I have always been fascinated by what musicians listen to when they aren’t creating their own music. What music inspires them, what albums do they return to again and again—their “desert island” discs. With this in mind I have asked some of my favorite New Jersey musicians to name their top 10 favorite albums of all time. Not the albums that they think are “important,” or that have influenced many other artists or ones of technical merit. I wanted to know their very favorite albums that they love just because the records mean the most to them.
Dave & Tom are David Cacciatore & Tom Losito and if the names sound familiar you may remember them as the guitarist and bassist of Springfield band The Vaughns. Their superb musicianship was a big part of the excellent indie rock that the band produced during their tenure. In early 2020 they struck out on their own and had been working on learning the intricacies of being a duo when, of course, the pandemic hit. They spent this unexpected time collaborating with other artists and working on their inspired weekly covers including songs by artists such as Billie Eilish, Oasis and Bruce Springsteen. But we want more! Dave & Tom appeared on our Artists We’re Most Excited About in 2021 article last December and it looks like our wait might soon be over.
The band is working on the anxiously anticipated new material which they hope to be release this summer. “We’re excited, we built our own little studio in our old practice space and recorded all the instruments there,” Losito told me. He continued, “we’ve finished a whole batch of songs and have been continuing throughout the pandemic. We’ve done everything ourselves with the help of a a friend or two with mixing/mastering/video work.” We for one cannot wait. Is it Summer yet?
Check out Dave & Tom when they appear on One More with Brian Erickson on Monday March 29th at 7:00 PM.
Now…the list! As both Dave and Tom took part they listed 5 each.
Tom’s Top 5
The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
I had the privilege of seeing The “real” Beach Boys with Brian Wilson on their fiftieth anniversary tour in 2012. It’s to this day, one of my favorite concerts I’ve ever been to. I had my mind blown when they ran through the pure beauty of several numbers off Pet Sounds that night including “God Only Knows”, “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” and “Wouldn’t It be Nice.” The production and composition of this record is other worldly in my opinion and unmatched to this day including the layering of vocals and instruments to create that symphonic sound. I mean, what album has keyboards and guitars combined with touches of orchestrated strings, bicycle bells, organs, harpsichords, flutes, Theremin, Coca-Cola cans and barking dogs? I had the pleasure of being able to play in the orchestra throughout high school and at Drew University but it wasn’t until I found Pet Sounds that I was able to connect that “sound” with my love of rock/pop music. Pet Sounds is one of the most beautiful albums ever created and it completely opened a new dimension for me creatively once I finally dove in. A meticulously recorded beautiful pop masterpiece. “Caroline No” and “I Know There’s an Answer” are some of my other favorites off the LP. Brian Wilson is a national treasure.
The Beatles – Revolver
The Beatles will always be my first love. I can probably just fill all the spots here with their discography but that’s no fun. I grew up enveloped in their lore with vinyls, CD’s and collectibles all throughout the house as a kid. The album that I always come back to though as my personal favorite is Revolver. It’s where those harmonic pop sensibilities of their early albums met their experimental psychedelic era. Every single song on this album is a classic and it’s where I feel the band broke down boundaries without ever compromising their pure listenability. John and Paul establish themselves as some of the greatest songwriters of the last century on this album in my opinion with their freedom from touring. George and Ringo’s playing are also so tight and innovative in their own right from start to finish. I love the darker more mature lyrical content on the album including “Eleanor Rigby” and the beautiful chamber pop of “For No One.” The dreamy drugy feel of “I’m Only Sleeping” to the jangly and complex Harrison guitar work on “And Your Bird Can Sing” & “She Said She Said” to the sheer beauty of “Here, There and Everywhere”…I could go on and on. Revolver is a mesmerizing piece of art that really defines what the possibilities and expectations of pop/rock music could be for generations of bands to this day. It’s innovation and revolutionary studio techniques thanks to George Martin are also integral. Just take an hour, pop on some great headphones, close your eyes and listen to this album.
