Posts Tagged ‘Massive Attack’

Masterpiece: Blue Lines

28 January 2010

[Today: Steaming up the windows…]

Not quite electronica, but not exactly hip-hop, Massive Attack split the difference and spawned an entirely new genre – Trip-Hop. Blending the smooth, stylish beats of post-rave chill out music with shades of soul, hip-hop, dub reggae and even gospel, this Bristol (UK) group charted new musical territory that was urban yet spacious, sophisticated yet street. Full-time group members Grant “Daddy G” Marshall, Andrew “Mushroom” Vowles and Robert “3-D” del Naja evolved into Massive Attack from the sound system collective Wild Bunch, and carried the collective spirit forward by surrounding themselves with interesting collaborators.

Reggae great Horace Andy’s low grumble, Tricky’s smooth cockney rhymes, and Shara Nelson’s soul siren workouts were just three of the guest textures that set Massive Attack’s 1991 debut album Blue Lines miles apart from everything else. As Daddy G told Melody Maker in 1992, “When we were the Wild Bunch we got our reputation as a sound system from the fact that we played all kinds of music — punk, funk, reggae. For us to try and make an album that’s all one sound just wouldn’t be natural.”

Blue Lines feels chill, but it doesn’t sit still, musically shape-shifting from the pure soul of ‘Be Thankful For What You’ve Got’ to the narcoleptic hip-hop of ‘Daydreaming’ to the near-gospel ‘Hymn Of The Big Wheel’. On album opener ‘Safe From Harm’ Nelson threatens all the “Midnight ronkers/City slickers/Gunmen and maniacs” who might harm her baby, promising in the sweetest possible voice that “If you hurt what’s mine/I’ll sure as hell retaliate.” Like a cross-section of the average urban hipster, this album projects outward cool, while inwardly processing a jumble of emotional and philosophical dilemmas.

Fashion is fickle and tastes change, but nearly 20 years after its release, this kaleidoscope of cool beats, sweet voices and lush sounds still has the power to set the mood and steam up the windows.

Listen: Safe From Harm

Listen: Daydreaming

Listen: Be Thankful For What You Got

Listen: Blue Lines

Weekend Playlist

14 December 2009

“Par is whatever I say it is. I’ve got one hole that’s a par 23 and yesterday I damn near birdied the sucker.” ~ Willie Nelson


The Doors | Original Motion Picture Soundtrack


LCD Soundsystem | LCD Soundsystem


Radiohead | Kid A


Dean Martin | For The Good Times


Dave Alvin | Public Domain: Songs From The Wild Land


Les Claypool & The Holy Mackeral | High Ball With The Devil


The Jimi Hendrix Experience | The Jimi Hendrix Experience [Box Set]


DJ Shadow | The Private Press


My Morning Jacket | It Still Moves


Willie Nelson | Stardust


Steely Dan | Gaucho


Elvis Presley | The Sun Sessions


Massive Attack | Protection


Los Lobos | Kiko


Neko Case | Fox Confessor Brings The Flood


Hank Williams | The Complete Hank Williams


Led Zeppelin | Physical Graffiti


Various Artists | Break N’ Bossa


Pixies | Complete ‘B’ Sides


Jerry Garcia Band | Jerry Garcia Band

Masterpiece: Head Hunters

28 August 2009

[Today: Herbie Hancock goes head hunting…]

Herbie Hancock | Headhunters

Until the mid-90’s, Head Hunters held the distinction of being the best-selling Jazz album of all-time. It’s since been surpassed by Dave Brubeck’s Take Five, which is just as well, because this album has about as much to do with Jazz as George Clinton’s Mothership. Sure, Herbie Hancock is a long-time Jazz pianist, and he learned at the knee of the great Miles Davis, but with this 1973 album he was chasing the sound of Sly Stone (as was Miles around this time) rather than more traditional Jazz muses.

The album opens with the 15+ minutes of slithering funk that is ‘Chameleon’. Not so much “fusion” as straight up funk, this epic track is a platform that provides Hancock ample room to go off on electric pianos, synthesizers, and a clavinet. Bennie Maupin – the only holdover from Hancock’s previous band – provides some exquisite horn honking here as well. Meanwhile ‘Watermelon Man’ is a stylistic recreation of Hancock’s 1962 composition, ‘Sly’ is a funky nod to the album’s inspiration, and ‘Vein Melter’ is perhaps the second greatest this-is-what-it-feels-like ode to heroin (right behind the Velvet Underground’s ‘Heroin’).

Three of the four tunes on Head Hunters clock in at more than nine minutes, and they’re all high-octane, instrumental funk jams. This album provided a preview of the extended funk loops that would drive the birth of Hip-Hop later in the decade (‘Chameleon’ has been sampled by artists such as Nas, Digital Underground and Massive Attack), and the ecstasy-fueled electronica of the 90’s. In his liner notes to the CD reissue of the album, Hancock writes “I had this mental image of me playing in Sly’s band and playing something funky.” This is definitely something funky.

