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30 Best Loved Albums - Rage Against the Machine

2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List. With that on to #19 of the list...

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19. Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine (1992)

Although generally derided these days, the fusing of rock and rap was a novel concept in 1992 and Rage Against the Machine hit the music world like a bullet to the head. Zach de la Rocha’s scream-singing combined with Tom Morello’s ground shaking guitar worked and backed by a heavy/funky rhythm section made Rage Against the Machine one of the heaviest metal albums of the 1990’s – rivaling some of Zeppelin’s best 70’s releases.

Sometimes I wish I was 16 when this album came out because it is a muscular, aggresive album full of “don’t f--k with me attitude? and I am sure there have been millions of teenage (mostly) boys who have screamed the last 16 verses of Killing in the Name silently in their bedrooms (‘Fuck You! I won’t do what you tell me!?) as they railed against parents, girls, school, and general teenage angst. de la Rocha’s lyrics are full of rants against political enemies, modern day capitalism, and the general non-activism of the American public. Titles like Take the Power Back, Bullet in the Head, Know Your Enemy, Fistful of Steel, and Freedom leave little to the imagination about their subject matter. Even the album package is aggresive as the cover artwork features the famous photo of Thích Quảng ?ức, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, burning himself to death in Saigon in 1963.

Besides de la Rocha’s throat shredding screaming, Tom Morello’s guitar work really shines along with the bass. This album combines the best of a funky bass line with heavy metal guitar work that really had been unheard of at the time. The album is also an audiophile’s dream as RATM worked the studio diligently in order to get an album that sonically was unmatched. Many stereo stores still use Killing in the Name (sans f-bombs) to demonstrate the audio quality of their high-end speakers. Other highlights include the sampled Kashmir riff on Wake-up and the screaming “bullet in your head? propelled by a driving guitar and drum beat. If ever an album existed to make you break stuff, this is it.

This album isn’t for everyone. The lyrics can be jarring at times and it’s not easy being sonically assaulted for 40 plus minutes. But when you’re in the mood of some heavy rock and roll, with lyrics that ring as truer today than they did 15 years ago, there’s nothing better than Rage Against the Machine. For that it deserves a place on my 30 best loved albums.

Place on the Definitive 200: Not on the list.

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