The artist that comes in at number four was introduced to me over a decade ago... by Phish! I went to a Phish show and this next artist was the opening act. As they finished their set they became the first opening act I did not want to stop playing. If Phish never came on stage I would of been happy. I bought their CD the next day and my love of...
The Dave Mathews Band
...began. This artist was an easy inclusion in the top ten most important musical artists (with a debut album out on or after 1990).
Dave was born and raised in South Africa but moved to Charlottesville, VA and soon after formed a band. Taking the mantle of the Dead, Phish and Blues Traveler they poured their time and energy into play live shows... a lot of live shows. Their infection of the music scene spread with their efforts.
As I waited for Phish to come on and the lights came up on DMB, it was immediately apparent they were different. They are a truly integrated band. A mix of race, musical instraments and sounds rise from this ensemble.
If DMB is anything, they are smart. Their music is tight and precise while still sounding like a backyard jam session. Dave's songs are woven with clever lyrics and unanticipated rhymes. More than anything, it is the underlying rhythm that makes them who they are.
Like Ani, Dave understands that it is how you play (as much as what you play) that matters. His African roots grew a tree with branches of jazz, Celtic folk, blues and even fifties pop. Like Ani, Dave has a charisma on stage. No chick is safe at a Dave concert. Don't want your wife/girlfriend or partner to have a crush on Dave? Don't ever take them to a show. Dave seems real. He seems kind. His love of the music only seems matched by his love for the fans.
His first studio album (Under The Table And Dreaming, 1994) took awhile to spread but it did end up in everyone's CD rack. Once The Best Of What's Around, What Would You Say and Typical Situation started getting radio play it all fell into place.
At first these songs seemed pop mixed with granola. The more you listened the more you heard. It does not take long to realize how deep his music is. One time you can focus on just the lyrics. Another time you can just listen to just the music. Each time you hear something new... something you missed.
He brought the singer/songwriter movement back to the scene. Without Dave, there would be no Meyers, Johnson, Folds or Blunt. He reminded us that it was OK to just play for the love of playing. It was OK to be a live band that happened to put out CDs. It was OK to carry on the spirit of the Grateful Dead without trying to sound like the Dead.
His summer tour dates are already out. Already seen Dave? Go again. Never seen him live... time to write down the dates in pen. There are few live experiences like his show. Just go.
Here is the list so far:
4) Dave Mathews 5) Ani Difranco 6) Rage Against the Machine 7) Smashing Pumpkins 8) Tori Amos 9) Eminem 10) Pantera
Only three artists left... only three spots left. One of these will be number one. Many have guessed... some will be surprised. Post your guess. How will
Go ahead and grab my hand as I lead you towards the end of our list. Numbers five through ten are set and there are only five more spots to go.
Before I can reveal the artist at number five, I have to cut one of the remaining artists. Needless to say, I do this with a heavy heart... The new number eleven, the last artist to get cut is...
If the top ten somehow had eleven spots this would not of happened. The list of recent artists who owe their sound to this Cali band is extensive. If you are one of the many that has never listened to Pavement... get yourself off that list and order them off Amazon or iTunes. Trust your Uncle Hof.
Back to the countdown... The music industry is nothing more than a machine. Why is it so rare that a true and innovative artist makes it on the big scene these days? The machine is no longer fueled by talent. It is fueled and greased by suits with wallets. They sit high on their Mount Olympus and dictate what the mortal masses will hear. Everything released now has been watered down and chopped up. Nothing new, just leftovers heated up and served again.
Most artists know this but feel they have no choice. They feel one must dance with the devil to get their music out there. Many give up their sound and give up their soul to get played on the radio, to get their CD pressed and in the stores. Many do but one certainly did not.
She's been courted by all the major labels. She said "no" to each one... every time. She was told she could never make a living in music without the suits owning her. She flipped-off anyone telling her that... to each one, every time.
She started with only anger, words and guitar. She turned this into one of the few major independent record labels. She taught us that sexuality was not about labels. She taught us you can be angry at men, women, bigots and the careless but not hate them.
It is my pleasure to welcome...
...to the number five spot in the top ten most important music artists (with a debut album out in or after 1990).
