1. VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Best Bootlegs In The World Ever. . .
Hip-hop artists get their grunge on or, to quote the title of the Nirvana meets Destiny’s Child mashed potato, smells like booty. DJ’s, not as musicians but as magicians, create altogether new songs out of old ones, proving the whole to be considerably greater than the sum of the sometimes ridiculously incongruous parts. The cleverest, most outrageous, funniest, most fun release (or non-release) of the year. Song of the year: Freelance Hellraiser’s “A Stroke Of Genie” (The Strokes go to bed with Christina Aguillera).
2. MARY LEE’S CORVETTE – Blood On The Tracks: Arlene Grocery, NYC
Mary Lee, along with her crack band, steps inside each song and sinks her teeth into Dylan’s words, pulling out more bile from these songs than I ever knew was there. Listen to “Idiot Wind” and you’ll know there’s blood on these tracks.
3. BOBBY BARE JR’s Young Criminals’ Starvation League
Call him Paul Southerberg. A clever and hook-laden paean to flat-chested girls, Pete Townsend (in better days before “Downloads of Lilly”) and good old-fashioned desperation.
4. VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Executioner’s Last Songs: Volume 1
Give ‘em enough rope indeed. A musical gurney journey down Death Row. Or Dead Men Singing.
5. JORMA KAUKONEN – Blue Country Heart
A finger-pickin’ slice of post-O Brother acoustic musicianship
6. THE ORIGINAL SINNERS – Original Sinners
Exene fronts a new zoomin’, bonebrakin’ outfit and proves she still kiX it out. A middle-ageless punk.
7. LINDA THOMPSON – Fashionably Late
Richard who? Linda finally comes to terms with the guy who sings “like he has a gun to his head.”
8. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Dressed In Black: A Tribute To Johnny Cash — Kindred Spirits: A Tribute To Johnny Cash
Upstart outsiders and their big label counterparts keep a close watch on this heart of Johnny Cash’s and pay tribute to the guy who dressed in black 25 years before Joe Strummer did (and who somehow managed to survive him as well).
9. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – The Rising
He’s always sung about finding redemption in loss but he never had to address loss this profound. With the ante raised, the superstar next door delivers a surprisingly uncheesy statement about turning the corner.
10. RHETT MILLER – The Instigator
You shouldn’t hold it against this Old 97 that he’s put up a very catchy, radio-friendly piece of altpop.
11. VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Bottle Let Me Down
Alt-country artists sing songs for their kids, about their kids, and to spite their kids. Valuable musical lessons for all, like don’t wipe your face on your shirt and watch out for the weirdoes in the schoolyard. Sage advice.
12. NEIL YOUNG – Are You Passionate?
Booker T. deserves bigger billing here. Sounds like Neil has been attending Our Lady of Stax Church. Welcome back to POOP, Neil, after a six year absence.
13. PETER WOLF – Sleepless
I’ve never been a fan of his or of his band, but this surprisingly good and soulful collection is so Stones-like in places that perhaps it should have been called Ex-Geil On Main Street.
14. THE GOURDS – Cow Fish Fowl Or Pig
After 5 albums The Gourds continue to fly under the radar, which is a shame because this rollicking bit of rootsy irreverence is their best since their first release failed to put them on the map.
15. VARIOUS ARTISTS – A Tribute To Nashville
The original versions of these songs were sung by characters variously talented and cluelessly talentless but they were all delivered with equal sincerity. This collection captures the irony of one of the cagiest movies ever.
16. AIMEE MANN – Lost In Space
Her albums always take me a long time to penetrate and this one took especially long. Seeing her live effectively sped up the whole process.
17. THE MEKONS – Oooh!
After 23 years and I don’t know how many albums, I still don’t know in what “File Under category” The Mekons belong. This is a return to from that drips with that old fear and whiskey.
18. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Soundtrack to I Am Sam
You could do a lot worse than to cover songs (Sean) penned by Lennon and McCartney.
19. GRANDPABOY – Mono
I prefer Mono to Stereo and anything by The Replacements to either one.
P>20. RYAN ADAMS – Demolition
He’s a complete asshole but he tosses off some pretty good songs at will. Like “Summer Of ’69”.
VARIOUS ARTISTS – A Cellarful Of Motown
This is in my Top 3 for the year and saw as much laser time as any CD on this list. It’s inconceivable, no frightening, that stuff this good could have remained unissued for this long. This CD was responsible for me going on a three month long Motown bender.
BOB DYLAN – Songs For Bonnie (bootleg)
This oft-bootlegged reel-to-reel tape has never sounded this good or been presented so completely as here. Thanks, Bonnie, whoever the hell you are.
VARIOUS ARTISTS – Hoboken To Athens
A 3 CD collection of early 80’s East Coast guitar pop. Thanks, Kevin, for this exhaustive limited edition (2 copies?) set. What, no liner notes?
SAM COOKE – Keep Movin’ On
The rest of his career. The fifth CD to 2000’s 4 CD set.
EMMYLOU HARRIS WITH THE HOT BAND – Feeling Single Seeing Double (bootleg)
Live in 1975 after only one solo album and two years after Gram.
FAIRPORT CONVENTION – Full House (import reissue)
The extra cuts and the re-sequencing make for a much bleaker and better listening experience.
Honorable mention: the expanded reissues of House Full, Liege & Lief and Heyday and the live-with-Sandy 2 CD Before The Flood.
SIMON & GARFUNKEL – Live In New York City, 1967
Back from the days when Paul Simon wrote like an English major and, for about five minutes, made it respectable to be one.
THE LOUVIN BROTHERS – Close Harmony (import box)
Actually from 1993, but it took me this long to save up and be able to finally put the cash on the barrelhead.
JOHNNY CASH At Madison Square Garden
A collection that proves that the definition of cool really hasn’t changed that much since 1969.
Very Guilty Pleasure
AVRIL LAVIGNE – Let Go I know, I’m 35 years too old to like this but. . .
White Man In Hammersmith Palais – Joe Strummer