Discussion in 'Community' started by Darth Morella, Aug 5, 2004.
Celtic River--Jeff Victor
Just Can?t Get Enough: New Wave Xmas (1996) ? Various Artists
I mean, the Pogues are New Wave? Los Lobos is New Wave? The Chris Stamey Group is New Wave? Captain Sensible is . . . Captain frigging Sensible is New Wave? Please. Despite the fact that the compilers here had no idea what New Wave actually is, there are some good songs here; Fairy Tale of New York, Los Lobos? hopped up Rudolph the Manic Reindeer, Captain Sensible?s unutterably strange and lovable One Christmas Catalogue, The Pretenders? 2000 Miles (oh my God . . . an actual New Wave song!) . . . these are great songs. The majority of the stuff that?s here, however, isn?t that great, just somewhat talented people attempting to do a quirky Christmas song. Most of them fall flat. On the other hand, Miracle Legion?s sleepy version of Little Drummer Boy is the only standard here, so if you?re just looking for something different, this is a good bet. Mono Puff?s Careless Santa closes the album perfectly; it?s so brain numbingly repetitive and labored in its quirkiness that it finally wins you over.
The Essential Bob Dylan (2000) ? Bob Dylan
Begins with Blowin? in the Wind and wraps up with Things Have Changed. It certainly is and they certainly have. But Dylan remains. The first CD is taken with the sixties and the second disc blows through the seventies, eighties and nineties in a flash. I mean, one can quibble with things like only one song from Time Out of Mind, only one song from his entire gospel period, there?s room for Jokerman but not Masters of War. But this is pointless. What we have here is an incredibly enjoyable, two CD Dylan mixtape. And since it?s Dylan, nearly every song here is a fantastic effort, even latter day efforts like Silvio and Things Have Changed. This is a blast and a half and it reminds me of all the reasons no one will ever surpass Dylan as a musical artist. No, it doesn?t have all his great songs; then again, this is a two disc set, not a twenty disc set, so it very well couldn?t, could it? And I will say this: if you?ve got a friend who needs to get into Dylan, but hasn?t, this is about the best possible introduction. One more time though: am I the only person who thinks Rainy Day Women is the worst song Dylan ever recorded? I guess so. Oh, well. Everybody must get stoned.
Soulful Christmas (1993) ? Various Artists
Pretty bad. Sound quality was awful.
The Art of Love & War (2007) ? Angie Stone
Occasionally so smooth as to become offensive; often so smooth as to be instantly forgettable. There are a few good songs here, like the brief, a capella Go Back to Your Life, with its gorgeous soul harmonies and My People, a swaggering Black Pride anthem that riffs on Duke Ellington. Not quite as good, but still worth mentioning are the surprisingly grim Make It Work and the horn drenched Sit Down, a party anthem for sure. Most of the other songs here are utterly unremarkable and forgettable, so closely do they hew to the generic R&B sound. Also, I?m going to keep saying it until people start listening: this album is too damn long. I?d cut at least four songs, just to get it back to a reasonable length; the only reason to have a long album is when every song is a knockout. People have forgotten the purpose of filler; once you?ve filled out the album to a reasonable length, you can stop adding filler. This album has fourteen songs and all but two of them are over four minutes in length, with more than a couple brushing up against six. Most of the songs here either needed to be cut down by at least a minute or else the album as a whole needed to drop at least four songs. This is a big problem with the music industry currently; only a very few albums need to be ?epics.? And all this strategy does is make you end up bored with the album before you?ve even listened to it all the way through once, which is not good.
