Me, sorting through my 2010 music acquisitions and reviewing them? Holy COW, talk about getting a drink from a fire hose. I’m a huge music fan. HUGE. I’m ashamed to note how many songs I downloaded this year from various sources. I’m even more amazed that there’s any music left out there. Why, the very name of this here blog, music related…
Just for giggles I did the iTunes smart playlist, pull anything that was added to my iTunes in 2010. The result was north of 3,000 tracks. Good news, only 20 actually came from iTunes. Sank’s advice NEVER BUY MUSIC FROM iTUNES- the DRM issue is a big problem, and almost everything in the Apple Store can purchased cheaper and in an MP3 format elsewhere.
Also, in the 3000, lots of stuff that I had reimport because they got lost various ways when I converted from the PC to the Mac a while back.
Bottom line.. my appetite for music is insatiable. Always has been, even as kid all of my extra cash from jobs and such went to LP’s and CD’s. By the time I graduated from High School, my LP Collection was at about 350 albums. I remember this because my parents made a point of counting them to show what a waste I made of my money.
In hindsight.. it was all money well spent, as music has brought me more joy than just about anything else I know. It’s also put me at odds with Mrs S, she accuses me of being a “music snob” and I have to plead guilty to that. I am in fact a snob, there’s so much great music, why waste your time crap?
Oddly enough, I’ve never thought about that way until just this minute. I haven’t been to a movie in a theatre in 2 years, family members think nothing of dropping $10.00 for a movie every other week, I’d rather sit home with some newly discovered tunes and listen.
So how do I approach a best of 2010?
I’m going to do it by genre, and then by rank. Most people look for music by genre first.. at least I do. The criteria again, just like the books, music that I acquired this year, not necessarily music that just came out in 2010. The other hard part.. in the iTunes era.. albums just don’t matter like they used to.. so instead of sticking to album format, I’ll list a few of them where it’s relevant, look for the albums if you’re interested,
So, lets give this a try shall we…
I’m starting with my favorite genre, Jazz. Jazz is all about stretching the rules of music. It’s about improve and jazz and is America’s greatest gift to World culture.
- Empirical/ Empirical, Out and In .
Out and In was just released last year. British Jazz? I was as surprised as anyone, but this is really really good stuff. These youngsters (by Jazz standards) get it. They’re able to create a modern tight sound, channeling free Jazz a bit, but are a bit more accessible. I liked the second album more than the first. The Jazz world is going take notice of these blokes, I’ve caught them early, and I’m passing it to you.
- The Bad Plus/ Never Stop, Prog, For All I Care, These Are The Vistas
A Minneapolis trio who has done some incredible work covering rock standards with a piano, double bass and drums. Most notable cuts- All the albums are good, my favorites are Prog and For All I Care. Prog has their version of Tom Sawyer, the Rush Classic that they knock out of the park. All I Care features Twin Cities vocalist Wendy Lewis. Their take on Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb… OMG.. Could get my vote for my favorite track of the year.
- Oscar Peterson with Oscar Peterson, Harry Edison & Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson
The Trio is one of the classic configurations in Jazz, and this could be the All-Star Trio of all time. Peterson is as good a pianist as there is, and combined with Edison’s trumpet and Vinson on the sax, two of the seminal studio and back up musicians of the 50’s and 60’s… pure genius and very easy to listen too. This one is brilliant.
- Ella Fitzgerald/Twelve Nights In Hollywood
I don’t know where this has been hiding, this is a FIVE CD set that covers a Ella’s appearances at a club in LA in 1961 and 62. These tapes had been siting in a Verve Records vault for 40 years before they were rediscovered. These recordings capture Ella at her best and in an intimate setting. It’s like seeing her live, or the closest thing to it. Ella’s interchange with the audience is worth the album alone. One of the best things I listened too last year. My vote for the best Jazz album I of the year.
- Art Blakely/Album Of The Year
Blakely, and his Jazz Messengers were the incubator for new talent for over 30 years. Blakely, an outstanding drummer This album, a European import features a very young trumpet New Orleans trumpet player, Wynton Marsalis along with a raging Bill Pierce on sax. This is one of the tightest jazz albums I’ve heard in a long time. Unfortunately this import is only available on eMusic in this country.
Blues- My other great love
- Buddy Guy/Living Proof
The first cut on this 2010 release says it all… 74 Years Young. Holy cow, Buddy, one of Blues GREAT guitarists can still flat out bring it. Check out Stay Around A Little Longer.. a duet with B.B. King. Could be the best album I found in 2010. You’ll hear more about this one, I assure you.
- Junior Kimbraugh/You Better Run, Most Things Haven’t Worked Out
The blues is electrified folk music in many cases. Jr, is certainly that. Listening Kimbraugh its an experience. His guitar is more of a rhythm instrument than a melodic tool and the effect is hypnotic. Sort like Son House meets John Lee Hooker in a smoky derelict bar. This is the dirty stuff, really dirty grungy music, you can feel the roadhouse orgin of this.. sort of the way the blues are supposed to be.
- Jimmy Dawkins/Fast Fingers
This release from the 60’s features some outstanding and somewhat unknown outside blues circles, Chicago blues guitar. Jimmy’s fingers do fly on this traditional set of 12 bar blues. Great stuff..
