Playing the "influences" card in interviews with musicians rarely yield results. Not just because some artists aren't willing to divulge who influenced their music but because when confronted with the question most feel overwhelmed. Trying to condense all the music that's gone into making them who they are, let alone what specifically influenced their music-making, can be a daunting task. Try making a list of your own influential music and see.
But a few musicians revel in the challenge. Recently MC Taylor of San Francisco's the Court & Spark shared a list of the records that have influenced him along with some revealing comments about each one. Given his band's luxuriant, honeyed sound, seeing the Beach Boys and Mercury Rev on Taylor's list wasn't surprising; finding dark reggae prince Keith Hudson, Traffic and Miles Davis required a closer listen to Court & Spark's catalog -- an activity I recommend for anyone who enjoys eclectic music this rich in sonic touchstones. So, without further ado and in no particular order ...
1. Hi-Fi Snock Uptown by Michael Hurley
"Surely Warner Bros. was hoping for another anthemic "Get Together," and they got this instead. Pure stoned Lagunitas log cabin brilliance. I played a gig with Hurley a year or so ago and was mesmerized by how singular this man's whole presence is."
2. Full House by Fairport Convention
"Liege & Lief gets all the glory, but I'm always rooting for the underdog. I have nothing but pure love for the jams on this record, and this is exactly what a band should sound like."
3. Deluxe by Harmonia
"Michael Rother of Neu! + Mobius and Roedelius of Cluster + a rambling farmhouse in the German countryside = perfection. Might have been released in 1975, might have been released in 2075, it's hard to tell."
4. Workingman's Dead/American Beauty by the Grateful Dead
"Northern California junkie campfire music. This is some of the best lyric writing of all time. Thank you, Robert Hunter."
5. Flesh Of My Skin Blood Of My Blood by Keith Hudson
"The Dark Prince of Reggae's darkest, dingiest album. Full of saturated tape hiss and spooky vibes, it's like the Jamaican equivalent of Sly Stone's There's A Riot Goin' On. (As an aside, if a band was categorized by what type of music played most often in the tour van, the C&S would be a reggae band.)"
6. Bare Trees by Fleetwood Mac
"I avoided picking this record up for years because, frankly, the album cover is perfect, and I was afraid that the music wouldn't measure up. But, as it turns out, the music is perfect, too."
7. In A Silent Way by Miles Davis
"This record changed my life. And continues to change my life."
8. John, Wolfking Of L.A. by John Phillips
"Someone tell me how they lost the master tapes to this absolute fucking masterpiece? That's like losing the Mona Lisa. Recorded in his secret attic studio in Los Angeles, it's spare, wistful and brilliant, and it beautifully illustrates John Phillips' gradual disillusionment with the hippie dream-state continuum."
9. L.A. Turnaround by Bert Jansch
"Bert's Topanga Canyon bellbottom blues, helped along by Mike Nesmith, Red Rhodes and Jesse Ed Davis. I have very clear memories of listening to this record while driving over Grant's Pass on our way from San Francisco to Portland. Mountain music supreme."
10. Deserter's Songs by Mercury Rev
"The first time we heard this record, it was like, "Oh, that's how a record is supposed to sound." Mercury Rev showed us all how a record coming out of Woodstock (where it was recorded) should sound on the cusp of the 21st century."
11. The Blue Trees by Gorky's Zygotic Mynci
"Maybe the highlight for me in Gorky's awesome catalog. It's like adult children's music, and this one is particularly whimsical."
12. Surf's Up by the Beach Boys
"You could substitute any Beach Boys record here -- Sunflower, Holland, Carl & the Passions, even Love You. I heard they actually invented the name California for this state that we live in. Before that, it had no name."
13. Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space by Spiritualized
"This record has been in rotation since it came out. I remember that [C&S guitarist] Scott Hirsch saw these guys on tour for this record, and excitedly called me to tell me that they all had massive afros and were really loud."
14. The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys by Traffic
"When I was just a pup, there was a radio station out of LA -- KLOS -- that would play a full-length album, front to back, every Sunday evening. I diligently taped any album that sounded like it could be good, and this particular record changed me forever."