Stuff to Buy for Xmas: Favorite CDs I Bought in 2010
This will be my 7th year of doing the list and, I gotta tell ya, I almost didn’t make it this year. What with the recording of “Another Lost Highway” turning into a Honky Tonk Ben Hur (we started in January 2010, and we’ll be finishing it in January 2011 !) and my decision to dig into my heavy metal roots, which may thrill the rest of you about as much as it has my wife (i.e., not at all), I figured I might just give 2010 a rest. But there’s something theraputic about doing this darn thing, so it’s best to just get it all out of my system.
To begin with, though I’ve included Amazon links, please check into your independent record store FIRST before buying online. Those of you here in Baltimore can get most of these at SoundGarden in Fells Point.
What’s not on the list, but should be:
– Cow Island Music – The label I record for put out a lot of fine cds this year, including cds by the Texas Sapphires, Teri Joyce, the Stone River Boys, and others. I like them all. Please check them out and maybe buy a few – right here: http://www.cowislandmusic.com/
– Many More Reissues – It’s tough enough for me to find new stuff that I like, so I’m not including things like:
– Rolling Stones vinyl box sets – if you don’t own the early Stones records on vinyl, box set # 1 – http://www.amazon.com/Rolling-Stones-1964-1969-Limited-Remastered/dp/B00461MY30/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1291691665&sr=1-1 – a must);
– Springsteen “Darkness on the Edge of Town” box set – the remaster sounds great, the documentary is very good, and it also includes a Houston ’78 show I haven’t watched yet – I’m sure it burns !) http://www.amazon.com/Promise-Darkness-Edge-Town-Story/dp/B0040JHXTI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1291691712&sr=1-2
– Dylan Mono box set – I still don’t like his first record that much, but the rest – well, what can you say ?…) http://www.amazon.com/Original-Mono-Recordings-Bob-Dylan/dp/B003XRDYX2/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1291691802&sr=1-1 ; and
– 30th Anniversary Edition of Judas Priest’s “British Steel” (including the original cd remastered, and a cd and dvd of Priest playing the entire album in 2009, and KILLING it !)
– Hardly Any of the Metal I Bought – Man, I got a LOT of hard rock and metal this year. I’m putting very little on my list, so’s not to freak y’all out too much. I really like a lot of what I got – mementos of my teenage years – AC/DC, Priest, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, – and a fair amount of thrash that I missed out on once I got submerged in country and bluegrass. I’ll note that The Big 4 of thrash (Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer) did some massive shows together this year in Eastern Europe, and a very cool cd/dvd set resulted. I’ve watched all the bands’ sets except for Metallica’s, and they’re all excellent. http://www.amazon.com/Metallica-Slayer-Megadeth-Anthrax-Bulgaria/dp/B003ZVL0VE/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1291692024&sr=1-2
– The Possum on a Budget – For those of you who couldn’t stomach the cost of the two box sets of George Jones’s Musicorp recordings on my 2009 list (combined cost – about $250 !), Time/Life has distilled those 9 cds down to 2, and they did a pretty good job, at under $20 ! http://www.amazon.com/George-Jones-Great-Lost-Hits/dp/B0030MR5O4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1291692069&sr=1-1
So, on to THE LIST (in no particular order, except for No. 1):
10. Jason and the Scorchers – Halcyon Times (2010)
Their first album of new material in quite a while. It’s awesome (and I’m not saying that just because I co-wrote the track “Beat on the Mountain”). Heck, that’s not even my favorite tune on the record. “Mona Lee” and “Mother of Greed” are tied for first in that department, ML including one of the greatest rocknroll guitar solos of all time by Warner E. Hodges (simple, filthy, and loud !!!). And the rhythm section – Al Collins and Pontus Snibb – good gravy can they lay it down !!!! Listening to this record reminds me why I play music, and man have I been waiting for this one for a long dern time. Thanks fellas !
9. Van Halen – Fair Warning (Warner Brothers 1981/Remastered 2000)
I got a few of my favorite Van Halen records on cd about a month ago, including this one. This is an amazing, very short record (9 tunes, about 31 minutes total !) I had not listened to in about 15 years. Not only does it have monster hooks/riffs (Unchained, Mean Street), it flows like a concept album, and swings like hell. What’s not to like ?
8. R & B Hipshakers Vol. 1 – Teach Me to Monkey (Vampi Soul 2010)
California Funk (Jazzman 2010)
“Teach me to Monkey” is Vampisoul’s latest comp that you can buy on cd AND as a box set of double-sided 45s. This set of early 60s R & B, complied by DJ Mr. Fine Wine of WFMU (NYC area), is a killer. All tunes rarely compiled (or not compiled at all) on cd, from an era when swing still influenced commercial black radio. A big cross-section of styles, too – from late 50s jump/rocknroll to ealry soul and blues. “Mr. Astronaut’ by the Drivers is a standout, but so it most everything on this very cool comp.
“California Funk” is the latest in UK label Jazzman’s series of state-by-state funk compilations. They’ve done about 6 so far, and they’re generally worth buying, though some are better than others. Jazzman goes for “deep catalogue” stuff, but sometimes the small, local, extinct labels they’re drawing from didn’t have a deep catalogue, if you get my drift (bad sound quality, out of tune instruments, drums and bass not in time, etc). The standout for me so far is 2002’s “Texas Funk” compilation, which is frickin’ amazing. The California cd is no slouch, though: deep grooves, great arrangements, very high quality stuff. And it’s relentless – once it gets rolling, no weak spots. Highly recommended.
