I have been struggling with what to write about lately that does not tie back with the thorn that continues to be in our side called COVID-19. So I figured, let me try to revive this section of my blog and write a post about something we all love… music!
Music has a universal way of just alleviating our sorrows – no matter what genre you listen to. Put on a good tune, and let your mind escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life – something we have needed in the last year and presently more than ever! And music from ‘back in the day’ has that much of a sweeter touch. Of course, ‘back in the day’ will evoke a different period of time for different people. For me, I equate that to the mid-’90s and early 2000’s.
I decided to sift through my CD binder – you know, those big leather binders that can store hundreds of CD’s and DVD’s – and, well, I definitely took an impromptu trip down memory lane. Long before streaming platforms were around, there was a company called Columbia House where you could buy all kinds of media (CD’s, DVD’s, etc) in bulk. They would snail mail you a bunch of stamps (yes, like postage stamps), which had thumbnail images of the latest music and movies, and you would basically make your selection on a card and mail it back. My, have we come a long way from that! Anyways, back then, that was how I acquired many of my albums outside of the traditional in-store shopping (something that feels like a luxury now too, doesn’t it?!) Sheesh.
I’ve always been partial to R&B/Soul/Reggae/Pop – and my collection is very reflective of this, but really I enjoy anything that sounds good and catchy. I decided to select my top 7 albums from my version of ‘back in the day’. These are in no particular order at all, but here are some old-time favourites of mine:
The Score – The Fugees (1996)
The Score by The Fugees is definitely up there when it comes to classic rap albums of all time. This album was actually my very first CD that I ever bought back in 1996 so it definitely holds a special place in my collection.
The Fugees was made up of trio, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, and Pras Michel and The Score went on to win multiple Grammies and gained major accolades in the industry for its blend of raw storytelling and hints of intimacy with the use of live instruments throughout the album giving it that head-bopping, casual vibe. Unfortunately, the Fugees disbanded not long after the release of this album but did go on to pursue successful solo opportunities in the years to come. The Score remains one of the most memorable hip-hop albums of all time.
Razorblade Suitcase – Bush X (1996)
As I mentioned, I tend to gravitate towards R&B/Soul/Pop when it comes to music, but I do appreciate all genre’s and Bush’s 1996 album, Razorblade Suitcase was a memorable one for me.
Although this album didn’t quite hit the mark for critics garnering relatively average reviews, I personally enjoyed it and it’s one of the only non-R&B albums that I have. I’m not really into the head-banging, heavy metal stuff, but Bush’s sound always hit the spot for me – a good hybrid of grunge and alternative rock.
Dancehall Xplosion ’99 – Various Artists (1999)
When I was in high school, I developed a very strong liking to reggae and dancehall music. The smooth, cultured vibes of any tune from the legendary Bob Marley always had a way to soothe the soul.
My thing at the time was collecting compilation albums from the local market because CD’s were obviously still very much the way people listened to music back then. Dancehall Xplosion ’99 was one of the first compilation albums I got, along with its sibling Reggae Xplosion ’99. These bangers would elevate the experience of any length of a car drive, to say the least.
As far as dancehall goes, it was always about the ‘riddims’. Different melodic beats and rhythms that would each have its own distinct name with various mainstream artists producing their own single with it.
A few of my personal favourite riddims are 2007’s the Guardian Angel riddim (reggae artist, Alaine’s song ‘Rise in Love’ is one of my favourites on this beat), the Bellyas Riddim from 2000 (this one sends me right back to my high school days), the Joyride Riddim (Wayne Wonder’s Bashment Girl is famous for this beat) and the Overproof Riddim – released a bit later on – but there are literally tons of them and all have their special vibe.
Koffee, aka Mikayla Simpson, is a rising new Jamaican reggae artist whom I discovered late last year. At the tender age of just 20 years old, she has taken the reggae scene by storm with her incredible vocal talent. In 2019 she released her EP Rapture with hit song Toast and title track Rapture which won her a Grammy for Best Reggae Album in 2020. She also came out with a timely and relevant single called Lockdown last year. If you’re a fan of reggae and dancehall, definitely check out Koffee.
The Element of Freedom – Alicia Keys (2009)
If you’ve been a long time follower of my blog, you will know that I am a huge fan of Alicia Keys. I’ve written a few posts in the past about her music. I’ve been a fan since day 1. Ever since her 2001 hit single Fallin’ came out, I was hooked. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of her albums, including her latest release in 2020, Alicia.
There is something special to me about her 2009 release, The Element of Freedom. I feel her authenticity in all her music but this particular album just stood out a bit more for me. Alicia always has a way of conveying her thoughts and feelings into song in the most purest form. For me, this is especially evident on the track That’s How Strong My Love Is. The piano just adds to the smooth subtlety and the single generally evoke a lot of emotion.
Some other favourites tracks on the album are “Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart,” “Wait Till You See My Smile, and “Love is Blind.“
Funny side story: I had tickets to see Alicia in concert last August which obviously got postponed, but funnily enough, the concert has not been cancelled…yet. It has been rescheduled to August 2021. I’m not holding my breath but it would be amazing to see her live in concert again. I last saw her perform about seven years ago and she never did go on tour for her 2016 album Here, (I believe because she was too busy being a vocal coach on The Voice at the time, so it’s long overdue.
Life Goes On – Donnell Jones (2002)
There is no doubt that R&B from the 90’s and early 2000’s just has a life of its own. And Donnell Jones’ 2002 release Life Goes On was no different. Put me down and You Know That I Love You were a couple of my personal favourites.
Elliott Yamin – Elliott Yamin (2007)
This is one my favourite albums in my collection. Elliott Yamin was a finalist on the show American Idol and came in 3rd place during the show’s 5th season. He went on to produce his self-titled debut album Elliott Yamin. Elliott has a smoky raspiness to his voice that just oozes soul. On the show, he had a quiet humility about him and his raw talent just shone through effortlessly. A couple of my personal favourites from his album are Wait for You a sweet, romanic piano-driven ballad and his cover of Donny Hathaway’s famous track A Song For You.
2pac – Greatest Hits – Tupac Shakur (1998)
In my humble opinion, Tupac Shakur is one of the greatest lyricist and rappers of our time. I simply could not choose one album over another without feeling as though I was doing him a disservice so I decided to just run with his 1998 Greatest Hits compilation. Although it’s been almost 25 years since his death, his legacy has lived on through the incredible amount of music he managed to record in such a short amount of time.
I simply could not list only a few of my favourite by Tupac, the list would be a mile BUT, if I had to single out a few, they would be:
Brenda’s Got a Baby – a lyrical classic that spoke to real-life issues
Dear Mama – a pledge of love to the Superwomen of the world
So Many Tears – a raw song about life’s struffle and seeking forgiveness
Letter 2 My Unborn – a special message to special someone before they enter the world
So there we have it: My top 7 albums from ‘back in the day’. If you’d like to, please share your own list of 7 of your favourite albums from your childhood. I would love to know and expand my own horizon. 🙂
In the meantime, take care and stay well.