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The Most Impact

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine tagged me in a Facebook post, challenging me to share a list of ten albums that had the most impact on me, and that still got regular play. I’ve made this sort of list many times in the past, and have my *go-to* albums I usually pull out whenever someone asks for my favorites.

I fully intended to do the same with this challenge, convinced that these records still were representative of my current tastes. I stood in front of the stacks of records and CDs, pulling out the albums I wanted to use. I made a mental note of them, made my first post.

I wrote a few paragraphs detailing why this record was important to me, how it has affected my musical appreciation and the sorts of music liking this record opened up for me.

So far so good.

Day two was much the same- an album, a description, an hour spent thinking about what that music has meant to me. Then my father commented that while he loved the album in question, it was not his favorite from the band. I was about to argue in defense of my choice when I realized it wasn’t my favorite either. In fact, it might have been my third favorite. At that moment, I realized this list was going to be very different from others I’d created. I no longer had interest in a list of favorites, but rather a list of records that pushed me forward.

Any mental notes I’d made about the remaining albums were tossed aside. With a different perspective and mission, I went through the records again. At least four of the titles I planned to use didn’t remain on the revised list. Some I never expected to be on the list suddenly needed to be there.

In the end, I think this current list is a much more accurate representation of my musical education. One realization, I talk a big game about my varied musical tastes, and while I do enjoy all sorts of music, my favorites reside in a very narrow style window. Which means I need to give more attention to other genres, styles, and see if one of those albums might push its way onto the list. Some are very close. Some I haven’t owned long enough to see where they take me.

It was a very fun project and as I always love listening to music, a great opportunity to spend ten days listening to the stuff that had the greatest impact.

Here is the list if you’re interested. It isn’t in any particular order.

Isis- Panopticon
Big Country- The Crossing
The Cure- Pornography
The Police- Synchronicity
David Bowie- The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
The Nocturnes- Aokigahara
Russian Circles- Station
Siouxsie and the Banshees- Peepshow
Nine Inch Nails- Pretty Hate Machine

If asked, what sort of list would you make?

Randomness of Lists-Part 3

1. I am remembering why I adored The Police when I was a young teenager.

2. Buying Compact Discs makes me very happy.

3. I would collect vinyl again if I had a better place to store it.

4. I think the disc drive on my laptop is dying. Several songs I have uploaded to iTunes are incomplete or skip.

5. I watched the Documentary “Sound City” for the second time last night. If you haven’t watched it, stop what you’re doing and do so now.

6. I had a huge crush on Joan Jett when I was 14. I followed that by crushing on Stevie Nicks. That is a conundrum to me.

7. Speaking of conundrums, should I tell you that I am sorry for the way I treated you 20 years ago, or should I just let that go?

8. One of my coffee mugs gave up the ghost today. I can’t decide if this is a good thing.

9. I had a moment of over-sensitivity today. I am ashamed of it. Do better, Ryan

1210. My 12 string guitar is my new favorite instrument.

11. I am embarrassed to say how long it has been since I changed strings on my guitars. I am working to fix that, one guitar at at time.

12. The Black Keys are really good (or is it “The Black Keys is really good”).

13. I still want to play music with other people. I have to get over being intimidated.

14. My grandfather loved wearing American flag apparel. He wore flag hats, shirts, pins, and coats. I do not love the flag nearly that much.

15. I really need to go to Ireland this fall.

16. I read a blog post  about my last trip to NYC. Of course, it made me desperate to return.

17. While I am thinking about travel, I am excited to go back to Cancun this summer.

18. I wasted much of my 20’s feeling sorry for myself. I refuse to do that with my 40’s.

19. I am terrified of sending out queries for my novel.

oddity20. This is a photo from Christmas 1993. I had been married less than 6 months.

