These days it seems like Saturday Night Live is only known for their musical performances. In the past they’ve have some of the biggest names in music and even gave the world some of the most memorable moments, like Ashlee Simpson doing a ho-down when her prerecorded tape started early. 1999 marked 25 years of the show and to celebrate they released a compilation album with several notable performances from the show’s time. While some of these are interesting, most are boring and make you wish they picked different artists for the disc. Still, I thought I would check it out since I randomly have it in my music collection.
The biggest draw to the collection is Nirvana’s “Rape Me.” Not only is it notable for the fact that the song was rarely performed live on television, but it marks a highlight during the band’s career. Honestly, I’ve heard better versions of the song live. It’s interesting to hear at least, but fans will have more fun watching the actual performance. Also, this is around the time where Cobain’s drug use was loud and clear and it seems to be affecting his singing. I personally think another Nirvana song would have fit better on the collection, such as “Territorial Pissings” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Not only do these two songs represent their first time on SNL, but they sounded their best.
Another highlight from the collection is Green Day‘s “When I Come Around.” As always the guys sound good, but again there’s nothing remarkable about this live performance. The only thing that makes it special is it was their first time on the show and it occurred during their peak in 1994. I would’ve preferred if “Longview” was here instead seeing as that’s the more energetic song of the two, but at least they sound good. For anyone who hasn’t seen it before, it’s kind of a thrill to hear, but again fans would get more enjoyment seeing the actual performance.
The best song from the disc is Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.” What makes this rendition so great is you can feel the thumping bass when the song starts and when they start rapping, they have you’re full attention. They’re so energetic and aggressive with the delivery it’s hard not to get into the song. Plus, it’s one of their best singles, so there’s nothing better than hearing it live. The one artist that should’ve been left off the disc for numerous reasons is Hole. There’s nothing remarkable about them and they don’t even sound good on the track. Also, so many fantastic musicians have performed on SNL they easily could’ve picked someone else like Queen. In fact, this is the biggest problem with the album. There have been better guests on the series, yet instead they choose to highlight Mary J Blige and Oasis on the collection.
The rest of the songs here are just okay. It’s always great to hear REM’s “Losing my Religion” live, but what’s the point if you can’t see Michael Stipe’s spastic dance moves? Dr. Dre does a great job with “Been There Done That,” and TLC‘s “Creep” never gets old. While I do like Janet Jackson’s sensual and sexy “Any Time, Any Place” one of her more well known, faster numbers should’ve closed out the record. And even though the Pretenders are legendary, surely there was a better song to pick than “I’ll Stand By You.” These fifteen tracks just don’t cover the expansive history of the show and some of the biggest names in music that have actually graced their stage. And before you think about checking out volume 1, don’t waste your time. The artist picks there aren’t any better.
Overall, the album gets 6/10. If you really want to have this in your collection for the Nirvana or Green Day track, make sure you don’t pay anything more than $1.50 for the album. While there are some great artists here, there’s nothing remarkable about the performances. Even though they were great to watch, they don’t translate as well on a disc. Some of the artists should be left off completely, while others had better song choices to be highlighted. If you come across this one it’s better to leave it alone and see the performances on Youtube.