Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dream Baby Dream

One time many years ago an American sage once wrote, ".....if dreams came true oh would'nt that be nice."  Unfortunately for this wonderful country the dream somehow has died.  Politically and culturally we are in a complete funk.  The divisions in this country are so awful that it is embarrassing. Culturally we are on the brink of the abyss.  I will not even mention all of the incredible moments that passed for reality in our culture.  It is as close to the music playing while Rome burned.

Luckily for us the music is once again fabulous, if in fact you ignore the mainstream pap which passes for radio ready music for the people.  Needless to say I have not listened to anything but public radio for years.  Thank goodness for KCRW, WFUV and WDET.  

This year my musical loves were influenced by alt country singer songwriters, neo folk and neo soul, pop genius musicians who channeled the Beatles and the Beach Boys and of course singer songwriters of all stripes.  Electronic music and old school rockers were also favorites in a year that produced so many great albums it was at times hard to keep up.  But I persevered and below are 75 of my favorite albums of 2013.

One of the great young Americana voices
Who would have thunk it.  Norah Jones and Billie Jo Armstrong from Green Day doing the Everly Brothers with passion.
It seems every album that Zoey Deschanel and M Ward make are beautiful and so California
There is not a singer alive that channels Bonnie Raitt as well as Susan Tedeschi, and that is a stone cold compliment.  Butch Trucks can play the guitar as well as any of the Allmans...
Compared by many to Joni Mitchell this young English folkie has a soothing and beautiful voice
This 25 year old country singer and member of the Pistol Annies, captures many of the great country themes and kills it with "Weed Instead of Roses."
The "side project" for Justin Vernon/Bon Iver and his mates from Wisconsin.  This is their second album since 2007 and it reflects well on Vernon and his roots
Dev Hynes who goes by the name Blood Orange, made one of the tastiest and soulful records of 2013, with many references to life on the streets of NYC.  Netherland is the standout cut.
One of the great guitar virtuosos in the tradition of John Fahey.
Sir Paul back and rocking like he did back in the day and not sounding much older than Liverpool.
The former Drive By Trucker and newly sober American singer songwriter from Green Hill Alabama made one of the more touching records of the year.
Another fine effort from the best Motor City popsters with a sunny offering.
Frontman Will Sheff has made a beautiful record based on his childhood hometown in New Hampshire
How can an album of vintage Fogerty songs done with guests like Bob Seger, Kid Rock and Miranda Lambert not make you smile from ear to ear.  A stunner.
Sam France and Jonathan Rado, two 22 year old wizards from Los Angeles, who are influenced by the Kinks, Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground made a charming Richard Swift produced nugget.
This is an album which captures all of the beauty of a sunny day outside, with birds chirping and a river flowing.  A nice slow easy walk in the park.
This blue eyed soul man from England has yet to catch on with an American audience and hopefully this will change all of that.
Taylor Goldsmith and crew have made another California inspired folk rock record inspired once again by the great Laurel Canyon folks of the seventies.
It is almost as if Bowie never stopped recording and the first single Where Are We Now is an instant Bowie classic
Another American singer songwriter who has been overlooked as far as commercial success goes.  The double record is just plain pleasant and the song Brighter with the late great actress Karen Black is transcendent.
Jose Gonzalez has such a soft mellow voice and this Swedish based group showcases his vocals and sweet sounds.
The former lead singer of the New Pornographers has one of the great rock n roll voices of the 21st centuries and her songs are visual treasures.
Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe are a bona fide supergroup.  I Feel A Sin Comin On and Hush Hush are the best two opening songs of 2013. Girl power in the 21st.......
With one of the most distinctive voices of 2013 Valerie June combines folk, blues and traditional Appalachian sounds (ala Victoria Williams) and the first cut Workin Woman Blues excels, as does the entire album produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.
The sophomore album from one of my favorite Los Angelino bands, is much more refined American pop.  Silver Lake hipster rock n roll.
"Mommas hooked on Mary Kay, brothers hooked on MaryJane and fathers hooked on Mary two doors down......"  The song Merry Go Round is one of the gems on this debut album from this East Texas star in the making.
Every few years I am taken by a brilliant African sound.  The Indestructible Sounds of Soweto is my baseline, and Rokia Traore is the Malian answer.
The Scottish rockers have made their best album so far, with a little bit more of an anthemic tone, actually a little reminiscent of early Arcade Fire.
Part of the neo-folk movement as they were dubbed by the music press, these Seattle based folkies made a real easy to listen to record and the title cut Lets Be Still is one of those songs which stays in your head.  Beautiful harmonies.
To classify Matthew Houck as anything but brilliant would be to understate the obvious, to me anyway.    This is his sixth release and while still unknown to most commercially he continues to make beautiful records.  And that is how I would describe this, a beauty.
Not to be out done by the more famous 70 year olds on this list, outlaw music man from Lubbock Texas, Terry Allen's name is spoken in the same breath as Joe Ely, Guy Clark and Jimmy Dale Gilmore.  The songs on this album are more like paintings and even though I am not a dog lover, the song Queenies Song almost brought me to tears.
One of the brightest indie rockers from Montreal, Arcade Fire turned to James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem to turn their double record into a jambalaya of anthem rock, disco and Haitian voodoo music.  The title cut is one of the best songs of the year and very emblematic of the new path they have taken.
One of the under appreciated rockers of NYC, and friend of Bruce, Willie Nile makes old fashioned rock n roll with a nod to the streets of NYC along with influences from Bruce to Patti Smith and the Ramones.  A gritty and wonderful pure rocker.
Two albums released in America, one at the beginnning of the year and one at the end....pretty good for a Brit whose first song Lightning Bolt sounds like he is Bob Dylans grandson.  The second album is produced by the great Rick Rubin and Jake Bugg has a bright future. " I drink to remember, I smoke to forget."
Sam Beam started his musical career with an almost whisper of a voice as a lo-fi artisan.  He has grown to a full fledged band leader, yet still writing sweet and solemn songs, as is evident with Caught In The Briars on this fine and under appreciated release, which mixes in a bit of jazz plus Tony Garnier (Bob Dylan) and his great bass.
With a nod back again to the Laurel Canyon sound of the seventies, Jonathon Wilson even enlisted David Crosby, Graham Nash and Jackson Browne to assist.  The result is something of a classic that indeed could have recorded back in the day when Wilson was just a tyke.  Brilliant.
There is a special place in my soundtrack of life for Garland always.  His is a soulful mix of rock n roll, blues and reggae and on this release the assistance of Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan and Levon Helm) made this one of the most soulful collections of his career.  Ship of Fools,  Truth Serum, Its What I Am and Colorblind Love are welcome additions to the expanding catalogue of greatness from Mr Jeffreys.
You may or may not remember him as John Wesley harding, not the Bob Dylan album, but the name he recorded under from 1991 throught 2011.  Unfortunately, once again, he was not a commercial success.  So he released this album in 2013 under his real name......cynical as a good Brit can be, this brought to mid early Elvis Costello, without the heavy backbeat.
The pride of Philly indie rock n roll, Dr Dog is another great American band that has never found a large audience, but rather a very dedicated following of small but devoted fans.  With a nod to the Philly Stax sound, the good Dr made probably the best album of their career.  The Truth, yes!
James Blake is a London based producer with the voice of an angel and is a 25 year old genius who makes electronic music drenched with dub step and atmospheric beats.  From the title cut Overgown to the first single Retrograde, his voice makes this one pleasant listen.
For a debut album, the Yudin twins, Zach and Ben teamed up with my favorite producer of the year Richard Swift and made what has been described as surf pop for the 21st century.  With riffs reminiscent of all the greats, this band was the biggest new band for 2013 in my opinion.  Pure pop!
Once again Charles Bradley, on his second album for Daptone Records has made the most soulful record of the year, bar none.  With equal parts James Brown, Wilson Pickett, David Ruffin and Otis Redding (do I have your attention) and backed by the extraordinary Menahem Street Band from Brooklyn......Charles Bradley represents.
Yes that Steve Martin and yes Mrs Paul Simon the past leader of the New Bohemians.  Martin can sure as hell banjo on par with the nest and Edie Brickell is a top notch song writer.  The combination is one of the most pleasing and listenable albums of the year.  Its not often that a song, Yes She Did, which is about a suicide is so easy to listen to.
I remember fondly listening to Elton John, Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across The Water.  Your Song was me sitting upon a roof in college looking at the stars and pondering the future.  Elton John, with of course Bernie Taupin writing and T Bone Burnett producing, has recreated that moment in time on this wonderful and again under appreciated album.  Spare and beautiful.
I confess I own all four of Sam Bakers albums and the next is more wonderful than the one before.  Sam is another of the great American storytellers who struggles to find an audience.  His songs are so touching and so pure that it is almost a travesty he is not a household name.  His words and his phrasings are magic.  His voice is familiar.  Go buy this record if you love John Prine or any other great American singer in that vein.  Say Grace, Button By Button and Ditch are classics.  "My wife god bless her and for what is worth, think she and Taylor Swift were twins at birth, separated at birth, earth to wife, wife to earth."
I would say they are the quintessential American indie band that may have finally found the audience they so richly deserve.  Their fifth album once again finds lead singer Matt Berninger brooding and the brothers Dessner and Devendorf providing the musical accompaniment which makes this band so enchanting.  Surely not pop, these Cincinnati natives by way of Brooklyn rock hard.
Andrew Mayer Cohen from Ann Arbor Michigan and music aficionado and one time DJ released his fourth full length album which was a slight departure from his Motown soulful records of the past.  The boy can sing and he has a wonderful groove.  Here with the help of Pharrel, he does his best blue eyed soul, with a nod to Boz Scaggs, Hall and Oates and Steely Dan.  From Back Seat Lover to the heart felt Reach Out Richard, Mayer Hawthorne made an ode to blue eyed soul.
This album blew me away when it was released in early 2013.  I could not stop playing it, nor could I get over the fact that it was not Sade......Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal are men.  This is the sexiest album released in 2013.  Why have you never heard of these guys?  Sweet R&B with such a beautiful arrangement of sounds.....If Open and The Fall do not sell you on this....I have failed.
A songwriter in Nashville.  Never released an album till this year.  Wrote hits for Miranda Lambert, LeAnn Rimes and Reba McIntire.  Some genius somewhere figured out she should be performing as a solo artist.  Every single "story" is such a fine embodiment of the average or not so average Southerner, written from a womans astute perspective.  You will smile and you will be sad when you listen.  You will, however, not be disappointed.  "Cause I hate stripes and orange aint my color....."  Come on, she decided not to shoot her cheating boyfriend because "there aint no crime of passion worth a crime of fashion."  The best Americana album of the year.
Ezra Koenig, Chris Baio, Chris Tomson and Rostam Batmaglij have released their third album to a country that finally got them.  Influenced by Paul Simon and African rhythms on their first two albums, on Vampires they took it up a notch or two.  The songs will keep you interested in the rhythms and the layers of sound that in some weird way are reminiscent of Phil Spector or not.  Not a song to be disregarded not a word to be missed.  Mature and polished far beyond their years.  Hannah Hunt starts out so sweet and soft and near the end explodes.  Obvious Bicycle opens the album and segues into Unbelievers, into Step and then the riveting Diane Young (or Dying Young).  Ya Hey, Hudson and Young Lion finish the album as strong as it started. "....spinning Isrealites into 19th Nervous Breakdown....." Intelligent rock n roll and an American masterpiece.