Hipster?s Holiday: Vocal Jazz & R&B Classics (1999) ? Various Artists
As advertised and as you might guess
Black Hawk Down (2002) ? Hans Zimmer
Zimmer says in the liner notes that he thinks this is an entirely new kind of score. Setting aside the rampaging ego it takes to make a statement like that, it?s probably the best of its type, even if it maybe isn?t the first. This is a strong contender for Zimmer?s best work, which makes it very, very good indeed. There?s not a false note to be found here, in my opinion; the melding of hard edged American rock, the dense textures of modern electronica and the plaintive vocals and thundering percussion of African music works like an absolute charm. I think Crimson Tide is a better score than this; possibly also Gladiator and The Prince of Egypt, but certainly nothing else in Zimmer?s body of work. This is an astonishing work that gets deeper and wider every time I listen to it. Yes, Zimmer has made a lot of missteps and he?s earned a lot of the brickbats he gets from a lot of people. But you can?t ignore the fact that a deep genius is at work in a lot of his music; this is one of the ones that argues for that fact, a decidedly modern score that, it strikes me, will also stand the test of time. A masterwork.
The Ultimate R&B Christmas, Vol. 3 (1995) ? Various Artists
Not quite ultimate, but it had enough out of left field choices to make the album a fun listen. Certainly nothing here is really essential, but I enjoyed it.
The Rising (2002) ? Bruce Springsteen
I feel like I?ve posted about this album about twenty times in this thread, so I?ll just quickly mention that I think it?s my second favorite album of all time, Springsteen?s absolute masterwork, and the only artwork that came anywhere near really addressing the sheer depth and breadth of emotion bound up in 9/11. I don?t think I?ll ever stop being moved, profoundly and deeply moved by this album. The fact that it ushered in a creative rebirth for Springsteen after his utterly lackluster nineties period is just gravy. Absolute despair and devastation and grief and rage, wrapped up in hope and love and affirmation and faith. Could anyone but the Boss have pulled this one off?
L.A. Woman (1971) ? The Doors
Critical and popular opinion both seem to anoint the self-titled debut from this group, but I maintain that this is their finest album. I?ve never been particularly sold on the idea of Morrison as some sort of American poet-laureate or the heir apparent of Walt Whitman (hell, I?ve never even been sold on Whitman as the American poet-laureate!), but he was always an invigorating and entertaining vocalist. The band really cooks here; Krieger?s astounding guitar work on L.A. Woman or the luminous keyboard work of Manzarek on Riders on the Storm or the blistering rhythm section work on Texas Radio and the Big Beat or the anguished, ravaged vocals of Been Down So Long ? this is what I think of when I make my case that The Doors actually have endured as a great band and that some of their music did ascend to the level of real greatness. Every song is a knockout; what a masterpiece.
Hail to the Thief (2003) ? Radiohead
I enjoyed this one a lot more than when I first heard it, several years back. I never base my opinion on Radiohead on whether I ?enjoy? the music, thankfully, so I don?t have any extremely negative reviews dating from my first listen to disavow. It isn?t the album Kid A is, but then nothing ever will be again; it also isn?t the album OK Computer is, and on that note I have to dock it some points because it?s obviously trying for a slight return to that form, but also trying to keep some of the stranger textures of Kid A. The album doesn?t really work as a cohesive album, which makes it fairly unique in their oeuvre, since that?s generally the great strength of their albums. But, even if the songs don?t flow or really even fit together at all, the songs are still great in their own fractured, strange ways. I guess I liked every song this time, something was decidedly not the case when I listened to it a few years back. But the son
i wouldn't bother. if it doesn't appeal to you immediately there's little chance it will down the road.
also do you always buy exactly five albums at a time?
No. It's a formatting thing to make my posts uniform. Also, I get a lot of these albums from the library.
Yann Tiersen - Dust Lane
Djin Djin (2007) ? Angelique Kidjo
Infectious, groove oriented album from the African singer. Most of the album is in languages other than English, but the roster of guest stars is superb: Peter Gabriel, Carlos Santana (no shock), Ziggy Marley, Beyonce, Joss Stone. Some of the tracks are outstanding, even if you can?t understand the passionate, angry protest lyrics. But if you think this is an entirely non-western album, think again; the best track on the album is a gorgeous, layered rearrangement of Ravel?s Bolero for mostly unaccompanied voices, multi-tracked until it feels like the roof is caving in. Second best is a completely strange soul party version of Gimme Shelter with Joss Stone. Lot of fun.
