dinsdag 11 november 2014

10 Albums

Recently I was challenged to list ten albums that have been important for me.
Normally I don't feel the need to participate on these kind of challenges, because there are too much potential albums for a certain list to make a proper top ten of. And the list might be subject of change each day.
But I decided to give it a try, because I think there has been a lot of music around which became a large part of my life, and also influenced my own music.
This might perhaps also help you to understand the musical direction I decided to go into.
So here's an overview with short explanations why I chose these particular albums (in random order) to appear in this list.

Note that this top ten doesn't necessarily contain the best long players ever made, but consist of specific albums that have become precious to me in one way or another.

Massive Attack - Protection (1994)
Where their debut "Blue Lines" (1991) sounds rather raw, its successor balances in between this style and more polished production.
It consists of excellent songs, featuring Tracy Thorn, Horace Andy and Tricky. These collaborations, including string arrangements and piano by Craig Armstrong, results into a wonderful varied album on which a crossover of musical styles can be discovered. Its overall production, collaborations and atmosphere have been an inspiration for my own musical creations. And besides this, it's one of the cd's I actually always take with me during vacation.
With "Protection" the fathers of the so-called trip-hop delivered an almost perfect album. Strangely enough the terrible 'Light My Fire' Doors cover, in addition to classic tracks like 'Protection', 'Karmacoma' and 'Sly', makes the album complete, and marks an important episode in music history.

Craig Armstrong - The Space Between Us (1998)
This Scottish composer created his own musical style by blending classical elements and instruments (e.g. grand piano, orchestra and choir) with modern electronics.
In first instance Craig Armstrong appeared on Massive Attack's "Protection" (1994), and contributed to the success of their hit-single "Unfinished Sympathy" (1991). This last one is without any doubt one of the best tracks ever made in music history.
Without his orchestral arrangements for artists like Madonna, U2 and Massive Attack, and block busting movies like "Romeo & Juliet", "Moulin Rouge", "Kiss of the Dragon", "The Quiet American" and "Love Actually" (to name a few), musical history would have been significantly different.
His compositions are most of the times rather minimal, but very strong, straight and recognisable, which makes Armstrong's music easy to understand and identify with. Something I also want to achieve with my own music.

Jean Michel Jarre - Zoolook (1984)
This was one of the first cd's I ever got, and the first Jean Michel Jarre disc in a huge pile to follow.
Jean Michel Jarre is in many ways my favourite artist on this planet. "Oxygene" (1976) and "Equinoxe" (1978) might be the best known albums by the French composer, who sold approximately 80 million albums worldwide. He also made fame with his huge mega outdoor concerts. The strength of his music are the recognisable and powerful (mainly instrumental) compositions, which are constructed as pop-songs. Created with synthesizers and electronics for the largest part, but often enough acoustic instruments are being involved. "Zoolook" marked the beginning of the digital music era, with the introduction of MIDI and samplers. Which has been made use of at a maximum level on this record. A lot of speech and vocal processing combined with Jarre's typical music style, and wonderful tracks like "Ethnicolor", "Diva" and "Ethnicolor 2" makes this organic sounding album definitely one of Jarre's most interesting.

Klaus Schulze - Dreams (1986)
My first introduction to the music from Klaus Schulze was through two discs I rented from the library. This must have been around 1996. "Miditerrenean Pads" (1990) and the Brain-release of "Dreams" (1986), containing the original 5 instead of 4 tracks. I was in particular impressed by Klaus' sublime exposure of his dreams on this second title, which matched exactly with my own dream-world. A lot of details and subtle progress within the tracks, make this album a perfect trip. Concluding this journey with the epic and surrealisic piece "Klaustrophony". The album played a major role into the approach of my own compositions. Nice detail is that my music already contained a lot of the elements of Klaus' music, around the time I discovered his (kind of) music.

Mike Oldfield - Incantations (1978)
Although I think "Amarok" (1990) is Mike Oldfield's 'best' and most varied and dynamic album up to date (yes, I prefer it above "Tubular Bells" (1973)), "Incantations" emotional-wise attracted me most. The album catches you from the first voices, until the last notes of the 4-parts masterpiece. It contains a special incantatious magic, which can only be experienced when listening to the entire long player. It would be great to achieve the same with my own songs.

