Friday, December 16, 2016

The Best Of 2016 In Music

So here is your reward for making this month the most read ever  And if fate has any thing to do with this, this could  be the most viewed of all time for readership.  But then again, while it's been a nice month and having everybody check out the archives, it really has not  changed my view of the future of Record World, unless this get 10,000 views then yeah we'll see about continuing this online rag of records and bargain hunts and seeing who passed away.

These ten best albums of 2016 will not figure in the major mags, the SPIN, NME, Rolling Stone who touts pop tarts or modern anger rock.  I can't tell you any of the names of the  bands that Rock 108 plays, if I listen to the radio, it's brief snippets of classic rock KRNA and KKRQ, the Fox.  I applaud KRNA for going back to classic rock and bringing some lesser known songs to the list but most of them are the usual Back In Black, Guns N Roses, Boston stuff we have heard for going on 30 years now.  This sort of disdain has not made me offer myself to the Hair Ball tribute bands around town.  They're good at Guns N Roses than me and why even be in a band that plays Hair Ball type of metal. I may as well stay at my better paying night job then.

Like the previous years, the best of 2016 selections will probably fade in time, certain albums will lose their luster, and most if not all will not be remembered by rock radio, no matter how much the press touted David Bowie and Leonard Cohen's latest albums before both of them passed away.  And let's face it, the major labels make no effort to promote real music anymore, just set the latest winner from The Voice with autotuner and process beats, watch it flop and then declare a tax loss.  The way it has been since the days of Al Jolson or Blind Blake.   However for the dinosaur bands of the old classic rock and roll era, some did put out albums and some were even very good enough to be listened to more than three times.   Once The Rolling Stones, blues album get out of the way, nobody is going to remember it as well, nor Cheap Trick although I found their latest album was fairly good, however Bun E Carlos' album was much more fun and while both do cancel each other out, I find myself playing Bunzerala a lot more than Cheap Trick's latest.  The Monkees, 50 years ago, put out their first album and this year they return with Good Times, which might be their last album since they put out albums every other decade or so,  the comebacks of 1986 and 1996 flopped big time, Heart And Soul lacked Mike Nesmith and subpar production and songs, and Justus took itself way too seriously, but Good Times, did make the top ten of the year for that good time feeling that The Monkees made us with Last Train To Clarksville or Pleasant Valley Sunday and damned if they didn't get good songs like She Makes Me Laugh and You Bring The Summer.   I also thought that Foghat's Under The Influence was better than The Stones' Blue And Lonesome, it's not rocket science to do what Foghat does, blues boogie rock and roll and be damned with the comment that without Lonesome Dave and Rod Price they're nothing, Roger Earl still has Bryan Bassett and Charlie Hahn and on occasion Kim Simmonds helping out.  And it was a better album than their blues based Last Train Home years ago.

For reissues, the major labels managed to issue big box sets from Bob Dylans 1966 Tour and The Who My Generation had five (Count em) CDs to try to entice you to spend big bucks to hear alt takes of My Generation or The Kids Are Alright or Pete Townsend's demos.  The hell with that, so we sat and waited to see what Sundazed or better year Real Gone Music had for music and for off the wall forgotten LPs, Real Gone and Gordon Anderson continues to find the stuff the majors wouldn't release.  Which is how we finally got that definite Porter Wagoner all time best of.   But I think outside of The Beatles Live At The Hollywood Bowl and Porter, most reissues were busts.

In the long run, the best albums came from local bands and bands under independent labels, the lesser known, the better.  Which is how King Buffalo came to my attention, from Twitter and being friends long enough to discover their first album, the best damn heavy blues album in thirty plus years, part stoner, part Magnum, part Sabbath and Hawkwind and part Quaalude and Boone's Farm.   This year, Tommy Bruner and Wooden Nickel Lottery, local favorites here, came back with better Sophomore albums, both artist and band did place their album in last years best of.  Nothing against the latest Eric Clapton, but Tommy Bruner's Camping With Wi Fi was more inspired and almost recorded to perfection and Tommy's out there working on completing his next album for next year. For WNL, Down The Line, continues their blues rock with a Little Feat shuffle, but a bit more looser and one take feel.   And sometimes that's the way to go and perhaps a blues label (Ruf Records) could take a chance on WNL but that band is quite happy living in the shadow of the world on the outskirts of Center Point/Urbana.

