musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

New Orleans Legends You May Have Never Heard

bettyharris

I recently picked up a compilation of 1960s recordings by Betty Harris titled The Lost Queen of New Orleans Soul. That’s a bold claim, considering all of the great music that has come from that musically-endowed city, but Harris is so good that she does indeed deserve such a moniker. All of the songs on this 17-song collection were written and produced by Allen Toussaint, the legendary singer-songwriter and pianist-producer who sadly passed away about this time last year (a few songs are credited to Naomi Neville, but that’s an alias that Toussaint used for a few years when he was in legal limbo. That was also his mother’s maiden name!).

In addition to Toussaint’s magic touch, the other special ingredient on these songs — recorded from 1965 to 1969 — is the backup band; none other than another legend of New Orleans music, the mighty Meters. But the real highlight is Betty Harris herself. She was a bold soul sister before such a classification even existed. Imagine a sassy, sultry, funky cross between Tina Turner and Irma Thomas, and that’s close to what Betty Harris sounds like. Good for your soul, indeed!

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Oddly, Betty Harris never released a full album all those years ago. Most of these songs were released as singles on the Sansu label, but none were ever big hits, and her career stalled. After a national tour with Otis Redding and Joe Simon — curtailed by the tragic plane crash that killed Otis — in 1967, Harris recorded a few more songs with Toussaint but in 1970 she decided to retire from the music business and start a family. But the story doesn’t end there. Betty Harris is still alive and singing, and since 2005 she has resumed performing again.

hardesty

Also on the subject of the Crescent City, I’ve been listening to The Domino Effect, an album from veteran New Orleans musician, Herb Hardesty. For many years Hardesty was the saxophone player in Fats Domino’s band. He also played sessions and went on tours with many other recording artists, including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and even Tom Waits. He recorded a solo album himself, back in 1958, but that album was never released … that is until four years ago, when Ace Records finally put out that album along with some other sessions that Hardesty recorded in the early 1960s. The Domino Effect is a mostly instrumental collection that showcases Hardesty’s vibrant sax playing. With song titles such as “Sassy”, “Rumba Rockin’ With Coleman”, “Herb’s in the Doghouse”, “Feelin’ Good”, “Bouncing Ball”, “Beatin’ and Blowin’”, and “The Chicken Twist” you can pretty much guess that this is one very upbeat and fun set of songs. Plenty of rockin’ R&B with some nifty jazz and blues flourishes.

Herbert Hardesty acknowledges the audience in the Blues Tent during his set at the New Orleans Jazz Fest Saturday, April 27, 2013.(Photo by David Grunfeld, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)

Herbert Hardesty acknowledges the audience in the Blues Tent during his set at the New Orleans Jazz Fest Saturday, April 27, 2013.(Photo by David Grunfeld, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)

In an earlier version of this story I was going to mention that, like Betty Harris, Herb Hardesty is also still alive and still playing shows, but sadly he passed away earlier this month, on December 3, at the age of 91. But even in his advancing years, Hardesty was still playing live shows around New Orleans, including an enthusiastically received set at the 2012 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. They say that music keeps you young and I’m a strong believer in that adage.

Meanwhile, here are the other albums I’ve been playing on a daily basis and keeping me company on those lonely nights lately:

urgentjumping

Various Artists – Urgent Jumping: East African Classics

Wilco – Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracsk 1994-2014

Ramones – Too Tough To Die

4th Coming – Strange Things 1970-1974

Dan Penn – Close To Me: More Fame Recordings

 

monkees_good

The Monkees – Good Times!

Cannonball Adderley – What Is This Thing Called Soul: Live in Europe

Parquet Courts – Human Performance

Various Artists –Come Back Strong: Hotlanta Soul 4

Sneaky Feelings – Positively George Street

 

milkncookies

Milk ‘N’ Cookies – Milk ‘N’ Cookies

Jimbo Mathus – Dark Night of the Soul

Baby Huey – Living Legend

Michael Carpenter – Hopefulness

Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues

 

prine_forbetter

John Prine – For Better or Worse

The Edge of Darkness – Eyes of Love

The Fantastic Four – The Lost Motown Album

Sunburst – Ave Africa

David Crosby – Lighthouse

 

dieuf-dieul

Dieuf-Dieul de Thies – Aw Sa Yone Vol. 2

Various Artists – Celestial Blues

The Independents – Just As Long: The Complete Wand Recordings 1972-74

Santana – Santana IV

Dexter Johnson – Live At Letoile

 

flatfive

The Flat Five – It’s a World of Love and Hope

Robert Ellis – The Lights From the Chemical Plant

Waco Brothers – Freedom and Weep

Various Artists – Super Funk Volume 4

Various Artists – Dave Hamilton’s Detroit Dancers: Vol. 2

 

afrosound_colombia

Various Artists – The Afrosound of Colombia: Vol. 1

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Songs: Ohia – Magnolia Electric Company (Deluxe Edition)

