Born in the Netherlands and currently ensconced in North Carolina, hip-hop stylist Nicolay (real name Matthijs L. Nicolay Rook) has garnered deserved acclaim for the full-lengths Here (2006) and the recent TIME:Line, a collaborative effort with Houston MC Kay (of The Foundation) that oozes soul, hooks, and imagination in equal measure. In keeping with the album's “life's journey” theme, Nicolay's stirring tracks exude a classic, old-school feel that references hip-hop history without ever sounding anything less than fresh. In the midst of preparing for a string of US dates with Kay, the Dutch producer found time to contribute a surprising list of favourite ‘70s songs and albums to this month's issue.

1.  The Beatles: Abbey Road (1969)

I don't think it's fair to have to pick a favourite Beatles album, but at gunpoint this probably would be my choice. Technically, Abbey Road is a '60s album more than anything but, since the official breakup of The Beatles followed in 1970, I'm gonna have to give it a wild-card. This album is nothing short of brilliant and should be listened to daily.
Song picks: "Come Together," "Golden Slumbers," "Because," "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"

2.  Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (1977)

Legend has it that everyone in Fleetwood Mac hated each other's guts by this point, but Rumours is probably the best pop-album ever, shiny and bright on the surface and bitter and dark once you start digging. Fascinating.
Song picks: "The Chain," "Dreams"

3.  Stevie Wonder: Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants (1979)

The obvious choice would be to list Stevie's blockbuster 1976 album Songs In The Key Of Life, or even Talking Book or Fulfillingness' First Finale but, for some reason or another, my mom owned this particular album instead and played it so much when I was a kid that I literally know it from start to finish, inside out. Definitely NOT a fan-favourite and something of an acquired taste, this album is more experimental than what he had done on previous albums (there's a lot of synthesizer pioneering going on).
Song picks: "Come Back As A Flower," "A Seed's A Star"

4.  The Band: The Last Waltz (1978)

Their goodbye concert and one of the greatest rock films ever, directed by Martin Scorcese. Includes the infamous Neil Young coke-booger scene (look it up...). The irony is that no mattter how many legendary artists show up to assist them, their own songs are the ones that truly stand out.
Song pick: "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"

5.  Blood Sweat & Tears: Blood Sweat & Tears (1969)

Grammy for "Album of the Year" in 1970. Rock meets classical meets jazz. The arrangements are incredible, and the classical elements are refreshing. It was actually this album that introduced me to the music of Erik Satie.
Song picks: "You've Made Me So Very Happy," "More And More"

6.  Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Deja Vu (1970)

Depending on how I feel, Neil Young's Comes A Time may take this spot on occasion. Check out the first CSN album too; this second one is less perfect and less airy but makes up for it by adding some rawness to the mix in the form of Neil Young.
Song picks: "Carry On," "4 + 20"

7.  Parliament: The Mothership Connection (1976)

One of the ultimate classic P-Funk albums. Everything is right, from the writing to the arranging to the performances. Glen Goins RIP.
Song picks: Nah, just put it on and zone out...

8.  Marvin Gaye: Here My Dear (1978)

Heartbreakingly personal album describing his divorce from Anna Gordy, Berry Gordy's daughter. The pinnacle of all "breakup" albums.
Song picks: "When Did You Stop Loving Me," "Sparrow"

9.  Frank Zappa: Joe's Garage (1979)

I think this is Frank Zappa's more "accessible" side. Go figure. I love how he pairs the most non-sensical lyrics with the most incredible music. Amazing vocal performances by Ike Willis, who's incredibly slept-on.
Song picks: "Outside Now," "Catholic Girls"

10. The Beach Boys: Surf's Up (1971)

Not their best (see Pet Sounds for that), but certainly charting high on their "B" list. Includes my favourite Brian Wilson song ever ("'Til I Die") and the O.G. version of "Surf's Up."
Song picks: "'Til I Die," "Surf's Up"

April 2008