But my top three I'm certain that they will continue to get airplay in the future, as for the next 7 that is debatable but I figured they are good enough to be recognized  as the best of the year. Drive By Truckers and Blackberry Smoke are good as gold for good music.  But since I didn't review much for new music the best will include reissues.  I doubt if I'll ever pay attention to new music after this year anymore, I have too many albums from the past to contend with  and want nothing to do with  The 1975 or Alica Keys or Beyonce or Autotuned quack Kanye West.  From here on out kiddies, you'll have to get the thumbs up from Pitchfork or NME on flavors of the moment, so listen to a sample via Spotify or You Tube and then go check out the local band struggling to make it in this Corporate Rock end times.

The Best:

1).  Camping With Wi-Fi-Tommy Bruner   (Orange City Records)

Tommy is one of the hardest working musicians in town; if he's not gigging with The Past Masters (his day job) or The Shadow or hosting a jam session, he's busy recording new music and at age 62, he's only getting started in his solo music albums and Camping With Wi Fi really rocks.  Playing everything except for Rick Clay playing insane guitar on Cranberry Lane, Bruner  plays with a Clapton slow hand type of rock and blues.  I certainly have played this album a few times on Townedger Radio this past year and it is the best recorded album thanks to Mike   Cutsforth.  But this is Tommy's album all the way.   His version of Slowhand of the 2010s.

2)  Down The Line-Wooden Nickel Lottery ( Violet Isle)

Rich Toomsen is also one of the best guitar players in the area and for the past couple years, he and Jess have been the heart and soul of the band,  he writes the songs, the band plays them.  They got a excellent drummer in Delayne Stallman and an able vocalist in Rick Gallo, who in previous blogs, has a Vince Gill/Craig Fuller type of vocals.  On My Way was a fine debut, but Down The Line improves on the songs, adding a bit more rock on Can't Be Wrong and The Open Road and features Rich throwing some stunning guitar leads on Throw It Down.  The crowning achievement is Nickels And Dimes to which Rich discovers his inner Stevie Ray Vaughan on one of the best guitar riffs I have heard in years.

3)  Orion-King Buffalo (Self Released)

I can't say it's real prog rock, but the feel is more heavy blues of the early 70s, Space Ritual influenced Hawkwind, or early Sabbath.  The term is stone rock but it's what was call heavy blues.  This trio from Rochester New York has put out a excellent album, layered in reverb drenched fuzz blues and even Ummagumma Pink Floyd in Orion Sungiving.  With Kerosene, they recorded their masterpiece.  If this came back out in 1976, this would be on classic rock radio, but at that time these dudes were toddlers or not born yet, but it's a good bet that their folks might have a decent record collection, or they knew somebody that had In The Court Of The Crimson King, or Magma.

4)  The Beatles Live At The Hollywood Bowl  (Apple)

Perhaps the final piece of the Beatles puzzle finally issued on CD, their live recording at the Hollywood Bowl, complete with screaming teen girls almost overpowering the music.  Giles Martin, does a find job of balancing the screaming teens and Beatles rock and roll.  And fifty years ago, this was a big deal.

5)  The Definite Collection-Porter Wagoner (Real Gone Music/Sony Music)

Forgotten by country music today, Porter was one of the more weirder top stars at that time.  Certainly he could do uptempo friendly bluegrass country (Howdy Neighbor Howdy, Y'all Come), revisit Uncle Pen (the first version makes its CD debut on this compilation) and good ole bar room sing alongs (I enjoyed as much as this as I can stand, Misery Loves Company).  Porter was also good at murder/revenge ballads (The First  Mrs Jones, The Cold Hard Facts Of Life) songs of suicide and despair (The Rubber Room, Cold Dark Waters) and other songs of note (Green Grass Of Home, Carrol County Accident). While Porter recorded for RCA up till 1982, this ends with Highway Heading South, which might have been Porter's last great single.  Next to Buck Owens and Don Gibson, Porter remains my third all time favorite country singer and this 2 CD overview is proof he was very good at what he could do.

