A Top 10 Albums of 2017 List

In the waning days of the year 2017, I have finally found the Top 10 Albums List that enriches the music of our heart. I had searched high and low this past week, looking across music genres, perusing Rolling Stone, Jazz Times, the NY Times, Paste Magazine, etc.

I happened upon a tweet this morning from the LA Times. Nestled within various music writers list I finally turned over the right rock in the backyard to show the treasures I had sought.

The Music of Our Heart music blog recognizes Randy Lewis, LA Times Pop Music Writer’s Top 10 List. His column was forthright with several gems among the classics.

Wishing all my readers, friends and family a safe, healthy and prosperous 2018.

Randy Lewis’s Top 10 (Copyright Los Angeles Times 12/30/2017)

1. Randy Newman, “Dark Matter” (Nonesuch). A master songwriter, singer, arranger, orchestrator and social commentator, Newman shows just how magnificent pop music can be in the right hands.

2. Sparks, “Hippopotamus” (BMG/the End Records). Long-running L.A. art-rock siblings Ron and Russell Mael have crafted another bevy of brilliant observations on the minutiae of human ambition and frailty that say a lot about the big picture of life.

3. Robert Plant, “Carry Fire” (Nonesuch). Continuing his lifelong exploration of music from many lands, Plant revels in the nuance of that pliant voice and its interplay with a coterie of master musicians.

4. Rhiannon Giddens, “Freedom Highway” (Nonesuch).Giddens could wring emotional drama singing the ingredients from a box of Cheerios; fortunately, her ear for great songs matches her seemingly limitless skill as a vocalist, proved again with a powerful collection of songs by turn political, social and deeply personal.

5. Chris Hillman, “Bidin’ My Time” (Rounder). Thank goodness this founding member of the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Desert Rose Band took Tom Petty up on his offer to co-produce a new album, in which Hillman blends songs new and old in consistently spine-tingling performances.

6. Neil Finn, “Out of Silence” (EMI)The Crowded House singer and songwriter rehearsed and recorded this solo outing during sessions he live-streamed, allowing the most ardent of his fans to witness the album’s creation in real time. The result is another infectiously melodic, emotionally vibrant work.

7. Rose Cousins, “Natural Conclusion” (Old Farm Pony). A powerful exploration of what it means to be human: loneliness, freedom, yearning for connection, the expectations we hold for ourselves and hopes we maintain for others. A beautiful collection.

8. Bob Dylan, “Triplicate” (Columbia). Dylan tripled down on his walk through the Great American Songbook with three more albums paying homage to his predecessors who defined American popular music. He and his band dig to the powerful blues core of songs often treated by others as museum pieces.

9. Taylor Swift, “Reputation” (Big Machine). Swift’s sixth studio album extends and expands on her artistic ambitions, homing in with her most cohesive set yet, and one that lets us in on not just her very public life, but our own obsession with living our lives out on social media. Smart and assured as ever.

10. Chuck Berry, “Chuck” (Dualtone)The swan song from one of rock ’n’ roll’s founding fathers was recorded over a period of 40 years and provides him with a worthy victory lap. It’s full of great guitar licks, snappy wordplay and more than a little hard-won wisdom picked up through his remarkable 90-year journey.

Jeff Lynne’s ELO Soars Again

If you love the music of Jeff Lynne and ELO, as I do, then my friend you are in for a special treat. Next week, November 13th Jeff Lynne’s ELO launches Alone In The Universe.  It’s the first new ELO music in 15 years! It is a very cool recording, I really must say.

If you can’t wait to hear this stupendous recording then travel via your Web browser to the NPR First Listen: Jeff Lynne’s ELO, ‘Alone In The Universe’ Web page. Here you’ll find the album streaming in it’s entirety. Plus there’s an insightful review from a music journalist I deeply respect Tom Moon.

So what are you waiting for? Take flight and soar with Jeff Lynne’s ELO. Heavenly rhythms will soon befall you 🙂

Ultimate Music Guide – Elvis Costello

I have acquired a decent collection of Uncut Magazine‘s Ultimate Music Guides. Uncut Magazine has published 23 special issues to date, I have six of their special issues (25%).

Uncut Magazine publishes a strong specialty publication because they offer an in-depth review of every album in the artist’s discography. Each album review provides TrackMarks in an insert which delineates track sequence, 1-5 star ratings, label, production information, personnel, chart position etc. It is in the lower corner of a typical two page album spread.

They also take the painstaking effort to publish live album, compilation, UK singles and rarities information. As an avid music collector I learn much more about the artist’s recorded output via the music guides. It is helpful when I want to listen to the artist’s catalogue on Spotify or my collection. I have many more facts and details to enhance the deeper interest my music historian self demands.

