What makes an album influential?

For us muso’s some things are as important as life itself.  Today I took a fun test on Facebook, which asked “how many of the 100 most influential albums do you own”. I managed a resonably respectable 21, which is apparently more than 50% of the population. It did however spark a bit of a wider question for me. What makes an album influential? in a true sense for fellow musicians.  For me, the answer for me is that for an album to be influential, it should have something in it that inspires other musicians to do something a bit different to what they were doing before. Did the top 100 hit the spot? Sadly no, I think they were way off the mark.

Here are five albums which didn’t make the list, but I believe are hugely influential and why I believe they warranted more attention.

Album  – C’est Chic – Artist – Chic.

When “Le Freak” came out (single off the album), every guitarist I know wanted to play the riff. Guitarists who had previously turned their nose up at anything which wasn’t Rock, suddenly started playing funky. This didn’t turn Ac/DC into a disco band, but it opened a lot of peoples eyes to the fact that it was important to groove. In terms of production, the album also lead the way.

Album – The Clash – Artist – The Clash

There were many great punk albums, but The Clash was a game changer and an eye opener for many punk musicians and fans. What set it apart in terms of influence from other punk albums was the presence of a cover of Police and Theives, a Junior Murvin reggae tune. This opened the eyes and ears of the nation to reggae. This in turn lead to a huge upsurge in interest in reggae, amongst people who’d been completely unaware of the genre.

Album – Parallel Lines – Artist – Blondie

The effects of Blondie cannot be understated. Although many bands have had female vocalists and many had had big hits, this album was a game changer. The difference was that the band were a proper band, playing good songs well. It wasnt’ just a put together vehicle for a wannabee. Debbie Harry had been around for years and was an influential part of the New York CBGB’s punk scene. The band opened many doors for female singers.

Album – Elvis Presley – Artist Elvis Presley

If you don’t know the album, you really should click on the link and read about it. have a look at the cover. It could have been released yesterday. The Clash nicked the design for London Calling. The opening track is Blue Suede Shoes. Without Elvis, there may not have been a rock and roll scene as we know it. No list of influential albums should omit this.

Album – Raising Hell – Artist Run DMC

This album had a cover of Aerosmiths “Walk This Way” on. Chris Rock described it as “The first great Rap album ever”. The album opened Rap up to the mainstream. It also changed the perception of Rap with mainstream rock musicians. Not only that,  many young rappers first became aware of the genre when this hit the scene. There is no way that the impact of this album can be downplayed.

I doubt that any form of popular music hasn’t been in some way touched or influenced by at least one of these albums, if not all of them. There are many other albums which have been influential, but I doubt that any would break into this top five in terms of how they changed the game permanently.

If you are interested in the facebook list, which I mentioned at the top of thios blog, here it is  – http://www.influentialalbums.com/

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