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Beastie Boys

Paul's Boutique

Derided as one-hit wonders, estranged from their original producer and record label, and in self-imposed exile in Los Angeles, the Beastie Boys were written off by most observers before even beginning to record their second album - an embarrassing commercial flop that should have ruined the group's career. But not only did 'Paul's Boutique' eventually transform the Beasties from a fratboy novelty to hip hop giants, its sample-happy, retro aesthetic changed popular culture forever.

With the considerable help of Los Angeles-based production duo the Dust Brothers, the Beastie Boys helped redefine what sampling could be with this record. Snatches of familiar music are scattered throughout the record - anything from Curtis Mayfield's "Superfly" and Sly Stone's "Loose Booty" to Loggins & Messina's "Your Mama Don't Dance" and the Ramones' "Suzy Is a Headbanger" - but never once are they presented in lazy, predictable ways. the Dust Brothers and Beasties weave a crazy-quilt of samples, beats, loops, and tricks, which creates a hyper-surreal alternate reality, evolving into a wholly unique record, unlike anything that came before or after. It very well could be that its density is what alienated listeners and critics at the time; there is so much information in the music and words that it can seem impenetrable at first, but upon repeated spins it opens up slowly, assuredly, revealing more every listen. Musically, few hip-hop records have ever been so rich; it's not just the recontextulations of familiar music via samples, it's the flow of each song and the album as a whole, culminating in the widescreen suite that closes the record.

STAFF COMMENTS

David says: I don't want to come across all 'hip hop isn't what it used to be' BUT you can't listen to this without.
A: Dancing like a drunk uncle at a very funky wedding.
B: Smiling like you've got a winning lottery ticket in your pocket.

Beastie Boys

Ill Communication - 180g Vinyl Edition

"Ill Communication" follows the blueprint of "Check Your Head", accentuating it at some points, deepening it in others, but never expanding it beyond the boundaries of that record. It was the first Beastie Boys album not to delve into new territory, but it's not fair to say that the band were coasting, since much of the album finds the group turning in muscular, vigorous music that fills out the black-and-white sketches that comprised "Check Your Head". Much of the credit has to go to the group's renewed emphasis on their rhyming; there are still instrumentals, but the Beasties do push their words to the forefront, even on dense rockers like the album's signature tune, "Sabotage". But even those rhymes illustrate that the group is in the process of a great settling, relying more on old-school-styled rhyme schemes and word battles than the narratives and surreal fantasies that marked the high points on their first two albums. With this record, the Beasties confirm that there is indeed a signature Beastie Boys aesthetic, with the group sticking to a blend of old school rap, pop culture, lo-fi funk, soulful jazz instrumentals, Latin rhythms, and punk, often seamlessly integrated into a rolling, pan-cultural, multi-cultural groove.

FORMAT INFORMATION

2xLP Info: Remastered 180g vinyl pressing.

Beastie Boys

Check Your Head - Remastered Vinyl Edition

"Check Your Head" brought the Beastie Boys crashing back into the charts and into public consciousness on its original 1992 release. Following "Paul's Boutique", the Beasties had repositioned themselves as a lo-fi, alt-rock groove band. They had not abandoned rap, but it was no longer the foundation of their music, it was simply the most prominent in a thick pop-culture gumbo where old school rap sat comfortably with soul-jazz, hardcore punk, white-trash metal, arena rock, bossa nova, spacey pop, and hard, dirty funk. On "Check Your Head" turned toward primitive grooves they played themselves, augmented by keyboardist Money Mark and co-producer Mario Caldato Jr. Music was the message, and the rhymes, which had been pushed toward the forefront on both "Licensed To Ill" and "Paul's Boutique", have been considerably de-emphasized (only four songs - "Jimmy James," "Pass the Mic," "Finger Lickin' Good," and "So What'cha Want" - could hold their own lyrically among their previous work). The focus is on the music, mood, and even the newfound neo-hippie political consciousness. As much as "Paul's Boutique", this is a whirlwind tour through the Beasties' pop-culture obsessions, but instead of spinning into Technicolor fantasies, it's earth-bound DIY that makes it all seem equally accessible - which is a big reason why it turned out to be an alt-rock touchstone of the 90s, something that both set trends and predicted them.

FORMAT INFORMATION

2xLP Info: Limited 180g remastered audiophile pressing in gatefold sleeve.

