Sunday, May 16, 2010

Songs of "Sabotage"

Black Sabbath's Symptom of the Universe, from their sixth album - Sabotage (1975).

The main riff and Bill Ward's drumming are particularly spectacular. I love the turns this song takes, from the relentless power riff opening to the Yes-like technical rock midsection at 3:36 before climbing to the funky acoustic groove at 4:15. Ozzy's singing there is as good as it gets, perhaps the last time we would ever see the raw, ragged power that was the norm in the early days for Ozzy. I love the slow fade that takes us out of the song from that slow groove, the mellow retreat standing in such contrast to the gigantic pounding riff that opened the song. Check it out!

Sabbath's next two albums would display equal parts burnout, lack of inspiration and train wreck, leaving Sabotage as the last of the great Ozzy-era Sabbath albums, IMHO.

The Beastie Boys' Sabotage from Ill Communication - their fourth album (1994).

I took the long way around getting to the Beastie Boys. I arrived at college the year their 9 million selling debut Licensed to Ill hit the streets, so I definitely knew the words to Fight For Your Right to Party just like every other college student in the nation, but fundamentally I did not get what they were doing at all. Certainly with regards to sampling, where I remember complaining at the time that they had literally ripped off Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.

Nearly 25 years later I finally get it, the brilliance of sampling revealed to me at first by Fatboy Slim's first three albums and then the Propellerheads' Decksandrumsandrockandroll, all of which are brilliant.

My path to rap started with the song Bawtida from Kid Rock's gigantic breakthrough 11-fold platinum release, Devil Without a Cause. I was driving to Ohio, a 10+ hour ride. Probably an hour or so outside of Cincinnati I could usually begin to pick up a good rock radio station, but unbeknown to me, the station was doing a promotion where they had some poor DJ locked in the booth all weekend with Bawtida playing on a continuous loop to raise funds for a charity.

I was already seven hours into the drive when I tuned in, so I was completely zoned out. It took me at least 30 minutes to realize that this was not one long song, but actually a normal length song repeating. The song was heavy and rocking enough that I continued to listen to it, also curious about what was going on since there was absolutely nothing in the way of between-song promotion for the fund raiser. It was a solid TWO HOURS into this before the DJ finally cut in, and then he just wailed, "Will someone please get me some cigarettes?"

Later yet the whole promo was finally revealed, but by then I was singing along, so I continued to listen to Bawtida until it faded away as Cincinnati slipped from my rear view mirror - probably a total of 3.5 hours. Amazingly, I still had no idea who the artist was despite the fact that the song literally opens with Kid Rock yelling through a megaphone "My name is Kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiid Rock!", thinking it was just a long rebel yell kind of thing.

So after the Bawtida incident I was indoctrinated into rap.

MC Chris brought it all together for me, the use of booty-shaking loops and samples with the use of the voice and the word as a instruments of mind bending rhythm and flow. Taking things to a whole new level was the fact that his songs spoke not only of traditionals rap themes like sexual prowess and skill as a rapper, but also directly to my core nerd interests - a giant first. Here's a song that pretty well tells this story, with illustrative fan artwork in case you miss a line.

Recently DJ Format's funky explosion and MC Frontalot's hardcore nerdcore have both come onto my radar, all of that work remaining lodged in "high rotation" in iTunes for months now.

And after all this it struck me that I had never even heard any of the Beastie Boys albums past the first one. A couple of $1.99 eBay auctions later have delivered Paul's Boutique (1989) and Ill Communication, both of which have proven to be brilliant - filled with mind-blowing, funky, and hard-rocking songs. Sabotage is a great example. And the video is hilarious:

Here are some more from these albums, since they are so fantastic.

The UNBELIEVABLY funky but un-embed-able Root Down, also from Ill Communication.

Sound of Science, from Paul's Boutique, much of it laid on loops carved from Beatles tracks.

Egg Man, also from Paul's Boutique.


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