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In late August 2011, there will be a new album by one of the most popular rock groups ever. They are one of the most enthusiastic, most amazing and most talented groups of people in music. The people: The Red Hot Chili Peppers. These guys have been through over 2 decades of the highest of highs and the darkest allies of lows, from the ability of the power crazy music to the dark pitfalls of drug abuse, even contributing to a death of an original member (RIP Hillel Slovak). This is one of my favorite music groups ever. They have been around since 1982 and their discography adds up to nine albums (ten in late August 2011). And to celebrate the upcoming release of their next album, here is a top 5 list of their best albums…which I coincidentally own. Yes, I have a bunch of their songs on my mp3 but here are the albums:
5. Mother’s Milk
This is the album that almost never got made. In 1988, the group had gotten into drug abuse, especially singer Anthony Kiedis and guitarist Hillel Slovak. Their heroin addictions got worse but Slovak was found dead of a speedball overdose in his apartment. This not only caused Kiedis to become screwed up and, for a while (according to 102.1 The Edge’s Alan Cross), wandered a desert for several days but drummer Jack Irons left the group after the death, never really recovering from it. Thankfully, Kiedis and bass player (and 2nd favorite bassist...absolute favorite is Bedouin Soundclash’s Eon Sinclair) Flea, triumphs on to find a hard hitting (and favorite drummer) Chad Smith and, after many many many many MANY auditions for guitarists (and occasional guitar members for the group), they find a young man named John Frusicante (3rd favorite guitarist, next to Slash and Jimi Hendrix). The crazy combination of these people have amazing chemistry, having them work on a fourth studio album that was released in 1988 (and re-released in 2003, with new songs and demos)…Mother’s Milk. This album is absolutely crazy from the first track to the last. The opening song, Good Time Boys, is a fun start to any early Chili Peppers album. It’s so crazy, in fact, that in the middle of the song, that the song suddenly switches to snippets of classic rock songs. Knock Me Down is dedicated to their fallen friend, Slovak, and an inspiration against drug abuse. There is also a decent remake of Jimi Hendrix’s Fire, also known as the very last track that features Slovak on guitar. There is no quiet moment, only track after track of speed metal….which is a reason as to why this is at the bottom of the list. The other albums on this list have quiet moments and that’s why they are higher on this list. If this album had ONE song of quietness (although, the song Pretty Little Ditty kind of comes close), this would be at number three or four. This album may be classic, and it also showcases what the band will be like after this, but it’s not great. It’s good but not great. The 2003 re-release of the album is much better. For some reason, there is a demo called Salute to Kareem is one of my favorite songs from the band. Another amazing thing about this album is that there is a 15 minute song called Song That Made Us Who We Are Today, a demo that consists of Smith, Flea and Frusicante playing their instruments but Kiedis doesn’t sing. There are also two live versions of songs. This album may not be great but it, again, this album is from the 80s, a decade which focused mostly on speed metal and power ballads. There may be a reason why the Peppers sound a bit different than their next albums. It’s not the decade but Rick Rubin wasn’t involved with this album. This album is also known as the crazier, and speed induced, brother of Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
4. By The Way
From an album that is consistently hard hitting to an album that is much softer and gentler, the group’s eighth studio album is much more relaxed. This album doesn’t sound like a Chili Peppers album. (well, other than By The Way, Can’t Stop and, kind of, Throw Away Your Television.) If anyone listened to this album while knowing who the Peppers are, they wouldn’t think this was a Peppers album. This is a good example of the group’s maturity after years of depression and drug abuse. This is often said to be a “sequel” to the previous effort, Californication but, at the same time, that’s where the pitfalls are. The title track opens the album with a soft beat and then it follows with a fast tempo a few seconds later. Admittedly, this is the album I listen to the LEAST. When I do, it is beautiful. Everything is so toned down. Kiedis’s singing is more focused, relying less on rapping, Flea doesn’t slap his bass at all but, rather, plays it lightly and in more rhythm, Smith’s drumming is amazing also, though to be fair, he’ll drum up anything and it still will be amazing. But the biggest difference is John Frusicante’s guitar playing. It is played with more emotion than the other albums, most notably on Cabron, Venice Queen and Tear. Speaking of which, Venice Queen is one of the most beautifully song by the band. The song is about a close friend of the band who was dying by the time the CD was made. The song is in two parts. The first half is soft and quiet, with wind sounds that cause the song to become more bearable to take in. It talks about what their friend, Gloria was like. The second half switches gears and is much quicker. It’s a bit louder and Frusicante’s guitar is freer to go along with the song. The lyrics to this section of the song talks describes her more and talks about her dying. If you like their earlier records, this album is NOT for you. If you like how the band can do anything, listen to the songs on this. I’ll admit it: When I listened to Tear, I kind of felt depressed…and then sad because it was so beautifully made. I had to listen to the song over and over again to have it sink in. If you’re tired of these guys doing rock with sex lyrics, this album is the complete turnaround of their early career. While Mother’s Milk had no quiet moments, this album has quiet moments everywhere. This album shows that even after years after depressing matters in the band’s career, it showcases what a band as crazy as the Peppers can do.
