albums that changed my life

Written February 28, 2009

I finally succumbed to note tagging on facebook because this one tugged @ my heart. I thought I’d share it with my No Turn Unstoned listeners.
The criteria:

Think of 15 or more albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it.

They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of musically shaped your world.


For me, it is very important to remember the above criteria because some of these would not make my desert island list (another list entirely).

They are roughly in the order that I heard them.

01/ Minnie Riperton’s Minnie (1979)

This is the very first album (vinyl) that I ever got. At 9 years old with puppy dog eyes, I asked my mama to buy it for me while we were walking through Kmart. She did!

And this is where the seed of my musical obsession is sown:

Ever Since I Was A Kid, It Seemed I Collected Something


02/ Prince’s Dirty Mind (1980)

If I had to list one album for this list, this would be it.
(Imagine me a 10 year old girl listening to Dirty Mind. No wonder my mama freaked out.)

This is the very first Prince album I ever heard in its entirety in one sitting. I listened to this at my aunt Net’s house in North Carolina while sitting on the floor. Little would I know that this one album would totally change my life forever. This is when I split: the artist (I used to draw daily like I had to breathe) in me now had to make way for, not only, my instant, full-blown music collecting obsession, but also my growing interest in design (Everything I learned about design I learned from Prince albums). At this moment, I wonder who I would be if there was no Prince. Possibly, saner 😉

03/ Joan Jett & The Blackheart’s I Love Rock ‘N Roll (1981) /
The Go-Gos’ Beauty and the Beat (1981)

My uncle Carl bought both of these for me on the same day. My older self looking back at my younger self is happy about Joan Jett. I don’t know what I was thinking with The Go-Gos, however. I guess I was thinking girl power!

04/ Prince’s 1999 (1983)

This is the very first album that I purchased with my own money. It was on cassette tape. I wore that tape out literally. I’m glad that music cassette tapes are a dead technology. There are a ton of other Prince albums I could list, but I won’t bore you with my Princeness. I could populate another long list of life-changing music entirely, with just the albums that Prince has graced his superpowers on.

07/ Billy Idol’s Whiplash Smile (1986)

You would think it would be Rebel Yell. I love Rebel Yell, but, whenever I think of Billy Idol, this album always appears in my mind because I played it way more than Rebel Yell. There is something about the production on this album which is just exquisite, and of course there is always Steve Stevens’ guitar playing. However, I had this on vinyl, and I absolutely adored the cover with the metallic gold sheen & embossing.

08/ Jill Jones’ Self-Titled Debut (1987)

Funny Story! I can picture going into the Turtle’s record store in Atlanta on Candler Road as clear as day. I asked the clerk to play the record before I bought it. Now, this was unusual on my part because I ALWAYS bought all Prince productions without hearing them. I can’t remember why I needed to listen to this one before I bought it, though. (Prince was very prolific around this time so, most likely, I probably didn’t have enough money to buy a 12″ AND an album). When they started to play it, I told the clerk to take it off because “She can’t sing!” and I didn’t buy it that day. However, being the complete freak that I am, I eventually bought it for my Prince Protege collection, and now it is probably in my top 3 of Prince Protege productions. Jill can sing!

09/ Billie Holiday’s Lady in Satin (1958)

I was drawn to the melancholic, saccharin combination of the strings and her voice. This was a pivotal album for me because it swung the gates wide open for my Jazz / Jazz Vocals / Swing journey, and it has been an amazing one which continues to this day. There are so many freakin’ jazz albums and jazz greats to listen to before I leave this earth, and so many I’ve already listened to that it would require yet another list.

10/ Edie Brickell & New Bohemians’ Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars (1989)

This is what I listened to during my freshman year at Georgia Tech A LOT!!! I still love Edie’s phrasing, and she is a darn good songwriter. I don’t care what you think; this is an amazing album, still!!

