Category Archives: album spotlight

Albums You Are Afraid to Admit Liking

I know some people throw away years of listening and try to distance themselves from their earlier musical tastes. Some won’t even acknowledge the music that they listened to as a kid. I can’t understand how people can be like this. The music that I have loved stays with me. I might have moved away from pop music but I can still throw on my old Tiffany or Rick Ashley albums and sing along to them.

My mother brought me up on country music. I still enjoy some of that as well. Conway Twitty is actually on my MP3 player right now.

Sure, there are some albums in my collection that I listen to now and can’t understand why I ever liked them, but these are few and far between. And there is at least one song on each one that I still like.

A few artists that I might be a bit reluctant to say that I like would be Twisted Sister, and Culture Club. But I am not ashamed to say that I like Tiffany. I own four of her albums and think that she has an incredibly sexy voice. I was so captivated by her when I was a kid. I can still listen and sing along to every song today too. In fact, I did just that. Did you hear me? I hope not.

Do you have any albums that you love but are afraid to admit to liking? Don’t be. Come on, share them with me here. Drop a comment about an album that you used to love or one that you would like me to spotlight. Come on, I know you’ve got some. Please click on the comments.

Album Spotlight # 6

2Pacalypse Now by 2Pac

This is the debut album from “the greatest emcee to ever touch a mic,” at least I have been proclaiming that ever since I was first introduced to this amazing artist.

There is something intangible about his music. It could be the raw emotion that he seems to evoke on every single song he appears on. It could be the intensity in which he delivers his music. It could be his versatility to rap about anything and make it sound like it is near and true to his heart. He can do some of hardest ganster rap you could think of and then turn around a do a song uplifting woman, as he did in Keep Your Head Up.

From the first time I heard him on Digital Underground’s gem This is an E.P. Release, 2Pac shined. Shortly thereafter, I saw the debut video from this album, Trapped. The video was striking for a few reasons. Number one, I was a fan of Digital Underground and Humpty Hump was signing the hook on this new song. Number two, I was already a 2pac fan from his appearance on Digital Underground’s Same Song and love to sing along with it. Number 3, the video had a grainy look to it, great lyrics, and was completely different than anything I had heard from Digital Underground.

This was 2Pac’s first offering and I know plenty of people who can’t understand why I love this album so much. 2Pac did grow as an artist and you can hear that growth in his later recordings. But this record will always be special to me. Trapped remains one of my all-time favourite songs. This album is a classic to me.

I think there is still a great debate over the greatest rapper of all time. I don’t think we necessarily need to crown anyone. I just think that it is important to acknowledge the greats. 2Pac has had a long and successful career. He has shown longevity in a field where not many artists can. He has released album after album of great material. He has witty wordplay, great delivery, and covers a wide variety of topics in his songs. He has been and continues to be an influence to rappers everywhere.

This album introduced us to a great talent. Had 2Pac’s life not been cut tragically short, I am sure that he would still be on top of his game. He was just beginning to show us his amazing talent on the big screen as well. There would have been no denying his stature as one of the best of all time on record, the stage, and the screen. His presence is still felt and I know that I still mourn our loss. Rest in Peace Tupac Shakur! You are missed.

Album Spotlight # 5

Coast II Coast by Tha Alkaholiks

I’ve known alcoholics and it is not a cool thing. That’s why when this rap group first came out I shunned them. I didn’t want to hear a group that just talked about getting drunk all the time.

Their first album 21 and Over got a lot of play on radio shows and Much Music. It started to grow on me but I was determined not to support them on principle. About a year after their initial success, I saw their first album in a cheap bin at a downtown record store. I thought about it, “Hmmm, can’t really go wrong for six bucks,” so I bought it. The record was slamming and it made me a fan.

I bought this second album on cassette and made sure to put it in my pocket with a permanent marker when they came into town in 1996. They played at the small but legendary X-club in Hamilton. The best thing about this venue was that the artists usually came off the front of the stage and hung out in the crowd afterwards.

