Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Hi there Collectivists. Collectivi? Collectovers? What’s up! This is Scott G from The Sonic Collective announcing our pick for July, 2020. This one was really hard for me. We’ve had a rap/hip hop theme going this round, and the guys have picked some amazing and diverse albums. I wanted to bring something equally interesting and diverse to the group but what?

There’s a period of time called “The Golden Age of Hip Hop” that spans from the mid 80s to the mid 90s. Our previous picks, including Afrika Bambataa, A Tribe Called Quest, The Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and Dr. Dre all come from this period of time. I was about 21 coming out of that stretch of time, and I’m sure it had a deeply formative effect on my musical tastes and maybe even my world view.

So I knew I wanted to pick something just out of this pocket, preferably a female artist or group, and something more on the funky or soul side of the rap/hip hop spectrum. I also lean towards artists whose singles I’ve enjoyed, but have never gone much deeper on them.

My choice came to me when I was watching a show about the stand-up comedian Dave Chapelle. One of the things I admire about him was his willingness to walk away from fame and fortune to maintain his personal and creative integrity. The world was ready to anoint him a king if he played ball, and he said, “see ya!”

There’s another artist who was presented a crown that upped and walked away. She had acclaimed roles in multiple movies, multi-million unit selling albums, grammys, and a world ready to throw all the dollars at her. Lauryn Hill said no.

But before she said no. Before all the fallout from the disbanding of the Fugees and stresses of stardom led her to leave the public eye, Lauryn dropped one of the greatest rap albums of all time on us.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, her one and only studio album came out in 1998 to rave reviews. They equally compliment her beautiful singing voice, excellent rapping and deep and honest lyrics.

Until now I’d never listened to anything other than the singles from the album. With this pick, we get one of the queens of rap and neo-soul into the mix with what some consider one of the top-ten overall albums of the 90s. I think that could be an accurate assessment if the rest of the album lives up to the singles.

So join us this month as we enjoy Lauryn’s infusion of rap, hip hop and neo-soul, inspiring a generation of rappers and women in general, as she lays her story on us at the Sonic Collective’s July pick: 1998’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and be sure to check in with us at the end of the month to hear the crew’s thoughts and to share yours with us as well. See you then.

Links

Apple music

Spotify

Wikipedia  

Other albums considered:

Illmatic – Nas

The Score – Fugees

CrazySexyCool – TLC

Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force: Planet Rock: The Album

Alain here – Thanks for tuning into the Sonic Collective! For the month of June, 2020 we continue our exploration of Hip-Hop, and once again, it’s my turn to choose our album. After Scott Coates pulled the rug out from under my feet in May by picking the same album I was planning to review (A Tribe Called Quest) I was at a bit of a loss for what album to pick. I consulted with one of my best friends, a guy who is very attuned to Hip-Hop culture and its fascinating history, and upon his recommendation, I landed on Afrika Bambaataa’s Planet Rock: The Album.

We first need to talk about who Afrika Bambaataa is, to fully understand why this album is so significant.

Lance Taylor, AKA Afrika Bambaataa, got his start in the New York party scene back in 1977, where he DJ’d Hip-Hop parties, brushing shoulders with other legends, such as Grandmaster Flash.  He vowed to use Hip-Hop to reach out to angry or disaffected youth, drawing them away from the trappings of gang life. Afrika Bambaataa founded the Universal Zulu Nation, a collective of socially and politically aware rappers, B-boys, graffiti artists and other people involved in the emerging hip hop culture. The goal of the Zulu Nation was to build a movement out of the creativity of the next generation of outcast youths with an authentic, liberating worldview. The Zulu Nation can be credited with spreading Hip-Hop music and culture via house parties, block parties, gym dances and mix tapes, further cementing it into the social zeitgeist.

Afrika Bambaataa was also the founder of the Soulsonic Force, which originally consisted of approximately 20 Zulu Nation members. The personnel for the Soulsonic Force were groups within groups with whom he would perform and make records. Records such as Planet Rock.

Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force - Planet Rock

Released in 1986, Planet Rock: The Album was a cornerstone album and one of the earliest successes in the genre of Hip-Hop. It attained gold status and generated an entire school of “electro-boogie” rap and dance music in its wake. Rick Rubin once said of its titular track, “One of the most influential songs of everything. It changed the world. There hasn’t been a song like it in Hip-Hop since.” Slant Magazine awarded the album #84 on its list of Best Albums of the 1980s, and the track Renegades of Funk was once covered by Rage Against the Machine.

Fun fact: Kraftwerk members received songwriting credits on Planet Rock. Bambaataa was heavily inspired by the band’s futuristic sounding electronic music, and interpolated portions of Kraftwerk’s songs, including “Numbers” and “Trans-Europe Express”.  I bring this up because Kraftwerk was one of my picks from way back in 2015, an album I chose to review based on how influential they were. It all comes full circle, my friends.

Enjoy Planet Rock: The Album, and check back at the end of the month to hear what we have to say about it.