That?s So Raven Too! (2006) ? Various Artists
Utterly strange and mostly horrible collection of teeny-bop music from the hit television show. Would you believe a rap version of Billy Preston?s Will It Go Round In Circles? Would you believe Aly & AJ doing a cover of Walkin? on Sunshine? Would you believe extensive dialogue during about half the songs? Would you believe that it has the original version of Aretha Franklin?s Respect? Yeah, that last one . . . surprisingly brilliant decision. Oh and would you believe a cover of I Can See Clearly Now? Oy.
The Back Room (2005) ? The Editors
Heard all the crazy buzz, but never quite got around to this one. Debut from the Birmingham based group. They?ve got a U2 jones dancing around their frenetic guitar, a sort of Joy Division vibe hanging around their melancholy backdrops and a sort of Leonard Cohen meets Jarvis Cocker vocal style. Does this sound like it would work? I don?t know, but it does work, like a frigging charm. One of the most enjoyable and striking debuts I?ve heard in quite a while. It would be easy to mock the pretentiousness of the album with all its echo-drenched vocals and chiming, equally echo-drenched guitar and deep, ponderous, even more echo-drenched electronic textures. But come on, get with the program. There?s something pretty cool going on here.
Heyday (1986) ? The Church
I confess that I?m not familiar with The Church. I found this album, which I know many consider a classic, to be pretty solid without being mindblowing. It was an enjoyable New Wave-ish album from the middle eighties, avoiding all the big eighties traps and occasionally actually focusing on beauty, which was nice for a change. Best track is Happy Hunting Ground, an absolutely luminous instrumental, which should tell you how important the vocalist is here.
Uh-Huh (1983) ? John Cougar Mellencamp
I?ve never been enamored of Mellencamp; in point of fact, I used to hate even his one canonical masterpiece, Pink Houses. I don?t know if I?m aging into him or if I was just being an idiot before or what, but I found this album pretty brilliant. The remastered sound, which really pops, helps a little, I think, but that alone can?t account for the blast I had listening to these songs. He?s not the second coming of Springsteen, but he does a good, straight ahead anthemic rock song about as well as anybody who isn?t Springsteen or U2. The album has missteps, like the minimalist and idiotic Jackie O and the sentimental, strange Golden Gates. But he kills on some other stuff, like the rampaging opener, Crumblin? Down, the frantic, Bo Diddley-esque update on blues standard Lovin? Mother Fo Ya, the fist pumping Authority Song and the melancholy sell-out masterpiece Warmer Place to Sleep. Yes, I even liked Pink Houses this time around. But the album?s masterpiece, and maybe Mellencamp?s best song, is the witty, sardonic snarl of Play Guitar, somehow both an ode to and a slap at the sexual euphoria of rock music. I would never have believed, prior to this song, that Johnny Cougar could actually be funny, but he is. I generally state my opinions very strongly and straightforwardly, which makes some people angry; but I think there?s nothing wrong with that when, as I am, you?re unafraid to disavow said opinions
Country Gospel (2002) ? Various Artists
Blink and you?ll miss it compilation. There are couple of pretty great moments, like George Jones? Me and Jesus and Dolly Parton absolutely slaying a gospelled up version of Go Tell It On the Mountain. Best of all, however is Willie Nelson?s glacial seven minute stroll through Precious Memories, a song I?ve never liked until this version. But, on the whole, I recommend you get 20 Classic Country Gospel Songs of the Century, which is twice as long and probably three times as good.
