Warning, Will Robinson!
You may recognize Bill Mumy from one of his alter egos, such as Will Robinson from TV’s Lost in Space. But Mumy has been part of musical groups The Jenerators, Barnes & Barnes, Seduction of the Innocent, The Be Five and Redwood. His last solo album is Lockford, a collection of original songs that look back lovingly on the Americana sound.
“For me picking 100 albums is a daunting task, but 10 ... wow. That’s super tough,” Mumy said. “So, these are the 10 I believe changed my life more than any others. Not necessarily my 10 favorite all time albums, but 10 that truly altered my path.”
The Kingston Trio, The Kingston Trio
Shortly after this album, they started doubling the three-part harmonies and utilized the legendary Capital echo chamber to greater effect, but this is the album that single-handedly started the folk music craze of the late 1950s that lasted well into the ’60s. Dave Guard, Bob Shane and Nick Reynolds had a magical vocal blend, great integrity and energy, and they sound like they’re having an amazingly good time. Nick’s four-string tenor guitar adds a unique, chiming, higher octave to the blend, and his conga drums help give it a fresh groove. Dave’s open-back banjo sounds like an ancient yet vital irresistible muse calling to you ... and Bob Shane’s smoky vocals on the melodies are distinct and right on. All three of them were fantastic singers, but it was Guard who created harmony parts of mathematical genius that wove below and above and around his partners in ways no one since, with the possible exceptions of David Crosby and Art Garfunkel, has ever done.
And let’s face it: Martin Guitars sold hundreds of thousands of their fine instruments because of the Kingston Trio’s album covers. But, they created something more than just fresh folk music using leftovers from Pete Seeger’s old band, The Weavers. The Kingston Trio brought a calypso-island swing to their sound, since both Dave Guard and Bob Shane hailed from Hawaii. The Kingston Trio’s music made me want to learn how to play the guitar and the banjo. This music made me want to write my own songs that told stories of adventure and transported the listener to other eras and locations. They instilled within me a great love of harmony and melody combined with simplicity. I went on to learn every song in their vast catalog. It all started with this album when I was 10 years old. I discovered it in 1964, six years after it’s initial release. My best friend, Scott Ehrlich, had a neighbor who was giving away his albums, and we ended up with The Kingston Trio. Before this album, like most little kids of the time, I was listening to Chubby Checker, Jan and Dean and The Beach Boys ... all great, but it didn’t hit me like folk music did. This album truly, dramatically changed my life.
What can I say? It was 1965, I was filming Lost in Space and Marta Kristen, who played my sister, “Judy Robinson,” turned me on to both The Byrds and Dylan. I had a stereo record player in my dressing room, and the other cast members would bring their records in and hang out in my trailer, listening to music when they weren’t needed on set. If I wasn’t onstage or in the school trailer, I was listening to what they brought in and getting a cool musical education. Thank you, Marta! To this day, Bob Dylan remains my all time favorite artist. I could have named almost any Dylan album here — John Wesley Harding almost won out over this — but Freewheelin’ was the one that blew my mind first. Carry on, Bob!
The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night
Like everyone I know who was old enough to watch Ed Sullivan, I saw the Fab Four debut and change the world in February 1964. This album continues to inspire me. The quality of the sound and the mix ... the energy and the vocal blend, the freshness of the jangle in that Rickenbacker 12-string, the twang of the Gretsch Country Gentleman, the low-end punch of that Hofner bass ... all through Vox amps ... no one had heard that melding of tones before! And most of all, the complexity of the progressions in the songwriting, that sound so deceptively simple ... This album made me want to plug in.
The Byrds, Greatest Hits
For me, it all came together right here. My love of folk music and harmony that started with the Kingston Trio, the brilliant writing of Bob Dylan (and Gene Clark with this band!) and the tonality and energy of The Beatles... The Byrds were “my band” as a teenager. My first electric guitar? A Rickenbacker. (still have it!) I could have named, Younger Than Yesterday or Notorious Byrd Brothers, but ... I’ll stick with this compilation. I would love to hear some new Byrds music from McGuinn, Hillman and Crosby! Come on, McGuinn!