Listen: Chameleon

Listen: Vein Melter

The 25 Greatest Albums Of The 90’s

21 June 2009

The 90’s were a tough decade for music, but by the time the odometer finally clicked over to Y2K, it was possible to look back on a whole bunch of fine albums released over the preceding ten years. Here are 25 of my favorites…

Kruder Dorfmeister | The K&D Sessions™
25) Kruder & Dorfmeister | The K&D Sessions (1998) – This big, beautiful sprawling album blurred the line between electronica, dub, and remixing, and proved that Chill Out music could be artistically satisfying.

Listen: Bug Powder Dust

Built To Spill | Keep It Like A Secret
24) Built To Spill | Keep It Like A Secret (1998) – BTS lead singer and guitarist Doug Martsch was an axe hero for the 90’s, and his stinging, squalling solos bring to mind Neil Young and Crazy Horse at the height of their feedback-fueled jams.

Listen: Carry The Zero

Primal Scream | Screamadelica
23) Primal Scream | Screamadelica (1991) – Primal Scream was a mixed-up band, in the best possible way. With a name that sounds like a punk outfit, this Glasgow group was the farthest thing from that, incorporating elements of gospel, electronica, and good old Rolling Stones-styled rock & roll. Screamadelica is an uplifting joy ride…

Listen: Movin’ On Up

PJ Harvey | Dry
22) PJ Harvey | Dry (1992) – Hell hath no fury like PJ Harvey’s debut album. Dry took on feminine issues, but served them up on a platter of snarling punk and squinching feedback, along with a healthy side of biting lyrics. Bruisingly good.

Listen: Dress

Wu Tang Clan | Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers)
21) Wu Tang Clan | Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers) (1993) – With talents like Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Method Man, and GZA, the nine-headed Wu Tang Clan had superior parts that formed an even greater whole. Their debut drips with grease and grime in a way that only Exile On Main St. can match, and the album made stars out of the whole clan. Solo records were made, ODB OD’d, and The Wu never again reached this great height as a group. But Enter The Wu Tang remains one of the strongest – and greezyest – albums of all-time.

Listen: Method Man

Yo La Tengo | I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One
20) Yo La Tengo | I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One (1997) – A low-fi, low key ode to love, I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One functioned as Yo La Tengo’s dissertation on the state of indie rock in the late-90’s. It’s full of buzzing guitars and swirling feedback, but this is a beautiful batch of songs that reflect the quiet anxiety that comes with any good love. Their sampling of crickets throughout ‘Green Arrow’ is but one of the typically clever and fantastically effective musical devices used here.

Listen: Green Arrow

Beastie Boys | Ill Communication
19) Beastie Boys | Ill Communication (1994) – This is the lynchpin between the smug, malevolent Beasties of the 80’s and the mature, world conscious group that they’ve become. ‘Sure Shot’ is one of the group’s best songs, but the Adam Yauch-penned ‘Bodhisattva Vow’ is a clear-eyed look at one man’s place in the world, and a tune that simply wouldn’t have fit in on earlier Beasties albums. From the punk fire of ‘Heart Attack Man’ and ‘Sabotage’ to the multiple dusty instrumental funk jams to the smooth raps ‘Root Down’ and ‘Get It Together’, Ill Communication has a little bit of everything that makes the Beasties great.

Listen: Sabotage

A3 | Exile On Coldharbour Lane
18) Alabama 3 | Exile On Coldharbour Lane (1997) – The Sopranos used ‘Woke Up This Morning’ as its opening theme song, but Exile On Coldharbour Lane represents a rollicking trip through electronica, country, and gospel, helmed by a sleazy/hilarious figure named Reverend D. Wayne Love. It looks like a disaster on paper, but this is a rolling musical carnival-slash-revival that has its tongue firmly in cheek and grooves firmly in pocket. Absolutely one of the great lost albums of the 90’s…

Listen: Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness

Massive Attack | Mezzanine
17) Massive Attack | Mezzanine (1998) – Many prefer their first two albums (both great), but this band really hit their dark stride with Mezzanine. Less trip-hop than shadowy, claustrophobic atmosphere for urban decay, this album sets a mood within its first few seconds, and carries it to the bitter, lovely end. ‘Man Next Door’ casts a weary eye at constantly fighting neighbors, ‘Inertia Creeps’ is a slithering, intoxicating ode to doing nothing at all, and the whole of the record rides a slipstream of urban discord. But the darkness here is elegant enough that this became the soundtrack for every boutique, salon, and restaurant during the summer of ’98.

