OTG's Top Ten (and Other Commentary) For 2002


OPENING GIBBERISH

Sorting out the Top Ten this year was a bit of a challenge. I sorted out the top six relatively quickly, but had six remaining candidates for the final four spots. I ended up messing with those quite a bit, and as always, I'm not 100% sure that I've got 'em right even now ... I'll probably look back in a couple of months and think "what the heck was I thinkin'?!"

For me, there were two big surprises for me this year as I was putting this together. One was a surprising trio of albums that neatly integrated techno, dance, and synthisized influences into their sound with becoming overwhelmed by the addition. You'll see those in the Top Ten. The other big surprise was the number of albums that were only available from various bands' official web sites. Personally, I think this is a terrific development. It lets bands deal with their fans more directly, and greatly lowers the sales needed to make a CD release profitable, thus letting the acts have more control over their work.

Of course, the other big story for 2002 is the one I cover in the next section ...


GOODBYE

John Entwistle died the night before The Who's 2002 US tour. If you've read these reviews in the past, you know I'm a huge Who fan, so this was a tough one to swallow.

Prefering the term "bass guitarist" to "bassist", "The Ox" changed the role of the bass player in rock. His loud, trebly, fluid bass playing was as much as part of The Who's sound as Pete Townshend's power chord guitar work or Keith Moon's anarchic drumming. Listen to songs like "The Real Me", "Dreaming From The Waist", "Substitute", and scores of others - John's bass is essentially the lead instrument, while Townshend's guitar serves as more of a rhythm instrument.

Entwistle was also a first-class songwriter, noted early on for his witty and macabre lyrics. Unfortunately, John happened to be in the same band with Pete Townshend, one of rock's all-time greats. As a result, few Entwistle songs were recorded on The Who's albums, although quite a few ended up as B-sides. As a result, Entwistle started working on solo albums as an outlet for his songs. His solo albums reflect who's in charge - bass work has rarely been the focus of the sound as much as on John's albums. I enjoy them all, but his first three Smash Your Head Against The Wall, Whistle Rymes (spelt that way as a protest against the near constant misspelling of "Entwistle") and Rigor Mortis Sets In are the best of the bunch.

John's most famous song is probably "Boris The Spider" (from A Quick One) which is actually the least impressive of his writing, but the silly lyric made it a fan favorite. Songs like "Trick Of The Light", about an insecure man worrying about pleasing a hooker, and "Success Story", a wonderful tongue-in-cheek song about rock stardom ("I've gotta give up my day job / to become a heartthrob / I may go far / if I smash my guitar") are classics that any other band would have made into a single or at least a staple of their live set.

It's a bit of an overused cliché, but Entwistle really was a one-of-a-kind, and he'll be sorely missed.


CATALOG REISSUES

This section holds links to separate pages covering whole series of reissues. Rather than chew up a bunch of space on this page, I've made separate review pages for each.

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X

X Reissue Review page.


REISSUES

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Fairport Convention
Liege & Lief

When Sandy Denny joined Fairport Convention for their second album, What We Did On Our Holidays, the band started adding some traditional material to their repertoire. For Liege & Lief, Fairport went full-out and coupled traditional British folk with rock and roll in much the same way The Byrds did with American folk. The results were spectacular. The twin high points are the two epics, "Matty Groves" and "Tam Lin". Both take traditional folk songs and hook in Richard Thompson's powerful lead guitar and Dave Swarbrick's dazzling fiddle playing. A folk/rock classic.

The reissue adds two new songs, notably a version of "Sir Patrick Spens" with Sandy Denny on lead vocal. It's interesting listening, but the officially released take from Full House (with Thompson and Swarbrick sharing the lead vocal), released a year later, after Denny's departure is still the superior take.

tracks: "Come All Ye", "Reynardine", "Matty Groves", "Farewell, Farewell", "The Deserter", "Medley: The Lark In The Morning / Rakish Paddy / Foxhunter's Jig / Toss The Feathers", "Tam Lin", "Crazy Man Michael"

bonus tracks: "Sir Patrick Spens", "The Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood" [Take 1]

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Randy Newman
Sail Away

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Randy Newman
Good Old Boys

Two of Newman's best albums, Sail Away and Good Old Boys are classics, full of Newman's strengths. The melodies are catchy with beautiful arrangements, but the lyrics attack with sarcasm, satire and wit.

On Sail Away, the opening title track couples a pretty melody and gorgeous string arangement with a lyric sung from the point of view of a slave trader in Africa trying to convince people to come with him to America. "Political Science" is his take on foreign policy "... they all hate us anyhow, so let's drop the big one now", and "Burn On" is Newman's famous celebration of the Cuyahoga River. The bonus tracks are interesting listening, but none are an improvement on the original album (although "Let It Shine" is darn close).

Good Old Boys is a concept album of sorts about the South, with Newman's two best songs. The first opens the album. The sarcastic "Rednecks" is a searing indictment of racism (as well as some Northerners' superior attitude on the subject) and Newman's finest lyric, although the infamous line "we're keepin' the niggers down" would cause him some grief over the years. The other comes first in a trio of songs about Newman's home state of Louisiana. "Louisiana 1927" is a stirring recounting of The Great Flood Of 1927, set to Newman's best melody and arrangement - it's a stunner. "Every Man A King" is legendary Louisiana governor Huey Long's campaign song, and "Kingfish" is a celebration of Huey himself.

The bonus CD for Good Old Boys is amazing. Titled Johnny Cutler's Birthday, it reveals that the original idea for Good Old Boys was a full-blown concept album, following Southerner Johnny Cutler through his birthday. The versions on this CD are simply Newman on piano, and he pauses in between each cut to explain how the songs fit into the story line and what sound effects should be used, etc. It's a fascinating look at where Good Old Boys started out.