Across the Universe (2007) ? Various Artists
Double disc soundtrack to Taymor?s controversial and bizarre film. So, we have here an hour and a half of Beatles covers, which is probably not the best way to spend your time, but also not the worst probably. Some of the covers are annoyingly faithful and dull (Because, With a Little Help From My Friends, Something, Oh Darling, etc.). Some others are absolutely disastrously awful: a horrible dissonant desecration of the lovely Across the Universe, Eddie Izzard?s shambling spoken word version of Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, an unbelievably lame and fizzling Hey Jude that should be the emotional climax but definitely isn?t, a surprisingly terrible version of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds from Bono (though he does do a great job on I Am the Walrus). So, do I suggest you avoid this album? Not necessarily. There are some amazingly great moments: a resonant, gripping gospel version of Let It Be; a dark, crazed, churning take on Come Together with vocals by Joe Cocker; a short, stomping country version of I?ve Just Seen a Face; a lilting, cello drenched minimal take on It Won?t Be Long. Maybe best of all is a hard edged, but ultimately soulful, take on Dear Prudence. This is the definitive variable album, if you ask me. But worth a listen.
Breakfast in Bed (2007) ? Joan Osborne
Surprisingly great pastiche album, focused on reproducing the soul sounds of early Motown records. The songs need no defense: I?ve Got to Use My Imagination, Ain?t No Sunshine, Midnight Train to Georgia, Heat Wave, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, Breakfast in Bed, etc. And the most cogent defense of the album is to simply say that Osborne does a great job on them and they sound great. It?s been a long time since I?ve heard an album where an artist just specifically apes a certain sound and covers a lot of the classics from that sound and yet the album just works brilliantly. Most surprising of all are Osborne?s originals. The grim, growling I Know What?s Goin? On is a stark infidelity tale and Eliminate the Night is . . . well, I?m just going to say it: it deserves to be on an album with all of those songs I mentioned above; it?s that good . . .no, that great of a song. This one is worth seeking out.
Broken & Beautiful (2006) ? Mark Schultz
Schultz? fourth studio album. It?s not nearly as good as his astoundingly great debut or his slightly lesser sophomore effort. The style is the same; hard edged rock songs trading punches with piano based, string drenched ballads. Schultz is usually good at the quiet ballads and he has two very good ones here, Walking Her Home and 1000 Miles. Neither are as good as I Have Been There, He?s My Son, Remember Me, etc from his first two albums, but they?re close. But the ballads keep getting schmaltzier as the album goes on, ending with a devastating one-two punch of saccharine sentimentality with She Was Watching and Until I See You Again. The songs just simply aren?t as good here, not even the ravers. There?s nothing to equal I Am the Way, Legend of McBride, Kyrie, Let?s Go, a lot of other great, up-tempo numbers from his first couple of albums. His voice is still appealing and when he writes a great song, he writes an extremely great one, if you get my drift. But this album as a whole was disappointing to me, particularly since his great 2000 debut was one of the most promising and exciting debuts I?d heard in an extremely long time.
MrMethane.com: Anal Madnes
16 Biggest Hits (1999) ? Johnny Horton
Horton is best known for a particular kind of ballad that doesn?t really play well anymore: The Battle of New Orleans, Sink the Bismarck, Jim Bridger, When It?s Springtime in Alaska, North to Alaska, etc. This album has plenty of songs that haven?t dated well; I?m still at a loss to figure out if people ever actually took The Battle of New Orleans seriously or if it was always a satirical song. But Horton does tell an appealing story; When It?s Springtime in Alaska and North to Alaska are both great songs with great performances. Sleepy Eyed John is a bluegrass party extraordinaire and All Grown Up is a somewhat disturbing, rockabilly romp about younger women. This won?t change your life and frankly most of it doesn?t work. But I had fun with it.