Jellyfish – Spilt Milk
I never will understand why Jellyfish weren’t one of the biggest bands of the 90’s. Massively underrated and packed with industry leading talent. Andy Strumer, their lead singer and drummer has an addictive soulful swell on this album that really propels these tunes. He also plays a standing kit which is so unique and mind blowing! Roger Joseph Manning, co lead writer, who now performs with Beck provides wonderful lush keyboard textures and some of the most beautiful harmonies on Spilt Milk. I’ve shared this album with so many people over the years and I always get a kick out of peoples first reaction. The influences of Queen, Paul McCartney, Squeeze and even Supertramp bleed through so much. The complex arrangements, playful wordplay, superb melodies and lush guitars are addictive. My favorite tunes are “New Mistake”, “Russian Hill”, “Joining A Fan Club” and the madness on “All is Forgiven.” The equivalent of listening to this album is like eating a huge bag of sour patch kids and transporting back to your favorite memory as a child. Perfectly executed delirious power pop enjoyment.
Stevie Wonder – Innervisions
While Songs In The Key of Life is another masterpiece of an album, I’ve always been drawn to the thematic social consciousness of Innervisions. One of my favorite songs on the album is “Living For The City.” What a beautifully poignant song that touches on issues of disenfranchisement, drug abuse and racism which plagued the country. The pure groove on other songs like “He’s Misstra Know-It-All” and “Jesus Children of America” are filled with swirling synths, rolling bass and Stevie’s superb vocal performances. “All In Love Is Fair” gives me chills whenever I hear it. And how can we forget “Higher Ground”? That has to be one of the most badass riffs ever written. Innervisions is really the perfect intersection of jazz, soul, funk and rock that I’ve always drawn inspiration from. Listening to each track is like uncovering buried treasure and I’ve grown to appreciate it more and more over the years. This album is just one of the greatest songwriters of all time at the top of his game. Essential to any album collection.
Big Star – #1 Record
The cult of all cult bands. Big Star’s #1 Record is utterly cohesive and flawless yet at the same loosely flowing between heartbreaking ballads (“Thirteen”) and completely guitar driven booty shakers (“Don’t Lie To Me”). Such a diverse and groundbreaking piece of work, especially for 1972. Big Star will always be my “go to” band when I’m searching for some inspiration. The beautiful 12 string acoustic textures on the back side of the LP included on songs like “Try Again”, “Watch The Sunrise” and “ST 100/6” have been a huge influence in my writing lately. The variety of chord voicings paired with Chilton/Chris Bell’s lyrical beauty, the wild riffs and pounding rhythm section really propel the album. Look, I’m a sucker for undeniable hooks and melodies and this album is jam packed from front to back. Alex Chilton is one of my favorite songwriters and his cool rock n roll delivery on songs like “When My Baby’s Beside Me” and “In The Street” are infectious. Big Star is your favorite band you don’t know!
Pretenders – Pretenders
The Posies – Frosting On The Beater
Talking Heads – Speaking In Tongues
Jeff Buckley – Grace
Marshall Crenshaw – Marshall Crenshaw
Dave’s Top 5
The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album)
Ahh the classic “White Album”. Where should I begin with this one? Well, I can start by saying that this was actually the first album I ever purchased. I vividly remember I walked to the nearby Barnes & Noble, headed to the music section, and purchased this record. Why? I have no idea. I still could not tell you to this day. It was probably because I had just started to dive into The Beatles’ catalogue, and arbitrarily chose an album to expand my musical palate. Walking back, I had no idea the album swinging in my plastic bag was about to change my life. To me, every song on this album is a classic. I mean come on: “Back in the U.S.S.R.”, “Dear Prudence”, “Glass Onion”, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da?!” And those are just the four opening tracks! When you have fun songs like “Piggies”, “Honey Pie”, “Birthday”, “Good Night” combined with more sincere songs like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “I’m So Tired”, “I Will”, “Julia”, “Long, Long Long”, you know you have a timeless album. “Happiness is a Warm Gun” is without a doubt my personal favorite. Everything from its complex time signature changes, to the vocals at the end: “Happiness is a warm gun” sings Lennon (bang, bang, shoot, shoot) is then echoed by Harrison-McCartney. Just ingenious. An important album to me, and “Mother Nature’s Son” is better than “Blackbird”. I said it.
