Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Best in Show 2007: Music

It was a bit of a struggle to come up with 10 albums that moved me this year. However, I found that when I expanded the list to include reissues and a title that wasn't formally released in 2007, the job became more manageable.

I spend most of my commute (45 minutes each way) committed to my iPod. I have XM satellite radio in the car too, but the iPod is usually the order of the day. I've got a bit over 9,000 songs on it, so between the music, audiobooks and podcasts, I'm pretty well covered.

For new music to make it into rotation, there's a lot to cut through. Here are the 10 cds I played the most if I wasn't listening to The Treatment on NPR or one of my homemade playlists.

10. Anthony David- Red Clay Chronicles: A real soul man from Atlanta, David is a singer/songwriter who plays a wicked guitar. More hook inflected than his debut album, 3 Chords and the Truth,'Chronicles' offers a refreshing slice of Georgia soul not bound by Crunk. Check out his cover of Level 42's "Something About You".
9. Natalie Gardiner- California: Smooth soul from a young woman based in Stockholm, Switzerland. She'll remind you of Sade and maybe Amel Larrieux, but in between the influences, she's clearly developing her own style. Put an ear to "Summer Rain".
8. Once- Original Soundtrack: A low budget drama set in Ireland caught a lot of people off guard, me included. A story of a struggling musician who finds his musical soulmate, 'Once' has more heart than almost any other film this year and the original songs stick to your ribs. Check out "When Your Mind's Made Up".
7. James Taylor- One Man Band: JT did a solo tour this year, just him, a pianist and a bunch of slides. This cd captures the show (and also includes a DVD concert). If you're a fan, here's a rare opportunity to hear some classic Taylor stripped bare. I'm especially fond of "The Frozen Man".
6. Eldridge Holmes-Deep Fried Soul: A buddy of mine turned me on to this incredible collection. From the mid 60s to the early 70s, Holmes was turning out exceptional recordings that primarily got regional play in his native New Orleans. Unlike most Crescent City R&B acts, Holmes had a unique sound, like Motown meets Memphis, with a dash of gumbo. Check out the entire cd.
5. Darondo-Let My People Go: Another regional star, this time from the Bay Area, Darondo was a progressive R&B artist who clearly favored Al Green, but also found inspiration in James Brown. This cd is a collection of singles and b-sides he recorded in the early 70s. He's got some public access videos up on YouTube. He's quite a character. Listen to "Legs". You'll think it's Prince, but 5 years before the Purple One hit the scene.
4.Kanye West- Graduation: Not groundbreaking like his previous 2 cds, but still inspired and inspiring. He's smarter than you think, not quite as smart as he thinks he is, which makes for a greater musical combination. I quite like "I Wonder".
3. Chaka Khan-Funk This: She's truly one of the 8 wonders. This is the best solo album she's done since "Whatcha Gonna Do For Me". Produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, they observed the Rufus potion and served it up right. The entire album is hot, but "Will You Love Me" and her duet with Michael McDonald on "You Belong to Me" should get your attention.
2. Lynden David Hall-In Between Jobs: A talented British R&B singer who passed away of Lymphoma in 2005, Hall never got his due in the States, but this is an album worthy of your time. Think Al Green contemporary or D'Angelo with real songs. An exquisite recording. Recorded while in and out of the hospital, "Eventually" is Hall's observation of his own condition, refusing to bow down to his illness. If you can track this one down, you won't be sorry.
1. Luther Vandross-Love Luther: I still can't believe he's gone. Fortunately Epic/Legal produced a 4 disc collection that is worthy of one the best vocalists of any genre' of the 20th century. In addition to all of the hits, there are demos, live recordings, and even some of his commercial jingles. There's a 68 page book and songs from the disco era when he was the voice for acts like Change and Charme'. If you only own one by Luther, this is the one to get.

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