31/07/2018: “Israelites” by Desmond Dekker

“Israelites” was originally released in 1968, becoming the first reggae song to hit number one in the U.K.

That version is a classic reggae/rocksteady song, performed with the band “The Aces”, and is certainly very good.

However, my favourite version is the re-recorded 1980 one, which was released on Stiff Records. It’s in the style of 2-tone ska, so it’s faster.

Much of the classic vocal remains the same. Which is great, because those vocal harmonies on the chorus are timeless!

What is more amazing about being number one in the U.K, is that nobody could really understand Desmond Dekker’s thick Jamaican accent. Which just shows how great the rhythm and melody are.

The song tells of the struggle of Rastas, marginalised from society and existing on its fringes, especially at that time.

Ohhhhh, mi Israelites!

 

30/07/2018: “Bouree” by Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull is an English band who have made a lot of weird and wonderful music over the years, from blues rock, folk rock, prog rock, and much that fills the gaps in between those subgenres.

“Bouree” uses a melody from a Bach compostion, kicking off with a flute rendition of the original lute piece, Bouree in E minor. It’s a jazzy take on a classic composition.

The melody is also used to great effect in the long running musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar” in the song “This Jesus Must Die”.

Jethro Tull’s take on the song is jazzy, funky, whimsical, and quite brilliant! It’s a great use of jazz flute. The flute is often used for very serene pieces, neglecting the liveliness it can muster when asked.

The song was released in 1969 on the album Stand Up.

Who says Bach is boring?!

29/07/2018: “In The Garage” by Weezer

Weezer are predominately known for their hit songs, such as the clap along classic “Beverly Hills”, and “Buddy Holly”.

“In The Garage” is from the 1994 album called Weezer,  but known as the Blue Album. It’s gritty and grungy, but also quite poppy. It’s like a hybrid of Nirvana and Blink 182!

The album helped the band to break through. It says something about how the music industry works that the band had played songs that would become their biggest hits and promoters would shrug.

The song is about a reclusive guy who feels comfortable in his garage playing Dungeons & Dragons, and is sung quite weakly in the verses, which fits the vibe very well. It’s an outsiders song, and very self depreciating. Even the biggest misfits deserve not to be judged.

The guitar is low and distorted, complementing the lonesome feel of the harmonica intro. The drums are steady and provide a solid foundation for the rest of the song. In short, it’s classic 90s pop-rock.

I forgot just how awesome Weezer are!

 

28/07/2018: “Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A

This is the song that defined gangster rap for a generation. Even people who don’t listen to rap know this. And people who do listen to rap can usually rap along for at least Ice Cube’s verse!

N.W.A had a turbulent history, and existed at a pivotal time in hip hop. The older, dance based sound was being replaced by harder songs about drugs and murder, and a new wave of rappers was coming to prominence.

The song was hugely controversial at the time (1988) because of it’s subject matter, and along with the rest of their album, called Straight Outta Compton, was banned from getting any real radio play. It talks about killing police and various other people besides, which was much less common at the time than it is now.

The song begins with the iconic “You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge” by Dr Dre, before dropping a heavy Amen break drum beat. The melody is provided by ominous horns and a catchy plucked rhythm.

The first verse is by Ice Cube; the second by MC Ren. The final verse is by Eazy E.

Such is the iconic appeal of the song, that when the film about N.W.A was released in 2015, the name was “Straight Outta Compton”, and the song finally charted. It’s a key part of the collective identity of gangster rap.

Still drops like a bomb…

27/07/2018: “Sweetheart” by Thin Lizzy

This song has been chosen mainly because of the melodies. The guitar riffs are absolutely fantastic, and although the vocal melodies are a key part of the song, I’m not a massive fan of the lyrics. They’re a bit wishy washy for me in parts…

Anyway, the song is a classic rock song. They just don’t make  ’em like this anymore!

The song is from Thin Lizzy’s 1980 album, Chinatown. The lack of Gary Moore’s guitar playing — he was one of the best– dampens the quality of the album, but “Sweetheart” is just a very likeable song.

That said, the album’s poor critical reception disguises just how hard it is to get a song like “Sweetheart” out of your head. It’s good at what it does.