Mazzy Star

So Tonight That I Might See

Combining the considerable talents of guitarist Dave Roback (Opal, Rain Parade) and Hope Sandoval's sultry, heavy-lidded vocals, Mazzy Star fuses blues, country, and pulsing acoustic folk in a dark psychedelic mix that recalls the Velvet Underground and The Doors. The group's highly textured, atmospheric sound emerged glittering and fully formed on the debut "She Hangs Brightly", surprising listeners with its moody yet accessible mix. "So Tonight That I Might See" sticks close to the ground staked out by its predecessor, though with no less success. "Wasted" moves insistently down the twelve-bar road to nuanced, snarling guitar embellishments. "Blue Light" is smoky, blue-eyed (if black-hearted) soul. Of particular note is the cover of Arthur Lee's "Five String Serenade", graced with lilting cello and tambourine accompaniment. Roback's electric/lysergic guitar explorations and Sandoval's blusey, lazily erotic sigh weave a deeply evocative spell, making "So Tonight That I Might See" a perfect 2:00AM album.

FORMAT INFORMATION

LP Info: 180 gram heavyweight vinyl.

"Among My Swan" features the same swirling, psychedelic folk music that brought Mazzy Star mainstream success with 1993's "So Tonight That I Might See". The songs employ the sparse arrangements and dark sense of space first explored by bands like Big Star (on "Third/Sister Lover") and the Velvet Underground. But with tunes that are always accessible, and sometimes irresistible, Mazzy Star has brought this dreamy ballad sound up from the underground. David Roback provides a shimmering backdrop of slide guitar and organ for Hope Sandoval's mesmerising vocals. Smooth as honey and wispy as tumbleweed, Sandoval's haunting voice traps the listener in a celestial trance. "Among My Swan" never lapses into the self-indulgent side of psychedelia; the music is always kept muted and close to its folk and blues roots. This is an album of beautiful mood music that flickers in the shadows.

Stop press: REM used to be one of The Greatest Bands Ever! It's true! Coming out of post-punk (US style) and all its anti-mainstream super-individuality, this lot jangled and strummed their totally unique way into the hearts and minds of 'alternative' music-lovers in little pockets (of resistance!) of Europe, and college dudes in the US. So you're sick of Michael Stipe now? Back then he was a poet, a mystic, a super-enigmatic drifter, and the unbelievably atmospheric, incredibly melodic, sometimes meandering sometimes rocking folk-pop of his band was shrouded in mystery. They were like an American Smiths, but with a broader template, and somehow more exotic....That was then, and we don't have to concern ourselves with now: this 82-87 best of is beautifully packaged, and with notes from the band, 9 previously unreleased tracks and a few other rarities, it really is one for old fans and the curious alike. Superb!

The Star Spangles

Bazooka!!!

Incorrectly labelled as another 'new Strokes', The Star Spangles sound more like melodic, new-wave rock'n'roll than anything clipped, arty or angular. Three chords, bubblegum melodies, it's more sleazy and trashy like the Dolls or barre-chord riffy like The Ramones, SLF or early Clash than anything too considered. However, some of these tunes have gorgeous melodies on top of their deliberately dumb riffing, and there is a sneaky intelligence and real pop nous behind their ebullient cartoon facade. Let it rock!

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Mother's Milk



FORMAT INFORMATION

CD Info: Remastered with bonus tracks. Demo versions of "Songs That Made Us What We Are Today" and "Salute To Kareem", original long versions of "Sexy Mexican Maid" and "Knock Me Down" and live versions of "Castles Made Of Sand" and "Crosstown Traffic".

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Freaky Styley



FORMAT INFORMATION

CD Info: Remastered with bonus tracks. Demo versions of "Nevermind" and "Sex Rap", the original long version of "Freaky Styley" and a previously unreleased track "Millionaires Against Hunger".

Steve Miller Band

Children Of The Future

From the Floydian Mellotron ballad of "In My First Mind" to the seagulls and wavesounds on "The Beauty of Time Is That It's Snowing" the first Steve Miller Band album from 1968 is full of suprises, each track segues into the next and can be termed a concept album, there is a blues feel about it but there are also moments of psychedelia and progressive rock that make you really sit up. A minor classic.

Steve Miller Band

Number 5

"Number 5" the Steve Miller Band's 1970 release remains a real favourite amongst his fans. It seems to epitomise his early work (prior to his car crash and later more pop-orientated career). It's full of melodic, spacey guitar-led songs with much use of the Echoplex. It includes classic Miller songs like "Good Morning", "Going To The Country" and "Jackson-Kent Blues".

Steve Miller Band

Sailor

Opening with the haunting "Song For Our Ancestors" Steve Miller's 1968 album "Sailor" is probably the finest of his career. The band were on song with half the album more bluesy and the other half more rockin'. It includes classic Miller songs like "Living In The USA" and "Gangster Of Love". With Stones producer Glyn Johns at the controls, this is a great album if you love that epic 60s San Francisco sound.

Shivaree

Rough Dreams

A gorgeous blend of country guitars, found sounds, wonky beats and an occasional jazzy feel, all topped with Ambrosia Parsley's distinctive breathy vocals (fans of Mazzy Star take note!). Lovely!


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