Maybe the only talent to ever come out of Buffalo, NY... Ani was born in 1970 to parents that loved music (especially folk). They gave her a guitar at eight and she was playing Beatles and performing in local bars by nine. She left home at fifteen, moved to NYC, and supported herself with music.
She made a name for herself in the underground NYC music scene so it was not a huge shock when a major label approached her soon after her eighteenth birthday. They offered her the one thing most starving artists dream of - a record contract. She, unlike most, read it. She read it again. And again. She folded it back up and pushed it across the table unsigned. She said "no" to the suits. At eighteen she started her own record company (Righteous Babe Records). In 1990 she released her first self-titled album.
The simple black-and-white cover graced by her shaved head contained one of the most powerful debut albums in the history of music. Some people play guitar, she exploits it. She pushes the six strings and wood beyond chords, beyond the scales. From the opening song we learned that her guitar was the vehicle for her almost jazz-like sense of rhythm and sound.
..and, oh the words.
Her lyrics make you stop. Stop. Not only are the subjects of her songs courageous and choice, her words force you to understand. Her words make you think. As a lyricist she is right up there with Lennon/McCartney, Dylan, Young, Waits and Simon. The first song on her first CD gives you just a small taste...
I am writing graffiti on your body I am drawing the story of how hard we tried I am watching your chest rise and fall like the tides of my life, and the rest of it all and your bones have been my bedframe and your flesh has been my pillow I am waiting for sleep to offer up the deep with both hands
Are you fucking kidding me? How can a little eighteen-year-old girl put these words together? She went on to release at least one album a year for the next 16 years (she skipped a release in 2000 but put out three albums in 1999 to make up for it.)
Recently she explored new sounds and added a funk-jazz sound to her music. Talking about her released music only tells half her story. You don't know Ani if you've only jammed out to her records. You can only know Ani if you've seen her live.
When she is in concert, she is very live. Very alive. The power of her vision, the hammer of her words, the chariot of her music carries you.
You are in a theatre but it feels like her living room. You are surrounded by strangers but they feel like your neighbors. You are watching her raised high on stage but you think you can reach out and touch her. You can't but she reaches out and grabs you.
I've seen some great shows. I've seen many of the greats live in concert. I've never experienced an artist with the charisma of Ani. If you didn't love her before the curtain rose, you were writing mushy notes and passing them to her in class by the end of the show.
During her journey she was made the poster-child for the lesbian cause. Her songs about sexuality and teaching that sexuality is about love and people and not labels and categories gave many women a voice. She often said she hated being shoved into this role. She often protested being thought of as just a lesbian musician. She often protested being labeled a lesbian. When she ended up marrying her long-time male road manager (Goat) it caused quite a stir. Many women were angry and thought she sold out. Anyone that did not understand how she could marry a man never really listened to her music. They never listed to her words....
(from In or Out)
somedays the line I walk turns out to be straight other days the line tends to deviate I've got no criteria for sex or race I just want to hear your voice I just want to see your face She looks me up and down like she thinks that I'll mature like she's got my number like it belongs to her she says, call me, Ms. DiFranco if there's anything I can do I say, I've got spots I've got stripes, too
'nuff said, folks. Ani was the easiest one to put in the top ten. She is one of the greatest... one of the greatest of all time.
Here is our list so far:
5) Ani Difranco 6) Rage Against the Machine 7) Smashing Pumpkins 8) Tori Amos 9) Eminem 10) Pantera
There are only four spots left. Who will be number four? Who will be number one? Stay tuned!
This countdown is inching closer to the finish. The bottom-half of the list is complete as I welcome the artist filling the number six spot.
When rap/hip-hop emerged in the 80s many thought it was a passing phase and the analogies to disco flew like bullets from a moving car. Two decades later, hip-hop is not only here to stay but a fully-formed musical fury.
Rap shares much with its uncle hard rock. It has attitude, opinions and gets the blood flowing. The artist at number six was the first artist to take the RUN DMC/Aerosmith experiment and gestate it into a trained battalion.
It is my pleasure to welcome....
Rage Against the Machine
...to the number six spot in the list of the top ten most important artists (with debut albums released on or after 1990).