Monday, December 31, 2012



The year in music, the soundtrack of my life and everything which transpired in 2012 keeps me optimistic going into 2013.   The sounds were dominated surely by roots music and Americana, while soul music keeps making a strong comeback with a couple of great new voices.  My generation, weathered and sassy,  contributed greatly to making it one of the best years musically once again and the creativity abounds amidst the music industry becoming more fractured and much more independent.

As always this is a labor of love, listening on a daily basis to the greatest music, in my humble opinion, created by some of the most talented people on this planet.  On a great day it gets me in an even better place and on average days it inspires me to be better.  Music is transformational.  Every voice, every instrument on this list in one way made me a better person.

That being said the sounds of 2012 provided a wonderful backdrop to a divided country that almost ate itself alive.  Somehow calm minds prevailed and the peoples voices were once again heard loud and clear.  WE TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN....yes it is one of the best songs of the year but after all of the sadness which enveloped our land,we invariably defaulted and ultimately took care of ourselves.  Whether the voice of reason will prevail or the haters will regain strength remains to be seen.  Hence I present to you the ray of hope which on a daily basis gave me reason to smile and be glad to be alive and to experience the gift of every single one of these talented musicians.  Music cures what ails ya and if you don't believe that stop reading now....or screw it and enjoy the vibes.  Peace.


THE SHINS:  Port of Morrow
FIRST AID KIT:  The Lions Roar
THE MOUNTAIN GOATS:  Transcendental Youth
GARY CLARK JR:  Blak and Blu
DIRTY PROJECTORS:  Swing Lo Magellan
DIVINE FITS:  A Thing Called Divine Fits
JACK WHITE: Blunderbuss
THE FLATLANDERS:  The Odessa Tapes

50.  MUMFORD AND SONS: BABEL  Marcus Mumford and Company released their follow up to their 2009 hit Sigh No More and for a sophomore effort it reached as many if not more fans of the new folk revival.

49.  THE SEA AND THE CAKE:  RUNNER  Once again the Chicago luminaries Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt provide pleasant and mellow rock n roll with a very sweet edge.

48.  NORAH JONES:  LITTLE BROKEN HEARTS  One of the greatest modern voices in music, Norah Jones combines her beautiful arrangements of pop, country and jazz to create a truly enjoyable experience any time of the day.

47.  THE WALLFLOWERS:  GLAD ALL OVER  Jakob Dylan, yes son of, and crew create modern rock n roll with the brilliant addition of Mick Jones from the Clash on two tracks!

46.  WILD NOTHING:  NOCTURNE   Unfortunately I did not catch Jack Tatum and band when they opened for Beach House at Crofoot, my loss.  A very fine synth pop effort.