What?s Going On (1971) ? Marvin Gaye
By any rational standard, one of the most significant albums of all time, the album that brought social protest and the smooth soul of Motown together, a concept album that was more a musical suite than a collection of songs, a profound technical achievement with its songs bleeding into and on top of one another and its flawless, immaculate production. Still a gripping listen, nearly forty years on. What?s Happening Brother, with its disaffected war veteran narrator still feels absolutely on point and Gaye?s evocation of faith on the album are as moving as any such moments have ever been, especially on the aching lament, Wholly Holy. A powerful, astoundingly great album. When Inner City Blues, the last track slowly fades and transitions into a restatement of the main theme from What?s Going On, one feels absolutely stricken. A glorious achievement, an artistic masterpiece, one of the greatest icons of the album format. Gaye was no slouch at turning out great albums; this one is still his best. Mother, mother, still far too many of you cryin?. What was going on then is still what?s going on now. Revisit this one; it still feels just as fresh as it did the first time you heard it.
This Land Is Your Land: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 1 (1997) ? Woody Guthrie
Guthrie?s influence on the canon of American song really can?t be overstated as even a cursory listen to this, the first in a four volume set of Guthrie?s most famous and significant recordings, will attest. Guthrie was equally adept at social satire as he was at social protest and at heart tugging ballads as at chest swelling anthems. This album contains practically all of his most famous songs, including three separate versions of This Land Is Your Land, one with the reinstated ?Private Property? verse and the final one a brief snippet version recorded on a cross country trip. But the songs are the stars here; Guthrie was both a great lyricist and a great melodicist. You remember, for instance Do-Re-Mi for two reasons: because it?s a biting, bitter protest song and because it?s a catchy, hummable tune. Other great songs include: Hobo?s Lullaby, a quiet, heartfelt ode to the poor and downtrodden; Lindbergh, a vitriolic screed against the ?hero? who ultimately revealed his un-American opinions; Talking Fish Blues, a wordy, rambling shambolic masterpiece of wit; Jesus Christ, a merging of Guthrie?s faith and his political views as he views Christ through the lens of social revolution; Why Oh Why, a bizarre and side splittingly funny children?s song which answers, with perfection, the age old question of why can?t a mouse swallow a streetcar. What this album does more than anything else is give you a glimpse of Guthrie?s incredible breadth as an artist and a writer. It?s over seventy minutes long and has twenty-seven songs on it, spanning a variety of topics and styles. If, like me, you?ve always heard about Guthrie?s influence and genius, then go ahead, like me, and experience it for yourself. This is a great starting point.
Fun (1994) ? Daniel Johnston
It strikes me that I?ve posted about this album before in here. It also strikes me that I was distinctly uncomplimentary.
Emo (1999) ? Screeching Weasel
Great punk album. The songs are short and the churning sound of them is pure punk. Ben Weasel (IF THAT?S HIS REAL NAME) isn?t much of a singer, but he still manages to craft appealing, simple melodies that, much like the Ramones? melodies, stay with you. The best song is probably The Scene, which is a witty takedown of coolness. But then you don?t come to an album by a band called Screeching Weasel because you want great, topical lyrics. You come for the fun and the catchy tunes. This album delivers both in spades. Great fun.
10 (2009) ? MercyMe
If you?ve heard the song I Can Only Imagine (and if you?ve listened to the radio in the past ten years, then you have) then you know these guys. That?s probably all you know them by. Which is something of a shame because that?s far from their best song. This is a fifteen song best of collection, complete with a DVD with music videos of twelve of the songs. When these guys are good, they are very good indeed; the kicky, punky So Long Self; the luminous, ambient Word of God Speak; the rousing, anthemic Hold Fast; the folky country tune Finally Home; the sweeping Homesick (which is a much better song about Heaven than I Can Only Imagine), the quiet, devastated Bring the Rain. They are, as most are, capable of schlock and connect the dots formula. But they do it less than you might expect, especially if, like me, you have always considered I Can Only Imagine to be just a middle of the road song, hardly the masterpiece it seems to be considered nowadays. This is a good place to start with these guys; or alternately, try Spoken For, their second album after the massive success of I Can Only Imagine and far and away their most consistent album.