Hank Ballard – You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down

Bill Lloyd – Lloyd-ering

 

afterschoolspecial

Various Artists – Afterschool Special: The 123s of Kid Soul

Arthur Alexander – The Monument Years

Danny & the Champions of the World – Danny & the Champions of the World

Close Lobsters – Firestation Towers 1986-1989

Stiff Little Fingers – Original Album Series (5-CD Box)

 

orlandojulius

Orlando Julius – Super Afro Soul

Johnny Clarke – Ruffer Version

Black Heat – Black Heat

Nada Surf – Live in Brussels

Various Artists – Senegal 70

 

Bagan Guitar Man … and his Books

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When I was in Myanmar last month I paid a visit to New Bagan — the small town just the road from “Old Bagan” and the famous ancient temples — where my friend Nine Nine has just opened up his own shop. Originally, Nine Nine planned to open a small shop and sell souvenirs as well as offering services like ticketing (plane, bus, boat, even balloon rides!) and massage. Well, he is in fact doing all that, but I also talked him into selling some books too. The result is the awkwardly named: 99 Chinlone Books Bagan Myanmar & Souvenir Shop.

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That may be more than a mouthful to say, but the shop itself is starting to look very nice and is a very comfortable place to spend some time. Nine Nine had some bookshelves paid, put some nice paintings on the walls, and we’re doing our best to stock those shelves. Thanks to my Mandalay friend Ye Man Oo and his father, U Khin Maung Lwin, we delivered another big batch of books for Nine Nine’s shop about two weeks ago.

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The only problem I found with his shop was that many of the books he already had in stock were priced much too high. If you want to sell more books, I advised, you need to make the prices more affordable. But hey, it’s a learning experience. Nine Nine is new to the book business and he hasn’t quite got the hang of pricing things yet. And to be honest, trying to determine the “best” price truly is confusing, especially factoring in all the different types of books he’s selling. Looking at the publisher’s list prices on the back cover, you are faced with US dollars, Canadian or Australian dollars, some prices in Euros, and others in UK pounds. Older books might have no prices listed at all, or perhaps an older currency that was used in Germany, Italy, or France. And don’t even try to correctly figure out the value of books published in Scandinavian countries. When in doubt, I told Nine Nine, just wing it!

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Thankfully, he’s taken my advice and is now pricing the books lower and getting the hang of which language is which. In addition to English language books he is selling books in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, Japanese and more. I even brought him a Jimi Hendrix biography in Polish!

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Nine Nine is also a musician and keeps a guitar at the shop, happily strumming away when  no customers are around, but also more than willing to play visitors a few songs. Ask him to play some tunes by popular Myanmar singer-guitarists such as Linn Linn or Wei La. I may be biased, but I think Nine Nine does a fantastic job of covering those songs. Deft guitar playing and he’s got a good voice too!

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99 Chinlone Books is located a few doors down from the popular Ostello Bello Hostel in New Bagan, and it’s right on the main road (Kayay Street) not far from popular restaurants such as Silver House. The shop is open every day of the week, usually from late morning until 9 pm or so. Nine Nine is running the shop himself while his wife stays home to take care of their young daughter, plus he’s sometimes called to do  some last-minute waiter duty at his friend’s new  restaurant nearby, so it’s possible that you might arrive and find nobody around, but you can USUALLY find him at the shop most days and nights.

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http://www.chinlonebooks.com

 

Drive-By Trumpster: Fearing America

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No, I haven’t calmed down yet. If anything, I’ve become even angrier about Donald Trump being elected president of the United States of America. Or should we start calling it: the Irrevocably Broken States of America?

I’m a US citizen but I haven’t lived in the USA in over 20 years. In fact, the last time I even visited my homeland was 16 years ago, ironically in the days after that infamous 2000 presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush. My family’s home was in Florida, and that of course became the pivotal state in that election, resulting in the recounting of votes and dealing with those tricky “hanging chads” and other creepy political shenanigans. So, I would wake up each morning, wondering if the election was truly over yet or not.

At least we had no such ballot counting drama in this election, although like Al Gore, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote yet lost the national election thanks to that antiquated Electoral College system that still governs the outcome (and actually the results won’t even become “official” until the EC meets on December 19) of the election.

In any case, I left the USA a long time ago, frustrated and annoyed even back in those days at not only the creepy political climate but the ignorant mindset of the general populace. Having to grin and bear the hateful utterances of racists, religious crackpots, misogynists, homophobes, and weekend rednecks was just becoming too much to bear.

