Back to Mine: Faithless

Realse Date
October 16, 2000

I stumbled in this album in a used CD shop in Islington while living in London in late 2001 —the same shop I found Dusty in Memphis in. I was already a fan of Faithless [] and I’ve covered Sunday 8PM is on this list, so initially I thought that this Back to Mine album was a new release or some Europe only release that I had missed.

Turns out yes, but no. Let me explain; Back to Mine [] was (is?) a series of albums published by a small label in England. Each release was compiled by a different DJ or producer —and in this case both a DJ, Sister Bliss, and a producer, Rollo— and each release was a collection of songs, sometimes mixed, sometimes not, that inspired the artist or the things they would play in their own house after a night out.

I loved Faithless’ Back to Mine album so much I dove off the deep end and bought up as many as of the releases as I could find. I got a few more in England, then a bunch off off of EBay when I was back in the US —I don’t think they were offically released in the US. I even got a few in Singapore. According to Wikipedia there are 33 volumes, I think I have up to volume 25, maybe it’s time to go back and get there rest.

I have to say a that it’s a mixed bag. Some volumes I love, others are not to my taste. Music is funny that way, what an artist you like, likes or is inspired by, maybe completely not to your taste. How many Beatles or Led Zeppelin fans likes Blues?

Anyway, let us talk about Faithless’ entry into the series, number 5, released in October 2000, is still my favorite. It’s mixed most of the way through.

The sheer epic mess of the track selection on this album is mind blowing. I could write about how amazing each and every track is on it’s own and how it works as part of the the whole on this album. But’ I’m not going to do that, I’m going to restrict myself to a few highlights:

  • The album starts with a brief into, just under a minute of a new (at the time) Faithless track which sets the mode, chill, ambient, downtempo… take your pick.
  • After setting the stage the albums slides into “My Life” by Dido (Faithless producer Rollo’s sister), which is the final track off her 1999 album No Angel, which is a phenomenal album. “My Life” isn’t something you would think of on a downtempo electronica compilation but it works brilliantly here
  • Immediately after “My Life” is “Childhood” by Dusted, this song is just pure awesomeness and is the beginning of a few tracks of perfect turn-of-the-century downtempo in a row
  • In the middle of this downtempo selection masterclass is “Mushrooms” by Marshall Jefferson vs. Noosa Heads — this is one of my favorite tracks on the album, where every track is a favorite; the vocal samples are perfect, the dude talking about the first time he took mushrooms, because his girlfriend was freaky, but he didn’t know she was that freaky, is awesome, the type of silly story sort of chill you want on a late night after the club album. Reminds me of “Fluffy Little Clouds” buy the Orb
  • We have to talk about “Another Night In” by the Tindersticks. This is the saddest song ever. It’s this depressed slow, dark rock song with mumbled lyrics about loneliness and lost love, it’s dark and depressing but it works here

I could write about every song. Seriously. But I’m gonna stop. But lets talk about the last two songs on the album:

  • The penultimate song is “Fade Into Me” by Mazzy Star, yep, that one, you know it, you love it; It brings the mixed part of the album to a melancholy close, perfect wind down
  • The final track begins with a sample “please daddy can I have one more? No son, you gotta go to bed right now. Oh please please please. OK then just one more…” leads into a reggae version of “Billy Jean” by Shinehead. Holy shit is it awesome, “a beauty queen with an M16…” Listen to it.

This album is in the running for my favorite album of all time. I can’t listen to it enough. Tragically, this album is not available on Apple Music, I checked in the US and the UK store. It’s also not on Spotify. I suspect it has to do with rights, it was probably never cleared for digital back in the day. The newer albums starting with Volume 29, released in 2019 are there. I tried to create a playlist but “Childhood” by Dusted is not available Apple, some specific remixes are not available or only available as mixed versions, etc., but here it is:

Luckily, someone did the leg work of building a playlist on Spotify too, but again there are missing tracks and it’s not the same unmixed, but you can appreciate the individual songs here:


Verve // Unmixed

Various Artists
Realse Date
April 30, 2002

I bought the Verve // Unmixed [] in late 2002 or early 2003 while living in DuPont Circle in Washington, DC. I got it at the little music store near Kramer books. I bought a lot of Jazz around this time. When I was in Europe I went to a lot of old Jazz bars, including Le Bilboquet in Paris or Ronnie Scott’s in London when I could afford them and in many, many smaller places all over Europe that I never even knew the name of. Little basements in Paris and Prague, upstairs rooms in Florence and Barcelona. I don’t know where I picked up this jazz bug, but I was into it.

