Wherein we lowly and scruffy protesters get to choose the top 1%! Well, it was not the most exciting year for recorded music, but there certainly was a lot of it! Some rays of hope will soon shine on the masses with the appointment of our newest beloved leader!
My On-U year: There were no Bonzos or Kraftwerk this year, so the masses stood crying in the streets, in orderly rows in front of their apartment houses (certainly the performance art event of the year!), until the politburo chose On-U Sound to return as the new beloved leader!
Little Axe has always been a fave of mine, a little blues fix with some On-U riddims, and If You Want Loyalty Buy a Dog (#1) served up generous helpings of both. Some more standard (nOn-U) blues rocked with Alabama Mike’s Tailor-Made Blues (#27a) and Lucky Peterson’s Every Second a Fool is Born (#27b), too.
African Head Charge served up some warped On-U African dub on their Voodoo of the Godsent (#6) album. On-U tracks showed up on the compilation Oi! A Nova Musica Brasileira (#11a), which had a pop sound that’s more of the moment than the typical Luaka Bop Brazilian stuff (and also less Brazilian-sounding). Also good stuff from Indigenous Resistance (#11b) (multi-culti Liberation Politics), Lee Perry‘s Nu Sound & Version (#10)(helped by a buncha bass-heavy Dubstep remixers)(and a great reissue compilation The Return of Sound System Scratch (reissue #6)), Peaking Lights (#20) (which is what Dub de Crepuscule woulda sounded like), The New Banalists Orchestra‘s Mammon (#11c)(Penny Rimbaud & Mark Stewart with strings!), and Larsen with Little Annie’s Cool Cruel Mouth (#12).
Good to hear from ex-Slits Hollie Cook (#18), for her cheerful reggae pop album, and the pretty funny, very Slits-y sounding It’s a Christmas, Single (#25a) from Viv Albertine. Other cool Christmas recordings included Gruff Rhys‘s Atheist Xmas EP (#25b) and Kate Bush‘s 50 Words for Snow (#25c).
Other Dub/step stuff that caught my ear this year? SBTRTK (#7) gathered a buncha soulful vocals to spiff up his dubstep beats and wobbles (Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down!), and Invasion of the Mysteron Killer Sounds (#19a) was a good mixing of dubstep with old skool digital dub classics put together by Soul Jazz and The Bug. The Rinse.fm DJ’s like Marcus Nasty (#19b) and Roska (#19c) put out a good series of mix CD’s this year, with all the requisite squibbly bits, and I caught up with Phoreyez‘s Found in Translation (#26) mixtape coupla years late, but it’s a great grimy soul, funk and reggae mix that’s stayed on the stereo a lot this year. Finally, the dubs of Grace Jones‘s Hurricane Dub (#22) were way better than the originals.
Country Got Soul:
Southern rock has been getting a bit of attention recently, and the best of the lot was Joan Osborne & The Waybacks‘s re-creation of Eat a Peach (#2) at the Merlefest this year, now available via the Wayback’s website. It’s a little lighter take on the Allman’s sound, with prominent fiddle, and it reminds me of the sound of Dickie Betts‘s Highway Call, a fave from 30 years ago. It was great to hear the unreleased stuff on the deluxe reissue of Bobby Charles‘s Bearsville album (reissue #5), and the warm sounds continued with Beth McKee‘s all-Charles covers album (#14). One of the chief promoters of the “Country Got Soul” movement came back from his On-U reggae excursion with The Jeb Loy Nichols Special (#15), a relaxed mix of new and old stuff. And it was good to get Jim Ford‘s classic soulful Harlan County (reissue #7) on CD as well.
The trax collected on Amy Winehouse‘s Lioness (#4) showed that her soulful vocals and song choices were still pretty great, and too bad it all had to come to an end. Other darkly soulful stuff of a different stripe this year came from June Tabor‘s Ashore (#28)(dark maritime Celtic cabaret) and Kip Hanrahan‘s At Home in Anger (#16)(dark urban Latin cabaret).
On the old-timey and country music front, Peter Stampfel’s Ether Frolic Mob keep on puttin’ on their joyful yet blasphemous gigs, but we’re still waiting on their album, so we contented ourselves with Peter’s Dutch collaboration, A Sure Sign of Something (#9), that matches a Yurrupeen vibe with Spike Jones touches! His collaboration with Jeffrey Lewis, Come On Board (#21), leaned more heavily on Jeffrey’s things, and was more edgy. Chicken Tractor Deluxe, the house band at the Elk Creek Cafe, did a great cover of Peter’s song, “Bad Boy”, but unfortunately the rest of their CD didn’t come up to that great opening cut (#31).
Gary Lucas Plays Bohemian Classics (#3a) and the single Music for the Eden Project (#3b) by Stampfel’s old cohort – awesome vinyl-only acoustic guitar meldings of European Classical music with delta slide guitar. One of Gary’s old cohorts, Jozef van Wissem put out his sunniest and most upbeat solo lute album ever, The Joy that Never Ends (#24).