If it sounds like I just described Donald Trump, there you go. He is all those horrid things and more; a grown man with the maturity level of a ten-year-old and the cruel mocking behavior of a habitual neighborhood bully. And American voters just elected this creep as their next president. She got criticized for her comments, but Hillary Clinton was spot-on in her assessment of the bulk of Trump supporters: they are indeed a “basket of deplorables.”

Even with his victory there is a strong chance that Trump will be impeached, have to resign, or suffer some sort of debilitating illness before his term is up, perhaps even before he has completed his first 100 days in office. But that could be a disaster in the making too. If Trump were not able to finish his term, the country would be left with Vice President Mike Pence to run things. Pence is more of your standard right-wing conservative religious nut. In other words; a dangerous person if given any power. I’m sure the Republican establishment would be overjoyed to have Pence running the country instead of Trump, but for any citizens possessing even a glimmer of intelligence, such a prospect would be just as bad or worse than if Trump were in charge.

I’ve read dozens of articles and analysis about the election in newspapers and online this past week, and listened to people’s comments and opinions in my shop every day. Of course people are shocked and scared. Electing Donald Trump to run the USA is frightening on so many different levels, and for so many different reasons. His decisions of course will affect life for those living in the United States, but the ripples will be felt by us in the rest of the world too.

I fear the dark days ahead.

Drive-By Truckers.

Ironically, I’ve been playing the new politically-charged album by Drive-By Truckers, American Band, a lot this past month. I think DBT are one of THE greatest bands working in the USA nowadays (or any day in the past two decades) but they’ve really outdone themselves with this new album. The band’s two main songwriters Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood have really elevated their craft with gripping new songs that describe the hopes and fears of living in the USA, as well as their disenchantment with the government. Listen to songs such as “Kinky Hypocrite” and the powerful “What It Means” and can hear — and feel — the simmering anger and frustration. After this hostile Trump campaign — and his shocking victory — I would imagine that Drive-By Truckers and other thoughtful recording artists will have more to say about the worrisome state of America.

 

William Bell’s Soulful Comeback

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Some recording artists release new albums every year, while others take their time, spacing their new collections a few years apart. In William Bell’s case, it’s been a whopping ten years since his last studio album, and nearly forty years since his last major label release. Talking about taking your time! But in this case it was well worth the wait. His excellent new album, This is Where I Live, marks his return to Stax Records, the label where he penned the classic “You Don’t Miss Your Water”, as well as other 1960s hits such “I Forgot to Be Your Lover”, “Private Number”, “Born Under a Bad Sign”, and “You Don’t Miss Your Water”. But after his early success William Bell has been pretty much off the musical radar since his 1977 album Coming Back For More.

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Bell wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on his new album, astutely selecting some talented writers to help him (producer John Leventhal, Rosanne Cash, and Marc Cohn), plus he does a fantastic cover of an old Jesse Winchester song. From start to finish, This is Where I Live is nothing but sheer listening pleasure, pure southern soul from one of the masters of the genre. Although Bell is now 77 years old, he sounds like a much younger man, although one whose long life and vast experiences has shaped these heartfelt songs. Even so many decades later, the power and soulful passion of his voice remain, the perfect garnish for these splendid songs.

Meanwhile, here are the other albums (all purchased on CD; you won’t get me paying those high prices for supposedly “superior” vinyl!) that have me humming and smiling and dancing while the rain continues to fall where I live in Thailand.

 

dbt_americanband

Drive-By Truckers – American Band

Barry White – Together Brothers

Teenage Fanclub – Here

Hailu Mergia & Dahlak Band – Wede Harer Guzo

Blood Oranges – Freetown Sound

 

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Ike Turner – That Kat Sure Could Play!

Gerry Beckley – Carousel

Dawes – We’re All Gonna Die

Look Park – Look Park

Turnpike Troubadours – Goodbye Normal Street

 

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Temper Trap – Thick As Thieves

Ian Hunter – Fingers Crossed

Jimmy Bo Horne – Best of the TK Years 1975-1985

Seth Swirsky – Circles and Squares

William Tyler – Modern Country

 

bluesin_roughntough

Various Artists – Bluesin’ by the Bayou: Rough ‘N’ Tough

Band of Horses – Why Are You Ok

The Main Ingredient – Tasteful Soul & Bitter Sweet

Peter Bjorn and John – Breakin’ Point

Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: Sitting in the Park

 

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Johnny Jenkins – Ton-Ton Macoute!

Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway

Senor Soul – What It Is Y’all: The Best of

Fats Domino – Greatest Hits: Walking To New Orleans

The Dells – Freedom Means …

 

reachingout_chess

Various Artists – Reaching Out: Chess Records at Fame Studios

Corinne Bailey Rae – The Heart Speaks in Whispers

Lucero – Live From Atlanta

Joe Ely – Live Chicago 1987

The Explorers Club – Together

 

thingsgonnagetbetter

Various Artists – Things Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977

Fanga/Maalem Abdallah Guinea – Fangnawa Experience

School of Seven Bells – SVIIB

Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate

Andrew Bird – Are You Serious

 

garifuna

The Garifuna Collective – Ayo

Various Artists – South Texas Rhythm ‘N’ Soul Revue 2

Van Morrison – Keep Me Singing

John Fahey – The Dance of Death & Other Plantation Favorites

Various Artists – Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music

Let Us Praise Guy Clark!

guyclark_somedays

The casualties in the music world continue unabated this year, with the deaths of Prince and Merle Haggard being among the most recent high-profile losses. But one death that many people missed — or perhaps one that didn’t ring a bell with the masses — and the one that saddened me the most, was that of Guy Clark on May 17.

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Okay, Guy Clark was far from a household name. But in certain circles of the music world (country, or “outlaw country”, folk music) Guy Clark was a legend, both a songwriting genius and an exceptional singer-songwriter in his own right. He hailed from Texas, running in the same musical circles as Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Willie Nelson. I first heard Guy Clark on an episode on Austin City Limits back in the late 1970s and was instantly smitten. I went out and bought his debut album from 1975, Old No. 1. That album featured classics such as “L.A. Freeway” (a song that was a hit for Jerry Jeff Walker), “Desperados Waiting for a Train”, “Rita Ballou” and other gems. Truly, that ranks as one of my favorite albums of all time. His following album in 1976, Texas Cookin’ was just as great, packed with more wonderful songs that other songwriters could only envy, or at least record their own cover versions.

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After those two albums for RCA, Guy Clark switched labels and started recording for Asylum Records. The next three albums (1978-1983) weren’t quite as strong as his first two sets (hey, it would be almost impossible to top those two gems!), but they still boasted classic songs such as “Homegrown Tomatoes”, “Randall Knife”, and “New Cut Road.” After leaving the major labels behind, Clark recorded a consistently good to great series of albums for independent labels in the 1990s and 2000s. His final album, 2013’s My Favorite Picture of You,” was a tribute of sorts to his late wife Susanna (who passed away in 2012) and ranks among his very best efforts. A truly moving collection of songs. Then again, you would expect no less from someone like Guy Clark. His style was far from the cartoonish, sappy country music that so often tops the charts. Instead his songs shone with honesty, emotion, and intelligence. Cerebral country?

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For a sample of how engaging he was in concert, check out Together at the Bluebird Café, a 1995 show held to benefit a dental clinic in Nashville that he recorded with Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle. The set featured tender love songs, emotionally powerful tunes, and plenty of humor (thanks to some very entertaining “tales” the musicians told between songs); hallmarks of Guy Clark’s songwriting. For another fascinating look at the early years of Guy Clark, look for Heartworn Highways, which is both an acclaimed documentary (much of the footage recorded during live jams in Clark’s home) and a live album featuring Clark and the other musicians.

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Another “must listen” is an album of other artists performing Guy Clark songs, This One’s For Him: A Tribute To Guy Clark. Among the participants on this musical love-fest from 2011 are Willie Nelson, Rosanne Cash, Lyle Lovett, Rodney Crowell, Shawn Colvin, Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Steve Earle, Kris Kristofferson, Patty Griffin, Radney Foster, Jerry Jeff Walker, and many more. It’s a 2-CD set, so rest assured that there are plenty of great songs to he heard.

 

Meanwhile, here are the other CDs soothing my soul and getting heavy play at my home and bookshop recently:

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The Jayhawks – Paging Mr. Proust

Hank Thompson – Vintage Collection

Eleanor Friedberger – New View

Jimmy Buffett – Coconut Telegraph

Pete Yorn – Arranging Time

 

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Dexter Story – Wondem

The O’Jays – Family Reunion

Cannonball Adderley Quintet – Pyramid

Cheap Trick – Bang Zoom Crazy Hello

Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression

 

angola2

Various Artists – Angola 2: 1969-1976

Fleetwood Mac – Tango in the Night

Hank Crawford – Down on the Deuce

Jim Lauderdale – Soul Searching

Black Uhuru – Sinsemilla

 

 

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Various Artists – Dave Hamilton’s Detroit Soul Vol. 2

Little Barrie – King of the Waves

Johnny Hammond Smith – Legends of Acid Jazz

Cornel Campbell – Original Blue Recordings 1970-1976

Nektar – Sunday Night at London Roundhouse

 

idontcares

The I Don’t Cares (Paul Westerberg & Juliana Hatfield) – Wild Stab

Various Artists – Another Late Night: Kid Loco

Little Beaver – When Was the Last Time

Lee Michaels – Highty Hi: The Best Of

The Bats – Volume 1 (3-CD set)

