Eminem – Berzerk

Eminem_-_Berzerk

Will the real Slim Shady please stand up? Every album released after 2002’s The Eminem Show has featured Eminem rapping in different styles, rarely returning to the carefree freestyle form of his earlier records. Don’t get me wrong, I liked most of the later records – it just seemed like that era had been laid to rest. The rapid fire rhymes of yore had been replaced with earnest pop rap and cumbersome rants – both styles fearing a much slower vocal tempo. I hadn’t fallen off of the Eminem bandwagon, I simply had adjusted with the times and accepted who he had become. That’s why the 1st single from the forthcoming Marshall Mathers LP 2 is such a surprising delight.

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Johnny Cash – Delia’s Gone

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Today marks 10 years since Johnny Cash left us so I thought I’d interrupt the regularly scheduled reviews to post a special Attack of the Killer Track! article. There was a certain sense of symmetry in following up a Nine Inch Nails review with a piece about The Man in Black that I couldn’t resist. In the early 90’s Johnny Cash’s popularity was on a downturn, his 1991 album The Mystery of Life only receiving an initial pressing of 500 copies from Mercury Records. This paved the way for the comeback of Johnny Cash with 1994’s Rick Rubin production, American Recordings. Rick Rubin of course was closely associated with the Beastie Boys and Run D.M.C in the mid 80’s (and currently mugging in the new Eminem video). Rubin urged Cash to record in a minimalist setting, which suited the stark material. Rubbing up against material penned by Glenn Danzig, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, and Cash himself was a Karl Silbersdorf and Dick Toops song that Cash had previously recorded in 1962. The basis of the song was the murder of Delia Green on Christmas Day in 1900. Delia’s Gone was the epitome of “Outlaw Country” – stark, unsettling, with vivid imagery. The story of love gone wrong with a final resolution – this is gangsta rap as filtered through Johnny Cash (which Bono of U2 hinted at in his essay included with the Love, God, Murder box set). Johnny Cash of course also covered U2’s “One”, and THAT video was directed by Anton Corbijn who directed the video for “Delia’s Gone”. The video stars Kate Moss in the role of Delia and it really is a masterpiece of sound & vision. Shake the image of the Johnny Cash who covered Nine Inch Nails “Hurt” towards the end of his life. In its stead, listen to Outlaw Johnny Cash singing these verses:

She was low down and trifling
And she was cold and mean
Kind of evil make me want to grab my sub machine
Delia’s gone, one more round Delia’s gone

First time I shot her I shot her in the side
Hard to watch her suffer
But with the second shot she died
Delia’s gone, one more round Delia’s gone

Johnny Cash – God’s Gonna Cut You Down

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Posthumous albums by major artists can present a challenge to the fans of those artists. Sure, I can appreciate the records Tupac Shakur cut during his lifetime but do we really need an endless parade of archival material that wasn’t suitable for release during his lifetime? So it goes. It was with great trepidation in mid 2006 when I bought American V: A Hundred Highways – the 1st record of unreleased Johnny Cash material that he cut just prior to his death on September 12, 2003. I needn’t have worried so much – not only was the album of stunning quality, it was also his 1st #1 record since 1969’s Johnny Cash at San Quentin. Personally speaking (and this is my site after all), it gave a track that will go on every CASH mix I make until the day I die – “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”. The track is notable for featuring an intoxicating mix of militant & gospel based sounds, Johnny’s righteous voice driving the point home with every syllable. The song is based on a traditional folk tune and has been recorded by quite a few artists in the past (Johnny Cash’s Sun Records buddy Elvis Presley being the most notable). None of them approached the material from this angle – this is the best version ever laid to tape. The video is notable for featuring a ridiculous amount of celebrities, driving home the point that the love of Johnny Cash is a universal condition (and one that doesn’t need to be treated). It gives me chills to hear Johnny Cash sing these words:

He called my name and my heart stood still
When he said, “John go do My will!”

Go tell that long tongue liar
Go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter
Tell ’em that God’s gonna cut ’em down

Johnny Cash – American III: Solitary Man

Part 23 of a series that will run every Friday throughout 2012 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays

In the late 90’s / early 00’s one of my best friends was a cowboy. Not in the sense of dealing with livestock followed by romantic nights in a tent – it was more like he wore cowboy hats and drove a Ford truck. For me, that’s pretty damn close to being a cowboy. We were opposite in almost every way imaginable, but for a time we hung out every weekend. I’d drag him to the Princeton Record Exchange with some of my other friends, and he’d drag me to the rodeo.

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