On this day in music history: April 17, 1990 – “People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm”, the debut album by A Tribe Called Quest is released. Produced by A Tribe Called Quest, it is recorded at Calliope Studios and Battery Studios in New York City from Mid 1989 – Early 1990. The group has its beginnings in 1985 with Q-Tip (born Jonathan William Davis, renamed Kamaal Ibn John Fareed) and Phife Dawg (born Malik Izaak Taylor), who are childhood friends growing up in the same Queens neighborhood. While attending high school, they are joined by DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad and fellow MC Jarobi White. First known as Crush Connection, they are given the name A Tribe Called Quest in 1988 by members of The Jungle Brothers. Tribe begins to record demos that are heard by legendary Hip Hop figure Kool DJ Red Alert of the Universal Zulu Nation (also JB’s member Mike Gee’s uncle). Red Alert takes Tribe under his wing, assisting them in landing a demo deal with Geffen Records in 1989. Tribe record a five song demo for the label who pass on signing them, leaving them free to shop the tape elsewhere. They attract offers from other labels, but go with RCA distributed Jive Records based on their past track record with other rap acts such as Boogie Down Productions and Too Short. Having learned how to make beats from Large Professor (Main Source) and recording engineer Shane Faber, Q-Tip puts the tracks together with assistance from Shaheed. They sample from a wide and eclectic mix of jazz, R&B, funk, rock and pop records. The groups unique approach to writing rhymes also stands apart from other rappers, proving to be an excellent compliment and counterpoint to the music. Proceeded by the single “Description Of A Fool”, the album spins off three other singles including “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo” (#9 Rap), “Bonita Applebum” (#4 Rap, #56 R&B) and “Can I Kick It?” (#8 Rap). “People’s Instinctive Travels” receives praise from both music critics and within the Hip Hop community for Tribe’s fresh perspective and musical vision. Though just a modest seller at the time, its stature grows in exposure and influence in later years. For its twenty fifth anniversary in 2015, it is remastered and reissued on CD and vinyl, featuring three additional bonus tracks. The same year, Get On Down Records releases a limited edition eight disc vinyl box set, with the full album (plus non-album B-sides) pressed on 7" 45 RPM discs. The set is limited to only 1,000 numbered sets and sells out almost immediately. Due to popular demand, another small run of the set (non-numbered) are released in 2016. “People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm” peaks at number twenty three on the Billboard R&B album chart, number ninety one of the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: April 16, 1991 – “Temple Of The Dog”, the lone album by Temple Of The Dog is released. Produced by Rick Parashar and Temple Of The Dog, it is recorded at London Bridge Studios in Seattle, WA from November – December 1990. In early 1990, Mother Love Bone are poised for success. Emerging from Seattle’s late 80’s underground music scene, they’re signed by Polydor Records, and release the EP “Shine” in March of 1989. Polydor then options a full album from the band. With this good fortune, there is also a problem. Their charismatic lead singer Andrew Wood, is a heroin addict. In spite of this, they complete their album “Apple”, which is set for release in March of 1990. On March 16th, Wood overdoses on heroin and is found in a coma by his girlfriend. Declared legally brain dead, Andrew is kept on life support long enough for friends and family to say goodbye. Wood dies on March 19, 1990, at the age of only 24. Devastated by the loss, Mother Love Bone disband after their lone album is released in July of 1990. Jeff Ament (bass) and Stone Gossard form Pearl Jam shortly after. Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell, a close friend of Andrew Wood and his roommate in Seattle, looks a way to honor his friend. He writes several songs including “Reach Down” and “Say Hello 2 Heaven”. Cornell then approaches Ament and Gossard about a tribute to Wood. They agree, also bringing in Pearl Jam’s lead guitarist Mike McCready, with Cornell having Matt Cameron from his band to play drums. Intending to record only a single, that idea is discarded in favor of an album. Calling themselves Temple Of The Dog, they begin recording. During the sessions, Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder is also present. When Chris has problems with the song “Hunger