Saturday, December 15, 2012

Best Music Of 2012

I've been looking at the best of 2012 lists from the trending music mags out there and come to find that most of them are a fucking joke, no wonder we don't put our trust in Spin magazine anymore.  They lost their street cred by even putting a Nicki No Talent CD in the top 50 and another award winning album of a penis covered in a rubber, makes you just want to go out and buy that album eh?  Smart people like you and me don't take Spin magazine at face value.  New Musical Express was just as lousy too although laugh at Rolling Stone, they did have four albums of decency in the top 10.  Not bad for a entertainment mag.

For all the rappers, autotuned pop diva rappers and whatever Bon Iver puts out there let's face it, I have no time for preppie bands that cowtow to NME or Spin in terms of how history will remember 2012.  I have a different view of the best of the year to which we won't get mentions of my own list of the best but mine tends to be a throwback to good old rock and blues the way it was before rap, processed beats, autotuner and pro tools made things robotic. But nobody really cares what's the best of the year, oh some did on the 2009 and 2010 best ofs but 2011 is nowhere to be found on the all time views. And I still play Mike Eldred 61 and 49 as well.  Or Samantha Fish's Runaway although I didn't get that album till this year, after all Best Buy doesn't stock Ruf Records product.  Further research showed the album came out in spring of 2011 which means Sam falls through the cracks on terms of deciding what's the best of this year.  Rest assured next year if and when her new album comes out I'll be sure to leave a spot on the best of 2013, she's really quite good ya know.

For the old fart rock and rollers 2012 provided some great music in an outdated format.  Of course you been hearing that all year, the album is dead, people buy singles, no they don't, they download the song off the great jukebox in the skies and forgo the album.  It's kinda hard to sit through a 68 minute album and pick and choose the highlights, just ask Aerosmith.  Or a 16 minute retelling of the Titanic sinking from a great songwriter that can't sing anymore, or a 27 minute jam out from Neil Young.  Time poverty its called and once you're past fifty you don't have time to waste on subpar or failed experiments, good in theory but I can only go half way on Driftin Back, or once is enough on Tempest.

For us old farts we don't have time for the new preppie bands that are supposed to save rock and roll but don't.  I bought the Alabama Shakes but what I heard didn't exactly entice me enough to endorse them although I gave them points for telling Simon Cowell to fuck off on auditioning for the X Factor.  Frank Ocean's Channel Orange got high ratings and number one album on SPIN but if I wanted to hear real soul music better to check Shemekia Copeland's 33 1/3 instead.  Real vocals on real instruments and not bathed in Autotuner. As for the Death Grips' No Love Deep Web aka the standing penis album, too bad Epic missed out on that. Nothing is scared anymore, but good music today is hard to come by as well.

Instead of asskissing preppie bands and outdated trendy mags, I rely on my ears and what is going to stand out five, ten years from now, hell we'll settle for next year at that time to see if any of the 10 picks will still be in the player.  Like last year I bought albums and then played them once and then never again although they are still taking up space in the house, Darkness Hot Cakes is one example, Coldplay's last album from last year is another, I tell myself I'm going to pick it up and listen to it again but then forget all about it.  Which is the problem of new music trying to compete with the music of the past, the more familiar win out in the end and even in our history of picking the best, a lot have not held up against the Led Zeppelins, Nick Lowe, Eddie And The Hot Rods or Beatles or Joe Turner.  To which again Time Poverty can be blamed; if only we could have 30 years of our lives back to hear all this, but we don't, so it's pick and choose.  Today's generation may love their Death Grips or rapper of the year or Nicki No Talent, but the ten best ofs will win their spots on the best of and then take their chances on the rest of the best of the music of my life.  Good luck, they're gonna need it!

For what it's worth my picks of best of 2012.

1.  Rebirth-Jimmy Cliff  (Sunpower/Universal)

Tim Armstrong is to Jimmy Cliff compared when Rick Rubin produced Johnny Cash and in the end result and late in Johnny's career begin a resurgence as a alternative star rather than country but in case of Tim whose always had a sharp love of reggae in his own bands like Operation Ivy and later Rancid.  Cliff, 40 years ago put reggae on the map with The Harder They Come S/T and movie, he opened the door for later Bob Marley to take over but Cliff never went away, he's made some fine albums for A&M, Warners, Columbia and even a remake of I Can See Clearly Now for Cool Runnings which was his last top 40 hit back in the late 90s.  After a chance meeting, Armstrong put together a great band to back up most of the type of reggae music that is on this album, hints of ska, rock steady and R & B soul come into play, but nevertheless it's Cliff's earthly vocals that makes this album one of the best of 2012.  To put this on top with a shitty digipack must be that it's a damn good album.  Sounds just as fine on vinyl too.

