Category Archives: 1992

R. Kelly & Public Announcement – Born Into the 90’s

R. Kelly & Public Announcement
Born Into the 90’s
January 14, 1992
Jive Records/ SME
055/100
R. Kelly & Public Announcement - Born into the 90's
1. She’s Loving Me // 2. She’s Got That Vibe // 3. Definition Of a Hotti // 4. I Know What You Need // 5. Keep It Street // 6. Born Into the 90’s // 7. Slow Dance (Hey Mr. DJ) // 8. Dedicated // 9. Honey Love // 10. Hangin’ Out // 11. Hey Love (Mr. Lee feat. R. Kelly)

These days in the post-I Believe I Can Fly, post-Ignition [Remix]-world R. Kelly, songer, songwriter, producer, millionaire, playboy, extraordinaire, really needs no introduction (although with some people for less positive reasons than with others, both related to his music and his private life) but in early 1992 when his completely self-produced debut album Born into the 90’s dropped he was just another new jack on the scene, the very last to succesfully ride the coattails of Teddy Riley’s new jack swing movement.

For those not around in the late ’80s/early ’90s, New Jack Swing was urban dance-pop that married traditional R&B/soul vocals with the minimal, melody-lacking, pistoning, pumping hip-hop and dance music beats of the era, and this phase in pop music was instrumental in making sure that every R&B album released since featured at least half a dozen hip-hop verses and every hip-hop album released since has at least half a dozen R&B hooks on the quest for crossover appeal, leading to both really good and really bad music being made.

Being that the urban music world was already moving away from NJS in ’92  there was also another sound to be heard on this album. Also a mixture of hip-hop and R&B, but far mellower, more melodic, pioneered by the group JoDeCi on their ’91 release Forever My Lady, closer to the R&B/ soul sound of the late ’70s/ early ’80s. This sound can be heard on the ballads, two of which tellingly hit #01 on the US R&B charts, which none of the up-tempo numbers did.

The album is credited to R. Kelly & Public Announcement, but if anyone but Robert Kelly can be heard so much as sneezing anywhere on this album I’ll be damned. The lead- and background-singing, the rapping, the random talking-interjections and the voiceover thing that occasionally replies to said talking bits all seem to be the R., making these three gentlemen (I counted the people on the album cover that weren’t mr. Kelly) the most useless “band members” since Andrew Ridgely “played guitar” in Wham!

Most of the songs on Born Into the 90’s sound extremely dated (I suppose that this album’s title should provide ample warning) but for what they are they don’t sound bad. R. Kelly certainly doesn’t do NJS any worse than the style’s originators (Keith Sweat and a trio called Guy). She’s Loving MeShe’s Got That Vibe and I Know What You Need are probably as good as this obsolete genre gets (bar a couple of classic Bobby Brown, New Edition, Keith Sweat and Guy singles) but that doesn’t mean that anyone who didn’t grew up during this era and doesn’t get nostalgic feelings from this type of music, needs to hear them.

The ballads Slow dance (Hey Mr. DJ)Dedicated and Honey Love fare a lot better, go a long way in introducing R. Kelly’s signature PB&J vocals and his signature syruppy slow jam instrumentals (all that’s missing this first time around is the raindrops embedded in the rhythm section) to the masses, and were the only big hits off this album. it should be noted that Kells doesn’t drop any of his now-patented wacky sexual metaphores anywhere here. There’s no sexosaurus, he doesn’t compare his member to a remote control and on Slow Dance (Hey Mr. DJ) he seems to literally be talking about slow dancing (how cute!) so either he hadn’t come op with his signature lyric writing yet, or he just didn’t dare hitting the music listening audiences with them just yet on his debut album.

The only songs that outright suck are the ones on which R. Kelly shows off his rap skills on the majority of the track, such as Definition of a Hotti and the title track.
In 1992 nobody had come up with putting melody in a rap flow and harmonising along like BTNH or Ja Rule so Kells raps in flat voice, and while he know how to construct a flow and stay on beat he does sound horribly generic whenever he does it (He doesn’t quite go into MC Hammer territory, but he comes dangerously close. It also doesn’t help matters that everybody and their grandmother has sampled Patrice Rushen’s Remind Me for a R&B/hip-hop song, and that the title-track has to compete with much better songs using the same instrumental.)

