Thanks again to all who came out to my show at Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 3) last week.  It will be my last show in NYC for a while, because...

...after 12 years of living in the NYC area, I've decided to move to Nashville.  

There were many factors that went into the decision--but let's boil them down to wanting to a) be in a more affordable city; b) be closer to family; and c) have a new adventure in a city devoted to songwriting.

I have less than six weeks left before the big move date...so, needless to say, it's hectic.  

This project has been like an anchor (in a good way).  Even though so many things seem unknowable at this point, I take comfort in knowing that I have two expertly curated albums to listen to each week.  

 

075: De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)

I had never heard this album before--save the still-amazing Me Myself And I.

This album is not available on Spotify--or anywhere digitally.  That's because this album was one of the first to heavily use sampling (like Public Enemy's "It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back").  With this album, it seems the copyrights were cleared for use with the formats of the time (i.e. cassettes, CD's, vinyl, etc.), but there was no clearance for future, unknown formats.  De La Soul settled out of court with The Turtles, whose 1969 hit "You Showed Me" was sampled in their INTERLUDE track "Transmitting Live From Mars".  Because of that, they haven't been able to clear the release this album digitally.  To get around it, they released it for free (for one day only) last year through their website.

This 24 song, 67 minute album is full of skits and oddball bits.  I can definitely hear the influence they had on groups that came later, like Digable Planets and Arrested Development.  

Tracks I liked:

  • The Magic Number
  • Ghetto Thang
  • Eye Know
  • Plug Tunin (Last Chance To Comprehend)
  • Buddy
  • Me Myself And I
  • Plug Tunin

[Not available on Spotify]

 

 

071: Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)


I loved this album when it came out.  It was my introduction to the band--I had not heard their earlier records.  But, I have followed every record since.

At the time of this record's release, much time was spent discussing how the band had been dropped by their label (Reprise/Warner) after delivering the master to them.  The label felt so strongly that the album wasn't commercial that they gave them the masters (which they'd spent over $80k for) back for free with the right to take it to any label they chose.

Once they signed to Nonesuch (also a subsidiary of Warner) some months later, they got a deal for more than three times the original budget.  So, as Jeff Tweedy says in the excellent documentary "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart", they ended up getting Warner to pay more than 3 times what they had already spent on recording the album to get it back.  The band made out like bandits--how often is that the end of the story?

The documentary is a fascinating look at a band on the verge of releasing one of their most heralded records of all time, as well as the internal conflict present just before Jay Bennet was asked to leave the band.  The conversation that they have about the mix elements from the end of "Ashes of American Flags" and the beginning of "Heavy Metal Drummer" is astonishing.  Check out the video from about 31:30 to about 38:17.  It seems like Jeff Tweedy is so extremely patient in the face of Jay Bennet's harping, especially given his migraine and vomiting, and that after Jeff apologizes, Jay won't let it go.  Perhaps some of that is editing...but...

The album is also notable for its use of samples and noise in ways they hadn't experimented with before.  A lot of the hype for this album focused on the production...to a point where, now, years later, I'm surprised by how great the underlying songs are.  It's proof that you can use all of the studio wizardry you'd like, but you have to first have really great songs.

I really think there's not a weak song on this album.  Some of my favorites:

  • Kamera
  • Radio Cure
  • Jesus, etc. (one of my favorite songs of all time)
  • Ashes of American Flags
  • Heavy Metal Drummer
  • Pot Kettle Black
  • Reservations

Really, all of them...

Final thought: I had never really understood the lineup of Wilco over time.  I found this great infographic on wikipedia.  I added the album titles to help better understand the lineup in context of the albums.  Also, I always got confused by Jay Bennet (the guitarist/keyboardist who was asked to leave Wilco) and Jay Farrar (the co-lead of Uncle Tupelo, the band Jeff Tweedy and Jeff Stirratt left to form Wilco with Max Johnston, Ken Coomer, and Brian Henneman).  This helps a bit.  Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt (on bass) have been together for more than 20 years.

 

 

 

verdict

I was pleasantly surprised by De La Soul's Three Feet High and Rising.  I feel like after a few more listens I may be completely converted.  67 minutes of an album is a lot to absorb in one week--especially one as hectic as mine has been.

I was better equipped to absorb Yankee Hotel Foxtrot because I was already a fan of the album for more than 10 years.  Listening to it again after a long break showed how great these songs really are.  Wilco has since become one of my favorite bands.  I'm glad I got to take a bit of time to reaffirm that affection.

up next

068: Portishead - Dummy (1994)

066: Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures (1979)

Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed?  Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.

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