The latest Elvis Costello Ultimate Music Guide is informative and assuring. Elvis Costello(EC) is the #2 music artist in my collection after Santana (I own every commercial recording in the Santana catalogue…). I own 24 of EC’s recordings. I stopped purchasing his music in 2004 (Il Signo). I want to resume my EC collection beginning with The River In Paradise with Allen Toussaint right up to today (primarily the last five commercial albums). I can’t put my finger why I “cut-out” on EC’s music 10 years back. I may have reached maximum exposure but I have no real “root-cause” for why that sentiment built up inside me about his songs and acerbic wit.

The EC Ultimate Users Guide helps to rekindle my interest in his musical creativity and prolific songwriting.

I best get busy savoring the pages of this guide and pulling out all those CDs to play in the Honda ;). I’ll be writing more about Elvis Costello’s past 10 years in later music posts. Once I’ve listened intently first of course.

Before I forget to ask, What is Your Favorite Elvis Costello song? Mine is “All This Useless Beauty”.

Feel free to leave a comment about what your favorite Elvis Costello recording is below.

Jim Morrison, Poet, 70 Years Young Today

December 8, 2013 marks the 70th birthday of the late singer, songwriter and poet, Jim Morrison of The Doors.

I always think of Jim Morrison as poet first, singer second. The posthumous recording An American Prayer evidences Jim’s poetic pentameter in a haunting, personal dimension.

Five years after the group disbanded (1973), Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore reunited for the recording of this album, produced by superimposing the voice of Jim Morrison (mostly taken from a recording of poems recited by the singer in 1970) the music composed for the occasion.

A major fan of Jim Morrison’s poetry is Patti Smith our poetess of  punk. Patti Smith wrote a review of An American Prayer in Creem Magazine in 1979, american prayer (scream of the butterfly).

american prayer (scream of the butterfly)

“His fatal flaw was that his most precious skin was the thin membrane that housed the blood of the poet,” she wrote.

“He pledged his allegiance, in the end, to language, to the word. And it did him in…An American Prayer resounds in the silence that surrounds the cocoon of the lord, he is sleeping, hibernating, awaiting the changeling and the elegance of his change.”

I plan to honor Jim Morrison’s birthday by listening to An American Prayer. I played this album often on the air when I was an FM disk jockey in the 70s.

Iron and Wine’s Latest, Ghost on Ghost

Iron and Wine will beguile the listener with the latest effort reaching a logical apex as it intersects the complexity of interwoven textured sound achieving a compelling simplicity. Ghost on Ghost is the fifth album from Sam Beam. The experimentation and risks he has accomplished will reward the faithful by enchanting the senses. Joy ensues.

Quintessential tracks: “Joy”, “The Desert Babbler”, “Baby Center Stage”.


Music Journalism A-Z – Daphne Carr

I appropriate the letter C music journalism post to Daphne Carr who helms the independent publishing project for best music writing.

Daphne Carr

I discovered the resolve of Daphne Carr in my pursuit of music writing excellence. First and foremost Daphne has been the series editor of Best Music Writing (Da Capo Press 2007-present). The Best Music Writing book series (2000-2011) was published by Da Capo Press until the 2012 edition.

Daphne Carr is taking the Best of Music Writing publication independent in 2013. Last year a  Kickstarter project was created and successfully funded to carry out that goal.

Launch Best Music Writing as an independently published book series

I pledged $15 to get an e-book version of Best Music Writing 2012 delivered to me on launch day and a thank you postcard. Launch day has not been announced yet but I remain hopeful for future communications in this regard.

Daphne Carr has started Feedback Press which provides a home for new writing about music, along with other reflections on culture and fiction. Feedback’s titles will be available in print and electronic editions.

The first publication from Feedback Press was Pop Papers, a series of short works about music that were  released simultaneously in print and digital formats. The first five titles in the series (Session One) had their début at the IASPM-US/Experience Music Project Pop Conference (March 22-25 at New York University).

I am very interested in this music writing appreciation community. The Music Book club meets periodically in Greenpoint, Brooklyn at WORD the Independent Bookseller to discuss music writings and published works. I hope to attend one of their 2013 meetings the writer series looks interesting.

So hopefully you have a better inkling why Daphne Carr’s momentum matters in the dynamic evolution of music publishing. I know I do 😉

Sly & the Family Stone – A Rhythm and Blues Act? You Betcha

I was recently asked, “What’s your favorite R&B act?” You might be surprised to learn that act is none other than Sly & the Family Stone. Why this act instead of the associated R&B artists you might be wondering? The answer to that question is that Sly & the Family Stone evolved from R&B, through funk to become the pioneers of “psychedelic soul“.

Sly & the Family Stone’s début album, A Whole New Thing deserves some listening attention.  A much overlooked  recording the record represents the Bay Area’s very first rhythm and blues group to go national. (Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/a-whole-new-thing-19671214#ixzz2BIlS007A).

A Whole New Thing (Sly and the Family Stone album)
A Whole New Thing (Sly and the Family Stone album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I learned from reading Rolling Stone Magazine my primary source of music journalism in the late 60’s, Sly Stone was at one time the San Francisco Bay Area’s top rated rhythm and blues disc jockey. In the late Sixties and early Seventies, Sly & the Family Stone fused R&B rhythms, radio-ready hooks and psychedelia to create a new pop/soul/rock hybrid.

