Tag: 1994

Spearhead – Home

ARTIST: Spearhead                             220px-Spearhead_Home

TITLE: Home

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #147 UK

SINGLES: Of Course You Can (#74 UK), People in tha Middle (#49 UK), Hole in the Bucket (#55 UK), Positive

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Dream Team

LINEUP: Michael Franti, Mary Harris, Le Le Jamison, Keith McArthur, David James, James Gray, Charlie Hunter. Vernon Reid plays a solo.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Michael Franti forms a new group with studio musicians with a that gave his political messages a bit more grounded than the heavy Disposable Heroes of Hiphroprisy.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Michael Franti’s distinctive raps are political and social, and at times the heavy handedness turned off some listeners. Here, though, using a live band of session musicians, his socially and politically conscious messages are enhanced, and easy to embrace.

At a time where material goods were paramount, and hip-hop was more about image than anything else, Franti stressed being active in the community, and love and respecting everyone. Also, he made people aware of what was happening in the world.

Franti’s shift to Spearhead was quite successful artistically, as the organic sound of the band works well with his flow and rhymes.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Based in San Francisco, this album was produced in Philadelphia.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: One of the landmarks of 90’s hip-hop and a leading light to a new movement combining live music and rap.

 

American Music Club – San Francisco

ARTIST: American Music Club            Amc_sanfrancisco

TITLE: San Francisco

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Can You Help Me, Wish the World Away, Hello Amsterdam

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No, and that’s a shame

LINEUP: Mark Eitzel, Vudi, Tim Mooney, Dan Pearson, Bruce Kaphan

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Moody and lachrymose band’s last album before a hiatus is their most accessible without sacrificing quality.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Mark Eitzel and American Music Club added some production elements and brightened their sound a bit for this album, and despite some carping, the new elements and clarity enhances the songs.

It’s also the same ol’ AMC, though, with a beautiful sadness that’s sometimes almost too much to handle at once. “It’s Your Birthday”, “Wish the World Away”, and “Can You Help Me” should have had some radio play, but the sophistication of the music ran contra to the post-grunge elements dominating the airwaves.

They went out on a good note, as they went on hiatus for nine or so years, and they were unfairly ignored by most.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They contributed “All Your Jeans Were Too Tight” for the No Alternative project.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A: In the wrong mood, this could be too much, but overall the music and tone are excellent, especially if you know AMC isn’t the happiest bunch of souls.

The Cardigans – Emmerdale

ARTIST: The Cardigans         220px-CardigansEmmerdale

TITLE: Emmerdale

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Rise and Shine (#29 UK), Black Letter Day, Sick and Tired (#34 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

LINEUP: Lars-Olof Johansson, Bengt Lagerberg, Nina Persson, Magnus Sveningsson, Peter Svensson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Sweet sounding Swedish pop band has a secret sour side.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: With Nina Persson on vocals, it’s hard to be a dour and sour group, and yes, most of the Cardigans work sound sweet, but there’s a hidden edge there.

The confluence of a sweet voice, bright sounding arrangements, and sometimes dark lyrics make for an intriguing and sometimes compelling listen. Peter Svensson’s ear for melody (mostly co-written with Magnus Sveningsson) and the arrangements draw you in, and Persson’s vocal delivery keeps you there.

They’re not quite 100% here – a couple of songs could have been reworked or developed more, but it’s still a great debut from a unique 90’s group.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Svensson was a former metal-head, thus the Sabbath cover.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, they released different versions of their first two albums, and there’s a version with the leftover songs appended to this album.

GRADE: B+: You’ll sing along and wonder why the words you’re singing are sometimes sad and bitter.

Coolio – It Takes a Thief

ARTIST: Coolio    It_Takes_a_Thief_(album)

TITLE: It Takes a Thief

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #8 US, #67 UK

SINGLES: County Line (#109 US), I Remember (#107 US, #73 UK), Fantastic Voyage (#3 US, #41 UK), Mama I’m in Love Wit’ a Gangsta (#119 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really

LINEUP: Coolio. Guests LeSuan, J-Ro, Billy Boy, WC. Six producers, too.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First full length by Coolio has some fun songs, but not everything hits and some are a little rough.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Coolio’s first album was a slow starter until “Fantastic Voyage” was unleashed on the public as a single. That catchy, and fun, tune helped Coolio become a sensation.

