15 Albums That Changed Your Life


In A Pillage of my Live Journal Account, I found this Facebook Meme that seemed appropriate in this setting

So, in one of those things that floats around the internet that I do out of boredom of life, and my own self importance I did this…

Think of 15 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.

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1) “Watchout” Martha & The Vandellas (1966)
Primarily for the “there are better days, have pride in yourself” anthem (and proposed single) “No More Tearstained Make-up” Other choice cuts include the hits lifted from the LP (“Jimmymack” as a stereo re-recording done in 1966, versus the single version done in June of 1964 and the fantastic “I’m Ready For Love”). The chilly, mysterious “Keep It Up” (It sounds like at the fade the man doing wrong is going to get stabbed to death and buried off some highway), The folk rock oriented “He Doesn’t Love Her Anymore” and the overly complex “we can write like Burt Bacharach too!” “What Am I Going to do Without Your Love” The other songs are enjoyable fluff….

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2) ” Ev’rythings Coming Up Dusty” Dusty Springfield(1965)
Primarily for her slap Aretha in the face remake of Aretha Franklin’s first charted single “Won’t Be Long” that kicks off the album in high gear, too bad that it kinda slows down when she does a ghastly cover of “La Bamba” and does like the 83rd version of “Who Can I Turn To(When Nobody Needs Me)” from Roar of the Greasepaint, Smell of the Crowd. But all the other tracks are worth skipping over those two. Her version of “I Had a Talk With My man” despite being a note for note cover of the original brings something far less gospely, but more sensuous out of the song. I recommend this LP over the over-recommended but still stellar Dusty In Memphis

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3) “Compostions” Anita Baker (1990)

One of the many albums I spent my weekly allowance on in the early 90s in the form of cassette tape. Anita Baker was the first concert I ever attended also (Circle Star Theatre, 1987). I don’t know why the last track “Fairytales” struck me so familiar when I was 8 years old, about the time when childhood fairytales end, as an adult I understand the harsh realities of life, and all the little stories you’re told.
“Talk To Me” which leads of the album is the exact solution to the lies that get told in adulthood, and how to cope with them.

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4) “Nina Simone In Concert” Nina Simone (1964)

I think the power that is Nina Simone, the beginning of her activism and the sense of humor and rage that she brought to her best recordings are summed up by these live dates from Carnegie Hall in the spring of 1964. The righteousness that is “Mississippi Goddamn” placed alongside “Go Limp” (and the fact that her other LPs can be a bit “scattered” in approach. “This is a showtune but the show hasn’t been written for it yet…” indeed….

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5) “More Hits By The Supremes” The Supremes (1965)

No other LP demonstrates why, although technically still unheralded (The Supremes have never been awarded a Grammy Award, like ever), The Supremes actually deserved their success based on the combined talents of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, Holland Dozier Holland and The Motown Promotional team. Their best known (or most cartoonish) song “Stop! In The Name of Love” is on this LP, along with the 3 minute romantic touchdown that is “Back In My Arms Again” plus the delightfully sweet “Honey Boy” The lights down low oooching B-side classic “Whisper You Love Me Boy” (that’s about 18 times more seductive than the Mary Wells original, or the 2 subsequent covers), and the saddest happy song ever “The Only Time I’m Happy”

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6) “The Swingin’ Miss D” Dinah Washington (1956)

I’m doing my best to stay away from “greatest hits” and anthologies, so I’ll go with my source of great Dinah Washington, before she was bathed in the land of strings completely that would characterize her What A Difference a Day Makes! era at Mercury records. “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” If you don’t like that song you can suck on my hairless nuts. There’s also “Making Whoopee” since my favorite type of Dinah Washington song is either about the trials of sex and romance with that genuine knowing humor she put into each of those types of songs.

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7) “Make Way For Dionne Warwick” Dionne Warwick (1964)

” Walk On By” “You’ll Never Get To Heaven(if You Break My Heart)” “Reach Out For Me” “In The Land Of Make Believe” “A House Is Not a Home” and a reprise of “I Smiled Yesterday” appear here. The best demonstration of sophisticated Uptown Soul (you really have to combine her 1st 2 lps and weed out the covers of Shirelles, Tammi Terrell and Maxine Brown songs to really make those Lps shine in listening). We can forgive the presence of “People” and the original version of “(They Long To Be) Close to You”.

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8) “The Temptin’ Temptations” The Temptations (1965)

Since I hate “My Girl” and it’s not here, everything to swim in in the Temptations mid 1960s repetoire is here to savor. “The Girls Alright With Me” “My Baby” “You’ve Got To Earn It” and “Don’t Look Back”. and makes an excellent prelude to the Gettin Ready LP (Look for Paul Williams version of “Who You Gonna Run To”)

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9) “The Elegant Sound Of The Royalettes” The Royalettes (1966)

Magnificently overproduced LP of Teddy Randazzo produced The Royalettes. All cushy full 41 piece Orchestra playing east coast Uptown Soul/R&B for 41 minutes, and didn’t result in a single hit single. “It’s a Big Mistake” is such a brilliant piece of funk. Who knew basically, a symphony behind a girl group could produce a good funk post-doo-wop stroll record. It’s big, it’s gaudy, it’s bigger than life. It’s Douglas Sirk committed to vinyl.

