Staff Picks, Volume 3

Friday, November 16, 2012
Staff Picks, Volume 3

This Month's Picks...By Mike L.
Stay tuned for more!

Ol' Dirty Bastard

This pick may surprise some of my fellow Rhino Staffers as I'm not thought of as the hip hop guy. But, I just loved this release from former Wu-Tang member ODB. For me, so much of this record is about "Got Your Money (featuring Kelis)." You know you've danced to it, right? Come on. It's just so damn catchy, fun, dirty and down right good. I have this album on vinyl and I recall breaking it out as a "go to" when in several instances I ended up the DJ at some friend's parties in the early 2000s. This was like a trick up the sleeve – instant dance party. And those lyrics…really? Yes. And the gritty, throaty tone of his vocals and his unique odd phrasing (such as in "You Don't Want To F**k With Me") are elements I loved. You could almost hear in his voice that there was something off kilter and totally crazy about him. Sadly, he died in 2004 but his wackiness will live on in his music. Revisit his troubled story and this album.


In 2003, Rhino reissued this classic record from 1971, as a remastered and expanded version with bonus tracks. What a solid release this is. I ate this release up, listening on repeat and turning on friend after friend (if they weren't already fans) to Marc Bolan's T. Rex. While known to many as one of the early "glam rock" artists, along with David Bowie, to me this just sounded like great classic and somewhat timeless music. The first three tracks, "Mambo Sun," "Cosmic Dancer," and "Jeepster" are amazing. The slower, reflective "Cosmic Dancer," in particular, soars with beauty and is my favorite T. Rex track. I recommend starting your next road trip up the coast with this record. You'll also recognize other classics such as "Bang A Gong (Get It On)." What an awesome and classic album cover too (you'll just have to look it up if it's not emblazoned in your mind already). When I think of a quintessential Rhino release, this is it.

Depeche Mode

Somehow five years have already passed since this record's release. Nonetheless, this is still a relatively recent album from the influential UK electronic synth-pop act who formed in the '80s and delivered such hits as "Personal Jesus," "Policy Of Truth," and many others. This album brought them back in force, delivering a swift upper cut without mercy. The record starts off with thick siren like sounds and then delivers a string of powerful dark, brooding electronic fused songs with "pain and suffering in various tempos," as the back cover proclaims. Speaking of the back cover, I think the picture embodies much of the sound and essence of this record as front man David Gahan sits perched back, legs slightly spread, wearing a wife beater t-shirt, looking a bit stern yet confident as hell (like someone who's been through hell), while principal songwriter Martin Gore and fellow band mate Andy Fletcher stand tall behind him. David Gahan is bad ass (whether you like it or not) and the first 5 songs here and track #11, "Lillian," are as well.

Joy Division

I was first exposed to Joy Division's songs unknowingly when a spastic San Diego hard core band, Swing Kids, covered "Warsaw." It had a raw guttural power and drove the crowd wild when they played it, albeit in their own more screaming fashion. I was in high school and never heard the band say it was a cover so I didn't realize at the time that it wasn't their song. I laughed years later when I finally got re-exposed to "Warsaw," but this time with Joy Division's original version. Ian Curtis, his tragic end, then New Order... quite a story. This box has everything you need (and maybe more as it's for the fan, not the casual listener). The title track of this release, "Heart And Soul" is one of my favorites with its creative drum beat, dissonant guitars and brooding lyrics. Other highlights: "Transmission," "Atmosphere," "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (of course), "Shadowplay," "She's Lost Control." Also, watch the film "Control."


For guitarists, I think checking out Television is a must. I used to play guitar in a band and we had the occasional comparisons to this band due to the dueling guitars. I wasn't familiar with this band at the time, but I think they clearly influenced other people that had influenced me. And it's precisely the angular, back and forth rhythmic chops with one guitar while the other lays down a melody that carves out the very cool distinction of Television. The title track, "Marquee Moon" has a great hook and an extended "jam" (not in a cheesy way) that leaves an impression. This band came out of the NYC punk rock scene in the late '70s. We're lucky to enjoy the uniqueness of it captured so well on this 1977 debut release, expanded and remastered (with nice packaging to boot.)