The 500 Greatest Songs of the 1990s – 240 to 231

Written by | September 19, 2020 4:30 am | No Comments


240. “Hell Is Round the Corner,” Tricky. Songwriters: Mark Saunders, Tricky; Did Not Chart; 1995. U.K. rapper Adrian Nicholas Matthews Thaws, professionally known as Tricky, worked with the pioneering trip hop group Massive Attack before starting his solo career with the 1995 album “Maxinquaye.” Writing about the album, which he awarded an A+, Robert Christgau noted, “Depressive, constricted, phantasmagoric, industrial, yet warmly beatwise and swathed in a gauzy glow that promises untold creature comforts, these are the audioramas of someone who’s signed on to work for the wages of sin and lived to cash the check.” It’s that gauzy glow that gives “Hell is Round the Corner” its appeal, Tricky sounds like he’s inviting you into a side door that leads into an alluringly destructive abyss. Many of the songs on the album were reportedly inspired by a two year drug binge. Tricky on his childhood, “Where I come from, a lot of people are either on drugs, in prison or dead. Once, I asked my auntie why everyone was scared of my uncle Martin. She said: ‘Because if he says he’s going to cut your throat, he’ll cut your throat.’”


239. “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia),” Us3. Songwriters: Herbie Hancock, Rahsaan Kelly, Geoff Wilkinson, Mel Simpson; #9 pop/#21 R&B; 1992. Built from the rhythmic pattern of Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island,” “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)” brought a hip jazz vibe into mainstream pop/rap, reinforced by the spoken line intro that references New York City’s Birdland club. The rap group worked with Blue Note Records, sampling from their catalogue as a way to build the single. Author Kory Grow, “They added in samples of sometime Birdland MC Pee Wee Marquette introducing Art Blakey, and a number of one-off words – ‘Yeah!’ ‘Funky!’ ‘What’s that?’ – from Lou Donaldson’s 1970 track ‘Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky (From Now On).’ But what gave the result its edge was Kelly’s mellifluous flow — with lyrics that mostly described his mellifluous flow — and a new trumpet line by a teenager named Gerard Presencer.” Herbie Hancock, “Us3 made a great track in their interpretation of ‘Cantaloupe Island.’ At first, I thought they just edited and beefed up my original track and added rap to it. I had no idea then that it was a re-recording and was surprised to hear that it was. ‘Cantaloop’ gave my composition new life, and it still sounds hot.”


238. “My Favorite Mistake,” Sheryl Crow. Songwriters: Sheryl Crow, Jeff Trott; #20 pop; 1998. The bluesy, Stones-ish rocker “My Favorite Mistake” has become Sheryl Crow’s version of “You’re So Vain,” a kiss off relationship song with the target of dissatisfaction being a mystery. However, rock critic James Hunter of Rolling Stone felt that Crow was taking advantage of another gentleman in the process, “’My Favorite Mistake,’ a seamless mix of white soul and sweet pop, is such an obvious rip of Elvis Costello that it’s a tribute.”


237. “Fast As You,” Dwight Yoakam. Songwriter: Dwight Yoakam; #70 pop/#2 country; 1993. For his last country Top Ten hit, Yoakam reworked the guitar riff from Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” and attached it to a groove based song about a reciprocal back stabbing romantic relationship. Yoakam hopes that he has the wherewithal to hurt his woman as much as she’s hurt him, but both parties know it’s not going to happen. Producer Pete Anderson in 2012 reflecting on the albums he made with Yoakam, “Truth be told, Rosie Flores, and Dwight Yoakam — way back — and Jim Lauderdale, the people I made records with way back in the ‘80s, they were the first Americana records. They were records that didn’t fit anywhere. There wasn’t an Americana format back then.” Billboard, “As much as traditional country was a part of his sound, Yoakam also cut his teeth on the punk rock scene of Los Angeles. He captured that sound with this rollicking slice of swagger.”


236. “Learning to Fly,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Songwriters: Tom Petty, Jeff Lynn; #28 pop; 1991. Simplicity has its virtues, especially on a grand stage. Author Warren Zanes, “’Learning to Fly’ would always have a home in the live shows. It became one of those songs that an arena could sing.” Heartbreaker Mike Campbell, “‘Learning to Fly’ was a Jeff Lynne production. Tons of acoustic guitars on it, layered really thick, strumming away. My favorite part was the little drum break at the end – dica-dica-dic boom-boom. I got off on that a lot. That was fun. It’s really simple music, simple lyrics.” For Petty’s part, he claimed to have been inspired by a television interview with a pilot, “He said there’s not much to learning to fly; the difficult thing is coming down, and I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s true.’”