7. Duke Ellington – Ken Burns JAZZ Collection (Sony 2000)
Duke Ellington – Masterpieces (Sony 2004)
I started exploring Duke’s music this year, and disocvered that buying it on cd can be very complicated. The great genius wrote thousands of pieces of music, and recorded thousands of hours worth as well. No comprehensive career overview is currently in print, so I basically spent a lot of time (read “hours”) on Amazon checking out my options, and ended up buying a number of things. If you’re only gonna own a couple, these are good to start with. The Ken Burns cd is a great overview of early and mid-period Ellington (1930s and 40s) and only costs about $8. “Masterpieces” is material from the 1950s, mostly re-recordings of older pieces, but much better sound quality than the originals. Remember folks, America only made one guy this incredible – it’s like the secret of the universe put to music. Get some.
6. Texas Tornados – Esta Bueno (Bismeaux 2010)
This is solid TT territory – Conjunto/R & B/rocknroll stew, cooked just right. Shawn Sahm, son of Doug, handles lead vocals since his Dad’s passing, and does a great job. And the band is, well, ridiculous – Flaco Jimenez, Augie Meyers, Speedy Sparks on bass… (that right there is a quorum is my book) and a bunch of other great Texas pickers. And there’s also tracks sung by the late Freddy Fender (“If I Could Only,” “Ahoro Yo Voy,” “Another Shot of Ambition”) AND the late Doug Sahm (the devastating “Girl Going Nowhere”). Buy this, you’ll dig it !
5. Tito Puente – The Complete 78s Vol 1 (Fania 2010)
The Complete 78s – Volume 2 (Fania 2010)
All the early 78s (1949-55) by the King of Latin Music, digitized and sounding spectacular ! TP was a street kid who later went to Julliard, and that life experience comes through in his music – a perfect blend of sophistication and simplicity. Mambo, cha-cha – anything and everything to make you want to dance. The melodies and arrangements are exquisite; the rhythms so primal, beautiful, so right every time. File these next to your Ellington, Muddy Waters, Louis Armstrong, Bill Monroe, and Billie Holiday – essential !
4. Stacie Collins – The Lucky Spot (Rev 2007)
I met Stacie, who is based in Nashville, a few years ago. Her husband Al Collins plays bass for Jason and the Scorchers, and she’s a frequent guest on Scorchers shows. I recently heard her sing the title cut, which is the story of how’s Stacie’s Mom and Dad met and went dancing at a club called “The Lucky Spot.” It inspired me to buy the cd, and I gotta say it’s excellent. Stacie’s singing and playing is top shelf, as is Dan Baird’s (Georgia Satellites) production. Al wrote most of the tunes – fun, gritty, substantial – and the band is spot on This record is just a real good time !
3. Mel Street – Mel Street/Country Soul (1976-77 Polydor/2009 Poker)
A twofer of Mel’s only records for Polydor, recorded in the two years prior to his tragic October 1978 suicide. This is mid 70s “Hard Country” at its best – you can smell the naugahyde barstools and Seagram’s 7. MS was burning the candle at both ends, and he sounds a little weary, but there’s no shortage of soul. Many good tracks here, but the cheating ballad “Virginia, How Far Will You Go” is a classic.
2. Brian Wilson – Reimagines Gershwin
Slayer – World Painted Blood
I hope no one had an aneurysm after reading that entry. Come to think of it, though, Brain Wilson and Slayer actually have a lot in common. (1) Both are from California, (2) Both have won Grammy awards, and (3) Both have recorded multiple albums with the word “Blood” in the title (hold on, I think that might just be a Slayer thing…)
“Reminagining Gershwin” opens with a sublime vocal arrangement of a bit of “Rhapsody in Blue.” But, overall, it’s probably more freewheeling and rockin’ than critics probably expected, which is fine with me. Great doo-wop arrangement of “They Can’t take that away from me.” Cool Porgy and Bess medley where BW channels Billie Holiday on “I Loves you Porgy,” one of my all-time favorite tunes. It’s not overthought – just fun. And it includes a new BW co-write called “The Like I Love in You,” which is frickin’ superb, and alone worth the price of the cd.
“World Painted Blood” is also fun – or at least more fun than it sounds. A thrashy hookfest. Yeah, their songs are about blood, death, and other stuff that won’t make you feel warm and fuzzy. But Tom Araya sounds cool as hell, no matter what he’s screaming about. I’ve had it in my car for about a month now and it sounds better all the time. Next time you’re driving to work on a sub-freezing day, roll down all your car windows, blast the title tune, and watch the pedestrians scurry like rats !
1. Rolling Stones – Ladies and Gentlemen (Theatrical Release 1974/Blu-Ray & DVD 2010)
Stones, Dallas ’72. Released briefly in theaters, long available in bootleg (ok quality), but never officially released on video, dvd, plasma, beta, or any such format till now. Exile tour madness in glorious sound and color, and they were sure “on” for these shows. Wyman on bass, Mick Taylor on guitar. Rocknroll Valhalla IN YOUR LIVING ROOM !!!!!! I’d inject it into my eyeballs if I could but that’s kinda gross. Get it now !
There you have it. If you have any suggestions you find fit to share the same breathing space as my choices (and they don’t include the word “lo-fi,” or a dreadlocked 21 year-old playing a banjo), please share.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS !