It seems inevitable that Mark Bryan will forever be associated with the band he helped found, Hootie and the Blowfish. After all, the group became a household name courtesy of five commercially successful mainstream albums, one of which, their debut Cracked Rear View, became a mega-million seller.
Given their achievements, even singer Darius Rucker, an established country superstar, remains intrinsically tied to Hootie's history.
Regardless of any popular perception, Bryan boasts a stellar solo career courtesy of four of his own albums, the latest of which, the ever-emphatic Midlife Priceless (shown above), establishes a new high bar as far as his individual achievement.
So too, Bryan’s numerous outreach efforts qualify him for special distinction. His charitable work includes support for budding musicians and ongoing education efforts on behalf of young people.
Not surprisingly Bryan's list of forever favorites is an eclectic mix, and an expansive tally as well. He went well beyond what was required by adding an additional 10 albums to his list and considered ways to add even more. “It should be noted that all five Police albums, and the first six Van Halen albums would somehow appear in that list if they could count as one album,” he insists, while touting albums by The Knack, My Morning Jacket, Joe Jackson, Jellyfish, R.E.M., the Ramones, the Replacements, Old 97’s, Wilco, and the Jayhawks to round out a proposed top 20.
Needless to say, Bryan’s an overachiever….
— Lee Zimmerman
The Who, Who’s Next
After the success of Tommy, Pete set out to make another concept album called Lifehouse. When the overall concept crashed and burned, the ashes somehow rose into one of the greatest rock albums of all time, featuring the timeless anthems, “Baba O’Riley,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Bargain,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Going Mobile” and some not as well known, but just as great — deeper cuts like, “Song is Over” and “Getting in Tune.” One last note — there’s an amazing outtake called “Pure and Easy."
The Beatles, Revolver
I seem to like certain albums from my favorite artists when they are turning a corner creatively, and that is certainly the case with Revolver. Coming off of Rubber Soul, where they had started to dabble and refine their approach to songwriting and recording, Revolver starts to really push the limit while still delivering great songs. “Taxman” hits you in the face right out of the box, establishing George Harrison as a force to be reckoned with, followed by a beautiful string of hits and ballads, including a Ringo turn on “Yellow Submarine.” Then “Tomorrow Never Knows,”… I have no words… John Lennon says it all…
Tom Waits, Closing Time
There are certain albums that you just put on when it’s the right time, and the music takes you to a place emotionally that can’t be described, only experienced. This happens when I play Closing Time. I’m somehow transported to that feeling you get when life, and the party, all magically align, and everything’s OK for a little bit.
Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti
How do you pick a favorite Zep album? I don’t know if this one is necessarily better than their groundbreaking IV album, or Houses of the Holy, the one that came before, but it’s a double album, loaded with great songs that are all over the place stylistically. Physical Graffiti is somehow completely innovative, without the Zep losing their classic sound. Amazing! Faves are: “Custard Pie,” “In My Time of Dying,” all of side 3, and “Wanton Song."
Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run
Did Bruce mean to write a concept album? Either way it kind of feels like one. Bruce was definitely inspired by Townshend, as he mentions in his autobiography, and Born to Run lays down some timeless anthems of its own, with the title track, plus “Thunder Road,” “10th Ave. Freeze Out,” and “Jungleland” all included. But it’s those tender moments in-between, on “Backstreets,” and “Meeting Across the River,” that solidify the greatness. The 30th anniversary remaster of this album contains a DVD of Bruce and the band, primed from the studio, and live in London for the first time. Watching that was as inspiring to me as the album was when I was a teenager, and got me all fired up again.
A sonic landscape yet to be rivaled, even with technology. Tom Scholz was simultaneously a mad scientist and a force of nature, creating an album full of songs that ALL got played on the radio, with a sound that defines their time. This debut still sounds as good as anything out there today. Vocalist Brad Delp (RIP), was the consummate rock-tenor, hitting full-voice notes that most people can’t get to with falsetto, forever engraining those classic melodies into our pop-culture. Here’s to the greatest pick slides in rock history!
These songs matter so much. Their sound was new, and new wave, but still filled with raw, rock energy, giving an urgency to this album. Bono takes us from the immediacy of “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Seconds,” and “New Year’s Day” — where you can almost feel the pain — to a place where we can start to come together — “Two Hearts Beat as One,” “Surrender,” and finally a prayer of hope with “40.”
Oasis, What’s the Story Morning Glory
Noel, you bastard. I was in Germany, basking in the glory of the success of Cracked Rear View and our first European Hootie tour, when I started listening to this album, and not stopping, while becoming obsessed with it all the way through. It’s just an absolute masterpiece that keeps on giving. Liam, your voice has the perfect combination of grit and sweetness, and you’re a complete bastard as well.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mother’s Milk
So I fall in love with the Chilis during college; a punk band that brings it funky…I’m all in, and I see them live with original guitarist, Hillel Slovak (RIP), and drummer, Jack Irons. Spectacular! Flea becomes one of my idols even though I’m a guitar player. Suddenly, guitarist John Frusciante, and drummer, Chad Smith show up for album four, and there’s a gorgeous, topless woman on the cover…I’m even more in. Their sound takes a big leap on Mother’s Milk, and even though it doesn’t end up being as commercially successful as its follow-up, Blood Sugar Sex Magic, it is the album that defines the Chilis for me. Fishbone, Thelonious Monster, and X shoutouts on “Good Time Boys,” the sick cover of Stevie Wonder’s, “Higher Ground,” The fully unique punk/rap of “Magic Johnson,” the brutally honest nod to heroin addiction, and the loss of Hillel, “Knock me Down,” the sick musicianship throughout, including Flea’s instrumental, “Pretty Little Ditty,” which features him on trumpet, and becomes the source loop for the hit song, “Butterfly,” by Crazy Town…I’m still all in.
XTC, Oranges and Lemons
XTC always made great records and songs, but something on the next level happens on Oranges and Lemons. I would say it's Beatlesque, but only in the sense that it’s that innovative and timeless. Their sound is a sweet mixture of new wave, and classic rock that’s all their own. Few albums in history have this level of lyrical depth, yet still make you want to sing along forever. I picture Peter Gabriel kneeling in awe at the way the tracks are built on this album, and “Mayor of Simpleton,” and “The Loving,” are simply some of the greatest songs of all time.