- Howlin’ Wolf/ Goin’ Down Slow & Other Favorites
“Daddy, who invented Rock and Roll?” When your kid asks that, just say the Wolf. These tracks from the 50’s feature Wolf at his growly best. You can hear the influence he had on future rock’n rollers like the Stones and Zepplin.
- Willie Kent/Make Room For The Blues
Solid no frills electric blues, strong vocals and outstanding music.
- Mississippi Sheiks/Honey Babe Let The Deal Go Down
The Sheiks were an African American string band from the first half of the 1930’s. They recorded about 60 songs between 1930 and 1935, many of the tunes have become acoustic blues standards. This is good old down to earth roots music that sounds as good today as it did 80 years ago.
Next up, two acts from the Americana Genre. I thought I made up Americana as a genre. Turns out I didn’t, it’s sort of a sub-genre in the Alt Country/Folk genres. I characterize it as sort of unsophisticated country oriented music, somewhere between bluegrass, country and Bruce Springsteen. Here’s what I liked.
- Carolina Chocolate Drops/Genuine Negro Jig
The Drops are a modern interpretation of the Sheiks, and it was through them that I found the Sheiks. This trio is attempting to bring back a music style that hasn’t been heard in this country in probably 40 years and they do it well. This is one of my favorite albums of the year and got extended play on my iPod. One of my biggest shocks of the year, hearing my favorite cut, Hit ‘Em Up Style at a Timberwolves game. You might here more from these kids.
- Dave Alvin/The Best Of The Hightone Years
Dave Alvin, formally known as the front man for 80’s Rock-a-Billy Band, the Blasters has quietly put together an outstanding solo catalogue of fine well crafted tunes. Dave could almost be a West Coast Springsteen, except he does more covers than the Boss.. but still, great writing. I really enjoy is rich baritone voice.
The next one, I’m not sure where to put it, but was one of the best albums I’ve heard in a LONG LONG time. It’s not quote jazz, not quite rock, it’s some funk it’s all over the place, but it is an awesome album, it’s a journey through the rich tapestry of New Orleans. I have to tell you, I was in a New Orleans a few years and was completely blown away by artists, and music down there.
Yakamein is a soup they make down in the Big Easy that supposed cure hangovers. It’s a mix of all sorts of local produce and spices.
Galactic is a local New Orleans jam band, heavy on the brass and funk that I’ve enjoyed over the years. This album, released last April is one of their best. It’s a musical journey though all the different types of music you can find down there, each of the tunes is accompanied by a local act. This is some great music. Check out the cut Boe Money with the Rebirth Brass Band.. I swear I heard them playing on the street when I was down there. Love this one.
As long as we’re on the eclectic- I’m a big fan of Hawaiian music, thanks my many trips to the Islands over the years. I picked up one new one this year, not a new album, but new to me.
- Ka’au Crater Boys/The Best Of The Ka’au Crater Boys
Ka’au crater is on O’ahu over looking some of the more colorful neighborhoods on the island. Not exactly where you’d find haole tourists. Active during the 90’s, Ernie Cruz and Troy Fernandez produced some of the best contemporary Hawaiian music ever. Unfortunately, if you want to hear some Ka’au Crater Boys you’re going to have look hard, and pay for it. Like may Hawaiian artists, the small labels in the Islands can’t keep unlimited production going on their artists, and the Boy’s are no longer in print. I got my copy from a pal whose also big into Hawaiian. Ironically, as of last week there was a Boy’s CD for sale at the Half Price Books in Apple Valley. The $45.00 price tag speaks to their popularity and scarcity. 99.9% of the folks aren’t going to know what this is.. but a few fans of the genre are, and will pay.
One last comment on this one, this is a great album and I would challenge anyone to attempt to listen to it and not break into a smile.
Couple things on the R&B side caught my attention this year. Two newish acts that are channeling the best of the 60’s R&B acts and if you like that sort of thing; Temptations, Donna Summers etc, you should check these out.
- Fitz and the Tantrums/Pick’n Up the Pieces.
White Soul act from LA that I just discovered last week. Currently enjoying heavy rotation in my iPod.
- Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings/100 Days, 100 Nights and I Learned the Hard Way.
Sharon deserves a lot more attention than she’s getting. There’s three Dap Kings albums out, and every one is fantastic.
In the Alternative genre… One new artist stood out big time,
- Regina Spektor/Soviet Kitsch, Far, Songs etc.
Spektor, a Russian born pianist and songwriter, she’s just starting to make waves big time, an appearance on Saturday Night Live this year, a couple hits… Pick up the album Far.. very strong with some seriously moving tracks. Check out Laughing With.
I picked up a lot of rock this year, but nothing new to me, mostly stuff to fill in my old vinal.. Aerosmith, Boston, Zepplin’s Physical Graffiti (one of my favorites), Jefferson Starships, Red Octopus, and lots of Beatles. I’m not going write about those, it’s been done and they’re not new to me, more like old friends come home.
Last Genre, Sit down now, I like most everything-
My two boys listen to hip hop almost exclusively so like it or not, it’s on in the house and in the car. I’ve come around to it in the last couple years, some of the stuff they listen to is very smart, great lyrics and some clever mixes. Here you go, my last two…
- Living Legends/The Gathering, Legendary Music Vol 1
The Legends are a Hip Hop All Star Band kind of thing.. Indie Hip Hop.. I actually really enjoyed both of these albums. The Gathering is a bit stronger. Check out War and Peace and The Gathering.