A Tribe Called Quest: People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

Released on April 10, 1990, it was the group’s debut album. From Queens, New York, A Tribe Called Quest formed a friendship with hip-hop act Jungle Brothers, both groups formed a collective called Native Tongues, which also included De La Soul. They played with beats, technology and built their skills in the rap world.

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Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man

PHOTO: MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES

 

Darren Scott, April 2020

Our four Sonic Collective members decided it would be fun to pick a random genre of music that we could use as a guide for a round of album selections. Member Scott Coates spun virtual wheel like a champ and in the end the winning genre was ‘Hip Hop’.

As I (Darren) get to kick off the round I was really excited. I love my Soul, Funk, Hip Hop and Rap. As a huge fan I wanted to do something different. I decided to go back to the artists that influenced the Hip Hop and Rap genre. Listen to my selection audio and find out what lead me to select Gil Scott-Heron. Hey, we can always use more of the name ‘Scott’ in our group! Ha ha.

Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man Wikipedia

Rapping History on Wikipedia

On Spotify:

Other artists I though about picking this month were:

Pigmeat Markham, Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, DJ Kool Herc and A Tribe Called Quest (My favourite!)

Jeff Buckley: Grace

 

Scott Gregory, March 2020

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Sonic Collective. I’m Scott G and it’s my pleasure to bring you the pick for March, 2020.

I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to make this selection. Maybe it’s because the Album never really saw the staggering commercial success many of our other picks did in North America. Maybe it’s the fact the artist only completed one studio album before his untimely death in 1997.

Jeff Buckley’s 1994 album Grace had a lasting impact on some of the greatest rock artists of all time. Jimmy Page is quoted as saying it was one of his favourite albums of the decade, and other artists such as Robert Plant, Chris Cornel, Bob Dylan and David Bowie also spoke highly of Buckley and the album. Rolling Stone listed it at number 303 of their 500 Greatest Albums of all Time.

Buckley is an incredibly gifted guitarist and vocalist, and his eclectic taste in music led to a rich variety of influences that trace shadows across the entire album. His cover of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen has since gone up the charts several times, and is an absolutely haunting hour of music.

It’s one of my favourite albums of all time, and I’m overdue sharing this love with you. I wonder, how many of the guys didn’t discover Jeff until after he was already gone, or maybe they still haven’t really ever checked him out? We’ll see. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and I look forward to you joining us at the end of the month when The Sonic Collective comes back together and shares our thoughts on March 2020’s pick: Jeff Buckley’s 1994 album Grace.

Spotify

Apple Music 

Wikipedia

Van Halen: Van Halen

Thanks for tuning into The Sonic Collective! It’s once again my turn to pick, and for the month of February, 2020, I’ve chosen for us to review Van Halen’s Diamond-Certified eponymous debut album, Van Halen.

Hailing from Pasadena, the band played a number of gigs in the mid to late 70s, eventually catching the attention of two executives from Warner Bros. A deal was struck, and Van Halen entered the studio in 1977, basically taking their live show and tracking it out over the course of a couple of weeks at a cost of around $40,000. Van Halen was released in February of 1978, and almost immediately began to make an impact on the charts. Fans loved it, while certain high-profile critics panned it. But the critics were, of course, wrong. The album reached #19 on the top 200 chart, and before 1978 had come to an end, it had already attained Platinum status from the RIAA.

The legacy of Van Halen is still present 42+ years onward. Their sound defined what hard rock / heavy metal would be for the next decade. It spun off a number of well-known singles, including “You Really Got Me”, “Running With The Devil”, and “Jaimie’s Cryin’”.  Eddie Van Halen would achieve god-like status among guitarists for his innovative approach to his instrument, and David Lee Roth is often praised for his stylish, bombastic, and energetic personality as the band’s frontman. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Let’s dive in and see where it all started this month!

Wikipedia: Van Halen (Band)

Wikipedia: Van Halen (Album)

Spotify: Van Halen (Album)

Sweet 300zx commercial from 1996 featuring You Really Got Me

Beastie Boys: Paul’s Boutique

Scott Coates, January 2020

Beastie Boys: Paul’s Boutique 

I was super close to choosing an album by The Police or Willie Nelson this month, then read/listened to a post, Hear Every Sample on the Beastie Boys’ Acclaimed Album, Paul’s Boutique–and Discover Where They Came From, which got me thinking back to this album.

Disclosure, I own every Beastie Boys album but have not listened to Paul’s in its entirety in many years, so this will be rediscovering known territory. They spent US$250,000 on sample licensing, but this would simply not be possible today as fees have gone way up, making a modern-day Paul’s virtually impossible. 

Released on July 25, 1989 by Capitol Records, it was recorded over two years at a Los Angeles apartment. This was the highly anticipated follow-up to the Beastie’s debut album Licensed to Ill and expectations were beyond high. It was produced with the Dust Brothers, who broke new ground utilizing multi-layered sampling, drawing on 105 songs. 

Paul’s Boutique debuted to less than favorable reviews and fans didn’t know what to think. It peaked at just #24 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and quickly found its way to the discount bins (where I bought my original CD copy). It turns out Paul’s was way ahead of its time, and as the decades passed, people came to realize it as a masterpiece.

