Tops in 2021

“There is no light without the dark. This is your life – find your spark…” from “This is your life” by John Lathrop

Peter Jackson when in discussions on “Get Back” said he discovered the Beatles music when he was 12 years old after purchasing 2 double compilations. He said the music “lifted his spirits” ,it made him feel good. All of the music I am going to share with you has lifted my spirits in many ways. It has been another tough year for everyone. I know I have had my share of ups and downs, with some medical procedures impacting my life. So we all needed our spirits lifted. Nothing better than music to keep us going. It has been an amazing year for music. It was quite a year for Beatles fans with the release of “Get Back” several reissues, and groups like The Poppermost keeping that sound going. It’s been an amazing year for pop rock [ thank you so much Big Stir Records]. I have discovered a lot of new music with artists like Allison Russell, Adia Victoria, Dorothea Paas, Novelty Island, Fryars ,and The Babblers. Plus the re-discovery of the amazing Tot Taylor has really made me happy. So it is late and I apologize for taking so long to get going here , but I am ready to share my list. I will start with my top 20. After that selections will be in random order. There will also be a link for all my videos of the year. So here are my choices for musical dreamers. Come along and dream with me.

TOP TWENTY ;

1] Allison Russell- “Outside Child”….

“Then I heard that Rock and Roll. And I saw my deliverance “

Not since Laura Nyro’s electrifying “Eli and The 13th Confession” album have I been so drawn to an artist .Allison Russell’s “Outside Child” was the #1 album in The Nashville Scene. So I checked her Facebook page and found a wealth of articles about her full of high praise. She has a tragic back story ,but the transformative power of music saved her. The more I read and the more I listened I fell hard for this remarkable album. In the notes to the album Allison refers to her music as a “reckoning and a remembrance”. She has a wonderful voice and the music crosses all genres . Her melodies and performances take you away from some of the troubling lyrics. There is so much joy in her vocals it is difficult to not be moved. Here are three standout tracks. 1] “Nightflyer” A lovely song full of poetic lyrics. “I’m the melody and the space between Every note the swallow sings .” 2] “Persephone” ,a nice pop tune she calls “an hommage to my first love”. The sweet melody was stuck in my head for a while. She recently performed this on the Colbert show, included in my videos. “come runnin’ to you in the violet hour…”.Allison also plays a nice clarinet solo. 3] The Runner” a fantastic R&B song with background vocals by Yola. She sings of her hearing rock and roll music which changed everything for her. “Oh I had to sing to sing to sing from the Western sea to the old country. ” This is the debut solo album for the courageous artist. I urge you to check her music out. She writes in the album notes “We are not alone. We are not what we’ve lost. We are more than the sum of our scars.” A true survivor ,and we get the benefits of her amazing talent. My album of the year.

2] Teenage Fanclub – “Endless Arcade”

“Come with me together we’ll ride to infinity…” Leave it to this veteran band to come up with another compelling album. Down one songwriter, Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley carry on and the results are superb. The harmonies are divine, the guitars jangle, and the tunes stick to you. Here is a recent recap I did on this site.:


Ive been a faithful fan since 1990’s “A Catholic Education” ,so I was thrilled at a new album. And it’s a great one full of their honey harmonies and music that still shows Big Star and Byrds influences. They are older and wiser,but they still rock and have plenty to say. Guitars ae always ahuge part of their sound and there is no letdown here. The opening track “Home” concludes with 4 minutes of melodic, guitar. Charging guitars kick off “Warm Embrace” with lovely vocal harmonies that glide over the lyrics.There is an affectionate nod to the Beatles on “Everything is falling apart”. “With a smile,long hair, And I want to Hold Your Hand”. Perhaps my favorite is “The sun won’t shine on me” with its heartfelt vocals and an awesome twin guitar solo. “With a troubled mind I am in decline. And the Sun won’t shine on me.” Outstanding! The anthem “Come with me” about dealing with the world. “Come with me tgether we’ll hide from reality”. 6 songs by Norman Blake which deal with heartache and breaking up. The other 6 are by Raymond McGinley which are searching and looking forward . All together its an emotional collection that is heartwarming , comforting, and thought provoking. Enriching us with his age and experience Norman sings in “Back in the day” “With each new passing day I see that old world fading away…”.This is elegant music with chiming guitars and gorgeous vocals. It is one of the years best albums.

3]Nick Frater- “Earworms” “God knows I know you well God knows you know me well God knows I know you well God knows if I can tell How to survive somebody How to survive somebody like me…” From “How to survive somebody” one of the two ballads I am crazy about. This is one heck of an album. The minute I put it on I was totally hooked. Nick lives in Croydon and he notes it was created during the pandemic. He knows his pop music so well that every song has something to offer. So much to love here. On the instant hit “It’s all Rumours” when Nick sings the high note “tonight” I think he sounds just like Roy Wood. I really love Darian Sahanaja’s retro backing vocals on “Buggin’ Out”. “What’s with your heavy heart? ” is simply a classic pop tune so well sung by Nick. Let’s talk about my two favorites , those ballads. So I am loving everything about the first four tracks. And then “Star Crossed” comes on. Wow! Amazing melody reminding me slightly of Bacharach, that type of progression. An awesome tune well sung with a perfect stinging guitar throughout. “I would like to know why my heart is star crossed once again…”.One of the year’s best songs. My other fave is “How to survive somebody” the concluding track which I quoted from at the top of this recap. Another gorgeous melody with heavenly background vocals by Roger Joseph Manning Jr. It builds to a rousing close mellowed out by a chorus of those background vocals and then the title repeated quietly. Kind of breathtaking. Most of the songs have melody changes ,the way good pop songs work. A well crafted album that never stops delighting. On the Big Stir Records site Nick describes his music ” as the Carpenters meet The Flaming Lips with a dose of Beach Boys for good measure.” He also mentions his love for Todd Rundgren, a subject I would love to discuss with him someday. I’m going to add Roy Wood in that mix, an artist I adore, and I hear his influence. I am so lucky to have connected with Nick. He dedicates the album to Gemma and Ivy his beautiful wife and daughter. To quote XTC “This is Pop>”

4]The Stan Laurels- “There is no light without the dark” “We’ll always have our dreams where we are in between lucidity and the holy trinity of love wine and song….” One of my favorite songs with those poetic lyrics. A blast of guitar opens the album followed by beautiful vocals and one can be certain there is great music to follow. This is the work of John Lathrop ,and it is a true labor of love. He composed all the music and plays everything with a bit of help from his co-producer Michael Day. John has crafted a wonderful pop album and with those strong guitars this man knows how to rock. Here are my three favorite tracks. 1] “Tomorrow” .I have been singing the praises of this song for a while now. Simply put this is exquisite pop. The jangle guitar opening , the layered vocals, the lovely melody, and a killer chorus. “Don’t shed a tear today is always here. Sunshine so divine…”. There’s a nifty guitar break that swirls at 2:28, followed by a repeated chorus that slows down at the very end . Great! 2] “Lost and Found” A short guitar overture followed by another great melody. I do believe this is John’s best vocal. When his vocals lift up at “it’s not a big surprise” it is a major hook for me. Love the high note when he sings “you’d have to have a brain” with some nice drumming , a background choir of voices, and the guitar quickening the pace, and a cool guitar finale. I’m sure he had fun putting that all together. 3]” Of love wine and song”. I love this song because it is like a romantic ode. “You’ll never know the power of your glow…”. Sweet lyrics balanced with perfect guitars , more great background vocals, and another nice ending. John really knows how to begin and end a song. We also get two instrumental interludes. there is a humorous stab at our worst president ever [sorry don’t even want to type his name}. “He uses both tiny hands to sip his drink…”.There is a heartfelt song for his son Mateo. The album ends with the pounding rock tune “This is your life’ that includes the album’s title in the lyrics. All in all a real entertaining album full of contrasting tones well pulled together. In my video collection you’ll find a perfect cover of the Beatles “I’m only sleeping”. John thanks the love of his life, Elvira as well as his two sons Miguel and Mateo. I do enjoy John’s artwork showing him with a guitar. Another of his talents. This is the 4th Stan Laurels album. It is my first. I have some catching up to do.

5] Tot Taylor -“Frisbee” “Look at you you lovely thing you’re waiting for a bell to ring It’s plain to see you must be fortunes child…”. As far back as the 70’s Tot Taylor put out several albums as well as composing and arranging for the amazing Compact Organization label, working for artists like Mari Wilson and Virna Lindt. Those were great times for music and I was a huge fan. So I flipped when I discovered Tot was still making vital music. This is such a great album to listen to. He has a nice band which he calls The Macrobiotic Symphony Orchestra .The album kicks off with “National Music Day” ,a day in which “the records start walkin’ and the dee jays stop talkin’ “.The opening line “Mr. Dee Jay measure me another cup of melody…” is so cool. My three favorites start with the catchy “Fortunes Child” which I quote at the beginning of this recap. The playful melody reminds me of The Kinks. “Yoko Oh” is Tot’s answer to John Lennon’s “Oh Yoko”. It is a gorgeous ode to his favorite Beatle with a heartfelt vocal and a melody that reminds one of Mr. Lennon. “Yoko Oh I’m sure I don’t need to say everything’s ok with the people for the people by the people…”. It begins with “Please accept a kiss from someone who misses you…”. It is really a lovely tune , one you should hear. Then there is the addictive “Featurette” which harks back to his schooldays with a put down by a teacher. The chorus ” you’re just a featurette how can I forget I’m not done with you yet” was stuck in my head for days. He also has a marvelous musical attack on President Trump ” Baby I miss the Internet”. “You should be trying to make our dreams come true but the things you do…”. I’ve included Tot performing this song in my video collection. My download includes four extra songs including “This new Abba Record” in which he puts all the pressure on the need for that release to ease the world’s problems. Look for that one. It also has the very pretty “Sunset Sound” .So if you aren’t familiar with Tot and you enjoy British pop [doesn’t everyone?] you should seek this one out. Like Ray Davies and Vic Godard he is a brilliant composer and arranger. Of all the selections on my vast list this is the one I was most excited about finding.

6] Astral Drive- “Astral Drive” “I can dream. when the whole world makes me scream. I can be whatever I wanna be I can dream…” Talk about lifting my spirits. that song “I can dream” is a tonic for hard times. Phil Thornalley is essentially a one man band but he does get some help for example Kasim Sultan, Shelly Peiken, and his daughter Maddy. He makes joyful music that is so much fun to listen to. His last album centered on the Todd Rundgren sound. This album stretches his sound adding lots of soul music, and sunny pop to occasional Todd sounding tunes. Musical poetry shows up in “Waterfall” and “Water Lilies”. “Stargazing” composed by the great Boo Hewerdine shows off Phil’s falsetto and is one of my favorites. More positive vibes show up in “One Big Love” and “For the Dreamers” with the vocals soaring. “This one”s for the dreamers optimists and schemers..”. I Love “Summer”s Here” another upbeat tune that boasts “I don”t know why I’m a genius. I just know I am …” You go Phil. A nifty Nazz cover “Open my eyes” and the album closer with a touch of Hendrix at the start “Wish u Well “. “I hope your dreams are beautiful and they come true but most of all I wish u well…” . My cd came with three extra tracks , all good especially the soulful “Long way from Philadelphia.” It is a well produced album with lots of nice guitar mixed in and all the vocals sound glorious. Throughout the pop music puts a smile on your face .I love the music of Astral Drive and I think you will too.

7] Kasim Sultan – “2021” “If there”s one thing I”m sure of we need more love more love There is one thing the world needs more of it”s more love more love…”. from the opening song “More Love”. After the positive Astral Drive album we turn to Kasim Sultan from Utopia and he brings Phil Thornalley on board helping out with the composing and playing. If you know Kasim’s voice from Utopia than you know he has the voice of an angel. Together with Phil ,they have put together a packed album full of songs about hope, heartache, and lots of romance. “More love” the song quoted at the top of this article is a postive anthem for our dark days. “Everything I shouldn’t want” is like straight out of the Utopia playbook. “Unsung ” has this classic lyric “I’m on the road payin’ all my bills Thank God for Rundgren..” My three picks are : “God kicked the stone” sounds like a Paul McCartney song with bittersweet lyrics. “So tied up and tragic a hopeless romantic left with your heart on the ground just one more stone that God kicked around.” The sad “What it means to be alone ” “I’m an authority on loneliness but to look at me you’d never guess …”.Another showcase for Kasim’s golden vocals. The album’s best song is the very romantic “To Her” enhanced by cello and violin. Kasim’s choir boy vocals are so gorgeous. “She gives you the reason Something to believe in. Something good…”.A classic elegy to romantic love. A fine album well worth your time. Kasim is busy a lot ,either touring with Todd Rundgren or with his Kasim Sultan’s Utopia. I saw that show just before the pandemic and it was an excellent evening.Together with the Astral Drive album I think we can say Utopia is here!

8] Elizabeth and the Catapult – “sincerely, e,” “and tell your best friend not to visit there’s no more use in going out. Yeah the birds and the bees they will come to agree that no one’s gonna save them now…”from the suite ” Birds and the bees ” Elizabeth found herself alone at home during the pandemic .Feeling creative she composed 12 songs and recorded them in her living room with just her piano and occasional guitar. I listened to a lot of her home concerts during lockdown and she performed a lot of these songs as they were ready to share. So when she released this album as a download I finally owned them in one place. It is a wonderful collection of songs some light and some heartbreaking .”Birds and the Bees” quoted at the top of this recap is a piano suite that describes how scary it was during the lockdown, afraid to go out or even visit loved ones. “The Muse” tells of a boyfriend who only hung around “so I could write your name in a song.” The upbeat “Thirsty” is one of the fun songs. Another light number is “Sha-la-la” “We don’t make a killing but it’s still a living to me Sha la la la Sha la la la. “One of my favorites is the bittersweet “Together alone” ,another song about the lockdown. “I fell in love with the boy on the screen He looked so real in my digital dream Heard the sound of a bluebird singing a song close my eyes he was already gone…” She saves the best for last. The final two songs are both tender piano ballads . “Hope my sometimes friend” a quiet meditation on hope. “think more with your heart and less with your head my darling hope my sometimes friend…” Her vocal on this one tugs at your heart particularly at the finale. Then there is the closer, “Love always wins” perhaps one of her finest songs ever. It has had me in tears many a time. ” cause the more you hurt me I guess the more I know you care…”.The intricate piano and the emotional vocal is very moving. This whole intimate album is really worth seeking out. I have to mention her piano playing. I have watched her home concerts and am aware of how well she plays. But this album takes that up a notch. The vocals as well. Elizabeth, thank you for this amazing album.

9]Brandi Carlile- “In these silent days” “You know I may not be around this time tomorrow but I’ll always be with you…” from “This time tomorrow”. I”ve always loved some of the songs Brandi was releasing. But this is my first album by her. I was drawn to it by the song “Right on Time”. I saw her perform this song on a couple talk shows and then SNL. Each time she left me in tears. Her powerful vocal especially toward the finale just got to me. She has had that effect on me in the past especially with “The Joke”.This album showcases the current artist who has crossed over to pop on a lot of her newer songs. Throughout it is her amazing vocals that keep you going. She shows her country side on “Mama Werewolf” with a rousing vocal. “Sinners Saints and Fools” is filled with guitar and strings and builds to a dramatic finish. However it is the ballads that I love the most. “Right on Time” is hard to beat. “It’s not too late. Either way I loose you in these silent days .It wasn’t right But it was right on time…” The lovely three part harmonies on “This time tomorrow”, which I quoted at the top of this piece, deliver an emotional touch. “Throwing good after bad” is another sad break up song with a quieter delivery but effective. “I’m a dandelion and when my color suited you You allowed me to grow but you know when you know…”.And the endearing “Stay Gentle” is sung to a child [her child I assume] and the sweetness in her voice makes this very special. “Darling stay wild if you can the girl with the world in her hands…”. Gets to me just typing that. Brandi surrounds herself with a great supporting group. It is her versatility as a vocalist that shows why she sells out Madison Square Garden. She recently performed Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” album live. I hope someone releases that. Would love to see it. This is a wonderful album. If you haven’t seen it be sure to watch her performance on SNL in my video collection.

10] Jon Batiste- “We Are” “Who do you love when push comes to shove how does it feel how’s it gonna feel how does it feel when it’s getting too real…” From “Cry”. This is the first album I got in 2021 and I haven’t stop grooving to it yet. Who better than the energetic band leader for Stephen Colbert to put out an awesome album of dance music, with plenty of of soul and jazz and just plain old good vibes. In the booklet with the cd Jon writes “Dedicated to the dreamers, seers, griots, and truth tellers who refuse to fully descend into madness.” This is a joyous celebration of rhythm led my a man who does it all. It opens with “We Are” featuring the St. Augustine High School Marching Band and The Gospel Soul Children all addressing the fact that ‘the ghetto is full of stars”. There are the dance anthems like “I need you” and “Freedom”. “Cry” shows off Jon’s amazing soulful falsetto, one of my favorites which I quoted at the top. Another favorite is the sweet “Show me the Way” with Jon digging Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Wu-Tang Clan, and Stevie Wonder for inspiration. “Now I wanna hold your hand lil” darlin, lover man Beatles or Rolling Stones I gotta say , come on…”. “Turn that record player on blast me your favorite song yeah, oh yeah …” Such fun! My other favorite is “Movement 11” “with Jon playing jazz piano with strings. Thelonius would be proud. Jon is surrounded my an amazing group of musicians and vocalists. Jon sings with soulful abandon. The liner notes are by Quincy Jones who praises Jon for ” studying his roots and paying homage to those who came before him.” This is one heck of an album full of inspiration. I urge everyone to give it a try. On the last song “Sing” “I’m done with this heavy heart. I let all my burdens off and I sing”. So we should listen.

11] Faye Webster- “I know I’m funny haha” “Let’s sit around and drink some sake then we can argue about the same things talk about the neighbors on the front porch…” From the title cut “I know I’m funny ha ha”. Faye Webster is a unique artist. Her songs are like conversations about life’s little ups and downs ,mostly downs. Picking right up where her last album left off the music continues to be quiet country soul with a mournful pedal steel is the lead instrument. It goes down easy but the more you listen ,the more you realize the emotions at stake. “Better Distractions” was on Barack Obama’s list of favorites. One to spend some time with. The surface beauty is infectious. Listen : “Sometimes”, “Kind Of”, “A dreamwith a baseball player “

12} Dana Countryman – “Pop Scrapbook” Getting a new Dana Countryman release is like hearing from an old friend. It makes you happy. And he has so much to offer you. Here is a recap of this terrific album from a November post :


“Find your song and embrace it” Michael McCarthy writes in the liner notes And there is so much here to embrace. Since discovering Dana ,I have found so much happiness in his magical pop music. The opening track “Mr. Sunshine ” just explodes with twin guitars and lyrics like “shine a light and bring a bright and sunny day”. And when he sings “My baby’s coming home she’s on her way” the melody dips up and down followed by a bell. Play this song on a dreary day and the room will brighten up.The album is full of these gems. A favorite is “Sunday comes along” as Dana unfolds a Sunday for us. When he sings the title lyric the music swells with flutes and a perfect pop melody blossoms with a Bacharach trumpet. Fun! “Let’s keep dancing” is a sweet duet with his lovely wife Tricia .”I’ll whisper sweet little things in your ear”.Romance is alive in their vocals. The suite “Record store employees” is dedicated to 10 cc. Dana has informed me that it is a true story. Perhaps my favorite song is “You’re everything” with the help of another pop master Nick Frater on vocals and guitars. “You’re every note of every song I sing…”. Simply a great pop tune.A petal steel gives a country slant to “Brand new feeling”, and the bossa nova “Butterflies” brings some jazz with a vibraphone and flugelhorn. Of course there is always a bonus Christmas song, and we also get 2 hidden tracks ,one a surf song recorded in 1988 by Dana’s old group The Amazing Pink Things, and a perfect cover of Teddy Randazzo’s “I’m on the outside looking in”. So a terrific value and an album that could be a gift for your sweetie or any big pop music fan. Dana is a versatile pop artist and a wizzard in the studio. He’s also a swell guy who looks great in an Hawaiian shirt. Dana thank you for the music

13} Brian Gari- -“Names Volume two” This latest by Brian gave me great pleasure. I loved the first volume and this one was even better. Here is my recap from November :

Names Vol. 2

The ever so gifted Brian Gari has returned with a new set of names. I loved Volume 1, and this one is just as entertaining. It is a wonderful album with music ranging from whimsical and humorous to tender and sad. There’s “Tim” who loves collecting the Beach Boys ,with appropriate background vocals. There is Clara who runs a little record store where singles are “less than a dollar”,and our narrator learned about music and rock and roll.I have a soft spot for “Clara’s record store” because I hung out at my local record store and I did learm a lot about music, and went on to work in music retail for over 30 years. The sensitive “I can’t change you Diane” is in Jimmy Webb territory with a gorgeous string finale. The sweet “Tom and Jill”, about two cats that had to be composed by a cat lover. Such a well crafted song that shows off the genius of Brian”s songwriting. Have to mention “Jana I know your ex” with opening music straight out of a Broadway overture.A terrific tune with a great ending “We’re much better off than then “and Brian speaking “I think we are” and then “I know we are”. that sends me every time. The lovely”Elizabeth” who is in a bad relationship and doesn’t know “There’s a man out there a man who’d truly care .” One of my very favorites is “Brigid[I know I frighten you”] Just check out these lyrics set to a lovely lilting melody: ”But I won’t be there… I’ll be in the air I’ll be touching ground …I’ll be in my bed But you won’t be there …you’ll be miles away starting your new day…regretting what you said…” Not since “By the time I get to Phoenix” has travel in a song been so heartbreaking. Brian and Peter Milrose have crafted a very entertaining album, full of nice production touches. The melodies are gorgeous ,and the songs are sure to bring a smile or a tear. One other tune I have to mention is the acoustic gem “There;s a cinder in Cindy’s Eye”.More of that clever wordplay that Brian excells at. I do hope you seek this album out. There’s something for every music lover from this extraordinary talent.

