Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: New York producer Blockhead and Western Massachusetts stalwart Joshua Burkett.
Listed: Blockhead + Joshua Burkett
Tony Simon, who records under the name Blockhead, is one of underground hip-hop’s go-to producers, working with Aesop Rock, Slug, Murs and Mike Ladd. His third solo album The Music Scene is a complex mesh of sounds, with elements of funk, soul, jazz, rock and world music woven through its dense and propulsive tracks. In reviewing The Music Scene, Dusted’s Mason Jones called the disc, “unquestionably his best, earning a place alongside some of the great instrumental hip-hop albums I’ve heard.”
I was gonna do a "top ten weird records" list but, for the life of me, i could come up with ten weird records i actually enjoy. For the most part , they’re usually too weird or have one decent song on them. I suppose that’s the downside of being weird. So, instead, i figured i’d bore you with ten albums i love that have had a deep effect on my life. This is not to be confused with "my ten favorite albums of all time" , cause sometimes, the flawed albums hold a stronger place in your heart.
1. The Jungle Brothers - Done by the Forces of Nature
Prior to getting this album, I pretty much only listened to hip hop that was either dirty or braggadocios. This album opened me up to the more thoughtful and sensitive side of hip hop. On top of that, it’s possibly one of the most well-produced hip hop albums I’ve ever heard.
2. Willie D - I’m Goin’ out like a Soldier
I was a little late on this one. It came out in 1992, but I slept on it well until the end of that decade. It’s odd, but I had to grow up to really appreciate Willie D’s brilliance. I say it’s odd cause he’s not exactly a high-brow MC. Regardless, this album is my go to for smart/dumb shit.
3. Stevie Wonder - Innervisions
From 1988-’94 I pretty much listened to only hip hop. Seriously. I didn’t own a non-hip hop album during that time. Then I went to college. Like so many before me, college was a time of expanding my horizons. The first expansion? Discovering the wonders of Stevie Wonder. I bought this album first and lost my mind over it. Eventually, I had every one he had made during his prime years (late 1960s to the early ’80s) but this one will always be the gateway drug to to the music I mostly listen to nowadays.
4. Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Wanted:Dead or Alive
This was the album that changed how I viewed rapping. I had had favorites at that point, but the shit G Rap was spitting on this album blew my mind. He was tough, he could flow and he even had a good sense of humor. All that on top of a huge lisp that most C’s could not pull off. I remember seeing G Rap walking around in the early ’90s on Broadway in an 8-ball jacket. To this day, there’s still a part of me that thinks those jackets are kinda cool, strictly based on that moment.
5. Brand Nubian - All for One
This was one of the first albums that made me resent my whiteness as a young teen. Sure, X-Clan’s first album set it up, but this album spiked the ball hard. I was obsessed with this album to the point I owned four different bootleg cassette versions of it ’cause I kept losing it or something was defective about the bootlegs. I’m terrible at remembering lyrics, but this is one album I think I know front to back after all these years.
6. Beat the Devil - Beat the Devil
As this list shows, I’m not a huge fan of new music. I checked out a long time ago. This is one album (EP actually) that slipped through the cracks. The singer, Shilpa Ray, has pretty much the coolest voice ever; musically, this is just her voice, her harmonium, a bassist and a drummer. Simple and effective. Unfortunately, they broke up but I still come back to this album on a regular basis.
7. The Beatnuts - Street Level
As a producer, I gotta give it up to any well-produced album. The Beatnuts are one of the more consistent production groups of all time. This album was made during their peak years and it shows. On top of that, they’re just overall rude and funny guys. There is something to be said for personality and what these guys lacked in lyrical miracles , they made up for by just being themselves.
8. The Frogs - It’s Only Right and Natural
One of my biggest regrets is not knowing about this album when I was a teenager. It would have been my holy grail to all that is funny. Although I missed the first boat on this album, I heard it my late 20s and fell in love with it. By far , the weirdest album on this list, it’s hard to explain. It’s basically an album of folk/rock songs about being gay but guys who aren’t gay. On top of that, it would appear it was mostly done off the top of their heads. This leads to a sloppy free-for-all that is both cringeworthy and, at times, the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.
9. Young Bleed - My Own
I was given this album by a friend and I immediately wrote it off as some southern crunk bullshit. I was wrong. Not only can Young Bleed actually rap well (think a more thoughtful, higher, mellower 50 Cent in his prime), but the beats are dope as well. This album changed how I judged rap from other areas. It helped me appreciate the differences and actually give things a chance beyond the corny album artwork
10. Aceyalone - A Book of Human Language
When this came out, I was the biggest Aceyalone fan ever. Obsessed. Rarely, when in that mind frame, does a new album actually live up to expectations. This not only did it, but went beyond what I considered possible. From the rapping to the production (handled by long lost producer Mumbles), it was a complete, front-to-back piece of art. It had a theme, it had a mood and it made a big impression on my young mind. One of those albums where I can even appreciate the songs I don’t really care for ’cause of how well they fit into the overall album.