3. Stadium Arcadium
The ninth studio album that came out in 2006 was supposed to be four mini albums released in separate periods of time. However, the final decision was a double album which, when released, was the highest charted album to date. The disks are named Jupiter (Disk 1) and Mars (Disk 2). Jupiter starts off with a song that possibly EVERYONE knows: Dani California, which has a similar beat to Tom Petty’s Mary Jane’s Last Dance. After that, the disk switches from quiet moments to fast, upbeat tempos. Snow (Hey Oh) is a beautifully played song with the most seemingly complex guitar chords (Frusicante had trouble with it on a TV show the band was playing at.) with the most mellow combination of instruments. Suddenly, it switches gears to Charlie, a more part funk drive, half rap, half sung song. The rest of the disk does the “one soft song, one fast song” move constantly, especially song favorites Torture Me and Strip My Mind. However, Mars is the better disk on this double album. It starts off with another one of my favorite Pepper songs, Desecration Smile, one of the most chilliest of songs that sounds like they’re saying it’s been a great ride, bringing back memories. However, the next track quickly switches gears with Tell Me Baby, which would have been an amazing song if the radio stations hadn’t played in every fifth or sixth song. From there, most of the songs on this certain disk are soft played, from the mellow Animal Bar to Make You Feel Better. However, it is turned into a faster tempo with So Much I and Turn It Again, which proves as why Frusicante is the number one guitarist on The Ax Factor. After all of this, it all comes to a close with the amazing, yet haunting, Death of a Martian. Death talks about the passing of Flea’s pet dog and it begins with a chilling sound that Kiedis sings over while Flea and Frusicante’s back- up vocals come in to provide company. The song, and album, ends with Kiedis reading a poem over the consistently haunting music, as if Flea’s dog is slowly passing away with the song and, by the time it’s over, the dog is gone, peacefully. This album is easily the strongest release by the band. However, it’s a bit too big at times and, at times, you may want to skip a few songs until you find the right song at the time for you. Personally, Jupiter was my favorite disk but listening to Mars made me realize that there can be much more. Yes, that may sound vague but this album takes time for one to find its groove. Don’t force yourself to listen to the whole album in one go, rather, take your time, step back and appreciate the big picture to what the album remains to be: strong.
2. Blood Sugar Sex Magik
This is the best album by the classic lineup….BEFORE things went to shit. This 1991 album is considered one of the greatest albums of all time. This is what Mother’s Milk should’ve been like if Rick Rubin was involved with the band and everything was more tightened. This is the basic premise of the fifth studio album. This album talks about…sex, mostly. The first single from the album, Give It Away, is the song I’m pretty sure EVERYONE knows. If you don’t know that song, you’ve been living under a rock. However, this album contributes one of the major changes that would contribute to the Chili’s sound. Rick Rubin saw Kiedis’s lyrics and Kiedis showed it to his band mates. The band worked on it and the song ended up one of the most notable song in their catalogue: Under the Bridge. Bridge talk about loneliness and abuse. Mother’s Milk is notable for having the same style throughout the album but BSSM manages to upstage the album by mangling different styles to its advantage. The most strangest song on the album, and most experimental, is Breaking the Girl, a song that uses another style of music that even I found strange at first…that’s why I have it on my mp3. Most of the tracks on this album are funk driven, sexual songs, like Suck My Kiss, Sir Psycho Sexy and Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Occasionally, it will switch gears with the lost love song I Could Have Lied and the tribute to their late friend, Hillel Slovak, with the funky, yet tamed, My Lovely Man. The last track on the album is the extremely fast paced song, They’re Red Hot, a remake of the Robert Johnson classic of the same name. This whole album has involved in accolade after accolade during the time of its release. This is considered the breakthrough of the band, having positive and negative aspects. They have garnered many awards and a stellar 12 million unit best seller. The band had suddenly become more popular from their small venue places and ended up playing at bigger stadiums. Among this positivity, there was negativity that would slowly sink one of the band members. The band, not really Chad Smith, had been using drugs overtime which slowly got worse. Frusicante began using drugs more and more, due to the fact that he thought the band would be all about the music, not about the major attention they’re getting. Tensions between Kiedis and Frusicante began fighting with each other. In 1992, the band played Saturday Night Live to perform two songs. The first song, Mother’s Milk’s Stone Cold Bush, was played but things went wrong in the middle of it. Kiedis slide kicks Frusicante’s microphone and hits the guitarist in the face. Frusicante retaliates in their second song, Under the Bridge, by “screwing up the song” by playing the beginning at a different style. This got the singer and guitarist to argue constantly and, in the middle of the tour for their album, John Frusicante quit the band, falling into seclusion in his home with nothing but drug abuse. The band continued the tour with various guitarists that didn’t seem to match their ex-guitarist’s skill, even with Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro.
This is the best album by the classic lineup…AFTER things went to shit. The band got clean and Frusciante came back to the band. This 1999 album gives a mature look at the band. This album combines rock, funk and gives a softer edge to the band. The opening track, Around the World, is a freight train from Hell, with a loud guitar, a distorted bass and hard hitting guitars and Kiedis’s vocals are much richer, going from rapping in the verses and singing at the chorus. Another track that highlights the album is Scar Tissue, the first single from the album. It would have been the mellowest song if that been taken by most of the other tracks. Scar also displays Frusicante’s guitar skills, playing what is best described as “less is more”. In fact, his playing contributes to the new sound that the band was going for. There is their old style of their sound, like Get On Top, Purple Stain and Right On Time. However, the song with their new sound makes up the majority of the album. Songs like the dark toned Otherside, the mellow Californication, the gentle Porcelain and, what I consider be the best track on the album, Road Trippin’, also the closing track. Road is my personal nostalgic song with its mellow sound and its lyrics recalling the best of memories. This album is also considered one of the greatest albums of all time. It combines the drive of Mother’s Milk, the change of sound from Blood Sugar Sex Magik and it has influenced their future albums. This is the album brought back the band from near death. This is also the best selling album by the band, selling 15 million units after its release. This album is a way better alternative from the crappy albums by boy and girl bands that were popular at the time. It doesn’t have the complete sound people are used to by the band but everything about this album works. Their albums in the future may not live up to how this album is displayed but it’s because this displays the major highlight that the band cannot reach. The other albums are amazing but nothing can come close to this.