45.  KELLY HOGAN:  I LIKE TO KEEP MYSELF IN PAIN  A beautiful voice in the tradition of Dusty Springfield, Kelly Hogan is just as comfortable singing country as she is pop or jazz.

44.  MELODY GARDOT:  THE ABSENCE  One of the great musical stories, and there are many, Melody Gardot has one of the smoothest jazz tinged voices today.  This album has a decided South American tinge to it and it swings.

43.  GRAHAM PARKER AND THE RUMOUR:  THREE CHORDS GOOD  One of my all time favorite musicians that never made it, Graham has reunited with the Rumour and from the first cut, the reggae tinged Snake Oil Capital of the World, he is still pissed off and brilliant.  Catch him and the band in the Judd Apatow movie THIS IS 40.

42.  GRIZZLY BEAR:  SHIELDS  The Indie darlings of Brooklyn released one of their most accessible albums, with Daniel Rossen and Ed Droste mixing beautiful textures of sound and lyrics into one big enjoyable record.

41.   THE VERY BEST:  MTMTNK  It sure did not hurt having Ezra Koening from Vampire Weekend helping out on Kondaine.  Very Best do World Music for the 21st century and the kick ass.

40.   ESPERANZA SPALDING:  RADIO MUSIC SOCIETY   What a beautiful follow up to her Grammy winning Chamber Music Society in 2011.  The double bass jazz wizard with the be bop soulful voice shows she was not a flash in the pan....

39.   CALEXICO:  ALGIERS  Another of my favorite little known Southwestern rock bands, Calexico made one of the more chill rock records of 2012.  Slow and sassy with a dose of tequilla.

38.   BILL FAY:  LIFE IS PEOPLE  I discovered this amazing musician late in the year and otherwise this would have been listened to more.  Another superb singer/songwriter from the 70s who was cast aside and one of Jeff Tweedy's favorites, this is mellow in the tradition of the greats and hopefully he will find an audience this time around.  LISTEN....

37.    MENAHAN STREET BAND:  THE CROSSING  Hailing from Brooklyn and the Daptone Record Label, these cats make some of the most original and soulful music since the Funk Brothers.

36.   BAND OF HORSES:  MIRAGE ROCK  Ben Bridwell has continually made great American roots Southern rock n roll.  Influeneces from CSNY to the Eagles, helped famous producer Glyn Johns make this their best release yet.

35.    THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH:  THERE'S NO LEAVING NOW  Sweden's gift to American roots and folk music is Kristian Matsson.  With an eerie voice reminiscent of a young Bob Dylan, his fourth release in the States is another treat.  And he is not that tall....

34.  THE WALKMEN:  HEAVEN   After ten years of releasing great records, the Walkmen have finally made a great adult rock n roll album.  No more screaming or depression, but just beautiful harmonies and great vintage rock n roll, with jangly big guitars and big drums.  Hamilton Leithauser has some of the best pipes today.

33.   JENS LECKMAN:  I KNOW WHAT LOVE ISN'T  Another Swedish contributor to the best music of the years, Jens Leckman sings of love and happiness starting off with Erica America.  Pure pop for those who enjoy melodic and sweet and sunshine and blue skies.

32.  NEIL YOUNG AND CRAZY HORSE:  AMERICANA and PSYCHEDELIC PILL  To say that Neil was prolific in 2012 would be an understatement.  Two brilliant albums, one a cover of old Americana and Psychedelic Pill which is pure Crazy Horse and Neil and fer sure PSYCHEDELIC.
Along with an Autobiography and an upcoming improvement to the way music is listened to, well Rust Never Sleeps.....

31.  DR JOHN:  LOCKED DOWN  For those of faint heart who cannot get behind Mac and his 72 year old gris gris....Helped by the production of the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, the good Dr has made one of the great albums of his career.  New Orleans and Treme have never sounded better with the horns and the Dr amazing lyrics and voice.  Keep on Mac!

30.  BOBBY WOMACK:  THE BRAVEST MAN IN THE UNIVERSE  Soul.  Well Bobby Womack has never lacked of it.  From Across 110th Street to this his "comeback" album, Bobby survived a heart attack and released on of the great efforts from the surviving members of 60's soul music.  Helped by Damon Albam of Blur and Richard Russell who produced Gil Scott Heron last album; this is a gem.

29.  BOB DYLAN:  TEMPEST  What can you say about Bob Dylan that has not already been said.  He has a voice which at times does not resonate and at others is as tricky as the arrangements of his songs.  He is equally comfortable with the blues as he is with folk and pop.  This album is no exception; from the opening cut Duquense Whistle, an old timely homage to Americana to the final cut Roll On John, a powerful farewell to John Lennon, Dylan has never sounded like he is having as much fun.

28.  SIGUR ROS:  VALTARI  For those unfortunate enough never to have heard Sigur Ros this will be a fine introduction;  except there are 15 years of catching up to do.  Atmospheric, melodic, symphonic, and downright psychedelic at times; Jonsi Birgisson and company are one of Iceland's best exports to these shores.  Their live show is not to be missed....trust me.

27.  LORD HURON:  LONESOME DREAMS  One of those pleasant surprises, when you have never heard of a band and their melodic, folky, gorgeous set of songs blows you away.  Ben Schneider, born in Michigan, has created a truly wonderful country, pop, crunchy tinged set of tunes.  So well done and so pretty the songs get better as the love and hope seeps from the tracks.

26.  JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE:  NOTHINGS GONNA CHANGE THE WAY YOU FEEL ABOUT ME NOW  In this case its a good thing.  This boy knows how to write an song and as he emotes you just want to say Hell Yes....or at times OUCH.  Life and love have not always been rosey for the younger son of Steve, and how could it be, but he has made album after album of great heartfelt songs, all of which should make his mom and dad proud.

25.  IRIS DEMENT:  SING THE DELTA   It's been eight long years since her last album and this was well worth the wait.  With a voice and songs reminiscent of Loretta Lynn, Nancy Griffith and Lucinda Williams, Iris is possibly another of America's great treasures as far as country music goes.  Go On Ahead and Go Home opens the album and if they don't get you nothing will.

24.  THE xx:  COEXIST   The sophomore effort from this ultra cool British collective proves that atmospheric, chill and even dubstep has found a home in my head at least.  From Angels which brilliantly opens the album to Sunset, Jamie Smith could sing and I would always listen....closely.

23.  TAME IMPALA:  LONERISM  I can only describe this as an amazing bit of Beatles from the Sgt Peppers and Magical Mystery Tour era.  With all due respect this is a brilliant rock album with kudos to the production of the fuzzy guitars and quite possibly whatever drugs they were taking.

22.  J.D. MCPHERSON:  SIGNS AND SIGNIFIERS  Not sure where this guy has been hiding, probably in a juke joint somewhere on the south side of Memphis or in Gene Vincent's garage.  Possibly a son of Brian Setzer....by now I am hoping you get the picture.  This is another one of those albums that just knocked me off my feet and made me remember what rock n roll was in the beginning of the fifties.

