Record Lection #57-Nico “Desert Shore” I’ve always been in love Nico’s starkly german annunciation, her voice is a sound akin to aurally wading through a vat of molasses. Minimalist, Elegant, and unapologetically stark, Desert Shore is total embodiment of the aesthetic that would eventually become goth music. The lack of percussion,chord changes and optimism also make this a pillar in the genre of experimental pop. Not surprisingly, this aspect is producer John Cale’s overarching influence on this project. You might even say that over their respective careers, this potent partnership brought out the best in each other’s strengths (see also Velvet Underground & Nico) His soft drones and simple piano motifs left by themselves would normally sit in a more meditative sphere, but Nico’s doomish metaphors and Wagnerian dreamscapes provide just the proper bit of paranoia and angst. However, amid the swamp Nico can suddenly turn her delicately lethal syrup into a light creamy glaze, uncharacteristically making the song “Afraid” being one of the most tender and beautiful songs you will ever hear. Warning:This album is what I would I call a “brain switch”. I’ve lost many minutes have staring into space and contemplating about nothing in particular while this was spinning on my turntable, the numbing vastness can be quite effective..You might wanna be by yourself for this one…
Record Lection #56 Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers “Damn The Torpedoes” I don’t care what anyone says, Tom Petty is the man. In my mind, he is more american than apple pie and subtly more important to our culture than even The Boss. Even the basic, blonde, and confident cover paints a slyly heroic figure on a bright red backdrop. He’s reliable, consistent, approachable, and apparently humble. He won’t steal your girlfriend, start a fight, or annoy your grandpa. He will, however, steal your vintage guitar, smoke all your weed, and write songs about your girlfriend. Petty has the amazing poetic ability to relay red blooded teen confusion with just a few smart words and phrases (my senior class song was “Learning To Fly”. A LOT of people cried), a talent that has made him relevant pretty much his entire career (His live show is two hours of straight HITS!) I think I spent an entire middle school summer laying on a trampoline staring at the sun while Mike Campbell’s shimmery guitar cut through the neighborhood lawnmower sounds in the distance. I wasn’t even sure if I like girls yet, but Tom made them seem like they were the most important and mysterious things in the world and I fully trusted him. Even through that nasal, quasi-indecipherable wail I knew exactly what this singer was trying to say to me:Relax, Stay Young, Think about shit sometimes. I’ve been trying to do that ever since.
Record Lection #54-Rolling Stones “More Hot Rocks (big hits & fazed cookies) Also known as the discarded little brother of The Rolling Stones more famous and definitive singles collection “Hot Rocks”, this two disc overview of their “blues” and “psychedelic” periods is actually much more interesting and rewarding than their ubiquitous classics. In this case, I take the “More” as in the “More” inventive, “More” creative, and “More” better sides of the Stones singles output. These apparent ‘fazed cookies’ are actually my favorite material by this band and the battered condition of all three of my copies will attest to this. Amazing songs like the medieval “Lady Jane” and the laddish anthem “I’m Free” get proper exposure on here, and no one can argue that the hypercolor “She’s A Rainbow” isn’t in the pantheon of best psychedelic songs of all time. The glory, however, is saved for side 4 which is fun grab bag of of old raggedy numbers from their Crawdaddy Club R’n’B days. The spirited renditions of classics like “Poison Ivy” and “Fortune Teller” on here are reminders of the feverish energy that the English kids of the sixties were able to inject into the originals they worshipped so fondly. The Stones (and many others’) assimilation and regurgitation of black music may be sociopathic/sycophantic at times but the good ones were able to genuinely make those sounds their own and add some gilded edges in the process. In the end, these undeniably catchy songs are also a sobering reminder that almost all of our favorite music was stolen from someone else less fortunate (and probably poorer). However, when I personally analyze this fact It becomes crystal clear to me that once an idea becomes part of the air it really does become everyones property, it’s just that some of us have a better opportunity (i.e money, time, place, luck) to interpret and benefit those vibrations in an interesting way. Music is a human thing, and it’s race and heritage that defines the nuances of style, not the other way around. When one comes to this conclusion, listening becomes so much easier. The Stones must have been good listeners (or the luckiest people that ever lived)
