2010 In Review: Our Favorite Albums & Other Stuff

This was a pretty good year for recorded music, in the form of albums and in digital form. Rock artists came back with a vengeance, producing strong music and worthy albums.  Any number of indie bands offered up career-defining work, which makes the future look pretty healthy indeed.

The big news on the digital front was, uh, the Beatles on iTunes, and in just their first week on the download service they sold about 2 million songs.  Paul McCartney, now the keeper of the Beatles’ flame, appeared on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend and performed five songs including “A Day In The Life/Give Peace A Chance” in tribute to his fallen bandmate John Lennon.

McCartney’s peers and inheritors in classic rock also rebounded a bit in 2010, putting out strong new material or making a splash with box-set showcases of earlier work.  Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix went the box-set route, while people like Joe Cocker, Ray Davies, John Mellencamp, Robert Plant, Heart and a few others released new albums that showed they all have a little gas left in the tank.  So let’s flip through some of our favorite albums of the year’s new material:

Street Songs of Love – Austin’s Alejandro Escovedo produced yet another album of straightforward guitar rock and this one may be his best yet.  With veteran producer Tony Visconti at the dials and with guests like Bruce Springsteen and Ian Hunter, Escovedo shows he isn’t afraid to stand toe-to-toe with America’s greatest rockers.

American VI: Ain’t No Grave – Seven years after his death, Johnny Cash shows more life than most rock artists who are still able to step up to the mic.  Recorded in the final months of his life, the album dispenses with the rock covers from previous Rick Rubin-helmed albums and deals with such classic material as Kris Kristofferson’s “For The Good Times” and the traditional spiritual that serves as the bone-chilling title track.  This, my friends, is the heart of rock and roll.

Brothers – The indie duo Black Keys, featuring guitarist/singer Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, went to the famous Muscle Shoals recording studio and tapped into some dark, muddy soul for songs like “Howlin’ For You” and “Everlasting Light.”  The album, as well as single “Tighten Up,” have been nominated for Grammy Awards but why the hell isn’t it in the running for Album of the Year????

American Patchwork – Anders Osborne is a transplanted Swede, gone to seed in New Orleans as a bluesman with a fierce talent on guitar.  The opening salvo of “On The Road To Charlie Parker” and “Echoes Of My Sins”  and gems like “Standing With Angels” show that he is also an excellent songwriter.

Emotion & Commotion – Jeff Beck is a 1960s-era guitar god who doesn’t get nearly the love that peers Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page receive.  But on this album he does what he does best – he turns in some rockin’ instrumentals and welcomes guest singers Imelda May, Olivia Safe and Joss Stone to either put a new spin on an old song (“I Put A Spell On You” with Stone, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”) or freak out Hendrix-style (“Hammerhead”).

True Love Cast Out All Evil – The godfather of psychedelia, Roky Erickson, is backed by indie-rockers Okkervil River on this definitive late-career effort.  It’s a spooky exploration of Erickson’s shattered psyche, done to the tune of old hymnals, country music, folk rock and punk fury.  A great piece of work from a truly original American artist.

Now we’re doing a dozen more favorite new releases:

1. Band of Joy – Robert Plant

2. Midnight Souvenirs – Peter Wolf

3. Tears, Lies and Alibis – Shelby Lynne

4. To The Sea – Jack Johnson

5. American Slang – The Gaslight Anthem

6. Raising The Bar – Magic Slim & the Teardrops

7. Flags – Brooke Fraser

8. Infinite Arms – Band of Horses

9. Le Noise – Neil Young

10. Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys – My Chemical Romance

11. The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

12. Wake Up! – John Legend & the Roots

Our favorite albums from Texas (beside Alejandro Escovedo):

1. A. Enlightenment  B. Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C) – Ray Wylie Hubbard

2. Plays Blues, Ballads and Favorites – Jimmie Vaughan

3. Country Music – Willie Nelson

4. Myth Of The Heart – Sahara Smith

5. ¡Esta Bueno! – Texas Tornados

Some great songs from this year:

1. “Fuck You”by Cee Lo Green

2. “Echoes Of My Sins” by Anders Osborne

3. “Better Days” by Ray Davies & Bruce Springsteen

4. “Tighten Up” by the Black Keys

5. “Dance Yrself Clean” by LCD Soundsystem

6. “Tender Heart” by Alejandro Escovedo

7. “The Weary Kind” by Ryan Bingham

8. “Drunken Poet’s Dream” by Ray Wylie Hubbard

9. “My Heart Explodes” by the Dollyrots

10. “The New Fuck You” by Street Sweeper Social Club

And sorry, we liked these albums too:

Slash by Slash (with Lemmy, Ozzy, Fergie and Kid … Rock)

Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time by Santana (with Chris Cornell, Daughtry, Rob Thomas, etc.)

No Better Than This by John Mellencamp

Scream by Ozzy Osbourne

Vintage Vinos by Keith Richards

Keep checking back during the week, as this list magically grows with daily updates:

Annual Bitching About The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Thanks for FINALLY allowing the Stooges in there, and thanks for considering Neil Diamond this year.  Now:  Stevie Ray Vaughan, Doug Sahm, KISS, Little Feat, The Meters, The Neville Brothers … and for God’s sake, THE FACES!

Box sets marketed to beneficiaries of the Obama tax cut plan:

Exile On Main Street – The Rolling Stones cut a new versions of old songs to add to their 1972 classic, which makes a compact two-CD package.

The Promise – Bruce Springsteen went back and “enhanced” some tracks on a 21-song collection of outtakes from Darkness On The Edge Of Town.  The big three-CD, three-DVD box set includes a remastered version of Darkness and a DVD of a rousing 1978 live set from Houston.

Band On The Run – Paul McCartney’s third reissue of this album, augmented with three CDs and a DVD of live cuts, B-sides and outtakes.

The Complete Mono Recordings – Eight discs of Bob Dylan’s 1960s classics, as they would have sounded on AM radio.

West Coast Seattle Boy – How much Jimi Hendrix material can conceivably remain in the vault after this set’s four discs?

John Lennon Signature Box – All of Lennon’s albums, remastered, a 10th disc of his singles and an 11th CD of his “home tapes.”

Also: Live At Leeds (40th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition) by the Who (4 CDs), and Damn The Torpedoes (Deluxe Edition) by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (2 CDs).  This category alone has 41 discs – put ’em all under your Christmas tree!

Finally, R.I.P. in 2010:

Alex Chilton, Solomon Burke, Houston DJ Mark Stevens, Michael Been, Phillip Walker, Dennis Hopper, Jose Lima, Ronnie James Dio, Bobby Charles, Teddy Pendergrass.

4 Responses to “2010 In Review: Our Favorite Albums & Other Stuff”

  1. Ok, your best of list is so good I’m almost ready to slide you the Slash album, but there’s no way a late model Santana album can be anything but diabolical! Cheers and thanks for a great blog. W.

  2. How come “The Promise” wasn’t included?

  3. Keep your skirt on, Shirley, and check our promised daily updates!

  4. Ray Davies and Bruce Springsteen what a match !!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks

    Rhod

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