21.  MIGUEL:  KALEIDOSCOPE DREAM  There seems to be an R&B/Soul Revival underway and one of the young hipster proponents is Miguel.  With a soulful voice which borrows a bit from Marvin Gaye, especially on Adorned, which is one of the great songs of the year.  His slow and sassy voice and references to his hero Prince are evident. This oozes with coolness and sexual healing.

20.  alt-J:  AN AWESOME WAVE   There is a great tradition at work here from Massive Attack to Burial.  The Brits sure know how to do trippy ArtPopRock, or whatever you chose to classify this as.  I came to this late in the year but have not stopped listening.  Between the beats and the singer who sounds a bit like Elmer Fudd, this is an unBeatable combo.

19.  BETTYE LAVETTE:  Not to be undone by the young gun hipster soul singers, do not ever forget about Bettye. She comes from Detroit and even though she was passed over by Berry Gordy, his mistake, she has continued to make phenomenal records well into her sixties.  With a voice that is as raspy and seasoned as fine sand paper, Bettye Lavette draws on songs from Bob Dylan and Neil Young and makes them sound like herself, forgetting for a moment someone else even wrote them.  A goddess!

18.  JOHN FULBRIGHT:  FROM THE GROUND UP   The pride of Oklahoma in the tradition of great American folk singers like Woody, Pete and Bob; the kid has chops and knows how to write a song.  Gawd Above is the premier song on the album, but like every other chestnut on this under appreciated it is a killer.  It would appear that some one did pay attention as the album was recently nominated for a GRammy as Best Americana Album.  There is hope...

17.  LAMBCHOP:  MR M  Kurt Wagner has been quietly and by that I mean without much commercial success, been making brilliant music for well over twenty years.  Southern in flavor but by no means countrified, he writes intelligent and very insightful songs.  Not content to be pigeonholed into Alternative or Indie, Wagner makes beautiful big sounds.

16.  BONNIE RAITT:  SLIPSTREAM  Although Bonnie never really went anywhere, there has not been an album from her this good in quite some time.  She literally kills it on every single song.  From blues to pop to ballads, Bonnie reaches back to her 1974 gem Streetlights and delves into her entire catalogue to create one of the finest releases of her brilliant career.  Her voice has lost nothing and her guitar playing is still stellar.  Like a fine wine....

15.  THE LUMINEERS:  THE LUMINEERS  Think back to Mumford and Sons who somehow started the folk revival and here is a debut album equally as stunning in its brilliance.  From the intoxicating single Hey Ho to every other Americana influenced sing along, the Denver based Lumineers kept the revival going.

14.  ALABAMA SHAKES:  BOYS AND GIRLS  Last year their EP made it onto my list and this year their debut album makes the Top 50.  Brittany Howard and company delivered southern fried rock and soul to the fullest.  Her guitar playing and a voice reminiscent of among others; Janis Joplin makes this band a force to be reckoned with.

13.  DWIGHT YOAKUM:  3 PEARS  One of the great honky tonk singers in the Bakersfield tradition of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, Dwight makes a "comeback" album of sorts with a little help from Beck and even Kid Rock.  Not quite as rambunctious as in the past, but still playing guitar and singing with purpose this is a solid record.

12.  COLD SPECKS:  I PREDICT A GRATEFUL EXPULSION  Ditto another amazing first LP from a young Canadian folk singer/songwriter, Al Spx, that fronts the band called Cold Specks.   With pipes that will surely take her far and sprinkled in with a dash of soul and heavenly gospel, the closest comparison that I can draw you to is if Richie Havens and Laura Nyro had a child.  Check this out....

11.  FRANK OCEAN:  CHANNEL ORANGE  Riding the wave of the new soul singers that are fast replacing "rappers" 25 year old Frank Ocean was one of the music industries big success stories of 2012.  Hyped by the internet and sort of made famous by coming out, his music far outpaced all of the chatter.  He delivered with one of the most melodic and real Southern California soul albums of the year.  With a nod to Prince and of course Stevie Wonder, Ocean is the real deal.

10.  FATHER JOHN MISTY:  FEAR FUN  The nom de plume which J Tillman, drummer for Fleet Foxes, has chosen for his first solo album using this name is genius.  Borrowing a bit from the freak folk of Fleet Foxes and paying homage to the Band and Neil Young, Tillman has produced a beautifully sounding and very listenable album of tunes.  Including one of the best cover art of the year, this was played over and over in my yearly rotation.

9.  BEACHWOOD SPARKS:  THE TARNISHED GOLD  A little known and long time famous Los Angeles band, Brent Rademaker, Chris Gunst  and revolving band members released this gem, as their first album in ten years.  Alternative country is one way to describe them, with influences like New Riders of the Purple Sage, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and Gram Parsons, this is an amalgamation which makes up one of the greatest bands I had never heard of.  I have since purchased their small catalogue and if this is your type of music you will be as enchanted as I was.

8.  OF MONSTERS AND MEN:  MY HEAD IS AN ANIMAL  I first heard of this band in 2010 after they had won the Icelandic contest equivalent of the Mercury Awards in England.  Neo folk revival may be one way of listening to them, but they are much more and their use of the glokenspiel, along with the accordion, guitars and melodica compare them even to Arcade Fire in my mind.  Taking the torch from Sigur Ros, Of Monsters and Men truly continues the fine Icelandic tradition of making interesting and beautifully melodic music.

7.  JIMMY CLIFF:  REBIRTH   Irie.  Finally another great reggae album from the "grandfather" of the genre and the king of Kingston.  Ever since The Harder They Come, Jimmy Cliff has represented Jamaica properly and this album is a must have for anyone with a love of reggae.  His cover of The Clash song The Guns of Brixton is remarkable.  Plenty of ska and rock steady makes Jimmy Cliff at age 64 another reason to celebrate his Rebirth.

6.  BEACH HOUSE:  BLOOM  After their sophomore album Teen Dream propelled them to be stars and indie pop darlings, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally did not rest on their laurels.  This is one of the prettiest albums of the year with sweeping and majestic sounds filling your head or the room.  Live they were extraordinary at Crofoot and every single track is a gem soaked in amazing sounds.  Close your eyes and pretend you are on a beautiful beach....now jump in.

5.  DIIV:  OSHIN  For a debut album, the band DIIV, aptly titled it OSHIN.  From their Ventures inspired guitars that are enormous in sound, these young stars in the making question their existence in such a unique musical collage it is jaw dropping.  With some comparisons to Real Estate, this is one of the finest guitar based bands playing sweet rock n roll in America today.

4.  fun:  SOME NIGHTS  Somehow I avoided the unintentional hype when this came out and did not listen.  What a mistake.  This is one of the most infectious sounding albums of the year.  There I said it. Pure pop, sugar coated and syrup all in one.  But...Nate Reuss, with a voice and sound which recalls Freddie Mercury of Queen and Elton John, belts out song after song (with the help of Janelle Morae on We Are Young) and made a believer out of me from the first listen.

3.  LEONARD COHEN:  OLD IDEAS  "He's a lazy bastard living in a suit....."  Not many 78 year old bards are still making songs with lines like that.  From poems to love songs, Leonard Cohen is a Canadian national treasure, who has been transplanted to America.  Making amazing music and songs since 1967, Leonard has blessed us with everything from Suzanne to Hallelujah.  This is a gift which makes all of those younger than Lenny aspire to.  A Jewish Zen Buddhist, who reminds me of my fathers voice at times, Leonard Cohen may have titled it Old Ideas, but they sound just as new as anything out there today.

