Collette Mclafferty shares 5 influential albums.
Here are the 5 albums that shaped me. I have personally met 3 of the 5 artists on this list (Jeff Buckley, Tracy Bonham and Auf der Maur).. These records affected my relationship to singing, storytelling, production and harmony. Each of these albums had something new to offer with each spin. Making this list reminds me how important it is to listen to full albums, even in a marketplace that now pushes singles or small groups of songs. Nothing beats the album format! Thank you to Global Texan Chronicles for allowing me to share my trip down memory lane with you all…
Prince – 1999
My musical journey started with, has been sustained by and most likely will end with Prince. I would not be the artist I am today if it were not for Prince. Somewhere around 10 years old, I became aware of this thing called the radio. I actually thought there were little people in my radio singing to me. Three songs, in particular, would catch my ear. “1999”, “Little Red Corvette” and “Delirious” by Prince… I was starting to figure out what “records” were and I was ready to make my first purchase at the record store. Ever the businesswoman, at 10 years old I had negotiated a 3 dollar a week allowance and saved up for this gem…
I remember excitedly opening up my first album with my grandmother at my side. The first half of the album was Prince and his band. Cool! The second half, I was not prepared for, as it was Prince showing his buttcrack and I was only 10. Schwing!
My grandmother either didn’t care or just didn’t make a big deal out of it, as to not embarrass me as the fire in my loins were awakened for the first time. Apart from being able to listen to “the hits” on command, I was exposed to a world of funk and new wave I didn’t even know existed… I didn’t know what lingerie even was when Prince daringly suggested we wear “lingerie to a restaurant” in D.M.S.R (Dance, Music, Sex, Romance)… but I knew it was dangerous and funky. I didn’t understand why the “Lady Cab Driver” was moaning so loud… was she hurt? Or why people would “pretend they were married”…Prince taught me about the complexities of adult relationships and the spiritual/sexual and musical connection. When I saw he played all the instruments in the studio in the linear notes, sometimes I worried he was lonely and needed more friends.
Jeff Buckley – Grace
This album purchase came after a strange series of events. The year was 1996. My boyfriend at the time told me we needed to go to a party because Jeff Buckley would be there. I didn’t know who he was, but my boyfriend told me he was a famous folk singer and the son of another famous folk singer… Tim Buckley. Well, we get to the party and Jeff Buckley is apparently not there… just me, my boyfriend, his friend a random dude and his lady friend. So the 5 of us smoked weed all night and jam out on a bunch of tunes. We sing until about 6 AM. I decide to sing one of my original songs. At this point in my life, I had only sung them for one or two other people. I start singing a song called “Do What You Gotta Do”. Random dude picks up a beat up acoustic four string guitar and plays and sings along. We end up doing this all night. The next day I realized I never got the name of Random Dude. I asked my then boyfriend who that guy was… “That was Jeff Buckley!” he says. I go and get “Grace” the next day. It takes me over a dozen listens to “get” this album. The sounds are foreign to me, but I know I want to know this album on a deeper level. His voice bends and contorts in ways I have never hear before (but will hear later in a never ending school of male vocalists who are all inspired by him). His music sounds almost… alien at times. Whether in the track “So Real” that later I realized foreshadows his death, or singing about the “Mojo Pin” that keeps him satisfied, I realize that like Prince, I am listening to a human that experiences life at a higher vibration than the rest of us.
Alanis Morrisette – … Jagged Little Pill
I will never forget where I was the day I heard “You Oughtta Know” on the radio. The details aren’t that amazing as I was just sitting in a car somewhere..but I heard the end of the song for the very first time and it shook me to my core. It tapped into a female angst that just had not been previously represented on radio. At this point in my life, I had more than my share of disappointments in the dating land and I felt like she was tapping into an emotion that I didn’t know was OK to have. When I bought her album, I played it on repeat.. the synergy between her and producer Glen Ballard resonated marrying pop sensibility and extreme awkward-girl quirkiness. Just like Jeff Buckley, Alanis broke the rules of pop music with tunes like “Head Over Feet”, with odd phrasing, two note harmonica solos, and brutally honest only-meant-for the diary lyrics. I felt as if I had discovered an underground secret songstress, completely unaware that 13 million other people were about to do the same.
Tracy Bonham – Down Here
Off the success of Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill”, the record labels were furiously looking for other angsty females to market and found it in Tracy Bonham, with the brilliant modern rock radio hit “Mother, Mother”. I had purchased Tracy’s major label debut “The Burdens of Being Upright”, but it wasn’t until the criminally under-appreciated follow-up record “Down Here” that I truly understood and worshiped the deep musicianship and storytelling abilities of Tracy Bonham. Prince and Jeff Buckley had shaped me as a musician. Alanis had shaped me as a singer, but Tracy Bonham shaped me as a storyteller and songwriter. This album brought a darker side to pop music, but without sacrificing the all important “hook”. This album had hooks for days…not only in the vocals but in the strings arrangements as well. Lyrically, it went firmly against the grain of everything major label. Between “Behind Every Good Woman is a Trail of Men” and “Fake It” as it defied the culture of slut shaming and fake orgasms. Definitely ahead of its time as the world wasn’t ready for this. When I found out this album was not getting the proper promotion by her label, Island Records I actually wrote the record label and chewed them out for letting such a masterpiece fall under the radar. One A and R guy that I spoke to agreed with me. They fucked up and they knew it. I often wish that I lived in an alternate universe where Tracy Bonham stayed on the charts and the whole Disney teen-pop star thing never happened.
Melissa Auf der Maur – Auf De Maur
Back in the early 2000’s, I used to attend a show on FUSE called “IMX”, which later became “Daily Download”. This was back in the day when Fuse was a true alternative to MTV. They saw me walking down the street one day and asked me to be in the audience. I had such a blast that I came back several times, even having my own band edibleRed briefly featured on an episode. I remember one thing that really IRKED me was that they almost never had female fronted rock bands on the show… until Evanescence finally made a breakthrough with “Bring Me to Life”. Seeing that it was finally acceptable to have women on modern rock radio again… Melissa Auf der Maur (formerly of Hole/Smashing Pumpkins) was on promoting her debut album “Auf der Maur”, it appeared as if she was perhaps a last minute booking. I remember hearing the first couple notes of “Followed the Waves” which was somewhere between a chant and a yodel…
Also, this was a woman playing bass and singing at the same time. This album was heavy and near metal to its core… yet it embodied the principles of the Phil Spector “Wall of Sound”…thick vocals, huge guitars and minor chords for days. Produced by Chris Goss, now for his work with Queens of the Stone Age (who almost made this top 5 list). One of the standout track for me was “I Need, I Want, I Will”, a spoken word ode to musicians and the pursuit of sound against all odds. I was so enthralled with this album, that I joined the Auf der Maur Street team with Capitol Records in hopes that the rest of the world could love this record on the same level I did.
Collette McLafferty Perfect
German version also available!