I was putting together my weekly blog and initially was going to write another installment of my lost Album blog AGAIN, which I wrote at the end of last year on Dennis Wilson’s “Pacific Ocean Blue.” I realized writing about one lost or forgotten album a year is just ridiculous. So, for this blog I decided to compile of a list of 6 albums that I consider lost and/or just forgotten, that any music fan needs to hear at some point in their lives. I think one of these upcoming blogs I might write a dedicated blog again on one particular album in detail, but for now, he is a little info about some albums that many people might have overlooked or not given a chance to listen to.
1. Snoop Dogg – No Limit Top Dogg
Pretty much anyone that knows a bit about pop culture has heard of Snoop Dogg, aka Snoop Lion as he now goes by. But most people have really only heard his first album Doggystyle (now considered a classic and usually listed in many classic album list), and some of his recent hits in the 2000’s. After Snoop released Doggystyle, he lost his producer and went on sort of a drought. It was a period in his career where many music fans did not listen to his music. In 2002, Snoop hit the radio waves again with his smash single “Beautiful.” He then came back into mainstream, and followed it up with many successful albums and hit singles. Prior to his resurgence in the 2000’s, Snoop Dogg released some fantastic music that up to this day is usually overlooked by many music fans. When Death Row Records (the label he released Doggystyle on) started to encounter both financial and legal troubles, Snoop left the label and found a home with then top rap label No Limit Records. Unless you were a No Limit fan, you probably overlooked the 3 albums he released while on the label. I love all three, and still hold Snoop’s first No Limit album dear to my heart (Not ONLY was I a bug fan of Snoop, but at the time I was a MAJOR No Limit and Master P fan), but if you were NOT a No Limit fan, you missed out on not only his reunion with Dr. Dre, but also one of the best and most focused albums of his career. Backed by production from Dr. Dre, DJ Quik Ant Banks (of Too Short) fame, and a couple No Limit numbers, No Limit Top Dogg has turned into forgotten gem of late 90’s west coast rap music. I picked up this album the day it was released. I will never forget the sounds of the first full track “Buck Em’”, and the combination of Snoop’s lazy smooth flow over the hard beats of the good Dr…Dr. Dre.
2. David Ruffin – So Soon We Change
When I first saw this cover, I honestly did not know what to expect. David Ruffin is most known as being the front man of one of the most influential and groundbreaking soul groups ever, The Temptations. David Ruffin sings lead on the Temptation’s hit “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” and many more. After his departure from the group due to ego and drug problems, Ruffin started a mildly successful solo career with songs like “My Whole World Ended,” “Walk Away from Love,” and a well publicized collaborative reunion with former Temptations alum Eddie Kendricks. In 1979, Ruffin put together a fantastic record that was only barely heard during its initial release, but has all but been forgotten since then. “So Soon We Change,” released in 1979 did chart for a very short time on the Billboard R&B charts but failed to garner the critical and commercial success it deserved. Produced by Don Davis, “So Soon We Change” has a funky disco feel; smooth sliding bass lines, and lush horn and string arrangements. I am HUGE fan of passionate and evocative singers. There are few others as passionate and heartfelt as Ruffin. I mean how many of us wish we could belt out lyrics like Ruffin did with the opening lines “I know you want to leave me…” from “Ain’t to Proud to Bed.” Fellow Motown singer and soul legend Marvin Gaye was noted as saying “I heard in his voice a strength my own lacked,” when he was discussing some of his favorite artists and was asked about Ruffin. There are few other recordings where Ruffin sings with as much passion and urgency as he does on this forgotten masterpiece. There are some excellent ballads like “Break My Heart.” Songs that are smooth and sultry, “Let Your Love Rain Down on Me.” To some funky disc tinged tracks (but not too much disco flair, more funk with some killer bass playing by Anthony Willis and Steven Hairston) like “Let’s Stay Together” and “Sexy Dancer”…some of these songs you can literally hear him dancing as he is singing the vocals. I get chills down my spine when I hear his ending vamps. Albums like this make me miss the days when real singers made records. When REAL men sang love songs. Men who both experienced love and heartbreak.
That, you can feel on this album. Take a listen to “Sexy Dancer” here.