Joshua Burkett is one of the rock’s of the New England rock underground. He got his start in the Bimbo Shrineheads at just 16 years old, playing bass and saxophone. Burkett later played sax and served as cover artist for Vermonster, Wayne Rogers and Kate Biggar’s outlet before Major Stars. Beginning in the mid 1990s, he released solo material on his own Feather One’s Nest label, including the masterpiece Gold Cosmos, which featured both Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance and Pat Gubler of P.G. Six. Today, Burkett runs the Mystery Train record store in Amherst, Mass., with Cynthia Meadows. Spirit of Orr Records recently reissued Owls Leaves Rustling, Burkett’s 1995 solo debut, along with testimonies from Thurston Moore, Chris Corsano and Wolf Eyes’ John Olson.
1. Preggy Peggy and the Lazy Babymakers - Get An Ace Case Of The Measles
This is that rarest kind of LP. Like listening to the earth’s crust slide off like the skin off a mango and then being presented with a new, perfectly realized "mango-vision" lassi. One that’s SO GOOD you find yourself floored and paralyzed with a big grin and frozen throat. It was said that this is like Sun City Girls if they were actually girls, & OK. It’s that, and better, too. Yes, Angela Sawyer has the best mailorder store, and yes, she’s also been making the best LP ever.
2. Kenneth Patchen & the Chamber Jazz Sextet - Kenneth Patchen & the Chamber Jazz Sextet
I come back to this LP a lot and always find some new great moments. (DO the dead know what time it is?) Bob & Susan Arnold from Longhouse Poetry were the ones who got me into things Patchen (beyond the novels), starting with his word-paintings, and I still owe them. Dont know why people are neglecting him now. He is/was a miracle.
3. Believer - Afterschool make-out music (unreleased)
These guys are some of the greatest folks ever, and this band ruled. Don’t know why this record hasn’t come out! The world needs them...
4. Scott Appel - Glassfinger
Checked this out in the early 1990s when I was into everything Nick Drake (Appel is famous as an early scholar of Drake’s tunings, etc.), but counldn’t get into it. Played it again recently and what I didn’t like before is what I like now. It doesn’t sound at all like Nick, but is totally its own thing. It’s strange... I used to play shows with and see Jack Rose quite a bit (and loved him), but would think about Fahey a lot. Now I hear Fahey and LPs like this and all I can think of is Jack Rose. This record on a Sunday morning...What else do you need?
5. Malvina Reynolds - Malvina Reynolds
Have been obsessed with this LP for 15-plus years. I remember finding my copy and being floored by her voice and unusual production values. After much research, I like her more and more (check out her ‘rock’ LP backed by Gene Parsons and Maffitt/Davies). To me, she symbolizes many great things missing in the crap/post-apocal times. Like integrity, character and real creativite visions ...
6. Spykes - Jacked O’Lantern
Was really excited getting this. Who isnt blown away by American Tapes?! The winnner of the eternal ‘weirdest label vision ever’ award. This is my favorite AT LP so far, thou they do sound more like Snoopy’s other brother (OLAF). Huge and S...L...O...W.
7. Flowers-Corsano Duo - The Four Aims
Am presently sick of two things: the endless half-baked jam and the too many bad guitar/singers thing. This record is not like that. You should be thankful this LP is here to light a way in bad times. I’m not a ‘free-improv’ guy, but this duo is amazing.
8. Blue Öyster Cult - On your feet or On Your Knees
Replaying this LP, I finally found myself a true BOC believer. Almost like combining the first three ZZ Top records or if the Sugarloaf self-titled album was a double LP and the songs were all "Green-Eyed Lady."
9. Ralph White - Atavistic Waltz
Not only does he make music that mutates and reinvents all sorts of ancient genres, but he’s also a builder of cool stone sculpture-buildings AND is a great accordian and kalimba player. Atavistic Waltz is more about his cajun leanings and is a great drinking record. Picture the Beatles boiled down to one guy that grew up in austin on a diet of Holy Modal Rounders, Al Green and Clifton Chenier....
10. Crystalline Roses - One Man Cult
The first solo LP by the singer of SQRM is out. Tony has obviously been doing some serious gtr and sitar WOODSHEDDING. Plus, he painted the cover. Only 200 copies. Go ask Zebu.
Epilogue: A community can be amazing. When folks actually help each other...!? AMAZING. Western Mass has been that kind of place for years. Stuff happens here ALL THE TIME. Shows almost every week since forever in basements, living rooms, houses, bars, record stores, ATMs, cafeterias, town commons, cars, garages, sheds, roofs, bowling alleys, yurts, bike path tunnels and laundromats. Also Thurston, Byron Coley and the Flywheel are here. Should I say more?
By Dusted Magazine