And now for a stroll down memory lane… The sound of decades past
Notable February 2009 releases:
Dan Auerbach – Keep It Hid
The Black Keys frontman’s first solo effort is a diverse and compelling collection of songs that rivals even the best Keys albums. This thing is a masterpiece and hits the listener on more than one level. Released just after the Black Key’s excellent Attack & Release (another classic in its own right), this effort got lost in the shuffle when the mega-hit that was Brothers released soon thereafter. “Goin’ Home” appeared in movies and television commercials, but I don’t recall any of the songs from this album getting much radio play (sadly, I still listened to the radio in 2009). Too bad, because I have a feeling there are millions of Black Keys fans unaware of this effort that would really enjoy it. Unlike the 70s-sugar sounds of his second solo outing, 2017’s so-so Waiting on a Song, this album is organic and drips with sincerity and craftsmanship.
This is a truly solo affair – most of the songs are originals played by Dan on his own, including guitar, drums, bass, synths, and organ. He does have a drummer on a few of the songs and brought in a couple of upright bass players for “Whispered Words” and “Mean Monsoon”, but otherwise this is Mr. Auerbach top to bottom. Speaking of which, “Mean Monsoon” is an absolute gem and one of the highlights of his entire career. Just try to get that tasty guitar riff and descriptive storytelling out of your head, I dare you. “Someday sunny sun will soothe me, but it won’t happen soon; cuz the cloud you left hanging over, is rainin’ like a mean monsoon”. I’ve rarely heard heartache sound more badass.
The album starts with the heartfelt and mellow lament of “Trouble Weighs a Ton”, in which Dan explains to his family members that hurt, sorrow, and well, trouble is just a part of life. Next up are two of the best songs here: the grimy funk and growly singing on “I Want Some More” followed by one of my favorite guitar riffs ever on “Heartbroken, In Disrepair”. I actually had that intro riff from the latter song as my ringtone for months and never got tired of it (remember when song clips as a ringtone was a “thing”?). Ah, Memory Lane.
I could go on and on about this terrific and diverse gift from one of America’s best mainstream bluesmen, but I will leave you with this: if the poignancy and rawness of the title track or the sad but beautiful guitar work and songwriting of “Whispered Words (Pretty Lies)” don’t make you feel something, you may have a feeling things problem. For those who have not heard this one before, I am truly stoked to turn you on to it. Happy Listening, my friends.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/1aS3ouxrqC2xAjR5LJku6M?si=eKRojtHBTTapu1gC36-s1g
Also: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, M. Ward – Hold Time
Notable February 1999 releases:
Eminem – The Slim Shady LP
Sure, his second major-label release (The Marshall Mathers LP) is the classic, but this effort showed that the crazy white boy from outta nowhere (well, Detroit) had some serious flow and more than a couple of issues. Whether he means even a quarter of the crazy shit he raps about (I am on team no he doesn’t), he surely doesn’t mind pissing people off. Fact is, he enjoys it and does it while showing off his legitimate talents. Quick shout-out for Royce Da 5’9” who crushes it on his two tracks also.
I remember hearing “My Name Is” for the first time – on Boise’s rock station of my youth (KQXR-The X) while driving with my parents. They were not impressed, but I was hooked. Sure, the song was overplayed all to Hell and you can easily argue that there are several better tracks on this record (I will soon do just that – that’s called foreshadowing), but this thing was like a bomb of goofy anger that was dangerous and irreverent but also so fucking catchy. There aren’t many people I know who like Em as much as I do, but there are even fewer who can tell me with a straight face that the dude can’t rap.
The magnitude of this album shouldn’t be overlooked – it rightfully has a place on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time (#273), and has sold over six million copies in the U.S. alone. It had staying power, as it was on the Billboard Top 200 list for 100 weeks – better known as two years. Sure, having Dr. Dre in his corner (on production and rapping on “Guilty Conscience”) didn’t hurt, either – but I feel like Dre was merely the conduit to Marshall getting in front of an audience that would have accepted him regardless.
While other rappers (Dre included) were either rapping about gang violence or how many cars and women they had, Eminem decided to rap about some different and frequently disturbing things: being broke as fuck (“If I Had”, “Rock Bottom”), killing his ex-wife and kidnapping his daughter (“97 Bonnie & Clyde”), getting bullied and its long-term impact (“Brain Damage”), being molested (“I’m Shady”), doing absurd and copious amounts of drugs (um, virtually every song), having sex with underage girls (“Guilty Conscience”), killing himself (“Role Model”), killing Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman (again, “Role Model”), basically killing anything and everything, including his childhood guinea pig (“As the World Turns”), and on and on.
Oh and it’s hard to imagine any other MC in history rapping this gem: “Every girl I’ve ever gone out with has gone lez, follow me and do exactly what the song says; smoke weed, take pills, drop outta school, kill people and drink, jump behind the wheel like it was still legal; I’m dumb enough to walk into a store and steal, so I’m dumb enough to ask for a date with Lauren Hill”. I totally understand those who don’t like him, but I disagree: the man is entertaining as it gets, and sometimes the shocking is only a veneer under which some genius is lurking.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/0vE6mttRTBXRe9rKghyr1l?si=6f7TCw4WQnWD4ddPlZf9MQ
Notable February 1989 releases:
Bob Dylan & the Grateful Dead – Dylan & the Dead, Roy Orbison – Mystery Girl
Notable February 1979 releases:
The Allman Brothers Band – Enlightened Rogues
Notable February 1969 releases:
MC5 – Kick Out the Jams