Strike” during rehearsals. Vedder steps up to the mic and sings with Cornell. The impromptu duet is then recorded. Completed in only fifteen days, “Temple Of The Dog” initially sells only 70,000 copies. By 1992, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden see their albums “Ten” and “Badmotorfinger” taking flight. Both bands are caught up in the huge wave of media attention, focused on the Seattle grunge movement. Realizing what they have, A&M re-promotes the album, shooting a video for “Hunger Strike” (#4 Mainstream Rock, #7 Modern Rock). The tribute album is regarded as one of the best rock albums of the 90’s. It’s reissued as Deluxe and Super Deluxe sets for its 25th anniversary in 2016. Given only a tiny press run on vinyl in 1991, it’s reissued as a double 180 gram LP set by Music On Vinyl in 2013 (and by A&M/UMe in 2016). The songs are pressed on three sides, with the fourth side featuring etched artwork (band logo on the MOV release, a band silhouette on the A&M release). “Temple Of The Dog” peaks at number five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: April 10, 1990 – “Fear Of A Black Planet”, the third album by Public Enemy is released. Produced by Carl Ryder (Chuck D.), Hank Shocklee, Keith Shocklee and Eric “Vietnam” Sadler (aka “The Bomb Squad”), it is recorded at Greene Street Studios in New York City, Spectrum City Studios and The Music Palace in West Hempstead, L.I., NY from June – October 1989. After the critical and commercial success of their second album “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back”, Public Enemy return to the studio in mid 1989 to begin work on the follow up. Before that happens, the group become embroiled in controversy when Minister Of Information Professor Griff is interviewed by the Washington Times in May of 1989. In the interview, Griff makes anti-semitic remarks which erupt into a media firestorm, leading to his dismissal from the group. The controversy becomes so intense that Chuck D. announces that P.E. is disbanding just as “Fight The Power” (#1 Rap, #20 R&B), from Spike Lee’s film “Do The Right Thing” is being released. In truth, the statement is made in order to take the media scrutiny off of them, and to be able to work in relative peace. Much like previous album, P.E. seizes the opportunity to make statements about issues affecting the African American community, primarily “the state of race relations” in the United States. Like its predecessor, “Planet” weaves a musically dense fabric of samples for each track, utilizing various tools including the E-mu SP-1200 sampler/drum machine, Akai S9000, and a Apple Macintosh computer to create the tracks. Due to the complexity of synchronizing the large number of samples, and the time limitations of the samplers, The Bomb Squad layer them on multi-track tape by recording a SMPTE time code (used for synchronizing film and sound) on to the tape, in order to properly synchronize all of the samples. Proceeded by the single “Welcome To The Terrordome” (#3 Rap, #15 R&B, #31 Pop) in January of 1990, chronicling the recent controversy with Griff (who is quietly reinstated), anticipation for the album is high. When “Fear Of A Black Planet” is released, it is a major success with fans and critics alike. It spins off a total of five singles including “911 Is A Joke” (#1 Rap, #15 R&B, and “Brothers Gonna Work It Out” (#22 Rap, #20 R&B). “Black Planet” is regarded as one of the best albums of the 90’s, and is added to the National Recording Registry by The Library Of Congress in 2005. In 2018, “Fight The Power” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame, becoming the first of P.E.’s seminal and influential recordings to be recognized by NARAS as being “culturally and historically significant”. “Fear Of A Black Planet” peaks at number three on the Billboard R&B album chart, number ten on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: April 3, 1990 – “Born To Sing”, the debut album by En Vogue is released. Produced by Thomas McElroy and Denzil Foster, it is recorded at Starlight Sound Studios in Richmond, CA from August – December 1989. The group are put together by former Timex Social Club and Club Nouveau musicians Thomas McElroy and Denzil Foster wanting to create their own “modern day version of The Supremes”. In July 1989, they hold auditions for singers before finding vocalists Cindy Herron, Dawn Robinson, Terry Ellis and Maxine Jones. Once the group is assembled, they get right to work in the recording studio. The first album by the Oakland, CA based vocal quartet is an immediate hit, spinning off four singles including “Hold On” (#1 R&B, #2 