21. That shirt is awesome, so shh.

22. My sister looks groovy in her purple shirt, purple hair and bangs.

23. The wallpaper in my grandparents house was pretty terrible.

24. I miss that watch.

25. A second novel idea is swimming in my head. It may come out very soon.

26. I discovered I can’t read other novels when working on my own writing.

27. I am already pondering a Halloween costume.

28. I never dress up for Halloween.

29. This list seems to have patterns. I don’t like patterns.

30. I can totally rock horizontal stripes (not pictured).

Top Stuff 12

Sticking with the musical theme, I am presenting 7 of my favorite live records. A few of these have songs recorded at multiple shows and I almost disqualified them for that, but decided they still are pretty dang cool.

Nothing beats seeing a band live, especially if they perform favorite songs or explode with energy. Often, a live performance on vinyl or compact disc loses some of that “I was there”  flair and some bands are honestly not very good in concert. I am well aware that my liking the following performances will have a great deal to do with my affinity for the bands themselves and am not implying these are the epic of the epic. Feel free to add to the list or debate my selections. I miss the conversation.

In no particular order.

Toad The Wet Sprocket-Welcome Home-A sucker for Toad for many years, this 1992 recording has them playing in front of a home town crowd.  Fear had just been released and the band was receiving lots of radio play. The record has great performances of Jam, Before You Were Born, Stories I Tell, and Hold her down.  The band still tours and if you can, I recommend going to see them.Excellent songwriting all around.

The Cure- Entreat Plus-The first version of this Disintegration album performance only contained 8 tracks and that was fantastic enough. This release (which came with the Disintegration reissue) has the full 12 tracks.  The cure are quite fantastic live and they have released several live recordings. This one is my favorite for the version of the title track (Disintegration, which still blows my mind), and a wonderful version of Untitled and The Same Deep Water as you.

Porcupine Tree-Octane Twisted-As far as studio albums go, The Incident was not my favorite PT’s release. That said, this live recording of that album has completely changed my opinion. The songs are more poignant now and the musical themes resonate more.  I am unable to find a live version from this record on YouTube so you get a non-live version of The Blind House and a live version of Arriving Somewhere But Not Here.

Nine Inch Nails-And All That Could Have Been-NIN can be brutally bad live. Their sound is often muddled and the over the top, destructive antics of Trent Reznor make it difficult for the musicians to play their instruments (as he is often smashing them up). Perhaps because this disc is a compilation of various tour stops, most of the songs are fantastically produced and presented. I have loved my experiences watching NIN live and this captures the experience at its musical best. Check out Reptile, March of the Pigs and Piggy as well as this video performance of The Wretched.

Isis-Live III-Everyone should listen to ISIS. Period. When I was tired of singers that wanted to impress me with their vocal range or their ridiculously self indulgent lyrics, this band saved music for me. The growling, often muddled singing  intrigued me, allowing vocals to just be another instrument, not something that needed to dominate a song to be effective.  This particular performance has great versions of So Did We and In Fiction as well as a fantastic version of Wills Dissolve (this version is not from the Live III disc, but oh my, it is so good).

Ministry-In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up-Just 6 tracks but these 6 tracks are mind-blowing-ly good. A late comer to Ministry (discovered them in late 1990), I was wary of their “new” more metal sound. I loved the Twitch record but The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste took a few years to really enjoy. I bought this live disc in the summer of 1993 and have listened to it too many times to count. The version of Stigmata is hilariously over the top but the unforgettable track has to be So What.

Oingo Boingo-Farewell-I was fortunate to catch this tour when it came through Salt Lake City. Boingo meant a great deal to me in my high school years and their later work, especially the Boingo record, was very instrumental in helping me through a crisis or two. This performance, the last show they ever performed is  my favorite live album of all time. Too many songs to list but this version of We Close Our Eyes is a personal favorite.  Only A Lad was the final song in the show and I have to admit, I get a bit teary every time.

I am anticipating thoughts from some of you. Share them.


Top Stuff 11

I spent a great deal of my childhood playing games I made up in my head. My imagination was my best friend. That being said, like any kid, I loved watching television. Some really great cartoons were on when I was a boy.  I liked all sorts of television, watching shows from the late 60’s like The Wild Wild West, Star Trek, some Perry Mason and the Monkees, to the biggest hits of the late 70’s. These shows added fodder to my imagination and gave me interesting avenues to explore. A few of these shows stick with me and I have fond memories of watching them.  Today’s list-

Top stuff 11- 70’s TV I liked as a boy.