I had the tape in my pocket just in case. Sure enough, I got every member of the group to sign my tape. The album isn’t the best album I’ve ever heard but the concert was definitely off the hook. They had so much energy on stage and it transferred to the entire crowd.

They even surprised everyone in attendance when Xzibit came out to perform his brand new hit, Paparazzi. No one was expecting this. The crowd went nuts when this song came on. I have never seen that much energy from a small club audience before and I don’t think I will again.

That is why this album is special to me. It will forever be tied to this concert in my memory and I have the autographs on the cassette insert to prove it.

Album Spotlight # 4

Big Red Letter Day by Buffalo Tom

The year is 1993 and I am glued to my television set every Thursday at 8:00 p.m. Claire Danes fills up the screen as a 15 year-old teenager in the critically acclaimed My So-Called Life. I am captivated by her character and this little show and tune in faithfully ever week.

The show often featured music from alternative bands and tried to stay true to the type of music that teenagers were listening to at the time. One episode had the characters going to a Buffalo Tom concert. At this point in my life, I had never heard of this band. I liked the episode and enjoyed the music but didn’t think much about it until I saw the soundtrack in a music store. Being such a huge fan of the show, I scooped up the CD like it was a newly discovered treasure.

I really liked the Buffalo Tom song on the soundtrack and set out to hear more of their music. Big Red Letter Day was the latest release from Buffalo Tom so I quickly scooped this one up a few days after getting the soundtrack. This album is amazing. It’s just a great album. I can’t really describe their sound on a blog and give them justice. It is power-pop rock that always seems to fit my mood.

I have been a fan of Buffalo Tom ever since. The one thing that really impresses me about this group is that they have a very distinct and constant sound. All of their albums have this same sound. They don’t feel that they have to change their sound every album like some artists. Their sound never gets old for me. It works and I’m glad that they continue to stick with it. I blogged about their latest album 3 Easy Pieces last summer.

Buffalo Tom is a three-piece group that I always have in heavy rotation. I can play any of their albums no matter what my mood. I always go back to them and listen to them several times ever year. They are an excellent group and I would place them in my top 5 groups of all time period.

Album Spotlight # 3

Huh!? Stiffenin’ Against The Wall by Organized Rhyme

The year is 1991. I catch this strange music video called, “Check the OR.” I’m fixed to the television. The song and video are captivating. The old school vibe and sample have my head nodding. The comedy on the screen makes me chuckle.

The three guys in the group run around like crazy the entire video. MC Bones raps as the trio go grocery shopping. They make a big mess. Bandmates squish bananas on him but he doesn’t miss a beat, he keeps going.

The Chorus goes, “Check the OR, Ya like it so far.”

And I am saying “Yeah!”

Everything about this video is great. I am so struck by it that I run to the record store that day to pick up the tape (Yes, I said tape.)

I get home and play the tape. It is funky! The beats are amazing! The two MCs trade off lyrics that are both real and funny at the same time. Some might label this as comedy rap but I think that it is great hip-hop album. It is unique. I never heard anything like it before, and I haven’t since.

These guys really inspired me. I had been rapping for a few years before I got this tape but seeing that three white boys from Ottawa, Ontario Canada make it in the rap world, it gave me confidence to keep writing and step up my game.

I wrote them a letter and signed up for the fan club. This was the first time I had ever done that. I was surprised to see my letter was personally returned by MC Bones. He sent me an entire page with some doodles on it, thanking me for being a fan and telling all my friends to “Check the OR.” I was blown away by this.

I looked at the return address on the envelope. He had actually used his actual address in Ottawa and his real name. It read. “Tom Green.”

Tom Green has made a lot of waves since this tape. I have been a fan ever since. I caught his little cable show every week before it was picked up by MTV. He now has another show on the air that he tapes right out of his house in Los Angeles. I guess he doesn’t mind telling people where he lives.

A few years ago, I managed to find a CD of Huh! Stiffenin’ Against the Wall. I was so excited about this find. It is an amazing album. I digitized it and have it on my MP3 player. Too bad these guys only made one album. This one is a classic. Tom Green has made some other albums but they fall too much on the comedy side. This album straddles the perfect mix of old school underground hip-hop with comedy.