 

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The Counts – It’s What’s In the Groove

Commodores – Live

The Toure-Raichel Collective – The Paris Sessions

The Posies – Solid State

Paul Simon – Stranger To Stranger

 

harmonyofsoul

Various Artists – Harmony of the Soul: Vocal Groups 1962-1975

Waco Brothers – Electric Waco Chair

Dungen – Allas Sak

Tracey Thorn – Solid: Songs and Collaborations 1982-2015

Leon Bridges – Coming Home

 

morespecials

Specials – More Specials (2-CD Special Edition)

Harpers Bizarre – The Complete Singles Collection

Lana Del Rey – Honeymoon

American Music Club – Love Songs for Patriots

David Bowie – Blackstar

 

The Long and Winding Emitt Rhodes

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I was playing the new Emitt Rhodes album, Rainbow Ends, in my bookshop last week and a female customer asked me what was playing. When I told her that it was Emitt Rhodes, the predictable response was: “I never heard of him before!” Such a reaction is not surprising. Emitt Rhodes is hardly a household name and this album is the first thing he’s recorded in over forty years. You heard that right: the last time Emitt Rhodes released an album was back in 1973!

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Rhodes started his musical career as a teenager, forming a fantastic band called the Merry-Go-Round. After that band disbanded in 1969, Rhodes recorded a self-titled debut album in 1970, one that ranks with the finest recordings of that decade. Rhodes songs exuded a classic shimmering pop sensibility, sounding very McCartney-esque at times. After two more very impressive solo albums, Rhodes released Farewell To Paradise in 1973 and then … nothing more. His reputation as one of the finest singer-songwriters of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s only increased over the years, but Rhodes himself became somewhat of a musical recluse.

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But thanks to the encouragement of producer Chris Price, Rhodes — who had never stopped writing songs over the years — was inspired to go back into the studio last year, and the result is the wonderful Rainbow Ends. Backed by devoted fans such as Aimee Mann and members of the Bangles, Jellyfish, and Wilco, Rhodes sounds sharp and assured on these new songs. No, it’s not the best thing he’s ever done, but the album has a couple of songs that certainly do rank with the best of his early output. Welcome back, Emitt Rhodes, and don’t wait so long for the next album!

 

In addition to Emitt Rhodes, here are the other CDs that I’ve been playing repeatedly in recent weeks. Cool music to combat the intense heatwave we are experiencing in Thailand lately. I like warm weather and have lived in hot climates (Florida, Thailand, Cambodia) all of my life, but the heat and humidity this past month has truly been uncomfortable. Bring on the rains!

 

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Carl Carlton – The Best of Carl Carlton

Considered by many critics as a one-hit wonder (or maybe a two-hit wonder: both “Everlasting Love” and “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” charted) this compilation shows that Carl Carlton had a much deeper reservoir of quality songs than you would imagine. His late ‘60s and early ‘70s material is particularly impressive.

 

Deerhunter – Fading Frontier

Carole King – The Legendary Demos

Chris Stapleton – Traveller

Various Artists – Kent’s Cellar of Soul: Volume 2

 

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Cait Brennan – Debutante

This talented singer-songwriter makes her recording debut in her mid-forties with an outstanding set of songs: pure pop-rock with hooks galore, much in the vein of artists such as Badfinger and Todd Rundgren. As great as this album is, I was somewhat puzzled by the vocals: Brennan sounded like a man! But after doing some online reading, I discovered that Brennan is a trans-woman, thus the deeper timbre of her vocals. But the bottom line: these are terrific songs, the sort that will stick in your head for days.

 

Nada Surf – You Know Who You Are

Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (Deluxe Edition)

Various Artists – Happy Lovin’ Time: Sunshine Pop From the Garpax Vaults

Beachwood Sparks – Beachwood Sparks

 

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Omar Souleyman – Bahdeni Nami

This popular Syrian wedding singer has recently found an international audience thanks to dance remixes of some of his very vibrant music. Indeed, this new collection of songs could be the dance album of the year. Play this at a high decibel level and then let your body do the rest. I guarantee you will NOT sit still. Exotic grooves galore!

 

Gary Bartz – I’ve Known Rivers

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style

Spirogyra – St. Radigunds

Curtis Mayfield – Live in Europe

 

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Gospelbeach – Pacific Surf Line

Boasting a talented lineup that includes Neal Casal and members of Beachwood Sparks, this is a breezy, feel-good collection of songs, not unlike those of other semi-supergroups such as Golden Smog or the Minus Five. The song “Sunshine Skyway” will strike a chord with anyone who has spent time on the West Coast of Florida.

