Nov 22 2011

Rocking Retro: Space Jam Soundtrack

As a joke in class the other day, I offered up this gem in a discussion of the best movie soundtracks of all time. Okay, maybe it was only a half-joke; I mean, I know listening to it when you’re 25 certainly doesn’t have the same effect as hearing it for the first time when you’re 10. But I’ll be damned if the nostalgia bug doesn’t bite me pretty hard on some of these tracks.

How can you deny what is arguably R. Kelly’s best song, “I Believe I Can Fly?” How you gonna hate on Seal improving (yes, you read that right) Steve Miller Band’s classic “Fly Like an Eagle?” Remember the Quad City DJ’s? They had more than one hit! And this was the heyday of Coolio! Oh, 1996, how I love thee…..but by far the best moment in this compilation is the rap star basketball sendup “Hit ‘Em High.” B. Real, Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J, and Method Man all lay down some pretty fantastic family-friendly rhymes about playing aggressive b-ball. D’Angelo follows the anthem with his soulful “I Found My Smile Again,” another highlight.

And then, well, I won’t say Monica ruins the whole thing, but god I hate “For You I Will.” So much. Salt N Pepa deliver an underrated jam, and Robin S. reminds us all of the mid-90’s Eurodance craze (which we’re apparently re-living in 2011.) Barry White and Chris Rock do a memorable “Basketball Jones” cover, which seemed funnier when I was an adolescent. After that it’s three songs featuring A-listers doing lackluster things (Jay Z and Biz Markie show up!…..with the Spin Doctors and…..who the hell is Changing Faces?). And then there’s the final song: “Buggin.'” A rap song from Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes crew. Another track I remember being a lot cooler in third grade, but whatever. If you can’t crack a smile at Bugs Bunny throwing down rhymes, you’ve lost your childhood completely. So turn up your bass, sit back, and recollect just how awesome this movie was. Was Bill Murray ever NOT cool?

Sep 21 2011

Rocking Retro: REM – New Adventures In Hi-Fi

So R.E.M. broke up today. And that’s a drag, but at least they left us a plethora, years and years worth, of awesome music. I remember when I got New Adventures In Hi-Fi, far and away my favorite R.E.M. album, and one of their most underrated. I won a free CD from a radio station, I was ten years old, and I had never heard of the band before. The lady highly recommended it to me, and since I wasn’t particularly interested in anything else they had, I took it. Later that night, riding home with my parents, I listened to it in the car in the dark. From the Western-tinged “How the West Was Won And Where It Got Us” to the hypnotic “Leave” to the mellow “Electrolite,” I was curiously hooked on this album. I love that radio station lady. And thanks to her, I’ll always love R.E.M.

Listen to New Adventures In Hi-Fi on Spotify.

Jul 11 2011

Rocking Retro: The Mavericks

Back in the 90’s there were still a few country artists and groups on the radio that were embodying the spirit of the old sound – nowadays they’re nowhere to be found, and when they go that route, they all but disappear from the dial.  Along with Dwight Yoakam and Patty Loveless, Miami-based the Mavericks were probably the most successful in the neotraditional realm of popular country music, winning Grammys and charting numerous times in their successful six-album run.

My dad bought What a Crying Shame and Music For All Occasions on CD when I was nine, and I probably listened to them more than he did – they became regular go-to favorites for me.  Leader Raul Malo has since embarked on a modestly successful solo career, but it is my hope the group will reunite for a summer tour or something akin, preferably touring with the aforementioned Yoakam.  Hey, I can dream….

The Mavericks – Foolish Heart

The Mavericks – Here Comes The Rain

The Mavericks – O What A Thrill

The Mavericks – What A Crying Shame

The Mavericks – All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down (featuring Flaco Jimenez)

Mar 24 2011

Rocking Retro – Hall & Oates

Up until the 80’s, Daryl Hall and John Oates were basically a one-hit wonder, scoring with “Rich Girl” and then all but disappearing from the charts until their breakthrough years later, eventually surpassing the Everly Brothers as the most successful duo in pop music history.  It wasn’t until they lost their Philly soul influences and incorporated the burgeoning New Wave sound that the group’s legendary chart run took off.

Critics always lambasted Hall & Oates for bastardizing Philly soul, and that is probably true, increasingly so as their career continued.  But no one can deny the pop chops – the duo could write pop tunes like no other, many of which were Top Ten hits, and a few earned the top spot.  Recently, I went through the never-ending Essential Hall & Oates collection – a three-disc affair of gold hits, album cuts, and forgotten gems.  The shift is not immediate, but it’s clear – like most groups that made a successful transition from the 70’s to the 80’s, Daryl and John hung up their acoustic guitars and plugged in drum machines and synthesizers to keep up with the changing times.  The results were mixed, and not all of their hits stand the test of time or age well, but there are a few that are bona fide classics.