Vangelis - Heaven and Hell (1975)
The Greek Evanghelos Odysseas Papathanasiou produced a lot of brilliant music during his career. Most fans favourite his legendary soundtrack for the cult sci-fi movie "Blade Runner" (1982). Which also belongs to my favourites, but "Heaven and Hell" marked the beginning of Vangelis' unique style that lead to many brilliant releases and huge successes. It was the first album released as 'Vangelis'. Besides the virtuoso musical skills (compositional as well as his playing techniques), this album describes heaven (which covers the first part of the record) and hell (the second part), in such a perfect and lively way that some parts really scare me. On this album Vangelis makes use of clear themes, but also unfamiliar elements and weird sounds that strengthen the atmosphere and unknown regions of this subject.

Didier Marouani & Paris France Transit - Concerts en URSS (1983)
The music of Didier Marouani and Space has been compared a lot with those of Jean Michel Jarre. Indeed there are some comparisons (e.g. the large outdoor concerts, the link with both artists' music in space, "Les Années Laser", and participation of musicians like Dominique Perrier and Joe Hammer), but as you can hear on this album, which is a registration of a series of concerts in Russia, exposes quite a different music style. Where his French fellow musician seems to focus more on electronic music with traditional elements, Marouani does the opposite. Involving more or less the same amount of electronics into his music, but with an opposite and more traditional approach. At least with his early works. This makes the music of Didier Marouani - and especially this live registration - an unique music style on its own. Jarre and Marouani might perhaps have been my biggest inspirations for at least my earlier musical creations.

Antonín Dvořák - Symphony No. 9 (1893)
Actually there are so many classical masterpieces, but Dvořák's "Symphony from the New World" catches me in its entire. There have been made a lot of tremendous classical pieces (and then I feel attracted most to baroque, bombastic symphonies, containing orchestra and choir), but due to their lengths, there are always some 'weaker' parts or passages that go on too long. One of the pieces where this isn't the case, is this treasure by Dvořák, in my opinion. He wrote this symphony during his stay in the U.S.A., which resulted into a modern sounding and innovative piece of classical music. Each time I listen to "Symphony No.9", I discover new elements. Something I also hope to achieve with my own music.
I had the privilege to witness a performance of the symphony, in the composer's place of birth, Prague, back in 2010. Which was a very special experience, especially in the Smetana Hall (called after another fellow Chech composer) of the City Hall, performed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra.

Jeff Wayne - The War of the Worlds (1978)
H.G.Wells' historic novel had been a big inspiration for many movies, a radio broadcast which scared the hell out of people, and also Jeff Wayne took the opportunity to create his own vision on this story. It became a musical version. Featuring big names like Richard Burton, Justin Hayward, Phil Lynott and David Essex.
The entire piece is performed by a mix of traditional instruments, orchestra, synthesizers and vocals. Which results into strong and overwhelming themes.
Synthesizer sounds and effects were used highly effective to boost the melodies and even more important: to represent the Martians.
In all aspects this album is the perfect example of blending classical influences with modern music with the available techniques. Something that I am also trying to let reflect into my music. Although, I still dream of creating a same kind of project, including a full orchestra to perform my music.

Michael Jackson - Bad (1987)
Why "Bad" and not "Thriller" or "Off The Wall"? Because "Bad" was the first vinyl I bought at the time it was released. I must have played it at least 1000 times.
The very first cd I got somewhere halfway the 80's, was "The Jacksons Live".
This period I was very much into the music of the phenomenon Michael Jackson, which definitely marked an important part of my childhood.
Besides having all his music, collecting merchandising, and participating on talent shows with Michael Jackson imitations, I was lucky to attend the "Bad"-Tour concert at the Kuip in Rotterdam, in 1988. Could have been worse for my first concert ever. I have always been fascinated by Jackson's strong and melodic songs and extraordinary video clips. After all those years, the music still hasn't reached its expire date, and with 750 million albums sold you can imagine Michael Jackson played a very important role in many people's life. And so he did in mine.

A special mention goes to "The Most Spectacular Synthesizer Hits" (1988) by Ed Starink. It was my introduction to synthesizer music. Because this compilation of the "Synthesizer Greatest" series doesn't contain originals (and after all the originals had much, much more impact on me), I decided not to include this specific release in between the ten titles above.
And yes, I could add many more titles to this list, varying from classical to hard rock, including musical styles which even have not been mentioned above. But the above mentioned list should just do it for this moment. Then, I could also extend above thread with 'best songs' and 'best concerts' for example, but I might get back to this later! Enough for now!