 

P.F. Sloan – Here’s Where I Belong: The Best of the Dunhill Years

Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Goin Down

Various Artists – Pain Goes Deep: More Deep Soul Gems

The Beginning of the End – Funky Nassau

 

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The O’Jays – Survival

The O’Jays were one of the more popular soul vocal groups in the 1970s, enjoying a long run of hit singles. Digging deeper beneath the radio hits, however, their albums all consisted of very strong songs. Survival is another truly great album with many socially conscious songs and those distinctive vocals, in the same vein as other classic O’Jays albums such as Ship Ahoy, Back Stabbers, and Family Reunion.

 

Bob Welch – Three Hearts

Kimberley Rew – Healing Broadway

Beach House – Thank Your Lucky Stars

Rezillos – Can’t Stand the Rezillos: The (Almost) Complete Rezillos

 

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Junior Murvin – Police & Thieves (Deluxe Edition)

This 1970s reggae classic, produced by the legendary Lee Perry, has been repackaged as a 2-CD deluxe condition, complete with remixes, dub versions, and unreleased material. Many listeners know the version of Police & Thieves that the Clash recorded, but Murvin’s original is still the best. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg on this truly excellent album.

 

Bill Evans – The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy

Papa Wemba – Emotion

David Porter – Gritty, Groovy & Gettin’ It

The Disciplines – Smoking Kills

 

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Sam Dees – The Heritage of a Black Man

Dees was one of the finest and most underrated songwriters of the 1970s and 1980s, and also an excellent vocalist in his own right. This compilation from Kent and Ace Records collects some demos and unreleased recordings he had in the vault. Essential soul music!

 

Smithereens – From Jersey It Came: The Smithereens Anthology

Gene Clark – The Complete Ebbets Field Broadcast

Elton John – Wonderful Crazy Night

Crack the Sky – Live at Recher Theatre

 

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Bembeya Jazz National – The Syliphone Years

Hailing from the West African country of Guinea, Bembeya Jazz National produced a bunch of terrific records during 1960s and 1970s. This 2-CD set covers the years 1967-1977. The music is somewhat similar to the great Congolese music of the same period, combining Cuban and African sounds, reminiscent of Franco and Tabu Ley.

 

Jesse Malin – The Fine Art of Self Destruction

Sutherland Brothers & Quiver – The Very Best of

The Main Ingredient – L.T.D./Black Seeds

The Ides of March – Vehicle

 

200 Reasons to be Happy!

There was a feature in Uncut magazine last month, listing the 200 Greatest Albums of All Time. Greatest, Best, Finest, Most Influential; no matter what how you want to define it, a selection like that is more than a bit subjective, isn’t it? Many of the Uncut selections were fairly predictable. Not that the albums themselves were boring —- most are pretty much classics that are guaranteed to please — it’s just that we’re all used to seeing familiar choices such as Pet Sounds, Blonde On Blonde, Astral Weeks, Forever Changes, Ziggy Stardust, Kind of Blue, Tapestry, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, A Love Supreme, Exile On Main Street, What’s Going On, Are You Experienced?, and After the Goldrush on these sorts of lists, so there weren’t many true surprises.

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But the Uncut list got me to thinking about my own Top 200. By no means would I dare to label my choices as a “Best” or “Greatest” list, rather these are simply my favorite albums, those proverbial Desert Island Discs that I’ve played endless times over the years and ones that I could never willingly part with. In the realm of list compilers, I suppose I cheated a bit, picking some hits/best of packages, various artist collections, live albums, and even a couple of boxed sets. But hey, they are my favorites, so I won’t apologize.

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Like most listeners, my taste in music was heavily influenced by the music that I heard when growing up, mostly songs on the radio. In my case, the “formative” years were in the 1960s when I started listening to the radio and in the early 1970s when I started buying music. But I’ve maintained a very heavy listening and buying habit in the ensuing decades, so you’ll see a smattering of more recent recordings on this list too. What can I say; I’m a music addict!

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I own thousands of albums and I agonized over whittling this list down to “only” 200. I’m sure that I’ll kick myself for missing a few, but looking over the choices, I’m pretty satisfied with them. But confining the list to 200 meant leaving off many great albums, including ones by some of my very favorite recording artists, such as the Temptations, Drive-By Truckers, George Jackson, Allen Toussaint, Otis Redding, Sly & the Family Stone, Joni Mitchell, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, the Go-Betweens, Booker T & the MGs, Glen Campbell, Isaac Hayes, Talking Heads, Lou Reed, the Byrds, and so many others.

