A few weeks ago I was challenged by a friend on Facebook. He challenged me to list ten albums that have had an impact on me. And the challenge was not about best sellers or classics – just ten sets that have rocked my world. Well, since I’m a huge fan of making lists the challenge was naturally accepted.
But this particular challenge was tricky. I’ve been a serious music addict for about 25 years and have collected music since the early 90s. Where to start was one of the first questions I raised. The second was how many genres would I include?
For the past 25 years or so I have been actively listening to hip-hop, metal, punk, ska-punk, swing, boogaloo, soul, funk, pop and, of course, reggae, a genre that has been the love of my life for roughly 17 years (yes, Anna Magni, I love you too). And it’s still going strong, growing a little each day that goes day.
Anyhow, I decided to start from the beginning and going forward to the early 2000s. Because that was the last time an album really rocked my world. And for this challenge rocked my world means taking me partly in a new and different musical direction. A set that changed the way I perceived a particular genre or sub-genre.
Below is a list of ten albums that have taken me in a different musical direction. I heard at least one of them at time when I didn’t want to listen to that particular style. My mind wasn’t ready, but my heart was.
NWA – Straight Outta Compton (1989)
In the late 80s MTV broke in Sweden. At the time I was about ten years old and I was blown away. I spent all the time at home in front of the TV. I hadn’t listened much to the radio and watching all these cool videos on MTV was something new and fresh. And you have to bear in mind that Sweden at the time only sported two state-owned channels, so MTV was wickedly exciting.
I loved every minute of MTV, but hip-hop grabbed me more than anything else. I taped Yo! MTV Raps and I particularly liked West Coast hip-hop with loads of curse words. I had never heard anything like it before and I loved it. And I still do.
The Offspring – Ignite (1992)
In the spring of 1994 I had started to grow tired of hip-hop and needed something new. Me and some of my friends were skateboarders and snowboarders at the time and we watched a snowboarding video in which The Offspring’s We Are One was featured. I loved it, but soon learned that it was punk rock, and I didn’t like punk rock. Or at least I thought I didn’t. My mind needed to get convinced. It took a few months and then I was hooked. I bought every album from Bad Religion, Pennywise, NOFX and any other band coming from sunny California.
Rancid – …And Out Come the Wolves (1995)
After listening to so-called skate punk for about a year I heard “real” punk rock. Rancid’s …And Out Come the Wolves was raw, gritty and had something new – ska. I had heard ska-punk before, but not the way Rancid played it. They were influenced by bands from the UK, particularly The Clash, and their sound forced me to look towards the UK for my next musical thrill.
The Specials – The Specials (1979)
When ska-revialists The Specials entered the UK music scene in the late 70s they did it with a bang and created musical history with their fusion of reggae, ska, pop, punk and soul. Critics and music fans loved them and their original self-titled debut album. And I did too but almost 20 years after they scored hit songs with covers like A Message to You, Rudy and Monkey Man, tunes that I would soon discover in their glorious original versions.
Various – The Harder They Come (1972)
I was given this album by one of my parents’ friends around 1997. I can’t recall why it was given to me, but this was the album that introduced me to “real” reggae music and the true sound of Jamaica. I played it over and over, especially the gritty Sweet and Dandy and the dread Draw Your Breaks.
Desmond Dekker – This Is (1969)
This was one of the first vintage reggae albums I bought and it came out when rocksteady started to fade out and when reggae took over – one of the best periods if you ask me. The sound was raw, but with beautiful melodies and infectious hooks.
Culture – Two Sevens Clash (1977)
A landmark roots album and one of my first encounters with the spiritual, haunting and apocalyptic side of reggae music. It’s certainly dark, but with bright melodies and excellent vocal harmonizing. An album that grabs your attention and a set that also went big among punk rockers in the UK.
Lone Ranger – Hi-Yo, Silver Away! (1982)
I didn’t like dancehall until I heard this album. I thought dancehall was equal to 90s ragga. But it certainly wasn’t. Lone Ranger is a top deejay and an intriguing lyricist. Always riding the riddim flawlessly and always amusing to listen to. One of my former bosses once said to me that great things look great. And that’s certainly true for this album. Check Tony McDermott’s sleeve. History right there.
Garnett Silk – It’s Growing (1992)
Just as with punk rock and early dancehall I was sure that I didn’t like ragga of the early to mid-90s. And I didn’t until I heard the angelic voice of the late and great Garnett Silk.
Luciano – Serious Times (2004)
Roots reggae is for many people equal to the 70s and Bob Marley. For me it was too. Up until I came across Luciano’s Serious Times. One of my all-time favourite singers is Dennis Brown and Luciano sometime sounds like a reincarnation of the Crown Prince of Reggae, so naturally I loved what I heard.
This was also the set that opened the gates to new reggae reality for me. Suddenly I found myself listening to albums not only from the 60s, 70s and 80s, but also from the 90s and 2000s.
My reggae circle closes with this great album and over the years I have fought, and overcome, my many preconceptions about music. I still keep my eyes and ears open for new and exciting sounds, but neither my mind nor my heart is ready yet. Reggae is the love of my life.
Honourable mentions go out to Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power, Mongo Santamaria’s Soul Bag, Ramones’ Rocket to Russia, The Smiths’ The Queen is Dead and Funkadelic’s One Nation Under a Groove. Five excellent albums that also have had an impact on me, but not nearly as much as the ten mentioned above.