There are two surprises on here, both on the tail-end of the disc.
Hangin’ Out pairs a rather vanilla midtempo NJS beat with a saucy sax and rather than bumpin’ and mackin’ his way through it, or making overly dramatic declarations of everlasting love, he goes for a nostalgic block party vibe and does a pretty terrific job with it.
Hey Love, a cover of the Stevie Wonder song and a duet with Chigaco rapper/ hip-hop/ house DJ Mr. Lee, that doesn’t really sound good but does have Robert sound almost exactly like Stevie himself, which is an impressive feat for any vocalist.

All in all Born Into the 90’s is a promising debut that was probably hot when it came out but hasn’t aged well at all. While it is interesting to hear Robert succumbing to long forgotten musical trends and finding his voice, this stuff won’t be of interest all but hardcore R. Kelly fans or those people who are nostalgic for the New Jack Swing era.

Best tracks
She’s Loving Me
Slow Dance (Hey Mr. DJ)
Honey Love
Hangin’ Out

Recommendations
Buy the above four songs off iTunes, they are fairly entertaining. Leave the rest of this stuff alone, it’s not wack per se but it’s not that good either.

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Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine

Rage Against The Machine
Rage Against The Machine
November 3, 1992
Epic Records/ SME
090/100
RATM - Rage Against The Machine
1. Bombtrack // 2. Killing In The Name Of // 3. Take The Power Back // 4. Settle For Nothing
// 5. Bullet In The Head // 6. Know Your Enemy // 7. Wake Up // 8. Fistful Of Steel // 9. Township Rebellion // 10. Freedom

My apologies for my absence from the blog. I was a busy student following courses in management learning very little. If anything my appreciation for management books significantly decreased. What does this have to do with the music? I really don’t know. All I know is that these days I need more Rock and Metal to ventilate my studies-frustrated brain. This leads me to find musical comfort with one of my favorite bands: Rage Against The Machine. If the name doesn’t ring a bell for you just stop reading, get the album and listen to the lyrics. Even in these ‘political correct’ times, twenty one years from its release this album’s message still makes sense.

On Youtube search for their 1992 and 1993 interviews. (An ad blocker of some sorts is advised before you visit the cursed Youtube!) I’ll recap what this band is about: San Francisco; Tom Morello, Zack De La Rocha, Brad Wilk and Tim Bob start as an underground rock band with a social message; Epic gives the band a record and the rest is history, as they say. Killing In The Name Of and Bombtrack became massive hits despite (or maybe because of) initial censorship. RATM’s life shows gained a reputation that attracted a solid fan base through the years. This album is one of the best albums released during the nineties if you ask me.

Bombtrack kicks off the album. A subtle melody leads to the bombastic intro and from there on the entire band makes its presence. From 3:05 the real goodness starts if you ask me: Tom Morello lets the guitar speak for itself. Lyrically Zack introduces himself with this “funky radical bombtrack” to give the “Landlords and powerwhores” a wake-up call. Killing In The Name Of brings a grin to my face. This is Rock with a funky bass line and Zack whipping up the audience to jump around. Tom’s guitar around 3:54 – 4:10 is icing on the cake. The iconic “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!” line says it all. Lyrically the song addresses the abuse of power behind police badges and insignia.

Take The Power Back, the title says it all. This a funky protest song that would take every B-Boy into seventh heaven if it were a break-beat instrumental. Listen carefully and you understand why the band is called Rage Against The Machine. The instrumental part of this song gives me the shivers: the drumming is tastefully energetic, the bass line is groovy and the guitar sounds finger licking good. Settle For Nothing follows. Mostly spoken word, instrumental backing and Metal. In this song Zack takes his stance. Bullet In The Head is different. A more laid back instrumental part with an almost satirical vocal delivery from Zack. 3:08, prepare to launch. 4:29, Metal! Lyrically the song is about propaganda, the masses and the sheeple. The title describes the sad ending of the sheeple.

Know Your Enemy, the guitar welcomes you to a funky jam. Around 0:48 you can headbang on this solid rocker. Zack’s rapping is easy to understand. 2:38 – 3:06, chorus and the funky jam resumes. 4:09, Zack continues his message until the music stops at 4:42 and you hear “All of which are American dreams!”. If Zack is to be believed there’s no such thing but I rather prefer George Carlin’s explanation. Wake Up start like a good Metal song until around 1:00 the funky jam takes off. At 3:31 the song changes again, back to Metal until 4:29 at “I think I heard a shot”. 5:07 and the band starts to jam. Lyrically this song is about raising awareness about civil rights activists like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Yet they were shot, so wake up.

Fistful Of Steel starts as a steady rocker. Smooth bass lines and wails create a sonic contrast: Zack’s delivery sounds as if he is preaching accompanied by sirens. 4:45, the Hard Rock part starts and the guitars screams. Lyrically the song is about how the microphone is Zack’s gun, his “fistful of steel”. Township Rebellion kicks off with the rhythm section launching the song in a rocker at 0:34 until the break-beats resume at 1:06. At 1:34 the rock instrumentals grind forwards again and at 2:07 there’s just grooving with subtle guitars solos. After about every thirty seconds the song shifts into another instrumental phase to close off in a grand finale starting at 4:28. “Why stand on a silent platform, fight the war, fuck the norm” says it all. Freedom is basically an extension of the previous song. The entire last song is a big outro with jams and lyrics. 3:43, the final starts with grinding Hard Rock, lingers on in “Freedom Yeah!” and everything ends with a growl and the noise of a PA-system.

I like this album a lot. I re-listened to this album after the Sound City documentary by Dave Grohl. RATM went to Sound City to record their album following in the footsteps of Nirvana and here I am typing about this album. I gave this album a 090/100, why? Zack De La Rocha’s vocals are fine for one listen but that limits the appeal of this album. The band is great. Tom Morello on guitar elevates everything to a higher level. Tim Bob’s bass lines are groovy and Brad Wilk’s drumming has the just right energy. Also this album did not become victim of the so-called loudness wars: turn up the volume as much as you like, the sound remains crisp and dynamic.

Content wise there is a lot to like about this album. You hear Funk, Rock, Metal and Hip-Hop in various parts of the album. Lyrically speaking Zack reminds me of an angry Sly Stone or Curtis Mayfield, although a tad repetitive and he screams a lot. Sure his rapping/spoken word is preachy but it’s very tolerable. Early interviews reveal that RATM was influenced by various genres and artists from Nirvana to Run DMC.

Best Tracks
Bombtrack
Killing In The Name Of
Take The Power Back
Township Rebellion
(I could mention every track given there’s no filler to be found i.m.h.o.)

Recommendation
I mentioned it in the first paragraph: “If the name doesn’t ring a bell for you just stop reading, get the album and listen to the lyrics. In these ‘political correct’ times this album still makes sense.” Even if you don’t particularly care for the lyrical content, highly recommended.

Sincerely,

Yours Truly.


Take That – Take That and Party

Take That

Take That and Party

BMG/ Sony Music Entertainment

17-8-1992

There’s a general consensus about the early 1990’s being a terrible time for popular music. I find that to be entirely unfair. Sure, an incredible amount of bullshit was released and eagerly consumed by the record buying audiences (You see kids, way back in the day one had to go to the store and exchange money for music. Isn’t it unfortunate that you cannot steal cigarettes off the interweb? Those ironically enough were a lot cheaper and easier to come by in that day and age. They were even advertised in magazines and on tv. But I’m getting off topic here.)  In any time in the history of humanity there’s bullshit music being made to be consumed by the absolute majority of people and to be despised by a small minority, just for being popular. I believe the first half of the ‘90s were no worse than any time after 1979 since today. Therefore I’m out to find some of that good stuff. I mean in the ’70s few thought of disco as good, serious music and while today still few people do take it seriously (I guess it’s just not that kind of musical genre) a lot of people today readily recognize the art and craft behind it. So, why not ’90s pop?

