Here are my personal recommendations for the five most important drum CDs you can get. Listening to these will provide a wealth of musical inspiration:
1) 'Krupa & Rich': Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, with various JATP players (Verve). The energy of the drum battle at the beginning of "Bernie's Tune" is unmatched by any other recording Krupa & Rich did together, and few they did separately. Buddy's answers to Gene's statements are mind-boggling, and Gene never played this well on record again (his solo on "Gene's Blues" is an all-time classic). Two masters at work.
2) 'The Inner Mounting Flame': Mahavishnu Orchestra, with Billy Cobham on drums (Columbia). Quite simply, this record forever changed the way drums were played. After hearing it, drummers everywhere realized that their instrument held far more musical potential than they ever thought it did.
3) 'Live Cream, Vol. 1': Cream, with Ginger Baker on drums (Atco/RSO). Baker's playing on "Sweet Wine" qualifies this record all by itself. He churns, he cajoles, he leads, he gets out of the way, he fuses jazz and rock like no one did before him. And as a bonus, he also shows us how to back soloists and how to use brushes with both power AND finesse.
4) 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band': The Beatles, with Ringo Starr on drums (Capitol/Parlophone). Ringo's ability to add a voice to The Beatles' music reached a pinnacle on "Pepper's". Listen to "A Day In The Life" for both his fills and for the way he keeps the time moving forward. His playing on the title track laid the groundwork for heavy players like John Bonham. And there probably isn't a drummer alive in the English-speaking world who hasn't heard this record over a hundred times.
5) 'Close To The Edge': Yes, with Bill Bruford on drums (Atlantic). Bruford's "over the bar line" playing reached anarchic proportions on 'Close To The Edge', shattering rock's straight 2-4 backbeat pattern. By punctuating large spaces in the song "And You And I" with short drum passages, Bruford manages to sound like an entire orchestral percussion section while playing a drumkit considered small by today's standards. Repeated listening reveals that Bruford's drumming is the glue that holds this music together.