The rest of his debut album has some fun tracks, even with his predilection for gangsta rap’s most unpleasant tendencies. Coolio tries to offset those tropes with humor and self-deprecation at times.

The production and samples are creative, and even got some of the base tracks back into the public consciousness. Combining gangsta rap with some humor made a nice change, but not everything is successful.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The original “Fantastic Voyage” was by Lakeside

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B-:  Decent, some great tracks, and some that I don’t know if they really work.

Lisa Germano – Happiness

ARTIST: Lisa Germano                                   Happinessgermano

TITLE:  Happiness

YEAR RELEASED: 1993, 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: You Make Me Want to Wear Dresses

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Lisa Germano, Kenny Aronoff, Malcolm Burn, Bill Dillon, Daryl Johnson, Ronald Jones, Jay Joyce, John Keane, Toby Myers, Giles Reaves

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: John Mellencamp’s violinist’s second solo album is a spooky, eerie, creepy delight.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Her first independent release turned some influential heads, and Lisa Germano found herself with a recording contract by Capitol Records. Still part of John Mellencamp’s band, she delivered this album to Capitol, and the single “You Make Me Want to Wear Dresses” got some attention, then a shakeup left her album without any support.happiness2

Germano got the rights back, and gave the record to 4AD, who tinkered with the running order and added and subtracted cuts, and re-released it. The result is a fascinating work that has a lot of tones, textures, and musical motifs that create a unique work of art – not poppy but not avant garde.

The lyrics are clever and compelling. The first line of the revised record is “You wish it was sunny / but it’s not / hahaha!” Those kinds of lines keep you guessing and involved. This is a great solo record that sounds fresh now.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Capitol single was renamed “The Dresses Song”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, an EP was released later that year and appended to this record for a while..

GRADE: A:  The more I listen, the more I like.

 

Built to Spill – There’s Nothing Wrong with Love

ARTIST: Built to Spill                                                   220px-theres_nothing_wrong_with_love

TITLE:  There’s Nothing Wrong with Love

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Car, Distopian Dream Girl

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: In the Morning was a video, and on Beavis & Butthead

LINEUP: Doug Martsch, Brett Nelson, Andy Capps with some help from others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second independent album from the Pacific Northwestern band demonstrates Martsch’s guitar playing and wry songs.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: On this album, Doug Martsch cuts loose. While the songs aren’t as epic as they could be – his guitar playing and style steps to the fore. It’s complicated, loud and at times psychedelic, yet not trite or boring. The reason is Martsch and his guitar hooks – he knows how to pepper his songs with them.

Martsch’s high-pitched semi-whine may not be technically the best voice, but it works for these songs and supports his lyrics and melodies well. There are a lot of parallels to Dinosaur, Jr. Plus, little touches like the cellos in “Car” add a depth that’s missing from many similar bands of the time.

Soon, Martsch would be signed to a major label, but with little restrictions on his content (for once). This album is how he was signed, since it showed he could move units and keep true to his vision.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The last track is a parody called “Preview”, which pokes fun at all of the current (for 1994) alt-rock trends.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: A:  At first, you may wonder about this album (especially the vocals, if you’re not used to him), but the hooks and melodies and guitar playing sell it.

Guided by Voices – Bee Thousand

ARTIST: Guided by Voices                            220px-bee_thousand

TITLE:  Bee Thousand

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Some timeless GBV songs: Hardcore UFOs, Buzzard and Dreadful Crows, Echoes Myron, Gold Star for Robot Boy, I Am a Scientist

LINEUP: Robert Pollard, Jim Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Don Thrasher, Dan Toohey, Kevin Fennell, Greg Demos, Randy Campbell.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Another album that was intended as a ‘swan song’, instead it was the matriculation of GBV from obscure indie band to buzzworthy indie band.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Propeller and Vampire on Titus had some buzz and sold some copies to tasteful hipsters, but Robert Pollard was still struggling with finances in keeping a band, even one as loose knit and informal as GBV, together.

