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  • Ian Mattey

7 Albums that Influenced My Musical Tastes

This started off as a Facebook thing - a challenge by a Facebook friend. In fact I'm still in the middle of fulfilling that challenge but have decided to post it for posterity in one place here in my blog in the hope that my 'discoveries' may lead you to new ones yourselves. Perhaps we share similar tastes and experiences? One major difference is that I am going to offer explanations because that IS part of the story.


I grew up surrounded by music. My mother liked a lot of different stuff from Rimsky-Korsakof to the Beatles. She absolutely loved the Rolling Stones 'Honky-tonk Woman'. My significantly older brothers had already developed their own tastes by the time I became aware of music; one was Herman's Hermits, the Beatles, and the Association; the other the Stones, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Atomic Rooster, and Jesus Christ Superstar. They agreed on Led Zep, as did I. My father played and loved classical guitar; Julian Bream, John Williams (the other John Williams), Narcisco Yepes and others. He also liked Leadbelly and delta blues, then he discovered John Prine, much to my mother's consternation.


The biggest challenge is paring this down to just 7 albums, so there are some honourable mentions at the end. Here goes:


Jethro Tull | Thick as a Brick (1972). One of my brothers bought this album. I liked it but I wasn't allowed to touch his stuff, so I eventually bought my own copy. I loved it's blend of lyrics, music, humour, etc., and of course, the Ian Anderson's flute playing.


It was one of the first 'rock' concept records - one song for the entire album; an opus. The album 'art' was another thing; a fake local newspaper full of tongue-in-cheek humour. My first concert ever was Tull. Warchild was the album out at the time with 'Bungle in the Jungle' playing heavily on the radio. They played songs from it and the previous albums, Minstrel in the Gallery and Aqualung during the first set. after intermission they came out and played Thick as a Brick from beginning to end - and I sang along.


Genesis | Trick of the Tail (1976). I think I was 16 or 17 when I bought my first Genesis album, Nursery Cryme (1971) from a delete bin. I'd heard about but not heard Genesis, so this was a cheap way to check them out. The album was a stretch for a fairly mainstream rock guy. Still, there was something about this Prog Rock I liked.


Trick of the Tail was released shortly after and so I paid full price and bought it...and liked it so much more...far more polished and listenable. I played it A LOT. It was the album that opened the door for me to more progressive music all over the spectrum. It also connected me to a lot of Genesis connected music, everything from Peter Gabriel and other solo efforts to Brand X to Lancaster & Lumley....and so on.


Ultimately I worked my way through the entire Genesis catalog and settled on Selling England by the Pound and The Lamb Lies Down as my favorite albums of theirs.

Trudy and I got to see Genesis in 1984 when we were living in Calgary. It was the Mama tour. Of course, Genesis was a very different sounding band by then. The highlight was the drum duet by Phil Collins and Chester Thompson - absolute syncopation...awe inspiring. If you haven't ever seen it, there are versions on Youtube. You can say what you want about Phil Collins but the man could drum...don't believe me, check out early Brand X...'Nuclear Burn', 'Malaga Virgen', and others.


John Prine | Prime Prine (1976). As mentioned previously, my father had developed a taste for Prine that had somehow infused into me. My first impression was not a good one - that voice, the man could barely sing. Maybe that's why Prine is so important to my musical tastes; I learned to look beyond the obvious and dig deeper into the melody and lyrics. Anyway, this 'best of' album came out and it seemed a good way to do that. i don't know that it was my first, but it was certainly my first meaningful experience with true storytelling in the form of a song. It lead me to Steve Goodman (saw them together in Calgary not that long before Goodman died), a revisit of Arlo Guthrie, and even Greg Trooper, who opened a couple of times for Prine here in Winnipeg.


