Record Lection #63-Misfits “Legacy Of Brutality”Even thought Glen Danzig is one of the most parodied and ridiculed rock n roll icons of all time, his first band is almost unanimously celebrated by everyone that likes hard music. The appeal is easy to see, his marriage of opera-level bravado and ultra-comic book ridiculousness is unmatched save for maybe Iron Maiden or Rammstein. But instead of D&D style megalomania, Glens world had a touch of street gang coolness and his brand of horror touched on a human evil that is more devious and terrestrial. That B Movie type of vision, blister-grind touring, a signature haircut (the devil lock), and one of the most iconic logos of all time secures The Misfits as one the most important and celebrated bands of all time. As well as one the most badass! Now, is Glen Danzig a genius or was it just perfect timing? Living in New Jersey, He most certainly would’ve witnessed and understood The Ramones and The Cramps, who formed just a couple of years earlier a little north up the interstate and shared Glens vehemently delirious take on 1950’s American teen culture, but perhaps decided that maybe their music had a little too much humor in it and decided to add a more serial-killer gargoyle tone to his brand of punk rock. Lucky for us, what exploded when he put the chemicals into the lab turned into some of the most important music in the 20th century! (If you ponder it’s influence on any of your favorite metal or punk bands you would have to agree with that statement) Whether this makes him a genius or not is up for considerable debate but the flawless talons that permeate through the entirety of Legacy Of Brutality are not. He may have been a dick who rerecorded all of the material on his own without asking the others (although the results prove that this may have been a good thing), but the fact is that very few debut records carry this much vitriol and and immediacy, yet are incredibly listenable ans accessible at the same time. This is certainly not an easy feat, and maybe only achieved by the most clowned upon rock star in music.
Record Lection #62-Motley Crue “Too Fast For Love” No, really dude!! This is an incredible record!No! Seriously!! So what if the cover is cheap rip-off of Sticky Fingers and they didn’t really know what an umlaut was, but this by far their best and most FULL LP of music (Dr. Feelgood is close, but the AA therapy vibes make it kind of a somber affair) Still confused? OK I will try to defend it. First of all, Too Fast For Love is the best record that The Runaways never recorded, with a slutty mixture of Van Halen and the Dead Boys pessimism for good measure. It’s the record The New York Dolls would’ve made if the David Johansson didn’t care about blues. (their penchant for post apocalyptic androgeny was probably an attempt to actually be The NY Dolls, L.A version). It’s negligent mixing (why is that cowbell mixed so HIGH?!), cheap and tinny delivery (was all the sounds filtered through a Peavey practice amp?), and amateurish subject matter (“is she hot?/well yeah, she’s hot!) only add to it’s punk rock charm. This is Dee Dee Ramones middle eight on “53rd and 3rd” stretched out over an entire record, with cheap sex, mascara, and an enforced lack of hygiene to compound matters. Songs like “Starry Eyes” and “Merry-Go-Round” reek of sweaty leather and used needles and when the Crue emplore you to “Come On And Dance” I think might be a metaphor for something nastier. The swinging medallion is “Live Wire” their first single and highly recommended home-made first video, which showcases the relative strengths that each member had at the time (and probably, ever). That song is glam, punk, metal and whatever else Nikki could throw in. For these reasons, my adolescent imbibing of this classic is one of the reasons I started playing music in the first place and I can only be thankful for that..
Record Lection #61-Jimmy Reed “The Best Of Jimmy Reed” To me, Jimmy Reed’s whisky dipped tenor is undeniable, and his list of of influencees has chiseled his name on to the hall of blues immortals (and the hearts of Velvet Underground fans) However, I have found it hard to convince people of his genius and when I put a magnifying glass on this situation one can see how a casual listener may be resistant. First of all, a trip through his extensive catalog shows little want or need to deviate from his snail like tempos and the tiny handful of charachteristic riffs and chords in his cache. As a matter of fact, most of his songs sound like he was literally trying to drain all of the athleticism out of Chuck Berry’s frentic machinations. Furthermore, his legendarily catastrophic alcoholism prevented him from even being able to perform some of his most beloved recordings without the coaxing assistance of his faithful wife, who whispered those classic lines into his fading ears to enable his destroyed memory. One you take a step back from all of these frivolous criticisms and simply enjoy the music whats left is an infectious and bubbly blues bounce set to a pleasant cruise control. His gentle voice is both fragile and confidant and his way with a few choice words rivals even Hank Williams timeless and relatable poetry. The punks of 60’s swinging London may have injected a much needed dose of amphetemine into Jimmy’s loping stroll but not one of them was able to match his uniquely approachable personality. I didn’t fully understand Jimmy Reed’s music until I really got a full understanding of what Blues music meant and was able to appreciate it’s subtlety. Unless you are able to take the long but rewarding time it takes to do this also, it might be hard to get you see his greatness. Any greatest hits collection will do just nicely and my copy of this one is very well worn.
