This past Saturday I went down to the local record shop and partook in the activities of Record Store Day. For those who don’t know, this is a day devoted to celebrating independent record stores, place like Championship Vinyl from High Fidelity. There are special releases and live music; it’s like the end of Empire Records only not as over the top.
But as I was strolling through the aisles, searching out the latest Bouncing Souls album, or the Unwritten Law disc I don’t have and can’t seem to find anywhere, I found myself distracted by such classics like Queen’s “Night at the Opera,” The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” and Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic.” And that got me thinking about my favorite non punk or ska albums. While those two styles will always be my first love, I enjoy a wide variety of music and what follows are some of my favorite non-punk/ska albums.
AC/DC – Back In Black
I debated long and hard about which AC/DC album I liked the best. Highway to Hell with its pure rocking from the title track, “If You Want Blood,” and “Night Prowler,” put up a pretty good fight. But as soon as those bells gong and that opening riff hits my ears from “Hells Bells,” I know the only choice is Back in Black.
In addition to the sweet ass rock AC/DC is known for, Back in Black incorporates a dark and daunting sound. It is the sort of sound you would expect to come from a metal band hailing from a country founded by criminals. It is a sound I think Ozzy was always trying to achieve, but could never do it as naturally as AC/DC make it sound on Back in Black.
From start to finish this album brings pure rock and has always stood as a big reason AC/DC found a way into my musical heart. Back in Black also includes one of my favorite kinds of songs, a song about rock and roll. In this case it’s all about how it ain’t noise pollution. I can’t explain it, but I just love songs about rock n’ roll, and this is a great one.
Weezer – Blue Album
Very few albums I listened to in sixth grade have held up over time. The Blue Album from Weezer has done just that. When I first heard this album it was a time in my life where my listening taste consisted of Metallica and gangsta rap. I was suddenly shown there existed music that I could relate to, maybe not completely but more so than with Metallica or thug rap.
I think above all I enjoy this album because it never takes itself too seriously, but not in a way where it mocks music. It sounds like an album made by four friends who use to jam away in their parents garage on weekends. Like they played your senior prom and you go, “That guy was a senior when I was a freshman. I think my sister knows him.” There are a few things from the time in high school I find charming and enjoy remembering. The Blue Album is the musical representation of that time.
Wu Tang Clan – Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers)
One of the things I really enjoy about music is people coming together to create it. In hip hop you lose some of that by the lack of a band. The Wu Tang Clan brings that aspect to hip hop. N.W.A. made it cool and showed that it could work to be a rap group. However their lyrics were raw and gangsta, but their sound had a pop feel to it. The Wu Tang kept it more raw on both fronts. N.W.A. is like Nofx and the Wu Tang is like Rise Against.
The Wu Tang had nine members at the time of this record. That is the average size of a ska band. However, where it can be easy to get nine instruments to gel and sound good, it can be more difficult to do that with nine rapping voices is much more difficult. A choir can do it, but for the most part everyone is singing the same thing. The Wu Tang combine their vocal styles, voices, and talents to create one more powerful creation. As they say on the album they form like Voltron.
Every once in awhile I need to feel like I can break out of my suburban upbringing and feel tough; for me the best way to do that is with raw street poetry from the slums of Brooklyn. I just want to drive down the street, screaming at the top of my lungs, “The Wu Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with!” No other album allows me to do that.
The Who – Who’s Next
From the opening chords to the ending notes, this album is pure rock. It doesn’t bring the face melting like AC/DC, but it will keep your head nodding like, “Yes, yes! This rocks!” Pete Townshend wails on the axe; Keith Moon beats the drum like a redneck beats his wife; John Entwistle keeps it all in check with a steady bass; and Roger Daltrey brings it all home with unparalleled vocals. It is one of those albums where every part is right.
I may have chosen this album because it bares similarities to the punk albums I love so. There are lyrics of disenchanted youth, inept government, and feeling like an outcast. In many ways The Who were a precursor to punk, especially the antics of Keith Moon. Whatever the reason, this album all the way through just pleases me all the way through.
Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros – Streetcore
This is actually one of my all time favorite albums. From start to finish, this album delivers sounds that make me feel good and remind me that life is worth enjoying. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros are able to make some incredible music that acts like a massage for the ears.
Joe Strummer is often considered the Godfather of Punk, yet this album could not be any less punk, at least in musical terms of punk. This album is hard to classify by traditional genre labels. There is rock, mellow funk, even a bit of country. If I had to use one word to describe this album I would say music. It is too difficult to try and put it in one category. This is music, plain and simple. And that is one of the most appealing aspects about the album.
If you listen to later stuff from The Clash and you listen to this album and you learn a little more about Joe Strummer you learn that this is a man who loves music. He doesn’t care what kind, he is concerned with labels. He just loves the fact that this beautiful sound can be created. There are very things better than listening to music from someone who loves every aspect of it. It’s like eating a meal made by a really fat guy.
This album also holds a special place in my heart as it always reminds me of happy and simple times. A back porch, a glass of whiskey, and great friends; I don’t think Joe would have it any other way.
The sound waves around the CJS office will continue to experience more variety tomorrow as Dagger shares with us his favorite non-punk/ska albums. Be sure to tune your internet dial to CJS so you don’t miss that.
See ya at the turntables…
21 Apr 2010 Lee S. Hart