Led Zeppelin — Led Zeppelin II
Sure, any record by The Beatles, Queen, The Police, Bob Dylan or Led Zeppelin is a very obvious choice for a list like this, since any record by these bands has the potential to change your musical perception when first hearing it. I was 10-years-old when I first heard Led Zeppelin’s second album and it seems to me it became some sort of prototype for my developing musical taste. You need to know that I grew up with the music my parents listened to and until I was 12-years-old, I only listened to stuff produced between 1965 and 1974. The album is a typical “riff-oriented” record, but every song really differs from each other and contributes to the large image of a classic Rock album. All songs are timeless and utterly innovative. You could even call Led Zeppelin II the first real Metal album ever made.
Rush — Hemispheres
Going along the timeline chronologically, Rush is one of the world’s most unique and influential bands. Stellar musicianship can be found on any Rush album and I recommend to check all albums, but the band’s sixth studio album Hemispheres is the most progressive one. Having been a young music nerd and wanna-be musician, this album — and especially the 18-minute long title track — meant heaven to me. Nevertheless, it’s not the progressiveness or the technicality making this album a special one, it’s Rush’s very own approach to resolving musical contradictions. Most other prog albums lack heaviness, whereas many heavy albums lack virtuosity. This record has both, great playing and furious drive. I think Neil Peart’s lyrics are some of the most eloquent ones in Rock history.
Dream Theater — Images and Words
No other album has been more influential to me than Dream Theater’s second effort from 1992. To many people today the name Dream Theater has become synonymous for showing off on your instrument. If you still think this way after having heard Images and Words, you’re just never gonna get it! Every drum fill, very guitar lick, vocal line, bass break or keyboard melody…basically every note on this album is just a synonymous for musical perfection. A song like “Take the time” perfectly combines the heaviness of (old) Metallica and the virtuosity of an instrumental Jazz-Fusion band. If you like variety and great musicianship you will truly love this album.
Tori Amos — Under the Pink
Maybe Tori Amos is one of those artists you either love or hate. Doubtless she is one of the most personal songwriters around and delivers a musical intensity some of you might perceive as too distressing. Not even speaking about her lyrics in the first place (for instance, the song “Icicle” deals with female masturbation), sometimes Tori uses her voice and the piano to manipulate a song’s dynamic range in a way you certainly do not expect. Coming out of a very quiet part, she suddenly raises her voice and screams out loud. All songs on “Under the pink” are very diverse and each one delivers its own feel. But even if you approve one or two songs only, it will be enough to change your view on music as a whole. Lucky are those who can find access to Tori Amos’ sonic universe, with this album being the best way to immerse oneself in it.
Slayer — Reign in Blood
Aggression is an emotion deeply human and it never has been transformed into music more honest than on Reign in Blood. That’s why I had to pick this album. I know albums, which I like more than this one, but there are certainly few albums being able to compete with the intensity of Slayer’s “soundtrack for the third world war.” The whole album has a running time of 29 minutes, which is way enough, believe me. Every song is fast and forward driven, leaving very little room to breath and relax. Just listening to the first 20 seconds of the opening title “Angel of Death” will make clear: if hell exists, this album most likely is on Satan’s turntable.