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10) “My Guy My Town and Me” Lesley Gore (1965)

So think of The Royalettes LP above sung by america’s favorite closested lesbian pop star of the 1960s! it’s also her last LP to benefit from the hands of Quincy Jones and Jack Nitzche, and therefore shows the transition between the height of girl group pop into it’s more adult Pop-Soul expansion (as most of the girl group stars that had hits at this time were entering their early 20s, and were decided that they needed to grow up with their consumers). The magnificent exhale that is “What Am I Going To Do With You (Hey Baby)” is one of the best moments of giving up ever committed to vinyl

(Now onto Greatest hits packages!)

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11) “Cellarful of Motown Volume 1” Various Artists (2002)

This CD showed how much volume of great recordings got shut into the vaults by famous and not so famous names at Motown once 1) The Supremes in 1965 and 2) Diana Ross in 1966 became the main focus of Berry Gordy’s crossover ambitions. What got left behind was great potential classics like Tammi Terrell’s “All I Do Is Think About You” (Vindicated by Stevie Wonder, the co-composer of the tune in 1980 as a B-side) Jimmy Ruffin’s ode to the Neighborhood we all came from “On The Avenue” Barbara McNair’s discoteque romp “Baby A-Go A-go” and Martha and The Vandellas “It’s Easy To Fall In Love With a Guy Like You” (actually vindicated by the Hitch Soundtrack in 2005).

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12) “Anthology” Kim Weston (2005)

I’ve worn this CD down to the scratches by playing my 2nd favorite song “Take Me In Your Arms, Rock Me A Little While” and the tracks slated as follow-ups or her never completed LP (“You Can Do It” “I’ve Got a Weak Heart” “I’m Gonna Make it Up To You” and “Helpless”).

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13) “Time Is On My Side” Irma Thomas (1997)

Because it includes her best Minit recordings in New Orleans (“Ruler of My Heart” “I Done Got Over” and “Two Winters Long”) with a good selection of her Imperial records years (“Time Is On My Side” “Break-A-Way”) but I still had to just break down and buy the 2 in 1 CD of her two Imperial LPs for “What Are You Trying To Do” “He’s My Guy” and “It’s Starting to Get To Me Now”

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14) ” Back To Mono” Various Artists (1992)

Yes Phil Spector is nuts, and most likely he killed that woman and, is still like, technically free, but…..what can we do about that, despite the fact that he created some majestic records from 1958 through 1969. Can I separate the great artists he assembled (The Crystals, The Ronettes, Darlene Love, The Righteous Brothers and dozens of session singers as obscure as Clydie King and as famous as Cher) from the fact that he’s a crazy genius. When the Baion beat takes over on The Crystals “Then He Kissed Me” I think not

15) “One Kiss May Lead To Another” Various Artists (2005)

It has it’s flaws (it doesn’t have one Martha & The Vandellas Track on it) but it came as a hatbox, and has a great variety of girl group songs recorded between 1960 and 1969, outside of the obvious songs that most people associate with the genre, and some of the picks that Rhino records picked for inclusion (Notably Dusty Springfield’s version of “I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face” The Jewels “Opportunity” and The Cookies “Only To Other People”) vindicate that I “know” the music I love, as most of my friends and a few appreciative boyfriends had been introduced by me to those magical tunes before this box set appeared. It’s the one Box set in my collection that vindicates who I am on more levels than just a musical one. It’s the 4 CDs I vow to never part with in life.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “15 Albums That Changed Your Life

  1. You’ve actually made me curious to hear the Anita Baker album. Considering what albums it’s grouped with, and your knowlege and taste, I’m gonna keep an eye out for it.

    Knowing that you’re a Supremes fan, I’m curious if you’ve ever listened to their albums in Mono? Not only are the mixes different, but sometimes it’s a completely different take. That’s the case with ALL motown albums up to 1967. In some cases (Jimmy Ruffin & Marvin Gaye) they even had different covers!

    • The Anita Baker album is such a non-sequitar in this bunch, because I’ll always associate it with my parents marriage falling apart, and it being a comfort during that time. In a sense of 15 records that changed my life I couldn’t let it go. It’s not considered Anita Baker’s best work, but it’s my favorite of hers nonetheless, especially “Fairytales”

  2. The mono and stereo versions of “Watchout” are completely different to the extent they are different albums altogether. The stereo mix used on the original LP ( I haven’t heard it on CD or I-tunes so I don’t know) is a completely different take of “Jimmy Mack” “One Way Out” and “What Am I Going To Do Without You”. Though it’s a bit later in the game (for mono) the Mono is actually easier to find. And extremely powerful.

    I haven’t read a Motown book in years, but I seem to remember sometimes Barry Gordy recorded albums in one session and as a result, often had the group/artist re-record a current hit for the album version. There are a LOT of album versions different from the singles. Fascinating.

    • Well according to Martha Reeves in her autobiography their Heatwave LP was cut overnight. I wasn’t familiar that there was a mono mix to Watchout but considering that “One Way Out” and “He’s Doesn’t Love Her anymore” sounds so different on the 45 it makes sense.

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