This is Past Sounds. Every Friday Ghettoblaster Magazine is looking back and finding great music from various eras. Below are songs that sound great no matter what decade they’re played in. So strap in as we take a musical journey, back in time.
Billy Bragg – “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” (Talking With the Taxman About Poetry, Elektra Records) 1986
From the opening, slowly strummed guitar chords of “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” it is apparent the listener is in for a sad and beautifully told tale from Billy Bragg. The next few minutes are just that: beautiful and emotional, culminating in the line “he puts a hole in her body where no hole should be”. This song is taken from Bragg’s exquisite album Talking With the Taxman About Poetry, which finds him at peak performance throughout. As is the case with “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” the album focuses largely on just clean straightforward and expertly played guitar and poetic, political and wonderfully sung lyricism. Levi Stubbs was the lead singer of The Four Tops and in the song is the only constant comfort for the protagonist as they deal with abandonment, injury and abuse. “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” actually features more varied instrumentation than most other songs on the album, while still remaining such a minimalistic, yet incredibly dynamic song. It’s an epic journey worth going on and the final act of the song, when the other instrumentation kicks in, is really breathtaking.
Lupe Fiasco – “Kick Push” (Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor, Atlantic Records) 2006
There’s nothing better than a hip hop song that features a single musical loop that you could listen to all day and never grow tired of. “Kick Push” by Lupe Fiasco is one such song and features one of the absolute best loops. It’s a pretty straightforward beat but when those magnificent horns and spacey keyboards kick in it is elevated to another level. Then that joy kicks in again, looping throughout a fantastic song about a skateboarder, which is not common material for a hip hop song. “Kick Push” tells the story of a skateboarder who has never felt that he’s belonged, except when he is skateboarding. He finds love, he gains a crew of skateboarding friends, yet the world is against him with security guards and police telling him that he doesn’t belong there. It’s a beautifully told and fantastically rapped story featuring some of the best music to be found.
Wavves – “King of the Beach” (King of the Beach, Fat Possum) 2010
It’s summer time in a year that is on pace to be the hottest year ever recorded, so how about an awesome summer jam? Wavves delivers this in spades with “King of the Beach”. It’s a raucous track just begging to be blasted out open windows and outdoor boomboxes. “King of the Beach” is also incredibly catchy and reminiscent of a rougher edged classic-era Weezer song. The vocals are strained and scratchy from a party the night before and the music is loud and unhinged ready to start the party again tonight. It’s just plain fun, which is something we could use a lot more of these days.
Paul McCartney – “Dear Boy” (RAM, Columbia) 1971
“Dear Boy” from Paul McCartney’s great solo album Ram is a really special song. McCartney begins by singing a nice melody over beautiful keyboards, slowly introducing some absolutely stunning vocal harmonies and a really nice instrumental breakdown. This song is real short and real sweet and deserves a write up that does the same. Just listen to it.
Big Boi – “Shine Blockas” feat Gucci Mane (Sir Lucious Left Foot: Son of Chico Dusty, Def Jam) 2010
Big Boi is one half of the stellar hip hop duo Outkast and is legendary for his lightning fast and smooth delivery, often times switching up speeds and rhythmic pattern several times throughout verses. Sir Lucious Left Foot: Son of Chico Dusty finds Big Boi in solo album territory and he delivers a solid onslaught of an album over 15 tracks and nearly an hour of soulful southern hip hop. “Shine Blockas” comes toward the end of the album and feels like a triumphant victory lap. There’s a soulful vocal sample, some awesome southern tinged organs and great keyboards all over a delightfully choppy beat and some great low end bass. It’s a master’s level class in hip hop music and Big Boi does not disappoint when it comes to his vocal delivery, showing what really makes him a special rapper. He is joined by Gucci Mane who fits right in with the music and adds a fun element to the track. This is another great song for summer parties and it is so good and joyful that it never gets old.