Love Boat-Hard to go wrong with a cruise ship full of love starved people, beautiful scenery and a bald, fat captain. I remember watching this right before Fantasy Island (which I never really liked. Sometimes it was too scary). I had such a crush on that damn Lauren Tewes (Julie). I was never much for Vicki. Her voice was too soft for me. Plus, Julie was a bit more androgynous. I knew she was a woman, but she had the short hair, small breasts. I own the complete first season on DVD. Sheryl and I watch them together, laughing at the 70’s celebrity cameos, clothes and cavalier sexual attitudes. The story lines are actually decent from time to time. Also, anything that has John Ritter (in drag), is worth a watch.

Chips-I have fond memories of riding my motorcycle (bicycle) around the streets giving people a thumbs up and chasing down bad guys, just like my hero, Jon Baker. So many fantastic car chases and spectacular freeway crashes, the show was intense and funny. I have to admit, this one is harder for me to stomach as a grown up. The drama is often way overdone and I still struggle with the extent of crime solving these highway patrol officers are involved in.  Every routine traffic stop results in a high speed chase. Drug dealers and bank robbers have their plans foiled by Ponch and Jon. It is very over the top. Still, throw in the standard freeze frame ending with faces caught in laughter, surprise or amazement, and you have some classic 70’s TV.

Battlestar Galactica-I have talked about this show before. It seemed this show was on for at least five years. It seems impossible it was not even two seasons. I loved Star Trek, and this show was a cooler version of that. This was about warriors, not explorers. Adventure and space battles, robots and danger, this show had everything I wanted from my science fiction. This one has moments that hold up with my older self, and I still wish there was more of it. Lucky for me, the 2004 version satisfied my cravings and then some.

Buck Rogers– Another show that seemed to be on for the entire decade, but really only ran for two seasons. Buck Rogers was and still is, a good way to remember the 70’s. The cast was pretty (oh, Erin Gray) and they wore such tight clothes. The producers of the show decided that the clothing, hair and music of the 70’s were the epitome of human culture as they somehow survive the nuclear disaster of 1987 and find perfection in the 25th century. People dancing to bad electronic disco music, wearing shirts with the top seven buttons open, women with curtain hair styles, men with thick chest hair, it is wonderful to watch. Many of the stories are riddled with sexism and some covert racism, others are poignant and well done. I bought the both seasons in a single package for 10 dollars. Worth every cent.

Eight is Enough-Man, how I wanted to be Tommy Bradford. All the girls thought he was the cats meow. Plus he had great hair and was in a band. Tom Bradford seemed the perfect father, knowing what to do and say, even when he claimed not to know what to do or say. This show was serious drama for me. All the perils and pitfalls of growing up in a big family and how easy it was to get lost, make mistakes, find redemption. It was still cheesy, but so much better than the sap fest that was the Walton’s, Eight is Enough was one of my favorite shows. I haven’t seen many episodes since the 80’s when it was in syndication. Perhaps it is much worse than I remember.

And because it was a great cartoon, I am adding Battle of the Planets to this list. Mark was the coolest and I loved Princess. Many a good afternoon was spent imagining myself as part of this awesome team. The Japanese do Animation right.

Top Stuff 10

Top Five Foods I would never have eaten as a child, but love as an adult.

1. Saag Paneer-Such a delicious spinach dish. Add that tasty Indian cheese and I am powerless to resist. I hated spinach as a kid. Anything this mushy looking would never have been allowed on my fork. The lunch buffet at Himalayan Kitchen in Salt Lake offers the best Saag I have eaten.