As we endure bands like Limp Bisket, Linkin Park, Disturbed and the like, it is easy to forget that there is only one band that married the young and edgy rap maiden to the mature heavy metal groom. Unlike the rap/metal melds of today, Rage brought more to the ceremony than just middle-class white kids rapping over the crunch of a metal guitar licks.
There was nothing cut-rate about the band. Tim Commerford, if there was a top ten list for bassists, would surley make it high in the ranking. Like a living funk sample after a three-week bender, his bass embodies the word RAGE. Heavy hits that never sounded like rap and never sounded like metal but somehow sounded like both. He was the centerpiece to the RAGE machine.
Great bands understand that bass is, in reality, a percussion instrument. The mistress at the wedding that kissed the sounds from Tim's bass in the coat room, Brad Wilk's drums proved that innovation was still possible with two sticks and stretched animal flesh. When you listen to RAGE you almost forget that the drums and bass are separate. Brad is one of the greatest drummers in the history of rock.
The voice and message of Rage emanated from Zack de la Roche. Even when his charged political lyrics went against your own personal beliefs you still sang along and you still absorbed the... well.... (can't avoid it).... you still absorbed The Rage. Zach's lyrics and delivery was the first guy in the bar to throw a punch. He knew what he believed, he shoved it down your throat and you swallowed and asked for more.
Tom Morello finished out the quad by taking the attitude of his Kenya-revolutionary father and raising his fist by striking the strings. He may not be one of the greatest guitar players of all time but he was the perfect best-man at the wedding.
1992 brought their self-titled debut album. Bombtrack, the first song, made it clear from the start that nobody had the guts to be Rage but Rage. If you wondered if they also carried the attitude and rebellion of both rap and metal you only had to listen to the second track, Killing in the Name of.
The milk-toast wannabees that tried to set up metal and rap for a long weekend of pillow fighting seem thin. Limp is, well, limp and Disturbed is all too predictable and sane to live up to the name. Rage was honest and Rage was good. Real fucking good.
Here is the list so far:
6) Rage Against the Machine 7) Smashing Pumpkins 8) Tori Amos 9) Eminem 10) Pantera
Here are the six remaining artists that will fight for the last five spots
Ani Difranco Beck Dave Mathews Pavement Radiohead Tool
Stay tuned to find out who fills the number five spot AND who, of the remaining six, will get thrown off the island. Keep your theories coming on how the end of this list will shake out.
Back before being Alternative only meant you wore either eye makeup or a flannel shirt, one band rose and fell and was, by definition, a 90's band. Releasing their first album in 1990 and breaking up in 2000, I am proud to welcome, at number seven...
One of the few college bands in music history that broke out of the dorms and beyond the draft-beer stink of the college scene, Smashing Pumpkins was not exactly like anything before them... or anything since.
You will never hear someone say, "I think this is a Pumpkins song". Billy Corgan's voice can never be confused for someone else. Their music can be layered and heavy on one track only to spin into melancholy and allegorical on the next track. When Pumpkins rocked it out, there was nobody that could do it with more of an edge or more of a finished sound. When Pumpkins slowed it down there was nobody that could drive a hook deeper in your brain and have you singing the main line for weeks.
Their debut, Gish was produced by the same man that helped Sonic Youth define their sound. The guitars are deep and crunch while still having a psychedelic feel.
It was Siamese Dream that really brought them from the small indie scene to many radio stations. As Cherub Rock floated through the FM air, it was Today and Disarm that found a home on MTV. Their destinctive visual style gave these gems heavy rotation on the video jukebox and brought the little band from Chicago much attention.
The Grammy judges gave their next album, Mellon Collie, a total of seven nominations including album of the year. After the album's release Corgan declared that "rock was dead" and that Mellon would be the last Pumpkin album of its kind. Their next album Adore was an electronica experiment that only die-hard Pumpkin fans can survive.
They popped out two more releases that walked back to their original sound but the fans had already moved on. The Pumpkins broke up soon after. When all of their other indie friends were reinventing and regurgitating punk, they had the guts to try something new. The groove and production of Pink Floyd slathered with unabashed heavy metal.
