Classic Albums #3

It’s been a long time since I wrote a Classic Albums post.  Nearly four years, sadly.  But now it’s time to get back to the heart of what this blog was supposed to be all about in the first place.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my Classic Albums.

3. Metallica – Master of Puppets

Metallica’s third album, released in 1986, has long been regarded as the probably the best recording the band ever made.  Not only that, but one of the greatest metal albums of all time.  “Master of Puppets” is a monolithic album with an immense scope; hugely varied and still surprisingly experimental.

At the time I first heard this record, around 1987, I was listening to bands like Van Halen, Queen and Def Leppard.  A friend lent me a cassette of “Master of Puppets”; I was keen to try it out as there was such a buzz about this band.

Every time I hear the opening guitars of “Battery”, I’m transported back to that first listen.  And I remember how extreme it sounded to me at the time – I’d never heard anything this brutal before.

Following that was the title track, which was the most complex heavy composition I’d experienced.  A melodic instrumental section lulled me into a false sense of security before the relentless riff attack recommenced.

It was third track, “The Thing That Should Not Be”, that opened my eyes though.  A massive, monstrous riff that hooked me straight away.  That song was heavy and eerie all at once; it became a favourite that I still love and slowly, yet with growing confidence, I began to explore this album.

“Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” begins with a mellower introduction and as such it’s one of the easier songs to appreciate on first listen.  Repeated plays over the years has dulled the impact of this track, for me personally – though it surprises me how good it actually is when revisited. 

Side Two of the album Kicks off with “Disposable Heroes”, is an anti war song that is intense and powerful.  One of my favourite tracks.  Then there’s “Leper Messiah”, a monster riff that incorporates faster sections as it proceeds.

The absolute highlight of the album is “Orion”, a fantastic prog-metal instrumental spanning over eight minutes.  This epic track proves beyond all others just why Metallica were – and still are – light years ahead of other thrash bands.

Finally, the last track – “Damage, Inc.” – is a violent berzerker of a song that might just take your face off.

With “Master of Puppets”, Metallica challenged themselves and their fans, as they expanded their sound and manifesto further than ever before.  If you want fast thrash, you’ve got it here.  Want heavy, down-tuned Sabbath riffs?  You’ve got that too.  There are even melodic sections that are actually enjoyable – and still uncompromising.

Metallica were utterly fearless in writing and recording this album, unafraid to try new ideas and never rest on past glories.  It’s not as heavy to my ears as it was on first listen thirty years ago, but every new spin of this record still has the power to thrill.

“Master of Puppets” is a timeless metal masterpiece.  It’s one of the essential records in my collection; it’s status a massively influential rock album – metal or otherwise – is assured for all time.

Metallica – Master of Puppets (1986)

  1. Battery
  2. Master of Puppets
  3. The Thing That Should Not Be
  4. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
  5. Disposable Heroes
  6. Leper Messiah
  7. Orion
  8. Damage, Inc.

Best tracks: The Thing That Should Not Be, Orion, Battery, Master of Puppets, Disposable Heroes.

Other cool points: seriously great cover – you also need the t-shirt.

Songs of the Week 04.09.2016

How’ve you been?  Well I hope.  Here are five more songs heard in the last seven days that I particularly enjoyed.

  1. The Stooges – 1970
  2. The Who – The Seeker
  3. Mudhoney – Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More
  4. ABBA – Money, Money, Money
  5. Metallica – Orion

I love ABBA, but that song earned it’s place in this weeks top 5 after my daughter sang it all week.  Good choice!

Songs of the Week 21.08.2016

Well then, I missed a week out on this fascinating weekly musical review.  And this latest edition is late.  Oh well – this isn’t about sticking to rules and regularity.  It’s all about the joy – and freedom – of music.

Here’s five songs from last week that resonated:

  1. Metallica – Lords of Summer
  2. Ohio Players – Fopp
  3. Toots & The Maytals – Funky Kingston
  4. Agent Orange – Tearing Me Apart
  5. Dinosaur Jr – The Wagon

Songs of the Week 07.08.2016

A lot of vinyl played this week.  Here are the top 5 songs from the last seven days:

  1. Fu Manchu – Evil Eye
  2. The Clash – Jimmy Jazz
  3. Isaac Hayes – Theme From Shaft
  4. The Meters – Cissy Strut
  5. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel – Red Admiral Black Sunrise

Songs of the Week 31.07.2016

Dozens of songs listened to, here are five that stood out:

  1. AC/DC – Highway to Hell
  2. Melvins – I Want to Tell You
  3. The Beatles – I Want to Tell You
  4. Jimi Hendrix Experience – The Wind Cries Mary
  5. Beach Boys – Feel Flows

Songs of the Week 24.07.2016

Just for you!

  1. Big & Rich – Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)
  2. The White Stripes – Fell in Love with a Girl
  3. Orchid – Mouths of Madness
  4. Al Green – Tired of Being Alone
  5. Fun Lovin’ Criminals – Scooby Snacks

Essential Tracks – Nirvana

“Essential Tracks” is a new Music section at the Virtual Hot Tub.  In this ongoing series, I’ll be picking my favourite tracks from a particular artist.  Here’s the very first instalment.