Steely Dan | Aja (1977). I bought this album at Mother's Records, Portage Avenue during their Boxing Day sale. I liked several of Dan's previous songs; 'Do It Again', 'Reelin' in the Years', and 'Rikki Don't Lose that Number' and had heard a couple of songs from Aja on the radio; enough to take the plunge. It was soon the album I was playing non-stop. I found the mix of rock, pop, funk, and jazz captivating. It was obvious that Dan had progressed a lot since their inception. This album spurred an interest in jazz that lead to dabblings with Pat Methany, Keith Jarrett, Ornette Coleman, Thelonius Monk, Tom Scott, Wynton Marsalis, and many others - like pulling a thread.


Little Feat | Waiting for Columbus (1978). I moved back to Winnipeg after high school in Ottawa. I reconnected with a childhood friend, Doug Gibb. Doug played guitar and was into totally different music than I. He introduced me to the local music scene - Cornstalk, Peter Paul Van Camp, and Houndog. He and his buddy Neil also introduced me to Ry Cooder and Little Feat - they were raving Feat fans. I liked Feat but didn't love them, in part because their studio albums all had a very 'flat' sound. Good playing, good songs and such but no sizzle. Then came 'Waiting for Columbus' featuring the Tower of Power horn section, the best live album ever IMHO. The songs jump of the record and it feels like you're there. My love of this album - I still listen to it regularly - caused me to take a second look and find appreciation in them. Little Feat helped me to love Southern Rock, Jamming, and Lowell George's slide guitar. Bonnie Raitt credits George with teaching her how to play slide.


Dire Straits | Dire Straits (1978). There are some events that you remember exactly where you were when they happened. So it is when I first heard Dire Straits. Specifically, I was in my little 1st gen Honda Civic driving down Kennedy Street south of Portage going home after a days work at Opus 69. The song was 'Six Blade Knife'; it was playing on 92 CITI FM.


I'd noticed the album in the store - I thought the cover, a slightly fuzzy painting of a lone girl with obscured face standing by a pillar was interesting and wondered what kind of music was inside. I almost bought the album based on the cover art but for some reason didn't. Then I heard the song on the radio. The very next day I bought the record. Then 'Sultans of Swing' hit and Dire Straits was launched. I still follow Mark Knopfler and pretty much buy anything he does, which is expensive because he does a lot. I love the fact that he collaborated with Winnipeg's Ruth Moody a couple of years ago for a few songs.



Peter Gabriel | So (1986). Another album I know exactly where I was at the time. I was in Toronto attending meetings when I first heard 'Sledgehammer', which got my attention. Then I heard 'Mercy Street' and knew that this album was far more than met the eye. I bought the album the next day on Yonge Street and haven't stopped listening to it since. So wasn't my first Gabriel experience; because of my Genesis roots I had bought each of his previous solo efforts, which I liked to varying degrees...but So was so much more complete, full, engaging and so I became a die-hard Gabriel fan because of it. I have a separate list of what I call perfect albums - no filler, every song stands on it's own - So is on that list too.

Well, that's seven albums and my explanation as to how they influenced my musical tastes, along with some back story. Hopefully you enjoyed what I had to say. It seems like I've just scratched the surface (pun intended), so here are a few more honourable mentions:



Rimsky-Korsakof - Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony | Scheherazade (1960). My mother loved this record. I didn't know I missed it until I moved out of the house. So I bought it for myself and listened to it deeply.


It is such a beautiful piece of classical music and is responsible for opening me up to that world. I don't listen to classical music much but I feel I can appreciate it when I do because of this album.



Led Zeppelin | Led Zeppelin III (1970). I would have been 12 when I first heard the intro to 'Immigrant Song'. It got my attention to say the least, and the rest is history, as they say. In a way, Zep introduced me to the Blues more than the Stones or Beatles ever did.


Zep is still pretty much the only Heavy rock band I listen to, as I find the rest pretty derivative.


Wailin' Jennies | 40 Days (2004). In 2002, Pierre and I attended their first ever show at Sled Dog music in the Wolseley area of Winnipeg. It was supposed to be a one-time thing just for fun but they went 'viral'. Anyway, their music, captured on this album, reintroduced me to the local music scene, as well as, starting me down the path of enjoying blue grass and other roots music.




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