Monday, December 31, 2018

The Best Of 2018 In Music An Oxymoron At Best

That time of year again.

Where NPR and Pitchfork and Paste Magazine puts out their best albums of the year.


With each passing year, I continue to lose interest in the next big thing, the next big band or the next big hype and it makes less sense to continue to put out a best of music blog.  Even with new releases I tend to listen one time, base a judgement and then file it away, only to donate it or sell it to Half Price Books for pennies on the dollar.   If Greta Van Fleet is the future of rock and roll, they better do a better job on the next album, it simply wasn't enough rock and roll fun for me.

Let's face it, fifty years ago, rock and roll was in the glory years, always new exciting music on the horizon.  Fifty years later Beatles White Album outtakes are still selling but nobody is breaking in new acts.  There's too much rap and hip hop and autotuner for me to give a flying f**k. And for the so call new rock, it sounds the same,  right Lukas Graham?  The major labels don't give a shit, new country is worse and corporate radio still plays the same 30 to 40 year old songs over and over. Nothing new, nothing surprising and people are glued to their smart phone and streaming to care anymore.  With Best Buy jumping off the CD bus and Wal Mart and Target shrinking CD shelf space to 10 feet, it's hard to get anything new on CD.  But you can always buy the LP for 25 or 30 dollars.

It doesn't help that digipacks are the main supplier of albums.  I quit buying Neil Young's album simply of the fact that he has them in overshaped mini LP facsimile digipack.  Do I see a need to pay 70 dollars for a 2 LP archives collection?  Nope and as Neil Young falls by the wayside I continue to took my attention more to those who still use the jewel case, not good for the environment but at least you can stack them just right unlike the Neil Young albums.

For the most part, the classic rock acts are now into their 60s or 70s and even 80s and still make albums from time to time.  Willie Nelson will make 100 more albums before he's dead and gone and Neil will have 200.  With no foreseen future rock bands grabbing my attention, I'm resigned to go to second hand stores to find albums in the dollar bins to get me through the day.   If there was anything new worth getting, it would be a trip to Moondog Music to get such music or up to Madison.   This year I did buy some new albums but in my estimation, I didn't buy as many as I did in 2017.  Except for that rare occasion of new music that came out in the same week (Bottle Rockets, Rhett Miller, Marianne Faithfull) new music was few and far between.  Even the Gin Blossoms put out their first album in a few years but I can't remember how most of the songs went, they came and went past by me like a summer wind.  Or the Judas Priest, which was better than the last album but again about four songs too many and my attention span went back to the Train Cam at Rochelle Illinois.

Last year's best of 2017 I found myself still playing Deep Purple's Infinite and So You Wanna Be An Outlaw by Steve Earle which must have meant there was some substance there.  Of course there was, but Steve Earle was too country for new country and as for Deep Purple, Classic Rock Radio don't care. The Question remains if the Best of 2018 will have one or two of the top faves still in the player a year or two from now and there'll be one or two.  But overall, when you're dealing with 60 plus years of rock music, you're not going to have time to hear everything.  Reality won't wait and neither will the better half.  When I checked out NPR and Pitchfork's best of, none of their selections were mine, nor did I care to seek out their best, tho' number 3 Kasey Musgraves Happy Hour was in my possession for a couple months.  It's a good pop album but in reality I couldn't relate to it very well. But for Mitski and Janelle Monae,  I'll stick with Marianne Faithfull.   It's the sign of the times and it's the youngster's music, but I guarantee you five or ten years from now, nobody will remember Janelle Monae, but they'll remember The White Album From The Beatles.  Especially if they reissue the GD thing for the 60th or 70th anniversary  reissues.  By then, I'll be dead by then.

So once again, in no particular order or indifference, is my faves of 2018.  The ones that haven't gotten taken to Half Price Books for cash.  But I'm sure that will change a month or two from now.

My Faves of 2018

Willie Nelson-Last Man Standing  (Legacy)

He's 84 and still putting out two to three albums per year and he'll make another 20 more before he's dead and gone, but Last Man Standing is a better and more lighthearted album than God's Problem Child.  Album number 2 of the year My Way, shows that he can still channel his inner Frank Sinatra, tho' it's not as good as say, Stardust was, but it does kick Healing Hands Of Time all over the place.

John Prine-The Tree Of Forgiveness (Oh Boy)

His first new album of originals in quite some time and like Willie's Last Man Standing is one of his best album's ever.  When I Get To Heaven is a fine ending and grand statement to this cd.

Richard Thompson-13 Rivers (New West)

Freed from Concord/Fantasy, Thompson puts in one of his more angriest guitar playing albums ever. That's saying something.  Not for the faint of heart.