2.  Everything The Hard Way-John Moreland & The Dirt Bowl Souls (Okie Tone)

While the majority of folk went with Bruce Springsteen and his Wrecking Ball album for one of the best, I didn't think much of that album as much as I did from this heavy set dude who has a vocal similar to The Boss and Jay Farrar on this DIY effort that came my way from The Farce The Music dude who touted this highly.  It's not that I don't like Springsteen, I still do but he's hasn't made a record I care much for since 2001's The Rising and one can only tolerate so many digipacks taking up valuable space in the process.  The song samples that I heard convinced me to pay 5 dollars to download this album (the first album I ever downloaded in its entirety from the net) and cared enough to spring for the vinyl album when it came out.  Christian Rock could be any band out there when Moreland utters the line about quitting every band he's been in.  And Christmas Lights isn't exactly a Christmas song celebrating the holidays either.  Don't expect Moreland to be the next big rock and roller, he's not blessed with the looks of a Justin Bieber or preppie as Bon Iver, but he's a helluva lot more of a rocker than either one.  It may mean zilch but he does get my vote though.

3.   Old Ideas-Leonard Cohen (Columbia)

A lotta press was given to Bob Dylan over Tempest; perhaps the fact that it was his first album since he turned 70 may have been one reason although Leonard Cohen at age 78 put out Old Ideas which was his first album since the oddball and creepy Dear Heather but Old Ideas shows Cohen has a strange sense of humor as well, especially on the lead off track to which he is searching for talk to Leonard on Going Home.  Like Dylan, Cohen doesn't have much of a voice, although he tends to croon better than the croaking of Dylan.  He still gets singing help from Sharon Robinson, his long time collaborator, The Webb Sisters and of course Jennifer Warnes. 

4.  A Different Kind Of Truth-Van Halen (Interscope)

By golly Diamond Dave and the Van Halen boys finally buried the hatchet and managed to get into the studio to record their first proper album since 1984 although Mike Anthony wasn't invited back (he remained with Chickenfoot, the band featuring Sammy Hagar who continued to bad mouth VH as much as possible) but Wolfgang Van Halen manages to hold his own and then some on bass too.  While a lot of folk waited for this for fall apart, when the album came out, it actually rocked harder than anything VH did since Fair Warning which is saying a lot.  Of course time has taken its toll on David Lee Roth's vocals, he can't hit the high notes (well nobody can, just ask Robert Plant on that too) but the majority of songs reminds me of the good old days when the big event was a new Van Halen album.  Never thought I'd see that again in my lifetime.

5.  Back Number-The Jimmy Bowskill Band (Ruf)

Once upon a time this type of music was the norm for modern rock and Jimmy Bowskill, a 22 year old Canadian guitarist has a love for the Black Crowes around the Shake Your Money Maker era but also the band owes a lot to Bad Company in a way but moreso to Humble Pie and Bowskill can wail like Marriott could.  But nowadays they call this the blues but actually it's more boogie blues than the straight blues that has fallen by the wayside in favor of bad autotuned songs, hell even modern rock is too Pro Tools and too generic.  Thank our lucky stars that Thomas Ruf, the head of Ruf Records in Germany is having the foresight to remember that in order to rock out, one must play the tunes that makes us get off our butt and dance.

6.  Living For A Song-A Tribute To Hank Cochran-Jamey Johnson (Mercury)

Country music is the pits nowadays and most of what KHAK plays I want nothing to do with.  Only decent county album that did came out was Jamey's tribute to the late great Hank Cochran with an album that got zilch airplay on the radio, nothing about girls that shake it in boom boom speakers or Truck Yeah, just good old country music the way that I used to hear it on the radio not too long ago.  Of course Jamey got the finest out there but no Rascal Flatts or Brantley Gilbert or God Forbid The Florida/Georgia Line to give it country cool with the trailer trash stars of today.  The perfect tribute album I believe.
7.  Little Broken Hearts-Norah Jones (Blue Note)

Amazingly Norah continues to wow me with her ever-changing style of lite rock and country like styling and even got Danger Mouse to help out with the darker overtones of such classics like She's 22 and the ominious Miriam.  For a album that has been slight this year, Little Broken Hearts has gotten plenty of CD playing time on my player.
8.  When I'm President-Ian Hunter And The Rant Band (Slimstyle)

Another over 70 rocker making perhaps his best album in years, Ian Hunter didn't disappoint, especially with sing along songs like I Ain't No Saint or What For, Hunter at age 73 might have a rougher voice than he did when he was younger but it's not as tuneless as Bob Dylan say?  The Rant Band has really came together since the first Rant album of 10 years ago and this is much better.  All the way to the last song, Life.  So laugh, cuz it's only life.

