In February 1994, Saint Etienne released Tiger Bay, their third studio LP on Heavenly Records. Band member Bob Stanley referred to the album as “an album of modern folk songs done in twentieth century styles like techno and dub”. Quite amazingly, the powers that be decided to drop the ‘Western Wind’/ ‘Tankerville’ suite from the American edition on Warner Bros. While the delivery of ‘Western Wind’ maintains the essence of a traditional English folk song, the shift into trip hop of ‘Tankerville’ was incredibly current.
As we approach the end of another year and the greatest hits that follow, I give you a compilation of sounds from 24 years ago. Britop was at its zenith, but the angelic voice of a Californian rose above all ….
Honourable mentions also go to: Portishead for ‘Roads‘; Mazzy Star for ‘Fade Into You‘; Plush for ‘Found A Little Baby‘, Johnny Cash for ‘Drive On’, Jeff Buckley for ‘Grace‘; Blur for ‘End Of A Century‘; Nas for ‘N.Y. State Of Mind’; Green Day for ‘Basket Case’; The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion for ‘Bellbottoms‘
In 1994, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion were the artistic zeitgeist of blues-laden rock’n’roll. So while the likes of the Beastie Boys and Beck were hanging out at their concerts, others incl. UNKLE, Wu-Tang Clan and Moby, were lining up to remix their latest album Orange. The long player opens with the insane ‘Bellbottoms’.
It’s 1994 again and it was Parklife’s ‘End Of A Century’. Waking up in a bug-infested flat, putting on the same clothes all your mates are wearing… there is something beautiful about capturing drab everyday life. How English were Blur? Up there with The Kinks and The Jam.
I chatted a lot about Oasis this week. A definite case of nostalgia. ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ featured on their classic album Definitely Maybe. A Noel Gallagher said, “It mentions drugs and shagging birds, social comment, boozing and drinking and listening to tunes. You know, what more do you want?!”
An extra track for this first week back from the summer hiatus. Jeff Buckley tended to be silent about the subject matter of his songs, but it’s believed that he wrote this one about the breakup with singer Rebecca Moore. They dated for a while before Buckley released his debut album Grace, which features this song. On 28 May 1997, the day before Buckley died, he called Rebecca Moore and left a message on her answering machine.”Think of me and smile. I’m gonna work my ass off, baby. I’ll see you on the other side.”
Good morning. The title track off Massive Attack’s 1994 album Protection was s a collaboration with Tracey Thorn (and James Brown, you could say). The track borrows its rhythm through a sample of the classic wah-wah guitar from the Godfather’s ‘The Payback’. Have a great week.
From one marginal sound to another… guitar-lick-laden rock’n’roll is now followed by horrorcore hip hop. Gravediggaz released 6 Feet Deep (aka as Niggamortis anywhere outside the US). ‘Diary of a Madman’ is one of the album’s standout tracks, featuring Scientific Shabazz on guest verse and RZA providing the beat only a few months after the release of Wu-Tang’s classic 36 Chambers. “I’ve been examined ever since I was semen/They took a sonogram and seen the image of a demon/At birth the nurses surrounded me with needles/and drugged me all up with the diseases of evil.” Yeh man; Johnny B. Bad.
Nirvana’s 1993 performance of Bowie’s ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ song for MTV introduced his early work to a new audience. Kurt Cobain’s TV performance was recorded 5 months before his death. The song would be released a year later on the MTV Unplugged in New York.
On this side of The Pond, Blur’s third album Parklife had such an impact. In 1994, it sounded like the quintessential Britpop album. Part concept, part social commentary, the album did more to define Britpop than all that followed. For all the the happy-chappy singalongs, nestled at the heart of the album was ‘To The End’. Slightly sophisticated, slightly psychedelic, and ever so slightly sounding like Saint Etienne, the band would revisit the same style with their classic ‘The Universal’ from the following LP The Great Escape. Have a great weekend.
In fact, Danger Mouse had made waves before the Grey Album, working with Jemini on Ghetto Pop Mix. Included on the mixtape was Danger Mouse’s remix of Nas’s ‘It Ain’t Hard To Tell’ which he’d spliced with Beth Gibbons singing ‘Roads’. (Now that’s what I call a segue.) ‘Roads’ had originally featured on Portishead’s classic debut Dummy. It is/was a contemporary alt-hip-pop masterpiece.
‘Grace’ was the title track and first single from Jeff Buckley’s masterful debut long player. Buckley based the soaring vocals on how he felt saying goodbye to a girlfriend on a rainy dayat the airport. The result is engaging and brilliant. The sound was also greatly influenced by a previous work ‘Rise Up to Be’ written by his collaborator Gary Lucas.