The Dirtchamber Sessions, Vol. 1 by The Prodigy
First, the facts. I don't even listen to The Prodigy; I only own one album by them, and this is it. I was turned off by that relentless "Firestarter" song and the video and that annoying Keith Flint guy. Actually, that's one thing I DO know about this band. The "crazy" firestarter dude is NOT the main guy. Not even close. That honor belongs to Liam Howlett, who happens to be a genius. This album is my proof of that.
I heard the album with fresh ears at a friend's house soon after it came out. He played it for me from the beginning and I was hooked immediately around the 2:22 mark. That's when the shit goes down (for the first time at least). I've always been a huge fan of old school rap and right at that moment my jaw dropped and I started rapping right along. Listen to the song and you'll see what I mean. From this point forward the record keeps kicking out the jams over and over and most people reading this site will probably have a similar jaw-drop sing-a-long moment (at some point) as Howlett guides you through more old school rap, techno, and rock. Basically that's what this album is all about. It's a DJ mix broken into eight segments (the eight tracks on the album), each of which is comprised of multiple songs, samples, and beats - a virtual party to go.
Checking in with AllMusic...
As though he wasn't the feature player on each of the three Prodigy albums preceding it, The Dirtchamber Sessions presents Liam Howlett in a solo setting. But here, instead of showing off his production wizardry, his long history as a DJ and mixing abilities are on display. They're proved more than up to the task, as Howlett plays mix and match with over 50 records from his hip-hop and funk past. While the Chemical Brothers' mix album (released the year before) showcased the duo digging deep in their record crates for a set of soul chestnuts and rare finds, Howlett's selection and feel for the flow of a mix is superior. Including tracks by the JB's, Herbie Hancock, the 45 King, L.L. Cool J, the Sex Pistols, and Jane's Addiction, Howlett chooses grooves familiar to all and improvises around them (as any old-school DJ would think obvious) instead of mixing between two tracks few have ever heard. The result is an enlightening, practically flawless mix album.Any DJ album is an experiment in allowing yourself to be guided by the DJ through their favorite songs. In other words, for you guys, just pretend that this album is an audio blog done by Liam Howlett and kick back and enjoy because Liam Howlett is an amazing DJ. He's not going to DJ Q-Bert you to death (not by any scratch of the imagination) but this is one helluva mix from start to finish. Just to get some kind of impression of what I'm talking about, here are the first three tracks so you can download them and listen to them one after another. I've named them only Track 1, 2, and 3 as the actual names are too crazy long and aren't really names so much as simply lists of the artists sampled within the given track. Okay, okay...time to pump out the jams.
Track 1 Track 2 Track 3
#1 - Saturnalia by The Wedding Present
#2 - The Inevitable by Squirrel Nut Zippers
#3 - This is Our Music by Galaxie 500
#4 - Dusk by The The
#5 - Fantasma by Cornelius
#6 - New Wave by The Auteurs
#7 - I, Jonathan by Jonathan Richman
#8 - Futureworld by Trans Am
#9 - Harmacy by Sebadoh
#10 - Cure For Pain by Morphine
#11 - God Fodder by Ned's Atomic Dustbin
#12 - Seven by James
#13 - Why Do Birds Sing? by Violent Femmes
#14 - Blank-Wave Arcade by The Faint
#15 - Dog Man Star by Suede
#16 - Beatsongs by The Blue Aeroplanes
#17 - Don't Try This At Home by Billy Bragg
#18 - 1992: The Love Album by Carter USM
#19 - Time Was Gigantic...When We Were Kids by The Durutti Column
#20 - Psalm 69 by Ministry
if you'd like...
Pitchfork's top albums of the 90's
1st version of their list
Another site does their own "Overlooked of the 90's":
Top 30 'Other' Albums of the '90s