26/07/2018: “Brianstorm” by Arctic Monkeys

The Arctic Monkeys have come a long way since their debut album in 2005. They’re big fish now. Big players. They’re slick, they’re ambitious, and to be honest, much less exciting.

For me though, the first few albums were golden. “Brianstorm” is from the second album, released in 2007, called Favourite Worst Nightmare. 

It’s fast, angry, cheeky; it’s just classic Arctic Monkeys.

The song starts with a flurry of drumming and furious guitar shredding, until the main guitar riff materialises and Alex Turner’s droney Sheffield tones come in.

The song is energetic throughout, and switches between rhythms and melodies effortlessly. I don’t see how you could get bored with this!

The song was apparently written about a proper smooth bloke the band had met while touring. It’s a tribute to a legend…

Unforgettable!

 

 

25/07/2018: “Never Did I Stop Loving You” by Alice Clark

It’s quite difficult to find information about Alice Clark. It’s unfortunate that she wasn’t able to record more and get more recognition for her amazing work.

One thing she did release, regarded in the soul scene as a classic, was a self titled album, Alice Clark, in 1972.

Its a treasure trove of soul, deep soul. Her powerful voice is put to good use especially well on “Never Did I Stop Loving You”.

The song focuses on that warm soulful voice, with a strong horn section, funky yet unassuming drums, and an upbeat bassline.

It’s not a sad song at all; quite the contrary. This is a pure and simple love song.

Wonderful vibes.

 

 

24/07/2018: “Symptom Of The Universe” by Black Sabbath

“Symptom Of The Universe” kicks off with a powerful, crunchy guitar riff, thrashing away furiously. The drums are thick and fast, with plenty of cymbal action.

Then Ozzy Osbourne sings in his inimitable style, leading the rest of the song, which includes some sick guitar solos by thelegendary Tony Iommi, and ends the last two minutes with a completely different folksy style.

The incongruous feel of the end is because that last bit stems from an impromptu jam session. Not bad for a day’s work.

It’s a great example of how Black Sabbath’s proto-metal didn’t lack the sophistication of some of their peers. They were heavy metal pioneers, light years ahead of their time, with talent in spades.

The song was released on Sabotage in 1975, so named because the band was drowning in legal issues trying to get their due.

Metal so heavy even Thor couldn’t lift it!

23/07/2018: “No Good (Start The Dance) by The Prodigy

The Prodigy were the only real super stars to emerge from the UK Hardcore scene in the early 90s. Despite its huge impact, the scene has never attained the mainstream and critical kudos of later genres such as drum & bass.

“No Good (Start The Dance)” is from the second album by the Prodigy, entitled Music For The Jilted Generation, released in 1994.

This album loses a lot of the more straight up hardcore sound of the 1992 album experience, in part because the glory days of rave were over.

The song is built around a vocal sample by Kelly Charles, from the 1987 song “You’re No Good For Me”. The rest is a simple but effective combination of rave synths, pacy breakbeats, and moody bass growls.

It’s fundamentally a dance song, but still stands out from much of the music released today. It’s superbly produced, brimming with energy, and cuts a good balance between underground edge and pop appeal.

Banging tune.

22/07/2018: “The Mexican” by Babe Ruth

 

“The Mexican” is a song that tries to empathise with the Mexican side at the Battle of Alamo. Alan Shacklock, who wrote it, was railing against Westerns that dehumanised Mexicans in quasi-historical movies.

The song was partly inspired by the film soundtrack by Ennio Morricone for A Few Dollars More, which is also the name of another song on the album.

In particular, some elements are copied from  “Per Qualche Dollaro In Più”, which you can hear in the guitar especially.

The album this song is on is First Base, released in  1972. This is a baseball thing, as obviously is the band’s name. Strangely enough, the band were English, although they always had more success stateside.

The breakbeat at 4 minutes 20 seconds was used by DJ Kool Herc, a pioneer of hip hop sampling, and is therefore a foundational part of hip hop culture.

The song is carried along by the furious drumming, with the blistering guitar solos and powerful vocals adding to the energy and creating a supremely funky track.

An amazing song.