If you're only familiar with Randy Newman's soundtrack work (songs like "I Love To See You Smile" from Parenthood and "You've Got A Friend In Me" from Toy Story), you'll be in for a bit of a shock with the sharp bite to the lyrics on these albums, but give 'em a try anyway.

tracks (Sail Away): "Sail Away", "Lonely At The Top", "He Gives Us All His Love", "Last Night I Had A Dream", "Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear", "Old Man", "Political Science", "Burn On", "Memo To My Son", "Dayton, Ohio - 1903", "You Can Leave Your Hat On", "God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)"

Sail Away bonus tracks: "Let It Shine", "Maybe I'm Doing It Wrong" [Studio Version], "Dayton, Ohio - 1903" [Early Version], "You Can Leave Your Hat On" [Demo], "Sail Away" [Early Version]

tracks (Good Old Boys): "Rednecks", "Birmingham", "Marie", "Mr. President (Have Pity On The Working Man)", "Guilty", "Louisiana 1927", "Every Man A King", "Kingfish", "Naked Man", "A Wedding In Cherokee County", "Back On My Feet Again", "Rollin'"

Good Old Boys bonus track: "Marie" [Demo]

Good Old Boys bonus disk (Johnny Cutler's Birthday): "Rednecks", "If We Didn't Have Jesus", "Birmingham", "The Joke", "Louisiana", "My Daddy New Dixie Howell", "Shining", "Marie", "Good Morning", "Birmingham Redux", "Doctor, Doctor", "Albanian Anthem", "Rolling"


LIVE ALBUMS

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Eels
Electro-Shock Blues Show

Electro-Shock Blues Show is a live CD from the 1998 Electro-Shock Blues tour available only from the Eels' official website. It's an excellent performance, highlighted by a powerful versions of "Not Ready Yet" and "Last Stop: This Town" along with an early version of "Souljacker Part I". Nicely, this CD is simply Eels as a trio (no extra musicians and such), so the sound is much simpler and more direct than on their last web-only live album, Oh What A Beautiful Morning (which was really the "Eels Orchestra"). If you're a fan of the first two Eels albums, definitely check this out.

tracks: "Cancer For The Cure", "Fingertips Part III", "Going To Your Funeral Part I", "Efil's God", "Souljacker Part I", "My Beloved Monster", "Novocaine For The Soul", "Not Ready Yet", "Last Stop: This Town", "Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas"

bonus tracks: "Flower", "Dead Of Winter", "Electro-Shock Blues", "The Medication Is Wearing Off", "Climbing To The Moon"

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The John Entwistle Band
Left For Live: Deluxe

Despite his "bored" on-stage persona, John Entwistle was the member of The Who most enthused about playing live. In 1995, he formed The John Entwistle Band so that he could hit the road as often as he liked. The band played a repertoire pulled from John's solo albums as well as his tracks written for The Who. With a few exceptions, The Who rarely performed John's songs on stage, so the JEB gave him a perfect outlet.

Left For Live: Deluxe is a new issue of the 1999 live release Left For Live, expanded from a 12-song single disc to a 24-song double. The new version adds in more older Who tracks (like "905", "My Wife", and John's signature track "Boris The Spider") as well as some of John's older solo material like "My Size" from his 1971 solo debut, Smash Your Head Against The Wall. In addition to the new songs, more of the band's on-stage introductions are included, which shows off John (and the band)'s sense of humor, with one chilling intro: John introduces "Darker Side Of Night" as "probably the last song I ever wrote". The band corrects him to say "the most recent", but given John's passing in early 2002, "Darker Side Of Night" may well have been John's last. A big upgrade over the original release, and definitely worth a listen.

note: The cover says "The Complete Live Performance", but this is misleading. This is not a single show, but rather a representative set drawn from a number of shows.

tracks: "Horror Rock", "The Real Me", "Sometimes", "My Size", "You", "Darker Side Of Night", "Love Is A Heart Attack", "Success Story", "Trick Of The Light", "Cousin Kevin", "Under A Raging Moon", "Boris The Spider", "905", "Had Enough", "Endless Vacation", "I'll Try Again Today", "Whiskey Man", "Too Late The Hero", "Young Man Blues", "Shakin' All Over", "Heaven And Hell", "Summertime Blues", "My Wife"

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The Jam
The Jam At The BBC

The Jam At The BBC is a collection of the band's "Peel Sessions" along with a few short concerts recorded for the BBC. The first CD covers sessions from 1977 when The Jam was just starting to find their own sound. The CD ends up with tracks that would end up on their breakthrough album, All Mod Cons. The second covers 1979-1981 and shows the band's final evolution with 12-song set from 1981 when they had soul music pulled into their Small Faces/Who-influenced punk. There's also a limited edition version which includes a 3rd CD containing a complete 1979 concert that shows the band in full flight, hitting some of their very best material.

An excellent collection, and a must for a Jam fan. If you're not familiar with the band, this would be a heck of an introduction, although original albums like All Mod Cons or their classic Setting Sons are probably a better introduction.

tracks: "In The City", "Art School", "I've Changed My Address", "The Modern World", "All Around The World", "London Girl", "Bricks And Mortar", "Carnaby Street", "Billy Hunt", "In The Street, Today", "The Combine", "Sounds From The Street", "Don't Tell Them You're Sane", "The Modern World", "'A' Bomb In Wardour Street", "News Of The World", "Here Comes The Weekend", "All Around The World", "Thick As Thieves", "The Eton Rifles", "Saturday's Kids", "When You're Young", "Absolute Beginners", "Tales From The Riverbank", "Funeral Pyre", "Sweet Soul Music", "The Gift", "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight", "Ghosts", "Absolute Beginners", "Tales From The Riverbank", "Precious", "Town Called Malice", "In The Crowd", "Circus", "Pretty Green", "Start!", "Boy About Town"

bonus disk (The Jam At The Rainbow): "Girl On The Phone", "To Be Someone (Didn't We Have A Nice Time)", "It's Too Bad", "Burning Sky", "Away From The Numbers", "Smithers-Jones", "The Modern World", "Mr. Clean", "The Butterfly Collector", "Private Hell", "Thick As Thieves", "When You're Young", "Strange Town", "The Eton Rifles", "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight", "Saturday's Kids", "All Mod Cons", "David Watts"

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BobMouldBand
LiveDog98

LiveDog98 is a memento from Bob's final electric band tour. He focuses on tracks from the then-current The Last Dog And Pony Show with some other older tracks thrown in for good measure. Bob's live sound with this band is quite different from his studio sound - it's a full-on, electric attack played at deafening volumes. A lot of the subtleties of Mould's studio work is lost, but the extra intensity can be contagious. LiveDog98 is only available from Bob Mould's web site.

tracks: "Moving Trucks", "Taking Everything", "First Drag Of The Day", "I Hate Alternative Rock", "Stand Guard", "Classified", "Hear Me Calling", "Art Crisis", "Anymore Time Between", "Skintrade", "Eternally Fried", "Roll Over And Die", "Lonely Afternoon", "Egøverride", "Reflecting Pool", "Disappointed", "Hanging Tree", "Man On The Moon"

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Amy Rigby
I've Got The World On A Broken String

A solo acoustic collection culled from several shows, I've Got The World On A Broken String is a terrific compilation of Rigby's work that shows her excellent songwriting and wonderful sense of humor. "Give The Drummer Some" features Amy's string of drummer jokes in the middle, and the new "I Hate Every Bone In Her Body" is a biting satire of male chauvinism (the title line is really "I hate every bone in her body ... but mine").

