This month in musical history – the sounds of 10, 20, 30, 40, and even 50 years ago.
20 Years Ago This Month:
Jay-Z – Volume 3… The Life and Times of S. Carter
This was fun for me to go back and revisit, as I haven’t listened to this album from front to back in at least ten years, if not longer. This thing was a big part of the background of my high school days, when it seemed everyone was going apeshit for Jay-Z. I never was into this record as much as my buddies were, but as soon as I heard the keyboard background on “So Ghetto”, it took me back. I always liked this line: “Radio’s gotta play me though I cuss too much, magazines say that I’m shallow, I never learned to swim, but they put me on their cover cuz I earn for them”.
To be honest, “Dope Man” still rings corny to me, what with the phony reporter soundbites and all. And I always have a hard time with the lovey-dovey ballads, and Mariah Carey’s “Things That U Do” is no exception. Thankfully, “It’s Hot” gets things going back on the right track and redeems the proceedings. Once the familiar refrain of “Big Pimpin’” kicks in, things are as they should be. “Is That Yo Bitch” is my favorite track here in terms of the man just letting it loose and showing off, and Timbaland crushes it as well.
“Come and Get Me” is badass and boastful, and “Anything” is a sweet and heartfelt ode to his mother who gave him the opportunity to rise above the place he grew up in. All in all, I still hold The Blueprint at the top of the heap, but this is a solid outing and finds him getting closer and closer to the top of his game.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/3rWJsuu7ukoZZhp7YYkjNZ?si=2tEjwGzzQTekhn4-Utr8rg
50 Years Ago This Month:
The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed
By 1969, these lads were already the World’s Greatest Rock & Roll band, with the epics Aftermath, Flowers, and Beggar’s Banquet under their belts. And then came Let It Bleed. This album is just such a classic that anything I write here will both sound like hyperbole and yet still undersell it. Folks, it starts with “Gimme Shelter”, quite possibly the greatest leadoff track in rock and roll history, and then goes on from there. Their take on the blues classic “Love in Vain” is one of my ten favorite Stones jams and has the perfect space and tempo, with Mick providing a genuinely perfect vocal delivery.
Sure, “Country Honk” is just a one-off take on “Honky Tonk Women”, but it is fun. “Live With Me” is underrated with its flourishes of horns, drums, Mick yelling out loud. Folks, the title track is a countrified jam for the ages: “We all need someone we can lean on, and if you want it, well you can lean on me”. And yes, it does sound eerily similar to “Brown Sugar” for the first few seconds.
Before I go on and on, I’ll just quickly mention that a hidden gem here is the super-funky “Midnight Rambler”. Okay, that song isn’t “hidden” to most, but if you don’t know it, go check it out right now. Amazing. Keith’s “You Got the Silver”’ is a mellow and lovely tune, and then there is the massive epic “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, which speaks for itself.
Of course this isn’t the last the world would hear from them – Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, Some Girls, and others would also rock the charts – but this terrific album from 50 years ago is a reminder of just how great this band is. Oh, and just how long they have been doing it.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/47hOpZQfXVIRzTiv0Ef8pO?si=FKBsqmAhRlGB5qK3ZNDTuA