Because after 15 years of bitching and moaning about one another’s personal flaws last year all members have finally regrouped, and clearly someone gives a shit because they are having a successful reunion album and tour I’m kicking this attempt off by reviewing British vocal quintet Take That’s somewhat self titled 1992 debut Take That and Party, the band was originally assembled by manager Nigel Martin-Smith who saw the stateside success of vocal boy band New Kids on the Block and thought a European, or more specifically a British equivalent would be a dandy idea. He started looking for possible members from in and around the city of Manchester.  He selected the soon-to-be members by holding auditions, not unlike those talent shows that make finding something worthwhile to watch on the telly on a Friday so goddamn difficult. Gary Barlow participated in one of these and impressed Martin-Smith so much with his singing and songwriting skills he made him the centre-piece of the group. After touring a few gay clubs and releasing a couple of ill received but mildly successful singles they started to get hugely popular among gay club-visitors and teen-aged girls alike. They were modeled, like any band containing five pretty boys singing and doing little in the instrumental department after New Edition which was itself an attempt to recreate the Jackson 5. However rather than making something retro Take That took cues from whatever artist and music genre was popular at the moment. From what I believe to be the late ’70s on there was an emergence of digital Music-making technology, kicking off with synthesizers which had to be played by actual people and today culminating in the Fruity loops generation, where everybody and their grandmother can claim to be a musician in any one of the electronic musical genres which nobody who doesn’t like to take lots of drugs at rave parties gives half a shit about (…). Take That and Party was released far beyond the point where you needed a lot of musicians in your studio to make music, all they had were a bunch of producers and Barlow, therefore minimizing the amount of people who could object against misguided and questionable ideas. Then they… O my fucking GOD why am I doing this? That title, that album cover and most importantly that story. This cannot be anything but a musical catastrophe. The music industry taking a dump on record buyers worldwide. Both actual fans and people whose children kept on bitching until they couldn’t do much but buy the fucking cd already… Oh right. Robbie Williams, the biggest rock star in Europe in the 2000s started off in this band, and singlehandedly tore it apart eventually by leaving, before rejoining it in 2010 after his solo-career went to shit. You can see half of him on the absolute right of the cover. Anyway, they released their debut album Take That and Party to decent enough success.

Let’s find out just how much torture it is listening to Take That and Party!

1. I Found Heaven

Robbie allegedly left Take That when he did because he was underexposed in the group but while Barlow is the undisputable alpha male in the group Rob does take the lead vocal on the first song of their first album. He is the best thing about I Found Heaven. The instrumental struggles to be soulful but turns out stillborn in stead. Allegedly the band hates this song with every inch of every band member’s respective body. Even though this is truly awful indeed and Gary indeed did not write it he did write some shit that is even worse than this, most of which is also on this album, so his incessant claims that this is the worst song of Take That’s or his own career (did he ever really have a career outside of the group?) is not wholly justified.

2. Once You’ve Tasted Love

This instrumental showcases the horrible, horrible, horrible electronic musical genre the primitive computers of the late 80’s and early ’90s blurred out, seemingly without human input, called eurodance. Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and Aretha Franklin together could not have breathed life into it if ever they tried. Also, to add insult to even more insult those cheesy female backing vocals and those goddamn sound effects make this a lot worse than, let’s just say I Found Heaven… To make things the absolute worst, Take That seems to be an incredibly earnest band which isn’t even a bit ironic about their music. Fuck.

3. It Only Takes a Minute

What’s said about the previous two tracks mostly rings true for this one as well, but this works somewhat better because it more fun (fun is completely underrated in the process of music making), albeit in an incredibly cheesy way.

4. A Million Love Songs

Wow, even more cheesy… Oh wait I’m listening to a British boy band album recorded and released in the early ‘90s. I must keep that in mind before making more such comments. Anyway, this song, like most of this album, was written by lead vocalist/ main songwriter Gary Barlow he and this was actually pretty decent. Rather than robotic piano keys sprinkled over robotic beats like disco dip on an shit-flavored ice cream cone we get an actual sax over some drums you won’t mind, even without the aid of mdma. Just for sounding more organic than the three tracks preceding it A Million Love Songs automatically sound better but it’s also a decent love song in and by itself, with semi-clever, heartfelt lyrics soulfully and sincerely sung by Gary. Not the best song ever recorded or anything but passable nonetheless.

