Five performing artists and producer Bert Berns will be getting inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on April 8. The general consensus is that four of the five are long overdue for this honor while the fifth inductee (N.W.A.), has sparked heated debate about whether or not they should go into a hall of fame dedicated to rock & roll (I say yes by virtue of their impact on music and the fact that the genre is ever-evolving as each year passes). That said, each honoree has at least one seminal album that serves as a perfect entry point for those looking to start delving into said artist.
1. Steve Miller Band – Children of the Future (Capitol) 1968
The road to being a classic rock mainstay started with this slab of psychedelic blues by way of London’s Olympia Studios and the steady hand of storied producer Glyn Johns. Aside from the airy ruminating of “Baby’s Callin’ Me Home” by bandmate Boz Scaggs, the remainder of Steve Miller’s debut is self-penned and features gems like the epic organ workout that is “In My First Mind” and harp-soaked shuffle “Fanny Mae.”
2. Chicago – Chicago Transit Authority (Columbia) 1969
Taking the fusion of jazz and rock pioneered by The Blues Project and Blood, Sweat and Tears, Chicago kicked off its future commercial success with this double album set that manages to encompass soaring soul (“Beginnings”), epic brass fanfare (“Questions 67 and 68”), an ambitious and melodic 15-minute jam overflowing with striking time changes (“Liberation”) and a kick-ass Spencer Davis Group cover (“I’m a Man”).
3. Deep Purple – Shades of Deep Purple (Tetragammaton) 1968
Before Deep Purple joined Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath on the Mount Rushmore of hard rock, the first line-up featured vocalist Rod Evans (succeeded by Ian Gillan) and bassist Nick Simper (succeeded by Roger Glover) along with fellow founding members Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord and Ian Paice. This founding fivesome mixed in originals with covers that included The Beatles (“Help!”) and Joe South (the Top 5 hit“Hush.”)
4. N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton (Ruthless/Priority) 1988
One of the primary forces that launched the gangsta rap genre for better or worse, N.W.A.’s debut held a mirror up to the violence and nihilism of inner city life in Compton and South Central Los Angeles while mixing in liberal doses of macho swagger and profane defiance of law enforcement over stripped-down production.
5. Cheap Trick – Cheap Trick (Epic) 1977
Rockford, IL’s finest roared out of the gate with this platter of power-pop perfection that raged with fat hooks, Beatlesque harmonies and hard-hitting guitar riffs. Kicking off with the glitter-rock stomper “ELO Kiddies,” the remaining songs include numerous earworms like the moody “Mandocello,” furious “Hot Love” and the studio version of “I Want You to Want Me” that blew up as a live version a few years later.