Hello Love (2008) ? Chris Tomlin
Tomlin was reportedly told by a music teacher that he?d never be a good singer. He recounted this story after winning the Dove Award or the Gospel Music Award or some such thing for Male Vocalist of the Year. Well, now he?s an award winning guy who?ll never be a good singer. What he can do is write or at least pick good co-authors. Some of the songs here, like the nearly seven minute epic Almighty God or the poppy, catchy God of This City, are about as good as you?re going to get in the pure worship genre of Christian music. Yes, this album is pretty formulaic and no, Tomlin isn?t a good singer. But occasionally the songs are pretty darn good, formulaic or not. The best moment might be the last one, when Tomlin strips down his massive band for a quiet, acoustic version of the ancient hymn All the Way My Savior Leads Me. But there are good moments before that too. I must say though that I am getting pretty darn sick of this new gospel trope of bringing out the African children?s choir for no conceivable reason. This isn?t a great album or an essential one. But it was enjoyable, for the most part.
I Can Only Imagine: Ultimate Power Anthems of the Christian Faith (2004) ? Various Artists
Pretty good, double disc compilation. Ranges, as you?d expect, from the sublime (Michael W. Smith?s Place In This World, Dallas Holm?s Rise Again, Sandi Patty?s We Shall Behold Him) to the absurd (Bob Bennett?s Butterfly Kisses, mainly). Lots of great recordings here. Some songs are present in cover versions; instead of Smith?s iconic Above All, for instance, we have a version by Paul Baloche, a middling worship artist who can write, but not really perform. But a good little primer on CCM.
Fall & Winter (2007) ? Jon Foreman
Foreman?s been the frontman for Switchfoot since the beginning. Their early years were rocky and pretty crappy. Then again, they took a strong uptick with their first great album, The Beautiful Letdown. But Foreman took his acoustic guitar in hand and stepped out of the rock arena to record four EPs, each six songs long. They were released separately first and then as pairs. This, obviously, is one of those pairs. It contains two CDs, which is nice, as sometimes when EPs are rereleased
Bryn Terfel - Bad Boys
The latest album from the Welsh baritone is a dive into the villains of the opera world. The last few albums from Bryn have mostly been song albums, which he sings very well, but it was nice to get a full opera album. I think it's his best album in many years, and the finishing piece from Don Giovanni is among the best I've heard in a long time, he sings all the parts of Don Giovanni, Leporello and the Commodore with himself.
Wow, that Don Giovanni thing sounds awesome. That's my favorite opera and, great as the rest of it is, it probably all comes down to that astounding climax. Wow.
Stealing Fire (1984) ? Bruce Cockburn
Cockburn?s been name checked by a more famous Bruce, Springsteen to be exact. And the lead off song here, Lovers in a Dangerous Time, contains a line that U2 nicked, ?You gotta kick the darkness till it bleeds daylight.? Cockburn was a Christian, though he never even mentions God on this album, and he was a politically active artist too. The last three songs here, including the vicious, grim If I Had a Rocket Launcher, are all about a trip he took to Central America. These are great songs, all well sung. Peggy?s Kitchen Wall is a dark, open-ended narrative about crime in the inner city and Cockburn actually does recall Springsteen in his vocals on this song, particularly on the chorus. Maybe the Poet is a quiet, heartfelt song about moving past prejudice to appreciate the genius of art. Small wonder Cockburn wasn?t accepted in Christian music circles with lyrics like ?Maybe the poet is gay, but he should be heard anyway.? To me, though, this is pure truth. Sahara Gold and Making Contact are luminous songs about love and, ultimately, sex, deeply passionate and erotic (probably another reason he didn?t get much play on Christian radio!). This was a great album and Cockburn is definitely an unjustly forgotten artist. It?s in the contradictions that he finds his greatest moments. Himself a pacifist, he is forced to admit that, while watching the atrocities in Central America, if he?d had a rocket launcher, in the words of the song, ?some son-of-a-bitch would die.? (Another reason he probably didn?t . . . oh, skip it). But then this is the purest theme of the album. It is a dark album about wrestling with failure in yourself, violence in the streets and across the globe. Bruce Cockburn, still kicking the darkness. I think I?ll join him.
