Before you reminisce like Mary on this list of 5 albums celebrating music milestones this year, there’s a little backstory that goes along with this new column. Originally, Philly Mixtape was set to run a piece called 20 Albums Celebrating Music Milestones in 2016 and was just going to serve them all up to you at once. But after a meeting of the writers the other night, naturally, another list of twenty was formed. Because, you know, albums back in the day were known as…albums.
With that being said, we’re still going to dish out all 40 records, but it will be over the course next eight weeks. So you can really think of this as a “winter column.” But what a column it will be as over the rest of the (ugh) winter, you will no doubt have reactions to your favorite albums really being that old, but you will also get to take a fabulous stroll down music memory lane with all of these albums as they most likely are ones that most likely hold many delightful memories for many of you out there.
In round one, we’re going to celebrate the Philly life that’s laced throughout the dearly departed David Bowie’s Young Americans set (which will be 40 this year), as well as Paula Abdul’s Spellbound, the Romeo+Juliet soundtrack, No Doubt’s Rock Steady, and last but certainly not least, Spice by the Spice Girls which is celebrating a major milestone this year.
David Bowie/’Young Americans’/41 YO Starting this list with just a touch of local music love, Bowie’s brilliant set showcases Philly music truth at its very finest and boldest. Recorded at the City of Brotherly Love’s famed Sigma Sound Studios during breaks from his Diamond Dogs tour, Young Americans was helmed by legendary local music producer Tony Visconti and was recorded “about 85% live” with Bowie’s full band playing perfectly alongside his delightfully spaced out vocals, with each of the tracks being recorded in single continuous takes.
In order to create the authentic Philly Soul sound and style, Mr. Bowie brought in a range of musicians from the funk and soul music world, including an early career Luther Vandross and Andy Newmark, famed drummer of Sly and the Family Stone. The critically acclaimed record was also the first time Bowie worked with producer Carlos Alomar, and it from the Young Americans‘ sessions that the two would form a long-lasting collaborative relationship that would go on to span three decades.
However, it wasn’t exactly music love at first sight when it came to Alomar’s first meeting with Bowie. In a later interview about their first recording sessions, Alomar said that he never even heard of Bowie before their first session and also recalled that David was “the whitest man I’ve ever seen – translucent white” when they met.
However, any doubts soon faded once the productive pair got to work in the studio with Alomar later boasting about Bowie’s recording work ethic, “David always does the music first. He’ll listen for a while then if he gets a little idea the session stops and he writes something down and we continue. But later on, when the music is established, he’ll go home and the next day the lyrics are written. I’d finish the sessions and be sent home and I never heard words and overdubs until the record was released.”
There’s that Bowie music genius at full play.
Paula Abdul/Spellbound/25 YO Prior to the ’91 release of Spellbound, Ms. Abdul was certainly on top of the music world. The pint-sized pop princess had just signed a multi million dollar deal with Diet Coke, married the man of her dreams, Mr. Emilio Estevez, and her debut set, Forever Your Girl danced all over the Billboard charts and gave her four number one singles–the title track, “Straight Up,” “Opposites Attract” and “Cold Hearted.” So, naturally the pressure was on for Ms. Abdul to release a smashing follow-up–and that’s just what she did, well, sort of.
While Spellbound‘s first two singles, “Rush, Rush” (which producers didn’t want as a lead single because it was a slow jam. Keanu Reeves fixed all that, didn’t he? ) and “Promise of A New Day,” gave Abdul another pair of number one singles, the album quickly lost chart steam, despite the fact that follow ups singles “Blowing Kisses in the Wind,” “Will You Marry Me?” and of course, “Vibeology” achieved moderate success. It also didn’t help that Paula was plagued with a major court battles (and a rapidly changing early ’90s music industry) involving her and a backup singer who claimed that Paula had lifted her vocals and used them as her own. As if.
However, Spellbound still went on to sell five million copies and Paula did record a follow-up, the vastly ignored, Head Over Heels, and it would be just a few years later when she rightfully owned her judges chair on Fox’s once red-hot American Idol. Let’s face it, the Paula and Simon years were like no other. And so were the days when Paula Abdul had us all rushing to be by her music side.
Spice Girls/Spice/20 YO Let the 20th anniversary celebrations begin because this album. Served up in September 1996 by Virgin Records (thank you, Mr. Branson), Spice was and always will be a monster pop record with killer hooks, ’90s flair and gigantic helpings of straight up girl power. An immaculate set that contains elements of dance, R&B,hip hop and pop, there’s no denying that this album became the pinnacle of ’90s music and is one of those few albums that changed the music landscape…forever.
Spice was a huge worldwide commercial success pretty much straight out of the music gate, fueled by singles, “Wannabe,” “Say You’ll Be There,” “2 Become 1” (are you a little bit wiser now?), and their ode to Mr. Big Stuff, “Who Do You Think Are.” The Girls’ high kicking record would go on to peak at number one in more than 17 countries across the world, as well as becoming certified multi-platinum in 27 countries, that by the time it finally hit stateside in February 1997, we were more than ready to get our headphones and our lives on it.
While their lyrics never make any sense (think about it), it didn’t matter because even if you hated them, you’ve seen Spice World at least once, and there’s been at least one time in your life where you wondered if you were Scary, Sporty, Posh, Ginger or Baby.
Romeo + Juliet Soundtrack/20 YO Where do we truly begin when it comes to the buzz worthy ’90s music brilliance supplied on the accompanying soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio starring remake of Romeo + Juliet? Locked and loaded with a feast of music artists who were all pretty much showcased on MTV’s 120 Minutes at the time, the soundtrack quickly became bigger than the film itself, thanks to contributions by Garbage (#1 Crush), Radiohead (“Talk Show Host”), Everclear (“Local God”) and one little ditty called “Lovefool” by The Cardigans that we still can’t get out of our heads even twenty years later.
But..sigh…if there’s one song on this classic soundtrack that has destroyed our souls since we first glanced at Leo through the fish tank (hey, Mr. Rudd), it’s “I’m Kissing You” by the gorgeous Des’ree. Not only did this become the love theme for the film, but it became the love theme for our lives. If you’re not reaching for a Kleenex after one listen, you truly don’t have a soul and should just adopt all of your cats now.
Adele’s “Hello” can have all the seats compared to Des’ree’s booming piano kissed ballad. Sigh….here comes that middle breakdown again.
No Doubt/Rock Steady/15 YO Let’s face it, before Rock Steady was served up fifteen years ago, No Doubt’s music was in a bit of a tough spot. While their previous album, the aggressive, Return of Saturn, fared well with critics and (some) fans, it struggled to achieve the same stature of its ten-times platinum predecessor, Tragic Kingdom. (No need to fire up “Don’t Speak,” this is about Rock Steady).
So, what does No Doubt do? Get back to their dancehall roots and cook up an easy, breezy pop album that boosted their career in all the right ways. Because, really, when this Grammy nominated set came out, Ja Rule and Ashanti were ruling the music charts, so it was refreshing to hear No Doubt serving up a sound that was different from what was on mainstream radio at the time.
Although more pop than were used to from Ms. Stefani and her merry band of rock misfits, the group delivered a solid set that was armed with plenty of punch, as well as giving them the biggest hits of their Billboard career, including “Hey Baby,” “Hella Good” and “Underneath it All.” Other tracks on the album including “Detective,” “Making Out” and “Platinum Blonde Life” also added to the robust mix, keeping Rock Steady plenty fresh through the years.