When I came back to the US, while I was job hunting I watched Ken Burns Jazz [] on TV at my parents house. Jazz is, like, 19 hours long, and almost entirely about jazz from before I was born; Louie Armstrong and Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington, John Caltrain and many more. It was a great introduction to the history of jazz and the golden age from 1920s up to the late 1960s.

This is all to say that I was into jazz and, especially older jazz styles at the time I stumbled across the Verve // Unmixed CD. So an album of classic jazz from the Verve [], who’s back catalog of jazz is second to none sounded like an extrodonarly good idea.

I immediately fell in love with it. Some of the songs a I knew already while some were new to me. It’s an eclectic mix of songs and styles, starting with “Spanish Grease” and ending with “Hari Krishna”. In between it spends time in New York with “See-Line Woman” and Brazil on “Who Needs Forever”.

This mix is, apparently, not for everyone. I read one review in preparing for writing this where the reviewer was saying that the album lacks any sort of coherent theme or vision and that the transitions between songs are jarring. They conclude that the album is less than the sum of it’s parts dispite the amazing songs on it. I could not disagree more. The album is not a meditation on a specific style or concept or artist, it’s a survey of some of the greatest jazz recordings of all time spanning the golden age if jazz.

The most potent song on the album is the penultimate song, Billie Holiday’s take on “Strange Fruit”. It’s just stunning. Holiday’s vocals are filled with pain and the muted horns are crying as she describes the horrific scene of a lynching. When you listen to the lyrics, you think “this song shouldn’t be beautiful”, but it is, it’s so achingly beautiful. If you really listen to the lyrics it’s going to haunt you but the singing and playing is so beautiful that you’ll come back to it again and again.

The great women of jazz are on full display on the album: In addition to “Strange Fruit”, Billie Holiday gets another amazing track, “Don’t Explain”. There are also two tracks from Nina Simone, “See-Line Woman” which I already mentioned and her legendary take on “Feelin’ Good”. Then there is Carmen McRae’s “How Long Has This Been Going On?”, Sara Vaughan’s “Summertime” and Ella Fitzgerald’s “Wait ‘Til You See Him”. Most of the songs on this album are “jazz standards” that have been performed by countless artists over the years but these are the gold standard versions of these standards.

The core of the album, between (excluding the first track, “Spanish Grease” and the last two “Strange Fruit” and “Hari Krishna”) cast a spell on me every time I listen to it. “How Long Has This Been Going On”, “Summertime”, “See-Line Woman”, “Feelin’ Good” and “Don’t Explain” transport me to another time and place. A place I could never have actually been. They transport me to the sweaty jazz clubs of the Harlem Renascence. In my minds eye, I see the grainy black and white photos of 1920’s Harlem that are in Ken Burn’s Jazz, and I imagine the music coming from the basement clubs. At the same time scenes from the Harlem of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man [] play out in my mind. Invisible Man, made a huge impression on me, and I read it and re-read it at about the same time, first in London and later in Washington, DC. It’s a novel that reminds me, every time I read it, of the evil of mankind but the resilience of people, the people what made this music.

It’s funny that I also associate these songs, sometimes, with a vision of Paris between the world wars. A vision I got from reading Jean Paul Satre’s The Age of Reason [] (don’t click on that, god that review is shit, on paragraph for a book I loved, note to self: rewrite that shit.) A significant portion of The Age of Reason takes place in a smokey jazz part in Paris. When I visited Paris in the early 2000’s I visited The Club St. Germain one of the original clubs. It was no longer in the basement, having moved upstairs into Le Bilboquet, at bit more of a restaurant. But the original club was one of the premier post-war jazz spots in Paris, in all of Europe. When I sat there I thought about Satre’s characters sitting in the same spots.

In my research for this post, I see that Le Bilboquet closed and has reopened in a different location in the years since. So, the one real place I sat listening to jazz that this album transports me to, is like the Harlem of Invisible man or Ken Burn’s Jazz, a place in memory only. At least the music lives on.

Did I convince you this album is worth listening to? Listen to it on Apple Music:

Or listen on Spotify:


Sunday 8PM

Realse Date
September 28, 1998

Faithless’ [] Sunday 8PM [] is the soundtrack of my first year at George Mason. I spent many, many hours in the Johnson Center listening to this album. I am actually shocked that I my love of this album survived that year, and that I don’t see calculus problems floating before my eyes when I listen to Sunday 8PM today.