Record Lection #53-Belly “Soundtrack” I mention this record because the reason why I bought it was because of the absolutely sublime remix of Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life” that graces the powerful opening scenes of this Hype Williams vehicle. That particular scene, wrought with beautiful slo-mo action, editing, and cinematography, represented all that was good about the apex of Williams decorated career and powers as a director. His expertise at visual choreography is on full display in this scene as he deftly matches the happenings on screen with the interplay between the accapella and the raw stripped down beat. The rest of movie isn’t bad either and I think it stands up to the other black gangster flicks of the modern era that include classics like Juice and Menace II Society. If anything the amazing colors and surprisingly effective acting by DMX, Nas, and an extremely hot T Boz definitely have to put it in the conversation.In fact it might my favorite late night visual chillout movies akin to Vanilla Sky,Blade Runner, or more recently, Drive. The amazing remix I was looking for was, however, is not on this collection, which at the time I have to say was quite disappointing because I had dreams of Djing it. I was the record store, scanned the song list on the back but I didn’t see the track I was looking for. Perhaps it was a remix by another artist and was renamed to something I didn’t recognize? Or maybe it there was a secret track that was not listed? Being only a couple of dollars I didn’t worry about it too much, I mean, I loved the movie, right? Alas, this magical moment was not captured on this vinyl and what I had bought in the end was a fair to middlin’ compilation of throwaways from a who’s who of late nineties rap royalty. This is fine, but now I am left to only being able to enjoy the sought after sounds on my dusty VHS tape of the movie….which is somewhere deep in storage…with my VHS player…uh oh
Record Lection #52-Hound Dog Taylor & The House Rockers “S/T” Fans of hardcore blues will always know the name of their favorite 11(!) fingered guitar player who has influenced countless blues and garage rock heroes with his brand of juke joint punk and junkyard ethos. John Spencer borrowed Hound Dog’s bassless guitar/guitar/drums trio format for his live explosions while the legendary Gories, who might be a little closer in sound comparatively, celebrated not only his personnel philosophy but his penchant for ramshackle cacophony and wonderfully ear-bleeding R&B. Plenty of modern punk bands have made their bones without bass players. Often times, the omission of bass guitar can define whether a band is an “art” band or not and the space created in the middle of the sonic spectrum can often times be refreshing and progressive (sorry, bass dudes). Furthering the Hound Dog Taylor punk connection is the stories of his legendarily delirious stage banter, his not-giving-a-shit style of playing, and his penchant for only playing guitars that cost less 75$ or less (usually Teiscos), each of these characteristics a definition of the term “punk blues”. Before he passed away he left a healthy collection of recordings on the Alligator record label (today a blues powerhouse that was started mainly to put out Taylor’s music!) but everything you need to know about him is in the opening track of this, his first, LP. “She’s Gone”, a hypnotic grind highlighted by rhythm guitarist Brewer Phillips’ nasty pulsing Fender Telecaster and The Dog’s shrill and anarchistic slide work. Houserockin’ indeed!!! I haven’t heard a lot of post 60’s Chicago blues that has moved me as much as this stuff (there are some good ‘uns out there though) but Hound Dog and his Houserockers use of space and fuzzy distortion always always poke their influential finger into my personal music, and Taylor will always remain one the most underrated guitar heroes of all time in my book. Check him out if you haven’t, punk!#recordlections
Record Lection #51-Joy Division “Warsaw” Sometimes you buy a record by a band that already seems familiar but the sounds on the record are so intense and invigorating that you have to keep flipping said record over and over again until you realized that you’ve been listening to the same record by yourself for the last 10 hours. Sometimes you have a record that sits no less than 20 records deep in your vinyl cue because every once in a while you need that burst of energy during the day to get you over feelings like “Fuck this world!!, but then those thoughts eventually lead to ones like “Why isn’t my stereo ever loud enough?” and “Was I screaming that whole time?” This may or may not be that particular record for me. Those familiar with JD will know that this collection isn’t a proper album but rather a set of recordings done before they had written the cemetery serenades that eventually made them famous and they were a really potent and sarcastically aggressive punk band called Warsaw. This early lo-fi version of No Love Lost is in my opinion their masterpiece. Equal parts hypnotic, cerebral and grandiose, this song encompasses everything intelligent and incendiary that I like about british punk rock’s explosive inception. Later on in their career the band are/were very dismissive of the amateurish nature of of these recordings but I stand by them as some of Joy’s best work. Bernard Sumner’s molten, angular guitar playing never sounded as inventive and violent (Is it childish exploration or benevolent pain wielding ala Toni Iommi? I don’t really care actually, he just rules.) Anyway, no other band was able to create such exciting dance music with subject matter that makes you question why you think it’s ok to dance in this fucked up world in the first place. Well worn these days, it’s still hovering near the top of my stack waiting to blow up my speakers again. I’m actually going to put it on right now! #recordlections
Side A of the Vol. 1 cassette release from hell books. A sound collage tribute to painter Jean Michel-Basquiat featuring beats, samples soundclips produced over the year 2013.