14] Emperor Penguin- “Corporation Pop” “Oh what a time to be alive Utopia’s a state of mind…” from “Utopia” featuring Nick Frater and James Whelligan and my favorite track on this fantastic pop collection. Music comes from three EP’s with some added tracks. “Utopia” is one of the added tracks. There is also the pop perfect opening track “Talk to me ” featuring Orbis Max. Infectious vocals rule throughout the album including two with one of my favorite vocalist Lisa Mychols. But it is the hard work of these fine British gentlemen who we need to thank for this glorious music. My other favorite is “Hell in a handcart” where the melodies just keep coming. So much to listen to and enjoy. I urge you to seek this one out. It’s a truly great album. Listen : “Tuesday’s World “,”The way the cookie crumbles”, “Oh Helena “

15] The Armoires – “Incognito” “She was maybe a bit too demanding She was surely too much in demand She was justified in feeling tired of holding his hand…” from “{Just can’t see} the attraction ” by The October Surprise or should I say The Armoires. This fab band led by Christina Bulbeko and Rex Broome tried an experiment during the lockdown. They came up with a bunch of fake band names and then released singles by them. This album combines those singles together ,thus the title “Incognito”. The results are one of the most entertaining albums of the year. Originals and some choice covers and a variety of musical genres to delight the listeners. The first thing that knocked me out were three covers. John Cale’s “Paris 1919” performed by The October Surprise . What an inspired choice and they pull it off very nicely. I recently posted this on FB I was so happy with it. Then The Yes It Is [great name] pull of a terrific version XTC’s “Senses working overtime”. When it comes on I sing along to the chorus. But what really turned my head was Andy Gibb’s “Words and Music” a song I must confess I do not know. They transform it into an early indie pop song with an awesome vocal by Christina. It’s become a big favorite of mine. As for the originals there is the tune I quoted at the top of the recap, “{Just can’t see]The Attraction “featuring cool lyrics. You got to love the pure country of The Chessie System with some choice fiddle work by daughter Larysa Bulbenko. The Ceramic Age add another favorite of mine ,”Ohma Bring your light into this place”, sounding like REM. And I need to point out a hidden track “Shame and Bourbon” with some more country fiddle and perfectly sung sad sad lyrics. Got to love the ” demon in the front right seat” “and he’s telling me it’s time to let you go”. Where did I put that Makers Mark? I hope the charade isn’t over. Would love to hear more from Yes It Is and Tina and the Tiny Potatoes. Just sayin’. So a great band having fun in the studio. The rhythm section features Clifford Ulrich on bass and the great John Borack on drums, plus there’s a lot of help from musical friends. There is a nice essay in the liner info by Larysa that lays out a mission statement for the band and this exercise. Very well put. Here is what I did. Grabbed the cd jacket and the fold out with all the picture sleeves for the bands. Followed all the info as I played the cd. It could be fun for the whole family.

16] Lana Del Rey- “Chemtrails over the Country Club ” “Let me love you like a woman Let me hold you like a baby Let me shine like a Diamond Let me be who I’m meant to be ” from “Let me love you like a woman.” I keep saying Lana is doing her best work every new album. That’s because this hard working lady keeps improving her craft. Following 2019’s wonderful “Nornan F______ Rockwell”she continues to sing about the California myth. A lot of autobiography is in the lyrics. “Down in Orlando I was only 19 Down at the Men in Music Business Conference, I only mention it cause it was such a scene and I felt seen…” detailing her waitress days in “White Dress” sung in a whisper falsetto. Jack Antonoff helped out with co- composing and playing a variety of instruments. Here are three standout tracks 1] “Wild at Heart full of the noir atmosphere she’s famous for. 2] “Breaking up slowly ” a sad country duet with Nikki Lane. “I don’t want to end up like Tammy Wynette…”. 3] “Dance till we die ” an outstanding song that references that she’s covering Joni Mitchell and mentions Joan Baez ,Stevie Nicks, and Courtney Love. ” We’ll keep walking on the sunny side and we won’t stop dancing til we die…”.It feature a strong vocal that takes off mid song. The album ends with a beautiful cover of Joni’s “For Free” sung with Weyes Blood and Zella Day. The song actually ends with Weyes Blood singing the last verse.

17]Tele Novella- “Merlynn Belle” “You’ll only dance if its to gunshots and you move through it with grace send me a postcard when you get to what I hope is the right place…” From the great opening track “Words that stay”. About 15 years ago I discovered a group called Agent Ribbons. Three ladies all with the last name of Ribbons. What I loved most of all was the haunting vocals of Natalie Ribbons. I had not heard another voice quite like it. So when a video of Tele Novella popped up this past year I recognized that voice. Yes, Natalie Ribbons, who is the lead singer and composed all the songs was back in my life. And what an interesting group Tele Novella is. And that voice still has a hold on me. It is difficult to describe that voice, as well as the meaning of the songs. Natalie’s voice is clear and beautiful with a kind of old country lilt that make these songs so easy to fall into and dream with them. The music has an antiquated quality to it with traces of folk, country, pop, and psych. The lyrics are pure poetry that touch your heart and make you think. For example check some of these out: from “It won’t be long” “I told a story it began and then it ended and in the middle you were hanging by a thread” and goes onto “There was a murder an affair and lots of money. A girl so beautiful they thought that she was dim.” From “Never” a sad song about being there for a friend with heartache “How could such a broken heart still be so eager to please”. From “Wishing Shrine ” which starts out with a Morricone whistle , “We wrote all our dreams on scraps of paper and put them in a wall of ancient clay.” From “One little Pearl” that sounds like an old English folk song “I’ve got her bonnet and her gloves and her shoes an old tooth All the jewels and her dear diary”. From “Crystal Witch” which has a mystical sound “With a cape and a cold eye She only eats crystals But how she sings when your finger rings her mouth.” There’s more but you get the idea. That video I discovered turned out to my very favorite track, “Paper Crown” with a gorgeous yearning vocal by Natalie that gets breathy in the chorus. “I want a love I can make with scraps on the floor Watch as I make one Better than before . When I am high When I am low I’m sure to find love wherever I go.” The sweetness of this song has stayed with me ever since I discovered it. That video is in my collection. My two other favorites are “Words that stay” which I quoted at the top, and “The Wishing Shrine”. My favorite moment comes in the closing song “Technicolor Town” where Natalie ,in her finest country voice sings “My yearning heart will howl” and proceeds to howl a couple of times. So great!. I so hope you will look for this album. I hope Natalie will charm you like she does me. I do have to mention she is not alone in the group. There is Jason Chronis ,who is in all the videos, and Sarah La Puerta. Natalie Ribbons ,now that I have found you ,I will not let you go.

18] Tamar Berk- “The Restless Dreams of youth” ” And it’s only when someone asks me that I’m reminded of your silly face and the stack of vinyl records you left at my place ” from opening track “Skipping the cracks”. I discovered Tamar from one of Chipper Sam’s weekend playlists. I followed up went to her site and fell in love with the album cover. She’s got a cigarette in one hand ,a cup of coffee in the other, her head is cocked to the side ,and that look on her face. It was like she was saying to me “you wanna listen or not “.So I checked out her videos. First one that showed up was “Better off meditating” ,and she’s in a red polka dot dress facing the camera at times with a guitar. I was in another place, that place where you have just found someone special. And special Tamar is. This is a great rock album with lots to offer. It is all there in the album title. You can reflect back, look ahead, but the search for peace of mind is constant. These well written songs reflect the searching, the break ups, the standing up for your rights. I love the ringing guitars in songs like “Shadow clues” and “Socrates and me”. “In the Wild” is a perfect pop song with a classic finish. You need to watch the video for “Cleveland” with all the childhood clips. “What ever happened to me I feel like I’m stuck somewhere back in the midwest and that might be unfair but I’ve got some regrets now I just wanna be free.” The video is included in my collection. It is her lovely ballads that are my favorites ,like “Til I’ve Won” with it’s unfolding melodies and it’s emotional build up. “When I took you out to play you wanted to run away I was lingering by your side and I wanted to keep you tied,” The best track on the album for me is “A New Case” with it’s gorgeous piano and Tamar’s strongest vocal. “What a waste A head case there’s nothing I like more than being right but right now I adore the fight”. Beautiful! The tug between tough and vulnerable lies in these songs. The more you listen, the more you think. If you haven’t discovered this album you owe it to yourself to give it a try. I just would like to give her a big hug. So Tamar consider this album recap your hug. So grateful I found you.

19] Dorothea Paas- “Anything Can’t Happen” “I’m not lonely now doing all the things I want and working on my mind Sorting through all thoughts I go through one at a time…” “From Running under my life” a song that briefly begins the album and is the ending song. This album is one of my treasured finds, first discovered in a strong review in Uncut Magazine. After watching a couple videos I was emotionally connected. It is a break up album that deals with the pain and regrets in such a compelling way that you are right there with her feeling it , She has a beautiful high voice ,and she sustains some of her notes as if to underscore her sadness . It is stunning to listen to. She has a terrific group of musicians to enhance the mood. My three songs starts with the title song. With a guitar intro she goes through a few changes. that lead to “It’s so hard to trust again when you don’t even trust yourself”. She sings this three times to great affect and it is followed by “When anything can’t happen at any time” ending with the band slowing down. Bleak, but still it is a pretty pop tune. “Frozen Window” begins with a low voice and a ringing guitar following her every move, It is a chilled atmosphere . She sings “it’s hard to see myself in positive light” and then something remarkable happens. She slowly starts grasping at a ray of hope. The last thing she sings is “I will love again” ending with the band playing a searching finale. My third song is “Container” and it is one of the year’s best songs as well as my video of the year. In the video she faces the camera while sitting on a park ride, one of those that revolves. She sings in a quiet sad voice “Why can’t love be like in my dream Why don’t you show up when I want you to. Why can’t it always be June. Why can’t it be like that one time…”.And at 1:20 the ride starts slowly revolving. As it turns ,and she continues her song, your heart turns with her. It is a breathtaking video that has to be seen. It is included in my video collection. The song itself is painful to listen to but beautiful at the same time. And that is the essence of this brilliant album, sadness and beauty. I don’t have a lot of information on the artist. The review mentions she is from Canada, and this is her debut album. I have not seen another review anywhere else. So I am writing to whoever reads this to seek this one out and listen. Give it some time, because there is a lot going on in some of the songs. But the reward is finding it and experiencing this remarkable album.

20] The Hepburns [featuring Estella Rosa} “Architecture of the Ages” “Going to move to Wales and write the great Welsh novel. I’m going to write down all the things they say. A slice of life , cinema verite…” From “Move to Wales “. I have been listening to The Hepburns for over 30 years. I own several of their albums and I noticed the main players Matt Jones and Mike Thomas are still on board. This album features Estella Rosa on vocals and she is perfect for them. She has a lovely pop voice and is kind of like Sarah from Saint Etienne. How long before we get a solo album from Estella. They are well known for their pop music but there is something special about appearing on the amazing Elefant label. They have never sounded better. The music is a mix of pure pop, bossa nova, and sunshine pop. The melodies are ever so wonderful and Matt and Estrella deliver vocals that are soft, tender, and moving. The lockdown does factor in several of the songs. “On the Telephone” is about trying to connect during lockdown. “No need to be alone talking to you on the phone…”My three songs : “The other side of grey” is simply a perfect pop tune. It opens the album with Matt’ and Estrella trading vocals “I’m drinking coffee and listening to the pouring rain…” They both harmonize on the backing vocals to great affect. There are a couple chord changes and the song ends with these quaint lyrics “So tell me how does this song end? [it’s waiting patiently].So tell me how does this song end, on the other side of grey? ” Great! “Seagulls on a frozen Lake” is a gentle bossa nova with more sensitive vocals, The Elefant description of the song is “Like listening to a Joao Gilberto record while reading Jean Paul Sartre “.I believe this is another song reflecting the pandemic. The frozen lake is a metaphor for the emptiness outside. He sings “with a paperback and a cup of tea I could face an eternity…”. Some nice guitar and background vocals end the song with the last line “this place is dead”. The best song on the album is co-written with Matt and Jorn Oddvar Alekjaer and Ole Johannes Aleskjaer from The Loch Ness Mouse one of my favorite bands. “Lockdown to Liverpool” features Estrella’s nicest vocal, and the song is quite gorgeous with minor key changes, a lovely jazz guitar solo, and vocal swells of sunshine pop. The lockdown appears to be over and they are outside “The sun was low, the air was cool…” “No time to wait ,don’t hesitate “cos nothing’s going to last….”.A beautiful song !.There is also some Bacharach trumpet on “Five miles of line”. “Mermaid” is based on a medieval legend. Throughout the album we get some breezy rhythms and those perfect vocals. Elefant Records is really a good fit for The Hepburns. Looking forward to more music from them

BUBBLING UNDER : In No Particular order

21] The Babblers -” Psychadilly Circus”

22] St. Vincent- “Daddy’s Home”

23] Tenant from Zero- “Flight:

24] Novelty Island- “How are you coping with this Century?”

25]The Poppermost- “Hits to Spare”

26] Fryars- “God Melodies”

27] Yola- “Stand for Myself ”

28] Gary Louris – “Jump for Joy”

29]Adia Victoria -“A Southern Gothic”

30] Billie Eilish-“Happier than Ever”

31] Lake Street Dive- “Obviously”

32] Catenary Wires- “Birling Gap”

33] The Marias- “Cinema”

34] Johanna Samuels- “Excelsior”

35] Durand Jones and the Indications-“Private Space”

36] Aimee Mann- “Queens of the summer hotel”

37] Chris Church- “Game Dirt”

38] Lucy Dacus- “Home Video”

39] Jackson Browne- “Downhill from Everywhere”

40] Neil Young with Crazy Horse- ” Barn”

41] Hilma Nikolaisen “Heritage”

42] Maria Rodes Y La Estrella de David- “Contigo” [on Elefant Records]

43] Solea Morente- “Aurora Y Enrique” [on Elefant Records]

44] ANC4- “Strange Tide”

45] Kings of Convenience-“Peace or Love”

46] They might be giants- “Book”

47] Jeff Tweedy- “Love is the King / live is the king”

48] John Grant- “Boy from Michigan”

49] Maxwell Farrington and Le SuperHomard- ” Once”

50] David Crosby- “For Free”

MORE GREAT SELECTIONS :

Lindsey Buckingham -“Lindsey Buckingham” / Silk Sonic -“An Evening with Silk Sonic” / Gruff Rhys- “Seeking New Gods” / The Weather Station – “Ignorance” / The War on Drugs – “I don’t live here Anymore ” / Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi -“They’re calling me home” / Saint Etienne – “I’ve been trying to tell you ” / Brendan Eder Ensemble- “Cape Cod Cottage” / Legal Matters- “Chapter Three” / Tom Shotton- “Forever Home” / The Brothers Steve- “Dose” / Paul Weller “”Fat Pop” / The Black Watch -“”Here and There” / Eliane Elias with Chick Corea and Chucho Valdes- “Mirror Mirror” / Aaron Frazer – “Introducing Aaron Frazer” /Molly Burch -“Romantic Images ” / Martha Wainwright -“Love will be reborn ” / The Speed of Sound- “Museum of Tomorrow” / Orbis Max-“The Covid Collaborations 2020-2021” /The Weeklings- “In their own Write [live] /

VIDEO PLAYLIST-!00 videos covering most of the artists my list. To choose from the list of videos, copy and paste this link into your URL. That will take you to my YouTube. Enjoy!

To watch all videos in sequence here, just click on the link below top right

RECORDINGS OF SPECIAL MERIT – Covers, live albums, compilations

Meredeth d’Ambrosio- “Sometime Ago”- It was gratifying to see a new album announced for Meredeth, one of my favorite artists. This album continues her journey to interpret classic songs and even cover a few of her own. She has a beautiful voice and she surrounds herself with amazing musicians. Often times when I’m down I reach for one of her 17 albums [I own them all], knowing that her sensitive vocals are going to leave me in a better place. This new release can now be one of them.

“Party for Joey. A sweet relief tribute to Joey Spampinato “- A fantastic lineup of artists performing covers of songs with a connection to Joey who was with NRBQ for 40 years. He is battling health problems, thus the relief tribute. Artists like Al Anderson, Bonnie Raitt, Los Lobos ,and The Minus Five are just some of the artists on this album. Beautiful liner notes are by Michael Simmons , a true fan. Well worth owning.

Pomplamoose- “Impossible A Prononcer” This hard working band releases a new cover every week. Some of them have been French classics. This is an entire album of French covers . Nataly Dawn has an amazing grasp of the French language , and the band’s versions of songs by Jacques Brel, Charles Trenet, and Michel Legrand, among others ,take us to another place. I love it!

Manu Lafer -“And It’s Yours- Brian Gari Tribute ” A very cool album of Brian Gari covers by Brazilian artist Manu Lafer. I am a big fan of Brian’s work, and it is such a treat to hear Manu perform his music. Some of these songs I am hearing for the first time ,for example the lovely “Don’t let another night go by”. I know Brian is in love with Brazilian music so he must be on cloud nine with this release. Some excellent musicians and vocalists help out, and it all sounds wonderful.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga- “Love for Sale” Emotions run high listening to this album of Cole Porter classics . Tony is in excellent voice and this is Lady Gaga at her very best. There was a TV special and watching these two had me in tears. This will probably be Tony’s last album and hearing him sing “Just one of those things” should appeal to all music lovers. God Bless Tony Bennett!

Nicole Atkins-“Memphis Ice” This album was recorded in a Memphis studio with just a piano violin and cello backing Nicole , so great attention is drawn to her magnificent vocals. She is primarily performing songs from her last album ,”Italian Ice” with one new track. If you have ever had the pleasure of seeing Nicole live as I have, then you know how powerful her voice is. Elvis Costello has praised this album. I am doing the same.

The DB’s – “I thought you wanted to know” A terrific compilation of early tracks mixed with some live tracks. The DB’s were an awesome power pop band from the late 70’s led by by Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple ,two musicians that are still doing great work presently. A must for all power pop fans.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss- “Raise the Roof” More Americans covers by these two amazing vocalists. Their voices blend together well and these country and blues covers are a joy to listen to. They go deep in their choices like a 1930’s tune by Geeshie Wiley’s country blues “Last kind words Blues “.Well worth investing in.

Boo Hewerdine- “Selected Works” This is a gorgeous compilation of singles ,B sides, and a couple album tracks that work well together, making this a fascinating listen. If you have read my recaps of Boo’s albums you may know that I believe Boo is doing his best work now. His 2019 release “Before” was so beautiful, and this collection is full of that beauty. The opening track “The Language of Love” is a good example of what I am writing about. There really is no one like Boo Hewerdine. I highly recommend this collection.

NRBQ- “Dragnet” I can’t rate an NRBQ album. They are a very special group in my world. This is an all new album and it carries on the tradition of sweet songs and some wild ones like their cover of the “Dragnet” theme song. Outstanding songs like Scott Ligon’s “That makes me a fool” and Terry Adams “Sunflower” prove that they still capable of musical magic.