See, they let me into Calculus 2 when I transferred to Mason, without even testing me. But it became very obvious the first day of class that I was out of my depth. By the end of the first week I was completely lost. It had been more than a year since I did any calculus and to say math was not a strong point would be an gross understatement. So. I went to the book store and I purchased the study guide and extra problems supplement for my textbook; Stewarts Calculus, 5th Edition. And I spent an hour or two nearly every evening of my first semester sitting at a table in the Johnson Center with those books and taught myself the first 5 or 6 chapters whatever was part of the Calculus 1 syllabus. I worked every single problem in the textbook, the study guide and the extra problems book, many more than once. I passed Calculus 2 and went on to Calc 3 and many more math classes that an degree from the engineering school required.

A lot of that time I spent working and reworking calculus problems in the Johnson Center was spent listening to Sunday 8PM.

I don’t remember where or why I bought the album. My theory is I must have got it at Plan 9 in Charlottesville sometime in late 1998 or early 1999. I probably bought it just because it was in the techno section and was in a funky cardboard case, not the normal jewel case most CDs came it. I was a sucker for funky packaging, I have a whole stack of mediocre dance and techno albums that came in strange packaging, including one that came in a water filled blaze orange package. I don’t why, I had too much money to spend, most of these purchases resulted in very little music I would actually listen to.

Faithless wasn’t new to me, I liked some of the songs off of their first album, Reverence []. “Salva Mae” and “Insomnia” were great club hits, and something I listened to ridding around C’ville with O███. But Sunday has a totally different feel. Less frantic, less driving, more melancholy and thoughtful, more lyrical and melodic.

“Bring my Family Back”, and “Take The Long Way Home” have some of Maxi Jazz’s best rapping across Faithless whole discography. “Hem of his Garment” features Dido, who is the sister of Faithless member Rollo, and the unbelievable “Why Go?” has lyrics by Boy George. These two songs foreshadow the heavy use of guest vocalists on many later Faithless albums. And both tracks push Sunday further into melancholy terratory.

Basically every song on the album is great. That is, of course, why I can listened to it end-to-end even 25 years after it’s release and why it’s on my list of favorite albums. “God Is a DJ” was the biggest hit on this album and is the most mainstream “dance” song on the album. The rest of the album leans into the trip-hop and downtempo more than anything on their previous album, and way more than anything you could hear in the the US at the time. This type of music just didn’t chart in the US. It’s less about the club and more about the chill hours after the club before the sun comes up.

I have every one of Faithless’ albums and I can, and do, listened to a lot of them. There are good songs and great songs on all of their albums, but Sunday 8PM is there best. Though, there is another album that lists Faithless as the artist that will make an appearance on this list, that album is a bit different and a story for another day. Sunday 8PM is the best Faithless album and if you’ve never heard it you should.

Listen to it on Apple Music:

Or Spotify:



Meteora [], Linkin Park’s [] sophomore album, is a rare beast: a second studio album, from a band that hit the big-time with their first album, that manages to surpass the earlier album. I listened to Linkin Park’s first album, Hybrid Theory [] pretty much from it’s release in 2000. It was one of my favorite albums while sitting in my dorm or studying at the Johnson Center at George Mason.

Hybrid Theory is a good candidate for the album I listened to most in the CD drive on my first laptop, sitting in my dorm or in the Johnson Center while studying. I remember it being one of the first albums I ripped to my fancy MP3 player when I was going off to study in England. I purchased the MP3 player specifically because there was no way I was going to carry all those CDs around Europe but I’d have been dammed to go without my music. I was working at a small dot-com era consulting company while I was in school and I enlisted their entire fleet of desktops in the evening for a few weeks to rip my CDs to a central location.

And while I discovered much new music while I was in England, I spent many hours walking around the great and small cities of Europe or riding trains between those cities listening to my favorite albums, and Hybrid Theory was there with me the whole time.

By the time Meteora was released in March of 2003 I was back in the US. I had just started a new job, and I spent hours coding while listening to Meteora. It’s not the best thing to program to I must admit. Dance or Jazz works better, for me. But still, I was obsessed with Meteora for a long time when it came out, as I said it surpassed, for me at least, Hybrid Theory.