I've Got The World On A Broken String is only available from Amy Rigby's web site.

tracks: "Beer & Kisses", "Cynically Yours", "Balls", "Keep It To Yourself", "Just Someone I Had In Mind", "I Hate Every Bone In Her Body", "Spam Again", "Raising The Bar", "Knapsack", "Don't Ever Change", "The Summer Of My Wasted Youth", "As Is", "Give The Drummer Some", "Magicians", "Invisible", "Rode Hard", "20 Questions", "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding"

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The Who
The Who Live 2002 Encore Series

Following Pearl Jam's lead, The Who released double CDs of 25 of the 27 dates of their 2002 tour, with the proceeds going to various children's charities. The recordings are taken from the soundboard with minimal production work, so the sound is generally excellent, although it does vary a touch from show to show. For the most part, the shows are not edited, although a rant about playing at the The Joint (in the hotel where John Entwistle died) was excised from that show.

Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey played drums (as he did on the 2000 tour), and is still the ideal choice for the role. While not simply aping Keith Moon's style, Zak clearly understands the role that an aggressive, up-front drummer has in The Who's sound. Longtime Who keyboard player John "Rabbit" Bundrick was along for the ride, as was Pete Townshend's brother Simon on rhythm guitar and vocals, although you'll be very hard-pressed to hear Simon on the CDs.

The most noted addition was of course bassist Pino Palladino, filling in on short notice for the late John Entwistle. Palladino did a fine job (especially given the phenominally short notice and the unenviable position of filling in for a legend), but hearing The Who play with a more conventional bass player really drive home how integral Entwistle was to the band's sound. The band sounded good, but without that "lead bass", it just didn't sound as much like The Who.

The set lists vary slightly from disc to disc, but not radically. The hard-core fans will probably buy all 25 CDs, just to get the variations in set lists, although one or two sets would easily satisfy the casual fan. If you were at a show and enjoyed it, pick up the CD of your show. If not, take a look at the set lists and pick one that appeals. The CDs are only availble from TheMusic.com.

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Frank Zappa
FZ:OZ

The first in a series of "vault" releases, FZ:OZ captures the first show of Zappa's brief 1976 Australian tour. The band's style is similar to the Bongo Fury band (although Captain Beefheart was already back out of the band by this time). The show has a wonderful set list with great performances and a previously unreleased track, "Kaiser Rolls". The bonus track is a complete take on the song, taken from a different show. A must for the Zappaholic.

FZ:OZ is only available from the official Zappa web site.

tracks: "Hordern Intro (Incan Art Vamp)", "Stink-Foot", "The Poodle Lecture", "Dirty Love", "Filthy Habits", "How Could I Be Such A Fool", "I Ain't Got No Heart", "I'm Not Satisfied", "Black Napkins", "Advance Romance", "The Illinois Enema Bandit", "Wind Up Workin' In A Gas Station", "The Torture Never Stops", "Let's Move To Cleveland", "Kaiser Rolls", "Find Her Finer", "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy", "Lonely Little Girl", "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance", "What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?", "Chunga's Revenge", "Zoot Allures", "Keep It Greasey", "Dinah Moe Humm", "Camarillo Brillo", "Muffin Man"

bonus track: "Kaiser Rolls (Du Jour)"


TRIBUTE ALBUMS

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Camper Van Beethoven
Tusk

In 1987, Camper Van Beethoven got together with plans to work on songs for their third album, which would be eventually released simply as Camper Van Beethoven. However, on the first day, drummer Chris Pederson broke his arm skiing, so on a goof, the band decided to try to record a cover of Fleetwood Mac's 1979 epic, Tusk. The project was never quite completed, but in 2002 amidst a swirl of new CVB work, the band got together and patched together (and repaired) some of the original tapes and did a little extra recording to finish the job.

Clearly they were fond of the original, and while this isn't a simple cover job, the album also doesn't really show off the band's strengths. An interesting project and fun to listen to, but not Camper's best.

tracks: "Angel", "Over And Over", "That's Enough For Me", "The Ledge", "Brown Eyes", "Think About Me", "Never Make Me Cry", "Save Me A Place", "I Know I'm Not Wrong", "Sara", "Honey Hi", "What Makes You Think You're The One", "Beautiful Child", "Storms", "That's All For Everyone", "Walk A Thin Line", "Not That Funny", "Tusk", "Never Forget", "Sisters Of The Moon"

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Robyn Hitchcock
Robyn Sings

Robyn Sings is a live album ordered to closely match Bob Dylan's legendary 1966 Royal Albert Hall show. The back cover even instructs you where to shout "Judas!" to match the heckler in the original show. A novel concept and fine performances, but really only for Hitchcock or Dylan completists.

tracks: "Visions Of Johanna", "Tangled Up In Blue", "Not Dark Yet", "4th Time Around", "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue", "Desolation Row", "Dignity", "Visions Of Johanna", "Tell Me", "I Don't Believe You", "Baby Let Me Follow You Down", "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues", "Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat", "One Too Many Mornings", "Ballad Of A Thin Man", "Like A Rolling Stone"


COMPILATION ALBUMS

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Camper Van Beethoven
Cigarettes & Carrot Juice: The Santa Cruz Years

Except for their 1985 debut, Telephone Free Landslide Victory, Camper Van Beethoven's IRS releases have been long out of print and difficult (or expensive) to get. The 5 CD box, Cigarettes & Carrot Juice: The Santa Cruz Years, solves the problem by making their three IRS studio albums and the rarities album Camper Vantiquities available again. The fifth CD is a previously unreleased live album from the final tour before the breakup, which adds a nice selection of their Virgin-era material to the box.

These albums are a wonderful, quirky mix of pop, punk, folk, and middle eastern music with a dry sense of humor thrown in for good measure. The cult hit "Take The Skinheads Bowling" may have pegged CVB as a "novelty" act, but that misses the point. The lyrics are witty, but the music is the exceptional. The three studio albums are great, full of twists and turns along the way. You may get a punk song one minute, and a laid back folk tune the next. That's part of the charm. Camper Vantiquities picks up a collection of rarities which are fun, but not up to the three original albums. The live disk, Greatest Hits Played Faster is a terrific high-energy take on the best of Camper's later albums.