EP’S

1] Bill DeMain- “Vaudeville EP”

2]David Myhr- “And Now This”

3] The Shang Hi-Los-“Kick it like a Wicked Bad Habit”

4] Nedelle Torrisi with Larry Goldings- “Five Songs”

5] Lickerish Quartet- “Threesome Vol. 2”

6] Boo Hewerdine “Singularities “

7] Lauren Balthrop- “Where is Love”

SONGS OF THE YEAR :

1] Ole Johannes Aleskjaer “Waterways” A sublime song that captured my heart the minute I heard it and hasn’t stopped delighting me. He is way into Paddy McAloon territory here. Perfect pop !

2] Dorothea Paas- “Container” Heartbreak song and video of the year. Her performance of this song in a clear beautiful voice brings me to tears constantly. “It’s just a container for my thoughts It’s something to throw my loneliness and fears into…” .Stunning!

3] Sondre Lerche-“King of Letting Go” Released early in the year and I have been playing it all year. He has a knack for the irresistible hook. He continues to close into the Prefab Sprout sound. Even the title sounds like Paddy.

4] Oslo Oscillator -“Drifting” More perfect pop from Norway. More beautiful melodies that sound like Paddy McAloon.

5] The Last Detail- “I’m Sorry” Another super catchy song from the team of Mehdi Zannad and Erin Moran [A Girl called Eddy} with a touch of R&B on this gem.

6] Joe Dilillo with The Lickerish Quartet- “Loser Girl” The minute I heard this I was hooked. Great tune with a killer chorus. “Afraid and I’m frantic a hopeless romantic …” Terrific lyrics. Begging for more from Joe.

7] Rehab Sprout- “Let There be Music” Fabulous Prefab Sprout cover by a group of dedicated musicians including the great Gary Clark on vocals and Neil Conti on drums. I hope there will be more of these covers.

8] VV Lightbody -“Really do care” Another delicate ballad from an artist that won my heart in 2020. Her album was high on my year end. This is gorgeous.

9] C Duncan- “Alluvium” He is back with more cinematic pop and heartfelt vocals .Lovely tune

10] Bill DeMain- “One more couple in love” My favorite from Bill’s “Vaudeville” EP. It’s a toe tappin’ number that will put a smile on your face. The whole ep is full of songs that swing and looks to a simpler time.

11] Joe Pisapia- “On the other side” Came out in January and Joe and some musical friends all helped out om Zoom. It is about getting together with friends after the lock down. An emotional sentiment. After the song ends one of the singers says “That feels good Joe P.” I say the same thing every time I listen to it.

12] Frances Forever- “Space Girl” Sweet funny song that just popped up one day and I fell instantly in love with it. The video is great with a nice romantic ending. Don’t know much about this artist but I will do some searching.

13] Madison Cunningham- “Broken Harvest” I love her performance with several key changes. I adore her voice and hope this means there is more coming. The video is kind of psychedelic.

14] Zella Day featuring Weyes Blood- “Holocene” Pretty song with a sensual video, Another artist I do not know but I have become a big Weyes Blood fan. Great harmonies.

15] Pomplamoose – “Read Me” One of their weekly offerings , this one an original and it is fantastic. Funny and upbeat with a neat vocal by Nataly. Watch her dance in the studio on the video.

16] The Babblers -“Child of War”- From their awesome album , this song really speaks to what is happening right now in Ukraine. “These are the times of war. I’m sorry for the child of war…”.From an album full of pop rock gems, this folk rock tune is the one that means the most.

17] Adia Victoria- “Magnolia Blues” So much power in Adia’s vocal, it really captures the mood that the modern blues album excels at. If you haven’t heard her you are in for a treat. The album is full of grit and incredible vocals.

18] Lauren Balthrop -“Where is love” A gorgeous ballad by this compelling artist. I’m a big fan of her work and simply love this song especially the dramatic finish.

19] Ian Carr and Boo Hewerdine- “My baby hates jazz” A snappy fun little song about a girl friend that just doesn’t get jazz. “She’s got no time for pizzazz my baby hates jazz.” Boo with a friend knocking off a tune having a good time.

20] Solea Morente- “Iba A Decirtelo” Elefant label magic with a magnificent pop artist. Solea sings this so well , I was deeply affected by her .When you find music this good you hold on to it. I am under her spell.

21] Sorrows- “Christabelle” Kicking off their album with this gem. It has everything going for it: A girls name for the title, melodies that stick, soaring harmonies, nifty guitar breaks, and a perfect ending. can’t ask for anything more from a pop song.

22] The Stan Laurels – “Tomorrow” -I mentioned in the album recap how much I loved this song. Love the jangle guitar opening, the layered vocals, and the thrilling guitar solo. And as it slows down to end you just want to play it again. That is pop!

23]Kings of Convenience featuring Feist- “Catholic Country”- With a bossa nova guitar starting this off it is nice to know that this group hasn’t changed a bit. Still performing gentle music with quiet vocals. This lovely samba features Feist on the chorus . “The more I know about you the more I know I want you…”.Goes well with a glass of Zinfandel.

24] Sharen Van Etten and Angel Olsen- “Like I used to”-Stunning collaboration with both ladies soaring with their vocals, which blend together beautifully. Emotions run high and each artist delivers. Please say there’s going to be an album.

25] Rebe- “Ven a Buscarme Temprano”-An enchanting flight of fancy from another Elefant artist. She glides through sweet melodies in a cute sighing vocal. Rebe is a very visual artist and the video for this is quite provocative . I can’t really describe it.You have to check out my collection and see for yourself. It is something.

26] Nick Frater- “Star Crossed”- I wrote about how much I loved this song in the #3albums. It has a great Bacharach melody, well sung by Nick and it features a superb guitar solo at the conclusion. It is one thing to deliver some upbeat pop tunes. But this easy going gem elevates his status as a singer/ songwriter. And according to the liner notes that is Nick on that amazing guitar.

27] Maria Rodes y La Estrella de David – “Venga Va”- More gorgeous pop vocals from the Elefant label. Maria Rodes and David Rodriquez blend their voices and magic happens. Even though the lyrics are in Spanish it does not matter. Pop music is a universal language. I believe I have three videos by her in my collection. Check them out. I love her1

28] Tamar Berk- “Better off meditating”- Great rock song with a killer chorus that snaps to attention with a drum beat, This was the first song I heard by Tamar and I went on to fall in love with her album. You will as well if you haven’t heard this terrific artist.

29] Alessia Cara- “Best Days”- I watched her perform this on Fallon and I was emotionally affected by her dynamic vocal. It really is special. “What if my best days are the days I’ve left behind…”.It is in my video collection. I urge you to check it out.

30] Orbis Max- “With a girl”- Lush baroque arrangement of this top notch song. Great vocals with a trippy background.. Just lovely!

31] Beach Bunny featuring Tegan and Sara- “Cloud 9”- Power pop from Chicago, my kind of town. This will put a smile on you for sure. Lead singer Lily has the perfect power pop voice and together with Tegan and Sara they knock this this upbeat tune out of the park.

32] Lucy Schwartz- “Tiny paper clips”-You can always count on Lucy for a couple of winners. Been following her for several years, and that has been the case. With a full production this is a wonderful tune with a sweet Lucy vocal.

33] Cour de Recre- “Le Jardin De Nobuko”- Very cool French electro pop. On a synth bounce we get irresistible vocals including some children. Fun song on the Elefant label.

34] David Myhr- “We Wanted to shine”- Fabulous pop featuring David’s soaring vocals. He has an amazing voice and this is simply a great pop tune. It is from an ep with talk of another ep coming. During the instrumental break David just goes ‘Woo!”. My thoughts exactly.

35] The Blasting Company and Van Dyke Parks-“Old Summer Reckoning”- A real find. American music that reminds me of Hoagy Carmichael . Arranged and co composed by Van Dyke Parks and his genius is all over this tune. Don’t know much about the group .It just popped up one day making my life a little better. I do recognize the name Austin Hoke on cello. I will look for other music by them. And you should seek this tune out.

36] Todd Rundgren and Sparks- “Your Fandango” -A wild and crazy collaboration by two artists re-united. Todd produced their pre Sparks band way back in the days. They did not hold back on the silliness with this nutty song. But after a few spins the music is creative and kind of addictive. That is The Sparks for you. And Todd shines through as well. Be sure to watch the video.

37] Laura Veirs- “Between the Bars”- An intimate cover of an Elliot Smith song. Just Laura and an acoustic guitar. I noticed that she is performing it in her live shows. Quite lovely.

I could go on but with the goal of finishing I’ll move on.

REISSUES;

  • The Beach Boys- “Feel Flows: The Sunflower and Surf’s up sessions 1969-1971” -Mojo Magazine calls it a “treasure chest” and in the January year end issue Bill DeMain has a nice article on the box set plus an interview with Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston. The treasure are the out takes , and the live tracks. I have yet to complete listening to the 5 discs. But I love the two original albums and can mention three classics from them: Carl’s “Feel Flows”, Dennis Wilson’s “Forever”, and Bruce’s “Disney Girls”. Be sure to read Bill DeMain”s informative article.
  • Neil Young -” Carnegie Hall 1970 9 weeks after the release of “After the Gold Rush” Neil did two solo shows at Carnegie Hall. Just Neil his guitar and a piano . 23 songs on 2 discs covering some Buffalo Springfield, songs from his solo albums, and a few that had not been recorded yet. I know Neil puts out a lot of music but this legendary concert is beautiful. Highly recommended.
  • Sorrows -“Love too late…the Real Album”- Technically not a reissue ,but a re-recording. 40 years ago their record company messed with the making of the original. As it says in the liner notes it was a flop and the band was shattered by the whole experience. And now the band is giving us the album that was supposed to be. And it is a wonderful pop album. 10 originals and 1 Kinks cover. “Christabelle” is in my top songs. Hats off to the band for reclaiming their dream. It is on the always reliable Big Stir Record label who would not dream of messing with an artist’s music .Be sure to listen to it.
  • George Harrison -“All Things Must Pass”- Truth be told I do not own this . It was on my Christmas wish list but it’s a 6 cd set and out of everyone’s price range. I have heard several of the outtakes on WXRT’s Sunday morning Beatles show. And I have been playing my original vinyl set a lot. There is a priceless moment in “Get Back” where George talks about having all these new songs and since they only let him have 2 tracks on a Beatles album it would take him forever for these to be heard. So glad he figured out a way.

CONCERTS :

  • The Flat Five in June at Fitzgeralds in Berwyn ,Illinois Outside on their big patio we were treated to 2 sets of covers and tracks from their 2 amazing albums. This was our first concert in person since lockdown. What a treat. The musical diversity performed is always one of the fun parts of seeing The Flat Five.
  • James Taylor and Jackson Browne – July 29 at The United Center, Chicago, Illinois. This was our first indoor arena concert in over 2 years. James had an all star band with a horn section and he performed well. The set list covered his career . He even did a number from his “American Standards” . I was more impressed with Jackson Browne. When he sat at the piano and sang “Late for the Sky” I could not stop the tears. He had a great band with superb background vocalists and his new material was very moving.
  • NRBQ September at Fitzgeralds . It was so great to see one of my favorite live bands, and to see Terry Adams again. 35 songs in a 2 1/2 hour set .Seeing them made me so happy. Fantastic night!
  • Swan Dive – A live stream June 3rd- Bill DeMain and Molly Felder got together at Bill’s home in Nashville to perform their album “June” for it’s 20th anniversary. It is a joy to see them perform with multi instrumentalist Jim Hoke and an appearance from producer Brad Jones. The complete video is in my playlist .it is #33.

I STILL NEED TO CHECK OUT:

  • Paul Bevoir- “A Balloon to the Moon” Thanks to Chipper Saam I just found out about this. I love this artist and will check it out.
  • Vic Godard and Subway Sect- “Moments Like this”- Just discovered this release. Vic like Edwyn Collins are huge in my book.
  • Floating Points ,Pharoah Sanders, and the London Symphony Orchestra- “Promises” This was Mojo’s #1 album of the year. That is how I discovered it. An amazing meeting of jazz, classical, and electronica. At times meditative, at times intense ,music to get lost to.

LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2022:

Loch Nes Mouse [I hope] /Elvis Costello /Sondre Lerche /Belle and Sebastian /Boo Hewerdine /Rumer /Tears for Fears /Emperor Penguin /Bart Davenport /Chris Church /Seth Swirsky /Regina Spektor /Lannie Flowers /Anais Mitchell /Amoeba Teen /Eileen Gogan /C Duncan /Curtis Stigers /Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder /Mitski /Michael Head /Sarah Borges/Hurrah for the Riff Raff /The Delines /Gustaf Ljunggren / Father John Misty / Lightning in a twilight Hour [ex Field Mice] / Destroyer /Lykke Li /Kevin Morby /Momus /Rebecca Martin /Under the Bridge -Various Artists – New songs from artists who were all on Sarah Records / Monochrome Set / Tahiti 80 /

I CAN DREAM ; My personal wish list ;

  • Prefab Sprout- My annual dream wish. I know Paddy has a wealth of material. I’m not asking for much. Anything really, like the album announced a couple years ago. Luckily there are musicians like The Loch Ness Mouse and Rehab Sprout ,and Sondre Lerche, who were influenced by Paddy and are releasing great music that has a Prefab sound.
  • Roddy Frame- I do hope he is well and happy. Just miss his music.
  • A few more to mention. Swan Dive or just Molly Felder. Gary Clark. David Mead.

SHOUT OUTS ;

  • Alan Haber -His knowledge and insight into music is always welcome to me. I look forward to his posts or his comments on my posts. His great taste in music has been an inspiration to me .
  • Bill DeMain- His superb music is one thing but we are also entertained by his cooking, his drawings of birds and owls, his editorial comment on media, plus he is quite humorous. I always look forward to his posts , like his current top 10 favorite things.
  • Big Stir Records- The roster of artists is amazing. But it is the professional attitudes of Rex Broome and Christina Bulbenko that really stand out. Their affection for their artists and the way they promote their releases is outstanding. Their kindness is impressive.
  • Duglas T. Stewart- He always has music, cinema, and books to recommend. Never fails to turn me onto something new. His nostalgia for his past as a musician is heartfelt. I look forward to his posts and perhaps some new music soon.
  • Mojo Magazine- Always turns me on to something new. Each issue is packed with information that an obsessive music fan like myself delights in reading. Their review section is the best. I am a long time subscriber and a satisfied customer. I won’t go on about the mail delivery. Not Mojo’s fault.
  • Daily stops or just companies I receive messages from : Pitchfork, Popmatters, Ray at Kool Kat ,Big Stir Records , Bandcamp, Darla Records, Elefant Records , videos that pop up on YouTube, etc. All turn me on to vital new music and keep me informed.

WRAP UP :

What a year. it seems the Pandemic inspired a lot of musicians to put together some memorable music. I do apologize for this getting out so late. I had some set backs. I am working on a crap computer that shuts down every 20 minutes or so and takes a long time to restart. And of course I type with one finger. I do enjoy sharing musical thoughts with other music lovers. That is the whole idea. I am not a writer. Just a huge music lover who started doing this way back and it has sort of gotten bigger as the years went by. The one thing I really push myself to do. As I say every year, if there is anything I have introduced to you that you enjoy I would love to hear about it. Don’t hesitate. All feedback is welcome. And if you see this list please pass it on to other music fans. I do get some great feedback sometimes and it is comforting. So please, let’s talk. Let’s have coffee. I have been listening intently to the music I have listed. Time to take a big sigh and move onto 2022. I know just where to start ; The Elvis Costello, Tears for Fears, Chris Church, Emperor Penguin , and I hear Michael Simmons has a covers collection which has me quite excited. I am still working my way through Bob Dylan and the Band doing The Complete Basement Tapes. Plenty to look forward to. As I stated at the very beginning of this list good music lifts your spirits. We all need that. So a huge thank you to the many artists I have included in my list. I can’t forget to thank my amazing wife Amy for putting up with me and my music habit. Hope you enjoy some of those awesome videos. In the words of Bob Dylan “Take care of your health and get plenty of rest…”

Gene Good javagene@hotmail.com. ,

God Save the Kinks

.

Four to Consider :

Due to health concerns I haven’t been sharing my musical thoughts for a while. With the year ending soon I will try to rectify that a bit. Here are four albums that get a lot of play in my house, so I want to share them with you. Maybe you need some new music either for yourself, or possibly a gift. So consider this somewhat of a consumer guide to some music I highly recommend.

1] Brian Gari “Names Volume 2”

Names Vol. 2

The ever so gifted Brian Gari has returned with a new set of names. I loved Volume 1, and this one is just as entertaining. It is a wonderful album with music ranging from whimsical and humorous to tender and sad. There’s “Tim” who loves collecting the Beach Boys ,with appropriate background vocals. There is Clara who runs a little record store where singles are “less than a dollar”,and our narrator learned about music and rock and roll.I have a soft spot for “Clara’s record store” because I hung out at my local record store and I did learm a lot about music, and went on to work in music retail for over 30 years. The sensitive “I can’t change you Diane” is in Jimmy Webb territory with a gorgeous string finale. The sweet “Tom and Jill”, about two cats that had to be composed by a cat lover. Such a well crafted song that shows off the genius of Brian”s songwriting. Have to mention “Jana I know your ex” with opening music straight out of a Broadway overture.A terrific tune with a great ending “We’re much better off than then “and Brian speaking “I think we are” and then “I know we are”. that sends me every time. The lovely”Elizabeth” who is in a bad relationship and doesn’t know “There’s a man out there a man who’d truly care .” One of my very favorites is “Brigid[I know I frighten you”] Just check out these lyrics set to a lovely lilting melody: ”But I won’t be there… I’ll be in the air I’ll be touching ground …I’ll be in my bed But you won’t be there …you’ll be miles away starting your new day…regretting what you said…” Not since “By the time I get to Phoenix” has travel in a song been so heartbreaking. Brian and Peter Milrose have crafted a very entertaing album, full of nice production touches. The melodies are gorgeous ,and the songs are sure to bring a smile or a tear. One other tune I have to mention is the acoustic gem “There;s a cinder in Cindy;s Eye”.More of that clever wordplay that Brian excells at. I do hope you seek this album out. There’s something for every music lover from this extraordinary talent.

2]Dana Countryman- “Pop Scrapbook”

Pop Scrapbook

“Find your song and embrace it” Michael McCarthy writes in the liner notes And there is so much here to embrace. Since discovering Dana ,I have found so much happiness in his magical pop music. The opening track “Mr. Sunshine ” just explodes with twin guitars and lyrics like “shine a light and bring a bright and sunny day”. And when he sings “My baby’s coming home she’s on her way” the melody dips up and down followed by a bell. Play this song on a dreary day and the room will brighten up.The album is full of these gems. A favorite is “Sunday comes along” as Dana unfolds a Sunday for us. When he sings the title lyric the music swells with flutes and a perfect pop melody blossoms with a Bacharach trumpet. Fun! “Let’s keep dancing” is a sweet duet with his lovely wife Tricia .”I’ll whisper sweet little things in your ear”.Romance is alive in their vocals. The suite “Record store employees” is dedicated to 10 cc. Dana has informed me that it is a true story. Perhaps my favorite song is “You’re everything” with the help of another pop master Nick Frater on vocals and guitars. “You’re every note of every song I sing…”. Simply a great pop tune.A petal steel gives a country slant to “Brand new feeling”, and the bossa nova “Butterflies” brings some jazz with a vibraphone and flugelhorn. Of course there is always a bonus Christmas song, and we also get 2 hidden tracks ,one a surf song recorded in 1988 by Dana’s old group The Amazing Pink Things, and a perfect cover of Teddy Randazzo’s “I’m on the outside looking in”. So a terrific value and an album that could be a gift for your sweetie or any big pop music fan. Dana is a versatile pop artist and a wizzard in the studio. He’s also a swell guy who looks great in an Hawaiian shirt. Dana thank you for the music.

3] Teenage Fanclub- “Endless Arcade”

Endless Arcade

Ive been a faithful fan since 1990’s “A Catholic Education” ,so I was thrilled at a new album. And it’s a great one full of their honey harmonies and music that still shows Big Star and Byrds influences. They are older and wiser,but they still rock and have plenty to say. Guitars ae always ahuge part of their sound and there is no letdown here. The opening track “Home” concludes with 4 minutes of melodic, guitar. Charging guitars kick off “Warm Embrace” with lovely vocal harmonies that glide over the lyrics.There is an affectionate nod to the Beatles on “Everything is falling apart”. “With a smile,long hair, And I want to Hold Your Hand”. Perhaps my favorite is “The sun won’t shine on me” with its heartfelt vocals and an awesome twin guitar solo. “With a troubled mind I am in decline. And the Sun won’t shine on me.” Outstanding! The anthem “Come with me” about dealing with the world. “Come with me tgether we’ll hide from reality”. 6 songs by Norman Blake which deal with heartache and breaking up. The other 6 are by Raymond McGinley which are searching and looking forward . All together its an emotional collection that is heartwarming , comforting, and thought provoking. Enriching us with his age and experience Norman sings in “Back in the day” “With each new passing day I see that old world fading away…”.This is elegant music with chiming guitars and gorgeous vocals. It is one of the years best albums.

