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Carl's "5 Guitar Albums That Changed Me"

I started playing guitar at 8 and eventually went on to study classical guitar. By the time I was 12 though I was mad about bass guitar and used to play with various local groups. This was the first album I bought. I loved that the bass was front and center on every track. It also features some great guest appearances such as Allan Holdsworth and Freddie Hubbard.

Even now, the fingers on my left hand are all at least one centimetre longer than on my right hand. I'm pretty sure it's due to me trying to play bass like Stanley Clarke while my hands were still growing!

When I was about 14, I was lucky enough to win an all-expenses-paid family holiday to Hollywood. I was already a big Steve Vai fan and knew he lived there. So I posted him a letter asking if I could meet him. By the time I went to Hollywood, I hadn't received a reply but while I was there, I bought this album. I had to wait until I got back to the UK to listen to it though because I didn't have a portable CD player. Back home, I listened to it constantly and not long afterwards, I got a reply back from Steve. There was a signed photo and a handwritten note saying he was sorry he'd missed me while I was in Hollywood. I've been a loyal fan ever since!

At around 16 I was teaching myself Spanish and dreamed of living in Spain one day. I was lucky enough to do a couple of short homestays in a gorgeous Andalusian mountain village. Around this time I was passionate about flamenco and of course, Paco was my hero. On this album, he is at the height of his powers in every sense. But his almost superhuman technique is never showy or flashy - it's always at the service of the most profound and intense musical sentiments. If I had to choose just one guitar album, I think this would be it.

When I was 18, I moved to London to study classical guitar at the Royal Academy of London. It was a wonderful time and my classmates and I considered Julian Bream to be a living legend. I still love the colour, energy and character that he gives to every piece he plays. Bream used to come to the Academy every year to adjudicate the Julian Bream Prize. It was quite a nerve-wracking experience going into a room to play just for him! In 2004, I was absolutely thrilled to win it.

Released in 2015, this is the latest album to really grab me. For a while, I listened to it from start to finish at least once a day. It's a concept album based on a true, very sad event, but that is transformed into deep and meaningful art. The album encompasses a huge range of sounds, dynamics, and emotions. The production, performances, musicianship and attention to detail are all phenomenal.

How about you? Which albums influenced and shaped you musically?

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