Best tunes of 1991: #4 Big Audio Dynamite II “Rush”

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“If I had my time again
I would do it all the same
And not change a single thing
Even when I was to blame.”

These are words that I know by heart. In fact, I still know all the words to Big Audio Dynamite II’s “Rush”, as do a handful of my friends from high school. Brian, Jeff, Andrew… I don’t know what it was that made us connect with the song and its words. To this day, I’m still not exactly sure what Mick Jones was getting at but it’s a song that will always remind me of OAC, grade 13, my final year of high school, whatever you want to call it. The song soundtracked so many good times that I can’t even begin to list them lest this post grow to epic proportions.

Like many of the songs on this Best tunes of 1991 list, I discovered “Rush” for myself when I recorded the video off MuchMusic’s CityLimits. I watched and rewatched the video so many times that I quickly made the connection between the band’s lead singer and the guitarist of the band in another video recorded around the same time and that I was watching quite a bit of: “London calling” by The Clash. I didn’t know any of this at the time because the alt-rock universe was still very new to me but Mick Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite when he was shown the door by the only band that mattered in the early 1980s. Throughout that decade he recorded and released a handful of albums and singles that were heavily based upon samples, pioneering their use in modern music in the process. He added a ‘II’ at the end of the band name for the 1991 album “The globe” (as well as the lesser known, UK only release “Kool-aid” in 1990) because it was for all intents and purposes, a whole new band, only he remained from the original lineup.

“Yes, yes, delightful, delightful.”

One of the many samples in “Rush” and perhaps the most obvious one is Peter Sellers’ line above and the ensuing monologue on how “not everything’s singing” and on the importance of “rhythm and melody”. This bit leads into an extended bridge with a wicked sampled break beat and the keyboards from “Baba O’Riley”. Incidentally, for quite a while, I thought the song actually ended here with a fade out because the video had cut off here on the MuchMusic broadcast I recorded it from. I only learned of the final verse when I finally purchased a copy of the CD.

As an album, “The globe” sounds a bit dated now but I still love it for all the nostalgia it brings out whenever I listen to it. “Rush”, on the other hand, rises above the nostalgia because it’s also a rocking dance tune. I defy anyone to try to convince me otherwise.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2002: #30 Richard Ashcroft “Check the meaning”

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So it’s time to start in on a new list and today’s as good a day as any. And at number thirty to kick things off, we have Richard Ashcroft’s “Check the meaning”.

Some of you might be familiar with his name and those of you who are not, are surely familiar with the band he fronted through the 1990s: namely, The Verve. His solo work has already appeared in these pages when his first post-Verve solo single appeared at number five on my Best tunes of 2000 list. And in that post, I talked about how excited I was when I first brought home a copy of “Alone with everybody” because I was such a fan of “Urban hymns” and how there was a modicum of disappointment when the album didn’t immediately blow my socks off. I also waxed philosophical about how Ashcroft had moments that really worked and those that didn’t and that he was likely missing a sounding board to temper his flights of fancy.

All of that to suggest that when 2002 rolled around and news came of a second solo album, I wasn’t as quick to go out and purchase the CD. In fact, I think it wasn’t until a year or two later that I finally got around to listening to it. And even then, it was only because I had seen a copy of it at the library and taking it home for a spin was a no risk investment. Of course, with my expectations low, I was pleasantly surprised but not completely bowled over by “Human conditions”. I found it was at best great background music, save for a few moments that stood out.

The opening track, “Check the meaning”, is one of the grander moments. It is also a good example of how Ashcroft could use some editing. The album version is a bloated eight minutes in length, the video below has it cut to just over five minutes, but I think if it had even been trimmed by yet another minute, the song might be a good ten positions or so higher in this list. It’s huge in scope and multilayered, strings and horns and guitars that flit back and forth between the speakers. The drums are just so, not really moving the song along but allowing it to be and breathe. Ashcroft’s vocals are exactly those that we have come to know and love, looped and mixed in upon themselves, singing words that question what it is to exist. In the end, he tells us that everything is going to be alright and after all this beauty and majesty, I’m inclined to believe him.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2011: #15 Kasabian “Let’s roll just like we used to”

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A few years ago, I developed this theory that Kasabian’s records alternated between excellent and just mediocre. I was completely enamoured with their self-titled debut in 2004, with its melding of the best of Madchester’s best party-down qualities. I was disappointed with the sophomore record, 2006’s “Empire”, but then, the quartet from Leicester hit it out of the park again with 2009’s “West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum“. Now, I don’t know if the pattern continues because I have yet to give their last album, 2017’s “For crying out loud”, a chance but if it does, their next album should be one for the ages.

Of course, according to this dubious theory of mine (and I realize it is only my own opinion, man), their 2011 effort, “Velociraptor!”, would not be one to recommend to those looking to hear the best of the band twice named best live act by the Brit Awards. There are, however, a handful of tracks worth mentioning and the opening number, “Let’s roll just like we used to”, is most definitely at the forefront of these.

The lyrics are a harkening back to a simpler time “when we were young our hearts got lost in the circles”. The party boys are older and looking wistfully back at their rises and falls, the friends they’ve lost and the “ones that got away, oh”. The gong and horn call from far off that begin the song resound to us as if from a dream or through the ages from this half-remembered time. Then, the beat kicks in with the bass line, all snazzy and suave, and you see yourself walking into a bar or a party like James Bond oozing retro cool. The music is your theme song, calling to mind action hero invincibility and youthful exuberance. Yes, the song is remembering things better than they actually were, No bad times or hangovers, only euphoria and drunken debauchery, providing all sorts of stories to regale.

Can our aging bodies still handle the grind of party life? Well, let’s roll just like we used to and see.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.