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Texacaliago Tuesday - Album of the Week - Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine

 

 

 

 

 

It's Tom Morello's birthday today, so figured I'd spotlight the pinnacle of this career on Rage Against the Machine's first (and best) album.  While Zack De La Rocha's trademark intensity and fiery catharsis often steels the show here, the innovative guitar-playing of Mr. Morello is arguably more impressive.  He used his instrument in a variety of creative ways here, often mimicking the sounds of early 90s hip-hop, sirens, radio feedback, DJ scratching, etc.  But aside from the non-tradition use of his guitar, he also cooked up some incredibly awesome and explosive riffs here as well (not to mention an occasional rad solo or two).  Combined with the heavy lock-step rhythm of Brad Wilk behind the kit, the highly underrated Tim Commerfold on bass, and the ferocity of De La Rocha's delivery, the results were incredibly explosive and powerful.  

Often times a band really hits it out of the park on their debut, and with apologies to Evil Empire and Battle of LA (both of which are very good albums in their own right), Rage's first album is the sound of the band clicking on all cylinders and performing with the type of urgency that was never quite captured on their subsequent releases.

Truly a classic, and still a highly relevant album today more than ever before.  

Anger is a gift.

 

Texacaliago Tuesday - Album of the Week - Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde

 

 

 

A blurry photograph of Dylan's face

I tend to get into trouble when I attempt to write about Bob Dylan's epic 60s albums.  That's probably because I had a borderline unhealthy infatuation with them during my SF years.  You see, Bob's music during this era struck such a deep emotional, existential, intellectual, meditative, philosophical, and spiritual cord with me, that it's really difficult to articulate without sounding like a complete lunatic (or, you know, maybe just a fanatical Dylanite).  

In essence, I had never listened to music that had such an intoxicating effect on me.  I had never listened to music that sounded more like a soundtrack to my life, to my inner psyche, music that seemed to open a gateway directly to my heart, soul, and most importantly my conscious.  Listening to albums like Blonde On Blonde hiking through Golden Gate Park, The Presidio, Marin Headlands, etc, felt like ego-death, it felt like I was in another dimension.  Listening to Bob's musical evolution from 1962 to the culmination of his genius on Blonde On Blonde made me feel like anything was possible, that the world was my oyster, that I could take my destiny in as far as any direction as I wanted it to go.  Whether it was my career, my love life, my spiritual life, my greater ambitions, etc, it was all there for me, ripe for the taking.  It made me feel like I had some secret access, some secret knowledge, some inside track to the world that only a select few were privy to.  Like I said, it was intoxicating, but also invigorating, and albums like this (along with Freewheelin, Bringing It All Back Home, and Highway 61), impacted me on such a deeply personal level, that it led to some pretty significant changes in my life, not least of which was breaking up with my girlfriend, quitting my job, and moving over 2,000 miles away to Chicago.  Simply put, these albums sound like total freedom, and not the hollow, mindless, flag-waving, chest-thumping variety that is often associated with that term.  I'm talking about real freedom, individual freedom, freedom from society's constraints, your relationships, your job, from all forms of dogma, freedom from your inner fears, freedom from your ego, freedom from everything.

So yeah, to say that Bob's music was "intoxicating" for me might be a bit of an understatement.  And, I have once again managed to not be able to write about Dylan's music without coming off as a total psychopath, but, I apparently can't help myself.  But don't just take my word for it.  Blonde On Blonde is considered my most critics to be one of the greatest albums of all-time.  They can describe the actual music found here in perhaps less fanatical, but no less profound terms:

"It is a cache of emotion, a well handled package of excellent music and better poetry, blended and meshed and ready to become part of your reality. Here is a man who will speak to you, a 1960s bard with electric lyre and color slides, but a truthful man with x-ray eyes you can look through if you want. All you have to do is listen." - Paul Williams - Crawdaddy Magazine - 1966

"The very title suggests the singularity and the duality we expect from Dylan. For Dylan's music of illusion and delusion—with the tramp as explorer and the clown as happy victim, where the greatest crimes are lifelessness and the inability to see oneself as a circus performer in the show of life—has always carried within it its own inherent tensions ... Dylan in the end truly UNDERSTANDS situations, and once one truly understands anything, there can no longer be anger, no longer be moralizing, but only humor and compassion, only pity." - Paul Nelson

"Dylan's body of work during the 14-months period ... stands unequaled in rock's 30-year history. In substance, style, ambition and achievement, no one has even come close to matching Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde." - Pat Humphries

"To have followed up one masterpiece with another was Dylan's history making achievement here ... Where Highway 61 Revisited has Dylan exposing and confronting like a laser beam in surgery, descending from outside the sickness, Blonde on Blonde offers a persona awash inside the chaos ... We're tossed from song to song ... The feel and the music are on a grand scale, and the language and delivery are a unique mixture of the visionary and the colloquial." - Michael Gray

"Blonde On Blonde begins with a joke and ends with a hymn; in between wit alternates with a dominant theme of entrapment by circumstances, love, society, and unrealized hope ... There's a remarkable marriage of funky, bluesy rock expressionism, and Rimbaud-like visions of discontinuity, chaos, emptiness, loss, being 'stuck'." - Robert Shelton

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