And how about that Wild Flag (#8)? Keepin’ Riot Grrl alive with some British Invasion flavoring! Gotta mention The Dropkick Murphys‘ Going Out in Style (#5), their best album ever, quite subdued from the hardcore punk days of yore, but a “live”-er Irish wake than you’ve ever been to before.
This year’s Kraftwerk vote goes to Eno, for Drums Between the Bells (#17a) and The Panic of Looking (#17b). Recovering from last year’s stumble, his collaborations with poet Rick Holland were a bit cyberpunk, with Kraftwerk mechanical vocals (although not the hip-hop beats) and dark electronic textures.
In other ambient news, Harold Budd‘s In the Mist (#13a) was his sparsest, dreamiest album in years, and I’ve been chilling out to Robin Guthrie‘s slow misty guitar on Bordeaux (#13b), his collaboration with Budd. Also got into Dustin O’Halloran‘s darkly dreamy Lumiere (#29), and Laraaji‘s collaboration with Blues Control, Frkwys Vol. 8 (#23).
Reissues: SMiLE and the world thinks you’re nuts:
I’ve already kinda awarded The Beach Boys‘ SMiLE (reissue #1) the album of the year award for 2004, so I’m only gonna make the box set the re-issue of the year this year. Kinda nice to have it officially out, but gotta say that I don’t know what I’m gonna do with the 4 discs of outtakes and demos, maybe play’em at “ambient” level in the background?
Jumping the Shuffle Blues – Jamaican Sound System Classics (reissue #2) collected some great 40’s & 50’s R&B tunes, many with a “shuffle beat” that caught the ear of Jamdown sound system operators and led to the creation of ska and rocksteady.
Rolling Stones‘ Some Girls (reissue #3), was their last great album – and isn’t it nice that they’ve included a disc of an unreleased Schramms album as a bonus?
The Human Orchestra (reissue #4), is a much-expanded version of an old comp. of great cool 40’s & 50’s vocal groups – like the Mellow Cats’N’Kittens albums but even better.
The Duke & The King (“reissue” #8a) album that they were promotin’ at Byrdciffe was a compilation of the best of their 2 albums, pretty good selection too. Nice to get Simone Felice‘s reissues of 2 early albums: Mexico (reissue #8b) and The Big Empty (reissue #8c). Wasn’t too impressed with The Felice Brothers Celebration Florida, which seems to portend a shift into prog (prog-Americana?).
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: Worst album of the year: Normally a big fan of the old big-band/disco/caribbean sounds of Kid Creole and Dr. Buzzard, I thought that Coati Mundi‘s Dancing for the Cabana Code in the Land of Boo-Hoo
(#99) was really bad: cheap-sounding mechanical beats and none of the humorous vocals that Coati was known for back in the day. Rong!
Showtime: It was gigs, not recordings that excited me this year.
Three On-U Sound related gigs topped my list: Adrian Sherwood and Brother Culture at Dominion as part of the Dub Invasion Festival was a total head-blasting eargasm, incredible new and old On-U stuff mixed with Dubstep, reggae and rocksteady hits played at bone rattling volume. You can find Sherwood Dubstep sets on the net, but you gotta be quick to grab ’em. Second was The WimBash 2011 at Sully’s Tiki Bar in Hartford – Doug Wimbish hitting the double nickels with pals Keith LeBlanc, Persia Sound, Jungle>>Funk, and others – hard funkin’ and rockin’ bands and even a vintage SugarHill set. I also gotta give Joly and Vivian Goldman props for the great Ari Up Punky Reggae Birthday Party Memorial bash at the Music Hall of Brooklyn, where we got to see Ari (on film) and great tributes from Neneh Cherry, Judy Nylon, Gary Lucas, the Slits, the True Warriors, and others.
Two great soul-drenched local shows this summer: by The Duke & The King at the Byrdcliffe Barn this summer, and by Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens at the Spiegeltent at Bard.
Also wanna give shout-outs to Blind Boy Chocolate & The Milk Sheiks from Asheville who were the big hit at this year’s Merlefest, as well as to Joan Osborne & The Waybacks (see the top-10 list), to Gary Kvistad’s Drum Boogie Festival in Kingston including an ear-bending set by Jack DeJohnette, to the Gamelan Chandra Kanchana concerts at Bard (also with Gary playing), to Michael Hurley at the Elk Creed Cafe, to the righteous and harmonious Mighty Diamonds at Bearsville, and to the Ed Palermo Big Band playing Zappa at The Falcon in Marlboro.
Books: Educate Your Mind – read a book! Not a screen!
Will Hermes‘s Love Goes to Buildings on Fire is a good read and seeks to connect all of the various music scenes that were happening in New York City in the mid-70’s, and there’s enough great insights and nerdy details to please your average PoOpster.
Ed Sanders‘s FUG YOU is a great ride though the late 60’s Lower East Side and other places with neat little insider gossipy stuff about your favorite hippie celebs.