Even if all you've heard is their later albums, you really ought to check out this set.

tracks (Telephone Free Lanslide Victory): "Border Ska", "The Day That Lassie Went To The Moon", "Wasted", "Yanqui Go Home", "Oh No!", "9 Of Disks", "Payed Vacation: Greece", "Where The Hell Is Bill?", "Vladivostock", "Skinhead Stomp", "Tina", "Take The Skinheads Bowling", "Mao Reminisces About His Days In Southern China", "I Don't See You", "Balalaika Gap", "Opi Rides Again - Club Med Sucks", "Ambiguity Song"

tracks (II & III): "Abundance", "Cowboys From Hollywood", "Sad Lovers Waltz", "Turtlehead", "I Love Her All The Time", "No Flies On Us", "Down And Out", "No Krugerrands For David", "(Don't You Go) Goletca", "4 Year Plan", "(We're A) Bad Trip", "Circles", "Dust Pan", "Sometimes", "Chain Of Circumstance", "ZZ Top Goes To Egypt", "Cattle (Reversed)", "Form Another Stone", "No More Bullshit"

tracks (Camper Van Beethoven): "Good Guys & Bad Guys", "Joe Stalin's Cadillac", "Five Sticks", "Lulu Land", "Une Fois", "We Saw Jerry's Daughter", "Surprise Truck", "Stairway To Heavan [sic]", "The History Of Utah", "Still Wishing To Course", "We Love You", "Hoe Yourself Down", "Peace & Love", "Folly", "Interstellar Overdrive", "Shut Us Down"

tracks (Camper Vantiquities): "Heart", "Never Go Back", "Seven Languages", "Axe Murderer Song", "S.P. 37597", "Crossing Over", "Guardian Angels", "I'm Not Like Everybody Else", "A.C. Cover", "Porpoise Mouth", "(We Workers Do No Understand) Modern Art", "We Eat Your Children", "Six More Miles To The Graveyard", "Ice Cream Everyday", "Processional", "Photograph / Om Eye (Sweet Isthmus)"

tracks (Greatest Hits Played Faster): "All Her Favorite Fruit" [Orchestral Version], "Sweethearts", "Tania", "Eye Of Fatima (Pt. 1)", "Eye Of Fatima (Pt. 2)", "My Baby Just Got Outta Jail", "Borderline", "Turquoise Jewelry", "She Divines Water", "L'Aguardiente", "Life Is Grand", "When I Win The Lottery", "James River", "One Of These Days"

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Cheech & Chong
Where There's Smoke There's Cheech & Chong

Long derided as a simple one-joke act, Cheech & Chong were actually very skilled, very funny sketch comics who made wonderfully produced records. They used the drug culture as fuel for the routines, but drugs were not always the focus of the bit. Where There's Smoke There's Cheech & Chong takes tracks from all of their albums, focusing heavily on their first three albums (their best) and adds in a few radio spots and a classic routine never used on record before ("Old Man In The Park") about a run-in between a young punk and a crotchety old man. Crude? Sure. Vulgar? Sure. But also very innovative and very funny, man.

tracks: "Dave", "Blind Melon Chitlin'", "Wink Dinkerson", "Acapulco Gold Filters", "Cruisin' With Pedro De Pacas", "Trippin' In Court", "Santa Claus And His Old Lady", "Sister Mary Elephant", "Ralph And Herbie", "The Continuing Adventures Of Pedro De Pacas And Man", "Let's Make A Dope Deal", "Seargent Stadanko", "The Strawberry Revival Festival", "Evelyn Woodhead Speed Reading Course", "White World Of Sports", "Basketball Jones", "Pedro And Man At The Drive-Inn", "Earache My Eye", "Championship Wrestling", "Wake Up America", "Black Lassie (A Great American Dog)", "Wake Up America (Conclusion)", "(How I Spent My Summer Vacation) Or A Day At The Beach With Pedro & Man - Part I", "The Big Sniff", "Pedro's Request", "Framed", "Up In Smoke", "Bloat On", "Let's Make A New Dope Deal", "Acupuncture", "Moe Money", "Born In East L.A.", "Up In Smoke Commercial (I)", "Up In Smoke Commercial (II)", "Academy Of Music - NY Concert Commercial", "Old Man In The Park"

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Amy Rigby
18 Again - An Anthology

After deleting Amy Rigby's three excellent solo albums, Koch records issued this sampler as a replacement. 18 Again is a fine overview of Rigby's work. Amy Rigby mixes rock, pop, and folk with intelligent, witty lyrics and a great voice. This album adds one new track (the eerie "Keep It To Yourself") about a woman giving her new boyfriend information on how to find her former, abusive boyfriend. Amy Rigby is a vasty underrated songwriter, and 18 Again is a fine introduction to her work.

tracks: "All I Want", "The Summer Of My Wasted Youth", "Balls", "Cynically Yours", "Beer & Kisses", "20 Questions", "Keep It To Yourself", "Wait Til I Get You Home", "We're Stronger Than That", "Time For Me To Come Down", "Raising The Bar", "What I Need", "The Good Girls", "Knapsack", "Invisible", "Rode Hard", "If You Won't Hang Around", "Magicians" [Demo]

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Roger Waters
Flickering Flame - The Solo Years Volume I

Flickering Flame is a fine sampler of Waters' solo output, but suffers from the same problem that affects the 2001 Pink Floyd "best of", Echoes. Roger Waters' albums are complete works unto themselves - they really need to be heard as a whole. However, given that problem, Flickering Flame is a reasonable selection, although I certainly would have included "5:01 AM (The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking)" and "What God Wants" to really round out the collection. A new cover of Bob Dylan's "Knocking On Heaven's Door" and the two demos are great extras for the hard-core fan. If you're new to Roger Waters' solo albums, this isn't a bad start, but you'd really get a better experience just getting one of the albums, especially Amused To Death.

tracks: "Knockin' On Heaven's Door", "Too Much Rope", "The Tide Is Turning (After Live Aid)", "Perfect Sense, Part I", "Perfect Sense, Part II", "Three Wishes", "5:06 AM (Every Strangers Eyes)", "Who Needs Information", "Each Small Candle", "Flickering Flame" [Demo], "Towers Of Faith", "Radio Waves", "Lost Boys Calling" [Demo]


Ummm... "ALTERNATIVE IMPORTS"

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Negativland
These Guys Are From England And Who Gives A Shit

In 1991, Negativland issued their infamous U2 single. Packaged to look like a new U2 single (U2's Achtung Baby was due out soon), Negativland's single contained two tracks based on "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" which used parodies of the song including a hilarious deadpan reading of the lyrics, obscenity-laced outtakes from Casey Kasem's "American Top 40" show about U2 (including the CD's title line), and a "Long Distance Dedication" to a dead dog named "Snuggles". As you might imagine, the single was sued into oblivion by U2's label, Island. If you've never heard U2, you really should. It's one of the funniest things I've ever heard.

Eleven years later, the Seelard label (as opposed to Negativland's Seeland label) has seen fit to issue the definitive CD about the single. These Guys Are From England And Who Gives A Shit has both tracks from U2 along with the excerpt from their "Over The Edge" radio show where they first ran a rough approximation of the final product and live recordings and remixes of the single's two tracks. The sound quality is absolutely flawless throughout.