Pop), “Lies” (#1 R&B, #38 Pop), “You Don’t Have To Worry” (#1 R&B), and “Don’t Go” (#3 R&B). In April of 2019, the album is remastered and reissued as a two CD deluxe edition, by UK reissue label Cherry Red Records. The first disc contains the original eleven song album, plus seven additional bonus tracks, including single edits and remixes. Disc two features an additional fourteen bonus tracks, including more 12" remixes and tracks from the spin off EP “Remix To Sing” released in 1991. “Born To Sing” peaks at number three on the Billboard R&B album chart, number twenty one on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: March 26, 1990 – “Sex Packets”, the debut album by Digital Underground is released. Produced by The Underground, it is recorded at Starlight Sound Studios in Richmond, CA, Alpha And Omega Studios in San Francisco, CA and J-Jam Studios in Oakland, CA from Early 1988 – January 1990. After creating a buzz with their independently released debut single “Underwater Rimes”, Oakland, CA based hip hop group Digital Underground is signed to Tommy Boy Records. Led by musician and rapper Greg “Shock G.” Jacobs, the group consists of rappers Money B., Sleuth, Schmoovy-Schmoov, drummer Chopmaster J and DJ’s Kenny K. and DJ Fuze. Taking inspiration from Parliament-Funkadelic, the group create a unique musical style (combining samples and live instrumentation) and image that sets them apart from their contemporaries. And like George Clinton adapting the personas of “Dr. Funkenstein”, “Starchild” and “Sir Nose D’VoidofFunk”, Shock G. creates the alter ego of Humpty Hump, often dressing in suits, fake glasses and an over sized brown nose. “Sex Packets” is a concept album with its main theme centering around the creation of a pill (also known as “Genetic Suppression Relief Antidotes”) that when taken, allows the person to have a sexual encounter with the object of their desire, but is actually a chemically induced simulation while in a dream like state. As part of the unique marketing of the album, Tommy Boy sends out “sex packets” to radio programmers and DJ’s (actually Necco Wafers vacuum sealed in a custom wrapper, with a picture of your potential sex partner on the outside) as a item to promote its release. The album is a critical and commercial success upon its release, praised for its sharp and clever rhymes and tight production. It spins off a total of four singles including “Doowutchyalike”, “The Humpty Dance” (#7 R&B, #11 Pop) and “Packet Man”. Though not issued as a commercial single, one of the albums stand out cuts “Freaks Of The Industry” quickly becomes one of DU’s most popular and enduring songs. Tommy Boy Records issues it as a promotional only 12" single, pressed on red clear vinyl. It features the original mix sampling Donna Summer’s “Love To Love You Baby”, and two remixes one sampling Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover”. The third mix features multiple samples including “Love Hangover”, and snippets of George Benson’s “This Masquerade”. “Sex Packets” peaks at number eight on the Billboard R&B album chart, number twenty four on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 8, 1990 – “Because I Love You (The Postman Song)” by Stevie B. hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 2 weeks on January 19, 1991. Written by Warren Allen Brooks, it is the biggest hit for the singer, songwriter and producer from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Born Steven Bernard Hill, Stevie B. is involved in music from an early age, forming the band LUV in high school with friend and future R&B star Howard Johnson (“So Fine”, “Keepin’ Love New”). After the band splits following Johnson’s departure to join Niteflyte (“If You Want It”), Stevie continues to make music on his his own, starting his own label Midtown Records and releasing the singles “Sending Out For Love” under his own name, and “Boy Toy” under moniker Friday Friday Featuring Stevie B.. Then in 1987, he records and releases the song “Party Your Body”, an uptempo dance track that becomes a huge hit in Miami and several other cities where Freestyle is popular like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The record attracts the attention of New York based dance label LMR Records who signs Stevie, and re-releases the single early in 1988. A string of other hits follow including “Dreamin’ Of Love”, “Spring Love” and “I Wanna Be The One”. By 1990, LMR has aligned itself with major label RCA Records as the singer is working on his third album “Love & Emotion”. Looking for a change of pace from his dance oriented material, Stevie records the ballad “Because I Love