Record Lection #60-Funkadelic “Funkadelic” Most peoples idea of what “funky” is probably involves someone with an afro singing or talking loudly over brightly syncopated RnB rhythms. Rarely does funk rest itself in the darker recesses of the psyche and draw energy from the soul like a spinal tap while invigorating the mind at the same time, this is sort of like an aural quaalude. Way before they invaded the world with their 70’s hypercolor multi-tracked fantasyscapes, George Clinton and Co. were working on a whole different type of jam, one that bespoke the paranoia and outrage of ghetto folks that were not only being shipped off to die in foreign countries but were also being poisoned and tortured in their own back yards. Thus, like “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” by Sly Stone a year later (1971), this druggy defiance materialized in an LP that is about as club friendly as a bucket of molasses but generously sprinkled with the twisted sense of humour that the P-Funk camp would be come famous for. Psychedelic in its execution yet not too experimental that you can’t see James Brown’s militaristic influence (this project tended to be the more experimental arm of the Parliament-Funkadelic cloud), this underrated masterpiece is the perfect soundtrack for your next screwed and chopped revolution. I should also mention that guitarist Eddie Hazel is a maniac, and anyone who is a fan of grimy swamp sounds with a smattering of Jimi and Iommi should definitely check his licks. You might need to flip it on 45 if you still don’t understand!
Record Lection #59-Jurassic 5 “EP” To most people outside of Los Angeles area in the mid nineties that were paying any attention to hip-hop, The music coming from this part of world was either super glossy candy pop or hardcore gangster rap. Only the truly perceptive fans were keen to notice a healthy and sometimes comical underground rap scene that what was based on the daily lives of normal positive individuals instead of cinematic wannabe tales of drug related violence and sex. In the early nineties a health food restaurant called Good Life Cafe would stage weekly cypher events for aspiring rappers in their neighborhood, with a strict “no-cussing” policy that forced these young poets to articulate their complex feelings without the use of profanity. This almost revolutionary idea and vibrant scene that ensued produced such legendary and respected acts as Freestyle Fellowship and The Pharcyde. Jurassic 5 are metaphorically the children of these ideals and this movement, but the group’s ping-pong rhyme dynamics, crowd pleasing live shows, and a staunchly OLD school aesthetic were ironically a breath of fresh air for underground hip-hop fans and felt somehow progressive at the time. It was kind of like the Cold Crush Brothers had quantum leaped into a dayglo dimension. The group’s output after this amazing but too short EP kinda fizzled and didn’t carry the same fresh impact (the term “alternative rap” is a heavy albatross that has helped some and pulverized many), but the most interesting member Chali 2na and J5’s producer Cut Chemist are still very active musically with occasional bouts of brilliance here and there via selected cameos. It would be hard to follow up this sweet little blast of inspired rap music for anyone, unless you have amazing beats and a time machine that can bring back a young Furious 5….
Record Lection #58-Ol’ Dirty Bastard “Nigga Please”My 2nd favorite member of Wu-Tang (Genius is #1) was always the one I would lie in wait for like a rare bird. His appearances were few and selected, but always amazing. Even the most famous producers seemed to save their most interesting beats for his unique delivery and perspective, a typecast enjoyed by very choice group of MC’s, most notably Snoop and possibly Redman. The first thing you hear him say after a few choice Chris Rock words are is “This is not a commercial song” over a fairly commercial beat. What happens after that moment is one of the most unhinged and uniquely uncommercial performance ever mass produced, rivaling GG Allens best work and Richard Pryor’s worst. Completely enveloped into his crazed persona he created, Russell Jones proceeds to spit free form insanity, paranoid drug rants, and dark lurid fantasies all over a cache of so-so club beats from the top producers of the day (save for the title cut, which is his masterpiece). Most of these tirades had to be painstakingly edited by these all-star beatmakers into something resembling a song, but the terrifying introspection remains clear. On his first album, Dirt had complete control of his facilities, often times laying wisdom and truth under RZA’s careful guidance. This time around, the dog had escaped the kennel and went full Cujo. When this record came out I was so excited at work that I repeatedly tried to play it in the store I worked at. I never made it to the end because it made people too crazy and they would ask me to stop it, even at low volume peeps couldn’t handle Ol’ Dirt’s intensity. That’s points in my book.
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)