Blackberry Smoke-Find A Light (Thirty Tigers)

Their last album kinda left me thinking they were missing something but Find A Light returns them to a more Southern rock and roll that was heard on Holding All The Roses.  Flesh And Bone rocks.

Nik Turner-Life In Space (Purple Pyramid)

He's has more of the classic Hawkwind sound down better this decade than his former band.

The Damned-Evil Spirits (Spinefarm)

The biggest surprise is how good this record is from start to finish.  Tony Visconti helps with the production.  Paul Gray, ex Eddie and Hot Rods bass extraordinaire adds collective bottom cool too.

The Bottle Rockets-Bit Logic (Bloodshot)

I don't think they ever made a bad album and there's always a guaranteed spot in the top ten best of when they put a album out.  I tend to think Jeff Tweedy gets to be overrated but at the same time Brian Henneman is a much better songwriter in terms of getting older.

Rhett Miller-The Messenger (ATO)

Another fine effort by Rhett.  The shiny love songs do get darker as the record goes on.  Of course he will always be the voice behind the Old 97s but this album is better than last couple Old 97s album.

Ace Frehley-Spaceman (E One)

40 years after his Casablanca album, which blew away his bandmates solo albums, Ace returns to the style and sound of that album.  Even gets Gene Simmons to write a couple songs and play too.

Crack The Sky-Living In Reverse (Loud N Proud)

Another 40 year old band finally getting some much needed love, Living In Reverse is in reality their most visable album, thanks to being signed to a major/minor independent label. Crackology, their digital only streaming album, revisits their better known hits.  Until, somebody wrestles the album away from Cashman/West Lifesong Records this will have to do, but they might be that 40 year old overnight sensation band that you might get to hear on the radio.  Or maybe not.  

Reissues of the year:

Bram Trchovsky-The Complete Albums
Strange Man, Changed Man and Funland are excellent albums, the second album Pressure (Or The Russians Are Coming) isn't that good, but Funland was one of my all time favorite albums of 1981

Neil Young-Songs For Judy

79 minutes of prime Neil unplugged back in 1976, when he was restless, writing and scrapping songs at a record pace but whatever he thought was throwaways or not ready for the public, most if not all of these tracks captures him at his best.  I'm still not that thrilled at A Man Needs A Maid but listen for the riff that would eventually become Like A Hurricane later on.

Bob Dylan-More Blood More Tracks
The single CD was the one that I got instead of the Dust collector 6 CD Set. Tho' the single CD isn't the original first release of Blood On The Tracks it does provide an interesting insight of what Dylan would have done had he kept it a unplugged folk album. It does include Up To Me, an outtake that didn't make the album but Roger McGunn did cover for the 1976 Cardiff Rose album.

Bob Seger And The Lost Heard-The Cameo/Parkway Singles- A very brief look at Bob's early singles for that label before Capitol claimed him.  Before he decided to go all out on the Springsteen true confessions route, he embarked on blazing display of Detroit rock and roll on these singles, including Heavy Music Part 1 and 2 and Sock It To Me Santa, which is much more harder rocking than anything Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels ever came up. The missing link between the MC5 and The Detroit Wheels, even if he only did five singles for Cameo. Detroit rock in the 60s kicked ass.

Don Gibson-Best Of The Hickory Records Years- He had some good songs after leaving RCA for Hickory and spent over a decade there. Highlights include Woman, Sensuous Woman (A song that you may have heard me cover this year), One Day At A Time and Touch The Morning.

Buck Owens-Country Singer's Prayer-Originally Capitol planned to issue this but had cold feet and issued a half assed best of Buck Owens Volume 6. After the death of Don Rich, Buck never recovered and the record wasn't that inspired.  The new female singer didn't sound right for the Buckeroos.  Best song was John Law, which Rich recorded and sang lead vocal on.

Marianne Faithful-Come Away With Me. Mostly pop songs of the mid 60s, starts out with fairly great, then goes nowhere. Marianne would drop out for a couple years before returning with a new vicious sound with Sister Morphine, her sweet honey voice became an inflamed mix of drugs, booze and lots of cigarettes. That song would point the way for her alternative rock career with Broken English.

