Sunday, December 17, 2006
My Top Records of 2006
This is a picture sleeve I shot (thanks to the Kessel Brothers) oh, something like 26 years ago or so....its so not punk that its punk....
But this is my real Xmas card to you:
What do you want for Xmas? There are a ton of great records out there...you should get them, or make a list for the people who have asked you what you want.
There's a tendency to remember more vividly the records that were released later in the year - I wonder if that's why labels do that vis a vis the Grammys.... of course they do!
Here are mainstream records and records on labels so indie, they aren't on a lot of radars....but they are the ones that I really love, and like the "High Fidelity" character that each of us is, here is MY LIST OF TOP RECORDS, 2006.
1. Bob Dylan - Modern Times
2. The Beatles - Love
3. Jack Oblivian - Flipside Kid
4. Kid Congo Powers - Solo Cholo
5. Viva L'American Deathray Music - In The Meantime
6. Good Night Loving - Cemetery Trails
7. The Alarm Clocks - The Time Has Come
8. King Khan & BBQ Show - What's for Dinner?
9. Tom Waits - Orphans
10. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere
11. The Witches - Thriller
12. SSM - SSM
13. Little Killers - Real Good One
The one common thing amongst this eclectic bakers dozen is this: each artist has a clear and original vision - even if their work is derivative, they bring their own interpretation and UNDERSTANDING to the music. Face it: not much is original - even the Beatles appropriated from their faves and Dylan recorded "Rollin and Tumblin," which I consider purely a Muddy Waters tune (albeit a blues chestnut others before Muddy had done) - however Bob brings his own flavor to it.
A post script -- that new Lucero record is pretty damn good. I never listened to them before this year, when I crossed paths with Roy in Brooklyn. (Thank you Memphis Mike for turning me on to that)
So - go buy these records and have a good listen.
For you analytical types who want to know more about what I like about these records... here you go
1. Modern Times – Bob Dylan
I love this record and everything about it from the evocative cowboy songs to the juxtaposition of the title against the cover art – it’s a whole different “modern times” reflected there (as in art moderne). It’s the same reliable Dylan: word-play and nods to obscure poets and old fave bluesmen (as in “Rollin’ n Tumblin’” – credited to Dylan, but of course, it’s a blues chestnut made popular to my ears by Muddy) and lines like: “I got troubles so hard, I just can't stand the strain...Some young lazy slut has charmed away my brains.” (from “Rollin & Tumblin”) To me, this record is exactly where Bob Dylan ought to be in his career, musically. I enjoy the way the band plays – totally laid back and “in the pocket,” as the critics like to say – loose, underplayed and easy but oh, so incredibly tight at the same time.
2. Love – The Beatles
Sometimes the old reliables are simply the best. This collection is a producer’s record, though. Of course, with all the technology resources available to Sir George Martin and his son, there’s no way the record would sound anything but stellar – what I really am blown away by is the pure creative producer genius at work – taking the vocal track from one song, putting it onto the instrumental from another and having it work perfectly and then layering into it yet a whole other song… its not exactly new. The Dirtbombs did it with their Stones cover for Norton Records' (“No Expectations,” over the beat of “Sympathy for the Devil” with the outro to “Hey Jude,” mixing both Stones and Beatles), but for the producer of this grail-like music to mash it up gives me proof that George Martin was an equal part of the genius phenomenon of the Beatles… as if there were any doubts. My favorite might be how “Within You Without You” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” work together.
3. Flipside Kid – Jack Oblivian
Of course, you knew I’d pick this. Jack is part of the trio that almost single-handedly saved punk rock's reputation in the 90s. Even after listening to the unmastered demo version of "Flipside Kid" for months before its release, when the real version came out, I found new things to love about it! What I like about Jack's music and his approach to it is that he understands and embraces his strengths and knows how to work with the limitations his recording situations present... he also has a remarkable and keen ear for covers... he dug up "Chills and Fever" and "Night Owl," both great songs with a great feel and gives them his own treatment. That "Chills and Fever" is just fantastic and sultry. I like the way he uses his voice and applies it to each very different track on the record... he's like Iggy or Lou Reed on any number of lithe and muscular growlers, like "Hong Kong Girl"... and on the other hand, he's got a sweet touch...when he's singing about "Black Boots" he summons up Billy Joe Royal's honest, earnest voice from the 60s hit, "Down in the Boondocks.”
He's one artist who can interpret his own phenomenal record collection without recording an homage... he's an artist whose influence is not so much on his sleeve, but inherent in his blood.