Listen: Man Next Door

The Stairs | Mexican R 'n' B
16) The Stairs | Mexican R-n-B (1992) – The Stairs suffered from nothing so much as an acute sense of bad timing. The lo-fi, psychedelic garage band ditties they were penning in the early 90’s had nowhere to go, but ten years later there would be a host of bands (White Stripes, Black Lips, et al) successfully mining the same vein. Mexican R-n-B meanwhile, is the lost album of the decade – a perfectly ripped garage album, rough around the edges and utterly timeless. It didn’t stand a chance in ’92.

Listen: Flying Machine

Smashing Pumpkins | Siamese Dream
15) Smashing Pumpkins | Siamese Dream (1993) – Smashing Pumpkins were considered part of the grunge movement, but mainly because they had a key track on the genre-defining Singles soundtrack, and Billy Corgan’s vocals are dripping with angst. The lyrics here reflect some of his personal issues at the time, and most of the songs center around phrases (“The killer in me is the killer in you” or “Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known”) that sound like fortune cookies for profoundly anxious people. Corgan and company perfectly combined the technical flatulence of Prog with the fire and brimstone of Metal and the confessional self-probing of a Singer/Songwriter, and the result was one of the best albums of the 90’s.

Listen: Today

Nas | Illmatic
14) Nas | Illmatic (1994) – Nasir Jones’ debut traces his rise as a rap prodigy in the Queensbridge section of Queens, NY and lends credence to the idea that rap is a document of the streets. The album builds up to its final song, ‘It Ain’t Hard To Tell’, when Nas releases the pressure over an extended Michael Jackson sample, and basks in the glow of his own verbal skills. Illmatic is the Martin Scorcese film of hip-hop albums – it appraises the mean streets with an honest eye, but captures the hard beauty that hangs in the rough and tumble alleyways of NYC.

Listen: It Ain’t Hard To Tell

Sublime | Sublime
13) Sublime | Sublime (1996) – Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell could rap with the best MCs, scream hardcore, sing in a soul-tinged rasp, and lay down some serious reggae. His freakish talent is all over Sublime, an album that bobs and weaves from punk to ska to rap and back, traces the branches of Nowell’s messed up life, and sounds joyously obnoxious the whole way. Nowell died from a heroin overdose in May of 1996, at age 26 – just before this star-making turn was released.

Listen: What I Got

Beck | Mutations
12) Beck | Mutations (1998) – Odelay would be the pick for many, and it’s a fine album, but this is the one that I keep coming back to. Mutations created a mood that Beck hasn’t reached since – boredom, sadness, and wonder, blended over a bed of psychedelic sounds, electronic whizzes and whirs, and simple acoustic guitar. From ‘Cold Brains’ to ‘Lazy Flies’ to ‘Dead Melodies’ the song titles themselves speak to the ennui within, but this music sounds better with each passing year.

Listen: Nobody’s Fault But My Own

Los Lobos | Kiko
11) Los Lobos | Kiko (1992) – Labeling this a ‘roots-rock album’ is like calling Diego Rivera’s art a mural – it’s true enough, but only hints at the depth of the artistic palette that’s involved. From South African Mbaqanga to New Orleans marches to angelic harp and beyond, the varying sounds and styles included here make this a veritable concept album about rural music. But Kiko plays like a latino version of Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life – its reach is ambitious but its ruminations on life fit together into a satisfying, cohesive whole. The music here has aged extremely well, and its melancholy air is mixed with enough loose joy to make it an album worth discovering over and over again.

Listen: Kiko And The Lavender Moon

DJ Shadow | Endtroducing...
10) DJ Shadow | Endtroducing… (1996) – Created from samples culled from hundreds of forgotten albums that Shadow found in the basement of a Davis, CA record store, Endtroducing… is like no other album made before or since. The original release of this album had a sticker on the shrink rap that compared Josh Davis (aka DJ Shadow) to Jimmy Page, and my first reaction that was a big fat BULLSHIT. I spun this album a time or two, and then put it away to gather dust. But a funny thing happened on the way to the vinyl slaughterhouse: I watched the documentary Scratch, and gained a new appreciation for where this was coming from, and each subsequent spin revealed a little more of its brilliance, until it’s become an album I can’t imagine living without. Like Star Trek and Star Wars, Entroducing… charts the waters of a cooler parallel universe, one where beats reign supreme, and no album stays forgotten.

Listen: Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt

Pearl Jam | Ten
9) Pearl Jam | Ten (1991) – During the course of researching this list, I was astounded to find plenty of Best Of The 90’s lists that dismissed Pearl Jam’s Ten out of hand, claiming it unworthy of discussion. I understand some of the reservations with this album – Eddie Vedder’s over-emotive vocal style here tends to grate after a few songs, and many of the tracks, including ‘Jeremy’ and ‘Black’ feel almost comically serious. But this album also has plenty of great moments, including the anthemic ‘Alive’ and hard grooving ‘Even Flow’. Like Little Richard, Sgt Pepper, and Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam so perfectly captured the essence of an era on their debut album, that even at its corniest, it’s still undeniably worthwhile.

