As you most likely noticed, music albums are more or less dead. Yes there are old school people still in love with that approach to producing and listening to music (you know, 8-10 songs in a 45-60 minute record) but if you are in your twenties and even thirties it’s likely you don’t own a single album.
The ways is which we enjoy music have changed dramatically over the last decade. The main reason lies in the fact that the technology through which we consume it has evolved.
Records has been for almost a century a convenient way of packaging songs, based on the technology available at the time. It made no sense to print, package, distribute and sell 2 song, since the vinyl/tape allowed for about 60 minutes of content (then 80 minutes with CDs), or about 10 songs. That became the norm.
One proof that technology was the driver is the fact that many albums had 3 or 4 good songs an 6 or 7 filler songs. Due to the way the internet and media platforms transformed society, now the norm is to listen to a single song, watch its video (which is often kind of a short movie), and see many art forms combined. It has become a multifaceted experience and that’s all great.
However it’s important, especially for a musician, to go a little deeper than that, so as to internalize the subliminal, essential components involved in writing songs and making music, because all that stuff is going to come out when we play, without us even realizing it. And there’s no other way to learn it apart from listening to great music on repeat, until we know it inside out.
In a good record we find a photograph of a moment, a collection of songs that represent a work of art and encapsulate the artist’s vision at the time, with a specific band, sound and production.
This means that learning from a record is like reading a book, diving deep into a new world and coming back transformed.
If there’s one thing that we have completely lost in this ‘access anything, anytime and for free’ culture, is the capacity to pick one thing and stick to it for a prolonged period of time (a.k.a. attention span…), which is where the most enjoyment (and growth) comes from.
This is why I think it’s still important to check out entire albums and experience what it feels like to go into that reality for one hour with no interruptions.
Here I’d like to share with you ten masterpieces that will profoundly influence your style and inspire you.
I’ve tried to stay away from the classic ones (you know, Vinnie’s solo album, Weckl’s Masterplan, Steely Dan’s Aja and so on) as I wanted to give you a list of different albums, mostly from the 90’s and 2000’s, that you probably don’t know and that can boost your musicianship just by listening to them:
– Randy Waldman – Unreel – Drummer: Vinnie Colaiuta — Standout Track: My Favorite Things
– Michel Camilo – Drummer: Dave Weckl — Standout Track: Suite Sandrine
– Chick Corea – The Leprechaun – Drummer: Steve Gadd — Standout Track: Nite Sprite
– The Blues Brothers – Best Of – Drummer: Steve Jordan — Standout Track: “B” Movie Box Car Blues
– Steve Lukather – Candyman – Drummer: Simon Phillips — Standout Track: Party in Simon’s Pants
– Joshua Redman – Elastic – Drummer: Brian Blade — Standout Track: Jazz Crimes
– Incognito – Positivity – Drummer: Richard Bailey — Standout Track: Thinking About Tomorrow
– Hiromi – Beyond Standard – Drummer: Martin Valihora — Standout Track: Softly As In A Morning Sunrise
– Gerald Clayton – Two Shade – Drummer: Justin Brown — Standout Track: Boogablues
– Dave Matthews Band – Live at Red Rocks – Drummer: Carter Beauford — Standout Track: Seek Up
Try this experiment: set aside one hour and just listen to the whole thing, no multitasking and no distractions. Then notice how you feel at the end of the record. When was the last time you did this? Have you even ever done it? Do you have the focus to do it?
I promise, listen to these albums in heavy rotation and you are going to transform your drumming.
To make the most of these listenings, and appreciate every aspect of them, here is an article where I talk about how to listen, which you can check out and apply to these records:
How to Listen to Music – Active Listening for Drummers
Since it takes a lot more than 10 records to cover some of the greatest music ever produced, this will be a multi-series article, with posts dedicated to a specific era, style, drummer, band and so on.
‘Theory & Concepts’ – Altitude Drumming – Volume 1
‘Art & Musicianship’ – Altitude Drumming – Volume 10