My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade
This iconic emo album came out when I was at a young, and impressionable age (12). This was when I was in middle school, and was going through an emo phase (I mean come on who didn’t?). I remember seeing the video for “Welcome to the Black Parade”, and just being in complete awe of the band. Everything from the costumes and makeup, to the actual music: I was hooked. I then dove into the album further. I quickly realized that the more I listened, the more I loved MCR and had a new favorite track each listen (“I Don’t Love You”, “Dead!”, “Teenagers”, “Famous Last Words” just to name a few). The Black Parade has this 1970’s almost Queen-like/operatic feel (which is probably another reason why I love the album considering I am a big Queen fan). It literally sounds like as if Freddie Mercury went through an emo phase. In my personal opinion, this album is fantastic.
Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced
As a guitar player, this was probably the most influential album on my playing. I remember one crisp winter morning, my mom was driving my sister, two cousins, and me in her bright red Ford LX Sport minivan (with black handles) to school. As we neared the school, with the car just starting to warm up, I hear the opening riff to “Hey Joe.” Suddenly, the chattering in the car had gone mute, and all of my attention had zeroed in on that bluesy opening riff. All I could do was listen to that guitar, and what Jimi was making it do. I could not believe my ears. After finally learning the song, I went to my cover band at the time and was like “WE HAVE TO PLAY THIS SONG” just because it was one of the coolest things I had ever heard (still is). I then decided to buy the album, and this was only the genesis of my interest in Jimi, and the album. The tone and playing on “Red House” is celestial (I believe I am still chasing that tone to this day). I desperately spent hours trying to learn that song. And then when I finally heard “Remember”, it was over for me. Not only does this heart-break tune have an extremely intricate guitar solo, but what really blew me away was the rhythm playing. I think that is something people forget about Jimi: his guitar solos were obviously impressive, but his rhythm playing was just as memorable. God, I could listen to this record on repeat all day.
Green Day – American Idiot
Not only are all of the songs on this album catchy and fun, but this is another album that came out during a pivotal moment for me. Growing up in post 9/11 America, I remember everyone around me seemed to feel lost, scared, and confused simultaneously. Because I was young and impressionable at the time, I felt as though I absorbed all of those feelings without understanding why or what was going on in the world. And Green Day’s American Idiot seemed to make sense of it all (or at least provide me some comfort). I felt as though the album really spoke of the political climate of the times, while also giving a voice to the disenfranchised. When the energetic opening title track was paired with an equally infectious m”usic video, I became an instant fan of Green Day. Then when I discovered the rest of the album (Holiday”, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, “Wake Me Up When September Ends”, “Whatsername”), I knew that this would be an album I would continue to come back to for inspiration, and pure bliss. This album is also equally important to me in genuine nostalgia: I can’t hear “Jesus of Suburbia”, my favorite track on the album, and not think of my brother and me riding through the streets of Vice City on a motorcycle while trying to avoid the cops. I only hope to one day write a record that is just as honest and captivating as this one.
Nirvana – In Utero
A common theme with these albums for me is that I discovered them all at imperative moments in my life. These are all my “Coming of Age” albums if you will, and are nostalgic while also being inspirational. These got my attention, and made me want to keep diving into what I was, and was not listening to. My mom had bought this album for my brother one Christmas. While we were breaking in the new CD, I was air drumming to “Scentless Apprentice” with a comb, and the top portion came flying off the handle and broke the CD cover the same day. I felt horrible. I remember later downloading the album on my orange iPod mini, then headed to the nearby park, to take every song in while on the swings. I can remember listening to “Very Ape” for the first time, and absolutely falling in love with it. “Out of the ground, into the sky” sings Cobain. I felt as though the more I pumped my legs on the swings, the more intense the song got, and Cobain was helping me reach the sky (hey, it made sense to me as a kid). When I heard “Heart-Shaped Box”, I could not get over that riff. The drop D tuning, the harshness of Cobain’s voice and guitar, the power of the drums and bass: together, the band sounded like an unstoppable unified force headed towards greatness. Then you have harmonious friendly songs like “All Apologies”, “Pennyroyal Tea”, and “Dumb.” The album is then juxtaposed by harsher songs like “Serve the Servants”, “Scentless Apprentice”, and “Milk It”, probably my favorite track. This is definitely an album I still return to for some inspiration, and just some great music to rock out to sometimes.
Aerosmith – Get Your Wings
Paul McCartney and Wings- Red Rose Speedway
Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town
Queen – News of the World
Oasis – Definitely Maybeemic
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