Thursday, November 30, 2006

HCYB Top Ten Albums Acquired in 2006 But Not Released in 2006

10. Gang of Four - Entertainment (1979)
Entertainment is 12 songs of funk beat punk swagger, an album that invented the "post-punk" genre. With lyrics like "Watch new blood on the 18 inch screen/The corpse is a new personality/Guerilla war struggle is a new entertainment," these unabashed Socialists were rebels with a cause.

9. Uncle Tupelo - March 16-20, 1992 (1992)
The story behind this album is enough to render it a classic. Peter Buck of R.E.M. invited these inventors of "alt-country" to Athens to record an album at his house. While local producer John Keane (R.E.M, Widespread Panic) twiddled the knobs on the sound board, Uncle Tupelo recorded a collection of back porch folk songs about coal miners, booze, and Satan. Released the same year as Nirvana's Nevermind, this album bucked the grunge trend the way Dylan's John Wesley Harding bucked psychedelia when everyone else was trying to sound like Sgt. Pepper.

8. The Kinks - Give the People What They Want (1981)
I would say this is one of the greatest record covers of all time. Who is Ray Davies running from? I also love the grafitti. The songs are quality, too - perfectly encapsulating the transition from 1960s jangle to 1970s garage to 1980s punk. The Kinks could play it all.

7. The Last Poets - When the Revolution Comes (1970 and 1971)
This record is a compilation of the Last Poets first 2 albums: 'Last Poets' (1970) & 'This Is Madness' (1971). Their militant spoken-word chants pierce the air over sparse African drum-beats. These guys were the Chuck D and Zach de la Rocha of the 1970s and a precursor to angry, politically-charged hip hop. I first heard this record as I perused the highly entertaining literature in the Internationalist Bookstore, Chapel Hill's local supplier of anarchist, socialist, and revolutionary publications. It was a fitting soundtrack.

6. Tupac Shakur - 2Pac's Greatest Hits (1998)
My enchanting girlfriend gave me this album on vinyl. She had purchased it in middle school. Enough said.

5. Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska (1982)
The Boss recorded 10 heartachingly beautiful songs about the struggles of ordinary people. These minimalist folk songs - just Bruce, his acoustic guitar, and a 4-track in his living room - show the sad side of Ronald Reagan's United States.
4. Black Star - Black Star (1998)

This is Mos Def and Talib Kweli in their prime - before Mos found Hollywood and Talib found MTV. With no hooks and few melodies, this album is nothing but voices, beats, and a celebration of blackness. The name of the group refers to Marcus Garvey's failed cruise liner service, designed to transport all American blacks back to West Africa. Garvey was the inventor of Black Nationalism at the turn of the 20th Century, a supposed prophet in the Rastafarian religion, and an important leader (along with Booker T. Washington and WEB DuBois) in pre-Civil-Rights-Movement black America. For a history buff like myself, this album title alone makes it great. The lyrics and vibe make it a classic.

3. Muddy Waters - Folk Singer (1964)

There is no feeling quite as satisfying as opening a brand new record, placing it in the car stereo, and driving down the highway - epecially when the record's Muddy Waters and the car stereo is your friend's with top-of-the-line speakers. Muddy's voice booms like a preacher's. This album, which also features Buddy Guy on guitar, is as classic a blues album as you could find. I could listen to Muddy sing all day about chasing short-skirted women, getting into trouble, and going South for the winter.

2. The Clash - Sandinista! (1980)
Joe Stummer, Paul Simonon, Mick Jones, and Topper Headen spewed out a triple-album's worth of material in a little more than a month. On this, their most eclectic record, the band began to explore hip hop with songs like "White Lightning" and "The Maginificent Seven." However, my favorite song is "Washington Bullets," a scathing critique of US foreign policy and CIA activity with pop sensibilities and a catchy chorus.

1. Zion I - True and Living (2005)
This album represents everything that is right with hip hop. Influenced heavily by Tribe Called Quest, Miles Davis, and Fred Hampton Jr., Bay-area rap group Zion I hits the nail on the head. Frequently backed by a live band, these guys spit criticism without hyperbole and make observations of the mundane seem profound. One great song is the "The Bay," a celebration of Oakland's smorgasbord of ethnic groups that also features the irresistible lyrics: "We claim Tupac as a source of pride." However, my favorite is "Doin' My Thang." It's one of the best songs I've heard all year.


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