Andrew Lloyd Weber — Jesus Christ Superstar
I have to include the very first music I ever remember hearing. From the haunting guitar motif that opens the album, to the great riffage of “Heaven On Their Minds,” and the incredible epic chord changes of “Hosanna,” this double album really set the tone for what I would like for the remainder of my life.
Epic classical music! The combination of the rock band with orchestra was incredible, and the vocal performance of Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan in the role of Christ is still to this day one of my favorite. And he recorded all his parts in THREE DAYS!!!! Amazing!!! It always bummed me out that Gillan couldn’t do the 1973 “Superstar” film by Norman Jewison. Every part in that film either featured a better performance from a singer on the original album, or a better performer altogether. Every part except the main part of Christ. But Ian was busy touring some album called Machine Head at the time.
Ozzy Osbourne — Diary Of A Madman
When I first started playing guitar, my big three heroes were Jimi Hendrix, Tony Iommi, and Randy Rhoads. Randy was the very first player I ever heard incorporate classical guitar lines into metal, and the result was simply astonishing to me.
I learned every riff, every solo, and every little nuance of Randy’s playing on the Diary of a Madman album, I couldn’t get enough. The opening riffs and solos to “Over The Mountain” are killer, and the absolutely beautiful intro going into one of Ozzy’s most EVIL sounding riffs on the title track still gives me chills to this day. MaelstroM’s debut album which is being recorded over the next few months closes with a song called “Son Rise” and as I was writing it, I kept saying to myself “It’s gotta be an epic ending like Diary, It’s gotta be an epic ending like Diary.” 30 years into my playing an I still keep this album in mind.
Jason Becker — Perpetual Burn
In the late 1980’s everyone had their Yngwie and Vai (who’s breakthrough albums Rising Force and Eat ‘Em And Smile, respectively, could have easily made it to this list) but I had my Jason. Jason Becker to me was the next evolution in not just guitar, but the next step in the evolution of music. I was already a huge fan of his with Cacophony, but when this solo album hit — it was like an epiphany. I have never heard such a superior level of technique coupled to such a sense of melody, counterpoint and phrasing before. The guy played with such a fire and passion, you could hear it in every note, whether it was one note that was screaming, or literally a hundred going by in just seconds. And this was recorded when he was 18!!!!!!
He was the next great one … the next Amadeus, the next Tatum, the next Trane … the next guy who was showing us what was possible with 12 notes, and then it all came crashing down before it could even start. I remember hearing the news that Jason was diagnosed with ALS, was at a local diner with a buddy of mine and I was in tears the whole night. My friend had no idea who he was, so I spent the whole night trying convey what was just lost. But then years later I heard new music from Jason, something I thought I would never hear again, through todays technology he is now able to compose again … its incredible stuff, and an even more incredible story.
Return To Forever — Romantic Warrior
The term “Supergroup” has been used to describe putting 4 or 5 guys together in a room who’s previous individual bands you’ve heard of before. But to me, “Supergroup” means you got a band where each member is an absolute titan on their respective instrument. And to me, no group can even shake a stick at the amount of virtuosity found in Return To Forever’s “classic lineup.” Chick Corea on keyboards, Stanley Clark on bass, Al Di Meola on guitars, and Lenny White on drums … it’s like the musical equivalent to The Justice League, or when Godzilla teamed up with both Rodan and Mothra to fight Ghidorah (aka … Monster Zero).
Each member possessed a total mastery of his craft, and on this particular album, the songs shine as well. The title track alone has one of the most devastatingly good acoustic guitar solos I’ve ever heard. Stanley Clark’s lines throughout are death defying, and Chick’s playing is nothing short of majestic. After I listened to this album the first time, I realized how all these bands who are put on pedestals are actually, in comparison, a complete joke.
James Horner — Soundtrack to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
I was 10 years old, sitting there with my popcorn when the usual Star Trek fanfare from the original series started to play. And then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, this OTHER theme kicked in, and I had never heard anything like it up to that time. Mesmerizing chord changes, maritime sweeping melodies, and sheer power…all coalescing into one.
I remember sitting there with my mouth open listening to this, thinking … I think we’re in store for a great film. I cannot overemphasize the importance of James Horner’s soundtrack on my musical development. Here was Horner, taking these “Flat 5″ chord changes, which have always sounded very evil to me (Sabbath or Holst)…and he was making it, well…beautiful with these sweeping melodies all over the place. If you’re not moved someway in the final “Epilogue” of the soundtrack, especially between between 1:40 and 2:50, you have a hole in your soul. When the debut MaelstroM album comes out, I’m probably going to have to give James Horner the royalties.
Honorary mentions: any of these could have easily made my list
Black Sabbath — Vol. 4
Jimi Hendrix — Jimi Plays Berkeley: With all due respect to Marty Mcfly, this album has the best version of “Johnny B. Goode” ever recorded.
Yngwie J. Malmsteen — Rising Force
Steve Vai — Eat ‘Em And Smile
Jake E. Lee — Bark At The Moon
Al Di Meola — Casino
The Beatles — The White Album