onethreeseven (2001) ? Zohar
It?s one of those astounding ironies, this album being released on 9/11/01, a date none of us who were alive then will ever forget. This album comes out of London, but courtesy of a couple of Jewish Ã©migrÃ©s obsessed with both the club culture of the modern metroplex and the devotional culture of the Middle East. One could make the obvious parallels here between, for instance, the trance music you hear in the club and the swirling devotional music of, for instance, the Sufi mystics. But why get heady when you can just listen to the CD? It?s a long CD, but it never drags. Jazzy piano riffs sit alongside thumping, pounding club beats and above them both floats the soaring sampled voices of Middle Eastern muezzins and cantors. Every once in a while you do hear an album which is both exciting and intriguing in the way forward it seems to point. This could be a new mode, I remember thinking upon first hearing it. Thanks to M.I.A., the worlds of pop, electronica and hip-hop are all more world conscious, but this album did get there first. I really can?t express what a great album this is. It seems at once deeply traditional and reverent toward the Middle Eastern instrumentation and vocalizations used and yet unbelievably modernistic and forward thinking in its use of samples and jazz and rock motifs and club beats and electronic textures. The warmth of the Middle East suffuses the coldness of the electronic music and the two complement each other perfectly. This is a great album, probably one of the best you?ve never heard of. The Merciful One and Elokainu, both slow, more mystical and melancholy songs are both essential listens. But then most of the album probably is.
2nd to None (2003) ? Elvis Presley
This is the sequel to 30 #1 Hits, the massive, career spanning remastered disc that had absolutely flattened everyone with its success. And, believe it or not, this one may be more consistently great than even that one was. This is not to down 30 #1 Hits, which had a ton of great music on it; it?s al
Christmas Songs (2008) ? Fernando Ortega
Luminous, lovely, heart stoppingly gorgeous. This is what most Christmas albums aspire to being, but rarely are. Ortega has one of the great voices in contemporary music, a quiet, heartfelt voice that never shows off but hits its marks perfectly and with the perfect emotive qualities. He reminds me somewhat of Paul Simon or Chris Rice, but with more interest in pure beauty than either of those two. Mostly stripped down, piano and acoustic guitar based, this album evokes a quiet stillness and reverence all too rare in musical in general, to say nothing of Christmas music. Plus, it?s not just the usual suspects; the best track here is a sixteenth century carol, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, that Ortega performs accompanied only by his chiming piano ? it?s a song that seems to breathe a deep, stony coldness; as it plays you can practically see your breath. Other winners include a gorgeous Little Town of Bethlehem, a gorgeous, heartwrenching instrumental cello and piano version of Carol of the Birds, and the Ortega penned prayer, Jesus King of Angels, that closes the album and the day with absolute perfection. Not just a great Christmas album; this is a great album, period. What a masterpiece.
In Our Image (1966) ? The Everly Brothers
Somehow I still think of the Everly Brothers as being a fifties act with a fifties sound. This album puts the lie to that and is one of the best sixties pop-rock albums I?ve ever heard. The songs are all stellar, with brilliantly catchy melodies and the usual brilliant singing from the Brothers. But the production and arrangements here are completely British Invasion pop. There are a couple of songs here, I Used to Love You and Glitter and Gold especially, that I might have thought were lost Beatles tracks if I?d heard them with no information. The songs are occasionally hilariously funny and perverse, as on Lovey Kravezit, and even more often devastated and broken, as on the absolutely brilliant Chained to a Memory. This is an essential album; so glad I ran across it. The Price of Love, The Power of Love, It Only Costs A Dime (a real Lennon soundalike, in my opinion), Leave My Girl Alone, plus the ones I mentioned above, are the real masterworks, but the whole album is great fun.
