Category Archives: Pop

Rancid: …And Out Come the Wolves

Rancid – …And Out Come the Wolves (1995)

Jeff: What, you might ask, is the prestigious and well-esteemed SWR blog doing reviewing a derivative 90’s pop-punk-revival album? The answer is multifaceted but the first component of it is that it’s an amazing album. Another part of that answer is that I for one first began coming of age in musically the mid-’90s–the major labels were well into their signing spree of “alternative” bands, and MTV was playing music that was like nothing else I’d ever heard (it’s not Debbie Gibson, it’s not Guns ‘n’ Roses, it’s something else entirely). Weezer, Green Day, the Offspring, and Hole seemed like a breath of fresh air to a kid who wouldn’t hear indie music for another four years.  It was an exciting time to be a 7th grader.

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Filed under 1990s, Pop, Punk, Rock, Ska

Beach Boys: Pet Sounds

The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966)

Jordy: Of all the great musical leaps forward in the 1960s, none is as beautiful or as much fun to listen to as Pet Sounds. The Beach Boys certainly did not have the sustained and focused creativity of Bob Dylan or the Beatles, but they were superior vocalists and more aggressive in exploring contemporary studio possibilities.  Consequently, Pet Sounds stands above any other album of that era, both technically and melodically.

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Filed under 1960s, Pop, Rock

Beatles Blitz

As most of the world knows, the entire Beatles catalog will be re-released next week Wednesday to coincide with the release of the Beatles Rock Band vidya game. The game, I must admit, looks pretty fucking sweet especially for those of us who like to sing harmonies:

Check out the full song list.

I pre-ordered a few of the albums already to fill in gaps in my collection or to replace damaged discs.  It’s gonna take all my self-control to not go out and buy a PS3 just to play this game.

What do you think?  Is all of this a crass attempt by Apple Records, the remaining Beatles, and the estates of the dead ones to make millions and millions of dollars?  Or, is it simply a way to turn a whole new generation on to the greatest, most influential pop music of all time?

Posted by Jordy

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Filed under 1960s, 2000s, Pop, Rock

“You put the hurt on me”

Isaac Hayes – “Walk On By” from Hot Buttered Soul (1969)

I don’t love Isaac Hayes — at least not his gold-chain shaved-head solo career. His singing doesn’t usually do it for me — he often lacks poise and urgency. Few of his molasses-thick string arrangements hit the sweet spot. While his keyboard work tends to be quite good, I wish he let the funk grooves carry the songs. There’s a cheesiness to his music that tends toward the embarrassing.

All that said, his version of Bacharach/David’s “Walk On By” that opens the recently remastered Hot Buttered Soul is damn awesome. It’s a great song, with a great organ sound, a cool string melody, a funky bassline, spooky back-up singing, a simple in-the-pocket drumbeat, weird ringing noises, fuzzy guitar, triumphant brass, flutes, a helluva crescendo. And bad mixing toward the end that cuts and raises the volume of the song willy-nilly. Everything you want in a psych-soul masterpiece.

If you like your buttered soul appetizer sized, try the single edit:

Issac Hayes – “Walk On By (Single Edit)” (1969)

Dionne Warwick made the song famous — I believe that Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote it for her. Check out her very different, very good version:

Dionne Warwick – “Walk On By” (single, 1964)

The Stranglers, too, apparently had a UK hit with a punk rock version:

The Stranglers – “Walk On By” (single, 1978)

Buy “Walk On By”

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 1960s, 1970s, Funk, Pop, Punk, Rock, Soul

a little more Curtis

A while back, I mentioned that I thought Curtis Mayfield an unsung musical genius. Turns out the man is plenty sung, not least by Kayne West, who sampled Mayfield’s excellent “Move On Up” in his less-excellent-though-still-good “Touch The Sky”:

Curtis Mayfield – “Move On Up” from Curtis (1970)
Kayne West – “Touch The Sky (feat. Lupe Fiasco)” from Late Registration (2005)

Not sick of that horn riff yet? Check out the Jam covering it here, and Curtis himself bongo-jammin’ it here, sans horns.

Earlier I had posted one of Mayfield’s classics from his famous Superfly soundtrack, “Little Child Runnin’ Wild.” Here is a demo version, a little less ominous, featuring fewer chord changes and a brighter groove:

Curtis Mayfield – “Ghetto Child (Demo Version)” from Curtis reissue (org. 1970ish)

Finally, here’s a classic from the group that gave Curtis Mayfield his start, and for which he did some of his most beautiful writing:

The Impressions – “You Must Believe Me” from People Get Ready (1965)

Have a funkdafied weekend, y’all.

Buy Curtis Mayfield here

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 1960s, 1970s, 2000s, Funk, Hip-Hop, Pop, Soul

This may well be the dorkiest song ever posted to this blog

Fields of Gold

Sting – “Fields Of Gold” from Ten Summoner’s Tales (1993)

On Sunday evening, I was driving through west Michigan and scanning through radio stations when this song came on. I had spent a wonderful weekend with old friends; the sun was setting over rolling soybean and corn fields (no barley, far as I could tell); the gentle lilt of this tune bowled me over. It’s a great melody.

Give it a listen if you haven’t ever. It’s a tasteful, non-pompous song. This guy is way better than those other adult contemporary bozos.

My next post will be way cooler, promise, okay?

You know, Sting used to be kind of cool once

Buy it here, if you’re so inclined

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 1990s, Pop, Singer-Songwriter

“Country fair in the country sun”

Sly and the Family Stone – “Hot Fun In The Summertime” from Greatest Hits (1970) [originally released 1969]

Ya know what’s sad? (No, not the death of Michael Jackson.) Sly Stone (nee Stewart)’s slow descent into addiction in the 1970s, and his sad attempts at reemergence in recent years. Before that he was one of the smartest and most creative singers and arrangers in rock and roll or soul or whatever genre he worked in. “You can’t figure out what bag I’m in,” indeed.

What’s so tragic, or ironic, is that Sly’s early vision was almost beatific in its idealism — a band of blacks and whites, men and women, family and otherwise, performing a peace-bringing mash-up of psychedelia, rock, R&B, pop, and funk. Listening to Greatest Hits back in the day, you might have thought that partying down really might bring about a better world. (Cf. “Maybe Partying Will Help,” The Minutemen, one of the few bands near Sly/Family on the inventiveness-vs.-funkiness coordinate plane.)

Parties end in hangovers, and Sly suffered from a major one.

But shit! Before all that, Sly put out a load of stone-cold (sorry) good-time classics, including “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” possibly his best, and certainly appropriate for hot midsummer. Please play it loud and often.

By the way, I agree with Christgau here: Sly & The Family Stone’s Greatest Hits is one of the greatest rock LPs of all time. Certainly better than any of The Gloved One’s creepy opi. (Sorry to dwell, but the day demands it. Dude’s overrated. MJ’s ballads, for one, are more treacly than Stevie Wonder’s, and that’s saying something. Seriously, “You Are Not Alone”? “Man In The Mirror”? Those songs creeps the fuck out of me, and not just ’cause dude liked to paw little boys.)

(Huh, apparently Sly produced the Beau Brummels back in the early ’60s, for Autumn Records. Whaddya know?)

Here’s a fascinating interview with Sly on KCRW last month.

Buy Sly

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 1960s, 1970s, Funk, Pop, Soul