Listen: Alive

Jeff Buckley | Grace
8) Jeff Buckley | Grace (1994) – On Grace, Jeff Buckley sings like a fallen angel, drawing notes out to excruciatingly fantastic lengths and ranging between highs and lows in the blink of an eye. Each track cuts to the quick about love lost (including the definitive reading of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’) and the entire album is nothing less than the sound of a human heart falling to pieces, one fragile, intricate piece at a time. “This is our last embrace. Must I dream and always see your face?” he sings, like a man who knows bloody goodbyes.

Buckley drowned in the Mississippi River the day before he was due to begin recording his second album. His untimely death at age 30 left us with only Grace, and ensured that his legacy would forever be tied to this one majestic, breathtaking, and tear-stained album.

Listen: Hallelujah

The Black Crowes | The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion
7) The Black Crowes | The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion (1992) – The cover of The Black Crowes’ second album features the band in an auto junkyard, among twisted heaps of metal, and that’s a pretty astute metaphor for the state of Southern Rock at the outset of the 90’s. Unless .38 Special was your cup of tea, you had to go back nearly 20 years to Lynyrd Skynyrd to find a true Southern Rock band at the time the Crowes blasted onto the scene. Their debut went multi-platinum, but The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion is their masterpiece, featuring ragged rockers, smokey blues rock, world weary ballads, and a sweet Bob Marley cover. It’s the sound of a band exhausted from both the pursuit of stardom and single-handedly resuscitating a long dead genre.

Listen: Remedy

Bob Dylan | Time Out Of Mind
6) Bob Dylan | Time Out Of Mind (1997) – This one felt like Moses coming down from the mountain. Dylan is and will always be artistically relevant to anyone who’s serious about music, but until Time Out Of Mind, he hadn’t released an album of new material for his second generation of fans. Dylan sounds every bit the dusty prophet here, riding in from the desert on songs like the indifferent ‘Love Sick’ (later used in a Victoria’s Secret ad) and the forlorn ‘Standing In The Doorway’ – songs that were as good as anything he’d done in his previous artistic lives, and sounded better than any Dylan fan could possibly have expected in 1997. This album might lack the wit and fire of Highway 61 Revisited or the pure autobiographical power of Blood On The Tracks, but it was a staggering artistic statement from a musician who continues to evolve and confound his critics and fans alike.

Listen: Love Sick

Soundgarden | Superunknown
5) Soundgarden | Superunknown (1994) – One of the great albums of the 90’s, Superunknown is a sonic masterpiece that transcended the toe-tag ‘grunge’ and heralded the arrival of Soundgarden as a serious musical force. Here they married the sludge of Black Sabbath to the craftsmanship of The Beatles, creating an album that topped the charts, sold more than 3 million copies, and earned the group a pair of Grammys. Few could have guessed that they would release only one more album (1996’s Down On The Upside) and then pack it in, just as they were achieving greatness.

Many bands have used the inner combustion of competing artistic ideas to create beautiful music, and the Lennon/McCartney roles were played here by lead singer Chris Cornell and guitarist Kim Thayil. Cornell is an avowed Beatles and Jeff Buckley fan, while Thayil prefers the heavier sounds of Sabbath and their metal offspring. Much of Soundgarden’s earlier music is so dominated by the pulverizing, heavy riffs from Thayil’s guitar that ‘Slaves And Bulldozers’ could have been the name of almost every one of their songs. A tune like ‘Black Hole Sun’ – drenched as it is in psychedelic signifiers – simply wouldn’t have had a place on any of their first three albums. But with Superunknown, the group figured out how to balance their differing musical visions, before the friction finally tore them apart.

Listen: Black Hole Sun

Nirvana | Nevermind
4) Nirvana | Nevermind (1991) – For better or worse, Nevermind made alternative rock a viable commercial commodity. But the reason this album rates so high is down to the music. Forget ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ – although it remains a wickedly effective anthem for Gen X – the rest of the songs here shine like intricately cut jewels. ‘Come As You Are’, ‘In Bloom’ and ‘Something In The Way’ were dark and deeply indebted to punk, but these were well-written, finely-honed tunes that betrayed Kurt Cobain’s love of The Beatles in general and John Lennon in particular. Cobain’s songwriting chops have been buried beneath an avalanche of hype and myth, but his songs connected to a generation of fans not because of the concomitant headlines, but because they were honest – and sometimes painful and loud – examinations of a soul at odds with itself. Like its namesake, the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks, the true brilliance of Nirvana’s second album remains obscured behind a barrage of adjectives.

Listen: Come As You Are

U2 | Achtung Baby
3) U2 | Achtung Baby (1991) – With the release of the 1987 blockbuster The Joshua Tree, U2 became international superstars of the first order. That album found its groove in the highways and bi-ways of America, but with their 1991 follow up (forget Rattle & Hum, it was essentially Joshua Tree 2.0) Achtung Baby, the group left America far behind and made an album that was rooted in Middle Eastern mysticism and filled with mediations on love gone wrong. The Edge’s guitar still rings out, but here it’s joined with electronic beats and sludgy effects.

