Today David and I continue our post on our top five favorite albums…
Wow! This CD came to me as if from God His/Her self. It was several months after Mt. Carmel burned to the ground that I was roaming around the country wondering what the hell to do. I was still in shock, with a million directionless thoughts running through my mind. I was on the way to Florida when I stopped at a record store and saw the shocking CD cover. A Vietnamese monk named Thich Quang Du’c’s set himself on fire in protest to the South Vietnamese Diem regime’s pro-catholic policies and discriminatory laws against Buddhists. I knew that I had to hear what was on this CD. “Rage Against the Machine”…the name couldn’t have been more perfect for what I was feeling. The CD did not disappoint. Zack De La Rocha, (vocals,) Tim Commerford, (bass,) Tom Morello, (guitar,) and Brad Will on the drums.
“Bombtrack,” starts it off innocently enough with a light guitar riff but as the drums build to a crescendo, Zack De La Rocha yells UGGGGHHHH and you get your first taste of a CD that’s gonna kick your ass all over the not-so-free world. “Landlords and power whores on my people they took turns, dispute the suits I ignite and then watch ‘em burn.” The end of the song has this amazingly fun little guitar riff that makes you want to bang your head against the President’s desk, smashing it to pieces. We’re just getting started as the band goes into,
“Killing in the Name.” “Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses.” “And now ya do what they told ya, and now your under control” or “F*&K you I won’t do what you tell me.” Pick your favorite repetitive line. I think I have a pretty good idea of mine. I also usually don’t like overly repetitive lyrics but this song is like a commercial that wants to sell you something. You see it over and over until you buy. Rage is selling rebellion and independence from a capitalist society controlled by the Government via their favorite blow horn, the media. They use every form of mind control to get you to obey, buy and conform. This theme is visited in the next few songs as well.
“Take the Power Back,” starts with a tasty bass riff and hi hat thing that kicks in with the rest of the band. “Ignorance is taking over, we gotta take the power back,” is the anthem of the song. The band’s name really does say it all. Rise up, get educated and get organized.
“Settle for Nothing,” I love the anger of this one. It seems to be very self-reflective for Zack. An autobiography of his life without a father, taking that built up rage and assigning it to flaws in the system. I like the screaming angry part that is followed by a nice little fluffy guitar solo that’s in direct contrast to the extreme vocal. “If we don’t take action now, we’ll settle for nothing later!”
“Bullet in Your Head,” This track is one of my favorites on the CD. “Just victims of the in-house drive by / they say jump you say how high.” From the television being the greatest form of propaganda and control to using patriotism to get young men to go die in foreign wars without knowing why. Bullet in your head, controlled thought through repetition. “Standing in line, believing the lies, bowing down to the flag you got a bullet in your head!”
“Know Your Enemy.” Hell yea! This is such a great track. Blistering guitar riff and rhythm groove that makes you want to fight city hall. “Fight the War F*&K the norm.” “I’ve got no patience now, sick of complacence now.” Amazing guitar solo into the tag part of the song. Morelo makes the guitar sound like a siren as De La Rocha goes into a diatribe that I made a point to commit to memory almost 25 years ago. “Yes I know my enemies, they’re the teachers that taught me to fight me, compromise, conformity, assimilation, submission, ignorance, hypocrisy, brutality, the elite. All of which are American Dreams!”
“Wake Up.” Such a great groove. The guitar has this little waka waka sound going during the verses. Very funky, hard to keep still while you listen. Lines like, “Hoover, he was a body remover.” and “Networks at work keeping people calm, ya’ know they went after King when he spoke out on Vietnam, he gave the power to the have nots and then came the shot!” Into another sweet guitar solo that sounds like a strobe light in a dark room. Zack ends it by yelling…”WAKE UP…WAKE UP…WAKE UP!”
“Fistful of Steel,” “Township Rebellion,” and “Freedom,” complete the CD. Like I said, not a bad song on this record but I want to talk about, “Township Rebellion.” The verses have this little cowbell back and forth part that would be comical if it weren’t for the serious lyrics about seeing the problems all around us and actually doing something about them. Subjects like racism, cops who kill and apartheid are addressed in this song. The repetitive anthem in this song was going through my head all those years ago when I didn’t know what direction to turn. What would I do with my experience? “Why stand on a silent platform, fight the war F&%K the norm!” I wrote a book. Thanks guys.
This one’s short as I’m not worthy. As a young Journey fan I never knew that Steve Smith started out as a Jazz drummer. I also never knew that Jazz Fusion was one of the most exciting forms of music out there. One day I was hanging out over a drummer friend’s house listening to some music in between jamming. He was a far better drummer than I was. In fact, he was far better than any drummer around. He put on Fiafiaga and at first, I had no idea what the hell it was. Fusion? It sounded like a group of musicians jamming together but trading solos every eight bars or so. Everyone was killing it. As I listened more I started to get it. These cats were grooving but at an uptempo then they would suddenly drop it down. It was in an instant. I couldn’t keep up. It was amazing. I asked him who this was and when he told me that it was Steve Smith’s band I was blown away.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to play any of that stuff but I could listen to it for hours on end for inspiration. I went out and bought everything Vital Information and Chick Corea put out. I became a fusion fan thanks to that record. Today, I pop in those CD’s when I want to geek out. Unlike the other albums on my list I’m not qualified to break down each one of these instrumentals. All I can say with this album is that it touched me and had an immediate impact on expanding my tastes as a drummer. Fiafiaga opened my ears for sure. The tracks “Maltese Connection” and “50/50” are the highlights of the recording.
Steve Smith had this to say about Vital Information’s philosophy: “Our music allows for individual expression and re-invention. We thrive on swing, groove and creativity. We want to surprise each other every night on the bandstand with new ideas and in the process keep our audience ‘in the moment’ with us.” The JazzTimes said, ““Vital Information is one of improvised music’s best-kept secrets, the tunes are adventurous and they always groove. The musicians shoot for, and achieve, real emotion rather than soulless fireworks.“