Hard Rock Music Time Machine – 4/26/18
Each Thursday, Hard Rock Music Time Machine takes a journey back in time to feature a variety of songs that date back as far as the late ’60s.
In addition to appearing on the embedded YouTube playlist below, all songs featured on Hard Rock Music Time Machine can be listened to individually by clicking on the hyper-linked song titles above each review.
ADAM WALDMAN – (Publisher, Hard Rock Daddy)
EVERLAST – “What It’s Like” (1998)
Things were a bit strange in 1998, at least when it comes to the rock music scene. Grunge had taken the world by storm, leaving a vapor trail of Aquanet hairspray in its wake. With only a handful of inspiring grunge bands, and too many watered down versions copycats to count, the peak years of the genre went by quickly. Nu metal was about to take over, but it hadn’t yet become very popular.
However, there was a glimpse of what was to come when Everlast (of House Of Pain fame), delivered a smooth blend of rock and hip-hop with “What It’s Like.” The song, from his sophomore solo effort, Whitey Ford Sings The Blues, was definitely a favorite two decades ago. The only downside was that satellite radio was still in its infancy, and commercial radio stations only played the butchered edit, which would have been better off not being released as a single (in my opinion).
For many songs, the lyrics are secondary, sometimes even irrelevant, but the lyrics of “What It’s Like” tell a powerful story (when unedited). Inexplicably, I’ve heard the edited version on some of the SiriusXM stations in recent times. Needless to say, the version featured here is unedited.
The acoustic guitar intro of “What It’s Like” has a southern rock feel. Things get interesting quickly, as a mood-setting hip-hop beat fills the background. Everlast’s vocal delivery is uniquely smooth with an R&B flavor. He connects so well to the lyrics that the song almost feels like an audiobook sung by a charismatic storyteller.
“What It’s Like” has a serious tone because of the somewhat dark story, but there is still an uplifting vibe that simply didn’t exist with grunge. If you’re a fan of storytelling, make sure to go back and revisit a song that still feels just as relevant today as it did 20 years ago.
FASTBALL – “The Way” (1998)
I never gave much thought to the meaning behind the lyrics of “The Way” back in the day, but the song always gave me an unexplained bittersweet feeling. Out of all the songs that came out in 1998, this song is the one that takes me back in time and reminds me of a fun group of friends that I hung out with. I never would have suspected at the time that “The Way” would make me feel so nostalgic two decades later. It was just the soundtrack of the moment back then.
Although my wife mocks my love of romantic comedies these days, I have always been a sucker for a compelling romance story. In hindsight, it may be one of the reasons why I always felt such a strong connection to “The Way.” Aside from the fact that it had a unique quality that I had not heard before (or since), I learned recently that the song is actually a romanticized tale of a true story that had either a tragic or blissful ending (depending on your perspective).
Rather than give the meaning away, I’d prefer to let you listen to the song for yourself and have the lyrics wash over you. It paints an interesting picture for sure. For those who want the specifics, you can’t find them here.
SUZANNE BRACKEN – HRD Music Scout
LENNY KRAVITZ – “Fly Away” (1998)
Lenny Kravitz , my favorite retro-rocker, came onto the music scene in the late-‘80s, but was about to hit his commercial peak in 1998 with the release of his album, 5. I was a huge Kravitz fan from the very beginning. His songs were the perfect mixture of rock and soul, performed with both passion and authenticity. While his solid albums performed well on the rock charts throughout the ‘90s (a monster hit in 1990 with “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over,” and great video for “Are You Gonna Go My Way”), his success reached another level with the album 5, in particular, the song “Fly Away.”
You literally could not get away from “Fly Away” in the late-‘90s (it was played incessantly on both rock and top 40 radio stations). It’s one of the first rock songs that my kids loved, and still love to this day. The instantly recognizable guitar riff and an uplifting chorus have been widely used in commercials, at sporting events, and many playlists over the last two decades. It has become Kravitz’s signature song, the first one that comes to mind to most people when they think of him.
Kravitz seems to have become more comfortable in his skin in recent years, making the music that he wants, collaborating with artists that have inspired him (and vice versa) and not conforming to public demand. He certainly could have continued in a more commercial direction, but instead, chose to make the music that pleases him. In in the process, he has cultivated a smaller group of devoted fans who appreciate his new rock/funk music blend.
I saw Kravitz a few years back at Terminal 5 in NYC. Thankfully, my music friends keep me informed of many events that come up, and one of them received an update that free tickets were being given out by a major company to the show to promote his (then) new album, Black and White in America. I have no idea how we got so lucky, but my friend got two general admission tickets.
It was an incredibly beautiful August night. While waiting in line with hundreds of eager fans, we watched sun setting over the Hudson River. We got into the club and situated ourselves towards the back, enjoying the DJ who played a great pre-show set. We even met a couple of girls from Long Island for the first time at this show that, thanks to Facebook, we have kept in touch with over these last few years. Kravitz was fabulous, playing most of his new album as well as songs from his beloved catalog. Another rock memory for the books, and this time, it didn’t cost a thing.
PEARL JAM – “Given To Fly” (1998)
As we all know, Pearl Jam ruled the rock charts throughout the 1990s. It’s safe to say that they have become one of the most loved, as well as iconic, American rock bands. Their fanbase and legend continues to grow, and as we have lost so many of our rock heroes in the last couple of years, they are treasured even more.
The Yield album was different in that it was more personal and reflective as a whole. “Given to Fly” is not only my favorite from that album, but my favorite Pearl Jam song of all-time. It captures their essence and strength as a band in one incredible song.
“Given To Fly” begins as a beautiful melody, as their songs frequently do, and then goes all power, both lyrically and musically. I love any song that references flight as a metaphor as a chance to leave your troubles behind and start anew. The song ends with hope, redemption and confidence, things that we all need to navigate this thing called life.
“Given to Fly” has remained a concert staple that resonates strongly with Pearl Jam’s fans, many of whom look to a concert as an escape from difficult times or just the daily grind. Live music is an experience that I look at, without exaggeration, as a necessity, so much so that it is worked into my monthly budget and schedule much like a utility bill. It helps me to live fully and without regret, giving me something to always look forward to. You can hardly put a price on that it terms of health and happiness.