Between the sound quality, rarity of the cuts, quality of the packaging, and availability on Negativland's NegativWorldWideWebLand website, it's generally suspected that Negativland is behind their own bootleg. Either way, if you're a fan of the single, this is a must-have.

tracks: "Over The Edge, 12/31/89 (excerpts)", "Long Distance Dedication #1", "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" [1991 A Capella Mix], "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" [Special Edit Radio Mix], "Long Distance Dedication #2", "Copying Is A Criminal Act", "Wake Up America", "The Black Lady Of Espionage", "Deliberate Sabotage", "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" [1991 A Capella Mix - Live], "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" [Edited Special Edit Radio Mix]


OTHER NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

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Bill Hicks
Love, Laughter And Truth

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Bill Hicks
Flying Saucer Tour Vol. 1 - Pittsburgh, PA 6/20/91

Eight years after Bill Hicks' death at 32 from pancreatic cancer and five years after his catalog was issued on Rykodisc, the Hicks Estate has authorized the release of material from Hicks' personal tapes. Love, Laughter And Truth is a collection of bits that don't appear on the four albums Hicks worked on during his lifetime. Style-wise, it's closer to his first two albums, focusing more on more "conventional" standup targets and less on Bill's insightful, thought-provoking rants (although the "real" Bill does come through on a number of bits).

Flying Saucer Tour Vol. 1 is the first in a projected series of complete live shows, and this one's a doozy. Focusing on the material that would make up a lot of his third album, Arizona Bay, Flying Saucer Tour Vol. 1 shows Bill dealing with a crowd that just doesn't seem to get Bill's style. They're not hostile, they're just quiet. He starts to give up, calling the crowd the "worst audience ever", then starts to work to bring them around. Something about the trying to win over this crowd seems to challenge Hicks and get him to push even harder.

Both CDs are a must for a serious Bill Hicks fan. If you're new to Hicks' work, Love, Laughter and Truth would be a good introduction, although his first four albums would do better. And as I noted in my review of the 2001 compilation Philosophy, this is definitely NOT material for the easily offendable.

tracks (Love, Laughter And Truth): "Intro / Smokers vs. Drinkers", "Drunk Driving", "New York Apartment", "My One Man Show", "Pot Smoking", "Drugs Are Bad", "Children On Airplanes", "50 Year Smoker", "Smoking In Heaven", "Australia", "Satiating The American Comedy Audience", "Dance Club", "Speaking Of Homosexuality", "Poe-Naw-Grah-Fee", "A Question For The Ladies", "My Favorite New Kid", "You Can't Get Bitter", "Closing Bit"

tracks (Flying Saucer Tour Vol. 1): "Intro", "Summertime", "The F Word", "Smoking", "Yul Brynner", "Trying To Quit", "The News", "The War", "Worst Audience Ever", "More War", "Are You Guys Drug Dealers?", "Praying For Nuclear Holocaust", "Girl Of Your Dreams", "Young Lady", "Vs. The Audience 1", "What's Wrong?", "Vs. The Audience 2", "School Days", "Vs. The Audience 3", "Working", "Great Times On Drugs", "Mandatory Marijuana", "Penthouse Letters", "Talking Car", "Summer Trip", "Drugs Have Done Good Things", "Menu?", "Beelzebozo", "Cause Of Sexual Thought", "Mechanics Of Pornography", "Goodnight"

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King Crimson
Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With

Like their 1994 EP, VROOOM, Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With is a short taster for the new King Crimson album. The basic style (and the lineup) remain the same from the last full album, The ConstruKction Of Light. Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With consists of four main songs and six smaller haikus set to music. It's an unusual collection and probably only for the die-hards.

tracks: "Bude", "Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With" [Edit], "Mie Gakure", "She Shudders", "Eyes Wide Open" [Acoustic], "ShoGaNai", "I Ran", "Potato Pie", "Larks' Tongues In Aspic - Part IV" [Live], "Clouds"

hidden bonus tracks: "Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With" [Demo], "Einstein's Relatives" [Demo]

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XTC
Coat Of Many Cupboards

While Coat Of Many Cupboards is a 4 CD box, it's not really a conventional box. The track list as you'd expect for a box, with a mixture of hits, album cuts and rarities. However, almost all of the songs on the set are different versions from the originals. As a result, this is really more of a collector's set, but it's a wonderful collection. The set covers pretty much every album up until 1992's Nonsuch.

tracks: "Science Friction", "Spinning Top", "Traffic Light Rock", "Radios In Motion", "Let's Have Fun", "Fireball XL5/Fireball Dub", "Heatwave Mk.2 Deluxe", "This Is Pop", "Are You Receiving Me?", "Things Fall To Bits", "Us Being Us", "Life Begins At The Hop", "Life Begins At The Hop", "Making Plans For Nigel", "Ten Feet Tall", "Sleepyheads", "Meccanik Dancing (Oh We Go!)", "Atom Age/Hang Onto The Night/Neon Shuffle", "Life Begins At The Hop", "Real By Reel", "When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty", "Helicopter", "Towers Of London", "Generals And Majors", "No Language In Our Lungs", "Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me)", "Paper And Iron (Notes And Coins)", "Crowded Room", "Senses Working Overtime", "Snowman", "Ball And Chain", "Punch And Judy", "Fly On The Wall", "Yacht Dance", "Jason And The Argonauts", "Love On A Farmboy's Wages", "Wonderland", "Ladybird", "All You Pretty Girls", "Wake Up", "The Everyday Story Of Smalltown", "Grass", "Let's Make A Den", "The Meeting Place", "Dear God", "Brainiac's Daughter", "Vanishing Girl", "Terrorism", "Find The Fox", "Season Cycle", "The Troubles", "Mayor Of Simpleton", "King For A Day", "Chalkhills And Children", "The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead", "Omnibus", "The Disappointed", "Bungalow", "Didn't Hurt A Bit", "Books Are Burning"

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Cracker
Forever

Cracker's first new album in four years, Forever is a varied album, both in style and in quality. When it's good, it's fantastic. Forever mixes some soulful touches in with their blend of alternative rock, folk, and country The result is Cracker's most varied album in a while. The band's sense of humor comes way to the fore on the tongue-in-cheek closing rap song "What You're Missing" that lets each member of band do their thing. The elegant opening pair, "Brides Of Neptune" and "Shine" start the album off right, "Ain't That Strange" is an immediately catchy pop song that really could have been a hit, and the title track is a perfect "car song" ... one of those you really want to crank up on a long road trip. Forever is a gutsy album, and Cracker takes a lot of chances. Not all of 'em work as well as the others, but the high spots more than make up for the occasional miss.

