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.

 

21/07/2018: “Trenchtown Rock by Bob Marley & The Wailers

“One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain…”

Trenchtown Rock is one of Bob Marley’s more famous songs, and the above quote is particularly well known. And why should this not be the case?

As somebody writing a music blog, that sentiment digs deep. Music has a real impact, and is such a big part of many people’s lives.

“Trenchtown Rock” was released as a single in Jamaica in 1971, but was released more widely on the 1973 compilation, African Herbsman. 

Trenchtown is a rough area of Kingston in Jamaica that Bob Marley grew up in, plagued by political gang violence in the 70s and 80s. Bob Marley provides a positive message with his music, and was once shot for his attempts to heal the divides.

The song is self-produced by The Wailers, and features a chirpy bassline and upbeat vocals. It is a song very much in line with the rawer, earlier period of Bob Marley’s career.

Lovely music!

 

20/07/2018: “Around The World” by Daft Punk

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Daft Punk are the ones with the iconic robot heads. Very space age… but very retro!

“Around The World” is from their 1997 album, Homework. It was a massive hit and has become something of a club classic.

The song is built around the (admittedly extremely repetitive) vocal sample, which is a vocoder “around the world”. If you didn’t know the song’s name and heard it on the radio, you could probably have a good guess!

The song isn’t monotonous however; the bassline is vibrant and ever shifting, keeping the funk levels very high.

The thing that draws me in to the song is the synth beep melody. It’s one of those classic electronic riffs that makes the song instantly recognisable and super catchy. When they came up with that in the studio they were doubtless overjoyed…

Fantastic.

19/07/2018: “Let The Dollar Circulate” by Billy Paul

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“Let The Dollar Circulate” was released in 1975 on the album When Love Is New.  It has the upbeat proto-disco sound of Philadelphia soul, with backing by the MFSB band, who were on the same Philadelphia International Records label.

The song has a marching feel on the verses, with a thumping bassline and lyrics preaching about the evils of poverty and environmental destruction; there are similarities with reggae because of this.

The chorus has a gospel feel, releasing the tension of the verses in an explosion of strings and horns.  Those strings and horns are very prominent in the mix, producing a richly textured soul hit.

Could this song be improved?

Not that I can think of…

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18/08/2018: “Do The Astral Plane” by Flying Lotus

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FlyLo makes the sort of experimental electronic music that could be described as “challenging”. But there are a few of his songs that are easy for non-fans to quickly get into.

“Do The Astral Plane” is a nice example of this. The song is kept grounded by a 4 to the floor beat, without any particularly crazy rhythms on the percussion. There’s interesting stuff going on, but it isn’t some freeform jazz track.

The spacey vocal harmonies mesh with the luxurious strings (and buzzy bassline) to create an exotic soundscape, conjuring images of some sort of retro-futuristic Indian city.

The song was released on 2010’s Cosmogramma, and is one of the standout tracks of the album.

On another level…

17/07/2018: “My Philosophy” by Boogie Down Productions

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The early days of hip-hop have a unique sound, one that will probably never be replicated. The rapping styles, the lyricism, the samples, the productions… songs from the late 80s stand out for these reasons.

Boogie Down Productions was a hip-hop group built around KRS One and DJ Scott La Rock. They were among the pioneers of hardcore hip-hop and gangster rap, and drew on Jamaican influences to push the hip-hop sound forward.

After Scott La Rock’s murder in 1987, the album By All Means Necessary was released in 1988. It had a more political theme, with minimalist beats and almost poetic lyrics.

“My Philosophy” is could be viewed as a sort of mission statement for the album. A street manifesto.

It’s considered one of the best hip-hop songs ever.

Conscious vibes.

16/07/2018: “The Bottle” by Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson

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Gil Scott-Heron often uses his music to make strong statements on society. “The Bottle” shines a light on the damage that alcoholism wreaks on individuals, the people around them, and society.

The song has a upbeat, funky feel that is very much at odds with the dark social commentary contained in the lyrics. As Gil Scott-Heron later said, “pop music doesn’t have to be shit”. He created a party song with a poignant message.

The bassline, as is often the case in funk and soul songs, is the lynchpin of the song. It provides a strong yet flexible backbone for the lithe flute — played by Jackson —  to spring and hop around.

The vocals are sung with lot of rhythmic variation; it almost approaches rapping at points!

The track was released in 1974, the only single from Winter In America.

Great groove, and a thought provoking subject…

15/07/2018: “Slow Ride” by Foghat

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“Slow Ride” is my kind of song, with a message I can really respect. “Slow ride, take it easy”. I mean, it’s a hectic world these days.

I always thought is about driving a car or something, but it isn’t. It isn’t hard to guess the meaning when you think about what rockstars like…

Foghat released this song in 1975, with an 8 minute version on the album (Fools For The City) and a 4 minute version for the single. It does justify the 8 minutes though.

There’s a kind of funk to much of the song, a jive feel, which is in large part down to the bassline. It’s very Led Zeppelin-esque, but not in a way that feels derivative or anything.

The guitar is excellent, in the slower parts and the faster parts. It’s exactly how a hard rock song ought to be, in my opinion.

Take it easy people!

14/07/2018: “Encore Une Fois (Future Breeze Mix)” by Sash!

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Trance music is very much maligned this days. It is either seen as a cheesy relic from the past, or a style of music that is too niche, too hard, and too fast to catch on. It was always most popular in Germany, where Sash! are from.

But really, how could the melodies and beats from a song like this fail to move people about?!

“Encore Une Fois”, the title and refrain of the track, means “once again”, which is presumably the intended reaction the listener will have.

The song is in many ways a typical 90s trance tune, but the sheer catchiness of the plucked notes meant that the song achieved a degree of mainstream success.

This absolute banger was released in 1997, and was an instant hit worldwide.

I certainly can’t help myself from playing it again and again…