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Blood Sugar Baby

2009-10-07

Lately I’ve found myself listening quite a lot to the Red Hot Chili Peppers classic Blood Sugar Sex Magik (BSSM). It feels weird to call this a classic album, but the fact is that it’s been 18 years since its release. To put things in perspective, when BSSM was released, Nirvana was just starting to gain popularity (notoriety?), and Jack White was still in high school.

I just have to praise this album because I always come back to it. Sometimes I might not listen to it for a year or so, and then I’ll stumble across it, and end up playing it non-stop. What I like the most about the album is the sense of space, which I think producer Rick Rubin is most responsible for. It’s a very straight-forward album with a minimum amount of overdubs. All seventeen songs are so strong that they don’t need to be overproduced and layered.

I must admit that I was not instantly hooked on the album when it was released. In fact, it probably took me a couple of years to realize its brilliance – story of my life! But a good testament to the longevity of an album is that it takes a while to understand the songs. I think it’s brilliant that they have hidden the hit singles Give it Away and Under the Bridge in the middle of the album. I’ve always felt that when an album opens with a single it tends to take away from the rest of the songs, because singles are usually so direct and easily recognizable that they sort of take your head out of album mode, and then you don’t have the patience to concentrate on the more complicated songs that follow. I know I’m just rambling now, but hopefully someone knows where I’m coming from with this.

BSSM is the second Red Hot Chili Peppers album with John Frusciante on guitar, and this is when the band found what is now their trademark sound. If I remember correctly, the Chili Peppers all rented a house together where they lived and recorded the album. Drummer Chad Smith was the only one who wasn’t staying at the house. John Frusciante’s guitar parts were reportedly recorded in his upstairs bedroom. I really love the entire album, but I must mention a few favorite songs. Opening track The Power of Equality, with John’s warbly guitar sound is just fantastic. I love Funky Monks, a song that I wish the Chili Peppers would play live more frequently. It only appeared once or twice during their last tour. When I saw RHCP in concert a couple of years ago, I got really hooked on the title track, Blood Sugar Sex Magik – sometimes hearing a song live make you appreciate it in a different way. I Could Have Lied is just beautiful – I love that you can actually hear John’s fingers sliding on the guitar neck during the first verse. And that guitar solo…need I say more? Mellowship Slinky in B Major…I could go on and on, but those are my favorites.

So, if you haven’t had your weekly dose of Blood Sugar lately, why not go all crazy and actually visit your local record store (yes, they do still exist!), and pick up a copy of this classic album.

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