Album Spotlight # 2

Good Weird Feeling by The Odds

This album is absolutely amazing. It is one of only a few albums in my collection that I never seemed to get bored of. I can listen to it no matter what my mood.

When it first came out I listened to it all the time. I can sing along to every song on it. Now that it is over ten years old, I still listen to it often. In fact, it has been in heavy rotation since I got it. I listen to it several times every year. I don’t think I can say that about too many of my albums. As such, I think this is one of the greatest albums of all time.

My brother is a huge fan of this Canadian rock group as well. He actually signed up for The Odds mailing list in the 1990’s. They mailed him tickets to an exclusive concert in Toronto for the release of the album after this one. It was the coolest thing in the world. They were quite a large group at this time because this album was a huge success. As such they were billed as Nigel the Cat at the venue so no one would know that it was actually an Odds concert except for the industry folks and fans that were personally invited.

Good Weird Feeling is my favourite album by the Odds. The songwriting is witty and comical at times. The songs really rock and have a timeless feel to them. This is by far my favourite non-rap album of all time. I think that if I were to rate my albums in order, this series of Album Spotlight posts have it in the right order so far. This is the second most important piece of my entire music collection. If you haven’t heard this album, do yourself a favour and go check it out.

Album Spotlight # 1

Raising Hell – Run-DMC

This is the album that introduced me to rap music. I remember it quite well. I was at a family due and my cousin had the cassette tape. He made sure that the adults weren’t around and he played it for a few of his cousins.

One of the rappers swore in one of the songs, and that was all the kids huddling around the tape deck were focusing on. At the time, I didn’t think much of people who swore so I wrote it off as something that I didn’t want to hear.

It took me a while to come around and actually give the tape a good listen. I was glad that I actually did. It was amazing. Something about it really spoke to me and I discovered rap music.

Run-DMC became my favourite group and I bought their previous two albums. I collected all of their albums of cassette and on vinyl. When I finally started buying CDs, I bought all their albums again on CD. I think they are the best group ever and that this album is a hip hop classic.

This is the album that produced their biggest and most recognizable hit, Walk This Way. The funny thing is that they only wanted to sample the beat and not redo the entire song. The producer and label convinced them to do it and they very reluctantly agreed. The rest is history.

Run-DMC brought rap music to the masses. They were the first group to ever have a video on MTV and the first international success story. Quite frankly without Run-DMC, hip-hop would not exist, as we know it today. They are true pioneers and this album is a must have for any music collection.

Album Spotlight

Tuesdays are when new music is released. I used to look forward to Tuesdays. I would run to the record stores downtown and try to find the lowest price on the new must-have tape. Yup, I said tape.

I reluctantly started buying CDs when I realized that I could not save the cassette tape format all on my own. It was a losing battle. Surprisingly, I now own over 800 CDs. I’ve just gotten used to this format and it is dying too. Fortunately, CDs can be transferred to digital files easily enough. It’s harder to convert over tapes but I have managed to do so with a few of my most favourite albums.

I am beginning to think that this new digital music revolution is killing the album. It seems to be about the song now. Singles and ring tones are ruling the charts. Albums don’t seem to be as important anymore in the grand scheme of things, but they are to me. So I am starting a new weekly feature here. Tuesdays will be album spotlight days. I will post an entry every week about my all-time favourite albums.

Choosing what albums to spotlight will be a chore for me. I have so many albums where I can sing along to every single song. I have albums that have special significance for me for a variety of reasons. Of course, I also have albums in my collection that merely collect dust. I blow off the dust every now and then play them but I have many albums that have remained unplayed for quite some time and will probably stay that way as well. I have jewels in my collection but I also have turds. I think all music collections are like that.

So, be on the lookout for the album spotlight. It starts next week. I hope this feature will be as well received as my Commonplace Book Tuesdays, which has been spun off into its own blog. Remember to go check it out at Thoughtful Cacophony. I highlight song lyrics there every Wednesday as well. I hope you enjoy both features.