File:Dance-to-the-music-sly-sing.jpgBeing an East Coast suburban I didn’t catch on to Sly & the Family Stone until their 1968 radio hit “Dance to the Music“.  They were a positive explosion for my consciousness. I just heard that song today and it still makes me move my feet 😉

My favorite member of Sly & the Family Stone was Larry Graham. Between that deep voice and his wild, funky bass I became more hooked than ever.

I think I will dig into some Sly & the Family Stone along with Larry Graham and Graham Central Station this evening and beyond 😉

Bob Dylan’s Timeless Classic, Blood on the Tracks

The superlative release Tempest is Bob Dylan’s 35th studio recording has reawakened my passion for Dylan’s 50 year library of work. Rolling Stone Magazine recently asked its readers to vote on the best Bob Dylan album of all time. I cast my vote without provocation for Blood on the Tracks. The readers of Rolling Stone Magazine validated my choice by choosing Blood on the Tracks as that best Dylan album of all time.

Playing Blood on the Tracks is like spending time with an old friend that you haven’t seen in a while and it feels like no time has passed. I love the feeling that comes over me when Blood on the Tracks unfolds on the car or home audio system. Bob Dylan’s stream of consciousness inside his series of songs is acute, articulate, piercing and truly memorable. The common thread through all the songs is the pain that comes when love dies.

I am eager to read the Rolling Stone interview with Bob Dylan conducted by Mikal Gilmore. All the quotes I’ve read so far tells me we are in for another insightful session with Mr. Dylan, poet extraordinaire.

Neil Young, Psychedelic Pill, That’s Where It’s At

Neil Young is providing fans a bountiful harvest of recorded music, accompanied by live performances, along with a full narrative composed from personal experience this Rocktober.

Here is what Neil Young and his team have in generous store for us, psyche!

September 25 Waging Heavy Peace Neil Young’s memoir
October 6 – Journeys the documentary video release
October 30 – Psychedelic Pill,  available as either Double-CD, Triple-Vinyl and Blu-Ray release

Fall Tour: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Patti Smith Group as the opening act.

The band resumes their 2012 tour on October 3rd in Windsor, Ontario. They  wraps up the tour on December 4th in Bridgeport, Connecticut. 

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill

Psychedelic Pill is Neil Young’s first album of original material with Crazy Horse in nine years. The recording highlights the full Crazy Horse line-up featuring Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina and Frank Sampedro.

The recommended high-resolution 24/192 full fidelity version of the album Psychedelic Pill will be released on Blu-ray and will include all the videos filmed during the session.

CD Tracklist:
Disc 1
1. Driftin Back
2. Psychedelic Pill
3. Ramada Inn
4. Born In Ontario
Disc 2
1. Twisted Road
2. She’s Always Dancing
3. For The Love Of Man
4. Walk Like A Giant
5. Psychedelic Pill (Bonus Track Alternate Mix)

Occupy This Album Review: Disk 2

Occupy This Album Disk 2 begins with the premier vocal track by Michael Moore, “The Times They Are A-Changin”. I am very taken with his singing voice, he has nice tonality. I especially like that they interspersed part of his bullhorn speech from Zucotti Park into the mix.

Occupy This Album Disc 2:

Copyright 2012 Music for Occupy, Inc.

22. Ace Reporter – “The World Is on Fire”

This band rocked. Their collective energy grabbed my attention as they poured their hearts out on stage.

23. The Middle Eight – “Latter Days”

24. Chroma – “Turn The Lights On”

Chroma was impressive. Articulate with lots of positive energy.

25. Ani DiFranco – “Which Side Are You On?” *

26. Tao Rodriguez-Seeger – “Well May The World Go”

27. Thievery Corporation – “Unified Tribes” *

28. Thee Oh Sees – “Robber Barons”

29. Mike Rimbaud – “Saving Up to Go Bankrupt”

30. Nanci Griffith – “Hell No (I’m Not Alright)” *

Nanci Griffith was fervent in her support for Occupy. She extended her performances at City Winery by hanging out to support and contribute to Occupy. Loved her devotion to the cause.

31. Joseph Arthur – “We Stand as One” *

32. Girls Against Boys – “Cash Machine”

33. Junkyard Empire – “Rebellion Politik”

34. Anti-Flag – “Nothing Recedes Like Progress”

35. Fear Nuttin Band – “Rebel”

Copyright 2012 Music for Occupy, Inc.

36. Jill Sobule with John Doe – “Under the Bridge” 3

7. Stephan Said – “Take a Stand”

38. UNKLE – “The Answer”

39. Tom Morello(The Nightwatchman) – “World Wide Rebel Songs”

Tom Morello continues to grow large in my heart as an artist, a man of conviction to the cause. He has been such an ally to the Occupy movement. His track enters your heart and you can’t help but feel motivated and involved.

40. Third Eye Blind – “If There Ever Was a Time” *

*previously unreleased

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