Record Lection #50-Tony Allen “Jealousy” During the the height of Fela Kuti’s all-supreme genius (late 60’s to late 70’s), his music embodied the best of American funk, soul, rock, and pro-black nationalism while at the same time bringing this burgeoning western interest in Africanism back to……well, Africa. James Brown brought the sounds of the Congo to the ghetto street corner and Afrika 70 promptly snatched them back and took those advancements to a way more revolutionary and musically dense level. The engine behind this massive leviathan was the drums of Tony Allen. I could argue that he has to be considered in a conversation about the best drummers in the last 100 years but you would have to immerse yourself into music and culture of Afrobeat and what his rhythms meant to his countrymen and his tumultuous band leader. Tony meant so much to Fela, that even after Afrika 70 split and Tony went on his own to produce this, his first full length LP, Kuti gave him full use of his studio and his services (Fela takes a rare turn as a willing sideman on this date)! That surprising move ensured that both songs on “Jealousy” preserve the integrity of the classic Afrika 70 sound. The pattern is thus..Long and intense intro followed by a full orchestral explosion, then slipping into an extended percussion break down finally pushing into the climax and gigantic sigh at the end, about 20 beautiful minutes. One epic and wonderfully african masterpiece per side! The only thing missing from an intrumental Tony Allen solo joint is Fela’s trademark anger and biting topical humour but the music is absolutely glorious and quite essential to anyone interested in black music. These are truly drums from the mother designed to enlighten the brother (and sisters).
Record Lection #49- Mos Def & Talib Kweli “Black Star” In 1998, with the hip-hop community still searching for some semblance of order and identity after the Tupac/Biggie deaths, it was up to the underground to shoulder the responsibility pushing the genre forward and maintaining its focus. Enter Rawkus Records, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli. Already potent individual artists in their own right, Mos and Talib geniusly decided to combine forces and create what was not only one of the most vibrant rap records of all time, but a blinding genesis to each of their respected and lengthy careers. What makes this LP so great is the fiery chemistry between Mos Def’s nimbly charismatic storytelling and Talib Kweli’s machine gun encyclopedia wordplay that upon first listening left me dazzled and overwhelmed. However, I kept listening…and listening…and listening.. and I was soon realized and converted. This energy, paired with the most thoughtful beat selection this side of Illmatic and a Native Tongues vibe that is equal parts thought provoking and spiritually massaging created a product that is both well rounded and delightfully accessible. Also, within this whirlwind of progressiveness and creativity there is even a successful attempt the an oft mishandled rap “cover”(!), Mos Def’s lovingly updated treatment of Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story”, which remains on the highlights of his career. If you were to listen to one track on this LP, however, it would be “Definition”, literally a three minute lyrical and sonic attack on your brainstem. In my opinion, rap music rarely gets better than this song. The beat, the verses, and the overall intent have inspired my soul throughout the years since my first listen and I still think either MC (or most other ones for that matter) has yet to top its timeless execution.#recordlections