Classic Album of the Week

Posted every other Tuesday evening BEFORE the show.

Only Classic Albums from the most recent three months are included on this page.

Older Classic Albums can be found on the original playlist pages, listed in alphabetical order here.

Click on LP covers for more info and reviews.

   

Dempagumi.inc "World Wide Dempa"  2013 (Japan)
Mirin Furukawa, the senior member and "center" of iconic Otaku Idol band Dempagumi.inc, turns 34 years old this week. Idoling is a young girl's game: Mirin is probably the only Idol girl to have sustained a recording career for over a decade, and also stands alone as the only Japanese idol in history to get married while still performing as an idol. World Wide Dempa was the group's second album but the first by the "classic" six-girl line up and their ticket to becoming the adorkable nerd superstars they are today.
You know I can't resist the opportunity to throw some Dempa video at you: here's a cheap old music video from Mirin's short-lived attempt at a solo career in the days before Dempagumi.inc started releasing albums (2010). Next, DG in 2013 burning up the stage for their loyal fans with their signature song "Future Diver" and the sing-along concert staple "Orange Glowstick". And here's Mirin's "punk rock" solo number from the 2015 tour where she plays guitar (sort of!) Finally, since Mirin's birthday is the biggest Dempa holiday, the group is releasing a new single this week: "Zombie Land Dempa" is a collaboration with another Idol unit called "Francheche" (I've never heard of them.)
Da Lench Mob "Guerillas In Tha Mist"  1992 (USA)
Gangster rap was such a hot trend in 1992 that this ultra-militant group's debut album scored a gold record. It was produced and promoted by Ice Cube, formerly the primary lyricist of the notorious hardcode group NWA, who became one of the biggest rap stars of the early 1990's cranking out multi-platinum albums full of songs that could never get played on the radio. Cube and Da Lench Mob's members all proclaimed their loyalty to Louis Farakhan's Nation of Islam movement, and if you're not familiar with NOI let's just say their views about racial politics are outside of the mainstream. But whether you share their philosohpy or not, you have to admire their unflinching devotion to expressing their first ammendment right to free speech. Musically, Cube created one of the heaviest rap albums of the era with densely layered production to rival the best work of standard bearers Public Enemy, only with even more monstrous grooves.
The Pharcyde "Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde"  1992 (USA)
The Pharcyde made about four albums over a decade or so, but only their 1992 debut album got much attention, making them a perfect example of a group that never lived up to its promise. None of the rappers in this posse got famous (have you ever heard of Imani, Slimkid3, Bootie Brown or Fatlip?) but they came across with tremendous chemistry and charisma on their classic first record. Underground rap styles were taking over the mainstream in 1992, led by Dr. Dre's album The Chronic which married P-Funk grooves and stoner culture with hardcore gangster poses (as well as being the debut of future icon Snoop Dogg). But groovy bohemian groups like Tribe and De La were also still all the rage. The Pharcyde hit the sweet spot between these trends with the sarcastic stoner soul of Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde.
Digital Underground "Sons Of The P"  1991 (USA)
Here's another hip-hop classic from that magical year 1991! Underground rock groups were beginning to explode as the neo-longhair "grunge" era took off, while hip underground rap groups began to push aside the Hammer and Vanilla Ice pop rappers and create a new musical counterculture. All of a sudden, it seemed like the seventies were back, with the biggest new artists having more in common with classic pre-punk bands like Black Sabbath and Funkadelic than any artists from the previous 1980's decade. Aside from Neil Young (hailed at the time as "the godfather of grunge") perhaps no 1970's artist was more in vogue in 1991 than Parliament-Funkadelic, whose trippy grooves were being sampled to death in those days. But only one group sought to continue what P-Funk started rather than just borrow their beats: Digital Underground, a cartoony crew from Oakland who will always be best known for the classic novelity hit "The Humpty Dance" from their debut album Sex Packets (1990). That record was a heavy concept album (about virtual reality sex drugs!), and so was the follow-up Sons Of The P - the concept being that DU is going to continue from where P-Funk left off. George Clinton himself even appears on the album to give his blessing. Though this album didn't generate any major hits, it lives up to the challenge of recreating and extending classic rock forms into the rap era. Plus monster funky grooves!
