Knoxville music scene regular Jonathan Nicolosi has been busy the past couple of weeks putting together a benefit concert for his friend Edye McComas, who racked up some sizable medical bills after a recent fall from a balcony. In his spare time, though, he’s managed to listen to a few albums. Here they are.
Geto Boys, Grip It! On That Other Level (Rap-A-Lot Records, 1989)
Wow. This is honest, straight-from-the-heart rap. “Punk rap,” if you will. It had all the elements of incredible DJ work, sampling, cutting up tracks and that “leave it alone” style of production one wants when coming off the cuff. These guys rapped what they knew about, all was fair game and all was real. This, at the time, was a subculture in America that if anyone knew about then, they would have gotten in on the ground floor and rode it like a Warren Buffet investment. This is what is now, true gangsta rap/hip-hop.
Failure, Fantastic Planet (Slash/Warner Bros., 1996)
When I first heard this album, I went and grabbed my best headphones, sat in a comfortable chair, and enjoyed every little piece I could pick out, as there were many. Ken Andrews was and still is a master at production and ear candy. It is one of those albums you can go from track one until the end without skipping a thing. And after a while it becomes one 68-minute-long song. And Kelly Scott, one incredible 65-beats-a-minute drummer. Some of those fills are mind-boggling. I call it “heroin rock,” slow but layered and in your face with guitars everywhere.
Ryan Adams, Cold Roses (Lost Highway, 2005)
Don’t get me started on this guy, the times I have seen him live, and the times he has let me down live. In the studio, this man is a beast. And I believe this is going to go down as his White Album. His first with the Cardinals, it turned out to be that “bluebird singing.” Truly a gem with lines like, “It’s been raining that Tennessee honey,” the mind is filled with visuals that are fictitious, yet somehow tangible. This is also an album where every song counts.
The Black Lillies, The Black Lillies (2009)
I remember stopping by Cruz [Contreras’] apartment less than a year ago and by that time he already had more than handful of good originals under his belt. In this deadpan tone he said to me, “J.J., I got this new one you might like a lot knowing what it is you like. I only have the first verse and the chorus written.” He belted it out with me sitting behind the drum set. I didn’t even hit a hi-hat. I couldn’t, as I was captured from the get-go. The song: “There’s Only One.” Cruz is one of my best friends, but this has nothing to do with helping a friend out, but more with a friend helping me out with good damn music. He has surrounded himself with a helluva cast, too, and boy, does Leah Gardner bring it live. This is Knoxville’s future right here.