The Bablers -“Psychadilly Circus

Psychadilly Circus

What I find this was. Once I got into it I could not get enough of this wonderful music. This is a group from Finland and they have made other albums with a lapse of time involved. Lucky for us they have put together this current release and Big Stir Records is letting us in on the fun. And it is quite the fun album. They take a deep dive into late 60’s pop, but the real delight is the variety of pop involved. The versatility of the musicians shines through on each cut. Here are some highlights :

“Love is everything” opens and closes the album sounding like a long lost John Lennon tune.with the title refrain repeated at the close. The title song “PsychadillyCircus” is soaring psych rock ,some cool phasing involved.”I hope it wouln’t rain tomorrow”is full of jangly guitars with a sing along chorus.The piano led “All because of you” is a Badfinger like pretty ballad. Folk styled finger picked guitar enhances the sensitive vocals of “Where were you my friend”.. “You told me you would never leave you told me you’d be always there…” “Angry young man” evokes the Kinks with its music hall vibe and ends with some pleasant whisling.This is one of my favorite tracks with four more coming in a row. “Walking on a sunny beach”,like its title is sheer delight with some of the album’s more addictive vocals and more jangle.”Someone to come on and take a walk come on lets have a talk…”. Folk rock is the genre for the anti war “Child of war” .”These are the times of war I’m sorry for a child of war…”.This is foloowed by “When you were growing” a full blast of power pop and my favorite track. The vocals are perfect with a swooning chorus and and chiming guitars. Really great!Last in my four in a row is the sweet acoustic “Singing with the Bluebirds”. “And when the morning comes I;m singing with the bluebirds”. Ending it all is another run of the Lennon sounding track that started the album. And there you have it ,a a nice survey of retro pop music. 15 tracks of superb singing especially from Arlo Tamminen. Lots of great gutars as well as harmonium, organ, cello, flute ,and tambourine. The album is full of style and excellent harmonies. I needed to give it some attention because I haven’t seen a lot of press on it. It is way too good an album to go unknoticed. Do seek it out .A terrific addition to the awesome Big Stir Record label.

So there is my four albums, a nice variety. The sharp wordplay and sublime melodies of Brian Gari. The pure pop of Dana Countrymen, the veteran Scottish band Teenage Fanclub, and the late 60’s pop of the Bablers from Finland. Check them out for yourself or perhaps a gift for the discerning music fan.

Enjoy! Ill do my best to share some more choices. soon.

Gene Good javagene@hotmail.com

Mid Year Report for 2021

My annual post where I report 5 albums and 5 songs that have my full attention. A simple exercise without commentaries. I will save those for the year end post.

ALBUMS :

1] Teenage Fanclub – “Endless Arcade”

Endless Arcade
sincerely, e

2] Elizabeth and the Catapult -“sincerely, e”

3] Tenant from Zero- “Flight”

'Flight' (CD, 2021)

4] Jon Batiste- “We Are”

WE ARE

5] Tele Novella- “Merlynn Belle

Merlynn Belle

SONGS :

1] Dorothea Paas -“Container’

2] Madison Cunningham- “Broken Harvest”

3] Ole Johannes Aleskjaer-“Waterways”

4] Joe Dilillo w/ The Lickerish Quartet- “Loser Girl”

5] The Stan Laurels- “Tomorrow”

I still have a lot of listening to do. This is merely a teaser for the year end report. It is shaping up to be another wonderful year for music. Can’t wait to keep listening. It’s what I do best. And you keep listening as well. Nothing sooths us better. Add some music to your day.

Gene Good javagene@hotmail.com

Tops in 2020

“Don’t be but ins, cut ins . No trouble in our bubble with a population of two. Let the hurry and the worry fade out. I’d rather be a shut in with you” from “Shut ins” by Curtis Stigers and Larry Goldings lyrics by Bill DeMain

The lock down changed everything in 2020. These extraordinary times had everyone re-thinking their daily lives. We needed to think, breathe , and spend time with our loved ones. We needed entertainment more than ever. We needed music. I found it to be an amazing year for music. A lot of it was already recorded, but a fair amount came out of the lock down .I have so much to share with you. There was the return of A Girl called Eddy, Louis Philippe, and The Apartments. I discovered Cabane, Nick Frater, Brian Gari, Juniper, Dave Caruso, Low Cut Connie . The Haden Triplettes and Bonny Light Horseman gave us some amazing traditional music. Sondre Lerche made a romantic masterpiece, and Daniel Tashian had an outstanding year., and Lisa Mychols and Paul Ryan made us happy. It is time for me to share my thoughts. I am way behind due to medical reasons and family matters, and I am sorry for that. But I have been listening, and listening and I believe I am ready.

I will start with my top 10 , after that there will be no particular order. I will also post a video playlist full of great moments, So here are my musical dreamers for the year. Come dream with me.

TOP TEN : –

1] A Girl called Eddy- “Been Around”

” Been around enough to miss my heart when it was pure…” Who could have imagined that the album of the year would be released in early January. Well, that is what happened with this amazing album. Erin Moran, who we have missed dearly is back with her mellow vocals , and she has put together some wonderful new music to enjoy. The album brings to mind Carole King, Burt Bacharach, and Dusty Springfield to name a few. Just take the title cut ,which is a master class in how to craft a pop song. Starting with some Carole King piano with a choir of voices in the background ushering in Erin’s melancholy vocal. I love how she whispers when she sings “pure”. Some perfectly placed horns enter and accent the song. Then at 3:14 the melody switches up for “Carrying around the weight of a lifetime of dreaming.” Erin and the singers swell and enter a chromatic harp solo. The song ends with a swelled chorus of “Been Around”. A remarkable performance. Here are some more choice lyrics and hooks :

-“Big Mouth” “Every time I go and open my big mouth .What’s it all about. ” Love how she sings “I just can’t win”, so vulnerable .At 2:45 the melody goes up and Erin sings “We go round round round”, a real hook.

-“Jody” This memory of a friend kicks off with a blast of R&B horns. “Love the line “watching every girl go by”. “He liked to call me kid I liked it when he did” leads to the catchy “Jody was a friend” handclap “Jody was a friend of mine” then repeat.

-“Charity shop window” – this sweet tune was composed by Erin with the great Paul Williams. “Long ago dreams find another chance to live again”. Erin’s vocal here is very strong. Love when she harmonizes with The Watson Twins. At the end when Erin sings softly “if she really tries’ gets me every time.

-“Someone’s gonna break your heart”- This is simply a pure pop rush with a killer chorus “Watch out Watch out Someone’s gonna break your heart someone’s gonna hurt you bad. Someone’s gonna talk so sweet. Someone’s gonna break you. Someone’s gonna make you cry.” It all end with chiming guitars and a minor chord. Sweet!

-“Come to the Palisades” -one of my favorites co-composed by Bill DeMain.has a lovely horn arrangement. “We got drunk on love and beer”. At 2:45 when the melody changes “Palisades swings all day but after dark there’s still a trace of you in my heart” leads to a gorgeous finish with the background vocals chanting. “Why’d you have to say goodbye”.

Throughout the album Erin has wonderful support. Daniel Tashian is all over it as a player ,producer, and composer. The amazing Jim Hoke adds really nice horn arrangements.. The beautiful background vocals together with Erin make a fine mix. I never tire of listening to this music. . I would say don’t make us wait so long for more music, but there is news of a cover album to look forward to. For now “Been Around” is my album of the year!

2]Sondre Lerche- :Patience”

“”Darling ,oh darling I wasn’t looking for someone else Just some other part of myself…” I can’t talk about this about without gushing a bit. The poetry of the lyrics, the melodies, the singing, and the music itself all spell romance. Sondre is one of our most gifted artists, and he’s also a deep thinker. This is the third album in a trilogy, preceded by “Please” which was essentially a break up album, then “Pleasure’ which seemed to bring him closer to inner peace. “Patience” is his look at romantic love. He’s taking on the different angles of love, the push and pull of the heart, devotion, and commitment. It is ravishing at times, there is some humor, but really it is so entertaining to just listen to. Here are some of the many highlights:

-“Patience” -The opening song introduces “this performance piece of work”, telling his love “that I loosely based on you.” To set us on his journey he ends with “Patience ,I’m coming”. The piano and the midi orchestra well enhance the song.

“I love you because it’s true”- The best part of this simple declaration of the strength of love is “Oh is this the way our parents used to live? Let’s do the opposite of everything they did”. Then at the end he looks to himself and sings “let’s do the opposite of everything I did”. The title of the song says it all.

_”You are not who I thought I was”- To a slight dance beat , the tricky lyrics detail his identity in the relationship .That is what I get . He may have a deeper meaning. I love the line “laying down the law of what dreams can be dreamed.”

-“That’s all there is”- Meeting up with his love after an absence contains this gem “Your secret smile will always kill me.”

-“Are we alone now” -There are three outstanding songs for me and this is #1.In hushed tones Sondre is basically reminding his love that we came into life alone , but the blessing is to love someone. “You are the person I have met I most prefer.” One of Sondre’s best vocals, there is also a lovely sax solo at the end.

-“Why would I let you go”- #2 This is a showcase of Sondre’s vocal talents. “And in my dreams I have the strength to not keep love at an arm’s length.” It is simply gorgeous and a perfect pop song. There is a video of him singing this with a small orchestra that has to be seen. It is included in my playlist coming up.

-“Why did I write the book of love” To a bossa nova beat with swirling flute, this is yet another vocal triumph. Halfway through he goes to falsetto which is classic Sondre. A clever nod to “My Fair Lady” he sings “you have the distracting touch that gets me to the church on time”. A wonderful performance and #3.

Bonus track “Slip into Character” with a choir backing is also quite beautiful. Sondre was so excited to share this album and I can see why .He did two live performances and I bought tickets for both. One was a solo “Patience” show from Loften Islands in September. The other was in December and was billed as a “Patience Extravaganza” with his full band at the Drammen Theater. Both in Norway and amazing to watch. I should mention how awesome his keyboardist Alexander von Mehren is throughout the album. Sondre is a unique talent , one that I follow faithfully.

3} The Flat Five- “Another World”-” She split the scene in a hopped up little chevy. Met Don McLean he was drinking at the levee…” Alex Hall, Kelly Hogan, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough, and Nora O’Connor are five musicians who love to sing. They are labeled on their Facebook page as “harmony junkies” who call their music “twisted sunshine pop. “They are The Flat Five and their latest is perhaps the most unique album on this entire list. Their 2016 debut “It’s a world of love and hope” was at the top of my list , and I believe this new one is even better. The one thing they have in common are all the songs are composed by Scott’s brother Chris Ligon. Chris has a very unique talent for writing about unusual characters like the guy who “shakes like Tina Turner’s daughter,” or a creepy photographer who asks for a smile “your mommy’s gone for a while,” or a prisoner’s last moments before being executed in Texas, or the old guy who just couldn’t connect throughout his life so he ‘climbed to the top of that St. Louis arch and pushed myself out.” The music covers jazz, sunshine pop, and Americana. Here are my three choice cuts , which was difficult because every track is amazing.

1] “Great state of Texas”-The last sad bittersweet moments of a doomed prisoner “Had my last cup of coffee ,my last piece of pie ” “Heard my last Beatle record ,the one Ringo sang.” The melody and piano are perfectly sad. . By the end it’s “Say goodbye to the children ,goodbye to my Mom.”

2] “Girl of Virginia” – Scott sings this so sweetly ,it sounds like a campfire reverie. Lines like “Then I could spin ya across the dance floor,” and “I think I’ll go ask her to play some canasta with me by the fire.’ The love song concludes with a jazz piano solo by Scott. A precious winner.

3] “World missed out” -Another sad one, this one going through a lifetime of missing out. At a Halloween party when he was 17 “Guess I’ll fold up all these empty chairs”. At 35 “I studied hard for my drinking test”. Finally “old and grey one fine day” he ends it all by pushing himself off the St. Louis arch. The music stops just before that fatal jump, and Kelly delivers a dramatic finish. I have see Kelly sing this live and it is a show highlight.

The music is so fresh sounding with a banjo or horns perfectly placed. Scott plays some nifty guitar as well as piano. They take turns at lead vocals , and whoever is singing knows just how to interpret Chris’s songs. On the cd jacket Chris is asked what’s it’s like to have the Flat Five perform his songs. His answer is “It’s like taking your beat up Mazda to the Robo-Wash and when it comes out the other side it’s suddenly a brand new Chrysler New Yorker.” Please do yourself a favor and listen to this immensely entertaining album. And always remember “caterpillars never hurt a thing>”

4] Burt Bacharach and Daniel Tashian- “Blue Umbrella The Complete Recordings”

“Are you still under the same Blue Umbrella Do you still wear the same coat, living your life your own way, You’ll always share my true heart…” From “Blue Umbrella”

One of my favorite car cds on road trips is “Painted from Memory” by Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach. Love the entire cd and always sing along. When Erin Moran broke the news that her friend Daniel Tashian was releasing new music from a collaboration with Burt Bacharach I kind of thought I was dreaming. I love Daniel’s music and voice, and of course Bacharach is royalty. Couldn’t wait. And the releases kept coming until we now have the complete recordings, 9 gems all with that impeccable Bacharach stamp. It is quite special. Here are my three choice songs:

1] “Travelling Light” -The trumpet begins, and what better way to start a Bacharach song. Daniel’s vocals are warm and sensitive ,”Travelling light that’s what they say We were born on the wind. Always been that way.” The trumpet finishes and the first cut on the album opens up the beauty to follow.

2] “Bells of St. Augustine”- This was the first song streamed and when I heard it I cried. The kind of cry only music can cause . You music lovers know of what I’m talking about. The guitar into is chilling and Daniel’s smooth delivery is so comforting as he searches for a lost love. “To find her I’ve looked high and low .High and low…” At 2;35 when he sings “the bells ring out” there is a pause and then the bells descend. This song reminds me the most of that Costello album. In a perfect world this song would be a huge number one hit.

3]”Quiet Place”- Another trumpet intro to the most heart tugging tune on the album. It is deeply affecting to hear the singer looking for a place to “repair my heart”. Sadness is in the melody. “cause breaking up does something to you. You can feel the cold right through you .There’s so much heartache in the air these days .” Then with his strongest vocal he sings “And I just can’t take it. No I just can’t take it anymore.” And the trumpet that started the album ends the album.

This album is perhaps the most exciting of the whole year. I held out for a cd and finally got one, but alas no credits. I am assuming Daniel composed the lyrics and Burt the music. Would love to see a “making of” video. What a year for Daniel Tashian. He is all over that Girl called Eddy album. He released a charming album with his daughters , then a Christmas EP with them. Then an ambient album that is really nice and now this one. He is a remarkable musician and I am sure Burt recognized that. Please give this one a listen.

5] Louis Philippe and The Night Mail- “Thunderclouds”-

“We wait in vain for signs of morning We pray for a hand to pull us in Thunderclouds over the mountain…” From “Thunderclouds”

Philippe Auclair is a sports writer. But I know him as Louis Philippe who was a star on legendary “el Records” from the 1980’s. and lots of solo albums following ,the last one , “An Unknown Spring” was released 13 years ago. But I never stopped searching for new music, and finally this year he has two releases. One, “The Devil Laughs” is with Stuart Moxham who was in the legendary Young Marble Giants. And the album on review here, “Thunderclouds” a solo album recorded with a three piece band, The Night Mail. The music is enhanced by Rachel Hall on strings, and Shanti Jayasinha on trumpet. Louis has a wonderful high register pop voice, and also composes, plays guitar and piano, and arranges. He has thirteen new songs to share, and it made me so happy to listen to the beautiful music. Here are some highlights:

-“Once in a lifetime of lies”-The opening tracks confirm Louis’s voice has kept it’s angelic luster. His sweet high vocals just take you with him. “You couldn’t guess what your fate had in store .You couldn’t care as you never cared before…”.Very beautiful and graceful music.

-“Rio Grande”- This gorgeous song begins with almost two minutes of instrumental music ,beginning with Bacharach trumpet followed by strings that usher in this tender vocal “This isn’t a lie. A trap to fool the god of gentle souls”. After singing of the pastoral beauty of the Rio Grande the strings and trumpet return to conclude . Amazing!

-Love is the only Light” – A gospel feel to the piano begins after which Louis sings of love as a sacred light. “One smile of hers could turn a day into song. Before you know it you find yourself singing along “. The remainder is Louis almost chanting the tune’s title to great affect.

There is the charming “The Man who had it all “, and guitars serenading “The Mighty Owl” “She caught the moon in her feathered lap…”.Even the politically charged “When London Burns” he still sounds breathlessly sweet with a trumpet in the background. If you don’t know his music this is as good a starting place. But I urge you to check out his early music from the el Records era. A very special artist indeed. And I hope Louis is inspired enough to not make us wait 13 years for the next one.

6] Jules Shear- “Slower’ ‘see I just want to stare into your eyes you say they’ve got a name for that It’s Love..”

When I see a release announced for Jules Shear I get very excited. Jules is perhaps the most consistent artist out there. He takes composing seriously and he has a great vocal range. All that is on display here. However his vocals are relaxed and the music is late night reveries. Recorded near his home in Woodstock, NY, during the pandemic with a small group. I must mention the wonderful piano stylings of Pepe. Jules even got John Sebastian to contribute harmonica, autoharp, and guitar. Choice tracks:

“Between Hell and Hello”- The album title comes from this tune “I used to think no one could catch me . But now I’m slower…”

“Feels like Fall”- He sings this entire song repeating the song’s title but letting us know ” and it’s spring”.

-“Today like tomorrow”- With lounge piano Jules sings in his low register to great affect. “Between the nearness and the far away make today like tomorrow for a little while…” This may be one of Jules greatest songs. His haunting vocal with the sensitive piano is really something.

  • Three songs “Smart”, “It’s love”, and “Call it love” I am guessing are romantic odes to his partner Pal Shazar I also think that is her harmonizing with Jules . She is not listed so maybe not.
  • One of my favorite Jules Shear albums is one he did with Marty Wilson- Piper of The Church ,”The Third Party” .It is a low key affair with a lot of his lower register vocals. This album is very close to that feel . However Jules voice has a more mature sound now especially when he sings low. In an interview with Tom Lauhm of The San Francisco Examiner Jules said ‘ I really do this for myself. I write songs and let the chips fall where they may.’ So glad that in this crazy year the chips fell our way.

-7] Cabane-“Gran de est la Maison” ‘Surrounded by the sea the wind blows in our eyes . Huddled in our velvet coats.” from “Now, winter comes”

This is such a find. Listening has given me such happiness. I found out about it from Sean O’Hagen’s Facebook page. He was singing it’s praises , with very god reason since he arranges all the strings. Cabane is the work of Thomas Jean Henri who composed the music and recorded most of it in his home in Brussels. He has enlisted Bonny Prince Billy and Kate stables for vocals, and as mentioned Sean O’Hagen with the magical string arrangements. Sean also contributes guitars and keyboards. The music is gorgeous chamber folk music evocative of nature and the changing seasons. The vocals by Bonny Prince Billy are the best I have heard from him. Kate Stables from This is the Kit has a lovely voice and when they sing together like on “Take me home Part one” with The Bostgehio Choir backing the results are superb. Kate has two outstanding tracks with “Now winter comes” and “Until the summer comes”. When she sings “We could go for a walk until the summer comes” with her voice going up on “walk” I just melt. Sean O’ Hagen brings some of his High Llamas charm throughout the album. listen to the sparkle on “Easily we’ll see”. So beautiful. This music is pure pastoral loveliness. There is a great Take away show with Thomas and Kate in Paris with a chamber orchestra and choir and you see what a gentile man that Thomas is. This is one of the greatest discoveries of the year and I do hope you will seek it out and share in the happiness it offers.