3. Ringo Starr – Goodnight Vienna
Yup, Ringo Starr. The drummer of the Beatles. That’s right I am listing one of his solo albums. Ringo is definitely not the best singer. He is without a doubt probably the least popular Beatle. But, he crafted two of the best Beatle solo albums. Yup, you heard me right! Like most music fans, I went through a bit of a Beatles phase. I was exposed to them as a child, but never truly appreciated their greatness until I was older and making music on my own. After basically “wearing out the grooves” on most of my Beatles albums, I decided to venture into solo album territory. John, Paul, and George made some excellent solo records. And for years I never thought twice about avoiding Ringo’s solo albums. I used to think to myself, well I don’t like the songs he sings ON a Beatles records, why in the hell would I like any of his solo work??!! But, at some point I decided to give it a shot and get a couple of his albums. One of the things right off the bat that attracted me to Ringo’s solo music a bit more than the other lads is the fact that Ringo never seemed to take himself seriously. He always seemed to want to have fun and party. He did not get caught up in making sappy music about love, world change, or Krishna. He made songs about having fun! And funny thing is, his music is dam fun to listen too!! With his two important solo albums (‘Ringo’ and ‘Goodnight Vienna’), Ringo puts together all-star cast of top musicians and guests to party and record with. Back in the 1970’s, musicians got HUGE recording budgets from labels. They would hop into big time recording studios and invite everyone they knew to record and hang with. Back then these were known and ‘party albums.’ Listening to either of these two albums is the closest things we came to a Beatles reunion. Ringo had the others lads help him out with his albums. The guys contributed songs, performances, backing vocals, etc. Ringo’s third solo album, titled simply “Ringo” is phenomenal and was a bigger hit then his fourth. His fourth album, “Goodnight Vienna,” although successful in its time has since gone into forgotten music lore. One reason is because it is a Ringo Starr solo album and not many people are rushing out to get Ringo solo albums. Another reason is because people who do buy a Ringo album, usually buy the ‘Ringo’ album because of its two smash hits; ‘Photograph’ and ‘You’re Sixteen. ‘ Goodnight Vienna is the 2nd of two albums produced by legendary music Producer Richard Perry (see my Blog about producers HERE). Ringo and Richard reteamed to try and capture the magic they had on ‘Ringo,’ the first album they did together. Although Ringo Starr’s vocals are an acquired taste, Goodnight Vienna has some of the best vocal performances of Ringo’s career. The album fantastic songs written by John Lennon, Allan Toussaint, Elton John, Harry Nilsson, and Ringo Starr himself. Using the top producer of the day, the best musicians in town, and one of the most unique and clever songs like “No No Song,” Goodnight Vienna is a blast to listen to. Ringo was hanging out with John Lennon quite a bit at this time. John was on his ‘lost weekend,’ which was his separation from Yoko Ono. John, Ringo, Harry, and Richard lived it up during this period. They threw TV’s put of windows, got kicked out of the Troubadour, and drank partied relentlessly. That fun, live for the moment esthetic is prevalent among this album. This is one of the things that make this record so darn enjoyable. You feel like you are their hanging out with them. Drinking and partying in Los Angeles all night. Put aside your preconceived notions of Ringo Starr and sit back and enjoy. It takes you back to a time when life was different. Music was fun…Enjoy the kooky and hilarious “No No Song” right here. I just love the part were he sniffs when describing staying away from cocaine.
