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“A great drum record is a total experience," says session and touring superstar sticksman Kenny Aronoff. "The music is fantastic, the band is great – it’s never about just any one thing. It’s about all the elements coming together. Songs, spirit, vibe, power – I need everything."
Growing up in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Aronoff's house was filled with the sounds of jazz and classical music. It wasn't long, however, before certain pop songs from the radio made a strong impression on the young drummer. Devil With The Blue Dress by Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels was a big favorite – Aronoff tried to imitate the frenetic energy of Johnny "Bee" Badanjek.
"The excitement on that track was insane," he enthuses. "And then there was Bernard Purdie on Aretha Franklin’s Respect. You heard those songs everywhere you went. They really made me go, ‘Whoa! Who’s doing that?’"
Aronoff cites Are You Experienced by The Jimi Hendrix Experience as a life changer. He recalls building model airplanes at home when he was 13 years old, spending an entire day and night playing the album over and over again. "I'd play side one, flip it over and play side two," he says. "I repeated this more times than I could tell you. Mitch Mitchell gave me so much to work on as a drummer."
Aronoff didn't hesitate to include Are You Experienced in his list of essential drum albums, but narrowing the field down to just 10 choices proved problematic, so he cranked it one more to 11. Still, he insists, key players are missing.
"What about Jeff Porcaro, Matt Cameron and Vinnie Colaiuta?" he asks. "What about Chad Smith, Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Matt Sorum? I love all these guys! Danny Carey, Josh Freese, Jimmy Chamberlin, Terry Bozzio, Greg Bissonette, Peter Erskine, Alex Van Halen – you’re all great."
Listed alphabetically, the following are Kenny Aronoff's picks for 11 essential drum albums, a list that will no doubt be continued.