You”, written by co-collaborator Warren Allen Brooks who has also penned four other songs on the album including the title track. Issued as the second single from the album in September of 1990, the song is an across the board smash, hitting the pop and AC charts. Entering the Hot 100 at #80 on October 6, 1990, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. After spending a month at the top of the US singles chart, “Because I Love You” is also a hit internationally, hitting the top ten in ten foreign countries including the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. Stevie B. scores another top 40 hit with the follow up “I’ll Be By Your Side” (#12 Pop), he is unable to match the success of his chart topping hit. Still a popular concert draw, Stevie is still recording, having released his most recent album “The King Of Hearts” in 2014. “Because I Love You (The Postman Song)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 7, 1991 – “Black Or White” by Michael Jackson hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 7 weeks, also peaking at #3 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Michael Jackson and Bill Bottrell, it is the twelfth solo chart topper (sixteenth overall) for “The King Of Pop”. Issued as the first single from Jackson’s eighth album “Dangerous” on November 11, 1991, the single is premiered on radio just days before its arrival in stores. The track is supported by an elaborate eleven minute long short film directed by John Landis (“Thriller”), also starring actors Macaulay Culkin (“Home Alone”), George Wendt (“Cheers”) and Tess Harper (“Tender Mercies”, “Breaking Bad”). The video also breaks new ground visually for the face morphing sequence created by Pacific Data Images, digitally morphing the actors lip synching the song seamlessly into each other. Among the people seen during the sequence include model Tyra Banks and actors Khrystyne Haje, Cree Summer and Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter. The clip has its broadcast debut simultaneously on MTV, BET, VH1, and the Fox television network on November 14, 1991, drawing a record breaking viewing audience. However, the extended dance sequence of the film draws controversy due to several scenes of Jackson rubbing and grabbing his crotch as well as destroying a car and breaking windows. The singer issues a statement the next day apologizing, stating that “the violent and suggestive behavior was an interpretation of the black panther’s animal instincts”. The controversy does not hurt the songs’ airplay or sales. It becomes the fastest rising single on the Hot 100 since The Beatles “Get Back” in 1969. Entering the Hot 100 at #35 on November 23, 1991, it pole vaults to the top of the chart two weeks later. Jackson also becomes the first artist in history to have number one singles in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. On the UK singles chart, it is the first single to enter the chart at number one since Elvis Presley’s “It’s Now Or Never” in 1960. “Black Or White” also tops the charts in seventeen other countries, and is ranked the top single of 1991 by Billboard Magazine. “Black Or White” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 7, 1991 – “Achtung Baby”, the seventh studio album by U2 hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 1 week. Produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, it is recorded at Hansa Ton Studios in Berlin, Germany, STS Studios, Elsinore Studios and Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, Ireland from October 1990 – September 1991. the band re-invent their sound, experimenting with industrial, electronic dance rhythms and alternative rock. The result win the veteran Irish band a new generation of fans and regains critical favor lost on their previous album “Rattle And Hum”. It spins off five singles including “Mysterious Ways” (#9 Pop) and “One” (#10 Pop). “Baby” becomes U2’s second largest selling album after “The Joshua Tree” with worldwide sales of over eighteen million copies. It wins a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1993, with producers Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno winning the Producer Of The Year Grammy (Non-Classical) (tied with L.A. Reid & Babyface) for their work on the album. “Achtung Baby” is reissued for its twentieth anniversary in 2011 in various editions including a mammoth ten disc box set containing six CD’s, four DVD’s, five 7" vinyl singles and other memorabilia connected with the album. "Achtung Baby" is certified 8x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
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