Monday, March 30, 2015

Temple of The Dog - 1991

Ahhhh, the dawn of the 90's supergroup.  There were a bunch of 'em.  Slash's Snakepit, The Firm, The Foo Fighters, Perfect Circle, and the source of today's pick, Temple of The Dog.

Let me preface today's Vinyl Monday pick with something.  The only reason this is even a pick has more to do with me liking music and or things influential to it.  Generally everything I own on vinyl, I do so because it's perfection is truly only enjoyable on master recorded piece of wax.  Guilty pleasures aside, there are even some that are so important and presented so well that even if it's not the greatest recording, it's certainly an important one.  Certainly important enough to own on a medium that will hold up to the test of time.  All that said, let's get going back to Seattle.

Is it me or is there a sudden resurgence in 90's nostalgia as of late?  If for no other reason than this being 2015, one would think that we would be longing for all the things promised in Back To The Future.  Sure enough though, there are things buzzing about in the musical world lately.  Last week I covered 90's creation Sleater-Kinney and their 2015 release.  This week, another Seattle upstart that for intents and purposes birthed 90's grunge. In 1991 Temple of The Dog's self titled release, Temple of The Dog brought together Chris Cornell, (Far and away the greatest rock singer of his generation and I'll defend that to my death.) of Soundgarden, Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready from Pearl Jam, Members of Mother Love Bone, and others.  They came together in tribute of their friend and the death Andrew Wood who was the lead singer of both Mother Love Bone and Malfunkshun.  

If you've ever listened to it, you could easily say that their sound was definitely more Pearl Jam than Soundgarden.  A lot of that I'm sure had do with the with formation of Pearl Jam later that year.  Listen to their debut, Ten and you'll hear what I'm talking about.  Soundgarden that that point, while they've been around for the better part of the previous 15 years was really just coming into their own too.  Meaning, that alternative rock finally had a platform.  Temple of The Dog was released in the early spring of 1991 and while it was never a chart burner, it certainly lit a fire under a bunch of musicians to create some rather impressive stuff that we now know as the grunge generation.    

Unfortunately, 1991 was also the year of Mariah Carey and therefore nobody was really winning anything.  Hell, even MC Hammer, and Michael Jackson couldn't get much going.  We're also talking about a year that Sinead O'connor won a Grammy for best alternative album.  In an overall disappointing year in music, it's great that the cream can rise to the top and create something that will speak to and for a new generation of fans.  Temple of the dog went platinum in 2 countries and to this day, the group does still pop out every not and again.  

Hunger Strike

Songs of note, Hunger Strike, obviously, Say Hello 2 Heaven, and Pushin Forward Back.  If you ever wanted to know why you loved alternative music so much in your high school and college days, you better start here.  I've never played the album pictured above, as it's the re-issue pressed on 180 gram and deserves only a great turntable.  One that I really need to invest in soon.  Music On Vinyl released this in October of 2013, and you can find it any any good record store.  If you pay more than $30 for it, you're fucking up.  Next week, Mr. Whatever.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sirius/ly: Zero 7 - Don't Call It Love (2013)

If this single from their 2013 ep is in any way representative of what their new album is going to sound like, it may very well be the best album released this year.  

Don't Call it Love

Zero 7 has been largely MIA since 2009's Yeah Ghost.  That was an album that was in many ways a huge miss for them as they experimented with heavy electronics and lots of experimentalism.  With the absence of Mozez, Sia, (Yes that Sia.)Tina Dico, and Sophie Barker they forged ahead with a new male and female leads to create something that was more concept and less "chill".  

Everything Up (From Yeah Ghost 2009)

If you aren't down with Zero 7 yet, start with Simple things, their first album from April 2001.  I won't even bother trying to sell you on it.  It's widely known to be one of the best albums ever made, yet criminally underrated in many circles.  If I ever find it, (or if any of you ever find it and are feeling generous...) for less than $100 on vinyl I'm buying the fuck out of it.  Even if I factor my audiophile bias out of it, it's an album that's a must own on any media.  Trust me.  

