My Super Subjective Top Ten
I was recently asked by a friend on Zuckerberg central (Facebook) to make a list of the ten music albums (formally known under the name “LP” or “CD”) that made me to what I am / who I am. I under normal circumstances submarine these kind of requests not even kindly. This one, though, caught my attention and sparked my brain up to go down memory lane. Music plays such a center role in my life. Words and stories just came pouring. The tunes tuning in my head as if I could time-travel to that particular moment in my life. Here it comes girls and guys, my personal top ten list. My pop life.
1. Stevie Wonder – Songs in the key of life
Stevie Wonder is the genius of soul music.
He is the Mozart of R&B.
He is a political active artist without putting the message before the sound.
He does not have the greatest voice but his singing touches my so deeply its sometimes unbearable.
He does not have the best grooves but his creativity and open mind are unmatched in his genre.
“Songs in the key of life” is probably the best album in soul and pop ever.
It represents deeply rooted happiness in the bohemian Alsace, where I spent my early childhood. It´s an absolute no brainer to me.
2. Miles Davis – Ascenseur pour l’échafaud
This man (Miles Davis) has been a companion for as how as I can remember – a sort of family story says I could recognize his trumpet at the age of three – dunno if this is true.
I heard this music before. I saw the film a lot later and lied about it (saying I had seen it). If you listen to the soundtrack, Miles made, in some way you have seen the film. It represents in so many ways what I am. Music and image working together. Artistic freedom and the “old” in the persona of Louis Malle collaborating with “black” aka Miles Davis. IT IS THE BEST OST EVER, NO DOUBT.
If you have visited the Montreux Jazz Festival once you feel his presence there. He was probably the most talented musician of our times.Hey, last but not least my son´s second name is Miles.
3. John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucia, Al Di Meola – Friday Night in San Francisco
This is the best guitar album ever recorded. Yeah, I am going to superlatives here – if you can show me a truly better one, shoot, but be sure of your choice or I will rip it apart and feed it to Eddie Van Halen for breakfast.
The fact of the matter is: What did it to me?
Well, this very same concert series / this tour, these 3 heroes of the 6 strings passed in Karlsruhe. My dad “schlepped” my sister and myself to the concert, I wasn’t too keen on going to tell you the truth. What happened then, was a sort of enlightenment – it was an almost spiritual moment (yeah, I saw my very personal Jesus). The atmosphere they created, sitting on these three chairs in between 2 palm trees. Having fun, with some “take this in your face” “ping-pong” moments (listen to it, if you do not know it and you WILL understand – the guitars are actually panned to the left and right channels – long live stereo!) and then just pulling off out-of-this-world-type of sequences. Rejoining in a sort musical prayer and then swirling off to some unknown planet of virtuosity. It was breathtaking and I will never forget it. For me it is the ultimate statement and it still transcends me. Amen.
4. Boogie Down Productions – Criminal Minded
When I got this 33 rpm album I discovered my black side. Hip-Hop had slowly came over to Europe; clubs were playing it and I had experienced my share of bruises while trying to do the Rock Steady Crew on the streets of southern Germany (full on ghetto style, brother).
This however made its way directly from NY into my hands and I was probably the only one in a 100 km radius who had it spinning. It was so pure and raw – I was wowed and I felt proud of my color, which at that time I mainly ignored or saw as a burden (hey, no batman for “fasching” / this is how the “mardi-gras” carnival is called in south of Germany / for me – the guy obviously is white and that would not work. As crazy as this might sound, it was a personal dilemma and I finally got over it a week ago). Scott la Rocks tragic death got to me much later / hey, this was pre-HTTP and it did disturb me, concern me – all this violence in hip-hop.
This one provoked the angry young, not-white man in me, it was an important one to me and my life moving forward.
5. Kruder & Dorfmeister – DJ-Kicks (Studio !K7)
What these guys are from where? Vienna? They turned down Madonna for a remix? Really?
K&D showed up on my radar when I started a company with 2 very old friends. We wanted to go into music production and actually did some pretty cool projects for the ZKM in Karlsruhe and a company called Aperto in Berlin, I later worked for (but this is whole different story).
To tell you the truth we spent a lot of time on our in office Corbusier lying chair with some THC in the system.
The DJ KICKS series from K7 was a whole new concept of electronic music and subsequently DJ culture was finally taking its hard earned place within the musical ecosystem. These guys came around with a mind blowing sound – they took electronic music to a different level and to me they gave a pathway to access creative working on sounds and groove.
I tried so badly to get where the Austrian duo was and finally gave up and created my own humble sauce. I must of heard this CD about 5 million times – I listened to it lately and it still surprises me in so many ways. On my “life-side” they opened the doors to digital art in general. I could put Coldcut, Daft Punk and / or the Thievery Corporation in here too …. But, sorry, K&D just rule in this universe.
