Beastie Boys: The Series – Licensed To Ill (1986)
The Readers have spoken! The results are in from the poll I posted here a week ago, and the Beastie Boys received 30% of the vote to become the subject of my next album series!
UPDATE: Craig added a late vote for the Beasties, giving them 4/11 or 36% of the vote.
I am excited!!
Yesterday, the day the poll votes were finalized, I saw a Dad in a Beastie Boys t-shirt at my son’s school. I told him I’d just been listening to Licensed not five minutes before, and he got a huge grin on his face. All of this, it might seem, was meant to be.
Now, Uncle Meat (quite rightly) suggested that going through these studio albums song by song would be a major undertaking. I am not afraid of this. I am ambitious! Hell, I put Tom Waits in the poll, and if he’d been selected, I could have been doing a series of his stuff a lot longer! No matter, Beasties it is, and Beasties it shall be.
For those playing the home game: I have already reviewed this first album. And I suppose you could click that link and just read that post and think you’ll be able to skip what follows below. You’d be wrong. Oh, there’ll be some repeating myself, hell I may even contradict myself. But I approached this album today with the intent of reviewing it for this series, forgetting all I may have written on the subject before. See the love I have for you?
Also, there’s a ton of cool info about this record right here. I link this so I won’t have to re-type everything, and leave space for my own thoughts on the record.
And if you wanna know all the samples on the record, try this.
Rhymin’ And Stealin’ kicks us off. “Ali Baba and the 40 thieves!” Oh man, turn this up. The Sabbath/Led Zeppelin mash-up quote (Sweet Leaf/When The Levee Breaks) is a great intro to this classic record. And both tracks are well-selected – Sweet Leaf given the cover art (the plane hitting the mountain looks like a joint being stubbed out), and this track certainly announces that a levee is breaking and the Beasties are the flood.
The New Style is a total Run-DMC homage. I loved this, it’s total old school… from when it wasn’t really all that old. Um. That guitar stab reminded me of Tone-Loc, too. They don’t sample Zeppelin in this one, but they take a poke at Jimmy Page: “If I played guitar I’d be Jimmy Page/the girlies I like are underage, check it!” Total sass. The samples of B-Boys and Trouble Funk (remember when ROLLINS re-released their stuff on his own label? I DO!). “Let me clear my throat…” and then at 3:09 it switches gears and all I can hear is all that bass-heavy slow jam rap that’s come since.
She’s Crafty marries Zeppelin’s The Ocean guitar line to a jam that surely influenced Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. Yes, you read that correctly. This is a fun dance track.
Posse In Effect is a slow jam with a big fat ass. Great cruising music. Fantastic.
Slow Ride is another funky drummer old school jumper. Listening to this stuff, it’s easy to picture kids on a street corner, a boom box coughing up beats as they let it flow. For some reason, their sample of War’s Low Rider is not listed at that samples link I provided, above.
Girls is a crazy tune, hilarious, an ode to the ladies with a completely ridiculous riff. And why do they want girls? To do dishes, clean the bathroom and wear tight pants, apparently. Oh man. And that goofy toy piano riff? Also not listed at the link above, I believe that’s Bo Diddley’s I’m All Right.
Fight For Your Right is just huge. All over. Gone are the dinky little raps. This is punk metal shout-along, packed with all they had and aimed at the big-time. They hit it. Hard. Listen to this and remember that, before taking up the rap game, these guys were a punk band. They play their own instruments. So really, this had to happen. It’s a totally classic track.
No Sleep Til Brooklyn follows the big hit perfectly. I’ve always loved this song, an album fave for me. I defy you to not bang your head to this one, and all with a big smile on your face while you’re at it. Beastie metal! The guitar (which interpret’s AC/DC’s T.N.T.), of course, was provided by Kerry King of Slayer. He got involved through producer Rick Rubin, who was working on this record and Slayer’s Reign In Blood simultaneously.
Paul Revere’s slippery riff is so off the wall it works. The groove is laid down and the Boys take turns rapping over it. It seems so simple, doesn’t it.
Hold It Now, Hit It is another gift to Fresh Prince (haha). Honestly, though, the Beasties do it way better. This one samples a bunch of stuff (including Kool & The Gang), and it has aged well. It shouldn’t have, by rights. They sound like toss-offs. But it did survive, and they are not toss-offs. Fun stuff!
Brass Monkey always sounded like another goof track, to me. That honking saxophone ought to be off-putting, but of course it works. Another fun jam. Get off yer ass and dance!
Slow And Low is another slow track, but it’s a stomper that has a force all of its own. That link (above) says there’s a sample of AC/DC’s Flick Of The Switch in here, somewhere.
And finally, Time To Get Ill steps forward. It’s a slow cruncher, a good shout-along track. According to the link, it samples at least 7 tracks, including Barry White, CCR, Zeppelin (again), Schooly D and Stevie Wonder. They brought us into the album on an old school tip, and out we go on the same.
In sum: A total classic, through and through. Two thumbs way up. Way, WAY up.