Nirvana – the Top 20 Songs

Sadly, 5th April marks twenty years since the death of Kurt Cobain.  It seems somewhat unreal that so much time has passed.  I remember buying Nevermind as soon as it came out in 1991.  I remember hearing about Kurt’s death when it was announced.  Such a great artist and unique, complex music.  This is a list of my favourite Nirvana songs.

20. Come As You Are

A great song, over familiarity has probably knocked this track down the table.  Find it on Nevermind.  As a point of interest, my old band used to cover this.  We performed it live on the second anniversary of Kurt’s death; it received a warm response.  At that point (in the pre-internet) we hadn’t realised the significance of the date, it had been a coincidence.

19. You Know You’re Right

From the Nirvana compilation.  Awesome song – classic Nirvana soft/heavy dynamic.

18. Been A Son

My version of this song is from the Incesticide album.  Fast paced, a catchy melody – and lyrics worth the time to listen to.

17. Lithium

One of the classic Nevermind songs, this has a fantastic sing a long chorus that shows Kurt’s ear for a fine tune.

16. Serve the Servants

Opening track from the superb In Utero album, I’ve surprised myself that I haven’t placed this song higher in my own list.  Love it.  “Teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old”.

15. Negative Creep

Absolutely brutal riff.  One of the heaviest, punkiest songs in the Nirvana catalogue.  Perhaps something of an early Melvins influence here, probably some Black Flag too.  You can find it on Bleach.

14. Molly’s Lips

Out-standing cover version of a Vaselines song, on the Incesticide album.  Unbelievably  poppy despite buzzing guitars, it’s a blueprint that Cobain adopted and mastered.

13. Territorial Pissings

Another hardcore punk attack, though Territorial Pissings still retains a melody despite the speed and fury.  Awesome instrumental break and reliably quotable lyrics.  Nevermind again.

12. On A Plain

It’s really hard to select the best songs from an album as indispensible as Nevermind, but I remember this track always stood out for me.

11. All Apologies

This gem doesn’t get in the Top Ten?  I know, ridiculous, right?  It’s on In Utero and there’s a pretty cool version on the MTV Unplugged set, too.

10. Sliver

We start the Top Ten with a great pop tune that, incredibly, wasn’t on the major releases.  You can pick it up though, on Incesticide – and I suggest you do.

9. Something In The Way

This song and Polly offer some quieter, haunting moments on Nevermind.  When we get to the chorus and the cello comes in, it’s heart break time.

8. Pennyroyal Tea

Like quite a few of Kurt’s songs, Pennyroyal Tea sneaks in quietly before launching into different territory.  Brilliant song from In Utero that demonstrates perfectly the melding of melody and mayhem in the best Nirvana tunes.

7. About A Girl

An early hint of Kurt Cobain’s ability to create a beautiful pop song; it’s no surprise that he was a huge Beatles fan.  Find it on Bleach, there’s also a killer version on MTV Unplugged.

6. Francis Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle

“I miss the comfort in being sad”, quiet/loud/quiet/loud; great riff.  Wonderful track from In Utero, complete with scathing lyrics.

5. Scentless Apprentice

Dun-dun-der-der! D-der der d-der d-der!  Do I really need to say more?  So heavy.  It must have scared the Indie scenesters to death.  Run for the hills, Indie scenesters!

4. Where Did You Sleep Last Night

A cover of the Leadbelly song, found on the MTV Unplugged album.  Kurt sounds truly agonised on this exceptional song, though it retains it’s beauty.

3. Dive

Apparently written as a Soundgarden style song, in an effort to appeal to their label Sub Pop and get signed.  It should come as no surprise, however, that Kurt – a huge Black Sabbath fan – would be able to create a riff as heavy as this.  Heavy like a brontosaurus breaking rocks.  With a big fucking hammer.

2. Smells Like Teen Spirit

This is the big one.  Iconic, revolutionary – but Nirvana’s best song?  I don’t think so.  Not to deny it’s power, maybe I’ve just heard it a little too much.  Still great though.  It’s on Nevermind, but you knew that, right?

1. Heart Shaped Box

Allegedly, Courtney Love heard Kurt writing this song, loved the immortal riff, and asked if he would donate it to her.  Kurt declined, and apparently locked himself in a cupboard to finish it off.  The quintessential quiet/loud dynamic.  Utterly unforgettable.  This, for me, is Nirvana’s best song.

So there you go – my Top 20 Essential Nirvana songs.  And I didn’t mention the word “grunge” once.

Compiling this list was much more difficult than I anticipated.  I was forced to leave out some absolutely classic songs; like In Bloom, Rape Me, Aneurysm and Nirvana’s amazing cover of David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold The World.  There are others, too.

I reserve the right, in all Essential Tracks posts, to revise my thoughts at a later date.  Already, I’m thinking that Scentless Apprentice should’ve been number 1.

Dun-dun-der-der! D-der der d-der d-der!