Archive for Throwback Thursday

Jazz great Louis Armstrong with trumpet
The immortal Louis Armstrong was not only jazz’s breakthrough virtuoso soloist, he also helped establish the sound, style and mood of American popular music — influencing everything from the development of swing and R&B to country. Featured in our MU Icon playlist are his biggest hits, most famous “birth of jazz” tunes and a number of his stellar duets and collaborations with such friends as Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Oscar Peterson.

Listen Now: Louis Armstrong – MU Icon

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Tommy Ramone, who passed away last week, was more than the Ramones’ revolutionary drummer who cracked the code for a new style of punk rock percussion. He helped create the band’s audio and visual style, was their first manager and the producer who captured their sound in the studio. A trained audio engineer, the clean-living Tommy decided to distance himself from the band after Road To Ruin, returning to produce Too Tough To Die, along with critically acclaimed albums by the Replacements and Redd Kross. The Uncle Monk cut features Tommy’s guitar and voice.

Listen to the Tommy Ramone playlist on Music Unlimited.

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Earlier this week the members of Pink Floyd confirmed that they would soon release their first new album in two decades, the long-awaited follow-up to 1994’s The Division Bell. Frontman David Gilmour’s wife, Polly Samson, casually revealed the news that The Endless River will come out in October, via Twitter. Which gives you just about enough time to get up to speed on the British psychedelic rock band’s vast back catalog, which includes landmark releases as The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall all remastered and readily available on Music Unlimited.

Listen to the Pink Floyd artist channel on Music Unlimited.

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If you’re looking to grasp the depth and length of soul man Bobby Womack’s career – consider this: he was signed by Sam Cooke and his last album was produced by Damon Albarn. After leaving his early gospel roots for the heathen world, he found hits with the Valentinos, earning the early love of The Rolling Stones, who covered “It’s All Over Now.” He grew into one of the most expressive, passionate singers of the ‘70s, filling tunes like “Across 110th Street” and “That’s the Way I Feel About You” with his straight-to-the-heart cool. His snarling vocals of “I’m a Midnight Mover” cannot be topped while his mellow folk-soul take on “California Dreamin’” might be the definitive version. His most recent album, accurately titled The Bravest Man in the Universe was a late career highlight.

Listen to the Bobby Womack: Remembering The Soul Legend playlist on Music Unlimited.

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Wings Over America

In celebration of Paul McCartney’s 72nd birthday we’ve been listening to his first decade of solo work.

Macca, as he’s affectionately called in the UK, has continued the creative resurgence he’s been riding since at least 1997’s Flaming Pie. Paul still sounds more like a hungry indie pop wunderkind than a fabulously wealthy cultural icon. It’s hard to believe he’s well into his seventh decade.

Paul has always been a sonic innovator and that sense of playfulness extends into these works, taking excursions into more wounded autobiography on cuts such as “Maybe, I’m Amazed,” “Every Night” and even the dazzling “Band On The Run.” He crafted a head spinning array of classic rock hits with Wings in the 1970s until he abruptly disbanded his makeshift band and greeted the 1980’s with pre electro-chill oddity McCartney II.

That mix of experimentation and playfulness has never left McCartney, even on later day masterworks like Memory Almost Full. At 72, he wows crowds with 3 hour marathon concert performances and then slinks away and records ambient techno under The Fireman moniker.

Listen to Paul McCartney’s early solo work on Music Unlimited.



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Bob Dylan celebrated his 73rd birthday earlier this week and it feels like he’s led nearly as many lives. He began as a Woody Guthrie acolyte, imitating the dust-bowl balladeer as faithfully as a baby boomer from Hibbing, Minnesota, could. It wasn’t long before he found his own voice, spearheading the early-1960s folk revival as well as the singer-songwriter movement, and introducing poetry into pop music. Through countless changes in sound, image, and even religion, he retained his unique artistic vision even when his popularity occasionally waned. By the 21st century, he was enjoying an upsurge of critical and popular interest based on a series of powerful late-career albums that crystallized his aesthetics and unique world view.

Listen to Bob Dylan through the years on Music Unlimited

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oasis_definitelymaybeThis week, we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of one of the definitive albums — no, make that the definitive album — of the Britpop era, OasisDefinitely Maybe.

It wasn’t the feuding Manchester group’s most popular release — that would be the follow-up (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? — but its songs and swagger set the course for one of the most fertile periods of British guitar rock. In fact, the album’s influence can still be heard today in young artists like Jake Bugg and the Arctic Monkeys.