2.Pad Kee Mao (Drunken noodles)-My current favorite dish. It has replaced red curry as my favorite Thai (inspired) dish. I love noodles and the thick rice noodles, drenched in sauce make my face happy. I loved noodles as a boy, but the spices and fish sauce would have been instant barriers to liking this dish. My current favorite place to get them is at Bangkok Classic

3.Smothered Burrito with Cheese– All my friends liked this dish. I would never have tried it. Something about the sauce made me afraid. When I finally tried this dish in my early 20’s I cursed the years I had wasted. So rich, flavorful and decadent. This is a guaranteed five pound gain, but one so satisfying, its hard to really regret it. Of course, I only get this burrito at La Frontera.

4.Roasted Asparagus-As a child I was certain I hated asparagus. I WAS NEVER SO WRONG. I have a favorite place for asparagus and it is anywhere my brother Dylan roasts it. Second, I would pick the grilled asparagus at Michelangelo in Salt Lake. Topped with a fried egg and bathed in truffle oil, it is the best 8 dollars you can spend. I hate to share it, but will if forced.

5. New England Boiled Dinner-I prefer mine with ham or plain brisket. I am not sure I can explain or describe the wonderful smells one encounters when entering a home where a boiled dinner is roasting. Thick scents of cabbage and carrots, the air is humid and heavy. Your skin absorbs it. When properly prepared, the meat is very tender and the vegetables break apart with the touch of a fork. The best boiled dinner I ever ate was prepared by a 60 year old woman from Maine. I was dog sick with a cold and certain I wouldn’t taste anything. Wrong. It was a taste explosion I have never forgotten. Young Ryan would have hated the smells and as for cabbage, it was best thrown straight in the trash. I have not had a boiled dinner at a restaurant that was ever any good. The are always under cooked or flavorless.

Finally, enjoy this fantastic version of This is not a Love Song by Public Image Limited, just because it’s cool.


Top Stuff-9

As promised (or threatened), here are my musical guilty pleasures. Some of these artists are has beens or never was(es) were(?), some of them are thoroughly embarrassing, which is kind of the  point, right?

First up, someone from my early teens. Bryan Adams was a pretty popular guy in the early to mid 80’s, getting to play in the Live-Aid festival in 85 as well as doing an awesome duet with Tina Turner. Basic rock and roll with killer riffs and a gravely voice. Cuts Like a Knife and Its only Love. And also, Tina Turner is still a badass.

I was not sure I liked Korn the first time I heard them. Shoots and Ladders seemed silly to me. I kept imagining the meeting where the intro to the song was discussed. “Bagpipes? Really.”  Then I heard the track Blind  and I was hooked. Some people lost interest after a mediocre second record, but they came back hard with “Follow the Leader” for a third record. I can agree that some of the later work is not as good, but check out these tracks from the first record as well as a great song from the third. Blind and Dead Bodies Everywhere. I can’t Let Korn go without mentioning how fantastic they are live. So much energy.

Back and forth and back to my teens again. This band made one really great record and then also flopped a bit on their second. Sadly, they never really recovered. That being said, I love the firt record song for song and  two or three songs of the second. The Hooters (what a name, eh?) were pop gold. Just weird enough that most kids had never heard of them or hated them and normal enough that my emerging musical palate could still enjoy them. And we Danced and Johnny B. P.S. The ads really blow, right?

Chevelle is a band that  gets thrown in the Nu Metal category. Their songs are often played in D tuning, with heavy power chords and the like. I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. The songs are simple, and often less produced than other bands. I have seen them live a few times and they put on a solid show. Unlike some bands, their sophomore release, “Wonder What’s Next” was the money maker for them. I can say I like all their records. That is not the case with any other band on this list.  Send the Pain Below and The Clincher.

I thought Loverboy was the heaviest of the heavy from the time I was 11 to about 14. This was the band that I knew every word and every guitar riff (on my air guitar, that is) on their first three records. Whenever I played at being a rockstar as a boy, I was gonna be as cool as Mike Reno. This is the second of three Canadian artists to make this list. Hmmm. Jump and The Kid is Hot Tonight.

I can admit it! I like Godsmack. Ok, I like their first three records. I really like the self titled record-a great deal. This is some killer cliche rock and roll. Another fun live band and one that likes to get the crowd involved. They are totally full of themselves for no good reason and their music has gotten progressively less interesting, but I am still a sucker for some songs-like these-Whatever and Stress.