The bonus CD is a complete winner top to bottom. It shows the band in terrific form in a 1999 concert recorded for Chicago's WXRT. It shows off everything Cracker does right, with a terrific set list and inspired playing. The live CD is a must.

tracks: "Brides Of Neptune", "Shine", "Don't Bring Us Down", "Guarded By Monkeys", "Ain't That Strange", "Miss Santa Cruz County", "Superfan", "Sweet Magdalena Of My Misfortune", "Merry Christmas Emily", "Forever", "Shameless", "One Fine Day", "What You're Missing"

bonus CD (Hello Cleveland! Live From The Metro): "Seven Days", "The Good Life", "Lonesome Johnny Blues", "Big Dipper", "Been Around The World", "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)", "This Is Cracker Soul", "Sweet Thistle Pie", "The World Is Mine", "Low", "Pictures Of Matchstick Men"

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Jad Fair & Teenage Fanclub
Words Of Wisdom And Hope

Words Of Wisdom And Hope is a strange pairing. Jad Fair's quirky lyrics and amateurish vocals provide an odd change to Teenage Fanclub's perfect harmonies and pure pop sensibility. The songs are catchy (especially "Near To You"), but I miss those TFC vocals. Fun, but not essential.

tracks: "Behold The Miracle", "I Feel Fine", "Near To You", "Smile", "Crush On You", "Cupid", "The Power Of Your Tenderness", "Vampire's Claw", "Secret Heart", "You Rock", "Love's Taken Over", "The Good Thing"

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LoudBomb
Long Playing Grooves.

As a companion piece to modulate., Bob Mould released a Long Playing Grooves. under the pseudonym "LoudBomb". Long Playing Grooves. shows off a more extreme version of the style shift on modulate. Far denser and more synthetic, Long Playing Grooves. is a more challenging listen than modulate. If you like modulate. and want to go a step further, check this album out. If modulate. didn't move you, then definitely avoid this.

Long Playing Grooves. is only available from the LoudBomb web site.

tracks: "Theme (It's A Perfect Day)", "Guys Like You", "Devil v. Angel", "I Cannot Reverse You", "The Fall Collection", "This Is The Way I Want It", "BB DuBois", "Factory Builders Convention", "NumberNine", "Heaven's On Fire", "We Need The Truth", "Helium"

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Tom Waits
Blood Money

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Tom Waits
Alice

Jointly released in 2002, Blood Money and Alice are both good, but not spectacular Tom Waits albums. Both albums consist of material written for stage plays, Alice has music from the 1992 play of the same name and Blood Money has music from the 2000 play Woyzeck. Despite the eight-year gap in the writing, the two albums have a similar feel. Both focus on the quieter side of Waits' writing, but still loaded with the lyrical imagery of his best work, like "All the good in the world / you can put inside a thimble / and still have room for you and me" (from Blood Money's "Misery Is The River Of The World") and "A high dive in a swimming pool / full of needles and fools" (from Alice's "Reeperbahn"). Both of these are good albums, and I would bet the songs worked superbly as the score for their respective plays, but they just don't "click" as albums the way that 1999's Mule Variations did.

tracks (Blood Money): "Misery Is The River Of The World", "Everything Goes To Hell", "Coney Island Baby", "All The World Is Green", "God's Away On Busines", "Another Man's Vine", "Knife Chase", "Lullaby", "Starving In The Belly Of A Whale", "The Part You Throw Away", "Woe", "Calliope", "A Good Man Is Hard To Find"

tracks (Alice): "Alice", "Everything You Can Think", "Flowers Grave", "No One Knows I'm Gone", "Kommienezuepadt", "Poor Edward", "Table Top Joe", "Lost In The Harbor", "We're All Mad Here", "Watch Her Disappear", "Reeperbahn", "I'm Still Here", "Fish & Bird", "Barcarolle", "Fawn"

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The Vines
Highly Evolved

The Vines' debut album is an impressive, no-nonsense, rock & roll album. They balance loud rockers like "Get Free", "Outtathaway" and "Highly Evolved" with quieter stuff like "Country Yard". Lead singer Craig Nicholls has a great voice, and the band delivers a more modern take on "classic rock", something that's not quite punk, but with a lot of the same intensity. A spectacular start.

By the way, for some reason, The Vines tend to get lumped in with The Hives and The White Stripes as some kind of "movement", which only makes sense because all three take a kind of "back-to-basics" approach. However, they sound nothing like each other.

tracks: "Highly Evolved", "Autumn Shade", "Outtathaway", "Sunshinin", "Homesick", "Get Free", "Country Yard", "Factory", "In The Jungle", "Mary Jane", "Ain't No Room", "1969"

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Neil Young
Are You Passionate?

In 1993, Neil Young toured with Booker T. & The MG's with the intent of recording a studio album together when the tour was complete. Instead, Young aborted the plan and brought Crazy Horse in with him to record Sleeps With Angels as reaction to Kurt Cobain's suicide. On Are You Passionate?, Neil finally hooks up with The MG's, and the combination sounds great, but sadly the songs just aren't up to Neil's usual standard. Neil's tribute to the passengers of the Sept. 11 United Airlines flight that crashed in Pennsylvania, "Let's Roll", has a fine lyric set to a melody that really never gets going. The highlight is "Goin' Home", a live track with Crazy Horse inserted on the otherwise all-studio album.

tracks: "You're My Girl", "Mr. Disappointment", "Differently", "Quit (Don't Say You Love Me)", "Let's Roll", "Are You Passionate?", "Goin' Home", "When I Hold You In My Arms", "Be With You", "Two Old Friends", "She's A Healer"

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Warren Zevon
My Ride's Here

Warren Zevon had always been known for having superstar guest musicians on his albums. This time out, it's superstar guest lyricists. Mystery novelist Carl Hiaasen, Irish poet Paul Muldoon, legendary "gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson and sports columnist Mitch Albom. On the whole, My Ride's Here isn't up to the same standard as his last release, Life'll Kill Ya, but it's still a fine album. "You're A Whole Different Person When You're Scared" is a moody track, worthy of Dr. Thompson's lyric, the previously released "Hit Somebody" is a classic, and the sadly prescient closing pair of songs, "I Have To Leave" and "My Ride's Here", are two of the best tracks here.