Digable Planets "Blowout Comb"  1994 (USA)
Digable Planets were a "one-hit wonder" from the golden age of rap and they only recorded two albums before breaking up. Their debut album from 1992 contained the hit, and was a fine example of the "jazz rap" style that was popular at the time. However, their lesser-known swan song Blowout Comb was their masterpiece, featuring epic tracks and real jazz musicians that create a surrealistic beatnik fantasia. Lead rapper Ishmael "Butterfly" Butler resurfaced in later years with another unique rap project called Shabazz Palaces where he goes by the rap name "Palaceer Lazaro".
A Tribe Called Quest "The Low End Theory"  1991 (USA)
This week we have another classic album from the golden age of hip-hop. De La Soul were the first popular rap group to break the "boasting and gold chains" mould of early hip-hop, launching what might be called "alternative rap." They were associated with a handful of similarly forward-thinking poetic/afrocentric groups collectively called "The Native Tongues Posse." The second group from that bunch to break out was A Tribe Called Quest - their leader Q-Tip made guest appearances on the first two De La Soul albums which probably did a lot to raise their profile. But with the fullness of time, though De La were the pioneers it has become clear that Quest were the standard bearers for their movement. And their most important work is probably their second album The Low End Theory, which popularized rap music based on jazz samples instead of funk, soul and Kraftwerk. Going deeper, it also showed a continuity between the afrocentric jazz of the earlier civil rights era and rap music in more recent decades. Plus, you know, the songs are great! This album was also crucial in launching Busta "What The Dilly-o" Rhymes to superstardom: at this time, he was a member of the  lesser-known Leaders Of The New School, who make a guest appearance on this record's final track. Busta's explosive turn on the mic is still one of the most memorable breakout performances in hip-hop.
Also on the show this week: Sparks warns us about "The Existential Threat"! Plus a brand new video from the "virtual webstream concert" Dempagumi.inc did in lieu of their cancelled 2020 tour of Japan.
De La Soul "De La Soul Is Dead"  1991 (USA)
For the next few weeks, we'll be featuring classic albums from the golden age of hip-hop (roughly 1986 to 1994). De La Soul was one of the key groups of the rap renaissance, being the first popular "alternative" rap group who eschewed cursing and boasting in favor of abstract/poetic lyrics. The members had weird names like "Posdnous" and "Trugoy The Dove" (spell those backwards: Soundsop and Yogurt?) Their literally day-glo debut album Three Feet High And Rising declared the dawning of "The D.A.I.S.Y. Age" (stands for "da inner sound y'all"). They were unlike anything else on the scene, and the media dubbed them "hippie rappers" (years later, it also seems clear that album title was a weed reference - so yeah, they kinda were hippies.) But the group rebelled against that description, hence they metaphorically killed off their original image with their second album called De La Soul Is Dead! (The broken flower pot on the cover is also a reference to the end of the aforementioned "Daisy" age.) It's definitely a flawed masterpiece, being overly long as albums often were early in the CD era, and producer Prince Paul was notorious for two things: amazingly clever sampling in the music, and filling up every nook between the songs with "skits" that generally slow down the musical flow. In spite of those formatting issues, their first three albums (the ones Paul produced) are chock full of great tracks and comprise one of the most singular bodies of work in rap.
Also on the show this week: a new album from J-pop rap superstar DAOKO: here's the brand new video for the title track "ANIMA".
Parliament "Motor Booty Affair"  1978 (USA)