8] Lisa Mychols and Super 8- “Lisa Mychols &Super 8”-I have already done a complete review of this album at my Pop Forever Site. Let me say it gives me great joy to listen to this and to turn people onto. I have always loved Lisa as a vocalist. She is mentioned in several of my lists. But this was my introduction to Paul Ryan who as Super 8 is a one man band capable of taking you higher. Together they trip the light fantastic with a couple cool covers, and songs like “You and me, Me and you” and “Your summer theme” as highlights. “Honey Bee” is one of the year’s best songs. So it’s fun fun fun till Daddy takes away the recording equipment. Check out my review, and please listen to this wonderful music. It is well worth checking out. And the good news is they are already working on a new one. Link to the review:

Lisa Mychols and Super 8 | Pop Forever (wordpress.com)

9]Nicole Atkins -“Italian Ice”- “Take me in your arms To sounding the alarm Hey hey hey hey look out below watch them fall like Dominoes…” From “Dominoes”

My strong affection for Nicole Atkins has been well documented in my yearly lists. I love her voice and her versatility. She never stop changing her musical vision. Lately it’s been southern soul, or as she states in a making of video “boardwalk soul” referring to her growing up in New Jersey. That is where the album’s title comes from,. Shet has early memories of getting Italian ice on the boardwalk. This album deals a lot with family and being with your loved ones .She recorded most of it at the famous Muscle Shoals studio with some of the legendary musicians like David Hood and Spooner Oldham. Also Britt Daniel and Seth Avett help out. But it’s that amazing voice that stands out like the torch in “These old Roses” or just belting out a King Groffin cover “In the Splinters “with great honky tonk piano. The funk R&B bass on “Mind Eraser’ details the come down after touring .’till you do it all again.’ There are two love songs to her husband that are my favorites. “Forever” a strong ballad sounding like a 70’s hit with a soaring chorus that sticks with you. And romantic lines like “I really like your mouth Come a little closer let me try to figure you out.” The other song is “Captain” one she has been previewing for a while. The singer is requesting to take un some of the load in the relationship. “And when you’re found a wreck. I’ll pull you on deck.” “Let me be your captain once”. Her emotional tug in this song help to make it one of the year’s best . When touring resumes be sure to see Nicole live. She has a Roy Orbison power to her voice that comes across live. She has put together one heck of an entertaining album here. Do give it a listen.

10] Juniper- ‘Juniper” “So frustrating keeps you waiting Can’t imagine why we’re dating Boys Boys Boys Boys.” from “Boys! Boys! Boys! Boys!’.

Duglas Stewart wrote about her so I checked it all out. It turned out to be one of the year’s most exciting finds. Juniper Shelley was all of 15 years old when she recorded this entertaining album. The girl knows music. In an interview she was to make a playlist. With the Beatles and Beach Boys she adds Rockpile, NRBQ, and The Fountains of Wayne among others, NRBQ !. I’m sure that may come from her father Michael Shelley who is a radio DJ and an artist himself. I know I have at least three records of his. He produced the record and wrote a lot of the songs. And the record is full of fresh sounding fun teen anthems. Juniper has a delightful voice and she spreads charm all over these tunes. As mentioned at the beginning she sings about all the trouble caused by those “Boys !”.Forget about those boys with ‘looks to kill” She is “Sticking with my Henry” even though Phil walks around with a hundred dollar bill “That’s trouble”. “In “Everybody’s got a crush on Chad” she sings ‘just a smile and I feel featherly”. Another choice lyric is from “Kids on my corner” -“Kids in the cul-de-sac wouldn’t like the Beatles if they came back.” I have two favorites. One is the sweetly endearing “I don’t want to dream about you ” .”Don’t be surprised when I close my eyes I don’t want to dream about you.” And one of the year’s best songs, “Girls just want a boy to rest their head upon”. She sings this with such an innocent charm. Play it for Brian Wilson. please. The music throughout is great. Michael has enlisted aid from artists like Marshall Crenshaw, Ira Kaplan , and Chris Collingwood among others. The guitars especially are snappy and fit in perfectly. I know Terry Adams of NRBQ would love this record. It is an amazing collection of tunes . Do seek it out. It will make your day . In just under 30 minutes Juniper made my top 10. I hope to hear some more from her.

THE NEXT TEN [in no particular order]

11] The Apartments-“In and out of the light”- This year’s entry in albums most influenced by Prefab Sprout. There seems to be one every year. Not so much the intimate vocals of Peter Milton Walsh, but the songs structures and the melodies. Moody and emotional. Listen : “Write your way out of town” and ” Butterfly Kiss. “

12] Curtis Stigers -“Gentleman”- A terrific jazzy album of sophisticated songs well sung by Curtis. He has a way with a lyric. There are songs by Nick Lowe, and Bill DeMain ,and it is the Larry Goldings with Curtis that stand out. Listen: “A lifetime Together” which reminds me of Sondheim and “As Usual” composed by Bill DeMain and Mr. Goldings. This was one of my most listened to albums of the year.

13] The Jayhawks- “XOXO”- They spread the composing around on this release and it pays off. Really great Jayhawks songs ,and that is a very good thing. The limited edition comes with 15 tunes . Also this is my best album cover of the year. Listen : “This Forgotten Town”, “Ruby”, and “Illuminate”.

14] Bob Dylan- “Rough and Rowdy Ways”- By far the most astonishing release of the year. There was all of a sudden talk of a 17 minute Dylan tune about Kennedy. And when it did arrive the entire album contains Dylan’s most inspired singing and composing in ages. I am still discovering all the cultural references he throws at us. There are three songs that are like meditations, and will stand the test of time as three of his best. “Murder most foul”, the mesmerizing Kennedy epic, “I contain Multitudes “, one that continues to dazzle me, and “I’ve made up my mind to give myself to you” ,a tender love song.

15] Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche- “I can still hear you”- The Roches are one of my all time favorites ,and listening to mother and daughter here brings back such memories. Gorgeous vocals and really sweet songs. Just the way they enunciate the lyrics is pure magic. Listen: The hushed title song, “I think I am a soul”, and “Jane” a Margaret A. Roche song , very beautiful.

16] VV Lightbody- “Make a shrine or burn”- I read a review of this release in The Chicago Sun Times and when I checked it out I was blown away by the emotional intensity. Her vocals grew on me and affected me deeply. A huge discovery for me. Listen: “If it’s not me” one of the best songs of the year, “Damn Golden”, and “Car Alarm”.

17] Emperor Penguin -“Soak up the gravy” Thanks to Kool Kat notices I caught onto to this gifted group and am I glad I found them. This album is like having a jukebox of pop music. With great confidence and an endless supply of hooks and harmonies, this album never lets up. Listen: “Go Guitar Gonauts” with fabulous surf guitars. “Hole in your soul “,so pretty. And “Speedwell Blues” with Lisa Mychols ,a lovely sensuous samba. I have something in common with the band. I love the films of Eric Rohmer, and they have clips of one of them in the “Speedwell” video which will show up in my playlist.

18] Sparks- “A steady drip, drip, drip”- More musical mischief from Ron and Russell Mael . Just listening to this album convinces one that their art has no end in sight. The album is book ended with two rather serious tracks. Opener “All that” to me is about the brothers sticking together ’till God says it’s time to go,” The closer “Please don’t fuck up my world ” is a plea not to destroy our “desserts, forests, and fields”. Listen : “Lawnmower” where a guy must choose between his girl friend or his lawnmower. “Stravinsky’s only hit” and “Onomato Pia” which display their flair for opera.

19] Taylor Swift- “Folklore” When the sudden announcement of this album’s release videos started appearing. As I watched I was immediately drawn into these reflective songs. It wasn’t just the sublime melodies that revealed all the beauty .It was the rhythms of Taylor’s singing that kept me intrigued. I can’t say enough about the assistance Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff brought to this project. It proved to me something I was on the cusp of believing already. Taylor Swift is an awesome talent. Listen :”August”, “Betty”, and the haunting bonus track “Lakes”.

20] Pat Metheny- “From this place”- With quiet calm, and the distinctive bounce of Pat’s guitar, this album took me away from the troubles of the world every time I played it. With a tight band and a full orchestra, the music here plays out beautifully. Take “You Are” which is 6 minutes of a hushed build that leaves you breathless. Next track “Same River: has the playful melody that only Pat can come up with. And bonus track “Love may take a while” is another pretty reverie. An album committed to the magic of music.

BUBBLING UNDER:

21] Laura Viers- “My Echo”- Haunting ,lovely musical tone poems from this enchanting chanteuse . Listen: “Freedom Feeling” , “Another space and time”

22] Phoebe Bridgers- “Punisher” Phoebe is everywhere these days becoming the star we always thought she would be. Listen: “Garden song”, “I know the end”‘

23] Nick Frater- “Fast and loose” New to me Nick has amazing pop chops. “Let’s hear it for love” is one of the year’s best songs. And “That ship has sailed ‘ leaves me breathless.

24] Tame Impala “The Slow Rush” Yes I miss the guitars , but the synths really are glorious. And the songs by Kevin Parker are still gorgeous and grow on you well. Listen: “Instant Destiny” , “On Track”

25] Dana Countryman -‘Come into my studio” The reliable pop maestro with another collection of sweet confections. . For a full review check below.. Listen: “Mrs. Van Buren”, “You gotta love Jeanne Marie”

Dana Countryman-“Come into my Studio” | Pop Forever (wordpress.com)

26] Brian Gari- “Names Vol. One” I discovered Brian through Dana Countryman and I am so happy I found him. He is a gifted singer /songwriter in the Rupert Holmes vein. Full review below. Listen : “How do I keep up with you Nicole”, “Sue Ann”.

Brian Gari “Names Vol1” | Pop Forever (wordpress.com)

27] Stuart Moxham and Louis Philippe- “The Devil Laughs” The other Louis Philippe release, this one with Stuart Moxham of the Young Marble Giants. It was recorded in 2016 but just released now and it is lovely glorious pop music. Listen: “Day must come”, :Singing Out”

28] Rufus Wainwright- “Unfollow the rules” A return to pop music and this reminds me of his first album. His vocals have never been better. Listen: “Damsel in Distress”, “”Alone Time”

29] Fiona Apple- “Fetch the Bolt Cutters’- A percussive assault ,unlike anything she has done before. But inside the noise there are actual and meaningful songs. One of the most unusual releases of the year. Listen: ‘Relay”, “Under the table’

30] Mike Viola- “Godmuffin’- Consistent pop artist with a gorgeous voice. He also helped Mandy Moore with her latest. Listen: “Ordinary Girl”, “We may never be this young again”

31] Carla Bley- “Life goes on”- Together with Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow , Carla has put together three jazz suites. Beautiful and playful at times, this one gave me great pleasure. Listen: “Life goes on “, ‘Beautiful Telephones”

32] Chris Stamey- and the Fellow Travelers “A brand new Shade of Blue”- A fascinating mix of cool jazz and pop music. Chris states theses are “songs for late nights and rainy days”. Chris continues to compose his own American Songbook. Listen : “I don’t think of you”, “In a minor key”

33] Ron Sexsmith_ “Hermitage”- There is no pop artist we can count on more than Ron Sexsmith. Another collection of gorgeous songs to take you away from troubles. Listen: “Spring of the following year”, ‘Whatever shape your heart is in”

34] Dave Caruso- ‘Radiophonic Supersonic”- A new artist for me and I am grateful I found him. He has a soaring pop voice, the kind I can’t get enough of. Some great tunes that stay with you. Listen: “Little miss sunshine”, “The boy wonders”, “Throwing out my baby with the bassinet”

35] Ben Watt -“Storm Damage”- I can say with much happiness that I have never heard Ben sing better than on this album. The music is basically a jazz trio with his vocals showcased. As the title indicates there is some unrest in these songs. But there is much calm and resolve on “Sunlight follows the night.” It all leads to “Festival Song” beautifully sung . The song ends with the band playing and some found sounds added. Again, if you are a fan you have to hear his sublime vocals.

36] Mandy Moore- “Silver Landings”- So nice to have Mandy back with new music. She works so well with Mike Viola and that shows up in some of the melodies. It is her warmth showing in the vocals that show she is in a good place. Listen: “Save a little for yourself”, “When I wasn’t watching”

37] The Flaming Lips- “American Head”- The return to the pop sound that captivated us on “The Soft Bulletin”. The mood is the sadness connected with drugs from the 70’s. Subject matter aside, the music bathes us in the pop psych that the Lips excel at. Listen: The gorgeous “At the movies on quaaludes “, and the so sad “Mother please don’t be Sad”

38] Gary Olson- “Gary Olson”- Luscious pop full of hooks and strong vocals. Recorded in Norway and Brooklyn, , and while in Norway Gary worked with members of Loch Ness Mouse , who are one of my favorite bands in the pop universe. Gary’s voice is warm and friendly and this album is simply lovely. Listen: “Giovanna please”, “Diego it’s time”

39] Chuck Prophet- “The land that time forgot”- My friend Chipper Sam pointed me in Chuck’s direction after I fell in love with “High as Johnny Thunders”, a terrific folk rock tune. He had me watch a live video and I was instantly hooked. Mojo Magazine described him as “one of rock’s great raconteurs ‘. This is a great rock album with tunes like “Best shirt on” and :Love doesn’t come from the barrel of a gun.” Consider me a fan!

40] Bill Lloyd- “Don’t kill the Messenger”- I have Alan Haber to thank for listening to this release, even though I was a Foster and Lloyd fan back in the day. This is classic power pop with lots of guitars. Love the title song and “Baby’s in the mood”. “The kiss of the summer wind” is one of my favorite songs of the year.

41] Bruce Springsteen -“Letter to you”- Nice return of the E Street Band , and the playing and vocals are terrific here. Lots of inspired work went into crafting this album. It made me happy to hear Bruce with his band doing what he loves the most. Listen: “House of a Thousand Guitars”, “I’ll see you in my Dreams”

42] The Avett Brothers- “The Third Gleam” Strong Americana music from these artists who made some stirring videos during the lockdown. They kept doing virtual concerts and a couple songs from this album were well showcased. Listening to this music gives you a good feeling of hope. Listen: “Victory”, “I go to my heart”

43] Deacon Blue- “City of Love”- Another group with the Prefab Sprout sound, which makes sense since both bands broke out at the same time. They are back and as string as ever. “Weight of the World” packs an emotional punch. And the sensitive singing on “In our Room’ hits home. They already have a companion album to this one released in 2021.

44] Rolling Blackouts C.F. – “Sideways to New Italy”- Guitars that rarely stop coming at you, and melodies that remind me of The Go Betweens. Picked by Mojo as a band to watch, they definitely have a sound. There is the guitar charge on “The second of the First’ and then the pretty “Sunglasses at the wedding” in contrast.

45] Bananagun- “The true story of Bananagun”- Found in a Mojo review this band from Melbourne is an absolute blast. Their music is a beguiling mix of indie pop and Tropicalia , with some African rhythms as well. They re-write a Jorge Ben tune with “She Now”. Give this one a listen and start swaying to the music. Listen: “Out of Reach” , “Bang goes the bongos’

46] Laura Marling ‘Song for our daughter”- This is an artist I should have been following ,but this is the first album I have really given serious time to. It is filled with heartfelt songs sung with a clear and beautiful voice. She is in a good place presently, listening to Joni Mitchell and McCartney. “The end of the affair’ is influenced by the Graham Green novel. The pop lilt of “For you’ is a result of listening to Sir Paul. And the title song is inspired by Maya Angelou’s ‘Letter to my Daughter’, a daughter she never had, like Laura. I have watched videos of Laura performing these songs with a full orchestra and they are very moving.

47] The Beths- ‘Jump Rope Gazers”- The Beths are a New Zealand upbeat power pop band , that I fell in love with from the start. Their lead singer , Elizabeth Stokes has a wonderful voice, full of charm. I called them one of the bands to watch, and I am watching. Listen: “I’m not getting Excited” , and the ever so sweet “You are a beam of light’

48] Anna Burch- “”If you’re dreaming”- I believe I found her on one of Chipper Sam’s weekly indie playlists. I was instantly struck by her voice and delivery. She is very reminiscent of 90’s female vocalists, but her songs are quite distinctive and original. Along with her bittersweet , is a light sense of humor. Listen: “Jacket”, the lovely “Keep it warm”, and “Not so bad”

49] Elvis Costello- “Hey Clockface”- A mixed bag recorded in Helsinki , Paris, and New York. There are some rockers, and some experimental music. The real winners here come from the Paris sessions with Steve Nieve. Three songs from those sessions all feature Elvis in glorious voice . “They’re not laughing at me now ‘ with flugel horn, sax, and cello, “i do[Zula’s song]” with lovely falsetto, and ‘I can’t say her name” which reminds me of Cole Porter.

50] Haley Williams “Petals for Armor”- I never listened to Paramore, so I really didn’t know Haley as an artist. But her videos started popping up on You Tube and I got hooked. It is essentially a break up album, and the music is dance oriented. But there is an endearing quality to these songs which got to me. Songs like “Sugar on the rim” and ‘Cinnamon’ are filled with winning hooks. And “Dead Horse” is one of the best songs of the year.

MORE GREAT SELECTIONS;

Millie McGuire- “Yours’ / Tim Burgess- ‘I love the new Sky’/ Real Estate- “The Main Thing” / Low Cut Connie- “Private Lives” / Rumer – “Nashville Tears” / Jason Isbell and the v400 Unit- “Reunions” / Kevin Morby- “Sundowner’ / Joe McAlinden – “Edit” / Louise Goffin- “Two Different Movies” / Marker Starling -‘High January” / The Corner Laughers- “Temescal Telegraph” / The Yearning – “Only when I’m dancing” / Sylvie Simmons – “Blue on Blue” / The Lemon Twigs- “Songs for the General Public” / Deep Sea Diver- “Impossible Weight” / The Black Watch- ‘Fromthing Somethat ” / BC Camplight – ‘Shortly after Takeoff ” / Matt Berninger= ‘Serpentine Prison” /

Missing: Both the new Fleet Foxes and Jeff Tweedy did not release their cd’s until the new year, even though digital releases were out. So I will access them in my 2021 list.

VIDEO PLAYLIST- 104 videos from the albums of the year as well as the songs of the year. Enjoy!

2020 best – YouTube

RECORDINGS OF SPECIAL MERIT -Covers, traditional music , compilations etc .

1] The Haden Triplets- ‘The Family Songbook”- Tanya, Petra, and Rachel Haden, daughters of legendary musician Charlie Haden, with an extraordinary showcase for the purity of their voices. There are four songs composed by their grandfather, Carl E. Haden. There are traditional songs, a gorgeous one by their brother Josh, even a Kanye West cover. My favorite is their haunting and very beautiful cover of “Wayfaring Stranger” ,which gives me chills each time I listen. I have an image of the young girls singing a southern gospel tune at home while Ornette Coleman sits and listens. Simply my fantasy.

2] Bonny Light Horseman- “Bonny Light Horseman”- Anais Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson of The Fruit Bats, and Josh Kaufman with a stunning collection of British and Irish traditional songs. They re-interpret and re-imagine these songs and it makes for a delightful listen. The title cut, “Deep in Love” and “Magpie’s Nest’ are just three examples of the beauty on display. The absolute stand out is “The Roving”. Anais has a lovely voice, and this is an excellent entertaining album.

3] James Taylor- “American Standard”- The wonderful fact about this standards collection is how James makes it sound like they are all James Taylor songs. Covers like “Almost like being in love” ,”My heart stood still”, and ” The surrey with the fringe on top’ all sound like from his own songbook. His warm delivery and the jazzy music all add up to a real winner. I absolutely love listening to this.

4] NRBQ- “At the Ardmore Music Hall 2015”- A wonderful 17 song live show featuring two of Sun Ra’s horn players.

5] NRBQ- “In Frequencies”- A collection of rare outtakes, live songs, and soundchecks. This will keep us fans content while we wait for actual new music. Well put together and nice notes on each song.

6] Paul McCartney- “McCartney Three “- As stated in the past I simply cannot rank a release by Sir Paul. This is all Paul, recorded at home during the lockdown. The fun he had putting it all together does translate back to the listener. Some sharp guitar on “Long Tailed Winter Bird”, and songs like “Find my way” and “The Kiss of Venus ” are cool tunes .The real winner, and heartwarming is “Winter Bird/ When winter comes”. This song is Paul at his best and will stand the test of time.

7] Emma Swift- ‘Blonde on the tracks”- With some help from Wilco’s Pat Sansone and Robyn Hitchcock , Emma has done something remarkable here. An entire album of Dylan covers sung with a female point of view. Listen how she softens the impact on “One of us must know [sooner or later]”. She brings a subtle new meaning to ‘You’re a big girl now” and “Queen Jane Approximately ‘ with Robyn playing some chiming guitar. She even does a sensitive cover of “I contain Multitudes” from Dylan’s latest. Throughout she displays a deep understanding of the material. an outstanding album.

