In this first part, I’m gonna be sharing my thoughts on 4 albums that shaped my early, early years of music appreciation.
Thriller (Michael Jackson)
An album that would probably be on a lot of personal lists. MJ’s ‘Off The Wall’ album was already such an amazing offering and would be in my all-time favourite list, but since there were so many other albums that I loved, I had to omit it. But wow, the album that followed!!
Thriller came at a time I had just moved (or was in the process of moving) to Kuala Lumpur to do my A-Levels at the Methodist College. Being a college student and living in a rented room, I had a lot of time on my hands to listen to music, so this album was on constant play… on multiple formats. When my cassette album broke (or got eaten up), I got the CD copy. During this time, I also had college mates who were rich enough to have Thriller on vinyl (hello Siva, Jackson & Myron!) so I got to appreciate that too. Memories!
What can I say about its music that has not been said already? The songs have become part of music folklore and the production value was so high it still sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday! Many already know about MJ and Quincy Jones, but it was on this album that I learned about names such as Bruce Swedien (mix engineer), Humberto Gatica (recording engineer), and Bernie Grundman (mastering engineer). These guys are my idols till today. And then there are musicians like guitarists Paul Jackson Jr., Steve Lukather, Dean Parks, keyboardists David Foster, David Paich, Greg Phillinganes, Rod Temperton, drummer Jeff Porcaro, percussionist Paulinho da Costa… man, these are the ones I remember. I’m sure there are many more. Still, all these guys are my heroes till today!
Thriller is testament to what you can achieve from having a sterling cast of singer(s), producers, engineers and live musicians… and album that is simply timeless!
Chicago 17 (Chicago)
This album was on constant play on my Walkman and this was my first introduction to a certain producer named David Foster. If I’m not mistaken, I bought this album before I bought Thriller. It was such a large, expansive sound with drum, keyboards, guitars and THAT bass sound, along with songs like “You’re The Inspiration”, “Stay The Night” and “Hard Habit To Break”. Not only did I enjoy this album as a music fan, I was constantly ‘studying’ it. If there was an exam about this album back then, I would have got an ‘A’ for sure! I also remember thinking to myself, “this was a perfect pop-rock album”, and at the time I probably said, “when I grow up, I want to be like David Foster”. Teenage dreams indeed!
The one other thing I remember about this album, till today, is how lousy I felt when my cassette got eaten by the cassette player.
GRP Live In Session (GRP Artistes)
I experienced not one, but two ‘firsts’ with this album.
GRP Live in Session was my first introduction to jazz. Jazz that I actually loved to listen to, and jazz that I thought, at the time, was somewhat attainable in the playing sense, meaning I could try to play some of these songs, by myself and also with a band. This was the time in my life where I was starting my career as a musician and got to be around the likes of guitarist Josie Thomas, bassist Andy Peterson and drummer Tom Anuar. They were my local equivalents to Lee Ritenour and gang.
What I loved most about this album was the ‘live’ vibe of the recording. The album was recorded in a huge recording studio with a small (lucky) group of invited audience who got to watch these masters perform and improvise in real time. What a treat! At that time, I often dreamed of doing this in the future, having a live album that was recorded in front of a live audience. Thankfully, that dream has actually come true, because to date, I’ve recorded two ‘live’ albums under my name.
The other first? This was the very first CD I bought.
The Broadway Album (Barbra Streisand)
This album started my appreciation of ‘show tunes’, but I have so many memories of this album. Here are three:
Shared music: They say music is meant to be shared. Well, this is one of the early albums that I appreciated together with my then wife-to-be. She’s a big fan of show tunes, and an even bigger fan of Streisand, so we listened to a lot of this album while we were still in the ‘courtship’ days.
Orchestral Arrangements: The orchestral arrangements on this album just amazed me. It was so creative, so musical, and so ‘on-point’. That level of excellence really made an impression on me.
“Something’s Coming”: This track ‘haunted’ me for a loooonng time. I was working for the late Sudirman Hj. Arshad at the time, first under the music directorship of jazz pianist Michael Veerapen, and then took over the role myself some years later. If you get the chance, give this a listen, it has so many chords, tempo changes and time signatures that we took forever to get it right. It was always a challenge, even for Sudir’s band which had some of the top musicians in the country, but when we got it right, it was so satisfying!
And that was my 1st installment of albums that have shaped my outlook of music. Stay tuned for the next part. Till then, Keep Music REAL!