235. “Can’t Let Go,” Lucinda Williams. Songwriter: Randy Weeks; Did Not Chart; 1998. Lucinda Williams went from a cult artist to a Grammy winner with a gold certified album with 1998’s “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.” While there were no actual radio hits from “Car Wheels,” “Can’t Let Go,” first recorded as a country rocker by songwriter Randy Weeks, received the most commercial attention. Lucinda completely transformed “Can’t Let Go” into a blues based swamp rocker. Music critic Annie Zaleski, “’Can’t Let Go,’ a chronicle of the bittersweet experience of hanging onto a failed (or failing) romance, is a Texas roadhouse barn-burner, with charred licks and vocals that convey equal parts anguish and defiance.” Perfectionist Lucinda worried for months about her dobro performance.” Co-producer Steve Earle called the experience of working on the album “the least amount of fun I’ve had working on a record.”


234. “Drive That Fast,” Kitchens of Distinction. Songwriters: Kitchens of Distinction; Did Not Chart; 1991. The U.K. rock band Kitchens of Distinction earned many comparisons to Echo and the Bunnymen, based upon their atmospheric, guitar driven sound. “Drive That Fast” certainly has swelling production values that could fill an arena, although the lyrics are too impressionistic for fist pumping. Rock critic Tom DiGravina, “’Drive That Fast’ is an edgy, invigorating highlight of the ‘Strange Free World’ album. Patrick Fitzgerald’s vocals nestle perfectly inside the beats and sonic waves created by his own bass, Julian Swales’s guitars, and Dan Goodwin’s warp-speed drums. The song features what might be the album’s most compelling arrangement. When Fitzgerald repeatedly implores, ‘Take me away from these simple feelings I know,’ it’s at exactly the right moments in relation to the melodic, atmospheric fury that swirls around him. Producer Hugh Jones deserves mountains of credit for allowing this song to expand into such a broad, theatrical vista while keeping everything clean and crisp.”


233. “The Man Who Sold the World,” Nirvana. Songwriter: David Bowie; Did Not Chart; 1995. “The Man Who Sold the World,” a song about paranoia/lost identity, was the title track for David Bowie’s 1970 album, as he was transitioning from “Space Oddity” and toward Ziggy Stardust. Bowie resurrected the song in 1974, producing a #3 U.K. pop hit for Lulu. The track was unknown to a mass audience in the U.S. when Nirvana performed their live cover as part of their famous “MTV Unplugged” session. Cobain managed to get a ghostly sound by connecting his acoustic guitar to a fuzzbox pedal, creating an otherworldly feel for the performance. Bowie, turned into a fanboy by Cobain, “I was simply blown away when I found out that Kurt Cobain liked my work. It would have been nice to have worked with him, but just talking would have been real cool.”


232. “Zombie,” The Cranberries. Songwriter: Dolores O’Riorden; #18 pop; 1994. The Cranberries formed in Ireland in 1989 and broke internationally in 1993 with the MOR pop/rock hit “Linger.” By contrast, 1994’s “Zombie” sounded like an apocalyptic war anthem. The song was inspired by the killing of two children by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1993. O’Riordan, who delivered a startling emotional vocal on the song, “There were a lot of bombs going off in London and I remember this one time a child was killed when a bomb was put in a rubbish bin – that’s why there’s that line in the song, ‘A child is slowly taken.’ We were on a tour bus and I was near the location where it happened, so it really struck me hard – I was quite young, but I remember being devastated about the innocent children being pulled into that kind of thing. So I suppose that’s why I was saying, ‘It’s not me’ – that even though I’m Irish it wasn’t me, I didn’t do it. Because being Irish, it was quite hard, especially in the UK when there was so much tension.” Sadly, O’Riordan died in 2018 at the age of 46. Author Una Mullally, “For Irish women in their 20s and 30s, she occupies a space next to Sinead O’Connor, two petite punks whose unconventionality thrilled and intimidated a society adverse to just that. Like Ms. O’Connor, Ms. O’Riordan took international stardom by the scruff of its neck: She shaved her head; she turned up to rock late-night American talk shows; and she did it all in her strong Limerick accent.”


231. “In Spite of Ourselves,” John Prine/Iris Dement. Songwriter: John Prine; Did Not Chart; 1999. John Prine scored a #21 country album in 1999 with “In Spite of Ourselves,” a collection of duets with former country stars (Connie Smith, Melba Montgomery), contemporary hit artists (Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless), and a few critically acclaimed acts (Iris Dement, Lucinda Williams). Prine and DeMent became the modern day alt-country Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn with their cover version of the George Jones/Tammy Wynette hit “(We’re Not) The Jet Set” and the Prine penned title track. He might be an undies sniffer and she might get a bit too turned by convict movies, but, in spite of their quicks, they know they are perfectly matched. DeMent’s reflection on the song, “When I saw the lyrics, I thought twice, to put it mildly. He’s not lying when he says I told him I wouldn’t record the song as long as my mom were alive, but I broke my word, and I did it anyway. The next thing you know, a copy of that CD shows up in the mail that looked exactly like the original, but it had that song removed, so I could give it to my mom.”

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