Moby/Play + Play: The B-Sides

PlayPlay: The B Sides

Play is the fifth studio album by the music artist Moby, released on May 17, 1999 on V2 Records. While some of Moby’s earlier work garnered critical and commercial success within the electronic dance music scene, Play was both a critical success and a commercial phenomenon. The album introduced Moby to a worldwide mainstream audience, not only through a large number of hit singles (that helped the album to dominate worldwide charts during over two years), but also through unprecedented licensing of his music in films, television and commercial advertisements. It eventually became the biggest-selling album of its genre, with over 10 million copies sold worldwide. According to Rolling Stone, “Play wasn’t the first album to make a rock star out of an insular techno nerdnik, but it was the first to make one a pop sensation. (…) Play made post-modernism cuddly, slowly but surely striking a chord with critics and record-buyers alike.” [1]

One of the notable aspects of Play, as opposed to other electronic albums of the time, was the way in which it combined old gospel and folk music rhythms with modern house sensibilities. Moby sampled heavily from the collected field recordings of Alan Lomax in songs such as “Honey“, “Find My Baby”, and “Natural Blues“, while the track “Run On” was inspired by the traditional “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”. The album also has more purely electronic tracks, as well as the rock-influenced single “South Side” and the more ambientPorcelain“. [Wikipedia]


Honey—-Featuring a very dominant sample from the Lomax recordings, this has been a favorite track of mine every since the very first time i heard it. Seeing moby perform this live was a high point in my live show career. This is remarkably danceable, somewhat ambient, a little funky and pretty much just damn fun. It takes a genius to dig through material and draw inspiration from samples such as this. Incredible.

Find My Baby—-With a remarkable blues line, the song begins with another Lomax sample that carries through the entire song…the interesting thing is how Moby manages to combine this with his trademark bass sound and orchestrated synth lines. Put together, it is hard to believe that so many record labels rejected this song. This is new, fresh and innovative today and consistent and predictable if you have been a fan of the Master since Go.

Porcelain—-Without a doubt, for me, one of the standout singles from this release…although I have never found a remix of this that I liked as much as the original. This is a nice combination of dance grooves and ambient styles coming together in a crash of sounds that leave you feeling a bit sad and melancholy while also providing you with feelings of new birth. If you have been a Moby fan, then this sound is familiar and needed by you….if you were just discovering this man than the result was probably earth moving for you….this is everything I could ask for and more. Moby delivers a vocal that is pained and lonely…the dance grooves are soft and sugtle…magical!!

Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?—-With a classic piano intro, the sample is from some old hymn or the other, and you can actually hear it cutting in here and there…fantastic. As the groove of the song develops and the piano line stays constant, the swirls are built around that sound and the entire thing comes together like some kind of magic trick….and he records this stuff in his apartment!!! This is magical…monstrous…gentle…..masterful….without fail!!!

South Side—-I remember seeing Moby at St. Andrew’s in Detroit when this CD first began to make a stir in the US…he could not play South Side yet, he said, because he didn’t know the words!!!! Awesome!!! This was later released with Gwen Stefani doing the vocal, but I much prefer this version. The beats are tribal…the synth effects are masterful…the vocal pure and unadultereated…the chorus still gives me a smile. This is great!!!

Rushing—-This is much more typical Moby fare and the stuff that he has always produced. Moby really loves that mutli-instrumental sound that creates atmosphere and ambience. You always find a handful of this stuff next to his club bangers on every release. I think it is admirable and I always enjoy these ambient forays.

Bodyrock—-This rap/dance jumper is almost a shock after the previous song, but it is comfortable enough to adapt to in a moment. This is nice…featuring a heavy sample from the Tenacious Three, the song is classic Moby. Since this song, Moby has included something like this on every release, but nothing has come close for me. When I first heard this for the first time….I just knew…this was awesome!!!!

Natural Blues—-With another huge and masterful sample, this song is a modern-day hymn that any Baptist Church would be proud to blast from the Steeple speaker. This is steeped in that southern blues feel that usually I detest. The underlying Moby created synth line carries it for me though. This is fantastic…you should hear the Mike D Remix….love it.

Machete—-This has some pretty aggressive techno synth sounds that you have not heard from Moby on this release thus far. This song moves at an incredible pace and the vocal is supplied by an auto tune Moby and a female back singer. this is huge….I love the jumpy and loopy sound of the synth. This is great! The remarkable thing about the song as it progresses is the aggression that develops, making me think back to the Animal Rights release….just as quickly it quiets and builds again…..remarkable.

7—-For me, this is pretty pointless…the song only last for a moment and the addition is nothing consequential. But that’s just me…..