But the key difference is lead singer Bono, who had matured from a two-tone, new wave belter on Boy and War to a supple, nuanced singer who caressed his vocals like a long lost lover. He has referred to this album as “”four men chopping down the Joshua Tree” but by reinventing their sound U2 only enhanced their standing in the world of music. Achtung Baby spent just one week at the top of the Billboard charts, but it contained five hit singles and went on to sell more than 18,000,000 copies. It was also the last time U2 reached the top of the mountain artistically.

Listen: Mysterious Ways

Johnny Cash | American Recordings
2) Johnny Cash | American Recordings (1994) – Before this album, Johnny Cash was a has-been, a man from another era who hadn’t had a record contract in years. But producer Rick Rubin had a plan for Cash, and the stark simplicity of Rubin’s production – just Cash, a guitar, and a mic – was brilliant, and miraculously restored Cash to his rightful place as one of the most powerful singers in music. American Recordings contains a variety of material. Cash re-imagines two songs he’d recorded in the 60’s, including a haunting ‘Delia’s Gone’ that blows the doors off his original. It had a few well-chosen covers, including Nick Lowe’s ‘The Beast In Me’ and Leonard Cohen’s ‘Bird On A Wire’. And he nailed a couple of songs written specifically for him – Glenn Danzig’s ‘Thirteen’ and Tom Waits’ ‘Down There By The Train’. Cash was alternately a killer, a cowboy, a drunk, a preacher, a wife-beater, a comedian. Throughout the album he used his granite voice to make each song his own – a spellbinding performance that earned him a new generation of fans.

Listen: Delia’s Gone

Radiohead | OK Computer
1) Radiohead | OK Computer (1997) – In the mid-90’s, aliens touched down near Oxford, England, and – displeased with the ascendence of grunge music – brainwashed the band Radiohead so that within a few years the group would recreate the symphonies of the universe, as channeled through the motion and humdrum of life on earth.

How else to explain OK Computer? This 1997 album was so out of its time and ahead of the curve that it was often referred to as the Dark Side Of The Moon for the 90’s, and in its haunting exploration of the human condition, that’s exactly what it was. But comparing Radiohead to anyone – even Pink Floyd – is a disservice to a band that embraced the possibilities of electronic, computer-enhanced sounds at a time when every other band on the planet was trying to sound like Black Sabbath Jr.

Symphonic and elegant yet paranoid and claustrophobic, the tunes on OK Computer interlock to form a picture of a world at odds with itself and the technology driving it. Radiohead understood what Aldous Huxley was getting at when he wrote that civilization is sterilization, and the music here sees the cold edge of reason triumph over emotion time and again. ‘The Tourist’ sonically recreates the feeling of seconds-lasting-minutes that occurs just before an automobile crash, and serves as the 21st century answer to The Beatles’ ‘A Day In The Life’. ‘Karma Police’ burrows deep inside the beauty of a world gone mad at itself. ‘Paranoid Android’ updates a British nursery rhyme, and sounds like the alienation that comes with too much technology and not enough time.

Thom Yorke sings throughout like a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, his falsetto stretching a reedy, membrane-thin wall between sanity and madness. His vocals are generally buried beneath the murk and burble of electronic tape-loop noise and Jonny Greenwood’s itchy guitars. The compositions come off as a mad grafting of Kraftwerk and The Beatles, as the brilliance of the arrangements vie against the detached mood of the lyrics and music.

In the same way that Nirvana’s Nevermind changed music in the first half of the 1990’s, OK Computer had an instant and noticeable influence on the way albums were constructed – an influence that continues to the present. And somewhere far, far away, the aliens are extremely pleased…

Listen: Karma Police

*****

25 (or so) more that merit a spin…

A Tribe Called Quest | The Low End Theory
Rage Against The Machine | Evil Empire
Ice Cube | The Predator
Steve Earle | El Corazon
Primus | Sailing The Seas Of Cheese
Queens Of The Stone Age | Queens Of The Stone Age
Beta Band | The 3 EPs
Red Hot Chili Peppers | Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Tool | Undertow
Temple Of The Dog | Temple Of The Dog
Snoop Doggy Dogg | Doggystyle
Alice In Chains | Dirt
Various Artists | Singles Soundtrack
Public Enemy | Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black
G. Love & Special Sauce | G. Love & Special Sauce
Wilco | Summer Teeth
Liz Phair | Exile In Guyville
Neutral Milk Hotel | In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
Outkast | Aquemini
Jane’s Addiction | Ritual de lo Habitulo
Dr. Dre | The Chronic
Metallica | Metallica
Slint | Tweez
Radiohead | The Bends
Beck | Odelay
Black Crowes | Amorica
Massive Attack | Blue Lines
Soundgarden | Badmotorfinger