2.  RODRIGUEZ:  SEARCHING FOR SUGARMAN SOUNDTRACK   Having heard about the legendary Rodriguez for years, but never having seen him in the 70's, I was intrigued when I heard that a documentary was being made about this fellow Detroiter.  I will not spoil the story, since if you are reading this and have not seen the film.....DO NOT PASS GO...SEE IT!  The music on this is a compilation of the Best of Rodriguez, who is now 70 and still living in Detroit I might add.  A cross between Nick Drake and Bob Dylan is the only comparison I can give.  His voice is enchanting and the songs are beautiful stories of protest and disappointment.  But there is hope if you listen, which I urge you to do.

1.  BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN:  WRECKING BALL  An anthem.  A call to arms.  A protest record. Objectively....all of the above and one of the greatest accomplishment in his 41 year career of making records.  This is a song for America, in that Bruce speaks to the trials and tribulations of a nation divided offering his unique perspective on peoples lives and how to solve some of the problems..."if I had me a gun I'd find the bastards and shoot em on sight" in reference to the bankers in Jack of All Trades.  Death to My Hometown was written before Hurricane Sandy, but it surely was referential when played at the 121212 Concert.  Bruce speaks to the disparity in our society like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie before him, even closing the album with American Land, a sort of tip of the hat the Pete and Woody. Bruce may have been one of the forebearers of the folk revival written about today, but he drenches it in soul and gospel as one of the premier American musicians would do.  Land Of Hopes and Dreams is a true revival song and you just wanna get on the train, which is filled with "saints and sinners, losers and winners, whores and gamblers, and lost souls".  How could you resist?  We Are Alive is just that, an affirmation of life and even if we are gone, we are somehow still involved.     Bruce Springsteen speaks to and for an America in need of hope and guidance through our travails. His concerts this year were some of the best that I have witnessed in the 36 years following him.  The E Street Band and Bruce are American music at its best.  Musically and lyrically this will get you up, singin and dancin and provide you with hope of brighter days ahead for us all.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Top Songs Of 2012

Rodriguez-Sugar Man
fun-Some Nights
The Alabama Shakes-Hold On
Bruce Springsteen-We Take Care Of Our Own
Cold Specks-Elephants Head
Leonard Cohen-Going Home
Jimmy Cliff-Guns of Brixton
J.D. McPherson-North Side Gal
Bob Dylan-Soon After Midnight
Beach House-Myth
Of Monsters and Men-Little Talks
Frank Ocean-Thinkin About You
Justin Townes Earl-Am I Lonely Tonight
Alt J-Matilda
Bettye Lavette-Everything Is Broken
The Lumineers-Ho Hey
John Fulbright-Gawd Above
Beachwood Sparks-Sparks Fly Again
Iris Dement-Go On Ahead And Go Home

Saturday, July 7, 2012

MidYear Favorites

Sitting and listening to amazing music during the HeatWave and thinking of Martha and the Vandellas, I was prompted to publish a HalfYear List which will help me be a little more clever by the End of Year. Spotify is a godsend. If you have not signed up, do not pass go and go to Spotify.com and sign up. You can listen to anything for Free. And if you want to pop for $120.00 a year you listen without commercials. I recommend it highly. OK...in alphabetical order only I present to you the music I have been listening to the most in the first 6 months:

 So explore and listen and enjoy and give me some feedback if you get a chance...Also what are you listening to that I may have missed....

Sunday, December 25, 2011


The entire world went through changes in 2011. From the Arab Spring to Occupy there is unrest and a sense of big changes to come. Where all this will lead to, aside from a hopeful change in the collective consciousness, one will have to wait and see. Will 2012 seem like 1968 all over again? Lets hope so. The conventions will surely feel the brunt of OCCUPY and this can only be a good thing as working America raises its voice in unison to counter all the money of the banksters. Change is gonna come because if anything Occupy has pushed into the forefront the inequalities between the .05% and the other 99.5%.

As a perfect segueway into the wonderful music made in 2011 it was once again new sounds dominating my ear time although much of the great music made this year was made by those who made great music in 1968 also. Seven of the artists in the Top 20 are over the age of 60....like fine wine we age well. There is so much great music that was made this year that it seems almost criminal that my peers are almost clueless when I mention what I am listening to. I am going to make it my mission this year to spend more time blogging and posting on Facebook (not a virgin anymore) so that all of this great music is more accessible.

Music is like mountain water; pure. It keeps you positive and straight forward and when there are times of loss and woe it is there to comfort you. Music is your best friend without any arguments or discussions. It continues to delight and amaze year after year. It is the sound of our hearts and minds. Music becomes the soundtrack of our lives as we listen back to our favorites and discover new faves. Music never disappoints.

With new ambition I will comment on all 50 of the best this year and list a great cut from each album. In addition I have listed one of my favorite cuts from each album. Go ahead and listen to a preview on iTunes or even better go to Spotify. For free you have access to millions of songs and for 9.95 a month you can listen without advertisements to complete albums.

50: Kaputt-Destroyer: Dan Bejar, best known for his work with The New Pornographers, channels the best of 80s pop, making Steely Dan, Mike McDonald and Boz Scaggs all envious. Chinatown

49: Elsie-The Horrible Crowes Brian Fallon, of the New Jersey band, The Gaslight Anthem, did this as a side project with his guitar tech, Ian Perkins. A more mellow version of Gaslight, it reminds one of a stripped down Springsteen. I Witnessed a Crime

48: Celebration Florida-The Felice Brothers The Catskills Mountains answer to The Band diverge from their last three albums and rock a little harder. Honda Civic

47: Back To Love-Anthony Hamilton One of the best soul singers in America today, who pays props to the late Teddy Pendergrass and Al Green, while singing of love oh so sweetly. WOO

46: Build A Rocket Boys-Elbow On their fifth album, Mercury Prize winners Elbow, continue in the fine tradition of indie rock. The Birds

45: Metals-Feist The Canadian queen of Indie Pop delights with her usual mix of rockers and ballads of her fourth solo effort. Leslie Feist sings of lost love as the centerpiece of this introspective gem Comfort Me

44: The King is Dead-The Decembrists This Portland Oregon Indie outfit, led by Colin Meloy, made for me their most listenable and pleasant album. As a teller of tales, Meloy is surely unparalleled. Dont Carry It All

43: Ukelele Songs- Eddie Vedder The Pearl Jam frontman has been a longtime proponent of the uke and he committed himself to making a truly splendid listen. Vedders voice and his ability to play this tiny instrument made this one of the joys of the year. Cant Keep

42: Field Songs-William Elliot Whitmore With the sounds of the farm, along with the birds and the bees, Mr Whitmore, a former metal singer, has crafted one of the truly enjoyable folk albums of his short career. From the cover to his voice, this son of Iowa is a songsmith to be enjoyed. Everything Gets Gone