Hall & Oates – I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)

Hall & Oates – You Make My Dreams Come True

Hall & Oates – Maneater

Hall & Oates – Out of Touch

Hall & Oates – Private Eyes

Mar 2 2011

Rocking Retro – Journey’s Greatest Hits

Out of all the 70’s-80’s arena rock groups, who are now staples of the yacht rock club (think REO Speedwagon, Styx, Foghat, Foreigner, et al), Journey is probably the one whose popularity has endured and been passed on to a younger crowd better than the others.  Why?  Well, perhaps it’s because everyone’s parents owned a copy of the band’s Greatest Hits album (shown above). After all, it has sold 15 million copies and spent 760 weeks on the Billboard charts, and it’s Journey’s best selling album.

Maybe it’s because “Don’t Stop Believing” has never exactly left the pop music consciousness; it was, after all, the only thing my Freshmen roommate would listen to whenever he came home – I mean, he would just blare it repeatedly, over and over and over and over.  Not to mention it’s a karaoke staple and pretty much the most unavoidable song in the history of the world….I hate that I still like it, I really do.

Everything off this compilation is heard on the radio every day, and in bars, clubs, and the occasional Girl Talk mashup.  And Journey, as this comp proves, had some pretty badass songs (even though “Lights” and “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin'” are pretty much the same song).  Sure, Journey’s greatest hits aren’t perfect, there are some duds, and sorry, world, but these guys can’t top my love for Foreigner or REO, but there are some jams in here, particularly “Any Way You Want It.”  How can you not crank it when that one comes on?

“Any Way You Want It”

“Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin'”


Feb 9 2011

Rocking Retro: Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Return to the 36 Chambers

By name and public persona alone, ODB is probably the most well-known of the Wu Tang Clan, and his untimely death had nothing to do with it.  He was always known as the unstable one, but as time wore on, we all learned that wasn’t an act; Ol’ Dirty Bastard was crazy, and his unlawful antics, which landed him in jail many times, probably were the undoing of his once-productive career.

Long before things went out of control, ODB released the RZA-produced Return to the 36 Chambers, his first and best solo outing.  The taste of his psychotic brain we received on the Clan’s classic debut is in full form here – his rhymes are slurred, sporadic, sometimes incomprehensible, and always entertaining.  When he hits gold, it’s always hilarious, witty, unnerving.  At times we find ODB atonal, a-rhythmic, and unable to successfully put together a rhyme scheme.  Occasionally it sounds less like an established rapper and more like a drug addict’s clever tirade (and it probably was, in all honesty).  But you don’t come to ODB looking for the best spitin’ in the world – you come for the ride, and with party anthems like “Brooklyn Zoo” and “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” no doubt it’s a fun one.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Shimmy Shimmy Ya

Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Baby C’mon

Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Raw Hide

Jan 26 2011

Rocking Retro: The Refreshments – Fizzy Fuzzy Big and Buzzy

For my 10th birthday, my uncle bought me this album, Fizzy Fuzzy Big and Buzzy, the debut from Tempe, Arizona natives the Refreshments.  Initially, the artwork excited me more than the music, of course.  But upon repeated listens, I fell in love with Roger Clyne, his crew of outlaws, and their one-of-a-kind brand of Southwestern modern rock (think Gin Blossoms with a spicy TexMex seasoning).

The album became a minor hit for the Refreshments, scoring alternative radio hits with “Banditos” and “Down Together,” both featured below.  The boys released the overlooked and underrated The Bottle and Fresh Horses in 1997, then split ways with their major label, which was consolidating and dropping bands minor bands like flies.

Today, the crew record and tour as Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, and, unsurprisingly, have a huge following in the Southwest and Mexico.  They still play Refreshments songs live, and have two yearly celebration concerts for their die-hard fans, the January Jam and Circus Mexicus, both held south of the border.

More album tracks after the jump…..

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Dec 27 2010

Rocking Retro: Roy Orbison

Another Texas-born badass, Roy Orbison scored a regional hit with “Ooby Dooby,” ventured to Memphis for a recording session at Sun Studios in 1957, and the rest, as they say, is history. Orbison became one of the pioneer musicians for the rockabilly movement, but ventured into more ballad-based territory (due to his sharp, distinct, wavering croon) as the years went by.

I was introduced to Orbison through my father’s dusty CD collection when I was probably 5  or 6 – once I heard “Pretty Woman” and “Rock House,” there was no turning back.  Roy continued to make awesome music up until his death in 1988 from cardiac arrest.  In fact, right up until: Orbison was on the verge of a comeback, scoring a hit with “You Got It,” releasing a new well-received album Mystery Girl, and becoming part of the best supergroup ever, the Traveling Wilburys.

After the jump is a heaping helping of some of Roy’s best songs.  Educate yourself, ladies and gents.

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Dec 16 2010

Rocking Retro: Christmas Edition

Dec 4 2010

Rocking Retro: Gin Blossoms

These guys used to rule. Observe.

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