Guest Column: Five Albums That Will Change You By Blacksmith’s David Smith
Kiss — Alive
My number one life-changing album. I love this album, and this record changed my life. Four sides of great songs, pure blood and guts theatrical rock and roll. This release captured Kiss as the live insane animal they were: hungry, intense and still dangerous. I bought this when I was about 13 or 14, and I had never (at that point) seen the band live. But from this album’s sonic landscape and assault, I could visualize the band. When I did finally saw Kiss live on TV and in concert it was exactly as I imagined them.
Heavy metal superheroes: everything a 14-year-old comic book geek needed to enter the world of rock and roll and become cool. I soon bought a guitar, grew my hair and started chasing girls. Great songs; “Deuce,” “Strutter,” “C’mon and Love Me,” “Got to Choose,” “Hotter than Hell,” “Firehouse,” “Cold Gin,” “Parasite,” “She,” “100,000 Years,” “Rock Bottom,” “Black Diamond,” “Rock and Roll All Night.” I know these songs backward and forward, because these songs are the soundtrack to my teenage years. This record is part of my DNA. The record has great production by Eddie Kramer. Excellent packaging; I love the iconic cover. I play guitar, perform and have been in bands for over 30 years because of this album. I always felt I was a mutated combo package of Paul, Ace and Gene.
Black Sabbath — Heaven and Hell
Heaven and Hell was my first introduction to Sabbath as a kid. This album is metal! This record changed my world; Iommi and Dio are true metal gods! The songs “Neon Knights,” “Die Young,” “Lonely Is the Word,” “Die Young,” “Heaven and Hell,” and “Wishing Well: are simply brilliant. I also first saw Sabbath live on the “Heaven and Hell” tour; it was “Cecil B. Demile” like, huge, crushing and monstrous.
Dio is my favorite metal singer and Tony created it all; there could be nothing but greatness with these two together. The album is possibly Sabbath’s finest hour. A lot of my songs in Blacksmith are a direct influence from Tony’s riffs and Black Sabbath. So I would say that Heaven and Hell was certainly a true life and game changer.
UFO — Strangers in the Night
Michael Schenker is absolutely breathtaking! He is one of my top five favorite guitar players. A great double live album set of one of Europe’s finest. Every song is just unbelievable. Phil Moogis is a fantastic vocalist, and his lyrics and melodies are brilliant. Pete Way is a force of nature on bass and in attitude alone. Andy Parker and Paul Raymond kick ass and lay down a rock solid foundation for this classic must-have record. I love Schenker’s European metal phrasing and style; the hair stands up on my arms and neck (to this day) when I listen to Strangers in the Night. Schenker made me a better guitar player just by his influence.
I never got to see the original UFO in the early days but I did get to see the original lineup in the mid ’90s. I got to meet Michael and speak with him. I gave him a Blacksmith CD, which he left behind on the meet-and-greet table.
Van Halen — Van Halen
This record ripped my fucking head off! It came out my first year of learning to play guitar. Eddie Van Halen…holy shit; he had flash, balls, intensity, power, groove, and absolute guitar magic. This record twisted me in a different direction and pushed me to be a better player and think outside the box.
Van Halen was cool with killer tunes and sparkling production that just worked. Fun dripped off this record. Eddie, Alex, Dave and Mike were like a street gang with a new attitude and mission. I soaked it up like a sponge and never looked back. Eddie has always been at the top of my mountain. “I’m The One” is a favorite all-time crushing riff song. This record changed the world for me.
Thin Lizzy — Live and Dangerous
I guess I have a thing for double live albums from the late ’70s! Not only is Thin Lizzy one of my favorite bands but I just love the Live and Dangerous record. It is brilliant. I love this album from front to back, cover to liners. My favorite song on the disc — “Still In Love With You” — still brings tears to my eyes. Phil Lynott is a king, a genius, a bad ass, a rocker, a lover, a loner and a poet. I respect and worship the ground this man walked on.
My favorite Lizzy line up is with Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson on twin guitars and Brian Downey on drums, of course. They say this album was not completely live, but I don’t give a shit — it’s epic. Tony Visconti’s production and a great flow of music from start to finish. You feel as if you’re in the front row. You feel Phil’s presence, warmth and intensity throughout. I learned a lot about lyrics, being honest and quality of songwriting and music from Thin Lizzy and this record.
While playing Germany this past summer with Blacksmith, I made it a point to make the pilgrimage to Ireland to visit and pay homage and respect to Phil’s statue on Grafton Street in downtown Dublin. As soon as the plane touched down in Dublin, Heaven and Hell Records owner Jeremy Golden and I bolted out to hail a cab and we were on our way. The few people we met in those couple of hours in Dublin thought it was so wonderful that we made a point to come and pay our respects to one of their favorite sons. Once we got to the statue we stood there in silence as the people passed by with their usual day. I’m sure they were use to seeing visitors.
Before we left I placed my guitar pick on the base at Phil’s feet and at the moment the sky opened up and rain started pouring down. It was kind of like a movie. It was great; Phil means a lot to me as he does to countless others, and to go there was the perfect ending to the trip.