Put on some kick-ass headphones or turn up a quality hi-fi and digest Paul’s Boutique.

Links
‎Paul’s Boutique by Beastie Boys on iTunes – Apple Music

Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique – Amazon.com Music

Paul’s Boutique on Spotify:

 


Also Considered this Month:

Willie Nelson: Shotgun Willie

The Police: Ghost in the Machine

Iggy and The Stooges: Raw Power

(Top image credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

Darren Scott, December 2019

As we reached the 5th birthday of The Sonic Collective it was great to celebrate and reflect upon all the great music we had gone back to listen to. We have definitely discovered that the really great bands of the past do span the test of time and their songs sound great. 

It is always difficult to make a selection as there are so many worthy bands, but I decided that it would be a downright travesty if we let Iggy Pop and the Stooges wait another second to be added to our show. 

Listen to my selection reasoning above and please join us as we rediscover the Godfather of punk, Iggy Pop. Will this music still stand up 46 years later? Wow, 46 years!

Personally, I can’t wait to dive back in to Iggy Pop. If you want to join us on an amazing journey that involves drugs, sex, David Bowie’s friendship, and the definition of a cheaply run studio session, I know you won’t be disappointed.

I give you Raw Power by Iggy and The Stooges.

Article about Raw Power from Louder (With awesome photos!)

Wikipedia Page

Spotify

Def Leppard: Hysteria

def leppard band photo

Scott Gregory, November 2019

Love is like a bomb, baby, c’mon get it on

Livin’ like a lover with a radar phone

Lookin’ like a tramp, like a video vamp

Demolition woman, can I be your man?

 

Despite similar hairstyles in the 80s, Def Leppard and Celine Dion are worlds apart when it comes to love ballads, but if you caught from last month’s review I already had hair metal on the mind, this pick might not be as big a surprise for you.

 

Not only did Def Leppard help form the vanguard of the 80s British heavy metal scene, they were at ground zero for the creation of the MTV generation. It’s hard to imagine anyone who hit their teens back then not running into these guys on TV or radio weekly if not daily.  And if you worked in a mall with piped-in music, god help you.

 

I was tempted to go with Pyromania from 1983, but so much happened to the band between then and when their next album, Hysteria, released in 1987. I eventually went with Hysteria because it’s really the first album with their crystalized sound, and seemed to excite and piss off fans in equal parts. It introduces the new electronic elements needed to accommodate drummer Rick Allen losing his arm in a car crash, and Mutt Lange really went all out in the production of a locked down, masterfully crafted album.

 

They say the intention was to create a similar to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, where every song could be a single, and the fact seven of the twelve tracks actually did chart shows how successful they were in this goal. Rolling stone ranks the album in their top 500 of all time, and the top hair metal album of all time.

 

So step inside, walk this way, you and me babe, hey hey. Join the Sonic Collective this November in head banging to Def Leppard’s 1987 album Hysteria. Rock on dudes and dudettes.

 

Def Leppard, Hysteria

Spotify

Apple Music 

Wikipedia

Def Leppard doing a perfect cover of Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus

Celine Dion: Falling Into You

Celine Dion - Falling Into You

Alain Dupuis, October 2019

This is not a joke.
We are absolutely listening to Celine Dion this month.

I’ve been threatening everyone with this for a while, and now, as the leaves turn yellow and the cold October air brings with it the looming threat of another Canadian winter, the time has come!

I fully expect this to be a polarizing one, but those are some of the most enjoyable and interesting episodes of The Sonic Collective, as far as I’m concerned. So strap in, bucko. We’ve got ourselves a damn album to review!

Back in 1996, Celine Dion released Falling Into You, an album which eventually came to sell 32 million copies. Let that sink in. THIRTY-TWO MILLION COPIES. It’s one of the best-selling albums of all time, so how could we not review it at some point? I won’t even mention all the awards Dion managed to take home as a result of this album. Needless to say, regardless of our personal feelings now or at the end of the month when it’s review time, history suggests that people seemed to really appreciate the music of Celine Dion in the 90s.

Indeed, Falling Into You is a heavy-hitter that received a lot of radio and television play thanks in no small part to singles like It’s All Coming Back To Me Now, Because You Loved Me, and of course the title-track, Falling Into You.  The album also contains a number of notable covers.

What I find particularly interesting is that despite the incredibly impressive sales-figures and innumerable radio-plays, this was a critically mixed album. Billboard, AllMusic, and Entertainment Weekly gave it positive reviews, while the LA Times and Rolling Stone Album Guide gave it very unfavourable reviews. It makes me wonder what the Sonic Collective’s final consensus is going to be. Tune in at the end of the month to see for yourself. And better yet, join us along for the ride!  Listen to the album then let us know what you think in the comments, or on Facebook, or Twitter, or SoundCloud.  Good pick? Bad pick? We wanna hear from you!

That’s it… we’re finally doing this, fellas! Grab yourselves a pumpkin-spiced latte, because autumn has arrived, it’s my turn to pick, and the only thing that can warm my icy-cold heart is some mid-90s power ballads from the queen of Can-Con, Celine Dion.