I purchased at that time and it was just blind luck that it was so great.

I am mentioning this CD in a Music Influence Monday post because it has some of the most sublime and innovative compositions for celtic harp and small ensemble that I have come across. This has set me a standard to aspire to in my original harp material.

Just in case you are interested in picking up a copy of this CD, be aware that it usually comes with a different cover to the one pictured here. Usually the cover has a head shot of Savourna. Perhaps the CD I have was made in a different country under license of something. Record covers have a habit of mysteriously changing sometimes.

Influenced by O'Carolan's Dream  

O'Carolan's Dream is Volume 4 in Patrick Ball's Celtic Harp series. It features a bunch of Turlough O'Carolan tunes and other Celtic compositions played by Patrick Ball on wire strung harp.

This record has had a big influence on me because it convinced me to have a wire strung harp made for me by William MacDonald a luthier from the Isle of Skye.

Its a traditional clarsach made from willow cherry and yew. This instrument was used extensively on the Yuletide recording. This record was also another factor that encouraged me to produce what became the Rainforest project.

Influenced by Painted by Memory 

Elvis Costello is one of those artists that I've always liked but never felt the urge to own his entire catalog. So I tend to cherry pick at his work which is probably appropriate because he has produced such a diverse body of work over the years that there is sure to be something that everybody likes or dislikes in there.

Burt Bacharach is one of those legends that has written some great songs for various artists but since he is chiefly a composer/songwriter/arranger I hadn't come across anything where he is accredited as the artist.

Back in the 90s while I was studying commercial music at WAAPA one of my piano teachers (yes there were several) played me some of this collaboration between Bacharach and Costello "Painted by Memory" which had just been released that year. I was so impressed by the
short bits that I heard that I went straight out and bought the CD despite the $30 price tag (ouch - especially for a music student).

This record influenced me in that it taught me that complex harmonies, orchestral textures and song forms could have their place in popular music. This is a wonderful late night record and well deserving of a spot on Musical Influence Monday.

Influenced by My Favorite Things 

On this third episode of "Music Influence Monday" I'm going to discuss the John Coltrane album My Favorite Things. Notice I am going to use the American spelling of Favourite throughout this post because that's what is written on the album.

As a teenager I had read much about jazz saxophonist John Coltrane in second copies of American music magazine Downbeat, enough to realise that he must have been one of the big movers and shakers. I had found a copy of "Afro Blue" second hand in the Centrepoint Midland Book Shop (this was actually a record company compilation of some later stuff with Pharoah Sanders and some of the Live at the Village Vanguard recordings). The record shocked me, much of it didn't sound like music, well music as I knew it at any rate. I put in the time and effort though and after several listens started to understand some of what was going on. Such was my introduction to John Coltrane as an artist.

As far as the record My Favorite Things goes, I discovered it in the old Perth Music Library (I say old, because back in the 1970s it was located where the Perth Museum is situated now. It was my habit in upper high school to take the train into Perth after school and listen to various recordings in the music library there until the librarian had had enough of me and would kick me out.

My Favorite Things was one of the recordings that I frequently listened to. Its John Coltrane's interpretation of a bunch of old jazz standards, and yes the title track is actually a cover of the Julie Andrews song.

This influenced me in that it made me realise that you can't write off an instrument just because of a few recordings you don't like. If I had only heard the Kenny G recordings of the 80s and 90s, I would have thought that the soprano saxophone was a dreadful instrument, but all I thought was, shame it doesn't sound like the wonderful dark sound that John Coltrane got on My Favorite Things.

Influenced by Mind Games 

Before the days of CD I used to love seeking out second hand vinyl records. One of my favourite places to look was in this shop above the Hay Street Mall called Atlast Records. You needed to walk up 3 flights of stairs in this decrepit old building to get there and there was next to no signage. So you really wouldn't know about the place at all unless somebody took you there first (in my case my high school friend Rupert). That made it all the more special. It was always full of hippies and intellectual looking types so the people were just about as interesting as going through the records.

Talk about great free entertainment.

Mind Games by John Lennon was one of the first records I bought there. I bought it maybe 6 years after the original release so it wasn't the sort of item that most neighbourhood stores would carry having not been a top seller.

How this album influenced me was that I learnt from it that you don't have to be a great keyboard player to make interesting and value adding keyboard parts. Lennon played keyboards himself on this record (under the pseudonym Dr Winston O'Boogie) and does a simple but great job. The fact that he used a pseudonym makes me think that he wasn't taking the duties overly seriously and didn't feel competent enough to be held responsible (hey its not my fault, blame the Dr). He needn't have worried, I love how he played on this record.

Pictured here is my CD copy produced in 2002. I still have the original second hand Atlast record, but no working record player, so I decided to update. To my horror, the record sounded different, the differences were minor, most people would probably not notice, but they were definitely there. I checked the credits on the album and it turns out that it was not only remastered in 2002 but it was remixed as well.
So another thing that I learnt from this record is, don't let Yoko Ono oversee your remixes.

In all fairness, doing a remix of the original record is not normal procedure which makes me think that maybe the original master tape had not been stored properly and damage necessitated going back to the source. There is no corresponding note on the new record, so we will probably never know - I may post this on the Beatles- a-rama Facebook page because quite often they know about these things. Beatles-a-rama is a great internet radio station about, you guessed it, all things Beatles.