9.  Frantic-Heart (Legacy)

I admit I not a big Heart fan although I have a pick and choose  of some fun songs from the past, Dreamboat Annie yes, Crazy On You, not really, it's been played way too much for me to hear it ever again.  This the second album that the Wilson sisters collaborated with Ben Mink and it rocks even harder than Red Velvet Car which was a step in the right direction.  Even the Best Buy bonus tracks were welcome additions.  And for their effort they finally made it to the RnR HOF.

10. Black Cat Oil-Delta Moon (Red Parlor)
I'm biased when it comes to Delta Moon for every time they put out a new album it makes my top ten best of lists.  Tom Gray and Mark  Johnson remain excellent slide guitarists and continue to lay out that swamp blues boogie that CCR and John Fogerty used to do very well before Fogerty got too full of himself.  Tom Gray remains one of the best songwriters of our time (all the way back to The Brains, for more info on that read my all time viewed blog on them) and even the recording sounds like a old 78.  I doubt if John will ever kiss and make up with Cosmo and Doug but till then, Delta Moon hits the spot.

The next ten are just as good as the first ten that was picked for the best of the year.  In fact, it's kinda lame to pick things from 1 to 10 and give a reason why it made a certain number.  Most of the artists have been around since the 60s or 70s while Shemekia Copeland is probably the youngest out of everybody unless Jack White is younger than she is.  Certainly, the long in the tooth bands like Neil Young or New Riders do go back to the days when Hippies were dropping out and turning on and getting high back then.  Killing Joke continues to shock the world on how dark they can get and still being the dark goths.  I still believe that they have continue to make excellent albums ever since reuniting  back in 1994. It took Asia thirty years to finally come up with the followup to their S/T album but by now nobody cares but their fans, but I still remain a fan so Cumulus can take a flying kiss at my ass.  And speaking of KISS, their album was the way I remembered them back in 1977 with Love Gun.  It may not tear up the charts but to me it was a Monster.

11. 33 1/3-Shemekia Copeland (Telarc)
12. Blunderbuss-Jack White (Third Man/Columbia)
13. MMXII-Killing Joke  (Spinefarm)
14. Delayed Reaction-Soul Asylum (429)
15. 17 Pine Avenue-New Riders Of The Purple Sage (Woodstock)
16. XXX-Asia (Frontiers)
17. Psychedelic Pill-Neil Young & Crazy Horse (Reprise)
18. Born To Sing No Plan B-Van Morrison (Exile/Blue Note)
19. Thick As A Brick 2-Ian Anderson (Capitol)
20. Monster-Kiss (Universal)

And now the best reissues or Live albums of the year.

1.  Celebration Day-Led Zeppelin (Swan Song/Atlantic/Rhino)
2.  The Motown Sound-Earl Van Dyke (Hip O Select)
3.  Frank Zappa Remasters (Zappa/Universal)
4.  Kiko Live-Los Lobos (Shout Factory)
5.  It Moves Me-The Complete Eddie Holland (Ace UK)

By far the best live event was the 2007 Led Zeppelin O2 finale that became Celebration Day but also Motown honored their lesser known but just as influential artists with the Earl Van Dyke Motown Recordings that Hip O Select pays tribute and the early early Motown hits show that Earl Van Dyke was tops in terms of being the house band for all things Motown, as well Ace Records UK gave Eddie Holland kudos for some of most intense soul music that nobody ever hears on the radio anymore.  As for Los Lobos, I wasn't that hip on Kiko but after hearing them tear through most of the songs during their Iowa City show it has elevated itself up to one of the best albums of the 1990s.

But perhaps the biggest extended event was seeing most if not all of Frank Zappa's album back in print with a few extras to boot, the forgotten Mystery Disc and even Mothermania which makes its first cd appearance. In some ways it shows the rise and fall of Zappa in 60 plus albums, from the early original Mothers to the parody of itself via Flo And Eddie, to the dirty funk and prog rock of the mid 70s and concluding with 1979's album this was Frank at his best or worst despite having one of the best bands he ever put together (Adrian Belew, Terry Bozzio, Peter Wolf come to mind)  After that while the music got more complicated  and the lyrics more stupid I finally got off the bus after the 1986 Mothers Of Prevention album, the syn-clavier may have been Frank's instrument of choice but the most dated recordings FZ was using this contraption.   But big points to Gail Zappa for putting out just about everything the man recorded.  And I'm sure there's still more in the can.

In summary, the new music of 2012 was really good from what I heard and I chose wisely.  But time will tell if the 2012 best will stand the test of time.  Or what next year will bring for new tunes, there's always going to be new music and reissues.  The question remains which ones will be right for me, or for you.


TAD said...

GREAT list, Crabby. You REALLY did your homework. & I was pretty suprised 2 find Norah Jones in there....

R S Crabb said...

Thanks always Tad for your support. I really didn't expect much from Norah Jones but her latest is so haunting that I keep coming back to it. Great albums will do that. Ta!