And now for a stroll down memory lane… The sound of decades past.
This edition contains six albums that are celebrating anniversaries this month, and the quartet from November 1999 is astounding – here is a short and sweet explanation of why you should revisit these classics.
Notable November 2009 release:
Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures
Oh, the curse of the supergroup. Contemporary music is full of examples of established artists collaborating on a project that just has to be amazing… and then isn’t. Well, when Josh Homme (QOTSA), Dave Grohl (Foo, Nirvana), and John Paul Jones (Led Fucking Zeppelin) got together back in 2009 that results were epic. This is literally one of my favorite rock and roll albums of all time and I can only hope a few of you have never heard this, because I wish I could go back and hear it for the first time myself.
Leadoff track “No One Loves Me and Neither Do I” lets you know right away what to expect over the course of these 66 minutes. “Dead End Friends” has a guitar riff that is so polished yet raw that I get goosebumps, but you ain’t heard anything until you hear “Scumbag Blues”, a song so amazing that Paul Shaffer regularly played it as intro music on Dave Letterman’s talk show. “Elephants” is also a mammoth beast, and even the trippy interlude “Interlude with Ludes” is genius.
This record is Josh collaborating with musicians who are up to his level and actually add to his sauce, and that is why this is so brilliant. Grohl owns the show on “Warsaw…”, another must-listen. This is the sound of greatness in real time, and I am absolutely titillated at rumors that the trip have booked studio time and are contemplating a sequel. Stay tuned.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/0Z6IBizcq7DLXpenjSHqF3?si=-EoCtF1LT9acd5P3k7uZJA
Notable November 1999 releases:
Beck – Midnite Vultures
What do you do when you are the man who has owned the 90s? Well, in Beck’s case, you do what serves you best: take a sharp turn into the unexpected. After making his debut as a new-age punk-obsessed slacker white boy with a penchant for bizarre raps, he went all genius electronic masterpiece with Odelay and then melancholy alienation on Mutations. On this terrific and underrated album, Beck goes all dance-pop weirdness in the best way possible.
A few of the man’s greatest tracks are found here, including the slinky funk of show-stopper “Debra”, the weird droll of “Nicotine & Gravy”, and the genuinely beautiful “Beautiful Way”. This review is short, but don’t mistake – this is a classic album that I love dearly and encourage you to peruse if you are not familiar.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/5Mk8LGoWoPg0igqQXprzfR?si=RIE0Z-nrTQqGkBgNzG14XQ
Dr. Dre – 2001
So, as a white kid in southern Idaho, I wasn’t exactly exposed to rap or hip-hop culture growing up. Safe to say, Eminem’s debut and the corny but catchy “My Name Is” was the first time I connected with rap music (this is a safe zone, and I won’t tell lies here). When 2001 came out, it was like a bomb went off in my adolescent head. Holy shit! If I had to take one rap record on a desert island, this is the one, no question. The production is (of course) non-stop greatness, thanks to Dre and his team. And the songs, well, don’t get me started.
I don’t need to tell you how this is one of the most complete and finest rap albums in the history of the genre and the massive success (both in terms of radio airplay and industry cred) allowed Dre to basically step back and quasi retire as an overlord of an empire that he created. Jesus, this album…
“The Watcher” is classic Dre with the creepy and perfectly whispered vocals from Marshall in the background. Snoop comes in guns blazing on “Still D.R.E”, and Eminem steals the stage on the excellent “What’s the Difference”. Hittman kills it on “Big Egos”, “Light Speed”, and personal favorite “Xxplosive”. Imagine a scrawny nerdy white boy blasting that latter track from his pickup for an entire summer: that was my junior year, fo sho.
Yes, “Forgot About Dre” is brilliant, and “The Next Episode” is out of this world (“Smoke weed everyday” is something I proudly sang along to years before I had ever even seen the stuff)… but don’t forget about Nate Dogg’s contribution on “Xxplosive” (RIP) and Kurupt providing his flavor on “Let’s Get High” and “Housewife”. I guess what I am saying is that this thing is so fantastic that I don’t care if it is full of terrible advice, misogyny, violence, and the absurd- I love it to pieces.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/7q2B4M5EiBkqrlsNW8lB7N?si=G-rYPTEfTOOkh5EmwXEziA
Rage Against the Machine – The Battle of Los Angeles
When I was a teenager, RATM was my favorite band. I was literally obsessed with this group and still grieve their dissolution that occurred nearly twenty years ago. Is this, their third and last studio album of originals, their best? No. Is it better than just about anything else in rock in 1999? Unequivocally, fuck yes.
Tom Morello’s whammy-infused guitar riffs laid over the glorious rhythm section of Brad Wilk and Timmy C (later the backing band for Chris Cornell in Audioslave) was such an out of this world sound that when you put Mr. De La Rocha’s fiery political lyrics over it I don’t think it gets any better.
“Sleep Now in the Fire”, “Testify”, and “Guerilla Radio” owned the airwaves, but there was so much more here. No, the songs were not as musically-oriented as they were on their sprawling debut, and this record doesn’t have quite the same vitriol that their magnificent Evil Empire has, but listen to “Born of A Broken Man” or “War Within a Breath” and tell me there wasn’t still fire in their bellies.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/2eia0myWFgoHuttJytCxgX?si=rlzrBg1uQWC-SQHr_SivIg
Foo Fighters – There is Nothing Left to Lose
After Kurt passed on and Dave started his own musical journey, this band made some good tunes on their first two albums, but neither of the punk-aggro recordings truly broke through. That shit was quickly going to change with this more radio-friendly recording, led by the epic single “Learn to Fly”. My favorite has always been the snarky and lounge/grunge of “Stacked Actors”, although it’s hard to beat the fury of “Breakout” or the beauty and serenity of “Next Year”.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/28q2N44ocJECgf8sbHEDfY?si=he4oLPebSZqh9jPwoyQ9_w
Notable November 1969 release:
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Willy and the Poor Boys
Dudes, this is the third (3rd!) classic album this band recorded in 1969. Just imagine a band coming from nowhere to release three mega-hit albums in a calendar year today. That is, as the kids say, not a thing. Songs you might have grown up listening to include “Fortunate Son”, “Down on the Corner”, Midnight Special”. However, the greatest track here is the guitar glory of “Effigy”, which I enjoy every time a contemporary rock band covers it in concert.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/31q47gQszFt0CddSyMksgO?si=xL_rx6YGSTS1UkS3vJlzOw