4. Solo Cholo – Kid Congo Powers
Kid Congo is my oldest friend in the world. We’ve known each other since we were teens and since he’s like a brother, I can be both his harshest critic and his loudest champion at the same time -- this record is a feat that makes me proud in a sort of family-like way. I love this record because it represents the breadth and depth of Kid’s eclectic powers and prowess. This record is Kid with the various bands/artists he has played w/ over the years. I kind of lean towards the Knoxville Girls tracks.
Kid & Pleasant, 1978 - alas, there's no Kid Congo/Screamin Sirens duet here...
5. In The Meantime – Viva L’American Deathray Music
This is another eclectic record that interprets the very best record collections of three intensely talented musicians and offers up not an homage, but a whole new twist on the thing we know as rock n roll. Their level of musicianship and their tight connection with one another as players allows this album to be transcendent… of course, nothing can compare to the live execution of this material.
6. Cemetery Trails – Good Night Loving
"Produced by Greg Cartwright" is what got my attention – and this record is like if you rolled the first Reigning Sound record into a blender with some Replacements/Westerberg solo stuff and some underground gems from California's post-punk country movement - voila – I mean, how could you go wrong? Great harmonies, melodies… good songs… good old American rock n roll stew that pulls ingredients from the best pop and folk elements you can find. You know, The Byrds did it…this record is an instant classic.
Good Nigh Loving "Militia" thanks to Dusty Medical Records for the pic!
7. The Time Has Come – The Alarm Clocks
Raw garage blues from bonafide purveyors…. Forty years later… vocals are still young, loud & snotty (move over, Dead Boys… these guys were 10 years ahead of you…. And I love you both the same!), the band works out like it never left the garage head space of the Troggs, et al…vintage precision production by Detroit’s Freddy Fortune… The Alarm Clocks from Parma, Ohio (yes, they are so bonafide, they’re from outside Cleveland) never lost it, even though the trends, business and charts lost them. Unlike many of the bands that are born today, The Alarm Clocks play tight AND sloppy, if you know what I mean… they underplay and by doing that, play ONLY the good bits. Less is more.
Released on the mighty Norton Records label.
8. What's for Dinner? - King Khan & BBQ Show
Moody, lo-fi garage, doo wop, soul, punk, rock n roll mayhem. Yeah. More of the same. And since “the same” was just about as good a mélange as music can be…. What happens when you put two one-man-bands together is a whole much greater than the sum of the parts, which is staggering, since each of King Khan and BBQ is pretty much a well developed and fantastically delivered dish of music.
9. orphans - Tom Waits
54 songs that are NOT also-rans for other records…what a creative way to present these tracks that got left off other projects… Tom Waits is a can-do-no-wrong artist in my opinion and I can’t get enough of his eclectic low-life storytelling.
10. St. Elsewhere - Gnarls Barkley
Don't know what to say - it just sounds really cool.
11. Thriller - The Witches
Detroit's first pre-garage renaissance Super Group featuring the chameleon genius that is Troy Gregory (Dirtbombs) and the Jimmy Page-calibre stylings of John Na$h (Electric Six) held together by the glue that is the rhythm section of Eugene Machine Strobe (ex-Sights) and Phil Skarich (Dead String Brothers). "Thriller" shows off the group's ability to play rock, pop, hard rock/metal (remember, Metallica wanted Troy to join, and he did tour in Prong), and that Detroit specialty, garage. This is a record for all seasons - "Sparklers and Snakes" is your summer time beach soundtrack, while ballads such as "Silent and the Shade" are for late night headphone listening. "Down on Ugly Street" is a glam strut and is co-written by one notorious music biz superstar in his own right, Kim Fowley, who was hip to the Detroit thing way back in '96 when the Ghetto was just getting started. This record possesses equal parts of beauty and grit.
12. SSM - SSM
Another Detroit Super Group - Szymanski (you know him as Johnny Hentch), Shettler (Dave, ex of the Sights, Nathaniel Mayer's backing band, etc) and Morris (Marty - of Cyril Lords). I can't say it better than Jon Pareles of the NYTimes, who fell over himself praising these guys this year....and I quote:
Unruly analog keyboards and dinky rhythm machines define the sound as much as overloaded fuzz-tone guitar, and the tunes slip free of three-chord orthodoxy. The old garage-rock lust is there, but so are tidings of apocalypse... Despite the vintage equipment, this is no 1960's revival; it's a warped reinvention (Jon Pareles).
13. Real Good One - Little Killers
Produced in Detroit with Jim Diamond (below) at Ghetto Recorders, The Little Killers turned out a Real Good One... one so good, the title became obvious. Andy Maltz is one fantastic songwriter, and in keeping with the theme of me loving records that re-interpret everything I love about rock n roll into a contemporary, but hauntingly familiar and comfortable zone, The Little Killers do it absolutely right. Dare I say it - "all killer/no filler."