I was in my early teens when dad loaded us up and headed for the outer banks of North Carolina. The vacation rental was stocked with a record player and piles of albums with speakers in all corners of the house.
It was the self-titled debut by The Doors that I remember spinning the most that week.
I’ve since analyzed the band’s career over the ensuing years, long after my 15-year old former self was making out in a theatre during the Oliver Stone film or was initially inspired to scribble poetic drivel of my own.
And so last week while binge listening to The Doors I solicited people for their favorite songs via Facebook and text. I was only slightly taken aback by the responses as not many veered from the typical selections.
I wouldn’t consider this list an absolute “best of” when talking about the songs that came out in 2015. But I can certainly say that I would play each and every one of these tracks on my show if I were still doing the college radio thing at WPRK.
Those were some damn good times, by the way. I miss spinning tunes in that dusty old basement.
There’s plenty of albums I’ve yet to get around to listening to from 2015, so I’m sure I’ll come across plenty more gems to add to this list at another time. For now, enjoy this collection of tracks that abused the speakers in my house and car the most over the past twelve months.
The four albums that unleashed the solo career of Ice Cube onto the world are a treasure in the history of hip hop.
Whereas stereotypes have largely perpetrated rap in certain ways over the past couple decades, the initial era of the former backbone of N.W.A. is worthy of revisiting as he’s helped legitimize social concerns for an entire group of people.
Once you get past the menacing attitude of the production and equally intimidating delivery of the emcee, there’s lots of depth to peel back within each album. Ice Cube in the early 1990s comes complete with commentary matching the times, which can be tough to digest upon first sitting if hesitant to soak it all in.
There’s scathing tracks about corruption of law enforcement and the prison system, and government degradation and racial tension, and tales of street life and sexual relations. It’s all packaged with punk rock bravado from a ghetto-American point of view.
I never intended to make a post that’s in any way associated with the Grammy Awards.
Hell, I hardly even pay attention to the Grammy Awards, unless I’m wandering aimlessly on social media and happen upon the typically ridiculous placement of artists in categories of which they have no business earning an award.
But then Kanye West blasted Beckfor winning album of the year, for an album I admittedly dismissed upon its release much in the same way I did Sea Change in 2002. And although I own multiple albums by both Kanye and Beck, I found West’s response to Beck’s triumph as equally annoying as nearly every other music fan.
When it comes to Outkast it seems Andre 3000 gets all the attention. Hardly ever does Big Boi get brought up in the conversation, his efforts often overlooked by the majority of “fans” of the group.
Consider how critics compare the Speakerboxxx/The Love Below double album for proof. But go back and listen to those early Outkast albums and be surprised at how great Big Boi sounds alongside his more recognized partner.
Then once you’re done with that dive into the Big Boi Spotify playlist below, which I’ve compiled using tracks from Speakerboxxx (2003), Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (2010), and Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (2012), among a couple of other oddities.
By the time Wu-Tang Forever was released in 1997 the Wu-Tang Clan were the undisputed leaders of a genre otherwise dominated by coastal beefs and southern cocaine rap. Forever reconnected its members for a double CD that showed the group at their peak following a string of standout solo albums, which I compiled into a 26-track collection back in May.
What followed in the wake of that release were a flood of side projects that incorporated countless affiliates of the group and set the stage for a second dose of solo albums from key members. But before those rolled out near the end of 1998, often overlooked projects during the two year period from 1997-98 featured countless tracks worthy of revisiting.
Missing from this compilation is tracks from Sunz of Man The Last Shall Be First (1998) and La The Darkman Heist of the Century (1998) because neither is available on Spotify. Killarmy Dirty Weaponry (1998) was produced by 4th Disciple and Mathematics but does not feature official members. All songs in this list are produced by RZA unless otherwise noted.
Let me know what you think. The third installment will be released before the end of the year.
It seems Bob Dylan has lived a number of different lives over the past six decades since overtaking the folk music scene with his acoustic guitar and harmonica in the early 1960s. He’s somehow managed to remain relevant in some form or fashion no matter how much his arrogance and cynicism rubbed others the wrong the way.
The key to longevity lies in the willingness to adapt and evolve, though not necessarily in that order. What makes Dylan great is that even throughout his changes he’s somehow stuck to the script of writing songs for those that otherwise have no voice.
Dylan’s first four albums provide insight into what was to come in the many years that followed: Songs about life and death; of protest; about the comings and goings of love; and the reality of life’s prejudices.
The Wu-Tang Clan hit the scene in 1993 with a debut album that featured nine emcees rapping over gritty soundscapes unheard of at the time in hip hop.
What followed was the release of a handful of solo albums from 1994-96, by six individuals from within the group. The Clan’s creator, The RZA, oversaw the majority of production for each record outside of his involvement with the Gravediggaz.
This Spotify playlist contains 26 tracks from those albums. It opens with one song from each of the selections listed below, in order of release date, and repeats itself throughout. The intent was to include tracks from each solo album that featured other Wu-Tang members. Enjoy. (more…)
Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne released their eighth and final studio album together in 1978. The aptly titled Never Say Die! came out the same year as Rainbow’s Long Live Rock n’ Roll, with Ronnie James Dio on vocals.
Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi eventually replaced Osbourne with Dio just as the decade was coming to a end. Ever since it’s seemed as if Sabbath and Osbourne were destined to move in different directions.
The Spotify playlist I’ve compiled focuses on a three-year stretch involving these individuals. It features every song from Never Say Die! and Long Live Rock ’n’ Roll, along with Sabbath’s first album with Dio (Heaven and Hell) and Osbourne’s first solo effort (Blizzard of Ozz), both of which were released in 1980.
It must be noted that Long Live Rock ’n’ Roll features Ritchie Blackmore on guitar while Randy Rhodes is the lead man on Blizzard of Ozz. There’s 34 songs in all.