8] Louden Wainwright the Third- ‘I’d rather lead a band”- Louden tackles 14 standards with a swinging big band ,Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks and pulls it off in grand fashion. Like James Taylor, Louden performs these songs like he wrote them. Sharp versions of “Ain’t Misbehavin”, “You Racal you”, and “My Blue Heaven”. He dusts off an obscure and bawdy “I’m going to give it to Mary with love”. He sings so sweetly on Rodgers and Hart’s “A ship without a sail” giving it just the right amount of heartache. Check out the excellent liner notes , Give this one a listen. You’ll thank me later.

“Take me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration”- Not a recording but a stream from April 2020. It is over 2 hours of Broadway stars and celebrities wishing Steven a Happy Birthday and singing a Sondheim song. It is by far the very best thing I saw all year. If you love Sondheim ,or musicals you have to see this. It is available on You Tube.. It is astonishing.

EP’S :

1] Dear Stella- “Time Zones” – Alan Haber tipped me onto this fabulous artist . What a terrific voice!

2] Kelly Jones–“Big dogs die young”- This is an artist I follow faithfully. She possess a soaring pop voice that always leaves me breathless. Features “A Place to land” co-written by Bill DeMain. The Ep is dedicated to Adam Schlesinger.

3]Madison Cunningham – ‘Wednesday” 4 covers from her famous Wednesday sessions. I look forward to those sessions to see what she is going to cover and to listen to that amazing voice.

SONGS OF THE YEAR :

1] Burt Bacharach and Daniel Tashian- “Bells of St. Augustine’- When I first heard this it affected me deeply. It still does.

2] Sondre Lerche- ‘I could not love you enough”- Not from his album, this emotional song is totally Bacharach. Features not one but two pulse pounding endings.

3] VV Lightbody – ‘If it’s not me” This song got to me from first play, then continued to devastate me more each followed listen. It’s quiet building heartache introduces an outstanding artist.

4] Boo Hewerdine – “The Language of love” – The music Boo releasing now is quietly beautiful and really showcases his melancholy and gorgeous vocals.

5] Alex Lilly- “Goodbye Reckless Things”- The perfect lockdown song. Features a lovely bittersweet vocal.

6] Curtis Stigers- “Shut Ins” – Another great lockdown song. Words by Bill DeMain and music by Larry Goldings, and a superb vocal by Curtis.

7] Burt Bacharach- ‘The great Divide”- A song very relevant for our times. Music by Burt and lyrics by Melody Federer.

8] Cabane- “La, sous la vent” An enchanting non album track with nice guitar from Sean O’Hagan.

9] Emma Swift- “The Soft Apocalypse ” – Another song inspired by the lockdown as well as the riots. Reveals a talent beyond her wonderful Dylan covers.

10] Emperor Penguin with Lisa Mychols- “Speedwell Blue”- A lovely samba sweetly sung by Lisa. Be sure to watch the fab video in my playlist with scenes from the great Eric Rhomer.

11] Brendan Eder Ensemble -“The spirit of ‘- Outstanding chamber orchestra playing some lovely modern music with vocals coming in at the end. The video is a must watch [in my playlist]

12] Bill DeMain- “Film Noir”- One of our most gifted pop composers with an atmospheric tribute to those great film noirs. Featuring the appropriate sax played by the reliable Jim Hoke.

13] Nick Frater- “Let’s hear it for love”- The absolute perfect pop song that comes soaring out of my speakers. ‘as the sky falls down around me let’s hear it for love.’ I feel like a better person just for listening to this blast of positive splendor.

14] Nicholas Krgovich and Nedelle Torrisi- “Every day a little death”- This moving Sondheim cover just popped up in my Spotify Radar and I was swept away. It takes on special meaning in the middle of the pandemic. Don’t know Nicholas but I’m a huge Nedelle fan.

15] Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir – “Sing Gently” – Features over 17,000 singers from 129 countries with gorgeous harmonies. An outpouring of pure love , the video has to be seen. It is in my playlist. The lockdown featured all kinds of these musical adventures. This is the best I have seen.

16] Nicole Atkins- “Captain”- The amazing highlight of her latest album features Britt Daniel on vocals. This ode to her husband is a romantic triumph. ” come on back to my arms…”

17] Ben Folds- “2020”- Superb piano ballad echoing the scary year we are all experiencing. Sung in June the halfway point and asks the question “how many years will we cram into one..”

18] Wilco- “Tell your friends”- A virtual song featuring the members in their homes with their families and pets. Check out the video in the playlist. “I want to hold your hand when I see you again”.

19] Hayley Williams- “Dead Horse”- Hayley was a pleasant discovery for me and for a while this was the best song ever. You know how that goes. It has an irresistible chorus that stuck in my head for a week. ‘skipping like a record I sing along…”

20] Lavender Diamond- “Look through the window” – Wonderful song with a gorgeous vocal by Becky Stark. Really beautiful!

21] Boo Hewerdine – “Wanderlust” – More hushed ambient beauty from Boo this one featuring Rachel Haden. Haunting!

22] The Hangabouts- “Animal Suite”- Somebody play this for Ray Davies. Fun tune I like to sing a long to. Gotta love these guys.

23] The Marias- “Care for you”- I really love this band. Cool and sultry with the soft vocals of Maria, a true chanteuse. Every song I have heard from them has moved me. They remind me a little of the Sarah Records era.

24] Melody Gardot – “C’est Magnifique ” featuring Antonio Zambujo- This is perhaps the most romantic song I’ve heard all year. The sway of the samba rhythms and the exquisite vocals just take you with them. Wonderful video in the playlist.

25] Julie Et Joe- “Marelle”- A French delight on the amazing Elefant label. This is Joe Moore who composed the song and Julie Big who was in Le Super Homard . Julie does an awesome job on this sweet tune. Classic French pop confection.

26] Angel Olson- “Whole new Mess”- More bluesy torch from Angel ,who excels at moody vocals. Get out the bourbon.

27] The Radio Dept.- “You’re looking at my guy”- More pure pop magic from this awesome Swedish band. This is a cool cover of a 60’s girl group song. No surprise that they make it sound like one of their own.

28] Shelly Peiken- “George and John”- Wonderful baroque ballad with the classic line ” Half of me is gone .Just like George and John” . Great Beatles vibe in the lyrics and music. A real find.

29] Janileigh Cohen- “To be with you”- Known for her video folk music cover with one of her own sings. A real pretty ode to love ,she does mention Leonard Cohen and Dylan in the lyrics. Nice production with a trumpet closing it out. Looking forward to the album she is working on.

30] Supercute [with La Casa Azul| – ” Jamie Theakston”- A delightful pop love song from the Elefant label, this one from England. The affection in the song is for some pop star. “He’s the sexiest boy on my tv screen”.

31] Chris Stamey and the Fellow Travelers- “A brand new shade of blue”- Atmospheric jazz pop from Chris, with a superb sax to add to the mood. Excellent!

32] Kinema- “In Walks you”- A terrific find discovered from following Boo Hewerdine. I love this song a lot and b sure to catch the swell video in my playlist. Need to check out more from them.

33] Band A Part- “Templos Y Neones” – Another sweet pop band from Elefant Records. A boy and girl group, Javi and Coral who are from Madrid , but here they show affection for their trip to Japan. Call it Europop if you like. I just call it pop and it is positively uplifting.

34] La Bien Querida-“Un Gatito”- Yet another from the endless supply of pop music on the Elefant label. Her name is Ana Fernandez Villaverde and she sings like an angel. The hooks stuck with me for a while with lyrics like “The path that leads me to the garden with the truth exposed.” Very sweet!

35] The Avett Brothers- “We Americans”- A patriotic anthem by the always reliable Avett Brothers. Moving and relevant with a great video in the playlist. “I am a son of Uncle Sam and I struggle to understand the good and evil. “

I could list more but the need to move on compels me to stop here.

RE- ISSUES ;

The Style Council -“Long Hot Summers; The story of the Style Council” Fabulous collection from Paul Weller’s post Jam band together with Mick Talbot . This soulful pop never gets old. Shout it to the Top!

CONCERTS;

-The Flat Five- The Venue In Aurora February 12 ,2020 The usual mix of sunshine pop, jazz, soul, and country. 2 wonderful sets filled with musical delights. Little did we know how close we were to the lockdown.

-Kasim Sultan’s Utopia- City Winery March 11th 2020 Just days away from everything shutting down. At least we got to enjoy Kasim’s soaring voice on Utopia classics.

-Sondre Lerche- As reported in #2 in the top 10 albums .Sondre did two virtual concerts. One was a solo show ,Live from Loften in September. The other was called “Patience Extravaganza ‘” with his full band in December. I purchased tickets for both and they were amazing. A further understanding after attending these shows was just how special an album “Patience’ was.

LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2021 ;

Julien Baker / Teenage Fanclub / Astral Drive /Valerie June / The Legal Matters / The Stan Laurels /Lana Del Rey /Fruit Bats / Tristen / St. Vincent /Jon Batiste /Lake Street Dive / Emperor Penguin / Simon and the Astronauts / Elizabeth and the Catapult / Hilma Nikolaisen / Tele Novella / A Girl called Eddy covers album / Aaron Frazer / Rebecca Martin / Meredith D’Ambrosio / Lucy Dacus / Loch Ness Mouse / Tenant from Zero / Departure Lounge /

I CAN DREAM CAN’T I [my personal wish list}

-Prefab Sprout- I hope and I pray that Paddy McAloon will release the album announced two years ago, as well as albums he has in his “vault”.

-Roddy Frame- It would be great to hear from him.

-Molly Felder- Would love to hear something from my favorite female vocalist. Solo or perhaps with Swan Dive. Hangabouts are you reading this?

SHOUT OUTS;

-Alan Haber and his Pure Pop Radio site. Alan has enlightened me to so many pop artists through the years. He was the first to break the news of the Flat Five album ,and I live in Chicago ! One artist that stands out for me is Dana Countryman. Keep the hits coming Alan.

Duglas Stewart- It was Duglas that pointed me to Juniper that ended up in my top 10. He is constantly posting interesting clips of pop artists, soundtracks, world music, even BMX Bandits. He has a good heart, plus you have to like a guy who loves a good mystery book. Rock on Duglas.

-Boo Hewerdine- Aside from being one of the best singer/ songwriters we have, his posts reveal much about his craft. He is also hilarious in a good way. Posts from his wife Audrey and his son Ben are also quite enlightening.

Mojo Magazine- As a long time subscriber I can honestly say that each issue enlightens me. The best review section . and I love the different features. Editor John Mulvey should be proud. Even during the lockdown the issues have been outstanding.

-Daily stops and new release information to keep me informed : Pitchfork, Popmatters, Stereogum ,Ray at Kool Kat Records , Paste, No Depression ,Darla Records , Elefant Records ,Uncut Magazine , Pause and Play , Spotify Release Radar

WRAP UP :

It has been a very difficult year for all of us. While our main focus will always be our families and friends, we always have music to entertain us and enrich our lives. I’ve illustrated my thoughts on the year in music. And that brings me to the main point. My purpose with this list is to share my take on the best music of the year. I am not a writer. Just a huge music fan . So, if you discover some music as a result of my list, please reach out and let me know. That has worked out for me in the past with great success. There is so much music out there just waiting to be discovered. I’d like to think I am sharing ideas with other music fans. so again, don’t hesitate to give me some feedback.

I have to thank my wife for putting up with me and all the cds and Mojos I have all over the house. She is the best.

So, that’s 2020. Time to move on to 2021, already shaping up to be a fine year for music. I got my eye on that Elizabeth and the Catapult, and the St. Vincent ,as well as the new one by Brian Gari. I also have the box set of the complete Basement Tapes from Dylan and the Band, a Christmas present from my wife. Time to get started on all that.

God Save the Kinks !

Gene Good javagene@hotmail.com

8] Lisa Mychols and Super 8- “Lisa Mychols & Super 8”- I already have done a complete review of this one on my Pop Forever Site . Let me say that this was a joy to listen to. I have always loved Lisa as a vocalist .She is mentioned in several of my lists. But this was my introduction to Paul Ryan who as Super 8 is a one man band capable of taking you higher. Together they trip the light fantastic with music that touches on Beatles, Stones, and Astrd Gilberto .There are two terrific covers, Songs like “You and me Me and You”, and “Your summer Theme” are a couple highlights. And “Honey Bee” is one of the year’s best songs. It is fun fun fun till Daddy takes away their recording equipment. Check out my full review, but most of all check out the groovy tunes. You will thank me later.

B

Lisa Mychols and Super 8

:

“Would you like to try a sample…” Lisa asks during “What will be”

The Magical Mystery Tour in the form of Lisa Mychols and Paul “Trip”Ryan, is coming to take you away. From July 2019 to May 2020 they both worked Eight days a week, knowing full well that they could work it out. After admitting it was getting better, they began promoting this album on the Trip and Ellie Facebook page. Recorded in Scotland and California, they released their music just in time for summer. Our ticket to ride had arrived.

I just want to say ,this album is fun, fun, fun. Taking us into their record collection, it is a treat to listen to. It all starts with an overture of vocal harmonies and a Stones guitar riff. The mission statement is simply “songs of love and gratitude”. In “Trip and Ellie’s Music Factory” they sing about their favorite recipe “a pinch of sugar so it’s not too sweet…”. Here are some choice lyrics and hooks including my three favorite tracks. “

“Time Bomb” begins with a lovely guitar into and concludes with a super Stones riff. “I’ll leave you with your Beatles I’m taking back my Rolling Stones…”

-“You and Me Me and You” -Showcasing Lisa’s fabulous pop side ,this is my #1 fave. Dreamy vocals , this is pure pop for now people.” same boy who made me want to tear my hair out…”.So pretty. So cool.

-“The Monkee Song”-“Hey you googly eyes…”Who doesn’t love a playful monkee song. Grab a banana scone and enjoy, especially the vocals at the end. Wildly entertaining.

-The folk-psych “Flying Close to the Sun” with Lisa and Paul performing some sweet harmonies. “Playing in the grass bathing in the sunshine..” Paul adds some great background music.

-“Honey Bee”- My #2 fave, this is a pure shot of sunshine pop. Lisa and Paul singing the “Ba ba da’s” at the end are so well done it kind of takes your breath away. Those wonderful vocals at the end are perhaps my favorite moments of the whole album.

-“Peaceful” the first of two covers, both from the late 60’s. This is a gorgeous Kenny Rankin tune. Paul’s vocal here is as warm and comfortable as your favorite cardigan [that’s right Taylor Swift]. I’ve always loved this song and Paul does a nice job on it.

-“Witchi Tai to” A Jim Pepper tune which is taken from a native American peyote healing chant. What a welcoming cover . I own both of the original versions of their two covers, and I am impressed at their inclusion.

-“Laguna Nights to remember” -More sunshine pop with romance in the air. “When I whisper tunes in your ear, so sweet of you to hear…”. Dreamy vocal from Lisa.

-“Your summer theme”- A romantic bossa nova ,that Paul has said was inspired by Astrid Gilberto. Is that an organ I hear in the background? This is my #3fave .Lisa’s soft vocals takes us to Ipanema.

-“The arms of Water”- With a subtle Beatles psych vibe , this one features more terrific vocals from Lisa and Paul. “Wondering far from the apples of Eve…”. This closes the album followed by a bonus alternate version of “Witchi Tai To’.

I want you to see how my pre ordered cd arrived.

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses, hat and closeup

Best packaging ever. And a perfect pop album .I had so much fun listening to it. I can just imagine the joy they had putting it all together. We have Lisa’s magical voice with Paul painting the background music and perhaps a little help from their friends. Lisa has claimed that Paul inspired her during the making of this album. Let’s all hope for more to come. This is one of the year’s best albums. Here is the cool video for “Honey Bee”

(12) “Honey Bee” by Lisa Mychols & SUPER 8 – YouTube

Gene Good javagene#hotmail.com

Brian Gari “Names Vol1”

Names Vol. 1

‘” I’m pretty smart don’t want to start but this tart takes my heart all apart…”- from “Another Janet”

While making notes for this article I listened to one of my favorite singers, Meredeth d’Ambrosio and a Jerome Kern song “Land where good songs go” came on and I started thinking about what I loved about those good songs. It always comes down to the song writers. I have so many that I love like Jimmy Webb, Randy Newman, Bill DeMain and the list goes on. One That I have always enjoyed was Rupert Holmes. That brings me to the songwriter I am writing about Brian Gari. When I started listening to his marvelous new album Rupert was the first composer that popped into my head. Brian’s gift for melodies and narrative lyrics most remind me of Mr. Holmes.

“Names Vol. 1” is my introduction to Brian’s music. And the theme at hand is a good one. All of the songs titles feature a name. I have always been in love with name songs from Paul Anka , Neil Sedaka, and all through musical history. Among Brian’s tunes are love songs, some with personal attachments to the composer , and some with ties to fellow musicians. Brian’s lyrics are clever, thoughtful, and emotional. .They are captured in lovely melodies that make you smile and tug at your heart.

These are some of the highlights [ lyrics and hooks]:

-“Another Janet” starts the album off with a piano riff that reminds me of off Broadway musicals. With clever wordplay we have a guy who’s not had good luck with ladies named Janet. I quoted one lyric at the very top of this article. Here is another :” She liked my shirt I liked her skirt Tried to flirt thought dessert wouldn’t hurt…”

-“Better stick with Steve” Bittersweet melody and the title tells it all. An advice song from one who can’t make it work so she’s better off with Steve even though “I know you’re gonna grieve”. This was an early fave of mine with a lovely guitar intro , and I love the sentiment.

-“Vivian” A bright opening leads us to the musical history of Vivian Carter who is one of the founders of the historic Vee Jay record label. Not only was Vee Jay responsible for great rhythm and blues like Jimmy Reed, and Jerry Butler , but also introduced The Four Seasons and The Beatles. “put a label on the plastic with your initials ain’t that fantastic. “She is worth a google for those interested.

-“Phil Ochs” With an acoustic guitar intro ,Brian’s next tribute is to the great protest folk singer. Think of how relevant he would be today if still around. Clever lyrics gives us a sense of his protests. ‘He ain’t marchin’ his words keep ringin'”

– “What’s a party without Arthur?” I have seen a picture of Brian with songwriter Arthur Siegel. This beautiful song is another heartfelt tribute to a man who I’m assuming loved to party. Having a party without him is ” like looking at a bride without a groom”. The production and background music on this gem is terrific and should make Rupert Holmes smile.

-“Maddy” One of the more entertaining tracks this tune is part of a two song “Waitress Suite’. A bright melody tells of a waitress remembered for her free margaritas. This is one of the tunes I had playing in my head for a while. And listen for the subtle Bacharach trumpet . I have a soft spot for this one since I was a waiter for over twenty years .

-“Jean’s Flag’ – More bittersweet, a ballad about Jean Herman who clings to “her flowers and Bloomingdales and everything in between”. Nice sensitive vocal from Brian.

-“Philippe’s Theme” -A gorgeous instrumental. Really helps the variety on display.

– “It ain’t Hank”- A sad country tune detailing the singer’s chance for a star autograph but quite frankly “It ain’t Hank’.

Now I will tell you my three favorite tracks , the ones I most returned to for musical comfort.

1] “Dylan’ – Real sweet pop tune about a girl who is ‘not quite ten but then again the girl is bright as hell.” During a video shoot she danced on the fire escape “and stole the whole damn show herself’. The song ends with the touching lyric “Dylan you stole the show and you stole my heart’

2]”How do I keep up with you Nicole’ A classic ballad that is one of several that stuck with me for a while. The title says it all. As pretty as her name, Nicole’s lifestyle is a “world of bars and new tattoos “which our hero just can’t keep up with. An elegant piano led melody guides the song to it’s conclusion “I try so hard I wish I knew a way…’ Lovely!

3] “Sue Ann” Blossom Dearie claims that everybody loves Jobim and Brian is no exception. He actually uses a Jobim melody for his Brazilian love song. The best track on the album is captured in three versions , two of them recorded in Brazil. First is a wonderful duet with Maria Clara Laet, who also sings one of the Brazilian versions. . ‘Deep in my heart you are a part of every great Jobim song a dream song…”.The two Brazilian recordings are sung by Manu Lafer, and the other by Maria . Now Brian, don’t get mad at me but I actually prefer Maria”s solo version. She is quite enchanting and I need to hear more from her.

So a great pop album with some humor, some romance, and some nostalgia .The instruments are well played by Peter Millrose and Brian. The piano throughout is top notch. The melodies stick with you and the sentiment is touching. Nice work Mr. Gari .While working on this I have spent a good deal of time with these songs. I can say for sure they belong in “The land where the good songs go’. I hope folks give it a listen. The good news is there is going to be a ‘Names Vol Two”. I’ll look forward to that.

Gene Good javagene@hotmail.com

Mid Year Report 2020

A simple list of 5 albums and 5  songs that have my full attention. No commentaries. I will save that for the year end list.

