This week TWLB will be posting some nice lists all about the Beastie Boys, simply because they are great and make us very happy indeed, and have been doing this amazing trick for years. So, this week you already have the top 5 Beastie Boys singles, with the Top 4 Beastie Boys albums and the Top 3 Beastie Boys EP’s to follow. There is a possibility that TWLB might even do something about Beastie Boys videos or their Grand Royal magazine. Anyway, today, its the……….
The Top 4 Beastie Boys Albums
No.4 – The Mix-Up
Evolution probably dictated this for the Beastie Boys – this is the offspring of The In-Sound From Way Out, Root Down, Namaste, In 3’s etc etc etc. It needed to be done. A whole album of Jimmy Smith type organ driven, fuzzy jazz funk instrumentals. The fact it is pretty great, that it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, and that the likes of ‘The Rat Cage’ and ‘Suco De Tangerina’ are standouts from the Beasties total output, elevates this album above the likes of ‘Hello Nasty‘ and ‘To The 5 Boroughs‘.
Stand out track – ‘The Rat Cage’
No.3 – Check Your Head
After the pure Hip Hop thrills and superb sampling on ‘Paul’s Boutique’, ‘Check Your Head’ is a progression in a different direction that makes perfect sense. Fusing their Punk / DIY roots with the fundamentals of Hip Hop – the beats, the funk – they create a grungey, thrilling compilation, with sharp rhyming, bouncy beats, ROCK (in the thundering ‘Time for Livin’ and ‘Gratitude’ and some sublime funk (in Namaste particularly). Also, in ‘So What’cha Want’, you have the genesis of the next album, ‘Ill Communication’ – it started right here, on this album, on that track. Check the video out here.
Stand out track – ‘So Whatcha Want’
No.2 – Paul’s Boutique
Ignoring the fact that this is a quantum leap in style and substance from ‘Licensed to Ill‘, and just judging it as a singular work, ‘Paul’s Boutique’ is a fine Hip Hop album. In fact, it is one of the best party hip hop albums ever. Its a raucous, joyous celebration of Hip Hop – life affirming, even. The samples are audacious and brilliantly assembled into the songs (take, for example, the little sample of ‘Stop That Train’ by Clint Eastwood and General Saint’ on ‘Stop That Train’, or the fuzz guitar work out of The Isley Brothers ‘Who’s That Lady’ deployed on ‘Year and a Day’). The raps are generally an improvement on the snot-nosed bawling employed on ‘Licensed to Ill’ (though not always – and ultimately, that is what knocks it down to no.2 on my list). Overall, it’s an album that refreshes you, invigorates and inspires you.
Stand out track – ‘The Sounds of Science’
No.1 – Ill Communication
The first time I heard this, on its day of release in 1994, I was trying to make a go of it as an entrepreneur, running a music rehearsal studio. I had a lot of time on my hands, and this album was played to death that summer, alongside Wu-Tang Clan’s ‘Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’. This album still holds up very well. From the nagging, addictive flute loop of opener ‘Sure Shot’, to the hypnotic, psychedelic ‘Shambala’ and ‘Bodhisattva Vow’ and the relative quiet of ‘Transitions’, via the ROCK masterpiece that is ‘Sabotage’ (and that era-defining video) and hardcore flourishes of ‘Heart Attack Man’ and ‘Tough Guy’, this album is a varied masterpiece. The highlights are numerous, and as well as those I have already mentioned, there are some fantastic highlights – ‘Fluttermans Rule’, ‘Eugene’s Lament’, ‘Flute Loop’ and ‘Get It Together’, that has a great rap from Q-Tip from Tribe Called Quest….I could go on. It plays beautifully, it plays fluidly, it plays like a classic. It is a classic. It is the Beastie Boys finest moment – a grungy, pounding, fuzzy, jazzy, funky hip hop, soul, funk and rock bouillabaisse. Funny, furious and funky. There, I’ll shut up now. Except to say that ‘Ill Communication’ completed the Beastie Boys creative highpoint, a trinity of near perfect albums, kicking off in 1989 with ‘Paul’s Boutique’ and finishing with this one five years later. These 3 are the Beastie Boys equivalent of ‘Music of my Mind’, ‘Talking Book’ and ‘Innervisions’. Their ‘classic’ period.
Stand out track – ‘Sure Shot’