Chomsky Onward Quirky Soldiers
Bought this one on the strong recommendation of Steve Oleson. These guys want to be Black Sea-era XTC really bad, to the point of plagiarism. But don't think I say that like it's a bad thing--this is a really fantastic album. Independently released and produced by the band, which hails from Dallas, this album is jam-packed with catchy, hooky, well-played pop songs. Word on the web is, they've just signed with one of the larger indie labels and will be re-releasing 00:15 (Fifteen Minutes to Rock) re-mixed as a single. This is fantastic news. "#1 hit" was the first thing that crossed my mind when I first heard the song, and I was kind of sad that the album was already over a year old and gathering dust by the time I'd heard it. I'm supremely happy that this song will get a new lease on life.
Bongwater The Power of Pussy
A lyrical Tour de Force, and musically, downright strange. Kisses Sweeter than Wine is a really beautiful remake of a standard, and the bizarre spoken bit at the end is truly creepy, making this one of my favorite cover tracks ever. I bought the album for the one standout track, Folk Song, which has some of the best stream-of-consciousness lyrics ever written (in that there's actually a point, despite their meandering) but I find I'm equally enamored of several other songs, like Nick Cave Dolls, and Obscene and Pornographic Art. Gotta get it used, since it's out of print, but don't pass it by if you see it.
John Mayall A Sense of Place.
I grew up with John Mayall, and I've always loved his voice. He's surrounded himself with quite a cast of good guitar players over the years, and this album has both Sonny Landreth and Coco Montoya, who shine. It's a good-sounding recording, without falling into that "modern blues" trap that's ruined so many blues records production-wise in the last twenty ears. His version of JJ Cale's Sensitive Kind will rip the heart out of your chest, if you have one.
Ween White Pepper
Okay, where have I been for five years? I heard their "country" album a few years ago, and wrote them off as a joke. Big mistake. Lush, dense, careening, satirical, ironic,and yet accessible, all at the same time. They bounce from genre to genre almost effortlessly, and seem to be equally at home with psychedelia, alt-country and speed metal. I'll be digging further into their catalog this year.
King For a Day (XTC Fan Tribute)
Over 138 songs, this MP3 collection ranges from surprisingly good in places, to downright awful. The above-mentioned Chomsky submitted a solid, jumped-up version of Earn Enough for Us, which is one of the best recorded and performed tracks. The other real jewels would be Susan Revolving, by Becki DiGregorio and the hilarious sound-collage Mitch Friedman built out of XTC snippets for his version of Scarecrow People. Thankfully, he submitted an instrumental version as well, because his cut-and-paste work is downright brilliant. The whole package is really a curiosity when you dig deeper. There's some amazing creativity with re-arrangements, even though most of the recordings are of the home-cassette variety, and there are about a dozen absolute bombs. The kind of thing that makes you shake your head in wonderment at the idea of someone actually submitting them. Even the weirdest among these have a sort of populist charm to them.
Led Zeppelin How the West Was Won
Best. Birthday. Present. Evar. The new Zep live stuff dispels any myths about their ability to play once and for all. No frills, no tricks-- just 4 guys, a stage and some songs. The utter essence of what "rock band" is all about. Page's production here, is still good-- not too much audience noise, and the sound is very immediate and rich. I'm extremely impressed with the audio quality on these CDs and the DVD set of live footage as well.
Thelonious Monk It's Monk's Time
There's a playfulness and whimsical flair to Monk's music that offsets the "seriousness" of jazz much to its benefit on this album. "Stuffy Turkey" is singularly brilliant, with some of the coolest Jazz bass playing around.
Paul Weller, Heavy Soul
As an old Jam fan, I had given up on Paul Weller after hearing the Style Council, and it took a while to get around to his solo albums. There's a very earthy, low-tech quality to this that I find pleasant, and while the songs are a little uneven, there are a couple winners on here that make it worth the price of admission, like Up in Suze's Room.
Guided by Voices Earthquake Glue
Who are these guys? I bought it off the iTunes Music Store mainly just to celebrate the addition of indie labels the day they were added to the store. I'd heard "Glad Girls," which is a respectable pop song, but Earthquake Glue is "different." I mean that in a good way, though. This record is kind of lo-fi, but the band has a unique sound that seems like it was honed over years of work. The standout song for me here, is "Dirty Water." Reminds me in a vague way of the best aspects of Cream. I'll be looking into the rest of their catalog as soon as money permits.
Let it Be Naked
This is exactly the album I have wished that the Beatles would release since about a week after buying the original Let it Be when I was but a sprat. Never did like the strings, and besides, they're so drummed in to my head, I can call them up at will to play along in my head with the "Naked" version whenever I desire. All the mixes are improved, even the songs which didn't originally have strings, and now I wish they'd move right on to re-mastering the rest of the Beatle's catalog. I am especially overjoyed to re-discover "I Dig a Pony," a song I had always overlooked in the past. G*d bless Sir Paul for bringing this to pass.