Weekend Playlist

18 May 2009

It was so hot this weekend in the Bay Area that The P and I just sat in front of the turntable and a fan, and melted into puddles. Here’s some of what we melted to…

Front 242 | Front By Front
Front 242 | Front By Front

Grootna | Grootna
Grootna | Grootna

Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen | Lost In The Ozone
Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen | Lost In The Ozone

Various Artists | Darker Than Blue: Soul From Jamdown 1973-1980
Various Artists | Darker Than Blue: Soul From Jamdown 1973-1980

Various Artists | Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus Soundtrack
Various Artists | Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus Soundtrack

Roots Manuva | Run Come Save Me
Roots Manuva | Run Come Save Me

Eddie Vedder | Into The Wild Soundtrack
Eddie Vedder | Into The Wild

Massive Attack | Protection
Massive Attack | Protection

Spank Rock | Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo
Spank Rock | Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo

Atmosphere | Seven's Travels
Atmosphere | Seven’s Travels

My Morning Jacket | Z
My Morning Jacket | Z

Fred Neil | Bleecker & MacDougal
Fred Neil | Bleecker & MacDougal

M. Ward | Hold Time
M. Ward | Hold Time

Santana | Abraxas
Santana | Abraxas

Otis Rush | Right Place, Wrong Time
Otis Rush | Right Place, Wrong Time

The Clash | Sandinista!
The Clash | Sandinista!

Fleetwood Mac | Then Play On
Fleetwood Mac | Then Play On

Nina Simone | The Best Of Nina Simone
Nina Simone | The Best Of Nina Simone

The Beach Boys | The Beach Boys Today!
The Beach Boys | The Beach Boys Today!

Various Artists | Ghana Soundz
Various Artists | Ghana Soundz

Pink Floyd | Animals
Pink Floyd | Animals

Otis Redding | In Person At The Whisky A Go Go
Otis Redding | In Person At The Whisky A Go Go

Gary Higgins | Red Hash
Gary Higgins | Red Hash

Paul Simon | Rhythm Of The Saints
Paul Simon | The Rhythm Of The Saints

Jimmy Forrest | Out Of The Forrest
Jimmy Forrest | Out Of The Forrest

John Fahey | The Best Of John Fahey 1959-1977
John Fahey | The Best Of John Fahey 1959-1977

Buried Treasure: Melon

16 April 2009

[Today: U2 get in the groove…]

U2 | Melon

U2 spent the better part of the 90s making music that unsuccessfully tried to tap into the pulsating excitement of techno and electronica. 1993’s Zooropa and 1997’s Pop only grasped at the edges of what makes dance music tick. U2 is a rock band at heart (a punk band at that) and their glossy mid-90s albums come off as stilted imitations of good dance music, and smack of superstars playing outside their realm. There was way too much legitimately good electronica floating around at that time for U2’s variety to fly, so by the year 2000 the group was back to doing what they do best.

But U2 did release a fine dance album during the 90s – just not through the usual channels. Melon, released in 1995 as a ride-along with the group’s fan club magazine Propaganda, features nine U2 songs remixed by seven different artists, including Massive Attack, Paul Oakenfold, and the Soul Assassins. When you want a job done right, you bring in a professional, and these pros did the job for U2. Melon compiles remixes of tracks from Zooropa and Achtung Baby, twisting some of the latter album’s best songs into interesting new shapes. Oakenfold mutates ‘Mysterious Ways’ into a flute-laced chill-out classic, while Massive Attack takes the same tune in a completely different direction. ‘Lemon’ makes sense as an extended dance track, with Bono’s grating falsetto almost rising to disco-diva status behind Oakenfold’s driving beats. Best of all, Pete Heller and Terry Farley’s remix of the B-side ‘Salomé’ represents U2’s single most exciting foray into electronica.

Released in a limited run of 20,000 copies, Melon became an instant collector’s item (word to the wise: the genuine article was only released in a cardboard sleeve – all others are fakes) that inspired a series of unauthorized, fruit-themed U2 bootlegs that have become affectionately known as ‘fruitlegs‘. There are more than 30 fruitlegs currently in circulation, but the original is still the one to get.