11/ Grace Jones’ Slave to the Rhythm (1985)

I dated this guy in college for a hot second. I know that the only reason why we crossed paths is so that I could discover this album. He played it for me, and I became obsessed with the producer Trevor Jones (who would go on to produce Seal) because, up until this point, I had never heard a record with this indescribable, meticulous production. This is really my precursor into my electronica / drum ‘n bass obsession, but I didn’t realize this at the time.

12/ Pink Floyd’s Animals (1977)

Georgia Tech had a music listening lounge for students where you could check out vinyl and listen to them in the lounge with headphones. You have no idea how this album got me through those four years. It was like my security blanket.

13/ 24-7 Spyz’s Harder Than You (1988)

With song titles like “Grandma Dynamite” and “Tango Skin Polka,” you know that you are in for a treat. While I was in college, I probably saw this band the most, second to a local Atlanta group called, Follow For Now (still one of my favorite band names, yet another list). Their energy is mad wicked, as the Brits would say! Last year, I got to see them play at The Khyber in Philly, and they rocked, very hard! They still got it.

My grandma is dynamite
She taught me everything I need to know
About life

-Grandma Dynamite

14/ Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory (1991)

I DID NOT LISTEN TO RAP/HIP-HOP until this album came out. However, at the time, I only listened to this album, and no other rap or hip-hop so…
It was more about Tribe and not Rap/Hip-Hop.

15/ Alice in Chain’s Dirt (1992)

Layney’s (I called him that) voice paired with Jerry Cantrell’s guitar was a match made in heaven. Layney, R.I.P. (As i was writing this list, this was the only album I had to hear as soon as I thought of it.) The opening scream of “Them Bones” is one of the best openings to an album ever (a real album, a cohesive collection of songs) and paired with the ending, If I Would,could U?, both make the perfect bookend. Live this was even more amazing. There is not one bad song on this album. In my humble opinion, it is a perfect album. Absolutely, NO FILLER!

Layney was a perfectionist when it came to the sound quality of their music. I saw Alice in Chains several times live. However, there are a couple of instances where I remember him being super attentive. One was on 1992-11-17 at The Masquerade in Atlanta. They brought in stacks upon stacks of Marshall stacks. U see, The Masquerade was an old rickety mill. I thought the floor was going to give out from the sheer power and force of the soundwaves & the stacks, but I didn’t care. I could have died happily that night listening to them. The other time was during Lollapalooza 1993 @ Atlanta’s Lakewood Amphitheatre. What a show! Fishbone, Primus, and Alice In Chains. I was in heaven! Layney came out into the audience & went to the soundboard to make sure their sound was correct. I never forgot that…his care and attention for the sound.

16 / Fishbone’s Give a Monkey a Brain and He’ll Swear He’s the Center of the Universe (1993)

My favorite album title (and yet another list)

Now, I had been listening to Fishbone since their very first album, “In Your Face.” I remember seeing their video for “When Problems Arise” on MTV with the hula girls in the basement of my mom’s house on Westlock Circle in Atlanta. However, I think Fishbone took it to yet another level with this album, even though the previous album, “The Reality of My Surroundings” was pretty pivotal for me too. They were on this trajectory that I thought would never end. However, it did climax with “Chim Chim’s Badass Revenge,” another fishbone masterpiece. Can you tell that I really like fishbone?

17/ Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle (1993)

For me, Snoop Dogg was the first southern rapper so this album really got me to start listening to a lot of other rap/hip-hop albums. I later discovered that his parents were from Alabama or Mississippi (go figure ;)) His intonation and phrasing, oh my! He could be rapping, “Mary had a liitle lamb” and it would sound amazing so I didn’t care what he was rapping about. The same way I didn’t care at 10 years old what Prince was singing about. However, I did turn the cover inside out so that it showed the image of Snoop Dogg and not the crass illustration on the cover.

18/ Outkast’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994) Don’t get me started! Andre’s voice up until this time was the countriest dialect ever recorded, and this made me so very happy. Once I moved to NYC, Outkast was my saviour whenever I missed the south.