6)  Good Times-The Monkees (Rhino)

Even in death, Davy Jones did managed to grace this album, a version of Neil Diamond's Love To Love and thank Rhino and Adam Schlegsiner for sparing us the sappy ballads this time around.  It helped a lot that Rivers Cromo and Andy Partridge gave the boys some great songs too (She Makes Me Laugh, You Bring The Summer).  It helped that the guys picked some good songs from the likes of Boyce/Hart and Jeff Berry and Joey Levine too, prompting back to the days of classic power pop of their first album.  50 years later and with Peter, Mickey and Michael all pushing or beyond 70, they're celebrating their youth one last time.  Good times, it really was.

7)   Baptist Town-Mike Eldred Trio  (Great Western Recording Co)

No stranger to my top ten albums best of, he was the best in 2011 with 61/49 and while I didn't get to hear his Elvis tribute album, I did managed to latch on his sonic blues rock journey this year.  Eldred had a few notable help on this album (Robert Cray, David Hidalgo John Mayer) it's his and his batch of musician brothers (John Bazz, Jerry Angel) bringing out their inner Robert Johnson and Sun Records sound with a bit of hard drumming from Angel.  The connection from Johnson, to the Sun Records Sound to The Beatles and Led Zep is all there.   For excellent albums, Mike Eldred is a name you can trust.

8)  American Band-Drive By Truckers (ATO)

This album got better with repeated listens and Patterson Hood continues to really dig deep into the roots of the blues and rock (and protest music) beginning with Ramon Casiano and ends with Baggage which the subject at hand is Merle Haggard rather than David Bowie.   While the jury is still out whether or not this is their all time best album ever, it's still a stunning listen through the whole album.

9). Under The Influence-Foghat (Foghat Records)

Let's cut to the chase and quit snickering.  I don't care if a band is missing key members if they can make a rocking album and while Dave Peverett and Rod Price might be jamming with Elmore James and Bo Diddley in the afterlife, Roger Earl managed to corral Kim Simmonds, his old Savoy Brown crony for a couple of blues numbers and even both Nick Jameson and Craig MacGregor take turns jamming on bass, including the remake of Slow Ride, which is their theme song like it or not and they'll continue to record it as a bonus track.  While The Rolling Stones Blue And Lonesome is a credible return to their roots, Foghat continues to deliver quality boogie blues rock, to which the term boogie sonic was coined from Crabb Incorporated.   Foghat doesn't do autotuned new jack pop, with them it's WYSIWYG and Bryan Bassett has been an able replacement for Rod Price or Erik Cartwright.  Plus they do a very good version of Savoy Brown She Got A Ring On His Finger and A Ring In His Nose.

10) You Want It Darker-Leonard Cohen

While Blackstar is a nice fitting finale to David Bowie, I enjoyed Cohen's final effort a lot more, to the point that this gets the final spot in the best of 2016.  The title track is perhaps the most telling and perfect song about all the passing of musicians that were taken from us this year, with Cohen throwing in the towel and declaring that he's ready.  And the Lord took him up on his offer.  The chamber music of side two tends to bog down things but I think he and his son Adam Cohen, who produced the majority of songs (Pat Leonard also produced a couple here too) and sequenced them into a nice finish to a distinguished career.

Honorable Mentions:

Bittersweet-Kacey Chambers (Sugar Hill/Concord)

Although this came out two years ago, it was new to me when I scored a copy of this and it was an harrowing listen throughout.  Chambers plays the crazy psycho that makes songs like Wheelbarrow and Stalker come alive.  In the end she does reveal She's Alive and all for the better of it.  Since this record is recorded in 2014, I can't put it in the top 10 best, but if I haven't heard it before it's new to me.