Today is P-Funk mastermind George Clinton's 79th birthday, so this week's show is an unanounced reboot of the "Parliament-Funkadelic Spectacular" specials the Kosmik Radiation show did every July 4 for ten years (retired in 2014). Parliament and their alter egos Funkadelic released a pile of classic albums in the 1970's which blended funk with hard rock, psychedelia and heavy concepts. One of their most coherent concept albums was Motor Booty Affair which features aquatic themes and the overarching concept of "partying until we raise the lost continent of Atlantis". The monster hit from this album had the intriguing title "Aquaboogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop)" - and yes, the word "psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop" does feature prominently in the lyrics!
Also on the show this week - a cool new rap song from DAOKO, who has a new album due out this month.
Coven "Witchcraft Destroys Minds And Reaps Souls"  1969 (USA)
This week is the 666th episiode of Kosmik Radiation, so our CAOTW is perhaps the most EEEEVILLL rock album of the 1960's. Coven was a group from Chicago who distinguished themselves by going all-in on devilly witchcraft: the final track on this album is 13 minutes of a "Satanic black mass", and the record came with a poster of the guys in the band making "devil's horn" gestures and preparing to sacrifice a naked lady on their satanic altar (though the blonde in the poster photo is actually a model, not the band's singer). Musically, the group played a brand of "soul rock" that was pretty typical of the period, though lead singer Jinx Dawson had more charisma than most. So they really only stood out in terms of lyrics and image, and unfortunately they couldn't sustain that either. Following their debut Witchcraft, their next couple albums were "mostly not very evil" and they became best known for the pretentiously schmaltzy hippy anti-war anthem "One Tin Soldier", which actually only featured one member of Coven (Jinx the singer) and was probably only a hit because it was the theme for a very popular movie called Billy Jack. Two more fun facts about this album: the bassist Greg Osbourne went by the name "Oz Osbourne" and the first track is a song called "Black Sabbath" - the following year, another devilly band from Britain with a singer named John "Ozzy" Osbourne released an album whose first song was also called "Black Sabbath"!
Far East Family Band "The Cave Down To The Earth"  1975 (Japan)
Technically, this was the debut album by "Japan's first progressive rock band", though there was a smaller and more psychedelic precursor band called Far Out that released one excellent album in 1973. The Cave was much more ambitious and caught the ear of "Krautrock" legend Klaus Schulze, who produced their next album which was mostly remakes of tunes from Cave and the Far Out record (I think it's their best album; sort of a greatest hits collection only more kosmik than the originals.) Though the third FEFB album Parallel World, also produced by Schulze, is certainly their most epic work (the titular track is more than 30 minutes of kosmische!) A final album Tenkujin was released later in the 1970's, and the main guy Fumio Miyashita moved to Los Angeles for a while but his spacy synth styles were not exactly the rage during the heyday of punk rock. For Far East was never a virtuoso/complex prog band, they created epic soundscapes of space rock like the similarly unclassifiable but classy Pink Floyd. Among the three synthesizer players in the band, Masanori Takahashi had by far the most successful career - he's better known as Kitaro, an icon of "New Age" music in the 1980's.
ZZ Top "ZZ Top's First Album"  1971 (USA)
I had never played this band on the Kosmik Radiation show before this year - then I watched a documentary about them and realized I needed to check out their 70's albums. ZZ Top is an iconic band who seem to have been around forever, and they have been - can you name any other American rock band that lasted 50 years with their original line up intact the entire time? So as I threatened on the air a couple months ago, here's my first choice for a CAOTW from "that lil ole band from Texas." It is my contention that if ZZ Top's First Album had been the only album they ever released, that it would be considered a legendary hard rock nugget from the dawn of heavyness. The songs on this one tend to be very short (under 3 minutes) but it's one crunchy, pummeling blues riff after another. Those "heavy blues" bands from the UK sound stiff as boards compared to these funky Texican bro-hemians (don't call them "Southern Rock" because Texas is it's own damn thing y'all). They'd stretch out and get weirder (and infinitely more popular) in later years, but the consistency of their sound and personas over all those decades is remarkable. They could be America's greatest hard rock band of all time? (They've outlasted KISS and are also better musicians.)