In 6th grade I fell in love with arena rock. It was the very early 80’s and I was 11. Sheesh, give me a break. REO Speedwagon is one of the bands I liked then that I still listen to now. They can make some serious cheese when it comes to love songs, but they did give us the best break up song ever. Listen to that as well as another fine track off the Hi-Infidelity record. Time for Me to Fly and Tough Guys.

Not sure this one really counts as a guilty pleasure type of band, but few artists have more severe dividing lines between love and hate as does Marilyn Manson. Because of some ridiculous corporate censorship, I was denied an opportunity to see Manson perform and a scheduling conflict kept me from seeing him on another Salt lake visit. No stranger to controversy, Manson makes some interesting and crazy songs. His cover of Sweet Dreams(Are Made of This) is haunting. I will give you that as well as another favorite track. Sweet Dreams and Tourniquet.

The third Canadian on this list is Corey Hart. What a sexy beast. I enjoy his first three records immensely, especially “Boy in the Box”. I wanted him to be considered part of the New Wave bands that I loved so much, but let’s be honest, it is total pop. Still, the dude writes groovy love songs, over the top and oh so tasty. You get three, yes that’s right, THREE Corey Hart love songs (and come on, one of them has the word “ain’t” in the title). It ain’t Enough, Everything in my Heart and Eurasian Eyes.  Gosh, he is so dynamic! Heh.

Last on the list is a band I found listening to WFNX out of Boston. What a cool station! Nothing but alternative rock all day and night. They had a program where on Tuesday nights, they would  present a live performance of various bands, including Jesus Jones. Jesus Jones was a band I thought was going places. They instead chose obscurity. They put out four records that I know of. Three of them are alright. Maybe their sound was not interesting enough to sustain more than one record at one time in history.   Regardless, I love that one record. Two songs off of it that did not get played on the radio.   Trust Me and Blissed.

Top Stuff-8

Guilty pleasures-things that an individual likes despite all evidence those things are complete crap!

Yeah, I have a lot of these. Music, television, art, movies-I have songs, bands, shows and films that I continue to enjoy long after credible evidence has presented itself, showing that I lack anything close to good taste. I am a very forgiving person when it comes to media. It really has to suck (like draining the universe of light, sucking) before I will admit something is awful. I have read hundreds of books and the only one I would never tell anyone to read is The House of Sand and Fog. I have only really hated two movies (ask).  I suffered through, and actually enjoyed several television shows that were cancelled before the first season was half over (ask me if you’re interested. I am too embarrassed to write them).  We will save guilty music for for next week (but oh, I like some really awful bands).

Top Stuff-8=guilty pleasures-movie style!

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure-OK, hard to really call this a guilty pleasure when so many people enjoy the film. Still, I am hard pressed to find anyone born after 1990 who finds this entertaining. Two deadbeat, loser teens go on an epic adventure through time with the aid of a phone booth time machine, provided for them by a very bored George Carlin. The acting is atrocious, but the one liners are fantastic. I am a sucker for Keanu Reeves. The dude is a horrible actor but I admit to enjoying most of his films. It can be argued that he plays the same character in all his movies, this character-Ted

Gross Anatomy-Matthew  Modine and a pre-Melrose Place Daphne Zuniga star in this romantic comedy about students in their first year of medical school, taking a course in gross human anatomy.  Modine is the fly by the seat of his pants sort of guy while Zuniga is the serious, top and any cost type of student. Of course, Modine falls for the hard to get Zuniga and hilarity, heartbreak and reconciliation occur. Could there be a more cliched story?

Clean Slate– Dana Carvey has put out some stinker films. This one is laugh out loud good. Private investigator Maurice Pogue wakes up one morning, unable to remember anything about himself. He discovers he has been in an accident and is suffering from a rare form of amnesia that prohibits him from remembering anything once he falls asleep. He finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation, a hunt for a rare coin, and a beautiful woman who may be his only ally or worst enemy. Both Sheryl and I love this movie. The first time we saw it, both of us laughed to the point of tears and coughing.