So instead of writing and recording a whole new record, he found a demos for some songs, and overdubbed them. The demos were in rough shape, but no matter – to the band it sounded pure and vital. (The drop out in “Hardcore UFOs” shows the issues they had with the tapes.) Only a few new songs were written. The result was even more buzz, record companies swirling about, and the decision to keep going as a ‘real’ band.

It’s not the best sounding record, of course, but you can still tell the pop-rock nuggets that Pollard and company have in store. There are issues (“Her Psychology Today” is really screwed up at the beginning, and then gets into the total gem of a track, then spins away from it again.) Fans of linear thought also will have issues. I mean, does anyone know what “Kicker of Elves” is all about?

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The ‘band’ as it were was whoever showed up where the recording equipment was located.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, there’s a huge version of all of the songs from this era that is for hardcore fans.

GRADE: A-: The quality of the songs totally makes up for the tape issues.

Beck – One Foot in the Grave

ARTIST: Beck                                        220px-beckonefootinthegrave

TITLE:  One Foot in the Grave

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: It’s All in Your Mind

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Don’t think so.

LINEUP: Beck, Calvin Johnson, Chris Ballew, James Bertram, Scott Plouf

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Recorded before “Loser” but released after, this neo-folk Beck album has some highlights and shows Beck isn’t just a novelty act.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Before Mellow Gold was released, Beck and Calvin Johnson from K records recorded this album which shows that he’s just a folkie at heart.

Some tracks feature just a guitar and vocals, others a full band sound. Beck shows that he’s studied folk and country blues standards and covers “He’s a Mighty Good Leader” and other songs show an adherence to that tradition.

Obviously, this may not interest everyone – it’s a niche record. I didn’t keep all of it in my catalog. But I know that it’s better than what I expected – it’s raw and real and heartfelt.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Tom Petty would later cover the song “Asshole”, which isn’t what you may think it is.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Originally there was a Japanese version, but now there’s a hugely expanded re-issue that’s streaming.

GRADE: B: Not for everyone, but even if you don’t really like folk or country blues you have to notice the innate talent of Beck.

Snapcase – Lookingglassself

ARTIST: Snapcase                             0001287996

TITLE:  Lookingglassself

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Many people liked Snapcase, but it was kind of an underground thing.

LINEUP: Scott Dressler, Daryl Taberski, Bob Whiteside, Jon Salemi. Mike Kimaid and Timothy Redmond shared drum duties.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Old-ish school punk with introspective lyrics to the fore.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While the grunge was happening out west, on the east the DC and NY scenes were coalescing around traditional punk with more personal themes. Snapcase fit right into that scene with guitar riffs and slightly unhinged vocals yowling about and feelings and all that.

This is raw and unpolished, and at times grating. Yet through that the riffs are there and there’s some sense that the direction they’re headed will be rewarding.

It would take a while for Snapcase to coalesce and make a sound their own, and this debut shows their raw materials.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They were originally Solid State, but had several lineup changes – mostly due to school obligations.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B-: Can’t say that I hate it, really. A decent document for fans, but just OK for the casual punk rockers.

Beck – Mellow Gold

ARTIST: Beck                           220px-mellowgold

TITLE:  Mellow Gold

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #12 US, #41 UK

SINGLES: Loser (#10 US, #1 Alternative, #15 UK), Pay No Mind (Snoozer), Beercan (#22 Alternative)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably no

LINEUP: Beck, Carl Stephenson, David Harte, DJ Smash and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First proper album from Beck (after some screw around independent releases) that launched him into the alternative stratosphere with Loser.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The first two albums by Beck were full of experiments, audio collages, and sounded like someone messing with tapes for the first time.

Beck was a neo-folkie with a snarky sense of humor and definite musical gifts in song construction and lyrics. However, there are some tracks here which are more screwing around and no doubt were more fun to record than they were to listen to.

There’s definitely some good stuff here, and some items to exile. But “Loser” may be the song of the 90’s.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There was a ‘hidden’ track that was just more screwing around on a synthesizer.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B-:  “Loser” and some decent tracks and tracks to avoid.