19/ Wagon Christ’s Throbbing Pouch (1994)

O.K. I could write a novel about how much this album affected me, but I won’t. However, I will tell you that, until this album, Prince was the only man in my musical life, but when I discovered Luke Vibert. Oh my! For those who know me well, they know that this was HUGE! Luke Vibert is Wagon Christ. He has a ton of other aliases. Some of them are: Plug, Amen Andrews, Kerrier District, Ace of Clubs, etc. He is very prolific just like Prince.

20/ Jamiroquai’s The Return of the Space Cowboy (1994)
I received Wagon Christ’s Throbbing Pouch and Jamiroquai’s Emergency on Planet Earth on the same day. With my discovery of Luke Vibert, Jamiroquai didn’t have a chance. However, once my musical palette was ready to be expanded again (after my newfound Luke Vibert obsession had become manageable), I was ready to become a lifelong Jamiroquai fan in all its incarnations (even though I have been missing me some Stuart Zender for a while now, over 10 years).

21/ Goldie’s Timeless (1995)
So my uncle Carl was really into The Who, and particularly The Who’s Quadrophenia album. I could never get into The Who, but I finally got my own modern day version of a concept album: Goldie’s Timeless. Listening to this was like a religious experience.

22/ Nicolette’s Let No-One Live Rent Free in Your Head (1996)

My 2nd favorite album title

I was obsessed with this double CD, playing it constantly. It reminds me of when I had the privilege of living in an 1800 square foot loft in Atlanta. Nicolette still has one of the most unique voices you will ever hear in your lifetime.

23/ Lewis Taylor’s Self-Titled Debut (1996)

Words can not express how much this man’s voice AND songwriting has inspired me.

Every single time I hear him sing these lyrics I crack up (in a good way 😉 He sings it so convincingly that you know he *is* on fire like mariah!

You were beautiful
Baby so was I
We commanded attention
From every single passerby

-Never Be My Woman from Lewis II, the second album

24/ Doyle Bramhall II’s (Doyle Bramhall, also a musician, is his father) Jellycream (1999)
Words can’t express how much this man’s voice AND guitar playing AND songwriting have inspired me. I get hot flashes whenever I see him perform live, and this album started me on that journey (of hot flashes 🙂 ).

When I first listened to it, I was actually designing the website for this album when I worked at Nettmedia, and I always used to listen to an album while I was designing a website for it back then. It took me a while to listen to the whole album because I had the 2nd song, “Day Come Down” on repeat for a couple of days. I listened to that one song over and over and over and over and over and over and over. When I finally got around to the rest of the album, I was amazed by its versatility.

In interviews, Bramhall II has said that this album is mediocre. It is far from it. In fact, Eric Clapton not only recorded 2 of the songs off of this album on 2000’s (note the difference in dates) Riding with the King with B.B. King, but he also got Bramhall II to not only produce the tracks, but tour with his band. He has been touring with Clapton as a guitarist ever since.

Grow to live, Learn to love
With some luck, we’ll get above
You and me, we’ll wait to see
The day come down
The day come down
Don’t go. Sit here girl
Let’s have a drink and watch the day come down
The day come down

I never had a chance to grow
So let me do more now, than I’ve done before

(wicked guitar break right about here)

Let’s just say it’s over now
Mercy, mercy to the broken ones
Good to know I’m right in time to watch
The day come down

I never had a chance to grow
I didn’t know what face to show
So let me do more now, than I’ve done before
I’m goin’ down to where the river flows

-Day Come Down

25/ Kemistry & Storm’s DJ Kicks (1999)

I played this a lot when I was working in NYC the first time around. This one album encapsulates my entire, first five-year, NYC experience. This is one of the best drum ‘n bass mixes ever compiled. Kemistry may you R.I.P.

26/ Savath & Savalas’ Folk Songs for Trains, Trees, & Honey (2000)
One of my former students, Alex Gilbert, used a song from this album in one of his web projects for a class I was teaching. The project was amazing, and the song made it even more amazing. I immediately bought the album within that week, and play it often still. In fact, I played it earlier this week. Thank you, Alex 🙂 This introduced me to Guillermo Scott Herren and all his incarnations: Prefuse73, etc.