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These albums are not ranked in order of most favorite, just alphabetically by album title. I’m certain that there are more than a few picks that will strike you as odd or perplexing. My choices could be as obscure as the great Tom Foolery album or the fantastic debut recording by Love Tractor, or something as mainstream as Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, or Agents of Fortune by Blue Oyster Cult, but these are the albums that remain the nearest and dearest to my heart.

lovetractor

The first pick on my list is a good example of my loose criteria: the first two albums by Big Star. I had both albums as a 2-LP import record back in the early 1980s, and now I own the 2-CD package, so in my mind these two albums are inseparable, just one complete blissful listening experience that can’t be divided.

bigstar_1

Big Star #1 Record/Radio City
20/20 20/20
Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs
Jimmy Buffett A-1-A
Blue Oyster Cult Agents of Fortune
Richard Lloyd Alchemy
 

crackthesky_an

 

 

Crack the Sky                    Animal Notes

Marvin Gaye Anthology
Ramones Anthology
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark Architecture and Morality
Squeeze Argy Bargy
Van Morrison Astral Weeks
Cheap Trick At Budokan
Allman Brothers Band At the Fillmore East
nrbq_ys

NRBQ           At Yankee Stadium

 

 

 

Daryl Hall & John Oates Atlantic Collection
B-52’s B-52’s, the
Warren Zevon Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School
Paul McCartney & Wings Band on the Run
Band, the Band, the
Bob Dylan & the Band Basement Tapes, the
 

beatretreat

Various Artists                     Beat the Retreat: Songs By Richard Thompson

 

 

 

Hollies Best of the Hollies
Kimberley Rew Bible of Bop
XTC Black Sea
Bob Dylan Blood On the Tracks
Michael Murphey Blue Sky Night Thunder
 

spoolq_blue

Swimming Pool Q’s       Blue Tomorrow

 

 

 

Ry Cooder Bop Till You Drop
Bruce Springsteen Born To Run
U2 Boy
John Hiatt Bring the Family
 

prine_bruised

John Prine       Bruised Orange

 

 

 

Style Council Café Bleu
Lucinda Williams Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
David Byrne Catherine Wheel
Creedence Clearwater Revival Chronicle
Neil Diamond Classics: The Early Years
Jean-Michel Jarre Concerts in China
 

999_concrete

999      Concrete

 

 

 

Steely Dan Countdown To Ecstasy
Feelies Crazy Rhythms
Echo & the Bunnymen Crocodiles
Tom Petty Damn the Torpedoes
Bruce Springsteen Darkness on the Edge of Town
Dream Syndicate Days of Wine and Roses
R.E.M. Dead Letter Office
Neil Young Decade
 

utopia_deface

Utopia       Deface the Music

 

 

 

Sade Diamond Life
King Crimson Discipline
Atlanta Rhythm Section Dog Days
Elton John Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player
 

mcduff_downhome

Brother Jack McDuff        Down Home Style

 

 

 

Nektar Down To Earth
Waylon Jennings Dreaming My Dreams
Josh Rouse Dressed Up Like Nebraska
Bongos Drums Across the Hudson
Squeeze East Side Story
Wally Badarou Echoes
 

gpechoes

Glenn Phillips       Echoes: 1975-85

 

 

 

Everything But the Girl Eden
Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland
Pete Townshend Empty Glass
Gang of Four Entertainment
 

garland_escape

Garland Jeffreys       Escape Artist

 

 

 

Isley Brothers Essential
Rod Stewart Every Picture Tells a Story
Yo La Tengo Fakebook
Little Feat Feats Don’t Fail Me Now
Snow Patrol Final Straw
 

heartsfield_foolish2

Heartsfield        Foolish Pleasures

 

 

 

Jackie Leven Forbidden Songs of the Dying West
Crosby Stills Nash & Young Four Way Street
Devo Freedom of Choice
New Musik From A to B
Nick Drake Fruit Tree (Boxed Set)
 

ec_gethappy

Elvis Costello       Get Happy

 

 

 

Gil Scott-Heron Glory: The Gil Scott-Heron Collection
Randy Newman Good Old Boys
World Party Goodbye Jumbo
Elton John Goodbye Yellowbrick Road
Gordon Lightfoot Gord’s Gold
Paul Simon Graceland
Green On Red Gravity Talks
Al Green Greatest Hits
Chi-Lites Greatest Hits
 

wrecklesseric

Wreckless Eric       Greatest Stiffs

 

 

 

Doll By Doll Gypsy Blood
Pylon Gyrate
Jimmy Cliff Harder They Come, the
Smiths Hatful of Hollow
Poco Head Over Heels
 

mf_heroes

Fleetwood Mac       Heroes Are Hard To Find

 

 

 