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sleater Kinney - No Cities to Love 2015

`Taking a drive up I-5 in Washington State from Oregon, you'll eventually hit exit 108.  If you take exit 108, it'll be a straight shot into Olympia Washington,

The coolest thing about 90's music was that it saw another great evolution in music.  Gone were the New Wave synth pop productions knows as 80's music.  Gone are the artists trying to reinvent their craft from the Classic Rock era, as they became relegated to adult contemporary versions of their earlier selves.  In it's place were a new breed of artists influenced by the sounds created over the 10 years prior.  This group was eager to do things differently and rebel against the over-stimulation of the 80's.  They and their parents grew weary of music that basically by the end of the previous decade, sounded the same.  They wanted something alternative.

Enter 90's music.  Never have so many sub-genres of music ever came together before.  Here in the states, part of the weariness in music brought something much needed to the musical landscape.  It tried to bring rock music back.  After 10 years of softening pop and, a slight rise of teen-pop, and growing popularity of hip-hop, small factions of garage artists were longing for a nostalgic sound that just didn't exist anymore.  Enter Alternative rock.  (And all it's variations.)  

Last month in the middle of the winter, West Coast "Riot Grrrl" rockers Sleater-Kinney released their 8th album, their first in 10 years.  No Cities To Love.  I stumbled on this surprise late last year while listening to Sirius XMU.  It was a real shocker since even the DJ's didn't know what that single meant.  After 2005's The Woods, and the departure to solo projects by all members of the group, everyone thought that one of the landmarks of of that genre was just gone to pasture.  Fortunately for us, all they did was grow up.  

Their new album is a much more refined, more focused less angry take on what made them great.  This new album is less less about the anarchy and more about being gritty.  This album has shades of Hole, with a little bit of Bikini Kill for energy.  Their message is still one of empowerment, and their focus is definitely parts political, just a lot less 90's.  The single most important part about this whole album is it's timing.  With the modern debates of our time and the new movements within feminist circles, this album couldn't have come sooner.  Listen to No Cities to Love, A New Wave, and my favorite Bury Our Friends.  

A New Wave - Official Video

You will have no problems whatsoever scoring this album on vinyl.  Bonus, you'll get the mp3 code in it as well.  As much as it pains me to say this, your best bet is to visit an Urban Outfitters, you can probably score it around $15...  Unless you're me, and have an awesome network of vinyl addicts at your disposal.  

Bury Our Friends

Next week, more music from the 90's..  WOOF! (Finally)  

Monday, March 16, 2015

No Jacket Required - Phil Collins 1985

Guilty pleasure edition!  If you've been paying attention I've made mention numerous times about artists from what is now known as the "Classic Rock" era, (Or Disco, or progressive, or 60's & 70's depending on where your tastes may settle.) and how they moved toward mainstream pop in the 80's.  Frankly, Phil Collins probably did this best.  Collins joined the Progressive, and highly experimental band, Genesis back in 1970 as a drummer and it wasn't until '74 when Peter Gabriel left Genesis that he became the lead singer.  This set into motion a bunch of things. most notably the transition of Genesis from a Progressive band into more of a commercial machine that carried them through the 90's and to a degree into this day.  Genesis however is a whole different story, as is Collins' himself.  Ignoring his cult status in music, he's famously behind so many artists creations through the 80's and 90's you should be wondering why he isn't a bigger star.  Much more on this much later through the year, but remember that when I bring him up in discussing Clapton, Steely Dan, and Robert Plant.

30 years ago in the winter 1985 Collins released No Jacket Required.  It rose to prominence and subsequently ruled the spring of '85 till another gem interrupted it's success only to return to the number one spot for a few weeks till Prince ultimately took on 1985 like he owned it.  (Again, more on his greatness later.)  No Jacket Required is also one of the biggest selling albums of all time, coming in with over 25 million copies sold.  Thankfully not even modern pop singers can pull that off.  It also means that you or your parents probably definitely owned this album on vinyl.  (High Five!)

No Jacket required won 3 Grammy's that year including Album of the year beating out Dire Straits, Sting, Whitney Houston and USA For Africa's We Are The World.  (Side note, Sade won best new artist that year.) Considering that it took a couple of singles to drop from this album before people started taking it seriously, its shocking that it charted almost exactly when USA Africa released We are The world.