4. Willie Hutch – The Mack Soundtrack
I first found out about “The Mack Soundtrack” by Willie Hutch in my mid teens. It was actually by accident. First off, I have always been a fan of soul and funk music. Tracks with thick bass lines, snapping drums, and soulful singing. I always prided myself as THE kid in my neighborhood that had his ear to the street and was up to date on any new hip-hop and soul music. I also was a big fan of classic soul. I grew up with one of the greatest songwriters ever Ed Holland (of the famed Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team who wrote majority of all the hits from Motown) as a mentor and close family friend. So my palette for classic soul music was pretty diverse. But I had never even heard of the classic Blaxploitation movie from 1973, ‘The Mack,’ so knowing there was a soundtrack was nowhere on my radar. I discovered this very little known soul gem when I bought a box set of Oakland rapper Too Short’s early indie albums. Anyone that has heard any of too shorts music knows what he raps about; woman, pimps, macking, all on top of some of the funkiest grooves ever recorded in rap music. In the liner notes it lists the movie ‘The Mack” (starring Max Julien and Richard Pryor) as the catalyst for all the themes in Too Shorts music. Being the die-hard Short Dog fan I was, I did not hesitate to search every local record store for a copy of this album. I bought it, not even having heard it or seen the movie. Man, was I blown away!! Both the movie and soundtrack has influenced and been sampled by some of the biggest rappers of all time. From Jay-Z, to Dr. Dre, to R. Kelly and 2Pac, “The Mack,” with its themes of pimping, macking, and funky ass soundtrack that is the epitome of 1970’s soul music, has been the backbone to what we know of today as urban culture and rap music. I highly recommend not only seeing the movie, but getting the soundtrack. For s sample of how funky and slick this soundtrack is, check out “Got To Get Over.” You trying to tell me this is not smooth as hell??!!
5. The Terminator – Original Soundtrack
Anytime I mention this soundtrack, people assume it is for the score of the movie. With its signature dark, minor key, electric violins, and synth driven theme score composed by Brad Fidel, the 1984 film The Terminator’s instrumental elements are fantastic. But that is NOT why I am listing it on here. I chose to include it for its amazing last 5 tracks…the killer 80’s songs. If you like 80’s music, then you will love this! I always wondered what were those songs in the background during the club scenes and a few other key moments in this movie. It is thses scenes where the 80’s rock songs really add some tensions and drive home the darkness felt by the characters, as well as articulate the social and pop climate of the early 1980’s. Ironically, I can almost guarantee no one knows of the artists singing those songs (aside from Jay Ferguson from the mid-1960’s group Spirit, but even him I think most people don’t know of). The obscurity of the artists makes the soundtrack even more exciting. Most soundtracks feature hits from top artists for the day. But Terminator does not. It features songs that might have been played in underground clubs during the 1980’s by fashion forward youths who chose to listen to unique indie artists, rather than the commercial pop songs we all still think of from the mid 1980’s. Sadly this soundtrack is not only pretty much forgotten, but also is extremely rare. If you like edgy rock songs from the mid 1980’s, do yourself a favor and search around for the Terminator Original Soundtrack. There are two versions of this seminal 1980’s films soundtrack. Both are great, but the original soundtrack with the 1980’s rock songs are far better…plus, it will give you the well known theme song and other instrumental score pieces heard in the film. Listen to ‘Photoplay‘ by the unknown Tahee Cain for a taste of what these soundtrack has. FYI, this was an early film by James Cameron, also known for a small movie called Titanic which had a pretty big soundtrack and epic song in it’s own right…but this one is way cooler!
6. Magic Sam – West Side Soul
When people name great guitarist, you never hear of the amazing Magic Sam. I have been playing guitar for many years. I have spent countless hours researching great players, particularly blues guitarists. But, Magic Sam’s names usually never comes up. You have the King’s (BB, Albert, and Freddie), Wolf and Muddy. Elmore James and Buddy Guy. Otis Rush and Albert Collins. Even the blues rock players like Page, Clapton, Hendrix, Bloomfield, and Allman…etc. I can go on and on. But why isn’t Magic Sam ever listed on here. And when he is (in the rare occasions) he is NO WHERE near the top 10. Maybe it is cause he died at 32 and only really released 2 studio albums (most other material is posthumous unreleased songs, outtakes, and live recordings). Sam Maghett aka Magic Sam was known for his distinct tremolo style guitar playing. He had so much passion in his voice; it felt like he had lived a life of pain and heartbreak prior to singing these songs. You literally felt what he said. His vocals soared over his bluesy riffs, and he would start at low range, to then belt out, as if he was almost screaming certain words with some of the most incredible sustain I have ever heard captured onto tape. “Magic Sam had a different guitar sound,” said his record producer, Willie Dixon. “Most of the guys were playing the straight 12-bar blues thing, but the harmonies that he carried with the chords was a different thing altogether. This tune “All Your Love”, he expressedWith such an inspirational feeling with his high voice. You could always tell him, even from his introduction to the music.” Magic Sam was not a showy guitarist, but who needs that…we have tons of those…