ALBUMS :

1] A Girl called Eddy- “Been Around”

Been Around

2] Sondre Lerche- “Patience”

Patience [LP]

3] V.V. Lightbody- “Make a shrine or burn it”

Make A Shrine Or Burn It

4]Cabane- “Grande est la Maison”Grande est la maison

5] Nicole Atkins- “Italian Ice”Italian Ice

SONGS:

1] Burt Bacharach and Daniel Tashian- “Bells of St. Augustine”

 

2] A girl called Eddy – “Been Around”

3] Bill DeMain- “Film Noir”

4] Curtis Stigers- “As Usual”

5] The Shacks- “Smile now Cry later”

 

I still Have a lot of listening to do. With the crazy world out there music is the perfect tonic. And it is shaping up to be another great year for quality music. If you are seeking some relief from the news of the day, look no further than the albums and songs I have selected. They have my highest recommendation .  More to come from me. Until next time, Happy Listening.

Gene Good     javagene@hotmail.com

 

Dana Countryman-“Come into my Studio”

” in the bridge it sort of changes to a totally different key    then it moves around and ends up back where it was  well you’ll see….”

 

Come Into My Studio

 

It starts with a brief blast of pop, then a rehearsal piano takes you to an invitation.  Dana Countryman invites you into his studio, where he’s recording “a brand new song” .He even offers a cup of tea and asks you to sing along. It’s Dana’s new album and with that invite he is all set. So get comfortable and settle in for 14 more  pop tunes about the ups and downs of  romance.

It didn’t take me long to get going. On the first song after the intro, “Take a little Chance” I was immediately hooked  on the clap along  chorus “just give my arms a little try girl” .After only a couple pays I had it stuck in my head  for a while.

Here are some more highlights, lyrics and hooks:

-The romantic line “but then I forget all that whenever we start to kiss “on “Every time you break my heart again”

-the can’t miss melody on “Same old dream” that actually features tap dancers. You got to love it.

-“She brings a ray of sunshine into a weary world’ from “It happens every time”

-I love the irony of these lyrics from “Mrs. Van Buren ” ;” funny thing is I taught that little girl how to drive, then she drove her car right out of my life”

-the sweet sentiment of “Then she smiles”  saying the smile of your loved one makes everything all  right, even if you can’t find socks that match.

-the Beatles vibe on  “Better let her go”” with perfect background vocals.

-“Whenever you walk by “featuring the sublime vocals of Tricia Countryman and Scott McPherson that reminds me of  Dana’s “Girlville” album, one of my favorites,

-To shake things up a bit comes the upbeat “Shame Shame Shame Shame” with a bluesy sax and Tricia and Dana on background vocals. Make sure you get up and dance.

I have three tracks that stand out for me. The very clever “Mrs. Van Buren”, with our hero seeking an advice columnist for his romance problems. I especially love the sincere vocals. Then there is the whimsical bounce to “You Gotta  love Jeanne Marie”. By songs end I had to admit, I love her. And perhaps the best of all is the ravishing romantic “Ecstasy “. Featuring lyrics like ” it happens every single time you press your lips to mine  ”  it is just a wonderful love song. Dana has such a knack for composing romantic tunes. I would love to see this one covered by a crooner.

After 15 tracks comes a Christmas song. It has become a custom for Dana to include a bonus holiday tune. ‘It’s Christmas Time” is a total Beach Boys copy ,high vocals and all. But wait we aren’t done. 2 secret tracks follow. “Power Popcast”a brief commercial for a German show. Last is a full length unnamed tune with nifty vocal harmonies. Not a throw away . What a terrific value this album is.

Hooks galore, melodies that stick to you, and clever wordplay are all Dana Countryman  trademarks . Many influences are on display here. Harry Nilsson comes to my mind a lot. I also think the vocals and melodies on many of the songs remind me of late period Beach Boys from the era of “15 Big Ones” and “Beach Boys Love You.”

I am grateful that Alan Haber’s postings brought me to Dana’s music. I’ve been quite impressed with “The Joy of Pop” from 2017, “Cabaret of Love” from 2018, and now the present album. We need music like this in these crazy times.

So Dana, invitation to your studio accepted. And I hope by spreading the word , more listeners will follow. And I am willing to bet you are back in that studio crafting more pop music. I can’t wait.

Gene Good     javagene@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

-”

 

 

Tops in 2019

” Once there was a world that held you by the hand, Once there was a light that led you through the land…”  -The Pearlfishers

What a year ! On the personal side I can now add cancer survivor to my life resume. But after a hospital stay and lots of tests I can start to put that behind me. It was the love of family that got me through it. Music of course helped. And that is what brings me to this ,my annual round up of the music that moved me. It was an awesome year for music  with lots of new exciting discoveries. One trend that continues is the rise of strong women making meaningful music. On this list we have Angel Olsen, Eleni Mandell, Lana  del Rey ,Weyes Blood, Julia Jacklin and others. The HighWomen is a super group of four women pushing the boundaries of modern country.

So, a lot to cover. Since I am not 100% ,and the computer I have done my past lists on died, and it is later than I usually start [of course I am always late] I may be brief in my notes. I will do my best to cover it all.  As usual the top 10 are in order of importance. After that the titles are random. Also, instead of videos after each song, I have a playlist which I will post at the end. So, onto my list of musical dreamers.   Dream with me please.

TOP TEN- in order

1] The Pearlfishers -“Love and other hopeless things”

….”closed my eyes and kept believing,,,”

It’s a rush when I see a Marina Records new release notice for The Pearlfishers because I know I’m going to be swept away. David Scott has a pop voice that soars. This is such an amazing record. Take the title cut that opens the album. Bacharach trumpet , lovely piano, drums that move us along, even some strings. The song builds to an emotional finish. Pop perfect! One of my favorites is ” You can take me there”. The piano sets the pace ,the melody catches and the chorus is a hook. Then the song changes an octave with “it doesn’t take a genius to work out that you can’t fight fate” and we have a new thrill. Another emotional finish. “Once I lived in London” is co written by Bill DeMain and it is lovely. ” A Woman on the verge of becoming a cyclist” is an instrumental that sounds like the theme to a foreign film.This is an album that gives you that feel that it is great to be alive. There was a Marina release a few years ago by jazz musician Colin Steele that were jazz versions of Pearfishers songs. I hope there is another volume to come. So listen and be moved. “Get ready to be overjoyed”.Thank you David Scott. You took me there. Album of the year!

2] The Loch Ness Mouse- “The Loch Ness Mouse Two”

…”in me the memories of you sound a richer sound…”

A couple years ago this  band from Norway topped my list. Well they are back with #2 ,which is misleading because they have been putting out albums since 1999. They are a wonderful pop band that references Prefab Sprout, Everything but the Girl, among others. The main man is Ole Johannes Aleskjaer and he trades vocals with Christina Hogetveit. The music is pristine ,the recording is superb,  and the songs are delightful. The album begins with a lovely brief overture , and “The Tee House” begins and it is beautiful with jazz guitar and nice bass. This music is often referred to as  sophisticated pop. I just call it pop. “Dee C. Lee”   is sung by Christina and it’s melody was stuck in my head for weeks. The title refers to a background singer with The Style Council. Another tune, “Curt and Roland”refers to the two artists in Tears for Fears. Just listen to the opening guitar on “Unwarranted” .It is infectious and the structure of this tune is very Prefab Sprout. “Evelyn” is driven by a catchy guitar ,and literary lyrics. This is music that will catch you off guard and win you over. I love it. I had trouble finding the cd . Thanks to Discogs I found it and I am grateful. It is a Japanese import and has two bonus songs. One of them is a Prefab Sprout cover, “The Sound of Crying”,performed with another band from Norway Tenant from Zero. The album has strings, brass, an and meditative.d flutes ,warm vocals and cool guitars all well arranged. Highly Recommended !

3] Boo Hewerdine  -“Before”

“I can hear an orchestra .it’s in the air. I close my eyes and there are the strings…”

One of music’s best singer songwriters has come up with an album that is completely different. His last album 2017’s “Swimming in Mercury” was a pop album. “Before” is a stripped back affair that is quiet and meditative. Just two musicians playing between them I count 24 instruments, like a Dulcitone  a century old keyboard.  The other musician is Gustaf Ljunggren  who fills in the songs with a variety of instruments. He also plays brief interludes before each song.  The songs are very beautiful and poetic. There is the  gorgeous melody of the title cut . “Reno” will make a sweet pop song, and “Starlight” is dreamy. “Imaginary Friends” takes us back to Boo’s childhood. “My world would spin at 45”. My two favorites happen to be the last two. “Old Song” and “I wish I had wings” both of which brought tears to my eyes. This extraordinary album is filled with hushed beauty. The songs play like pages from a diary. Boo claims they are first drafts.  I do hope you get to hear this special music. The album concludes with the romantic lyric “Cause I always believed in love at first sight”. Thank you Boo for sharing your gift with us.

4] David Mead-“Cobra Pumps”

“Let me begin with a bedtime story .Let me remind you what you came here for.”

This one was most anticipated by me, and I didn’t have to wait long. It came out in January, and well worth the long wait. David has an amazing voice, but what really hit me immediately was the guitars. The guitars are all over this album, introducing songs,  accenting the vocals, and some nice leads. This is such an entertaining album. David is a family man, which accounts for the gap in releases, and that shows up in the songs like “Bedtime Story” and “Big Balls”. David can be very amusing like the account of a first time with a woman in “Head on Straight”  The real hooks of this album are the awesome vocals. The way he sings “and it feels good” in “The Business”. There is the creamy smoothness of “Poster Child” and the crooning on “Vanessa”. The fun in “Big Balls” sounds like games with the children. “Do  you know what you are. Are you am what you am”.  Then there’s the falsetto in “You’ll never have to play that game”. The album ends with “Hopalong” with more falsetto and a possible reference to children. So my message to Mr. Mead is that I know he has more tunes that need to be heard. I just know it. So hopefully we won’t have to wait that long for more music. In the mean time enjoy this fabulous album.

5] Weyes Blood-“Titanic Rising”

“Love is calling  It’s time to let through…”

Duglas  T. Stewart [BMX Bandits} was raving about this album and I trust him so I bought it. Turned out to be the discovery of the year. This is a towering achievement. A ravishing pop masterpiece. Natalie Mering”s vocals are sensitive and soaring and always compelling. The first  track, “A lot’s gonna change” really won me over. When she sings “in your lifetime” and the back ground vocals enter followed by an eerie synth I was knocked out. Totally hooked.  This is an album that reflects on looking back, looking ahead, rising up and most of all the search for true love.  “true love is making a comeback “. Some of the many highlights :

-the pop bouncy “Everyday” where she meets a guy at a party who declares the end of monogamy .” I’m so scared of being alone. It’s true. It’s true.” The song ends with a Beatles like flourish.

-the cool way she extends the lyric “believe” in the moving “Something to believe ” “something bigger and louder than the voices in me”

-the breathtaking “Movies” with it’s dramatic build and baroque break down. Chills galore !

-the wordless vocals on the fabulous “Wild Time” plus all the vocals here.

-the sweet singing on the tender “Picture me better”

Everything on this album works. Several reviews claimed Natalie’s vocals sound like Karen Carpenter. Not an insult, especially since the album does have a 70’s sound. But I don’t agree. I find her vocals stronger and deeper  and there are moments that she totally owns like those vocals on “Wild Time”. This album is a revelation. So glad I found it. Here are the closing lyrics : “Waiting for the call from beyond. Waiting for something with meaning to come through soon.”

6] Angel Olsen -“All Mirrors”

“It’s hard to say forever love, Forever ‘s just so far…”

Angel Olsen is a study in change. With each album we hear a different artist. “All Mirrors” continues with some of the torch from  her past albums but the sound is more full blown and bombastic . The songs are about needs, desires, illusions, and lots of heartache. She sounds angry at times and then she’s tender and vulnerable. On “Lark” she sings “I could not comeback the same” and that could not be more true. The songs themselves are filled with change, from soft to loud, with strings and some with minimal instruments, and from major to minor. On 8 of the songs there is a 12 piece string section  arranged by Jherek Bischoff and Ben Babbit. Here are some highlights and choice lyrics :

-On “Too Easy” she is offering devotion . “I’d do anything for you ”

-“New love cassette’  she dedicates herself to a new love  “Gonna love you , true you”.

-On “Spring” she sings “I guess we’re just at the mercy of the way we feel”

-On the angry “Lark” which is over the top with it swelling music she sings “the way you scream like something else is a matter”.

– “All Mirrors”  “All mirrors are erasing   losing beauty”

_ “What it is ” a rock song sounding like her older music but this time with cascading strings.

My favorites are the last two. “Endgame” is quiet and tender ,just a beautiful torch song. “Chance” closes the album with a lovely country type ballad ,something Angel excels , at. So  she also recorded the album without the strings , just a stripped down version. She has talked about releasing it. Can’t imagine this music any other way. We’ll see. For now there is this revelatory album and needs to be heard.

7] Chris Stamey and the Modrec Orchestra- “New songs for the 20th century ”

“Hal Blaine hits the drums so hard you forget just where you are in Spanish Harlem…”

The story goes that the esteemed pop musician Chris Stamey got possession of an old   piano. It’s bench was filled with classic songs by Jerome Kern, Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, and Irving Berlin and others. He fell “head first under their spell”and was inspired. Of course we call songs of that nature The American Standards and they are performed by every great singer you can think of. Well, Chris took a few of his old tunes and wrote a whole bunch of new ones. Hw enlisted musicians such as Stephen Anderson, Branford Marsalis, Bill Frisell and Matt Douglas. He got singers like Django Haskins, Caitlin Cary, Marshall Crenshaw, and Don Dixon to help. I have to make special mention of two singers that I fell in love with, Kirsten Lambert and Millie McGuire. They are stars in my book. The result is this wonderful album of new standards. 2 cd’s and 26 songs all written, arranged, mixed, and produced by Chris. The songs are amazing .Funny, sad, whimsical, smart, and tuneful. I could do an entire blog post about the songs. But for now here are a few with some choice lyrics:

-Millie McGuire with the elegant “I fall in love so easily” ,check out the video in the playlist. Chris makes a note of apology to Sammy Cahn, who also has a song by that title.

-Django Haskins with “In-tox-I-cho-cli-fi-ca-tion” a funny song about one man’s love for chocolate.  “a good cigar with a chocolate bar  a scotch with a ganache tart…”

-“I don’t believe  in romance”  sung by Caitlin Cary….”I hear the words you say. But nothing can make me sway….”

-Django with “Manhattan Melody [this is my New York]” a song that makes you think Sinatra….”I want to be out in the rain with Charlie Parker stuck in brain…”

-Kirstin Lambert with the tender “I didn’t mean to fall in love with you”….”To go from strangers to a good night kiss…”

-Kirsten with “What is this music that I hear”……”I thought that late Prokofiev was all that I had left…”

-Millie with the sweet “Dear Friend” ….”I’ll be there to catch you when you fall and it won’t hurt at all…

And many more. Some of the songs are with an orchestra, some with a quiet jazz combo. All of it works and really is quite an achievement something Chris can be proud of. They may not replace the American Songbook, but there is always a place for a well composed song. I hope he does some more. Till then be sure to listen to these.

8] Eleni Mandell- “Wake up again”

“If I could rewind Go back time leave here behind Wake up again…”

Songs by Eleni Mandell are like conversations with subtle melodies, and her versatile voice is comfortable with jazz, country, or rock. This is an interesting album because it reflects a two year period where Eleni taught songwriting  in California to women prisoners. It is a project started by Wayne Kramer [MC5} called Jail Guitar Doors. So the songs here come from those sessions, and the ideas from those women prisoners. Some of the lyrics from the sessions are obvious: “I live in grey and blue, that’s the colors they choose.”, “you found and called her your best friend since you met back in county”, “you never could forgive me for taking his life”. A good deal of the lyrics are more poetic , reflecting regrets, guilt ,and making the best of the situation. Here are some highlights:

-“Just herself” a song about longing not to be forgotten “Maybe we know her and maybe we don’t…”

-“Air” came out  of a class where Eleni assigned the elements as subjects for songs. When she started singing the song that came out of the exercise one of the women said that was what it was like to live there. “no fun in this town”‘

-“Ghost of a Girl” a lovely country ballad about a yellow dress, a leather jacket, and a wedding ring that are symbols of the past.

-“Oh Mother” -since some of the prisoners were mothers and through discussions Eleni connected with the strength of her own mother.  Over an irresistible melody she sings “I used to think you were tough But you’d have to be tough to be strong”. This song is Eleni Mandell at her best. A classic song.

The album finishes with the title song , a sweet country waltz, featuring a sensitive vocal .It came from an inmate that was there for over 40 years. She wasn’t in the class but Eleni got to know her ,and was affected by the woman’s tragic life.  “Was it my fate to make those mistakes.If I had the chance would I ,could I  wake up again…”.

The three piece band backs up the music perfectly. Like the David Mead album, the guitar is the star. Milo Jones is all over the album with a variety of styles, always outstanding and serving the song well.The album showcases Elen’s  talent as a gifted singer songwriter. One of our best.

9]Le SuperHomard  -“Meadow Lane Park”

“Long lazy days feline naps in the shade I’ll stay asleep…”

I was doing a weekly project when spring broke. I was posting songs about spring. When the song “Springtime” just popped up on my youtube page I kind of flipped out. Not only was this French pop band on the revered Elefant label, they were performing sunshine pop . I have been a  sucker for sunshine pop way back when I first heard The Free Design. Also have a thing for French pop in general [who does’t ?]. The group is led by Christophe Vaillant who is influenced by Stereolab and Highlamas , and it is fresh and exciting. Adding to the standard band are strings, harpsichord, and lots of synths. But the real secret weapon are the lead vocals of Julie Big whose enunciation is a hook. Two facts about Christophe : he was originally in a power pop band called Strawberry Smell. Also the band used to rehearse in the record shop he worked in. I have a special place in my heard for  record store employees. The lyrics are sugary and the music is sublime. Here’s a few tracks:

-” Karaoking”  ‘Takes one last sip of gin and bites the ice . He cannot think he can only perform…”

-“Meadow Lane Park ”  A rush of widescreen pop . “Love is space and love is time measured by the heart…”‘

-The party elegance of “Elephant in the Room”  “the music is smooth piano playing and from every room Muttered voices of mingling socialites…”

-“Snowflakes ” a minor key instrumental.

Perhaps the best track is “Paper Girl”  with it’s pop perfect melody and sweet vocals.  “Draw the lines of  fireworks exploding in the sky…”

A very pretty album full of rich musical sketches. Elefant is such a great label. Let’s hear it for sunshine pop !

10] Edwyn Collins – “Badbea”

“On the rare occasion that words fail you It’s a chance for some of us to sleep…”

It is such a pleasure to have new music from Edwyn Collins. I am such a fan, and he is such a legend. Oremge Juice , his early 80’s band is considered a big influence on indie music.And then there is the survival aspect. Edwyn suffered cerebral hemorrhages in 2005. The long rode back has produced more music which is cause for celebration. In 2014 he moved his home and studio to the Scottish Highlands, which is why there has been a 6 year gap in recording. In that move he found some lyrics that pre date his illness. They have resulted in some of the songs  on “Badbea’. He’s got a great band with Caryn Ellis and James Walbourne playing the guitars that are so crucial to Edwyn’s sound. And Edwyn is doing his best singing sine the stroke. It all adds up to a very good album. A few highlights

-” It’s all about you” starts things off with a drum crack and a blast of northern soul, sax and all.

-“Glasgow to London” nostalgic song about  Orange juice taking the train to the recording studio set to a dance beat.

-the stinging guitar on “Sparks the Spark”

-“When we were young” Beautiful memory of past love with trumpets highlighting one of Edwyn’s best vocals  ” we’ve veered off course…”

-” Tensions Rising”  more sax and soul with Edwyn’s pleading vocals at the end. Yes the guy can still belt it out

Edwyn is known for his ballads and there are several here like “Beauty” .His most sensitive vocals are on the gorgeous title song. Badbea is a former village for evicted  families in the 18th and 19th century. This Edwyn’s tribute to that historic site. “Badbea ,a ruined monument to life and death…”

With the sentiment in that title cut, plus his rock and soul make for a fine entertainment. It is such a good feeling to have Edwyn alive and making vital music.

THE NEXT TEN [in no particular order]

11] Robert Forster- “Inferno”  Listening to the 2007 track “I’m Gonna Tell It” brings one ever so close to the magic of the Go-Betweens. Also, “Morning” is pure beauty with his wife Karin Baumler on violin and backing vocals

12] Sean O’Hagan- “Radum Calls Radum Calls -Pure musical whimsy from the leader of the High Llamas. When I heard “On a lonely day[Ding Dong} I literally screamed with glee. Enchanting !