5. Satisfied

More outdated euro-trash but this time with a more obvious disco influence. Unlike disco I don’t think the majority dance music from this particular genre and time will ever appeal to anyone who wasn’t a young or very very high when it came out. I suppose Bieber fans should check this out if they want to understand how I feel about their hero with music from the future not being available, and all.

6. I Can Make It

That doesn’t mean all or even most of the ballads fare any better. It should be noted that this type of song is oft imitated and often done better by ‘bands’ or their greedy management and production crew who found it necessary to be influenced by this album’s sound.

7. Do What You Like

Any comment I could give about Do What You Like I have already wasted on earlier Take That and Party’s earlier epic failures. I can warn you about its video. That shit is way too disturbing for what is supposed to be a band aimed at young teenagers, although since Take That was also there for the gay clubs it does make some sense. Alas, what’s seen cannot be unseen, dear readers.

8. Promises

I’m beginning to think most of the synths used in the creation of this album were used solely utilized because they were available, not because of any underlying musical idea. When I started listening to Take that and Party I hoped for a hilarious and somewhat intriguing look into the world of pop music around twenty years ago. Alas, most of this album is rather a boring-as-fuck look into the world of pop music of around twenty years ago. For some strange reason I found that Barlow sounds a bit like David Bowie at the beginning of this song. Not that that should be seen as any sort of comparison between Barlow and Bowie as artists, because if I did that my house would be shelled by Bowie fanatics.

9. Why Can’t I Wake Up With You

While I like the hiphop influence this track shows it is more likely bandwagon-jumping than anything else. Also this song sucks, blows, is not good. At all.

10. Never Want to Let You Go

The guitars or crappy 1992 synths pretending to be guitars give this an extremely mild reggae vibe. Unfortunately Barlow doesn’t appear to have the balls to attempt to piss off everyone of Caribbean descent hearing this by adopting a faux Jamaican accent…

11. Give Good Feeling

This song is the audio equivalent of the car breaking down and smoke coming out of the engine… before the whole thing blows to bits off course. This is that kind of party.

12. Could It Be Magic

A Barry Manilow cover. I guess nobody should surprised about this, especially me since at this point I’ve almost heard the entirety of this album. At least hearing the few Williams-led tracks, of which Could It Be Magic is one, are interesting to see what this boy band led to or conversely where Williams started his career. Not that that makes this a good song or some impossible shit like that… Apparently this has won a BRIT award in 1993. Don’t want to fucking know what kind songs lost to this.

13. Take that and Party

And this album is over, oh and for those of you who give half a shit, surprise surprise! The title tracks is just as boring and bloodless as the rest of it.

Best track

A Million Love Songs

Conclusions

There may have been some good music made in the early ‘90s but Take That and Party contains very little of it. By trying to be really, really hip in and using the latest technology of 1992 Take That and Party sounds dated beyond belief. Basically the production sounds like Thake That’s producers intended them to be a Milli Vanilli rip-off. There is one song that still barely works today. That song is listed above. The other 12 tracks are one long suckfest. Whilst I am against the term ‘commercial music’ because that describes any music by an artist or band who would like to sell a lot of records I believe Take That and Party is definitely over-commercial because attempts at creating anything with any artistic merit is thrown overboard without anything to help it stay afloat. This album was solely made for separating as many people from their money as possible. Still, Barlow and Williams in particular aren’t bad singers and they recorded two more albums before breaking up in 1996, with different producers than they utilized here. Therefore I may someday review their sophomore Everything Changes if I am so inclined.

Recommendations

The only song that’s worth checking out is A Million Love Songs, but people with a cheese allergy should avoid that one too as it may very well mean the death of ‘em. The rest of it needs not, nay.. may not be revisited, even for nostalgia reasons!

Please leave your comments, concerns, death threats, shout-outs to your mother, idea’s and suggestions in the comment section. Don’t be shy! You can even use an anonymous guest account if the content of your comment is too vile for you to use your Facebook account!