In the late 1990’s and the first few years of the 21st century my appreciation of heavy metal and related genres was at its peak. Having been in two relationships with people who liked heavy metal I had gotten deeper into many bands that I already knew; Metallica [] of course, and Black Sabbath [] and Rammstein [] (including several live shows that are among the best I was ever at, one of my favorite bands of all time but I don’t listen to any of their albums end-to-end so much…), and more. I also discovered a host of heavy metal I would never have found, like Drain STH —an amazing all female band I would never have come across otherwise. But I was also a fan of much rap and hip-hip, like OutKast [], A Tribe Called Quest, and more, Eminem was at his zenith and both Slim Shady [] and Marshall Mathers [] were among my rips. So I was primed for nu metal when it came and I was still listening to a lot of heavy rock when Meteora was released.

Of all the nu metal or rap-rock or rock-rap bands of the early oughts Linkin Park was, by far, my favorite. Chester Bennington singing and Mike Shinoda rapping across Hybrid Theory and Meteora was the quintessential mix of these two genres. The success of their official mashups with Jay-Z should attest to how they were fully competent in their rap side. In any case, Linkin Park was the right mix for me.

After Meteora I was less enthused about their album output for along time. It was more straight rock and while I listed and there were many songs I liked, they never topped Meteora, or even Hybrid Theory for me. That is until their final album, One More Light []. I seriously debated if I should put One More Light on this list, I may still, but I think Meteora deserves to go first at least.

The suicide of Chester was a tragedy and the end of Linkin Park a sad thing. Too many music stars and stars in general are lost too early, to suicide and to drugs; to fast living and mental illness, to the intensity of fame. It should make you question the whole idea of fame and make you worried about the generations now and in the future growing up in front of the spotlight of social media, always on camera, always under scrutiny, always at the good, the bad and the truly ugly we as a society can throw at them. Our society chews up and spits out anyone who becomes famous, be it the work of days or years. Of course, some survive, a few even thrive, but fame is serial killer. Think on that while you listen below.

Listen on iTunes:

Or on Spotify:


The Cure: Glastonbury Festival 1990

This entry is a little different than the other albums [] I’ve posted because you can’t buy this album. At least not officially. It’s a bootleg of The Cure’s 1990 set at the Glastonbury Festival. I’m sure you can find it somewhere on the internet, but I actually bought this pre-Napster and still have the physical bootleg CDs.

In 1990 I was 12 and had never heard of The Cure. I think I first encountered The Cure a few years later when Friday, I’m in Love, from their 1992 release Wish [], was in heavy rotation on MTV. I can remember sitting in K████’s living room every morning waiting on the school bus with K████ and M██████ and watching the music video. Good times, there are a lot of music videos from 1992/1993 burned into my memory from those mornings.

I didn’t catch The Cure bug for a few more years. In 1997, my girlfriend was big into The Cure. We listened to a lot of Cure in the car driving around. I actually bought the Glastonbury bootleg with her in a little shop on the downtown mall. It’s one of a number of bootlegs I got from the same guy. Mostly live stuff; Bush, The Chemical Brothers, Tori Amos, Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, others.

My love of The Cure long outlasted that relationship. I devoured their back catalog, and continued to follow them. It was their back catalog that really hooked me, Poronography [], and The Walk [] are awesome albums. But their masterpiece was Disintegration []; Fascination Street, Love Song, and Pictures of You, my three favorite Cure songs, all on the same album. Disintegration is Robert Smith’s masterpiece. As Tricky says in the liner notes to his 2003 entry in the Back to Mine [] series: Robert Smith is the best love song writer in the world. All his lyrics and melodies are unbelievable. For me that’s true. While Tricky picked Lullaby for his Back to Mine playlist, I would but Love Song and Pictures of You in my top few loves songs ever.

But the live performances at Glastonbury in 1990 is the one I’ve always come back to. It’s peak Cure. It was a year after Disintegration and includes a lot of songs from that album but also an amazing selection of songs from their earlier releases. And this era, 89, 90, 91, is the perfection of The Cure’s synth-goth-post-punk-shoegaze-alternative-rock sound. Even the older songs that might have been a little ‘meh’ on the original releases here have something extra, something amazing.

I wish I could post an Apple or Spotify link, but as a it’s a bootleg they don’t have it. The best I could do would be one of the official live releases from around this time; Show is the best option. But Show released on as single CDs you only get about 80 min while the 1990 set at Glastonbury was close to two full hours with the two encores (not including the helicopter landing to evacuate some lady who was getting crushed). But I can link to this YouTube video that seems to have the whole set. It’s an hour and forty-four minutes, enjoy: