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Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Top 15 Most Cocaine-Influenced Albums of All Time, Nos. 10-6

Posted By on Thu, May 3, 2012 at 9:16 AM

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See also:

* The Top 15 Most Cocaine-Influenced Albums of All Time, Nos. 15-11

* The Top 15 Most Cocaine-Influenced Albums of All Time, Nos. 5-1

Yesterday, we began our countdown of the 15 most coked-out albums of all time, finding plenty of snow in the music of Waylon Jennings, Mötley Crüe, and Miles Davis, among others. Today we continue our journey through the musical blizzard with numbers 10 through 6 on our list. Remember, kids: Cocaine is a helluva drug, and we mean that mostly in a bad way. Come back tomorrow for the final installment of our list.

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10. Art Pepper, Thursday Night at the Village Vanguard, Friday Night at the Village Vanguard, et. al

Since the best LPs of what should have been his prime were recorded when heroin had him so out of it he struggled with rehearsals or basic saxophone holding, and since his excellent 1960 off-to-jail album was actually titled Smack Up, it's probably not much of a surprise that these first of alto-sax genius Art Pepper's post-prison, post-rehab, back-to-business comeback records were fueled by drugs -- this time a stimulant rather than an opiate.

Fired not just by coke but by the intense need of a great artist who had blown his shot but was still determined to haul himself into the pantheon anyway, Pepper played through this long '77 weekend of live sets with all the new urgency and emotion that would distinguish his late-career comeback -- and forever differentiate him from the cool, aloof style of the L.A. jazz scene he hailed from. He smokes through bop classics like "Anthropology," burns through new blues charts he'd written out on all-coke/no-sleep nights in his hotel room, and positively kills on the ballads "Goodbye" and "Over the Rainbow," where his tone is anguished and searching, yet touched with a hard-edged hope. In his astonishing autobiography, Straight Life, he confesses to taking a swing at his wife Laurie the third night, then passing out, and having to be hauled to the club. He then spent the rest of his life making up for it -- and still, somehow, swinging at this level. -- Alan Scherstuhl

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9. Sly & the Family Stone, There's a Riot Goin' On

There's a Riot Goin' On was written and recorded just after the height of the group's late-'60s popularity, after Sly Stone had relocated from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, and in a period when using coke and PCP took up so much of Stone's time that he carried around a violin case full of narcotics. The music itself reeks of blow: Jerky, erratic, subdued, often deeply funky, and prone to indulgent asides, There's a Riot Goin' On sounds almost joyless compared to the band's previous work. The bleakness makes for a dark masterpiece, but one where the influence of a certain white powder is obvious. The saddest thing about There's a Riot Goin' On, though, may be that it marked a decline in Stone's career and music that continues to this day: Only last year, it was discovered that the funk and soul legend is living in a van on the streets of L.A. -- Ian S. Port

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8. Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...

Rappers taking on fake mafia-inspired names and pretending to traffic mountains of cocaine might be tiresome these days, but back in '95, the Wu-Tang Clan's chubby crime rhymer Raekwon forged rap alchemy out of the conceit. Ostensibly based around the idea of Rae attempting to escape the drug game, the album nevertheless hones in on the thoughts, frustrations, and drama of those involved in the front lines of the frosted world. After creating an album as vivid as any mafia flick, Rae's co-conspirator Ghostface advised, "Congratulations, Chef, let's celebrate and sniff an eighth!" -- Phillip Mlynar

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