In September, 2002, Zevon announced that he had inoperable lung cancer and likely had less than six months to live. This will be a tragic loss.

tracks: "Sacrifical Lambs", "Basket Case", "Lord Byron's Luggage", "Macgillycuddy's Reeks", "You're A Whole Different Person When You're Scared", "Hit Somebody! (The Hockey Song)", "Genius", "Laissez-Moi Tranquille", "I Have To Leave", "My Ride's Here"


THE TOP TEN FOR 2002
(in my annoyingly less-than-humble opinion)

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#10
Supergrass
Life On Other Planets

Life On Other Planets is a continuation of the changes Supergrass showed on their 1999 self-titled album. Along with the power-pop of the last album, they also add in some lighter touches like the shuffling "Never Done Nothing Like That Before", and the harmony-laden "Grace". Mind you, they still blast full-volume rockers like the opening pair, "Za" and "Rush Hour Soul". A great album.

tracks: "Za", "Rush Hour Soul", "Seen The Light", "Brecon Beacons", "Can't Get Up", "Evening Of The Day", "Never Done Nothing Like That Before", "Funniest Thing", "Grace", "La Song", "Prophet 15", "Run"

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#9
Oasis
Heathen Chemistry

For all practical purposes, Heathen Chemistry is really the debut of the new Oasis lineup. 2000's Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants was recorded as the band was being assembled, so it really wasn't a cohesive band effort. In a very surprising move, Noel Gallagher only wrote six of the eleven songs on the album, allowing his brother Liam to contribute three and one each for new boys Andy Bell and Gem Archer. Splitting the songwriting chores up a bit seems to have helped. Noel's tracks, especially "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" and "Little By Little", are the best he's written since the band's 1995 classic, (What's The Story) Morning Glory, and are definitely the standouts on the album. However, the other tracks are impressive. Gem Archer's "Hung In A Bad Place" is a full-on rocker that holds up with Noel's songs quite well. More surprising is that Liam Gallagher seems to be maturing as a songwriter very quickly. His "Little James" (from Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants) sounded more like a B-side to me, but this time out, the material definitely fits the bill on the album. "Songbird" is a nice ballad, and "Born On A Different Cloud" and "Better Man" are terrific, and very worthy of the praise Noel had been heaping on his brother's writing abilities while the album was in the works. If Be Here Now and Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants made you give up on Oasis, this may be the album that can bring you back.

tracks: "The Hindu Times", "Force Of Nature", "Hung In A Bad Place", "Stop Crying Your Heart Out", "Songbird", "Little By Little", "A Quick Peep", "(Probably) All In The Mind", "She Is Love", "Born On A Different Cloud", "Better Man"

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#8
Atomic 7
... Gowns By Edith Head

After spending time in Neko Case's band, former Shadowy Men On Shadowy Planet guitarist Brian Connelly's current band, Atomic 7, gives him a chance to do what he does best, play that twangy, Duane Eddy-influenced guitar in a hot instrumental trio. Although Atomic 7 has been working for five years or so, ... Gowns By Edith Head is the band's debut album, combining surf, rockabilly, and just good old fashioned rock & roll into nineteen catchy tracks that don't need lyrics to make 'em memorable. Atomic 7 replaces of the punk influence of Shadowy Men with more '50s and '60s influences. The change in the formula and a stronger focus on Brian's stellar guitar work makes this not just a simple rehash of the Men. There's lots of different styles of music on here from the rockin' "She's Got Haggar Party Slacks" and "Guitar For Sale" through the Hawaiian-flavored "Her Sassy Kiss" to the laid-back "Seven Stranded Castanets". If you're a Shadowy Men fan (or a fan of instrumental guitar rock), you definitely need to hear this. Welcome back, Brian.

tracks: "Chock Full O' Notes", "Sexyactioncool", "Your Ironic T-Shirt", "She's Got Haggar Party Slacks", "Day Of The Deadbeats", "Man With The Golden Card", "Her Sassy Kiss", "Theme From Atomic 7", "Swinger's Ear", "Cold Black Dead Heart Polka", "Save Your Fork There's Pie", "Artistry In Nachos", "Hairbone", "Seven Stranded Castanets", "You Ain't Havin Fun Till You're Dialling 911", "Guitar For Sale", "Mimi, Queen Of Bathurst", "Loving Not Gouging", "Phantom 101"

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#7
The Soft Boys
Nextdoorland

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The Soft Boys
Side Three

The Soft Boys made two classic albums back in the late '70s / early '80s, 1979's A Can Of Bees and their 1980 classic Underwater Moonlight, and then split up. Leader Robyn Hitchcock had worked with his former band mates in the years since, but they never worked together as a unit. When Underwater Moonlight was reissued last year, The Soft Boys reunited and hit the road for an extensive tour. Against the usual expectations, the band sounded terrific, which led to the band hooking back up with Moonlight producer Pat Collier and recording the first new Soft Boys album in 22 years. Hitchcock's songwriting is as sharp and witty as ever, and the guitar interplay between Hitchcock and Kimberley Rew's lend a harder edge to the songs, which suits the new material perfectly. You'd never know they ever broke up. Nextdoorland has all the Soft Boys trademarks, from weirdness like "Strings" to the witty "Unprotected Love", to the irresistably catchy "Sudden Town".

At first glance, it doesn't seem like a Soft Boys album should be that much different from an electric Robyn Hitchcock album. After all, Robyn writes and sings the songs in both cases. However, the band adds a certain something to the recordings. They absolutely click, and give the album a solid sound to go with the songs. Easily Robyn's best work in years, and a completely worthy followup to Underwater Moonlight. Let's hope that the next Soft Boys record comes out before 2024.

In addition to Nextdoorland, a six-song EP called Side Three is available from The Museum Of Robyn Hitchcock. Technically, this would be an outtakes EP, I suppose, but the material easily holds up with the album proper. If you like Nextdoorland, definitely pick up Side Three as well.

tracks (Nextdoorland): "I Love Lucy", "Pulse Of My Heart", "Mr. Kennedy", "Unprotected Love", "My Mind Is Connected To Your Dreams", "Sudden Town", "Strings", "Japanese Captain", "La Cherité", "Lions And Tigers"

tracks (Side Three): "Narcissus", "Disconnection Of The Ruling Class", "Each Of Her Silver Wands", "Om", "Comin' Through", "Evil Guy"

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#6
Foo Fighters
One By One

Dave Grohl does it again. One By One is another amazing collection of the Foos' punk/power-pop hybrid. The melodies are catchy as ever, especially on the lead single "All My Life" and "Have It All", but with the sound has a very powerful, very satisfying punch to it. This is the kind of album you want to play at top volume and just sing along.

The limited edition version of the CD also comes with bonus DVD that has the video for "All My Life" and some photos and such.

tracks: "All My Life", "Low", "Have It All", "Times Like These", "Tired", "Burn Away", "Lonely As You", "Halo", "Overdrive", "Disenchanted Lullabye", "Come Back"

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#5
Bob Mould
modulate.

