The Best Albums You’ll Never Hear…
Last week, Dr. Dre surprised fans when he announced that his long awaited third album would finally seen the light of day. However, fans still found reason to be upset when it was revealed that the album, titled Compton, would not be his long awaited Detox project. The headphones salesman said that the album simply wasn’t good enough to be released, and that he’s more passionate about his more recent work, inspired by an upcoming NWA biopic. Whist the album is as good as anything fans could have hoped for, a real statement on exactly what g-funk should be, and even though much of Detox has been divided up between Dre’s various protégées (Snoop, Eminem, 50 Cent, The Game, Kendrick Lamar), there will be fans that will trudge online for hours trying to find a tracks that are purported to be from Detox. In terms of being a great album that will never be heard, Detox is in some fairly good company. Here’s six other great albums you’re probably never going to hear.
Beastie Boys | Country Mike’s Greatest Hits
The Beastie Boys proved to be one of the most bizarre groups in history, with their sound ranging from metal cribbing bratty frat boy rappers to weird jazz inflicted Buddhists, but this would have been the strangest detour of all. Reportedly recorded in Shania Twain’s compound in the late 90s, Country Mike’s Greatest Hits saw the Beasties record a country album. Allegedly the project would have been fully immersive, with Mike D taking on the role of Mike, a world weary country star, on the record’s subsequent tour. Though it was never released, two tracks appeared on a compilation album, and what’s reputed to be the entire thing can be found on YouTube. What’s most surprising about is how good it is. All fiddles, pedal steels and yee-haw’s, its far from a half-hearted effort. All songs about drinkin’, shootin’ and trucks, it sounds like something Beck might do. The highlight is undoubtably a country-fried cover of the Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’.
Weezer | Songs from the Black Hole
Weezer famously followed up their brilliant, goofy, charming debut album with Pinkerton, a famously depressing and dour album. Pinkerton has since grown in stature, being seen as one of the first mainstream emo albums, but at the time it was reviled. Some of that initial critical coldness might have come from the fact that rumours for the Blue Album‘s follow-up sounded like it could have built on that album’s fun, but ultimately did not.
Songs from the Black Hole would have been a concept album that sees Rivers Cuomo and his bandmates going where no band has gone before. The narrative would have essentially been a metaphor for heading off on tour, something that informs much of Pinkerton, and by all accounts it sounds like the perfect match for Cuomo’s goofy, fun-loving pop inflicted songwriting. Allegedly he sought out vocorders, vintage synths and weird effect pedals to give it a sci-fi edge. Songs… ultimately never came together for whatever reason, but snippets can be found in various collections of Cuomo’s home recordings.
The Who | Lifehouse
Pete Townshend was a composer whose ambitions always went above and beyond his fairly limited musical ability, but Lifehouse was the one project that even he wasn’t able to bring to life. Reportedly inspired by nascent computer technology, the emergence of synthesisers and his own bourgeoning interest in Buddhism, the album – if you could call it that – sounds absolutely bizarre. Lifehouse was to be a straightforward record which would have told the story of people escaping an oppressive totalitarian government through music, namely a bed a synthesisers meets Townsend’s trademark, crushing, power chords. At concerts, fans would be brought onstage and scanned by a computer, which would have then put the information into a synth, and created a new musical motif that the band would perform around. All of this, in the early ’70s. Obvious technological limitations aside, nobody apart from Townshend seemed to have any idea how it would work and it gradually fell apart. Some songs devised as part of the initial album, ‘Baba O’Riley’ (named after Maher Baba, the guru that inspired the project) and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, eventually saw the light of day, but no doubt they sound far more conventional then what could have been.
The Stooges | Untitled Raw Power follow-up
Before society caught up with them, The Stooges had one of the most unfortunate trajectories of any band that would eventually be seen as influential as they are. Their first two albums, though effectively laying the groundwork for noise rock and punk, never went anywhere, and they broke up in the early ’70s. Less than a year later super-fan David Bowie financed a reunion, rebranding them as Iggy and the Stooges. Original guitarist Ron Asheton was shuffled to bass and replaced by James Williamson. Williamson’s guitar sound was far more conventional then the paint stripping primal weirdness of Asheton, more driven by song writing then pure noise.
Despite this, Raw Power failed to find an audience. Bowie’s influence though meant that the band managed to hold it together for another year. They where kept shacked up in Los Angeles, going through a herculean amount of drugs and writing tracks that where said to be informed by glam rock and the then nascent heavy metal scene, but ultimately collapsed before anything could be recorded. A lot of material from this album can be heard today. Last year, Williamson released Relicked, an album that features a truly staggering array of guest vocalists (Ariel Pink, Bobby Gillespie, Alison Mosshart and Mark Lanegan are the highlights) singing tracks they had written. The best way of hearing them, though, is via Metallica KO, a live album the Stooges recorded shortly before breaking up. Famously, the album ends with Iggy Pop getting knocked out by some bikers he had been antagonising. The chaotic, frantic nature of this album is probably the best representation of how the follow up to Raw Power would have sounded.
Zack De La Rocha | Untitled solo debut
Zack De La Rocha’s silence following the break up of Rage Against the Machine in the early 2000s has been truly strange. The other members of Rage quickly got together with Chris Cornell of Soundgarden to form Audioslave, churning out albums with a regularity that only highlighted how quiet their old frontman had been. De La Rocha was never the most technically gifted of MCs but his all encompassing anger would have, or at least should have, made for an interesting solo record. Trent Reznor, behind Nine Inch Nails, is said to have produced a number of tracks for De La Rocha, which the singer ultimately shelved. Anyone that’s heard Saul Williams’ 2008 album The Unstoppable Rise and Inevitable Fall of Niggy Tardust knows that Reznor’s production skills combined with a righteously angry vocalist can create truly spectacular results, making a De La Rocha solo effort all the more tantalising. Other producers were rumoured to be involved, including El-P, now half of Run The Jewels. De La Rocha spat absolute fire on ‘Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)’ on Run The Jewels 2 last year, leaving us to wonder what a solo effort could have been.
My Bloody Valentine | Loveless follow-up
Kevin Shields famously bankrupted Creation records in the four years that he took to put together My Bloody Valentine’s seminal Loveless. Following its release, he found himself in high demand, and the group was signed to Sony for about $250,000. Shields used to money to build a home studio, and then allegedly went mad trying to record something that would follow up Loveless. At this point the other members of My Bloody Valentine had all but dissipated, with only Belinda Butcher, who was in a relationship with Shields at the time, remaining. Allegedly heavily influenced by hip hop, acid house and jungle, Shields was alleged to have massed over 100 hours of material and the task of shifting through it to make an album proved daunting. Shields abandoned My Bloody Valentine for just under decade, before looking back over it when the band started to play a series of reunion gigs.
MBV arrived in early 2013, and seeming much of it was recorded in the years immediately proceeding its release. Snatches of what Shields was said to be recording in the 90s can be heard on the record, but overall it sounds very different to what he described. Even though MBV came out 22 years after Loveless, it was still battened down by expectation based on how good Loveless is. If something was to have come out in the years immediately after Loveless that sense of expectation would have only been more crushing. One wonders what if that pressure would have forced Shields to build on the already impossible highs of Loveless.