The Rolling Stones, Beggars Banquet
I had dug all the Stones hits prior to this album, but there’s something lurking just under the surface on Beggars Banquet that reached up out of the grooves and grabbed me hard. The acoustic Gibson Hummingbird guitars and the nasty electric slide parts, the roughness of it all combined with incredible songwriting. The last gasps of greatness from Brian Jones... Also, one of the very first albums I ever smoked weed to. This album was a stepping stone to explore the delta blues.
Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers
All roads lead here eventually. Twenty-nine songs written with the mystique of a midnight deal with The Devil at the crossroads ... To this day, I can’t figure out how he plays these amazing guitar parts. The songs reek of pain and truth and choices and good friends and bad women and a supernatural side of some things that you shouldn’t know about, yet you can’t help but dig as deep as possible to. On my album Glorious In Defeat I cover mister Johnson’s “Love in Vain Blues.” It’s only the second cover tune in 14 years and 11 albums.
The Beach Boys, Surf’s Up
I had been listening to The Beach Boys since their very first single, “Surfin’,” had been released on Candix records back in 1962. I still have that single. I’ve always been a fan of Brian Wilson and the amazing music he and Carl, Mike, Dennis and Al created. But Surf’s Up is the only Beach Boys album, in my opinion, where all of them truly shine, and Brian shines his brightest (not counting the original “Smile” sessions that had been aborted and locked in the vault). “’Til I Die” is maybe the best song I’ve ever heard. And Brian, not particularly known as a strong lyricist, provides a poem here that breaks my heart every time I hear it ... and the title track, “Surf’s Up,” is another masterpiece that I continue to hear fresh bits in. Carl’s “Feel Flows” and “Long Promised Road,” Al’s “Lookin’ At Tomorrow (A Welfare Song)” and even Bruce Johnson’s “Disney Girls” are truly excellent tracks. Sadly, there’s no original material from Dennis on Surf’s Up. This album sent me from the guitar to the piano for years.
Buffalo Springfield, Buffalo Springfield Again
What a band! What an album! What can I say?! Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Richie Furay all contributing some of the very best songs they ever wrote... bold and brash and eclectic and every single thing on this album works. It’s got fantastic-sounding compressed Martin acoustic guitars, it’s got Neil and Stephen at their electric best, Neil’s Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins model cutting through the mix like Excalibur. Richie Furay has one of the best voices ever and contributes fine songs here. And I honestly can’t think of a better rhythm section than the amazing Bruce Palmer on bass and the steady Dewey Martin on drums. I’ve been listening to this album a lot after the Springfield reunion gig played after 42 years at the Bridge School Benefit gig October 2010. It has the same effect on me now that it did when it first came out when I was 14. It makes me long to be an equal part of a truly great rock band.
Graham Nash, Songs for Beginners
This is the album that reminds me of the breakup of my first long-lasting, true-love relationship. And it hurts to this day, but it hurts so good. I took solace in this album when it first came out and listened to it constantly for many, many moons. The tone of Graham’s vocals is unsurpassed anywhere. I love his voice. I respect the honesty in his writing. The production is solid, and it doesn’t sound dated to me at all. Graham’s “Simple Man” is the other song I’ve covered on my Pandora’s Box album, from 2000. “Songs From Beginners” always sends me to that delicious dark place of the young heart, where first love burns eternally.
Fleetwood Mac, Then Play On
I could listen to Peter Green play guitar forever. “Oh Well” is amazing. Fleetwood Mac managed to create the extended jam-rock blues style, and they did it right. The interplay of Peter Green’s vintage Gibson Les Paul weaving in and out with Danny Kirwan’s Les Paul paved the way for many other groups to follow, but none did it better — beautiful, soulful playing behind the tasty and powerful rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, who remain the only constants in Fleetwood Mac. Danny Kirwan contributes some soothing mellow pop blues songs here, but it’s all about Peter Green. This album taught me that white boys can play the blues.