Continued from The Albums That Left An Impression (Part 1)
But Seriously (Phil Collins)
If ‘Thriller’ had a ‘competitor’ in being the most influential album in my music life, it would probably be ‘But Seriously’ by Phil Collins. This album was my informal classroom for learning ‘arrangement and production techniques’, ‘how to build a rhythm section’ and also a class on ‘how to write for horns’. Many years later, these ‘lessons’ would influence my production for ‘Seribu Impian’ and anytime I had to write for horns in a music arrangement. Here’s a bit of trivia if you didn’t already know it… the horns in this album was performed by the ‘Phoenix Horns’ the same horn section who are part of ‘Earth, Wind & Fire’.
And then there’s Hugh Padgham, an English producer and sound engineer who was also responsible for Sting’s ‘Ten Summoner’s Tales’. This was the man who created THAT Phil Collins ‘gated drum sound’ which is so integral to Phil Collin’s sound right up till today! This is where I began to learn that every song should have a certain soundscape, meaning the sound itself is somewhat recognizable the moment you hear it.
So, this album, and the ‘live’ ‘Serious Hits… Live’ album that was released later (and was just as good, if not better), was played ‘non-stop’ for about a year. What made it extra special is that this was another album that I shared with my wife. We both enjoyed this album so much, you never heard, “can listen to something else, please?” coming from either one of us!
Kind Of Blue (Miles Davis )
This album was released in 1959 but I only started listening to it in 1992, when my piano teacher in the Berklee College of Music, Boston made me go out and buy it. In fact, he was kind of shocked that I did not already own a copy, because “any person involved in jazz should own this album”. Slap! I was then instructed to transcribe the trumpet, saxophone (both alto and tenor) and piano solos for almost all the songs in this album. After that, he made me play them on the piano, by memory! One solo per week. Just imagine, transcribing alone took a few days, and then I had to learn to play (and memorize) the solos. This exercise took up 85% of my weekly schedule and I hardly had any time for the work in my remaining classes. I hated it then, but today I am so glad I did it, because this was the foundation of whatever jazz I know, and I believe it has influenced the way I play and perform my jazz repertoire till this day.
Unforgettable.. With Love (Natalie Cole )
Another album that came out during my Berklee days was Natalie Cole’s ‘Unforgettable, With Love’. Produced by David Foster, this album had a wonderful mix of jazz and pop rolled into one. From that time on, I recall wanting to produce an album like that… classic songs, given a brand new contemporary music arrangement, and produced to the highest sonic quality. No wonder, this album was awarded a Grammy for ‘Best Album’ in 1992!
Years later, I got to meet and perform with Natalie Cole and David Foster as part of the Foster band. Imagine, performing ‘Unforgettable’ with Natalie Cole singing onstage and along with the recorded playback of Nat King Cole as the duet partner. Dreams do come true!
Ten Summoner’s Tales (Sting)
Another brilliant album produced by Hugh Padgham, this time for Sting! This album had so many great songs and sounded so amazing, even on my Proton Saga sound system back in 1994-95. Loved this album so much, I used to ‘curi-curi’ (sneakily?) play this album in the studio I worked in just to savor the fantastic songs and sounds on better studio speakers!
Additionally, I was blown away by the few songs that were written in 5/4 and 7/4. How the &^%$ did the band play those rhythms so smoothly? I had just returned home from Boston at the time, my music career was just re-starting (I was already working as a musician before I left), and it felt like Sting just challenged me to raise my own musical standard. In fact, I still feel like that today when I hear something that’s just ‘groundbreaking’, the impulsion to make even better music, whether it be in song production or in live concerts. Strange how the mind works, huh?
Did you know, I twice had the privilege to be within 2 feet of Sting himself? I was so star struck I never built the courage to ask to take a photo with him! “Regrets… I’ve had a few…” yes, this was one of them!
To be continued…