Listen: Salomé (Zooromancer Remix) [Pete Heller and Terry Farley]

Listen: Lemon (The Perfecto Mix) [Paul Oakenfold]

Weekend Playlist

23 February 2009

Here’s a sampling of what was in our ears over the weekend…

Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks
Sex Pistols | Never Mind The Bollocks

Woody Guthrie | Dust Bowl Ballads
Woody Guthrie | Dust Bowl Ballads

Downliners Sect | The Rock Sect's In
Downliners Sect | The Rock Sect’s In

Prince | Purple Rain
Prince | Purple Rain

Blackalicious | Nia
Blackalicious | Nia

Fred Eaglesmith | Lipstick, Lies & Gasoline
Fred Eaglesmith | Lipstick, Lies & Gasoline

Tom Waits | Swordfishtrombones
Tom Waits | Swordfishtrombones

Willard Grant Conspiracy | Everything's Fine
Willard Grant Conspiracy | Everything’s Fine

Old & In The Way | Old & In The Way
Old & In The Way | Old & In The Way

Lifesavas | Spirit In Stone
Lifesavas | Spirit In Stone

Groove Armada | Lovebox
Groove Armada | Lovebox

Minutemen | Double Nickels On The Dime
Minutemen | Double Nickels On The Dime

Nick Lowe | Basher: The Best Of
Nick Lowe | Basher: The Best Of

The Smiths | Hatful Of Hollow
The Smiths | Hatful Of Hollow

Joe Walsh | Look What I Did: The JW Anthology
Joe Walsh | Look What I Did: The JW Anthology

Mother's Finest | Not Yer Mother's Funk: The Very Best Of
Mother’s Finest | Not Yer Mother’s Funk: The Very Best Of

Various Artists | The Rhino Disco Box
Various Artists | The Rhino Disco Box

Lightnin' Slim | Rooster Blues
Lightnin’ Slim | Rooster Blues

John Prine | John Prine
John Prine | John Prine

Cold War Kids | Robbers & Cowards
Cold War Kids | Robbers & Cowards

Little Barrie | We Are Little Barrie
Little Barrie | We Are Little Barrie

Mazzy Star | So Tonight That I Migh See
Mazzy Star | So Tonight That I Might See

Terry Reid | River
Terry Reid | River

Gene Clark | No Other
Gene Clark | No Other

Wings | Wings Greatest
Wings | Wings Greatest

Bryan Sutton | Bluegrass Guitar
Bryan Sutton | Bluegrass Guitar

Manu Chao | Proxima Estacion... Esperanza
Manu Chao | Proxima Estacion… Esperanza

Massive Attack | Mezzanine
Massive Attack | Mezzanine

Outkast | Stankonia
Outkast | Stankonia

Various Artists | Brainfreeze Breaks
Various Artists | Brainfreeze Breaks

DJ Shadow | Endtroducing...
DJ Shadow | Entroducing…

Neu! | Neu!
Neu! | Neu! 75

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble | The Sky Is Crying
Stevie Ray Vaughan | The Sky Is Crying

R.L. Burnside | Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down
R.L. Burnside | Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down

Flying Burrito Bros | Gilded Palace Of Sin
Flying Burrito Brothers | Gilded Palace Of Sin

Sidestepper | 3AM (In Beats We Trust)
Sidestepper | 3AM (In Beats We Trust)

Dino Valente - Dino
Dino Valente | Dino Valente

John Legend | Get Lifted
John Legend | Get Lifted

Op-Ed: Music As A Weapon

10 December 2008

Guantanamo Bay prisoners undergo sensory deprivation

Gee, isn’t our President swell? Two articles caught my eye yesterday, and both reminded me why I’m counting the seconds until this jackass is out of office. The first was an Associated Press article by Andrew O. Selsky regarding the use of loud music as a torture device at Guantanamo Bay. It seems that jailers there crank Nine Inch Nails, AC/DC, Pantera, Barney The Dinosaur and others, up to 20 hours a day inside and outside cells, in order to “break” prisoners. These cells are often kept at uncomfortably low temperatures, and detainees are shackled hand and foot to the floor in awkward positions.

According to Selsky:

The experience was overwhelming for many. Binyam Mohammed, now a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, said men held with him at the CIA’s “Dark Prison” in Afghanistan wound up screaming and smashing their heads against walls, unable to endure more.

“There was loud music, (Eminem’s) ‘Slim Shady’ and Dr. Dre for 20 days. I heard this nonstop over and over,” he told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith. “The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night for the months before I left. Plenty lost their minds.”

The horrors of Guantanamo aren’t news, but I find this latest twist to be particularly outrageous. And apparently, so do some of the musicians whose music is involved. Artists including Massive Attack and Tom Morello (of Rage Against The Machine) have banded together to protest this use of their music. But beyond a minute of silence in the middle of their concerts, it’s unclear what they plan to do. Unfortunately, the protesting comes too late for too many.

With these atrocities fresh in my mind, I was amused to see that the White House released a “talking points” memo yesterday highlighting all the glorious things the Bush Administration has accomplished over the last eight years. Of course, no mention of Iraq or Katrina, but the president upheld (and I quote) “the honor and the dignity of his office.”

But wait, there’s more!

As for the current economic crisis, the memo says that Bush “responded with bold measures to prevent an economic meltdown.”

What a guy. To show my appreciation for everything he’s done for this country, I’d like sit W down and play Barney The Dinosaur’s ‘I Love You’ song – 500,000 times in a row.