Rolling Stones Hot Rocks
Stevie Wonder Hotter Than July
Richard & Linda Thompson I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight
Nada Surf If I Had a Hi-Fi
Eurythmics In the Garden
Velvet Crush In the Presence of Greatness
Van Morrison Inarticulate Speech of the Heart
Various Artists Indestructible Beat of Soweto, the
Stevie Wonder Innervisions
 

ozark_shines

Ozark Mountain Daredevils

It’ll Shine When It Shines

 

 

 

Jonathan Richman Jonathan Goes Country
Steely Dan Katy Lied
Mink DeVille Le Chat Bleu
Wet Willie Left Coast Live
Replacements Let It Be
Elvin Bishop Let It Flow
Railway Children Listen On: The Best Of
 

grover_bijou

Grover Washington, Jr.       Live At the Bijou

 

 

 

Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band Live Bullet
Bob Marley & the Wailers Live!
Clash, the London Calling
 

ccody_ozone

Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen

Lost in the Ozone

 

 

 

Kitchens of Distinction Love is Hell
Love Tractor Love Tractor
Horslips Man Who Built America, the
Television Marquee Moon
James Taylor Mudslide Slim and the Blue Horizon
R.E.M. Murmur
 

longryders_ns

Long Ryders          Native Sons

 

 

 

Red Rider Neruda
Rod Stewart Never A Dull Moment
Gin Blossoms New Miserable Experience
Charlie Daniels Band Nightrider
Nils Lofgren Nils Lofgren
Ronnie Wood Now Look
 

guyclark_1

Guy Clark        Old #1/Texas Cookin’

 

 

 

Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel (3rd Album)
Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti
Knitters, the Poor Little Critter on the Road
Emmylou Harris Portraits (Boxed Set)
New Order Power Corruption & Lies
Shoes Present Tense/Tongue Twister
Pretenders Pretenders
Who, the Quadrophenia
 

jacobites_ragged

Jacobites (Nikki Sudden & Dave Kusworth)

Ragged School

 

 

 

Tom Waits Rain Dogs
Deacon Blue Raintown
Jayhawks, the Rainy Day Music
R.E.M. Reckoning
Willie Nelson Red Headed Stranger
Mekons Rock ‘n Roll
 

rockersOST

Various Reggae Artists

Rockers: Original Soundtrack

 

 

 

Ben Folds Rockin’ the Suburbs
Tarney-Spencer Band Run For Your Life
Jackson Browne Running On Empty
Neil Young Rust Never Sleeps
Clash, the Sandinista!
David Bowie Scary Monsters
Marshall Tucker Band Searchin’ For a Rainbow
 

dexys_youngsoul

Dexy’s Midnight Runners

Searching for the Young Soul Rebels

 

 

 

Lynyrd Skynyrd Second Helping
Rosanne Cash Seven Year Ache
O’Jays Ship Ahoy
Ry Cooder Show Time
UB40 Signing Off
 

linnlinn01

Linn Linn       Sin Za Ba

 

 

 

Buzzcocks Singles Going Steady
Records, the Smashes, Crashes, and Near Misses
Interview Snakes & Lovers
Robert Palmer Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley
Todd Rundgren Something Anything
Jam, the Sound Effects
Dan Fogelberg Souvenirs
 

spinners

Spinners       Spinners

 

 

 

Graham Parker Squeezing Out Sparks
Grant Green Steet Funk & Jazz Groove
Talking Heads Stop Making Sense
Lynyrd Skynyrd Street Survivors
Curtis Mayfield Superfly Soundtrack
Camper Van Beethoven Telephone Free Landslide Victory
 

ars_3rdannual

Atlanta Rhythm Section

Third Annual Pipe Dream

 

 

 

Moody Blues This is the Moody Blues
Replacements Tim
Tom Foolery Tom Foolery
Neil Young Tonight’s the Night
 

araces_toostuffed

Amazing Rhythm Aces    Too Stuffed To Jump

 

 

 

Reivers, the Translate Slowly
Elvis Costello Trust
Fleetwood Mac Tusk
Pure Prairie League Two Lane Highway
U2 Unforgettable Fire
 

pongsitunplugged

Pongsit Kampee & Lek Carabao

Unplugged (Plug Loot)

 

 

 

Fountains of Wayne Utopia Parkway
Durutti Column Valuable Passages
Ultravox Vienna
Jerry Jeff Walker Viva Terlingua
Joan Armatrading Walk Under Ladders
 

strummer_walker

Joe Strummer       Walker Soundtrack

 

 

 

Guadalcanal Diary Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man
Ian Hunter Welcome To the Club
Doobie Brothers What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits
 

herbalpert_wc

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

Whipped Cream & Other Delights

 

 

 

X Wild Gift
Emmylou Harris Wrecking Ball
Vulgar Boatmen You and Your Sister
Tom Petty You’re Gonna Get It

 

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