20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of James Brown (1999) ? James Brown
This is a pretty standard issue for the 20th Century Masters collection, with a couple of notable exceptions. Cold Sweat, for one, is here in its unedited version, which is great; most of the other tracks are the edited versions, as usual with this series. Probably the one reason you do want to track this one down is the release of 1967?s America Is My Home, a track that Brown released and then instantly pulled from the market, due to a backlash from a black public that wasn?t really in the mood to hear about how great America was. It hadn?t been re-released since, until this CD, though it may show up on some since this one, I?m not sure. It?s a great, brilliant groove and is worth tracking this one down for all by itself. The rest of the songs here, Night Train, Get On the Good Foot, Papa?s Got a Brand New Bag, etc., you?ve surely heard before, but these songs are always worth hearing again, especially in the good sound on this release. As always with the 20th Century Masters series, the album is way, way too short, but for what it is, it?s a good mixtape of one of the true masters.
The Definitive Collection (2006) ? Chuck Berry
I have to say, it probably lives up to its name. There are thirty songs here on one disc. And, believe me, these are thirty of the greatest songs you?ll ever hear. Berry is irrepressible and timeless; these songs will still spark people five hundred years from now I bet. A look at the track list is really all you need: Maybelline, Thirty Days, Too Much Monkey Business, Johnny B. Goode, You Never Can Tell, Promised Land, Almost Grown, Back in the U.S.A., School Days, Roll Over Beetho
Speaking of annoying Chuck Berry, does the Maybellene on Definitive Collection have that weird digital noise starting at the end of the guitar solo?
Cut Copy - Zonoscope
I don't remember noticing it and I think I would have.
Maybe it's just you?
yeah that's it, nm.
El Ten Eleven (2005)- by: El Ten Eleven.
A wonderful mix of post-rockish jamming and beautiful tap harmonics on a double neck guitar. Some of the happiest post-rock I have listened to in a while, definitely a big jump from Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai. Definitely worth a listen if you are looking for good instrumental music.
Born To Run- Does it have flaws? Yes. Does this detract at all from the overwhelming power of this album? Absolutely not. From the opening piano of "Thunder Road" to the final echoes of "Jungleland", this is Springsteen baring his soul. "Thunder Road", with its honesty about love, "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out", sheer joy, "Night", maybe the one misstep here, though it does have a dark power, "Backstreets", a perfect homage to Dylan and "Like A Rolling Stone", "Born to Run", expressing a need to get out of the "suicide rap" of average life, "She's the One", showing how love can destroy us, "Meeting Across the River", pure tragedy, and "Jungleland", maybe another homage to Dylan's "Desoloation Row". "The Rising" is still maybe Springsteen's essential album, but I've listened to "Born To Run" five times in forty eight hours. It may well be my favorite album.
A Very She & Him Christmas - I usually don't buy music albums, but I had to have this one. It's about to get cold here, and Zooey Deschanel + Christmas music + cold weather = one happy Reynar.
Heart and Soul (box set) - Joy Division
This might be the only color photo of Ian Curtis.
The Song Remains Not the Same (Black Label Society) - Finally got around to buying this one, and I love it. Zakk is one of my favorite musicians and he definitely doesn't disappoint in this powerfully mellow effort.
Lulu (Lou Reed & Metallica) - This one doesn't deserve all the relentless hate it's getting. Sure it's not the best work from either of the artists, but it's still a very listenable experiment that I grow fonder of with each subsequent listen.
I'm passing on Lulu. I heard a streaming preview, and promptly said "Nope." (However, if a bootleg version sans Reed's vocal tracks should turn up on the Net, I'd try that.)
Question for you, Reynar: would you say it's better than St. Anger?