Run On—-Beginning with typical Moby piano, the sample kicks in and takes this song to a whole different place….as far as the whole sample experiment that Moby pursued on this release, this is in my opinion the best. Who could match these vocals to these beats so perfectly…it takes a special ear for that stuff. This is fantastic…..nothing since has even come close.

Down Slow—-At only a minute and a half, this is another of those little interludes Moby likes to journey us into. This is brief moody, ambient keys and swirls that leaves you saying ?

If Things Were Perfect—-With a huge bass line that makes me thing of joy Division, the silence is smashed with the vocal that I would have to research to determine origin. This is a really nice downbeat, ambient song that allows Moby to talk his way through. It is a nice little journal entry read to us out loud….Moby is an intense dude!!!

Everloving—-Built around a wonderful acoustic guitar, you could not get further away from some of the stuff already played on this release. This is a beautiful, instrumental ballad with some nice ambient sounds slowly added in and allowing it to become yet another masterpiece of mood. Moby takes us on another journey…still built into the same song but with a complete;y different ending. Fantastic.

Inside—-From the onset, you notice the really deep sound of the song…the synths seemed to be played in the lowest range available and the constant thump of the bass is present through the entire track. The song opens up allowing a few brighter synth lines, but this is pretty serious and morose. Incredible.

Guitar Flute And String—-Simply is as is simply says!!! This is nice, but really in contrast to the first half of this record. I guess this just shows me the range and ability of the mind to accept…this man might just be a genius!

The Sky Is Broken—-This is a rather Ambient track that allows again for Moby to offer us a narrative of his poetry and thoughts. The gentle beat of the song is addictive and only becomes annoying about the time you get a little added piano. This is genius…did I say that already? I could not ask for more.

My Weakness—-Wow….this is wonderful….slowly becoming more and more pronounced as it continues, this choir like vocal goes on and on before the gentle swells of orchestration take over the song and land you slowly in the greenest pasture you have ever known…the brightest sun shines and you have never felt more complete or loved or happy as you are right at this moment….this is incredible…like a 3 minute movie!!!

****3/4 out of 5

The B-Sides:

Flower—-Again constructed from Lomax samples, this is a nice surprise to have. This is just as addictive and accessible as anything on the original release and I’m amazed that it was not included on the orignal. This is down South blues with an Electro twist that is amazing!!!!

Sunday—-This to me, is much more reminiscent of the classic sounds of Moby back in the day when he was discovering his passion. The song has a deeper sound with a revolving synth melody that gets in your brain…the snare sound amps up the track a bit more and you are off and running…this provides the perfect backdrop for any type of party. Irresistable without ever being annoying.

Memory Gospel—-Once again, Moby tries to take us down a notch after he lifted us so high. This is a nice layered synth affair that creates feelings of loneliness and introspection rather than Dance or fun. This is nice, but it is hard to have too much of this in one afternoon.

Whispering Wind—-I have always liked this song…I think it is the B-side of the Porcelain 12″. I like the auto tune usage before people even knew what that shit was all about…I love the gentle rolling synth line and the background hum that drops little beads of calm on the entire affair. This is fantastic!!!

Summer—-Beginning nice enough, the song has many layers that it unfolds to the listener as it continues. Beginning very stark, the movements of the song continue to come out as one verse leads to the next verse…differnt sounds and synths enter and in the end you have a layered ambient masterpiece of beauty….genius.

Spirit—-This is a bit to somber for me…this is more like a movie interlude than a masterpiece from a tech god……it does lighten up a bit but it is hard to move that quickly from one mood to the next.

Flying Foxes—-Returning to some of the samples that he chose not to use on his masterpieces, this track is again rather somber and a bit too repetitive for me. The synths do enter and brighten things up a bit, but it seems to be mostly recycled sounds and themes.

Sunspot—-This is nice in the fact that it is a bit more upbeat and positive than the past few tracks. The synth lines are crisp and clean and the gentle rolling bass line in the backdrop really adds an element of sunshine to the mix. This is a nice change of pace…just what  I needed.

Flying Over The Dateline—-Beginning rather sedate, the synth/sample line comes in and moves the song into this classic dark light foggy dance floor funfest. This is swirling and layered and hyper and sedate….a nice mix for all of the drugs and alcohol…..fantastic Moby!

Running—-This is bass heavy but still manages to be mostly lite and airy. The synth line is very slow to emerge, but when it does it is that unmistakable Moby line…he has a tone and a feeling and I always feel warm and comforted when I hear it. This is really nice!!!!

The Sun Never Stops Setting—-Musically this makes me think automatically of some of the more ambient and experimental sounds Erasure went through some years back. This is really nice…I love the swells of the synth orchestration and the warm feeling I get in the pit of my stomach…really nice.

***1/2 out of 5


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