*****

Listen: Let’s Impeach The President [Neil Young]

Listen: Masters Of War (Live) [Pearl Jam]

Listen: You Haven’t Done Nothin’ [Stevie Wonder]

Listen: I Can’t Get Behind That [William Shatner featuring Henry Rollins]

Listen: How Come [Ray LaMontagne]

Listen: Under All Flags [Patrick Sky]

Listen: Time To Build [Beastie Boys]

Weekend Playlist

17 November 2008

It was another gorgeous weekend in the Bay Area, with weather in the 80’s and the slightest of breezes. The P and I had the windows opened and the turntable fired up all weekend. Here’s what we played…

verve_remixed
Various Artists | Verve Remixed

AC/DC | Back In Black
AC/DC | Back In Black

queens-of-the-stone-age
Queens Of The Stone Age | Songs For The Deaf

Tropicalia | A Brazilian Revolution In Sound
Various Artists | Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution In Sound

Buena Vista Social Club | At Carnegie Hall
Buena Vista Social Club | At Carnegie Hall

Fred Neil | Bleecker & MacDougal
Fred Neil | Bleecker & MacDougal

Terry Reid
Terry Reid | Terry Reid

Kings Of Convenience | Quiet Is The New Loud
Kings Of Convenience | Quiet Is The New Loud

Bo Diddley | Big Bad Bo
Bo Diddley | Big Bad Bo

Funkadelic | Uncle Jam Wants You
Funkadelic | Uncle Jam Wants You

Hercules And Love Affair
Hercules And Love Affair | Hercules And Love Affair

Gorillaz | Demon Days
Gorillaz | Demon Days

Various Artists | Disco Hustle
Various Artists | Disco Hustle

massive_attack-protection
Massive Attack | Protection

Love | Da Capo
Love | Da Capo

Nick Drake | Family Tree
Nick Drake | Family Tree

Blue Mitchell | The Thing To Do
Blue Mitchell | The Thing To Do

Sly & The Family Stone | There's A Riot Goin' On
Sly & The Family Stone | There’s A Riot Goin’ On

Talking Heads | The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads
Talking Heads | The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads

Gomez | In Our Gun
Gomez | In Our Gun

The Flying Burrito Brothers | Burrito Deluxe
The Flying Burrito Brothers | Burrito Deluxe

Jurassic 5 | Quality Control
Jurassic 5 | Quality Control

John Phillips | John, The Wolfking Of L.A.
John Phillips | John, The Wolfking Of L.A.

Groove Armada | Lovebox
Groove Armada | Lovebox

Young-Holt Unlimited | Plays Superfly
Young-Holt Unlimited | Plays Superfly

The Band | Music From Big Pink
The Band | Music From Big Pink

M. Ward | Transfiguration Of Vincent
M. Ward | Transfiguration Of Vincent

Love's A Real Thing
Various Artists | World Psychedelic Classics 3: Love’s A Real Thing

Various Artists | Ghana Soundz
Various Artists | Ghana Soundz

Doubleshot Tuesday: Unhalfbricking/Protection

30 September 2008

[Today: Siren songs from previously uncharted musical territories…]


Fairport Convention lead singer Sandy Denny is best known in America for her duet with Robert Plant on Led Zeppelin’s ‘Battle Of Evermore’. A shame, because her own group was a groundbreaking outfit that stirred together a hypnotic mixture of jazz, folk, cajun, rock, traditional english and irish music, and Bob Dylan tunes. Fairport reflected an astounding number of musical touch-points, but sounded nothing like their influences. Guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson was the creative spark behind the music, but the magic in their songs is down to Denny’s lilting voice – the very sound of sirens seducing sailors. Unhalfbricking is beautiful music with a razor sharp edge, so devoid of cliches and gimmicks that nearly 40 years after the album’s release, it refuses to age or gather dust.

In the early-90’s Massive Attack perfected an intoxicating blend of hip-hop, dub reggae, electronica, funk and soul. Adding to the group’s eclectic and somewhat mysterious persona was the fact that they featured an ever-rotating cast of singers. Some (Tricky, Horace Andy) were semi-regular, while others (Tracey Thorn, Shara Nelson, and Nicolette) made only the occasional cameo. On the group’s second album, 1994’s Protection, Thorn (on temporary loan from Everything But The Girl) put forth a pair of simmering, shimmering vocal exhibitions. On both the title track and ‘Better Things’ her voice is full of warmth, but she wields it like a dagger – a beautiful woman in a defensive posture with an angry glint in her eye. Her songs set the tone for an album filled with conflicting moods – hot and cold, intimate and remote, soothing and unsettling – that often live together within a single turn of phrase.

Listen: Autopsy [Fairport Convention]

Listen: A Sailor’s Life [Fairport Convention]

Listen: Protection [Massive Attack]

Listen: Better Things [Massive Attack]


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