Strange Days-Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett,  Tom Sizemore and Juliette Lewis power this fantastic film. It is 1999, the eve of the “new millennium” and all hell is about to break loose. An ex cop (Fiennes) is a street dealer, selling straight to the brain memories that can be watched over and over through a device that allows the user to not only see, but feel the memories. While trying to reunite with his ex girlfriend, Faith (Lewis) he becomes tied up in a police conspiracy involving the recorded memory of the murder of a prominent rap artist by the LAPD, that threatens his life as well as Faith and his two friends (Sizemore and Bassett). This film is gritty and dark and I love it.

Paycheck-One of the many film adaptations of  Philip K Dick stories, Paycheck gets me because of the presence of Uma Thurman, who I love, love, love. Aaron Eckhart plays a brilliant bad guy in this movie. He is underrated in my opinion in most everything he does.  This film plays with so many cool ideas from memory manipulation and time viewing. Even Ben Affleck is good in this movie (sorry, Robbie. He really is. Admit it) and I always enjoy Paul Giamatti.

The Replacements-Another fine film starring Keanu. Also, you get to watch Gene Hackman at his best, playing another sports coach. In this film, NFL players have gone on strike and the coaches determine to continue the season by hiring replacement players, guys who have some ability but have for one reason or another, not made it to the big time. Reeves plays the quarterback, Shane Falco, a one time All-American QB who often crumbles under pressure and has not played football since an embarrassing  Sugar Bowl loss.  This movie has it all! Bad acting, great acting, football, throwing up eggs in the huddle, a bar fight, the electric slide and strippers as cheerleaders. How could one not love this movie.

Dirty Dancing-My first date was Dirty Dancing at the drive in. I saw it along with Pretty in something…I forget. This is one of those movies I tried not to like. I tried to hate the dancing, the acting, the music, all of it. I failed. I love the pure cheese of this film. I love Patrick Swayze as the hard-ass-with a heart of gold-dance instructor. I love the dialogue (“I carried a watermelon”), and the nasty dancing. I can admit to getting chills during the last dance number and admit that it is so over the top and ridiculous as well. It sure was lucky she wore her dancing panties that night!

Eddie and the Cruisers– Micheal Pare was briefly the golden boy during the early 80’s. He had no staying power however and his acting was passable at best. I guess he was just pretty enough to get roles, rugged enough but not talented enough to take it to the top. In Eddie, Pare plays rocker Eddie Wilson, who committed suicide in the early 60’s. His band made one album, recorded a second that was never released. A nosy reporter gets the idea that Eddie might still be alive, as his body was never found, and embarks on a mission to interview the remaining band members, find the unreleased record and hopefully, a living Eddie Wilson. The story unfolds through the memories and recollections of “Word Man” Frank Ridgeway, played by Tom Berenger. The soundtrack is what captivated the teenager in me. I love the songs and still listen to them (oh the guilty pleasure of that). My kids really like this film. Not sure others do.

Butterfly Effect-Every choice changes the course of our lives. Some choices change our lives in ways we regret. What if you could go back and change things, do something else? What if those changes made things worse? That is the premise of this movie. I like the acting work of Ashton Kutcher  in this film. A very serious role, but he plays it well. I also like Amy Smart (in this and other films. Rat Race for one). Give this one a try.

Grease 2-Finally, the most guilty and silly of my guilty pleasures. I first saw this on HBO when I was 12. I fell in love with Michelle Pfeiffer and her sexy black jeans. She was the epitome of my Jr. High fantasy girl. Maxwell Caulfield was far too pretty to be like me, but I related to his plight-lusting after the popular, pretty, dirty, yet unattainable girl. The songs are so over the top, filled with sexual innuendo and I know them all. I know how bad this movie is, know it has poor story, poor film making, awful acting and bad singing. Still, I love this movie. I love it more than the original.

I am sure there are more of these, but ten seems more than enough. Give me your list. Make fun of mine. Do something.