The first thing you need to know about this new Beastie Boys compilation is that it’s a “greatest hits” album, not a definitive collection. This means that the most popular songs are squeezed onto a single disc. This is great for the casual listener, but a disappointment for the hardcore fan that is looking for rare tracks or a complete overview of the Beastie’s career.
The Beastie Boys started as a hardcore punk outfit in New York City. It was producer Rick Rubin who convinced the Beastie Boys to change gears and become a rap act. Rubin certainly has the magic touch and also co-wrote most of the songs on the first Beastie Boys album Licensed to Ill, which was released in 1986 and became the first rap album to hit #1 on the Billboard album chart and was the best selling rap album of the 80’s. It’s a classic and influential work no matter which way you look at it. Unfortunately, Solid Gold Hits only contains three tracks from this groundbreaking record. Brass Monkey, No Sleep To Brooklyn and Fight For Your Right all appear. These are important tracks and the most popular from >Licensed to Ill, but the exclusion of personal favorites like Rhymin’ and Stealin’, She’s Crafty, Paul Revere and Slow and Low is disappointing. You can’t really lay blame for the omissions, because you simply cannot fit all the Beastie tracks that are deserving of a gold star on one disc.
There are no tracks included from the first three Beastie Boys EPs Pollywog Stew, Cooky Puss or Rock Hard. Serious fans would give their left walnut for the inclusion of the first Rick Rubin produced single Rock Hard, which was also the second release for the legendary Def Jam label. If you have a copy of that record it’s worth a pretty penny. The definitive Beastie box set The Sounds of Science was rumored to have included the song, but AC/DC refused to release rights for the Hells Bells sample used. It’s not here either, nor did I expect it to be.
In 1989, the band released their second full-length effort Paul’s Boutique, this time produced by the Dust Brothers. It was the first release with the mighty Capitol Records who snatched the trio up because; well… they were moving shit loads of product. Although this album did not reach the same level of success as the debut, it is considered by many a stuffy music historian to be the band’s best and most important work. VH1 selected Paul’s Boutique as the 74th greatest album of all time and Rolling Stone declared it the ”Pet Sounds/Dark Side of the Moon of hip hop”. Only two tracks from Paul’s Boutique are included on Solid Gold Hits; Hey Ladies and Shake Your Rump.
In 1992, The Beastie Boys released Check Your Head, the first record on their own Grand Royal record label. The album went double platinum and reached #10 on the Billboard charts. The track So What’cha Want from this album kicks off Solid Gold Hits. Also appearing is the dance club hit Pass The Mic.
In 1994 the band shot to the top of the charts with the album Ill Communication. The video for the single Sabotage received a boatload of airplay on MTV. It was directed by Spike Jonze and featured the band dressed as mustachioed detectives from the 1970’s ala Starsky and Hutch. It’s this kind of creativity and trend awareness that have kept the band on the radar for two decades now. Three standout tracks from Ill Communication are featured on this new compilation. Sure Shot, Root Down and Sabotage.
Between 1994 and 1996 the Beastie Boys released some compilations and a punk album called Aglio e Olio. No tracks from this period are included here. The next release to be represented is 1998’s Hello Nasty. The track Body Movin’ is included here, but it’s the famous and infectious Fatboy Slim remix. A welcome addition that you won’t find in your back catalogue. Also from Hello Nasty is Intergalactic. A great track with an equally impressive video that included a robot, stop motion and martial arts.
Rounding out Solid Gold are three tracks from the latest release, 2004’s To The 5 Bouroughs. Included from this fine album are Ch-Check It Out, Triple Trouble and An Open Letter To NYC.
In the end, Solid Gold Hits is a great introduction to the band. If you’re a casual fan it might be the only Beastie CD you need. If your like me and need more, check out Anthology: The Sounds Of Science.
Robert Burke spends much of his time lovinly crafting thematic music playlists at the Rhapsody Radish.
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