41: Parallax- Atlas Sound Bradford Cox records as a solo project under the name Atlas Sound, which is a far cry from Deerhunter. Muzak for the young hipsters. Te Amo

40: Circuital- My Morning Jacket For my money Jim James and his Jacket mates are the purveyors of Southern rock n roll from the Capricorn Record era. From big rock to soulful ballads this is a journey back for the Lexington rockers. Wonderful (The Way I Feel)

39: Mirror Traffic-Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks: Former Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus, he of the sixties guitar swagger has made a pure power pop album which is a welcome joy filled with a searing take on the US Senate. Senator

38: El Camino-The Black Keys There is something about Midwestern musicians that is just so honest and unpretentious you have to smile. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are the Pride of Akron Ohio (sorry Lebron) and their music is a testament to Midwestern grit. Lonely Boy

37: Barton Hollow-The Civil Wars Joy Williams and John Paul White are the Nashville duo that are The Civil Wars. For those progressive country music fans you will be delighted. They count myself and Bob Seger as fans. Barton Hollow

36. Salt Year-Chris Bathgate From the first note of Eliza I was hooked. Ann Arbor Michigan musician and singer songwriter I first hears of Chris after reading a Metro Times cover story. Thank goodness. A wonderful and pleasant experience. Eliza (Hue)

35. Burst Apart-The Antlers Peter Silberman and his Brooklyn mates have once again made a brilliant album. Combining big operatic rock with heartfelt love songs, The Antlers dazzle. I Dont Want Love

34: Nine Types of Light-TV On The Radio The best way to describe the Brooklyn art funksters is just like that. Dave Sitek, Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe, lost their bassist Gerald Smith to lung cancer, but put out a beautiful testament to what a band influenced by the 80s is all about. Second Song

33: Blessed-Lucinda Williams Happy and in love, Lucinda, who possesses one of the great voices in contemporary music, basks in the glory of happiness. Her marriage has taken her writing to another level and the Lake Charles native kills it this one. Buttercup

32: Wits End-Cass McCombs Sad and introspective may well best describe this musical genius. Ala Ryan Adams of old he released two albums this year. This Baltimore based singer songwriter keeps dazzling with his voice and lyrical moments of brilliance. County Line

31: 21-Adele Amy Winehouse light is not only an apt description, but a true compliment to this young chanteuse. This is a woman who may be selling records for many years to come if she avoids the pitfalls of stardom. An angelic voice with a bit of Brit grit, Adele recalls the 60s era singers. Set Fire To The Rain

30: How Do You Do-Mayer Hawthorne Andrew Mayer Cohen, the pride of Ann Arbor Michigan, followed up his 2009 Strange Arrangement with another soulful offering. Recalling the Dells and the Stylistics more than Motown, Hawthorne has made another gem. Get To Know You

29: Reverie-Joe Henry A master storyteller and brilliant producer and brother in law to Madonna, Joe Henry makes American music and tells stories, all the while strumming away on his guitar, while the band plays on around him. Recorded in his basement with the windows open, Joe Henry the minstrel keeps knocking it out of the park. Heavens Escape

28: Apocalypse-Bill Callahan One of the most intellectual singer songwriters, Bill Callahan crafts epic songs filled with images of love, death and war. His deep baritone at times harks back to sitting around a campfire and listening to the guy singing the songs. Thats Bill. America

27: Rome-Danger Mouse and Danielle Lupi Take one Italian composer and one very eccentric American musician/producer and add Jake White and Norah Jones to the musicians who played Ennio Morricone compositions for the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood...hopefully you get the picture. This was one of those great collabortations that was overlooked by too many people. Seasons Trees

26: Belong-The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart On their sophomore effort the Pains are anything but. This is such a lush and wonderful joyride in pop music, it is sometimes hard to understand that such a group of twenty somethings is so capable of recreating the best of pop. Heart in Your Heartbreak

25: Within and Without-Washed Out Ernest Greene is Washed Out. So sit back or dance, depending on your age and proclivity, to this brilliant debut album of what can only be described as Chillwave. With one of the most sensual record covers of all time, Washed Out is sure to keep you mellow. Eyes Be Closed

24: Kiss Each Other Clean-Iron and Wine Sam Beam has made another pristine album, but this time with a backing band in lieu of his acoustic guitar and a microphone. The results are energetic and thrilling. On the most beautiful voices and one of the most under appreciated, Iron and Wine blends folk music with a soulful band and background singers. Me And Lazarus

23: The Party Aint Over-Wanda Jackson Thank goodness my wifes favorite refrain became an album title. Former paramour to Elvis Presley 74 year old Wanda Jackson was lured into recording by Jack White and the results recall her former days as the Queen of Rockabilly. From Shakin All Over to Bob Dylans Thunder On The Mountain, Wanda does not disappoint and for those who never heard of her this may help to get you excited. Shakin All Over

22: Mayhem-Imelda May/Anna Calvi Imelda May is Irish and Anna Calvi is British. They both play the guitar and sing with such distinctive stylings that recall days of old. May brings to mind the golden age of rock n roll and greasers. Brian Setzer could be her brother. Anna Calvi on the other hand hand channels Duane Eddy, Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde. Two amazing young singers from across the pond who should both enjoy success sooner than later. Mayhem/Desire

21: Cape Dory-Tennis Husband and wife Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley have made a dreamy debut album. Combining the best of the sixties Beach Boys and Phil Spector influences this was a delight when it came out in the winter, as it makes one think of being on a boat in the Caribbean. Long Boat Pass

20: Ceremonials-Florence and The Machine Florence Welch as made two proper albums and this one soars into the stratosphere. With a voice as big as the music behind it, Florence and her Machine have made a white girl soul record that is perfectly suited for the 21st century. Recalling Annie Lennox on more than one song, Florence rocks and love be damned. A Brit with soul and an authentic sound, take notice Adele. Shake It Out

19: Middle Brother Not since Crosby Stills and Nash has such a wonderful trio of alt country musicians made such an amazing debut album. Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, John McCauley of Deer Tick and Matthew Vasquez of Delta Spirit front great bands who combine wonderful folk rock with punk rock. The only way to describe this a bunch of young guys writing about drinking alot and the results of love gone bad. Portland

18: The Old Magic- Nick Lowe Nick Lowe is a rock star. Having made 13 albums, Lowe channels Nat King Cole and Johnny Cash on this extraordinary walk down memory lane. Waxing elegic about life and love, Lowe is in his best form since Whats So FunnyIn Peace, Love and Understanding. Checkout Time

17: Revelator-Tedeschi Trucks Band Susan Tedeschi is an accomplished blues singer/guitarist on her own. Having married and merged with Butch Trucks and his band is as close to a soul/blues Valhalla as one could ever imagine. The playing is dynamic and Tedeschi's voice which recalls Bonnie Raitt and Bonnie Bramlett, makes this Southern drenched recording a soulful gem. Until You Remember

16: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.-Its A Corporate World The best record made by a Detroit based band in 2011. Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott are the duo who make up the goofy named band, who performed in NASCAR racing suits. Im guessing since Its A Corporate World more spiffy duds will help the pop stars find their place in the music world. Recalling the Beach Boys, the Beatles and Granddaddy, the Juniors mix up the music through in a killer version of Gil Scott Herons "We Almost Lost Detroit." A gorgeous sun-filled treasure. Simple Girl

15: Pull Up Some Dust And Sit Down-Ry Cooder Ry Cooder recorded his first album in 1970. This is his best yet in a career that has seen him produce The Buena Vista Social Club and score the film Paris Texas. Cooder takes on the role of a modern day Woody Guthrie and has made a biting protest record railing against the banksters, the military and governMental policy. Its a wonderful listen from Baby Joined The Army to John Lee Hooker For President. Take a swig of Troy and Sons Moonshine and enjoy. No Banker Left Behind

14: The Whole Love-Wilco Jeff Tweedy and the band keep churning out brilliant musical masterpieces. One of the alt country pioneers with Uncle Tupelo, Tweedy sounds healthy and happy on this disc, with a group of players that are topnotch. Not many bands have been able to keep up this pace and continually shine record after record. From pop sounds to alt country Wilco has made their almost perfect album. I Might

13. Helplessness Blues-Fleet Foxes Its hard to believe this is only their second record. Beautiful choral harmonies and songs reminiscent of early CSN and the Beach Boys, Robin Pecknold and Co make a purely enjoyable record that one can listen to time and time again and marvel at the beauty of the singing and writing. Montezuma

12. We Bought A Zoo-Jonsi/Inni-Sigur Ross Jonsi Birgisson is a force of Icelandic nature. As a solo musician he has scored the soundtrack to the new Cameron Crowe film We Bought A Zoo. As a member of the band Sigur Ross, he released a live recording of their final concert of their last tour in November 2008. Inni is a 75 minute film and 105 minute double live album. Sigur Ross is mesmerizing. Jonsi, as a solo artist, will win an Academy Award if the Academy listens (which I doubt they will, but I can always hope). The album is joyful and filled with smiles.
Festival/Boy Lilikoi

11. Ashes and Fire-Ryan Adams One of the most prolific singer/songwriters of his generation, Ryan Adams has kicked his nasty heroin habit and continues to make wonderful country tinged masterpieces. Since leaving the band Whiskeytown, Adams has release 13 albums in the last 11 years. This is the clearest most accomplished work in his career, with the help of Norah Jones, Benmont Tench and producer Glyn Johns. Come Home

10. James Blake/Enough ThunderEP-James Blake The eponymous debut album in its deluxe version in the UK included the EP Enough Thunder. Not so in the States. But...this dubstep/chill DJ who is only 24 years old caught my attention (thanks of course to my son Jake) and was my soundtrack for my Central Park runs in February. Hard to not enjoy this beautiful collection of music from a star on the horizon. His collaboration with Justin Vernon on Fall Creeks Boy Choir is also brill, not to mention his cover version of A Case of You by Joni Mitchell. Get out of the way for Mr Blake. Limit To Your Love/A Case of You

9. How To Become Clairvoyant-Robbie Robertson
Nothing Is Wrong/Dawes For the uninitiated Robbie Robertson was part of the legendary musicians known as The Band. The were the backing band for Bob Dylan. Its seems there is some sort of synchronicity in this choice since Mr Robertson has chosen Dawes to be his backing band when he tours. Robbie Robertson made a blues infused work with the help of Eric Clapton, Robert Randolph, Steve Winwoood, Tom Morello and Trent Reznor. One of the elder statesmen of the business Robbie Robertson nailed it with this masterpiece. Dawes, on the other hand are one of the great young bands with lots of promise. This being their sophomore effort they stretch out their sound to remind one of the Eagles and Jackson Browne, if you listen closely. Sun drenched California hipster music of the 60s is the perfect foil for the grizzled Robbie. Fear Of Falling/Time Spent In Los Angeles

8. No Time For Dreaming-Charles Bradley Backed by the brilliant Menahem Street Band and on DapTones Records, 63 year old Charles Bradley is the real deal. While the term soul revival is something left for the youngsters, Bradley is the living embodiment and he oozes soul. With a voice that recalls Otis, Wilson and James, from the opening chords of The World (Is Going Up in Flames) to Heartaches and Pain, Charles Bradley could have recorded this album in 1969 somewhere in Philly or in Memphis. Stax or Motown....or just plain Charles Bradley. Lovin You Baby

7. Alabama ShakesEP-Alabama Shakes/Bright LightsEP-Gary Clark Jr. If one was to put these to EPs together it would make a brilliant album, so they earned this spot on my list. The Alabama Shakes, fronted by Brittany Murphy, may be categorized as neo-soul, but lose the label. Damn this young woman can sing. Think Janis Joplin and Otis Redding. This voice and sound is sensational and with the release of their album in 2012; well just remember you heard it here first. Gary Clark Jr is a 27 year old blues kid whose EP is equally phenomenal. Hendrix and Clapton all mixed up into this equally talented youngster. If I could see into the future I would say both of these albums will be fighting for my TopTen 2012. Hold On/Bright Lights

6. So Beautiful or So What-Paul Simon One of the best solo albums Paul Simon has ever made and it may be just a little bit better than Graceland. Still retaining his humor and his ability to mix musical styles, from doo wop to African rhythms to Gospel samplings, Simon takes one on a musical journey that ends up back in New York City. With his voice still in fine form Simon makes happy music keeping in tune with his wink at mortality. Getting Ready For Christmas

5. Megafaun From their beginnings as just another Midwestern band from Eau Claire Wisconsin, the Cook Brothers and Joe Westerlund had a fourth member whose name was Justin Vernon. Justin left to record an album under the name Bon Iver. Following in the tradition of psychedelic-folk rock of Vetiver, Devandra Banhart and Grizzly Bear, Megafaun was such a welcome addition, as music today draws upon those fabulous sounds of yesteryear. Beautiful harmonies recalling California pop music and the earthiness of Fairport Convention make this one of the best sounds of the year. Real Slow

4. Bad As Me-Tom Waits With one of the most distinctive voices in the music world, Tom Waits never ceases to amaze. Channeling Satchmo Armstrong at times and just a guy sitting in the bar drinking lots of whiskey, Tom Waits is one of the most distinctive forces in music, along with his wife Catherine Brennan. With a little bit of help from Keith Richards, Marc Ribot and Charlie Musselwhite this is surely one of his greatest musical achievements. There is not a clunker on this gem. Satisfied, which mimics Mr Jagger and Mr Richards, Chicago which is the ribald opener and New Years Eve all sparkle. This is a diamond and it is upfront and not in the rough. Watch the video on You Tube for Satisfied...Brilliant. Raised Right Men

3. Days-Real Estate Once again the boys from New Jersey made a twangy, vocal laden album that just says very plainly A Day At The Beach. Could be Jones Beach, Bridgehampton, Anguila or the Seven Mile Beach in Jamaica. This screams sun and sound and whats more it sounds like the ocean. Beautiful melodies and wonderful sounds bring to mind Yo La Tengo, another great New Jersey band. So the Ventures of 2011 keep getting better and better. I can hardly wait for album #3. Its Real