13] Lana Del Rey- “Norman F_____ _ Rockwell”-  The finest display of Lana’s talents. An album full of California references, smoky torch, folk. even a nod to Leonard Cohen. Exquisite songs like “The Greatest”, “Mariners Apartment Complex “and “Venice Bitch” which is Lana’s “Autoban”.

14] Julia Jacklin- “Crushing”- Compelling artist with songs of love’s many complexities. Songs range from the delirious rock “Pressure to Party” to the heartbreaking “Comfort”.

15] Faye Webster- “Atlanta Millionaires Club”- popped up on You tube and I was immediately hooked. “I should get out more” she declares on “Room Temperature” with sweet pedal steel. The clever “Right side of my neck”  and “Jonny” show off a huge new talent. Funny and bittersweet ,a star is found.

16] Pernice Brothers _”Spread the feeling” -It doesn’t take long, not even two minutes, before the music kicks in and you realize they haven’t lost a beat. Jangle guitars and Byrds like  harmonies rule. Listening to tunes like “Eric saw colors ” is almost like praying.  More please.

17] The Divine Comedy- “Office Politics”- Working with a them doesn’t stop him from his usual pop variety. Songs like “Norman and Norma” and “I’m a stranger here” are pure Neil Hannon. The deluxe comes with a cd of stage musical demos which is delightful.

18] Wilco- “Ode to Joy”–My favorite American band is back to touring and they gave us this fantastic new album. Low key addressing dark days. When the guitar emerges as on “Everyone Hides ” and “We were lucky” it is fierce. The swirling guitar on “Love is everywhere [Beware} ” which is a Jeff Tweedy gem.

19] Vampire Weekend -“Father of the Bride”-  An impressive 18 song set showcasing a variety of musical styles. The delirious pop of “Harmony Hall” and “This Life” are winners. “Sunflower” is as radical as they get. But it’s great. It’s all great.

20] Madison Cunningham_ “Who are you now”– My first discovery of this extraordinary artist was a video posted by Sondre Lerche  doing a duet  with Madison , a beautiful cover of “Smoke gets in your eyes” . Instantly falling for her voice I found out she was all over You Tube. She even had a terrific weekly cover series. Then there is  this impressive album. Not only does she sing like an angel, she is a gifted songwriter. Two stand out mentions are “Song in my head”, and the remarkable “Like you do” co written by Tyler Chestnut and Eleni Mandell. I look forward to more from her.

BUBBLING UNDER :

21] Charlie Faye and the Fayettes- “The Whole Shebang “—This is the most fun album on this whole list. Reviving 60’s girl group sound with songs straight out of the Brill Building. The title tune is co-written by Bill DeMain with a sweet organ solo. A couple other hits are “The Cream rises to the top” and the sing along with “I don’t need no baby”. Charlie Faye has the perfect voice for this material. This one will bring on the smiles.

22] Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- “Ghosteen”–A meditative album on redemption ,peace, and the light we are all searching for.  The slow intense music has eerie moments where the background vocals quietly swell up and diminish. The very first lyrics sung by Nick are “This world is beautiful “At one point Nick repeats “Peace will come in time”. This album needs to be listened from beginning to end while sitting and listening without distractions. It is a spiritual experience.

23] The Paranoid Style-  “A Goddamn Impossible way of Life”—Listening to Elizabeth Nelson ‘s songs are similar to reading a musical journal. Filled with musical references ,it is all backed by a cool rocking band. It is that rock music you simply cannot stop listening to. When this new album popped up on You Tube I sat and listened to song after song several times. The title song and “Expecting to fly [economy] are sure fire winners. The delirious rockin’ opening to “An Endless Cycle of Meaningless Behavior” with an awesome guitar solo will draw you in. Believe me it is infectious.    Please check  this insanely terrific band out.  This band also has  Timothy Bracy aboard who was a star in The Mendoza Line, a big favorite of mine. Check them out on Twitter for great rock discussion.

24] Whitney- “Forever Turned Around “—Pure Pop for Now People. Opening track “Giving Up” has to be one of the prettiest songs of the year. It is followed by 9 more simple pop gems.  “Used to be lonely” and “My life alone” are two of those love songs. Julien Ehrlich has a lovely high voice that help these tunes soar. If you are one that seeks out  sweet pop music than look no further.

25] Cloud Eleven  -“Footnote”—–Last year there were a couple tributes to Todd Rundgren like Astral Drive. This year we have a new Cloud Eleven album which is influenced by Todd. Rick Gallego, who is the band , writes in the cd cover a “special gratitude  to Todd Rundgren. The cover to the cd copies the cover to Todd’s “Faithfull” and the cd itself looks like a Bearsville cd. Opening track “On Pismo Beach”  is pure Todd adrenaline. The guitar opening on “Solar Fields’ sounds just like the opening to “Tiny Demons”. The rest of the album you can play spot the Todd reference or just enjoy it for the layered  special music Rick is playing. The album ends with the title cut , “Footnote” and it is gorgeous with Rick’s best yearning vocal.

26] Fruit Bats- “Gold past life”—–This is an uplifting set of tunes. Eric D. Johnson has a lovely high lilt to his voice and he has a distinctive way he phrases his lyrics. That phrasing comes into play on the story told in the start to “Drawn Away”. The title track, “Ocean:, and “A Lingering Love” are three great up tunes. “Two babies in Michigan” shows off his most sensitive vocal . This feel good album is the  Fruit Bats at their best.

27] Michael Kiwanuka- “Kiwanuka”—-Michael continues with his modern soul music. Dark  lyrics and sweet soul music form the basis for his music.  ‘Hero” shows off his passion well and it instantly hooks you in. ‘You ain’t  the problem” and “Hard to say goodbye” are more examples of his exquisite soul music.  ‘Light” closes the album with his best vocal.  “I had to lose to understand”. The album is produced by Danger Mouse which accounts for it’s lovely sound. There is pain and loss. And there is beauty. It is all o this remarkable album.

28] Beck-“Hyperspace”—-You either get Beck or you don’t. I do and embrace  new music knowing there is a journey to be had. He is working with Pharrell Williams this time and the music is his usual mix of dream pop, a bit of rap, some funk, and rock. Beck is in fine falsetto on “Die Waiting: and “See Through.”” “Uneventful Days ” is the single played a lot last summer and it is lovely. The title song and :Stratosphere” are both examples of Beck’s dream pop. Searching for meaning, the album closes with “Everlasting Nothing” with a choir in the background.  “I laughed before I cried. In the everlasting nothing”.

29] Richard Hawley-“Further”—— Although he will rock out a bit, what we really look forward to is  that deep bourbon and honey voice wrapped around a ballad. .And we get that here.  The title tune, “Emilina Says”, “Not Lonely”, and “Midnight Train” are folk rock songs with that gorgeous voice. And the pop “My Little Treasures ” is one of the  prettiest songs of the year.  “Look at all these stars  How did we ever get so far from here.” So, pour a bourbon, light a fire, and let one f the best voices in music serenade you.

30] Bruce Springsteen – “Western Stars” —-Bruce has always sang about the frontier and the outlaw on albums like “Nebraska” and “The Ghost of To Joad”. But this something very different. Yes, he is singing about the West, the big  country. But the music is widescreen and pop friendly. In interviews he said he was influenced By Jimmy Webb  and the classic “Wichita Lineman”. “The Wayfarer” is a good example with strings in the background , and brass to kick it all up a notch. “Hello Sunshine” and “Sundown” are prime examples of this cinematic sound..  My favorite is “There goes my Miracle” with Bruce doing his best Orbison vocal. He is in familiar ground with “Tucson Train” and the title song. But the concerted effort to tackle something different  with terrific results is something. It caught me way off guard.

31]Sharon Van Etten- “Remind me tomorrow”—–Key songs “Seventeen” and “Comeback Kid”

32] Brittany Howard- “Jaime”——Exquisite soul music Key Track- “Stay High”

33] The Tor Guides- “Backwards in Reverse”-Great pop. Their cover of Roy Wood’s “See my baby jive” is a revelation.

34] Jenny Lewis- “On the Line”- Her best work yet  .Key tracks- “Red Bull and Hennessy” and “Rabbit Hole”

35] Daniel Tashian- “I love  Rainy Days”——–A sweet children’s album  with fun tunes like “Walk Tall” and “Driving with you”. Daniel recorded the album with his two daughters. Utterly charming.

36] Better Oblivion Community Center- “Better Oblivion Community Center”—-Folk rock with  Conor  Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers. “Dylan Thomas ” is one of the year’s best songs.

37] The Avett Brothers -“Closer than Together”——-My daughter’s favorite group doing their usual spin on Americana. Key are the topical “Bang Bang ”    and ” High Steppin’ “.

38] The Highwomen-” The Highwomen”——Super group featuring Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires. Key are “Redesigning Women” and “If she ever leaves me”. Great album.

39] The Entertainment- “Romantic Comedy”—-Gorgeous singing by Ben Simon on an album that blew me away. Key are the title track, “I love you, I love you”and “I’m doing Fine”.

40 Tiny Ruins- “Olympic Girls”—–Haunting music by Hollie Fullbrook from New Zealand. Key are the title track, and the dreamy “School of Design”. Stunning !

MORE GREAT SELECTIONS :

Girl Ray- “Girl” /Gospelbeach -“Let it Burn” / C. Duncan- “Health” /Chris Van Sneidern- “Emerge” /Lilac Time- “Return to us” /Big Thief- “Two Hands” /The Flaming Lips- “King’s Mouth”  /Santana-“Africa Speaks” /Nilufer Yana- “Miss Universe” /Divino Nino- “Foam” /

VIDEO PLAYLIST- BEST OF 2019- Videos from both the albums and songs of the year. Some great selections . 78 videos to enjoy!

 

 

RECORDINGS OF SPECIAL MERIT :

-Modern Love-Season one [music from the Amazon series] Songs put together by the great pop artist Gary Clark. He even composed and sang a couple like “Setting Sail”. It works as a pop album as well as a soundtrack. And it is quite romantic .

-Jimmy Webb -“Slipcover” –Eleven piano covers of classic rock songs. Jimmy plays these beautifully .Songs like “Moonlight Mile”, “The long and Winding Road”, and “A Case of you”. A wonderful collection.

-“Come on up to the House Women sing Waits”  -What a great idea. Inspired Tom Waits covers by a great lineup of women like Aimee Mann, , Patty Griffin, and Rosanne Cash. Phoebe Bridgers emotional take on “Georgia Lee” is a highlight.

 

-“If you’re going to the City-A tribute to Mose Allison ”  -A fantastic collection of Mose Allison covers by an incredible line  up such as Jackson Browne, Iggy Pop, Bonnie Raitt, Richard Thompson, and that;s just a few of the stars  . The package comes with a dvd of a documentary on Mose. A must have!

  • the Black Oak Ensemble -“Silenced Voices”-  Classical string music that is lush and very beautiful .Five of the composers were murdered by the Nazi regime. One survived. So we are privileged to have this music. And the compositions work without knowing the back story. I have a special connection to this album because I listened to it while recovering from cancer  surgery this past December. So for me it is healing music.
  • -Oxford American Southern Music Issue Vol 21- South Carolina-  I mention this superb annual collection a lot because it is a treasure for any music  junkie. The cd is like a musical stew of southern music/ The South Carolina edition has 24 tracks ranging from a 1937 gospel song  to a 2019 funk tune. The magazine has in depth articles on the artists  Worth seeking out.

 

EP’S

-The Seven and the Six- “Ep#1”  featuring the sensational Lisa Mychols on vocals.

-Robyn Hitchcock and Andy Partridge- “”Planet England”   I could use a whole album of music this amazing.

-Nick Lowe= “Love Starvation”

SONGS OF THE YEAR

1] Julia Jacklin -“Comfort”  -A heartbreaking song.

2] Gary Clark- “Setting Sail”  That marvelous voice I love so much is back. This one was stuck in my head for weeks.

3] The Hangabouts -“Who wants Cilla” – Pop masters More please.

4] Selena Gomez- “Love you to love me” The way she sings this gets me evert time

5]Cristina Quesada – “I think I heard a Rumour”-  So catchy.

6] Jackson Browne and Leslie Mendelson-“A Human Touch”- Moving.

7] The Seven and Six- “Dreaming with you”- sounds like the Jam to me. Lisa Mychols rockin’ on.

8] HYYTS-“Bullet”- Can’t wait for a full album. Infectious !

9] Gospelbeach- “Bad Habits” – great folk rock with a killer guitar solo

10] The Marias- “Ruthless”–Proof the Sarah Records still matters.

11] Josh Ritter- “All some kind of dream.” – Very timely folk rock. Listen to those lyrics.

12]Jair Oliveira- “St. Anthony”-For Sylvie Lewis fans look no further. She is featured on this gem.

13] The Entertainment- “Romantic Comedy”- Ben Simon sings this beautifully .He is one to follow.

14]David Myhr-“Work of Love”- Sounds like ELO to me.

15] Molly Burch- “Only One”- lovely torch song.

16] Kai Danzberg with Lisa Mychols- “The Day” – love this power ballad with Lisa sweetly singing.

17] Sufjan Stevens- “Love Yourself”- Beautiful !

18] Tenant from Zero- “The End Away”- More pop from Norway with a Prefab Sprout sound.

19]Tenement and Temple -“Loving Arms”- Duglas Stewart turned me on to this great pop tune.

20] Lucy Schwartz- “Love without a cure”-First discovered her on a “Good Wife” episode. Enchanting.

21] Corinne Bailey Rae with Jon Batiste- :The very thought of you” -Incredible version of this standard from two exceptional talents.

22]Mary Bragg-“I thought you were someone else”- Great country ballad co-written by Bill DeMain.

23] Lucy Dacus- “Forever half mast” – Great lyrics and this lady knows how to end a song.

24′]Todd Rundgren – “Forever bursting into flames”- Todd in great voice doing a cover of Yukihiro Takahashi.

25] Matt Berringer with Phoebe Bridgers- “Walking on a String” -Everything Phoebe is involved in is gold. No exception here.

26] Haim “Summer Girl” -Preview of their upcoming album. Great sax.

27] Courtney Barnet ;Everybody here hates you”- The rock star keeps releasing gems.

28] Chuck Prophet and Aaron Lee Tasjan- “High as Johnny Thunders” – Terrific song that popped up in my weekly Spotify radar.  Check out the video in my playlist.

29] The Minus Five “Beatles Forever” — Gotta love it.

30] Michael Kiwanuka- “Light”- He performed this so well on Colbert. In my videos.

31] Sharon Van Etten – “Seventeen” – Powerful !

32] Kevin Morby-“Hail Mary”- Shades of Dylan. Great!

33] Daniel Tashian- “Walk Tall”- Daniel and his daughters will make your day. Try not to smile.

34] Peter Noone with the Weeklings -“Friday on my mind” –Nifty cover. Peter can still sing.

35] Taylor Swift- “Lover”- Can’t resist this one.

There is always more to share but I’ll stop there. More subjects to cover.

RE-ISSUE :

The Kinks- “Arthur or the decline and fall of the British Empire”–The 2  cd set  not only has a remastered version of the landmark album with some extra singles. It also includes a lost Dave Davies solo album ,which in interviews Ray has spoken highly of. A fantastic package.

The Springfields -“Singles 1986-1991—Great pop singles by Ric Menck and Paul Chastain who would go on to form The Velvet Crush. I bought each of these singles when released and they are all worth hearing. A couple of them were released on the legendary Sarah Records.

CONCERTS ;

Todd Rundgren – The Individualist Tour -April 23rd at the Athenaeum Theater in Chicago

A dream show for Todd fans.  A fantastic band [with Kasim of course],a video slide show, lots of Todd talking including answering questions from the audience, and a superb song selection. Todd was in great voice and played lots of guitar. My favorite moment was his emotional version of “Fair Warning” which had me weeping. What a night. I had planned to do an entire blog post about this show. Had notes and everything. But health issues intervened.

NRBQ- at the Hideout , Chicago in June.  A sprawling 35 song show with three horn players. They played everything from big band covers , to Beach Boy covers, and their usual mix of rock, country ,honky -tonk,    and jazz. It was billed as an NRBQ convention and everyone was given a name tag.. So everybody around us were calling out our name. A wild evening of sensational music.

I STILL NEED TO CHECK OUT:

Purple Mountain,/ 75 Dollar Bill,/ Pond,/ Rhiannon Giddens, the latest Bill Callahan /latest Liam Hayes

LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2020 :

A Girl called Eddy [can’t wait], Bill DeMain ,  Tame Impala, Nicole Atkins, The Haden Triplets, Ron Sexsmith, Rumer, Haim, Marker Starling, Cabane, Ben Watt, Drive by Truckers, Rumer, HYYTS,  Pat Metheny,  Jason Isbell, Sondre Lerche, Dana Countryman, Real Estate, Field Music

I CAN DREAM CAN’T I [my personal wish list]

Prefab Sprout- One was actually announced for the fall of 2019 but who knows what happened.  Paddy is in control of his music and I guess he ‘s still finishing that one, Fingers crossed.

Roddy Frame—–He is due, and I miss him.

Crackerboots- I’ve  heard some of the new songs and they are awesome

David Mead- I know I can’t complain. He put out a great one which is on this list. I know he was raising children. I just think there is more music to share. That last album is so entertaining ,  I just can’t wait to hear more.

Molly Felder- My favorite female vocalist  . Would love to hear her sing some more. The phone book ? I’d buy that.

SHOUT OUTS:

Alan Haber and his Pure Pop Radio. Always an inspiration to me. I hope you are doing well, Alan.

Duglas T. Stewart – The main man in the fab BMX Bandits has turned me onto lots of music. On this list Weyes Blood which is in the top 5. Besides great pop he also shares his affection for French singers and soundtracks.  Since the purpose of my list is the pursuit of good music I thank him for his inspiration.

Mojo magazine : Still vital. Still worth subscribing to. They cover a lot of information much needed for someone like myself. Plus the enclosed cd’s can be special. For example the Febuary cd, “Swoons” 15 gems from the 80’s, and the June cd of excellent Dylan covers.

Daily internet stops at Pitchfork and Popmatters.  Also messages from Ray at Kool Kat Music, Stereogum, Paste ,Darla Records, No Depression, Pause and Play etc.  Also Spotify’s Release Radar.

Thanks to internet and social media friends for sharing music. I’m all about that.

WRAP  UP :

Several week’s ago when  I started writing all this [ I am slow] the virus was starting it’s attack. I won’t get into that. You have your news outlets ,but I just  want to say I have my fingers crossed for all of us to pull through .These are very difficult times and we need music to sooth us more than ever. Daily I am watching musicians performing from their home and it is heartwarming.

So, that’s my list. As I said at the top it was an amazing year. I hope  people  will read about some of my picks, watch the videos and maybe try something new. If that happens do me a favor and send me a message . I do this to share music and it is gratifying to know that I turned somebody on to something new. In return , people have turned me onto new artists as well. Sorry this takes me so long. I type  with one finger ,and make lots of mistakes . Also I am working on a lab top for the first time. And I am not a journalist. Just a music fan.

I must thank my wife Amy for being there for me especially during my medical procedures. It is not easy living with an obsessive music fan. She’s the best.

Now it is time to start on 2020. I know just where to begin. That Girl from Eddy release still in it’s Amazon UK sleeve. Also been looking forward to spinning my Charlie Parker vinyl box set. Hope everyone is safe at home keeping well.

God Save the Kinks !

Gene Good

javagene@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2019 Mid Year Report

Started doing this last year so I will continue. This is a simple list of 5 albums and 5 songs that have my full attention. No elaborations .I will save that for the year end report. Just a list of my favorites so far. Here goes.

ALBUMS:

1] The Pearlfishers- “Love and other hopeless things”

2]David Mead- “Cobra Pumps”

3]Vampire Weekend- “Father of the Bride”

4]Charlie Faye and the Fayettes- “The whole shebang”

5]The Divine Comedy- “Office Politics”

SONGS :

1 Julia Jaclin- “Comfort”

2] Lucy Dacus- “Forever Half Mast”

3] Tame Impala- “Patience”

 

4] Josh Ritter- “All some kind of Dream”

5] Cristina Quesada- “Think I heard a rumour”

There, that is my current hit list . I still have a lot of listening to do. So much good stuff to get to. In the mean time enjoy the videos. Music is our best relief in this troubled world. Looking forward to  sharing more music with you soon. Till then…

Gene Good

javagene@hotmail.com