Pauline Butcher‘s Freak Out! – My Life with Frank Zappa does a similar thing for the L.A. scene, and is a lot nicer to Zappa than Drumbo was to Beefheart. Zappa was a workaholic drudge in his basement studio, but Butcher and her GTO friends could certainly throw a good party in the other parts of the house.
Neil Taylor‘s Document and Eyewitness is an Intimate History of Rough Trade and contains a lotta good reminiscing and left-wingy workers paradise philosophizing at the beginning of the book (including a good bit about Joly), though when The Smiths hit the scene and Geoff and Jeanette turn into A&R types it unfortunately gets boring.
The craziest music related flick this year has to be The Upsetter – The Life & Music of Lee Scratch Perry – actual films of Perry in The Black Ark – as rumored, crazy as all get out. And a good sampling of some of his genius productions as well.
Also liked There But for Fortune, the Phil Ochs doc, and Saint Misbehavin’, the Wavy Gravy doc, as well. And two French-ish flicks as well – Sylvain Chomet‘s The Illusionist and Woody Allen‘s Midnight in Paris. Too bad that Woody didn’t use Peter Stampfel’s Midnight in Paris song as the title tune of his movie, but then, that would have been a different movie.
|1||Little Axe||If You Want Loyalty Buy a Dog|
|2||The Waybacks w/ Joan Osborne||Eat a Peach – Hillside Album Hour (Merlefest 2011)|
|3a||Gary Lucas||Plays Bohemian Classics|
|3b||Gary Lucas||Music for The Eden Project|
|4||Amy Winehouse||Lioness: Hidden Treasures|
|5||Dropkick Murphys||Going Out In Style|
|6||African Head Charge||Voodoo of the Godsent|
|8||Wild Flag||Wild Flag|
|9||Peter Stampfel & The Worm Allstars||A Sure Sign of Something|
|10||Lee Scratch Perry||Nu Sound & Version|
|11a||various||Oi! A Nova Msica Brasileira!|
|11b||Indigenous Resistance||IR25 – Dubversive|
|11c||New Banalists Orchestra||Mammon|
|12||Larsen w/ Little Annie & Baby Dee||Cool Cruel Mouth|
|13a||Harold Budd||In the Mist|
|13b||Harold Budd & Robin Guthrie||Bordeaux|
|14||Beth McKee||I’m That Way – A Salute to Bobby Charles|
|15||Jeb Loy Nichols||The Jeb Loy Nichols Special|
|16||Kip Hanrahan||At Home in Anger (which could also be called Imperfect, happily)|
|17a||Brian Eno & Rick Holland||Drums Between the Bells|
|17b||Brian Eno & Rick Holland||Panic of Looking|
|18||Hollie Cook||Hollie Cook|
|19a||Kevin Martin (The Bug) & Stuart Baker (Soul Jazz) present:||Invasion of the Mysteron Killer Sounds|
|19b||Marcus Nasty presents:||Rinse 10: Mixed by Marcus Nasty|
|19c||Roska presents:||Rinse 15: Mixed by Roska|
|21||Peter Stampfel & Jeffrey Lewis||Come On Board|
|22||Grace Jones||Hurricane + Hurricane Dub|
|23||Larraji & Blues Control||FRKWYS Vol.8|
|24||Jozef Van Wissem||The Joy That Never Ends|
|25a||Viv Albertine & Talk Normal||It’s a Christmas, Single|
|25b||Gruff Rhys||Atheist Xmas EP|
|25c||Kate Bush||50 Words for Snow|
|26||Phoreyez||Found in Translation: Funky Global Wanderlust|
|27a||Alabama Mike||Tailor Made Blues|
|27b||Lucky Peterson||Every Second a Fool is Born|
|30||Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens||What Have You Done, My Brother?|
|31||Chicken Tractor Deluxe||Nightclub Jacks & Undertakers (w/ Bad Boy)|
|99||Coati Mundi||Dancing for the Cabana Code in the Land of Boo-Hoo|
|re:1||Beach Boys||SMiLE Sessions Box Set|
|re:2||various||Jumping the Shuffle Blues – Jamaican Sound System Classics 1946-1960|
|re:3||Rolling Stones||Some Girls – Deluxe Edition +24|
|re:4||various||The Human Orchestra|
|re:5||Bobby Charles||Bobby Charles Handmade Deluxe set|
|re:6||Lee Perry||The Return of Sound System Scratch|
|re:7||Jim Ford||Harlan County (1969)|
|re:8a||The Duke & The King||The Duke & The King|
|re:8b||Simone Felice||Mexico – Lost Tapes Volume 2|
|re:8c||Simone & Ian Felice||The Big Empty – Lost Tapes Volume 1|
|re:9a||Gibson Bros.||Build a Raft – Studio, Live, Outtakes & Keepers|
|re:9b||Tav Falco’s Panther Burns||Lore & Testament Vol. 1 – Behind the Magnolia Curtain|
|re:10a||Phil Spector presents:||The Very Best of Phil Spector 1961-1966|
|re:10b||The Crystals||The Very Best of The Crystals|
|re:10c||The Ronettes||The Very Best of The Ronettes|