6. Santana’s Greatest Hits
Not any greatest hits – this one: Black torso / White pigeon. Why? Because I had it when I was like around 11. Santana was defo my first real idol – post early childhood. A sort of emancipation from of all this “boring” jazz “crap” I grew up with and still with the stamp of approval of my parents.
I had begun playing the guitar and listened to the solos on my Lenco record player over and over. I even had a Levi’s jeans jacket with sewed on Santana logo. I wanted a Fender Stratocaster and wanted all the pedals “master Carlos” had and, yeah, I wanted to play like him. The Fender turned out to be a red Ibanez copy / fair enough / I had some pedals / but the fingers did not follow, ask my neighbors from then. Samba Pa ti was not only the single song I could get on the fret, it also got me thru a number of heartbreaks…. Thx Carlos.
The singing, chorus loaded guitar sound and the energy are just so overwhelming. Plus it was for me a step into finding my own taste, making my very own choices. I saw Santana live twice and his relaxed style and virtuosity are incredible.
7. Soul II Soul – Club classics Vol. 1
While Hip-Hop was in full gear, but it still was kind of difficult to get even the interested crowd to get to the dance-floor. The beats to rough – The hooks to lame – The rhythm to complex. Then Jazzy B. a London producer / artist came along and gave the whole thing a soul / pop twist. It was amazing the way his stuff became the hottest shit in no time.
Me, myself, and I at this point of my life spent a lot of weekends on a very slow train to Paris – joining friends, which could bring me into THE PALACE – hottest club in the french capital at that very moment. It was an amazing place: stars, elite models and other hi-snobiety gangsters in full hedonistic drive. Sex & Drugs & Beats. I believe the young David Guetta was spinning. I can remember that in the middle of the night he played the album version of “back to life”, which is over 2 minutes acapella and the dance-floor was just standing still and then after a seemingly eternal beat-less time, kicked in the known 45 rpm release – the crowd went crazy. I loved it – that and all the crazy glamour – turning my head, seeing the super impressive Grace Jones popping a champagne Bottle, wiping her nose and briefly giving me a look down.
8. Taj Mahal – The Real Thing (live)
This is a shout out to my mom and her blues family. She actually knows / knew him and was close to being his representative in Europe. Taj Mahal has taken blues to another level, notice the Tuba playing bass. It’s a killer. Eclectic as I want to be. He put NYC into southern blues / a sort of “delta-salsa”.
It is an album that has been around like a beautiful piece of furniture you just do not notice anymore, but would rip a hole in your setting if it were gone. I need it a dose of it every once and awhile.
Just check the 18 minute (!) long track called:
“You Ain’t No Street Walker Mama, Honey but I Do Love the Way You Strut Your Stuff”. The written title on its own is grammy worthy.
9. Prince – Sign o´ the times
Hey, prince just had to show up in this list at some point. The difficult part he has followed me around for a long time and has given me so much along the way, I wasn’t sure which album to choose. “Sign o´ the times”, “Parade”, “Diamonds and Pearls” and of course “Purple Rain” made it to my personal short-list.
For me “Sign o’ the times” was a bundle of raw energy and a sort of sexual “kick-off” for the late bloomer I was. This little man had it going on, he inspired me and fired me up (and this is where I stop). I remember the graphic-design video of the song “sign o´ the times”, wow, just putting on the lyrics and some shapes. The brute force of “strange relationship” & “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”, the soft sophistication of “starfish and coffee” (remember that incredible reverse snare drum?) and of course “U got the look” with teenage cougar dream Sheena Easton. Never forgetting the drumming sexiness Sheila E.
Yeah, Prince, put light in some corners of my life and still does.
10. De la Soul – 3 feet high and rising
This was the quantum leap of hip-hop for me. Prince Paul and these guys just slammed this album into my face and turned my bomber jacket wearing hip-hop attitude to ridicule. They showed up with a hip-hop I actually could relate to. This for me was eye opening and a real audible pleasure.
The way Prince Paul used samples as from “Hall & Oates – I can’t go for that” (on “Say No Go”) – the way the album playfully swirled around the air. The sense of humor & the intelligence. Last but not least the almost dadaist approach in the lyrics. This was new and this was different.
These guys are f******* crazy.
The alliance with the “Jungle Brothers” and “Q-Tip” on the track “Buddy” (Hey? Wasn’t Queen Latifa on there too? I couldn’t find her on the credits) was also the sign for a new movement coming straight out of the city of my heart NYC. Yes, this one made me a New-Yorker forever.
While P.E. and N.W.A. were still playing it tough – De la Soul seemingly stayed cool, smoked a joint and showed the stereo-typing hip-hop critics a huge middle finger.
This was it, my POP life in 10 albums.