It’s that time of year again!
Following our successful outings the past three years, I’m at it again. Here’s our Different Kind of Top 10 Music List for 2007.
If you missed prior versions (2006 and 2005 and 2004), here’s the deal: There are a gazillion Best of Lists out there (and one list to rule them all). But most of these aren’t very relevant to most people. If you have a family, career, hobby, you probably don’t watch 150 films or listening to 200 new CDs each year.
Hence, this list. Rather than cranking out yet another list of CDs you likely never even heard of (much less even heard), I try to create a more useful list: What a
relatively informed music fan has been playing the hell out of all year. While most are circa 2007, we ain’t that strict around here. If it was frequently spinning in the car/ipod/laptop/iMac this past year, it was fair game. Call it my soundtrack for 2007.
Let’s get busy:
Ignore the personal anguish and tabloid turmoil, and focus on the terrific songs and brilliant voice.
Yet another talented UK vocalist taking her cues from the past, but with a modern twist: Amy Winehouse. Winehouse’s 2nd album, Back to Black, freshens up the classic soul albums with original songs done in the style of the 1950/60’s girl groups. The New Yorker got it just right — “a fierce English performer
whose voice combines the smoky depths of a jazz chanteuse with the
heated passion of a soul singer.”
I despise the mandatory comparo of any new
performer with the greats, but you can say that stylistically, she
falls between Billie Holiday and Ronnie Spector.
This is one of my favorite discs this year: I was driving home one night, when I hear this sound come oozing
out of the car speakers: A funky, steamy, swamp rock blues number, with
a long intro that finally slid into a great groove: (slide over here and click Turpentine). On the strength of that song, I ordered the disc, and I was not
disappointed. The music is a great cross-breeding experiment across
genres: Start with swamp rock, add some smoldering blues, slip in
vintage soul, and finally, some gospel-fried funk.
“a down-and-dirty delight, and a fine addition to the swamp rock canon” -allmusic.com
“intriguing and fortuitous… The MOFRO vibe travels freely among swamp funk, blues, rock
and soul, and does so with a certain down-and-dirty swagger that’s as
real as it is appealing.” -Billboard
“A Southern-fried Sly and the Family Stone.” -Don McLees
Called the “Queen of Funk,” any fan of 1960s and 70s R&B, Soul, or Motown will find plenty to love about this disc: Sharon Jone’s is in turns, upbeat, smoky, slinky and soulful. This is Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings’ 3rd album.
Hardcore fans may recognize the Dap-Kings as the backing band for Amy Winehouse – both on the recording and on tour.
This is the most interesting new rock album I’ve heard in some time: I Trust You To Kill Me. Their sound is original — a jangly roots-rock romp laced with bluegrass and countrified leanings.
I agree with the reviewer who wrote that their bluesy debut album “fairly vibrates on DeLuca’s Dobro steel guitar and throaty wail.”
DeLuca careens from influence to influence, paying homage to his predecessors and then going a step further. The music is flavored with dollops of Jeff Buckley, Coldplay but most of all, Bron Y-Aur Stomp era Led Zeppelin.
I Trust You To Kill Me is one of those rare discs where there in not a single weak cut on the CD.
Back in 1972, LaVette created an album that Atlantic inexplicably never released. With a mix of pride, sadness and strength, she has discussed how that setback nearly ended her career.
The album title refers to Muscle Shoals’ FAME Studios. That’s where the original Atlantic release was recorded, and LaVette returned to the Scene of the Crime to record this album at the very same Muscle Shoals’ FAME Studio.
Behind her blistering vocals, the backing band is the Drive-by Truckers. Their sparse, rugged R&B, greasy southern roots rock complements her soulful vocals well.
The music is passionate, Lavette is fiery, and the Truckers are tight. A terrific if overlooked disc.
On the strength of just a few songs, I picked up Boys and Girls in America.
The song that really reached out and grabbed me was First Night. Pitchfork Media, which called The Hold Steady “America’s #1 bar band,” gave the album a rating 9.4.
