In our fourth installment of classic albums celebrating milestones this year, we take you back to some iconic firsts (and lasts). Get ready to reminisce on Freddy Mercury’s last piece of work with Queen, or how about the first time we all heard Gorillaz ?! Then there’s Tori Amos. Get ready for a roller coaster ride of music emotion with this week’s coveted list.
Tori Amos/Boys for Pele/20 YO The third album by the singer songwriter, this had many firsts for her. It was the first album she produced herself as well as the first of her albums to reach #2 positions worldwide (from UK album charts to Billboard 100). ‘Boys for Pele’ saw Amos taking a different direction with harpsichords, choirs, orchestral work featured throughout the albums 18 songs. To radio, this album wasn’t single friendly, but critics and fans still cling to this as one of her greatest works.
While on tour promoting her previous album, Under the Pink her relationship with Eric Rosse fell apart. In her attempt to claim her own womanhood, she went in search of energy and experiences with Ayuhauasca. Much of the album was recorded in a church in Ireland, and down south in New Orleans. The theme of the album lyrically is about her relationship with men and what it meant for her to be a woman. The album further exemplifies this with her holding a rifle, her left leg exposed over the chair.
Queen/Innuendo/25 YO The final piece of music Freddie Mercury ever graced us, and the final album for Queen that was composed of new music. Riding the beginning waves of the 90s, ‘Innuendo’ was somewhat of a return to Queen’s rock roots. It would go on to sell 13 million copies, also going to #1 the first few months of its release worldwide.
Having been diagnosed with HIV in 1987, Mercury and the band kept it a secret until a few weeks before his death from AIDS in November of 1991.
Rolling Stone once having called ‘Innuendo’ “cartoon rock music”, it has since held up quite well despite the cheesy keyboards. If anything, it has one of the greatest pieces (other than Bowie) to say goodbye to the world…the iconic track “The Show Must Go On”. Written primarily by guitarist Brian May, it was the perfect way for Freddie to send himself off, a man who worked til the very end of his life. The video featured footage of the band from 1982 on since Freddie was too ill to perform. A live version featuring Elton John on vocals was released on Queen’s Greatest Hits III. EJ has since played it on many of his tours over the years.
Gnarls Barkley/St. Elsewhere/10 YO I remember the day I heard people talking about Gnarls Barkley and their performance at the Grammys. I had no idea who the they were. I thought it was one guy. I missed out on something great from the beginning !! But to know Gnarls and Barkley (aka Cee Lo Green and DangerMouse) we have to go further back into their careers. Cee Lo came from the southern hip hop group Goodie Mob. Danger Mouse had his claim to fame when he matched Jay Z’s vocals from ‘The Black Album’ with the music from The Beatles ‘The White Album’ and titled it ‘The Grey Album’. The two met while Green was on tour and Danger Mouse was the DJ. The two started working on material while on tour.
“St. Elsewhere” contains one of the band’s biggest singles “Crazy”. You could hear the track all over the airwaves, the music video circuit, live MTV performances. The album and track hit big in London before it hit anywhere else. “Crazy” was the first single to top the UK album charts based purely on downloads alone (remember kids, this was 2006).
The band has released one other album titled “The Odd Couple” with a third album slated for the future. Even though both DangerMouse and CeeLo had respectful and legendary careers before Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy” will always be the worlds introduction to both of them in the public eye (like Mark Ronson is to “Uptown Funk”…ugh I hate saying that).
Fugees/The Score/20 YO Based right here in Philadelphia, Ruff House Records (aka Phil and Joe Nicolo, Chris Schwartz) introduced the world to Fugees. “The Score” was their most iconic to date. Combining elements of Caribbean, Soul, and Reggae, the American Hip Hop trio went into the studio to record a masterpiece. Wycleaf Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Pras Michel were a perfect match put together. While the first album didn’t sell well, they were given an advance by Ruff House to do whatever they wanted in the studio…setting it up in Wycleaf Jean’s basement. The recording process was a “relaxing and calming pace” according to Wycleaf.
“The Score” went 6 times platinum (6 times !!!! That’s more than Taylor Swifts entire catalog sold), making it a huge commercial success. It has since lived on as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time, as well as one of the best albums of the 90s. The single “Ready or Not” could be heard all over the place but it was the single “Killing Me Softly With His Love” that won the group a Grammy for Best R&B Performance. Still, to this day, you cannot get away from it on the radio. And why would you want to ?!
“The Score” is known as being a sonic landscape, and treating it as such gets rewarding at each listen. This lives in most Y and X Generations hearts as one of the most brilliant albums ever created.
Gorillaz/Self-titled/15 YO Gorillaz fans are divided just like the albums themselves. Who are the Gorillaz ? What do they actually play if anything ?!
Gorillaz is Damon Albarn (of Blur) and Jamie Hewlett (the comic book / designer responsible for ‘Tank Girl‘). In a desperate attempt to break away from Brit-pop and to tap into the American mainstream market, Damon started collaborating with many musicians. To this date, he and Jamie are the only constant. They duo crafted fictional characters that would comprise of the “band” (Damon is 2-D, then you have Noodle, Murdoc, Russel). This Gorillaz Universe is released time and time again through the band’s videos and website. Numerous guerrilla and underground marketing tactics were used to promote the music (including stickers sent to the fans with instructions to put over every bathroom stall in town).
It was the iconic single “Clint Eastwood” (produced by Dan The Automator) that put Gorillaz on the map. Without mention of who the actual contributors / members were, speculations were abound. All the press had to go on was the music video:
Their debut “Gorillaz” sold 7 million copies and landed them in Guinness Book of World Records as Most Successful Virtual Band. The album comes from every side of genre imaginable with other iconic singles such as the FIFA known “19-2000” (a sic Soulchild remix that seems to be bigger than the original), the lazy “Tomorrow Comes Today” and the old school hip hop breakbeat “Rock The House”.
While Gorillaz went off to create an ever more epic album (see “Demon Days”), this will always be the first, the most jarring, the most fun, and what shocked the world.