Welcome to the top ten most important artists (with debut albums released on or after 1990), Smashing Pumpkins. There are new rumors of a possible reunion and fingers are crossed.
The list so far:
7) Smashing Pumpkins 8) Tori Amos 9) Eminem 10) Pantera
The seven remaining to fill the six spots... one will not make it
Ani Difranco Beck Dave Mathews Pavement Radiohead Rage Against the Machine Tool
Though our families have fallen out of favor with each other, the cousins have done a grand job of keeping in touch and staying close. We always knew we were smarter than the 'rents anyway.
My mother's side of the family has met with more than its share of hardship. First my grandfather died, then my mother died, then her youngest brother had a failed suicide attempt, then our grandmother fell into the abyss of losing her mind to age, then my father and my mother's brothers broke all civil contact only to have the youngest brother (my uncle) attempt suicide again last year... and succeed.
The second oldest grandkid (after me) has moved to Australia with her boyfriend (unvetted by me, btw). Her and I have always shared a special bond being the first borns. Her father is the only surviving member of my mother's family and he has raised two amazing daughters.
Amy started a blog once she arrived down under. Swing by, say hello and tell her Hof sent you and, as usual, started this blogging thing LONG before she did.... *wink*
An open letter the inconsiderate, self-absorbed, money-obsessed, shallow fucks that often call South Florida home:
I've tolerated you for six years. Why? I always make the best of my current situation. I had to be here for work so I dealt with you. I watched as you parked, blocking others in, with no regard for the people sharing your air because somehow you think you alone did not have to use a parking space.
I watched as you treated retail employees, waiters, bartenders, waitresses and busboys as your personal servants who were blessed that you slummed it enough to even talk to them. You yelled, bitched, demeaned and ridiculed them. Sometimes I said something; usually I just shook my head in disgust.
I watched you women blatantly hunt and track men based on the number of zeros at the end of their bank balance. Most women (if they admit it or not) are attracted by power. You had no shame and wore this attraction on your forehead and never looked beyond that. You whore yourself the highest bidder and deserve the type of men that allow you into their lives.
I watched you men blatantly hunt and track women based on the size of their breasts, the distance between their pant waist line and the crack of their ass and how close they matched the chick on the latest cover of FHM. Women were nothing but a seed receptacle that you can treat however you pleased as long as you made your car lease payment on time every month. You did not seek a relationship, you sought an accessory to go with your wheels, clothes and pool. Most men (if they admit it or not) are attracted by looks. You had no shame and wore this attraction on your forehead and never looked beyond that. You allowed the grubby bitches into your life and firmly placed their fangs on your jugular. You got exactly the type of women you deserved.
I am out before the end of the month you assholes and bitches... and I will miss you not. I leave you here to feed on each other knowing the Karma Bank is tracking your balance.
For those that live in this shit pile lightly dusted with sun, palm trees and ocean views who are not like the above but are still trapped here... I will miss you.
I will miss you and.... GET THE FUCK OUT before their disease alters how you know the world does and should work.
For the better part of two decades it appeared the singer-songwriter artist was an endangered species. One thing the 90's brought back to the scene was a return of smart lyrics coupled with innovative music. One of the greatest lyricists in the history of music comes in at number 8.
...to the top ten important musical artists who put out their first album on or after 1990.
She paved the way for Coldplay, Keane and Ben Folds by rolling her piano to the forefront of her music. A quirky artist known for odd opinions and the ability to write songs about anything in the human experience. Her music has a subtle electric energy with melodies that come unexpected but stick to you ribs and fill.
She was born in North Carolina but was raised in Baltimore, MD. After a slow start riddled with bouts with labels, she eventually gave birth to a large litter of devout fans. Her live performances infected more and more every year. Nobody thinks Tori is just "ok". You either love or hate her which can only mean she is innovative and refuses to play it safe.
Tori is the first female to debut on this list but will she be the last? Who will be number 7? Who will still be cut? There are seven spots left but still eight on the remaining list.
8) Tori Amos 9) Eminem 10) Pantera
Still awaiting a rank (and one will not make it)
Ani Difranco Beck Dave Mathews Pavement Radiohead Rage Against the Machine Smashing Pumpkins Tool