Soft Machine "Third"  1970 (UK)
Soft Machine recorded eleven records over a 50 year span beginning in 1968, though the last original member quit back in 1976! Some (like me) would say that the "real" Soft Machine ended with the departure of drummer & singer Robert Wyatt following their fourth album (called Fourth obviously); which they didn't let him sing on (or else he had stopped caring by that point). It was the least interesting of their first four records, but the first three were a lot to live up to. I've already inducted their classic first and second albums into the hall of fame, and their third is in some ways their most ambitious. I guess it depends on whether you like your psychedelic/avant-garde jazz fusion rock in side-long suites of short tunes or side-long epic single songs: Third is a double album with one track per side. By far the best of the four sides is Wyatt's "Moon In June" which is arguably his masterpiece.
Maximum The Hormone "Yoshu Fukushu"  2013 (Japan)
MTH is Japan's most notable metal band of the 21st century. This quartet was founded at the end of the 1990's by Daisuke-han (growl/scream vocals) and Nao (drummer & girly pop vocals), and reached their iconic form with the addition of "Maximum The Ryo" (Nao's little brother on guitar and pop-punk vocals) and Ue-chan (a tatooed bassist who avoids wearing shirts). Right away you can see a key difference from typical metal bands: every member of the group sings, and three of them are lead singers. Their musical approach is similarly all-encompassing: though brutal, virtuoso heavy metal is the core of their sound, they frequently deviate into pop, techno, funk, psychedelia, and traditional Japanese music. They are also notorious for having a "troll-y" sense of humour (one of their band logos is a picture of Ryo picking his nose) and apparently their lyrics are a confusing mash up of Japanese, English and nonverbal noises (their song "Chu Chu Lovely Muni Muni Mura Mura Purin Purin Boron Nururu Rero Rero" is a good example - those are mostly words used in comic books (manga) to depict various sexual sounds - and adding to the weirdness, those very sexual lyrics are sung by the brother and sister in the band.) Despite being one of the most beloved groups in their home country, they are notoriously unproductive - the band has existed for more than 20 years yet has only recorded four albums, the most recent being this week's CAOTW, Yoshu Fukushu ("Prepare For Vengeance"). They switched record labels and released an EP in 2018, so in theory they are about due to drop another album . . . one of these years.
In other Japanese music news, Haru Nemuri released a new music video this week which seems inspired by our current quarantine era. Here's a few more music videos for Japanese artists heard on the show this week: Chelmico, Charisma.com, Wednesday Campanella, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Dempagumi.inc, and of course Maximum The Hormone!
The Beatles "A Hard Day's Night"  1964 (UK)
This week we have two classic albums for my self-indulgent birthday special. Sir Paul McCartney and I were born on the same date (let's hear it for the gemini) so I tend to have something by him to feature on these shows. It's hard to call any Beatles albums "underappreciated" as they are one of the most studied and commented-on musical acts of all time, but one place you might discover hidden gems is the hitless second side of their third album. A Hard Day's Night was of course The Beatles' first movie, and the first side of the album features all the songs heard in the film. This was also the first Beatles album where there are no cover songs, in fact it is their only album where 100% of the tunes are written by Lennon-McCartney (George sings lead on one track but didn't write it.) I think this is a cornerstone album in the group's career for that reason, and also because their songwriting was clearly advancing from the basic "teen love" songs on their first two albums (their debut Please Please Me is a teenybopper classic, though their second album With The Beatles was a typical sophomore slump: they used all their best originals on the first album so they padded out the second with a bunch of cover songs.) Though another interesting things to note about this period of the group's history is how much John Lennon dominated the lead singer role - later albums are pretty evenly split between John and Paul songs, but he is the lead singer on 9 of the 13 tracks on this record.
     
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