27/ Slum Village’s Fantastic, Vol. 2 (2000)

Of all the albums on this list, I have probably played this one the most. I personally think that this is the best hip hop record ever recorded. For over a year, this CD never left my daily rotation, and even now it is still on my short list. Jay Dee may you R.I.P.

See, what you do
It’s up to you
It’s up to you
What you do
It’s up to you (it’s up to you)
It’s up to you (it’s up to you)
It’s up to you (it’s up to you)
It’s up to you (it’s up to you)
(It’s up to you)
(It’s up to you)
(It’s up to you)


28/ Jeff Buckley’s Grace (1994)

I was soooooooooo pissed when I finally got to hear this album. I berated my friends for not introducing me to his music earlier. I felt as though I was the only person alive who did NOT know about Buckley before he left this earth. I found out about Jeff Buckley too late. I never had the privilege of seeing him live. That is one of my musical regrets in life.

29/ The Foreign Exchange’s Connected (2004)

This is another album that I have played to death. I have never heard this sound before. I think the partnership of Nicolay’s production and the Little Brother posse was amazingly synergistic.

Ace any master course without a syllabus
Watermark my heart, you can’t get as real as this

-Von Sees

30/ Jamie Lidell’s Multiply (2005)

Love on first hear! And then after I saw him live @ The Unitarian Church in Philly I was deeply in love. Super talented. I could go on and on about this guy, but I won’t.

31/ Alice Smith’s For Lovers, Dreamers, & Me (2006)

Her voice is like a soulful yodel that has seeped into my soul. In the past couple of years, I have seen her in concert the most (around 9 times).

32/ Benga’s Diary of an Afro Warrior (2008)

I had never heard any dubstep music until I heard this album. Wow! What a way to be introduced to a genre. I didn’t know what is was, but I knew that it was hella special. Benga is dubstep. You CAN NOT hear anyone better than Benga. There can be only one; He is the master!

Ever since, I’ve been an avid follower of the genre and all of its sub-genres and cousins (for me Juke). The journey has been a gateway and a bit destructive for me musically as the genre and its sub-genres was all I ever wanted to listen to for about a year.

Also, this is one of the best album covers EVER!

33/ Silkie’s City Limits Vol. 1 (2009)

Oh, Silkie! Deeply madly in love on first listen. Why? He was able to bridge the sonic, lush keyboard bed of drum & bass (that I had been missing sorely for years) with the dubstep genre. Heaven, for me, as a lover of both genres.

jon hassell the moon34/ Jon Hassell’s Last Night The Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes In The Street (2009)

The album I play whenever I’m stressed, and, unfortunately I’m stressed a lot, so I play this one often. It’s one of the most beautiful and calming albums ever recorded.


This is not all of them, but I think this is enough.

There is a lot of music that is missing from this list because it would require a couple of other lists:

  • One would be “SONGS that changed your life…”
  • And the other would be “the total musical output (catalog) of a musician or band that changed your life…”

One thought on “albums that changed my life

  1. You said above next to 1999, “ There are a ton of other Prince albums I could list, but I won’t bore you with my Princeness.” While attending last weekend’s Prince symposium, I noticed several comments from participants that they had no one to share their “Princeness” with. I think that’s one of many reasons your symposium was so wonderful! I experienced the same type of exhilaration listening to Questlove’s 4 nights of Prince sets…the joy and excitement of conversing with other Prince “nerds” each consecutive night was a comment made by many of us. It was a time I will never forget.
    So I guess my comment is two-fold. First, I wish their was some way to have a regular meeting or event that could draw this wonderful community together on a more regular basis, to share and learn, and express our inner “Princeness” with each other. And second, I really enjoyed this album list of yours, but I am curious and would love to know your Prince albums version of this. In addition, maybe someday you could also share and rate your favorite Prince songs and the impact each made on you. I always want to discuss and learn about Prince and would love to do so with any like-minded group or individual. Thank you for entertaining this comment!!

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