Now, here's where things get interesting with this album...  Sussudio is released in February, the album gains traction from it almost instantly.  It rockets No Jacket Required to the number one spot in early March.  It stays there for a month until We Are The World is released, which was easily one of the biggest selling singles of all time.  If Collins didn't release the power pop ballad One More Night, We Are The World would have probably reached and stayed at number 1 a lot sooner for a lot longer.  This effect gave rise to Pop music getting over itself meaning that no matter how good something may or may not be, by virtue of the fact that something more catchy suddenly exists, it becomes even more popular.  This trend has existed since radio was invented, however it wasn't until the 80's pop movement that it became the norm.  We Are The World held the number 1 position for 3 weeks, (only), then Don't Lose My Number was released as a single.  Suddenly nobody cared that for a period in time every major artist banded together for what was considered then to be the single most unifying cause 2nd only to the Cold War, suffering in Africa.

A few weeks later Take Me Home was released. It was another in a series of soft rock/pop songs that set the stage for Mister-Mister, Tears For Fears, and Spandau Ballet.  All things considered, this album was critical to the eventual success for many artists looking to experiment with new sounds including the Glam Rockers which later evolved into Hair Metal.  (Power Ballads anyone?)  

Going platinum 12 times would normally classify an artist as not necessarily being a cult followed hero, but for whatever reason, Phil Collins remains a guilty pleasure for a lot of people from that era.  Don't lie.  If you're over the age of 30, and can resist rocking out to Don't Lose My Number, you're just not human.  

Other songs to note here, my favorite personally, Inside Out and Doesn't Anybody Stay Together Anymore.  If you can find this album, and you can, get it.  I think you would actually end up spending more on the download than you ever would on the vinyl and as usual you need to own this on vinyl.  If for no other reason than the fact that it's a living part of history and the nostalgia is strong with this one.

Next week, something new(er) from the west coast.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan - 2005

Record Store Day just got real...

Can't Slow Down - Lionel Richie - 1983

What late 60's through the 70's disco-funk artist went rogue in the 80's to make some of the most loved, mocked, and hated singles in the decade of excess only to later turn into an international Country musician?  Pro Tip: Read the title.  

In 1983 Lionel Richie, originally of the Commodores, (See Brick House if you're under the age of 30.) dropped his 2nd solo album Can't Slow Down to a reasonable amount of critical success.  If you recall from last weeks pick, Synchronicity, 1983 was a crowded year for music.  So check this out.  Quiet Riot ended Synchronicity's run on the Billboard charts in late November 1983.  For 1 week everybody "came to feel the noise" and Nu Glam Metal was given rise.  (More on that MUCH later this year)  The very next week we can safely say that it was Lionel Richie that ended Synchronicity's almost year long run on the Billboard charts with Can't Slow Down. That lasted for 3 weeks till Christmas only for MJ's Thriller to come back harder than a mother-fucker through late April solidifying it as one of the greatest albums of all time.  Then, Prince happened, but I'm saving both that and Thriller for a Monday soon.

This album was completely crazy in terms of production quality, rhythm, and accessibility.  At it's release nobody knew what to expect from Lionel having released Lionel Richie, (Self Titled album) in 1982.  It was such a departure from his funk roots that people had a difficult time making the transition to contemporary ballads.  Think going from Prince to Seal in a year and being the same person.  Weird right?  Of course if you're going to go that route, you may as well go big.  Enlisting a huge (57) studio crew of musicians and engineers to make an album kinda flies in the face of creating music and opened the doors to over produced studio albums.  That's not necessarily a bad thing in the least.  As a matter of fact, it opened up the doors to new methods and pioneered sounds never heard before on a studio album.  It also didn't hurt that a young Thomas Dolby cut some chops on this album as well.

So, what made this album special?  The first single for openers went pretty far....

All Night Long

Others like Penny Lover, and my favorite, Running With the Night remain classics to this day in the ballad arena, and of course:

All things said the biggest achievement of this album came in 1985.  After being the biggest selling album in 1984, by far, it won 2 Grammy's that year.  The biggest?  Album of the year beating out some epic albums released that year by Tina Turner, Prince, Whitney Houston, Springsteen, and Cyndi Lauper.  Like I said this album was crazy right!?  As usual, if you can find it this album is awesome on vinyl.  You really get a feel for how young Lionel was then.  The sounds are crisp and you'll wonder how it because so catchy.  Turn the bass down to take some of that over produced studio sound out of it.  You'll find it on vinyl fairly cheap depending on it's condition in any reasonable upscale record store.

Next week, hopefully spring comes.  It's still cold, but there's no jacket required to check back here.