After 1998's Last Dog And Pony Show, Bob Mould said he was retiring his electric power trio sound to go work on something new, and modulate. is the result. The bulk of modulate. is powered by synths, sequencers and drum machines, although Bob's signature guitar style comes ringing through on a handful of tracks. Despite the new backing, modulate. is still a Bob Mould album at heart. The album starts out with the most challenging tracks, "180 Rain" and "Sunset Safety Glass" are the most "synthy" of the songs on the album. A number of the songs (notably "Slay/Sway", "The Receipt", "Soundonsound", and "Comeonstrong") feature Mould's power guitar and could easily fit on one of Bob's other albums with just slight changes in instrumentation. "Trade" is perhaps the biggest surprise on the album, transforming an unreleased Hüsker Dü song into a dance-pop track with some of Mould's best-ever vocals. Yes, this is definitely a departure for Mould, but if you're a fan, give this a chance. It may take a few listens to really get into, but this is a great album.

tracks: "180 Rain", "Sunset Safety Glass", "Semper Fi", "Homecoming Parade", "Lost Zoloft", "Without?", "Slay / Sway", "The Receipt", "Quasar", "Soundonsound", "Hornery", "Comeonstrong", "Trade", "Author's Lament"

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#4
Paul Weller
Illumination

Illumination goes away from the lusher sound of Heliocentric, but balances the softer sound of ballads like "Who Brings Joy" and "Now The Night Is Here" with some immediately catchy pop songs like "Going Places" and "Leafy Mysteries" and solid rockers like the anthemic "Standing Out In The Universe" (a new classic) and Weller's duet with Kelly Jones of Stereophonics on "Call Me No. 5". The lead single, "It's Written In The Stars" came as quite a departure, opening with a tape loop of sampled horns courtesy of Simon Dine. The mixture seems jarring at first, but the sound really fits in with Weller's sound. Lyrically, Illumination keeps the upbeat tone from Heliocentric. Songs like "Going Places", "It's Written In The Stars", "Leafy Mysteries", and "Now The Night Is Here" are some of the most positive songs Weller's ever written. Overall, Illumination is a stunning album.

tracks: "Going Places", "Bullet For Everyone", "Leafy Mysteries", "It's Written In The Stars", "Who Brings Joy", "Now The Night Is Here", "Spring (At Last)", "One × One", "Bag Man", "All Good Books", "Call Me No. 5", "Standing Out In The Universe", "Illumination"

bonus DVD: "Sunflower" (live), "You Do Something To Me" (live), "Standing Out In The Universe" (live), "It's Written In The Stars" (video)

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#3
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
The Last DJ

Described by Tom Petty as a "loose concept album", The Last DJ contains a number of songs about the recording industry. Overall, the music is surprisingly laid-back, with a string section put to very effective use on several songs. However, the lyrics are some of Petty's most pointed (and best) ever. The album starts out on an angry note with "The Last DJ", an attack on corporate radio, and "Money Becomes King", a story about the sell out of a rock star. The lyrical dagger hits its deepest point on "Joe", a rant about the recording industry and pre-fab pop stars ("You get to be famous / I get to be rich"). The album isn't all ranting though, "Dreamville" is a gorgeous song about youth, "Have Love Will Travel" is Petty's best love song ever, and "Can't Stop The Sun" is a final cry of positive defiance. Overall, the album is easily one of Petty's best, ranking with his best work like Damn The Torpedos and Full Moon Fever.

tracks: "The Last DJ", "Money Becomes King", "Dreamville", "Joe", "When A Kid Goes Bad", "Like A Diamond", "Lost Children", "Blue Sunday", "You And Me", "The Man Who Loves Women", "Have Love Will Travel", "Can't Stop The Sun"

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#2
Doves
The Last Broadcast

The Last Broadcast is a moody, hypnotic album that seems equally influenced by alternative rock, dance music, and '60s progressive rock. The hybrid may not sound like it should work, but it does magnificently. The result is a dense, majestic album that is more like a single cohesive whole as opposed to simply a collection of songs, much like Radiohead's OK Computer (but nowhere near as dark).

Folks, this is a spectacular record. Absolutely amazing.

tracks: "Intro", "Words", "There Goes The Fear", "M62 Song", "Where We're Calling From", "N.Y.", "Satellites", "Friday's Dust", "Pounding", "Last Broadcast", "The Sulphur Man", "Caught By The River"

bonus CD (Limited Edition only): "Hit The Ground Running", "Far From Grace", "Northenden", "Willow Song"

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#1
The Flaming Lips
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots

Though not a "concept album", Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots has two sets of thematically related groups of songs. The opening track, "Fight Test" is a wonderful song about self-doubt that sets the stage for three songs about a Japanese woman and a robot called "Unit 3000-21" that experiences emotion and self-doubt about the battle to come. The second group of songs kicks off with "It's Summertime", inspired by the death of a young Japanese girl that the Lips knew. The sentiment is beautiful without being mornful. "Do You Realize??" and "All We Have Is Now" further explore the subject, with thought-inspiring (but not depressing) lyrics. Musically, Yoshimi picks up roughly where 1999's The Soft Bulletin left off with lush and beautiful melodies, although this time around, the Lips go a little more experimental, adding some high-tech synth sounds to lend a science fiction feel to the album.

After the acclaim and success of The Soft Bulletin, The Lips could have simply made a "Soft Bulletin II" and had it be as successful as the first. However, they're continuing to evolve their sound which is much better news. Right now, The Flaming Lips are one of the best bands in the world. A definite must-hear.

tracks: "Fight Test", "One More Robot / Sympathy 3000-21", "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (Part 1)", "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (Part 2)", "In The Morning Of The Magicians", "Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell", "Are You A Hypnotist??", "It's Summertime (Throbbing Orange Pallbearers)", "Do You Realize??", "All We Have Is Now", "Approaching Pavonis Mons By Balloon (Utopia Planitia)"


PAST YEARS' BESTS

Just click on the album cover to see that year's reviews.

2001: Manic Street Preachers - Know Your Enemy2000: The Dandy Warhols - Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia1999: Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin1998: Eels - Electro-Shock Blues1997: Paul Weller - Heavy Soul1996: Bob Mould - Bob Mould1995: Oasis - (What's The Story) Morning Glory?1994: Paul Weller - Wild Wood1993: Pete Townshend - Psychoderelict1992: Roger Waters - Amused To Death1991: Richard Thompson - Rumor And Sigh1990: Lou Reed and John Cale - Songs For Drella1989: Bob Mould - Workbook1988: R.E.M. - Green1987: Marillion - Clutching At Straws
Comments? Send 'em to me.

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