Rolling Stone called them “bizarrely touching and insanely original;” while Spin described the disc as “a raucous album rife with heavy guitar licks and more cultural references than Paul’s Boutique.”
The Hold Steady is one of the most interesting and different bands from most of what is people mistakenly call rock and roll these days.
Her smoky voice and fresh soulful delivery are perfect for the mix of acoustic blues, country ballads, classic jazz and torch songs she sings.
What makes the disc so sublime is how perfectly the material is suited to her romantic, enchanting, and arresting vocals. It doesn’t hurt that there’s not a bad cut on it.
The best comparison I can make is to say she falls somewhere between Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker.
Her recent (third) disc, 2006’s Half the Perfect World, is also worth a listen.
When I first heard this disc, I thought it was Chris Trapper of the Push Stars. But then the album takes an neat turn, eclectically blending a bit of John Mayer and Coldplay pop with with Toby Mac rap. The album bounces around from hip-hop to guitar-friendly pop to alt country to acoustic folk, R&B, with a touch of gospel.
The hook laden melodies, poetic lyrics, and winning vocals made this my favorite pop disc this year. If you heard the song “Undeniable,” you already know why.
What made this so surprising a pick was my learning it was filed under Christian music — that was something I discovered months after I started listening to it. (Quite the surprise).
They integrate South American music with rock
rhythms, mixing Classical and Spanish guitar, and Flamenco played with an edge.
Their music is vibrant, passionate, and
thoughtful. Surprising instrumental covers of Stairway To Heaven” and “Orion” are both fresh and different
This was my favorite instrumental album this year.
• Lily Allen:
Lily Allen had one of the UK’s hottest albums last year, taking Britain by storm in summer 2006 with her debut album Alright, Still
reaching No. 2 on the U.K. Album charts, with her first U.K. single, “Smile,” topping the U.K. Airplay chart for six weeks in a row.
first listen, the music sounds like a cross between bubble gum pop and Reggae. But upon closer listening, one hears sharp lyrics and a feisty wit. She took at different route than Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill.
Instead of bitter invective, Allen relies on her acid tongue and a sly taste for payback. Its fun, nasty, and clever enough to overcome her reed thin voice.
This is my guilty pleasure of 2007 . . .
How could our review not mention the most innovative album release of the year. Not necessarily the most innovative album, but the way the album was set free: Radiohead allowed
fans to download low-resolution tracks
from the band’s own website, at prices the listener determined themselves.
Radiohead has long been a critical (if not listener) darling, and had this disc not had the musical chops to back up the innovative release format, it would have been merely another footnote in history of the slowly declining recording industry.
Instead, this self-released album was a bold departure from the overwrought, over-complicated previous albums. Guitar-centric compositions, more straight forward rock sound colors the entire recording.
These are much more user friendly and accessible than some of their prior difficult albums (think OK Computer or Hail to the Thief). There is a delicate, uncomplicated beauty to the songs that stays with you long after the album ends.
Because of the way the band chose to release the album, this disc gets the nod for the album of the year that could change the music business — and scares the living shit out of dying music labels.
The title — obviously referring to CCR — is his first new disc in three years.
The sound is unmistakably Creedence with bits of swamp rock, blues, country, folk and soul. Fogerty is more than a “just” a great song writer; He comes in at #40 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
My nostalgic pick of the year.
• Favorite Box Set: Stax 50th Anniversary Celebration:
Last year, Concord Music purchased Fantasy Records, and as a bonus, they landed the “bulging Stax catalog.”
For those of you not fans of 1960s/70s Soul music, Stax was one of the richest sources of R&B, Soul and Blues. They were home to such
artists as Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, William Bell, and Booker T.
For some reason, they were overshadowed somewhat by Gordy Berry and Motown. This double CD features 50 hit singles from Stax (and Stax-Atlantic) from the labels’ 1960s and ’70s heyday, and attempts to make up some of that ground.