At First Light-The Dawn (Lonesome Driver Music)

This is where Sean Ryan turns The Dawn into a full time jam band, with four songs, the shortest at 7:55 and the rest at 10 plus minutes, but there's not a wasted note or jam anywhere.  They do tend to hang around the Quad Cities to play but they're getting better known around the jam band circuit and quite honestly, At First Light rocks a little harder and better than Moe's last album.  And as from what I heard from their catalog, the best is yet to come.  The Dawn are getting better and the future is bright for them too.

Mudcrutch 2 (Reprise)

A better followup from Tom Petty's original band before he formed the Heartbreakers but Ben Tench and Mike Campbell figure greatly in here too.   Everybody contributes to the songs but of course the best ones remain the ones written by Petty.

Neil Young-Peace Trail (Reprise)

Young continues to be busy: putting out the 2 CD live Earth, complete with sounds from the animals and bugs along with the crowds and up to the 30 minute/half song/half feedback Arc tribute Love And Only Love, Earth might have been picked.  But Young works on almost a hurried first take feel anymore and if the albums and songs are not as meaningful as say Freedom or After The Gold Rush, when Young has something to protest about, he does managed to at least sound convincing, as on this recent album about the Dakota Pipeline Access and the world's well being.   It still sounds too much tossed together but at least Neil's heart and guitar are in the right place.

Blackberry Smoke-Like An Arrow (Thirty Tigers)

While this made the best of in a few lists, I couldn't warm myself enough to stick it in the ten best of the year.  The protest music didn't grab me as much as Wish In One Hand or Let Me Help You Find The Door but Waiting For The Thunder and Sunrise In Texas came close. Still not a bad album by any means.  It's certainly beats anything on rock radio or country for that matter.

Motorhead-Clean Your Clock (UDR)

The last live album from Lemmy, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee, now holding the beat behind the Scorpions.  Lemmy's voice is a shell bellow of itself, but he gives it all hes got even in his last years and knowing that the end is near as evidenced on Ace Of Spades.   In the end, it's still pure rock and roll.

Bun E Carlos-Greetings From Bunezuela (E One)

While  Cheap Trick soldered on with a new album which wasn't bad, I enjoyed Carlos' solo album more, since it had more of a power pop heart and a good choice of old time covers (Him Or Me, Armenia City In The Sky) and using the Hanson guys and Alejandro Escovedo on a couple tracks too.  I Don't Love You No More was one of the biggest earworm songs of 2016, easy to sing along, hard to get out of your ears.

Mondo Drag-The Occultation Of Light  (Riding Easy)

Originally from Davenport, they moved to Oakland in a attempt for more fame and fortune on the Progressive rock circuit, this record pales next to their 2nd album which I thought was their latest and was ready to put it on my best of the year, either way The Drag continues to amaze with their Crimson like prog rock.

Ace Frehley-Origins Volume One (E One)

While Ace dreams about reuniting with Gene and Paul in his former band, he does enlist the latter on a version of Fire And Water.  Basically a covers album, Ace does it quite well, but I think he wanted to do his versions of Parasite and Cold Gin, with him singing instead of Gene. Lita Ford helps out on Wild Thing.

David Bowie-Blackstar (Columbia)

Even in death, I was never impressed with The Next Day, and like most of Bowie's music I either liked it or I don't.  But on his final album, Bowie must have known his time was due and there's been countless hints from the artwork or even the vinyl.  Like Jim Morrison said years ago nobody here gets out alive so we bind our time with listening to music.  I Can't Give Everything Away might be his best final song overall.  But in the end, this record did grow on me a lot better than The Next Day, which I still don't care much for.

And if you made it this far: the last five album of the year that might get a few more plays.

Whiskey Myers-Dirt (30 Tigers)
Descendents-Hypercaffium Spazzinate  (Epitaph)
Cheap Trick-Bang Zoom Crazy Hello (Big Machine)
The Rolling Stones-Blue And Lonesome (Rolling Stones/Polydor)
Alejandro Escovedo-Burn Something Beautiful (Fantasy)

And with that I've completed my obligatory Best Of 2016 In Music.   Your opinion will vary.
No Depression-
Part 2:
And this:

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