Honorable mention:

Marianne Faithful-Negative Capability (BMG)
Ministry-AmeriKKKant (Nuclear Blast)
Judas Priest-Firepower (Epic)
Willie Nelson-My Way (Legacy)
Gin Blossoms-Mixed Reality (Cleopatra)
Pistol Annies-Interstate Gospel (RCA)
Kasey Musgraves-Golden Hour (MCA)
Alice In Chains-Rainier Fog (BMG)
Brian Fallon-Sleepwalkers (Island)
Roger Daltrey-As Long As I Have You (Republic)

The honorable mentions are basically the rest of the albums that I listened to that came from 2018.  There were a few other new albums from artists that I didn't get around to review or listen to due to unavailability, or I didn't get the order in, nor seen the bands at hand.  Delta Moon, Amy Rigby and local faves Wooden Nickel Lottery issued new albums and I'm sure I'll get around listening to all of them.  Graham Parker's latest album was ordered at the last minute and will be the first album of 2019 to review.  I have come to find the new Ministry was a better listen than,Judas Priest or Alice In Chains but all three albums were better than most metal or hard rock albums that came out. I'm getting too old to really get into the new metal bands.  I'm sure there's some great albums out there, but since radio doesn't play nothing but 30 year old corporate classic rock, Sirius XM is slightly better but still has its nose stuck in the past as well and I am not a fan of streaming new stuff.

The honorable mention does have a couple albums that would have made my turd list but I will not mention names.  Musgraves outdid herself on Happy Hour, which was more of a pop album than country, but even a country mode, that record seemed too country for new country music, which is basically watered down rap pop pap.  While critics gave The Pistols Annies room on the best of, I still can't get into this album of theirs.  Perhaps Miranda Lambert's time as country music darling is now past, she is the Loretta Lynn of new country, loved and cherish by many but not suitable for country radio anymore.   To which I blame the music corporations for their narrow minded and sexist playlist of hack fools (FGL, Kane Brown) and copious amounts of autotuner and snap beats.  And it won't get better anymore. Thank Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton for that 1996 Telecom Act this is responsible for outdated classic rock and new bands who grew up on Nu Metal, Wu Tang Clan, Backstreet Boys, Poison and New Direction for lack of decent music.  Sorry folks, the classic rock years are gone, what was new and exciting is now stale and boring now.  Even when they bring back Woodstock this summer, we can't return to the garden.  The hippie dream is gone.

But even in this list, we saw the return of the Gin Blossoms, 25 years removed from their classic New Miserable Experience and still making 3 chord songs  but they never recovered from outing the doomed Doug Hopkins who made their best songs.  Danny Wilde tries, as he has been the last couple of GB albums but it just isn't the same.  The Roger Daltary album does have Pete Townsend helping out, tho' it's not a official Who album, As Long As I Have You was better than Endless Wire but not by much.  And Brian Fallon quietly put out a album that recalls The 59 Sound from his idled band Gaslight Anthem but nobody paid much attention to it.  The reason why Best Buy had about 5 copies of that album on their liquidation sale for 20 percent off.  The last CD I ever bought from Best Buy as well.  Useless trivia if there is ever one.

For reissues, I'm am aware of the Beatles White Album 50th Anniversary Album but didn't think it was worth 40 bucks buying the whole thing over just to hear bonus tracks that have been out in various bootlegs  Wounded Bird, did put out some of the out of print Rhino Handmade double CD sets (Lee Hazelwood Story, Peter Ivers) but even for specialized labels reissuing albums that made an impact years ago, there wasn't much to hang your hat on.  Real Gone, the best of the reissue labels did put together a decent Four Tops ABC Dunhill Records Overview which captured the final finest moments that the Tops had to offer and The Essential Eric Andersen to which I did buy and thought it was okay, warts and all, much to my chagrin, I saw that one used when I was up in Madison during the WNBR weekend bargain hunt.

I don't forsee 2019 to be any better for new music that will be memorable.  I don't have time to listen to subpar music when there's so much from the past that needs to be rediscovered.  Joe Jackson has a new record that might grab my attention for a second.  Plus I'm tired of buying digipack albums that don't fit on a shelf  (Neil Young is notorious for this).  Collector's Choice Music has been the best mail order for getting the hard to find but even their shipping and handling charges and now us paying Iowa income tax (thanks Republicans) I haven't bought much of late.  Unless something that hasn't been reissued before   (Bram T.)  I'm not going pay much mind.  Most of the Elvis stuff has been recycled, Led Zep, Beatles as well.  I kinda took note on the Steven Wilson remastered prog rock albums from King Crimson and Jethro Tull but unless he takes a crack on The Godz Nothing Is Sacred, I continue to pinch pennies and take chances in the dollar section at Half Price Books or Stuff Etc.

In the end, the best of 2018 is nothing more at this point than posting the albums that I did buy, the good and bad and both are beginning to be part of the best of and that's not a good thing.   It used to be that the best of, were the best of and the worst likewise.  Nowadays it blurs in just like radio.

No rhyme or reason.
Happy new year.

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