2. Bon Iver Justin Vernon was under a lot of pressure. His first album, For Emma Forever Ago was recorded in a cabin in Wisconsin in the winter and talked of his lost love. It was sad and it was one of the most beautiful and highly acclaimed albums of 2007. After helping Kanye West last year and finding love with Canadian songwriter Kathleen Edwards, Bon Iver went into the studio and with the help of a band and Auto Tune, once again made a great album. While some have compared him to Nick Drake and Elliot Smith, Vernon follows his own path, with lyrics that are both obscure at times and sentimental at others. Sweet music from another Midwestern gentleman. Holocene

1. The King of In Between-Garland Jeffreys From the opening chords of Coney Island Winter to the David Essex closer Rock On, Garland ruled my year. His music is an amalgamation of blues, folk, rock, soul and reggae; so what is there not to love about this. Not only was every release after Garlands measured against him, but every time I listened to it, I heard some new chord or some new vocal intonation that made me smile even more. Commercial success be damned, Garland is a true musical treasure. The Beautiful Truth, Roller Coaster Town, In Gods Waiting Room, Streetwise, The Contortionist, Im Alive, All Around The World, til John Lee Hooker Calls Me, Love Is Not A Cliche, Rock and Roll Music and In Gods Waiting Room; every single song is spot on. From mortality to love, Garland blends his street smarts into the best and most under appreciated recoding of 2011. "Politician kiss my ass, your promises they break like glass." Hail Hail Rock and Roll....OCCUPY GARLAND!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Tramps Like Us

One of my oldest and dearest friends died on 28 August 2011. Jon Velick was a "haimish" guy, a lover of life and a lover of music. Jon was my brother in arms and one of those people that comes along once or twice in someones lifetime. I delivered his eulogy and if you click on www.thedorfmanchapel.com and go to the funeral of Jon Goodman Velick on August 31 and then scroll down and click on the video, using the password, jon831, you can watch the eulogy. Jon enjoyed and had a lust for life. His will always be with me.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hail Hail Rock N Roll. I could never say it better than one of the most under appreciated songwriters in America. Garland Jeffreys is an American legend who has never received the adulation and commercial success that he is due. The reason? Who knows. The record companies, the radio stations or the general taste of the "taste makers", whoever they may be? There is probably not an answer which would suit me, but I can tell you that IF the latest release, the aptly titled "The King of In Between" is not warmly received by the industry and the public, there is no justice in the music industry. Sort of like the America that Garland has always referenced in his writing.

I had the honor, and trust me after you see him you will know what I mean, of having seen Garland back in the Eighties in Detroit (CenterStage) and in New York (Irving Plaza). A cross between Bob Marley and Bruce Springsteen in both his writing and performing, Garland Jeffreys is a giant in an industry which recognizes record sales as the true testament to greatness. I prefer to go back to the first album, Garland Jeffreys, released in 1973 on Atlantic Records. Every single cut is a gem, from Ballad of Me to She Didn't Lie. These songs and pretty much every one Garland has written since are masterpieces of prose, be they about love or life or injustice in America.

Raised in a Puerto Rican and African American family, Garland is truly "In Between." In the music industry for sure, since no one has known what to do with him. So, after 17 years finally a self released album of stories about life in New York and indeed his own mortality. Garland is not the first artist to explore such topics, as John Mellencamp did on his album of from 2009 titled LIFE DEATH LOVE AND FREEDOM, Garland at age 67 takes on the themes of life as he reflects on his so far. I can only hope he is far from finished.

The opening licks on Coney Island Winter and his Lou Reed-esque delivery set the tone for this epic journey through rock n roll, reggae, R&B, roots rock and doo wop. "Politician kiss my ass, your promises break like glass," epitomizes Garland's take on America's greatest problem. You are transported onto the Iron Horse as its 22 stops from Coney Island to Manhattan move you along on a brutally cold New York journey, although Garland keeps it hot. And it just keeps getting better with a crack band headed up by Larry Campbell, who assisted Garland in the production. I'm Alive is a flat out rocker that indeed praises his lust for life and relays just how excited he is to be making great music. " I'm Alive not Dead" screams Garland, just so the industry maybe pays attention? I think yes.

Streetwise shifts into that funk that is also part of the gumbo known as Lord Jeffreys. Lamenting his late father and his advise to Garland about being "streetwise" Garland turns to his own daughter Savannah ( a great singer songwriter at age 15) and wonders about her own ability to survive on the streets of NYC. The back beat and the chorus is vintage street funk and Garlands advise to the Secret Service guarding Obama is perfectly on point. The Contortionist could be mistaken for Mick Jagger doing his best imitation of Garland and Garland doing his best to emulate Miss You with the hooks. A bit reflective and surely introspective, it may be Garlands way of saying he has gone through the hoops in the business and come out whole, but surely twisted. "Almost like I didn't exist" puts it very succinctly how the industry has treated him in the past.

All Around the World is Garland's take on the criminals in the banking business and you could almost think that the I Threes are singing backup on this reggae tinged tale. "Nobody appears to be sincere" would seem to be the nicest thing that he has to say about the bankers until the chorus of "Don't you steal it" comes in and you realize the slap in the face is complete.
Till John Lee Hooker Calls Me is Garlands best ZZ Top song of all time. Confronting the demon of death, Garland does a shit kicking job of delaying his exit by the words " gonna wait till John Lee Hooker calls me." He is having way too much fun playing music and enjoying music to go anywhere any time soon. Love Is Not A Cliche is the rootsy bluesy take on Karma and how love is really not something to be taken lightly. Rock N Roll Music is his salute to the music that Garland grew up loving. Never let it be said that Garland is subtle, he loves Rock N Roll music, it is part of his DNA. "I only dream of days like this, so I'm doing pretty well." A man happy in his skin.

Years back, Garland was commissioned by Giorgio Armani to do a song for his new scent, Sexuality. The eponymous song was brilliant, and under appreciated. The Beautiful Truth harkens back to the melody and the great whispers which Garland throws in. From the wah wah guitar to the reggae bass he kills it.......again. In another shout out to New York on Roller Coaster Town, "I was born a thousand yards from the Cyclone", Garland expresses his love for one of the greatest cities in the world.

Cue the Slide Guitar and the Staples Singers, as Garland is "laughing at death, as God's finger points at me In God's Waiting Room" goes back again to all of our greatest fears. Garland takes a bluesy approach to the prospect as "he prepares myself for the next episode." A man who looks death in the face and figures he's born to die, so he might as well enjoy his time in the here and now in what he references as God's Waiting Room.

So how would you even come to bookend this brilliant album? No problem for Garland as he once again proves adept at
David Essex's classic Rock On. With a brilliant reggae backbeat, Garland's take on this song is chilling. This man can take any type of music he wants, put it into his blender of a head and out comes an instant classic Garland style. I have not stopped listening to this album since the day I bought it.

Now the real problem as I see it, has always been what is "Garland style.?" In my humble opinion it is an amalgamation of all of the great music we have grown up listening to synthesized into one brilliant album after another. One brilliant performance after another. This is the Best Album of 2011 so far. Hail Hail Rock N Roll. Garland Jeffreys is one of the kings of rock n roll. Period.