As the lead guitarist and proverbial linchpin of New Jersey-based act Starz, Richie Ranno amalgamates glam, good-time rock, and early leanings of hair metal to critical acclaim. Alas, shoddy record dealings and a manager’s attention focused elsewhere (oh, hello, KISS) left Starz in the commercial doldrums in the wake of a string of retrospectively adored late-70s albums. In Ranno, we found a player who, with his early example of a Super Strat in hand, took his nuanced love for the music of the ’60s and combined it with his guttural instinct for sublime melody, resulting in four albums worth of must-hear music.
These days, Ranno still gigs around New Jersey, and after nearly meeting its demise, it seems that Starz is set to rock once again, as Ranno and his cohorts are set to share the stage with fellow ’70s cult rock icons Angel this coming spring.
Of course, every guitarist has his origins, and Ranno is no exception. Taking a moment to relent from his stage antics, Richie Ranno dialed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to recount the ten albums that changed his life.
# 10 – The Cult, Sonic Temple
Certainly, one of my favorite rock albums. Did it change my life? Not really, but I still listen to it, and when The Cult comes to the area, I’m always there to see them.
# 9 – Love, Forever Changes
This incredible album was released in November 1967, but I didn’t become aware of it until 1969. Every song is a gem and somehow under the radar – something I know a thing or two about. [Laughs]. Anyway, Forever Changes is one of my favorite albums of all time and should not be ignored by radio, even though it is.
# 8 – Aerosmith, Get Your Wings
Hearing Aerosmith’s first album and not particularly caring for it other than the gem, “Dream On,” Get Your Wings blew me away. Every song was great, and the sound and production were stellar. This album changed my life when I read the credits and saw the name “Jack Douglas – Producer.” Two years later, when we [Starz] were looking for a producer, I brought his name up and our manager, the late Bill Aucoin, was able to contact him, and we were blessed to work with one of the greatest rock producers of all time!
# 7 – David Bowie, The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders from Mars
This album is perhaps the greatest rock album in history – PERIOD! For me, it was life-changing and had a major influence on how I approached music from that point on.
# 6 – The Who, Who’s Next
In my opinion, this is the best album by The Who. The Who is up there as one of my all-time favorite bands. Pete Townshend definitely had an influence on my guitar playing.
# 5 – A tie between Spirit, The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus & Alice Cooper, Love it to Death
With the Spirit record – it’s an absolutely incredible album! Every song is a gem. Randy California’s guitar style was unique. I heard him do an interview where he said, “I make every note count.” I have taken that advice with me to this day. I was also fortunate to have met Randy and vocalist Jay Ferguson and spent some time with them.
As for the Alice Cooper record – every song is great, and it was a new sound and style. It was more song-oriented rock than performance which influenced my songwriting. The following three Alice Cooper albums were just good, if not better.
# 4 – A tie between Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin & The Beatles, The White Album
Zeppelin’s first album was the greatest rock album recorded to that date – January 1969. The sound was like nothing ever heard before. I had seen Jimmy Page live with The Yardbirds at the Village Theater (later became The Fillmore East), but this album took rock and blues and guitar playing to a new level!
As for The White Album, it’s four album sides of incredible songs that I couldn’t stop playing over and over. In my opinion, it is the greatest Beatles album ever recorded.
# 3 – Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced?
Another innovative guitar album that blended psychedelic, blues, rock, and R&B and rolled them all into one. I heard this and knew I had to add this style and sound to my arsenal.
# 2 – Cream, Fresh Cream
As soon as I heard this album, I went from playing The Beatles, The Stones, and The Ventures songs to playing as much like Eric Clapton as I possibly could! Fresh Cream changed the sound of the guitar for all guitarists right up to this day!
# 1 – The Beatles, I Want to Hold Your Hand 45 RPM
I know it’s supposed to be albums, but this 45 single changed my life more than any other record or piece of music. I bought this 45 the day it came out and played it repeatedly. I knew that I had to start playing the guitar. And I was totally driven to be able to play that song as soon as possible!
Richie Ranno of Starz Interview: 10 Albums That Changed My Life Article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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