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9 Most Influential Records

List of 9's

Nick Hornby once wrote a book chronicling an obsession with music and mix-tape aesthetics. As evidenced by my Dinosaur Tracks post, it is clear that I am a sound junkie as well. Most folks like Nick and I would confess that a handful of records were so important to them, that the pieces would be considered somewhat life-altering to a degree. Aside from those ‘albums on a deserted island’ scenarios, I am choosing to offer up the 9 records that have had the greatest impact on my life thus far (in no particular order). Note: These are not my favorite, nor are they my most played records – but rather ones that have had a consequential stake in my life’s narrative, if you will. I invite my audience to whip up a similar grouping and share some of your most influential LPs with me as well. Thus, the first entry in my list of nine series goes a little somethin’ like this:


Around The World In A Day (Prince)
This record debuted when I was 10. Coming off the insanely defining Purple Rain, the easy thing for Prince to do was to put out a safe follow-up. He didn’t do easy. He completely shook things up, instantly becoming legendary in my opinion with an album that was more Beatles than Hendrix. ATWIAD pretty much cemented my allegiance to Prince’s catalogue and inspired a lot of my artistic endeavors. This was the last Prince record I purchased in my youth until re-immersing myself into the full catalogue in college. Fast forward twenty four years later, I am still actively listening to the same artist with over 1000 Prince tracks in my iTunes.


Raising Hell (Run DMC)
1986 was a great year (hey, the Mets won the World Series!) and that summer, the greatest hip hop record ever was dropped. Thankfully, I grew up in a time where good hip-hop was rampant. While some acts were better than others, no record was tighter than this one. Run DMC, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J and Rakim got me through the very impressionable junior-high years as evidenced by my squeaky clean white Adidas. Raising Hell was seemingly instrumental in molding a very malleable youth in a high-pressure environment.


The Downward Spiral (Nine Inch Nails)
There was a period in college when I bordered on self-destructive tendencies, though not severe. Never a big fan of industrial rock until I heard this record, it reeled me in. The nihilistic conceptual theme was strong, consistent and followed a very intricately woven narrative. This record, along with Prince’s Lovesexy, and a series of life-changing episodes inspired my transfer from Finance to Creative Writing as my sole academic focus. While I won’t say things like it saved my life (as I exhibit a modicum of self-control), I am grateful for the music being around when I needed it.


Bat Out of Hell (Meat Loaf)
Everyone has a cheesy disc, or three in their collection. I have far more than that. The hugely underrated songwriter, Jim Steinman and the animated, derivative Meat Loaf teamed up to put together an operatic, insane mini-epic of sorts. Music like this is largely inaccessible and corny. Which is precisely why I love it. This record was partially responsible for my satirical and not-so-serious worldview. Who else can put an entire Phil Rizzuto play-by-play into a song and make it a hit? Holy cow.


The Low End Theory (A Tribe Called Quest)
No record is more “Queens” than this one. Quintessential early 90s hip hop right after the market got saturated by the likes of Hammer and Vanilla Ice. Every single track flows with distinctive basslines and jazz horn samples. This group was ahead of their time, covering issues like the exploitation of artists by the music industry. This record accentuated my affinity for my hometown and made me appreciate the nuances of city-life. I love this record, and it hardly gets better than this.


California (Mr. Bungle)
I am a huge Mike Patton devotee, and this LP seems to be the most complete piece in his revolutionary catalogue. Witnessing tracks from this record performed live was one of the greatest treats of my life. ‘California’ is literary, obnoxious, unorthodox and monstrous. Recorded in analog rather than digital with myriad levels of percussion, samples and keyboards, the work is astounding. I model much of my fiction writing with a similar multi-layered, haphazard approach. I would recommend this to anyone who is willing treat their ears to something violently new and suprisingly accessible.


Black on Both Sides (Mos Def)
Wow. Just as I began to sour on hip hop, this grossly overlooked record reinforced my faith. Thanks to the likes of Mos along with Talib Kweli, The Roots and the Dilated Peoples – I became a believer again with a welcome alternative to the filth that governs the market. Socio-political and incredibly deep, this record hits all the right notes. My foray into free verse and poetry was accented by the likes of these type of artists and lyricists. This record made me appreciate the power, cadence and rhythm of the written (and spoken) word.


The Gold Experience (Prince)
Not his best record. Certainly not his worst. The anticipation for this album was intense and I remember going bonkers on the release date. Originally slated to “never be released,” after not concurrently shelved in stores with Come, this record was a raging, methodical Prince. Some great tracks, some not-so-great, but the end result was masterful for me. The live performances around this time were pretty memorable as well (thanks to Mayte). Also, my favorite track (“Dolphin”) lives on this album. That secures its place in my universe.


Attack & Release (The Black Keys)
Much like how my faith in hip hop had dwindled over time, new music was pretty much dead to me. Nothing spoke to me anymore until Danger Mouse bowled onto the scene and looped into this gem of a record, and the works of others like Gnarls Barkley and Gorillaz. Thankfully, I have something I can listen to that makes me crave for more. I credit a close friend of mine for turning me on to this group shortly after voicing my displeasure for new music repeatedly.


Honorable Mentions: A Love Supreme (John Coltrane), Kind of Blue (Miles Davis), Lies (Guns N’ Roses), Live from Folsom Prison (Johnny Cash)

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2 Responses to “9 Most Influential Records”

  1. Naz says:

    Here is my list of 9, without explanation, but hopefully they speak for themselves:
    Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill
    S’inead Oconnor -I Do Not Want what I Haven’t Got
    Soundgarden -SuperUnknown
    U2- Actung Baby
    Lauryn HIll -The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
    Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head
    The Crow soundtrack
    Portishead -Dummy
    Etta James – At Last

  2. Maria says:

    Great list! Love it, I feel like I just took a mini tour of your Richard Kriheli’s life. Music is definitely something that actually becomes the soundtrack to your life and yours is very you! I think my list would be hard to bring down to 9 or fewer than 30 for that matter. So now I kind of know why you are how you are….let’s call it eclectic and unique ;0) . I think now I need to write my own list of music as a memoire of my youth. It would have been cool if you included pictures of you during the years you listened to the music. A funny look at the fashion that accompanied the soundtrack.

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