In addition to sing-along pub classics like “Live Forever,” “Supersonic” and “Cigarettes and Alcohol,” the remastered deluxe edition of Definitely Maybe, now available on Music Unlimited, also features a bounty of loud and leery B-sides, demos and live tracks that will send you running to your closet, searching for your parka and Adidas trainers.

Listen to Definitely Maybe (Remastered) [Deluxe Edition] now on Music Unlimited.

Check out more Britpop classics from Oasis.

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Wanna rock and roll all night and party every day? Kiss is gearing up to celebrate its 40th anniversary this year with its first-ever Rolling Stone magazine cover, an epic summer co-headlining tour with Def Leppard and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Frontman Paul Stanley also has a new tell-all memoir, “Face The Music: A Life Exposed.” To get up to speed on all the action, check out our playlist of the pioneering hard rock band’s classic songs.

Kiss 3

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EltonBlog[1]With the 40th anniversary reissue of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Music Unlimited has been knee-deep in Elton John’s back catalog this week. We’ve picked him as an MU Icon and you can find a playlist of essential tracks on the service now.

The biggest musical force to emerge at the dawn of the 1970s, Elton John ruled the airwaves during that bell-bottomed, bespangled decade, conquering FM rock radio, the pop hit parade, disco dance floors and even the R&B charts. John, who was a strange combination of shy piano nerd, raw musical talent and showman, used the glitzy glam-era costume trappings to give his concert performances a boost while his songs spoke for themselves.

Influenced by everything from New Orleans R&B and rockabilly to classical music and 1950s pop, Elton John unified it all through his peerless, idiosyncratic melodies. The lyrics were penned by Bernie Taupin and it’s the songs from their 1970s partnership that form his essential body of work.

In less than a decade, John and Taupin nearly matched the quality/quantity peak of Lennon/McCartnety by crafting a dozen (!!!) classic albums, including the double platters Yellow Brick Road and Blue Moves.

Normally, part of the fun of doing an MU Icons playlist is digging through all the deep cuts and unearthing hidden gems. Well, John/Taupin scored over 20 huge hits during the first wave of their partnership. We’ve added additional cuts, but even they include such widely heard classic rockers as the prog epic “Funeral For A Friend” and the propulsively romantic “Razor Face.”

Elton John would go on to score deserved hits without Bernie Taupin but it says something that after years apart they now work together again. While their 2013 release The Diving Board scored Elton John his finest reviews in a long stretch it’s their 1970s collaborations that will be listened to well into the next century.

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TemptationsIt was 50 years ago today that The Temptations released their debut album, Meet the Temptations. It was the start of a career that would provide some of the most incredible pop music ever laid down on wax. To celebrate, we’ve gathered a decade-spanning list of rule-breaking hits in The Temptations: MU Icons Playlist, now on Music Unlimited mobile & web.

“The Way You Do the Things You Do” has the mark of songwriter Smokey Robinson all over it, but the group’s own harmonies make the song swing effortlessly. The Smokey/ Temptations connection would also bring us “My Girl”, giving David Ruffin his first shot at lead vocals and (along with that guitar line from The Funk Brothers’ Robert White) providing one of the most recognizable pop songs in history.

In 1966, Norman Whitfield came aboard as a producer and the band began to carve out something more hard-hitting and funkier. First evidence was “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”, the finger-snapping classic with David Ruffin again killing it on those strained vocals. With Whitfield, the band began releasing track after track of hugely inventive chart-toppers, songs which showed an appreciation for both the nascent counterculture movement and the deep sounds of inner city funk. “Cloud Nine”, “Ball of Confusion” , “I Can’t Get Next To You” were all daring, immediate and positively mind-blowing.

As the vibe of popular music mellowed, so did the Temps, perfectly exemplified by the Eddie Kendricks-sung “Just My Imagination” setting the template for ‘70s love jams to come. As sweet and beautiful as that song was, they could still amaze with the about-face long-form brilliance of 1972’s “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”. Here was 12 minutes of stunning, dark cinematic soul, armed with a wah-wah pedal and some frankly pretty bleak lyrics. It might just be their crowning achievement.

And they didn’t stop there. The Temptations have weathered disco, ‘80s soul-pop, ‘90s New Jack and hip-hop – racking up hits and touring for the faithful.

But if you’re of the mindset that The Temptations are just an oldies act, dive deeper and discover the haunting soul and celestial harmonies that lie at the center of Motown’s finest group in our playlist.

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