Musical fixes and favorites

Posted By on December 28, 2007

Okay, I screwed up. Two readers — one of them an editor I wrote for nearly 20 years ago — caught me committing factual hara kiri in “Smelled so sweet,” my take on the recent Cleveland Raspberries show.

For one, the group last played the city July 15 ’05, at Scene Pavilion; their reunion show, after 30 years, was Nov. 26, ’04. That was the one that sold out in four minutes. For another, “I’m a Rocker” is a Raspberries tune, not an Eric Carmen tune; they second Carmen tune they played was “That’s Rock and Roll.” My bad. My sincere apologies.

If I seem a little rusty, it’s because I don’t go to that many concerts as I used to or listen to as much music. I do more reading than listening these days. But I did manage to come up with a Top 10 CD list. No, I haven’t listened to the new Kanye, Rihanna or Dap-Kings. I thought Amy Winehouse was pretty cool but that her album was too calculatedly old-school. This list speaks to what I heard and liked. I list the CDs first, then add remarks on other stuff. I’m finally beginning to download, by the way. And if I’d bought it before I put together this list a few weeks ago, I would have included the Alison Krauss-Robert Plant “Raising Sand” album on Rounder; it’s haunting and amazing. Anyhow…

1. Radiohead
In Rainbows
ATO (as of Jan. 1)

I list Radiohead at the top more for the group’s subversion of the record industry than its music, though I think these tracks are largely beautiful (my version of “In Rainbows” is a Beijing-bought double bootleg CD I acquired in November on a mind-blowing China trip for US$2; what’s that you say about intellectual property?).

2. Michael Brecker

Brecker’s posthumous album is the toughest modern jazz of the year. Everybody in this trophy group plays for his life, making jazz of the rarest order: essential.

3. Feist
The Reminder

For the diversity and texture of her Europop; in particular, for “Sealion.”

4. Fountains of Wayne
Traffic & Weather

Count on smart pop from these Jersey guys;  what’s extra-cool is their take on consumerism and desire, in tunes like “Yolanda Hayes” and “Strapped for Cash.” Subversiveness rarely sounds so tuneful.

5. Maria Schneider Orchestra
Sky Blue

Big band jazz at its most lyrical and expressive; this soars and more than lives up to its title.

6. St. Vincent
Marry Me
Beggar’s Banquet

Annie Clark is a punchy singer and a resonant writer, making “Marry Me” one of the most striking alternapop (does the concept even work anymore?) CDs of the year.

7.  Various Artists
I’m Not There
Columbia (soundtrack)

A concept album of Dylan covers for a concept movie about a real guy. Or is he? The songs are, that’s for sure. Fave: Charlotte Gainsbourg and Calexico pillow-talking “Just Like a Woman.”

8. Suzanne Vega
Beauty & Crime
Blue Note

A meditation on New York and film noir, Vega’s underappreciated jazz-label debut delivers what Norah Jones, that smoky folkeuse, hasn’t all these years: character and wit.

9. Bruce Springsteen

The Middle East meets Phil Spector in this sequel to “The Rising,” a resonant, politically charged return to E Street Band form. Greatest pop surprise (and a step forward for Springsteen): the gorgeous “Girls in Their Summer Clothes.”

10. The Redwalls
The Redwalls
MAD Dragon

For the fun of it.

Singles: Timbaland, “The Way I Are”; Christina Aguilera, “Ain’t no Other Man”; T-Pain, “Buy UA Drank”; Alicia Keys, “No One”; Crushcrushcrush, “Paramore.” Standout rock track: “Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart,” from Against Me: New Wave.
Reissue of the year: Miles Davis, “The Complete On the Corner Sessions,” Legacy
Best rediscovery: Primal Scream, “Live in Japan” (Sony Music Japan International). Recorded in November 2002, this is one of the best live albums of all time. Makes you want to go out and scream — alone, in company, really doesn’t matter. Neither does whether it’s in joy or anger. Guess that’s what makes it great rock ‘n’ roll.


One Response to “Musical fixes and favorites”

  1. B.S.S. says:

    Europop? Leslie Feist is from Toronto. OK… so you folks in the states all believe Canada is part of Yurope. Thanks Ms. North Carolina.

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I'm a veteran critic and business writer who reads and listens and writes about music, books, hotels and travel. I've been in the business for many years and still enjoy it. My pride and joy is my book, Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories. Follow me on Twitter: