OTG's Top Ten (and Other Commentary) For 2001


OPENING GIBBERISH

Here we go again folks.

2001 saw the fine return of a couple older personal favorite bands (The Bears, ELO), some great reissues (All Things Must Pass and catalog reissues of X, XTC and ELO albums), and the loss of some talented musicians.

The top ten this year was tough to sort out. #1 and #2 were pretty clear (because I practically had to take a crowbar to wedge 'em out of my stereo). The other eight were all pretty close, and I'll probably be second-guessing my ordering later.


GOODBYE

This year, a legend and two big favorites of mine passed away.

George Harrison's life and career have been well documented with his passing, so there's really not much for me to add. I didn't really follow George's solo career, but, I certainly loved his work in The Beatles and recognized his superb guitar playing. The reissue of All Things Must Pass really changed my opinion of George's solo output. Cloud Nine was a fun album, although it sounded as much like a Jeff Lynne project as it did a George Harrison album. All Things Must Pass really showed George's talent, personality, and spirituality.

Stuart Adamson's band, Big Country, was thought of in the US as a one-hit wonder, but if you've read my reviews over the years, you know that (in my opinion) Big Country remained a superb band through the 90s as well. Adamson's songs and vocals were distinctive and powerful. It's a shame that Big Country never quite broke through in the US.

Artist and Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet bassist Reid Diamond also passed away last year, shortly before his new band, Danny And Reid's Motion Machine, could put on their multi-media Echoplex show (although former Shadowy Men bandmate Brian Connelly filled in to get the show done). Best known for their backing and theme music for the comedy series The Kids In The Hall, Shadowy Men played a catchy mixture of surf, rock and punk with a playful sense of humor mixed in. Reid's excellent bass work was a key part of the sound, and his occasional tongue-in-cheek vocals helped add to the playfulness in the music. Because of my Shadowy Men web site, I've shared emails with a number of people who knew Reid and they all describe him the same way: a witty, charming, talented person who will be greatly 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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Electric Light Orchestra

  ELO Reissue Review page.

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X

  X Reissue Review page.

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XTC

  XTC Reissue Review page.


REISSUES

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George Harrison
All Things Must Pass (2001 Reissue)

When The Beatles broke up, George Harrison stunned the critics by releasing the best of the early Beatle solo albums (and arguably the best of all of 'em). All Things Must Pass was originally a double studio album with a bonus album of rehearsals (titled Apple Jam). For the new reissue, the jam session (retitled Original Jam) has been restored to the running order as originally recorded (which didn't fit well across sides of an LP), and while it's interesting listening, it's not the reason the album is acclaimed.

The studio portion, best known for the #1 hit "My Sweet Lord", is a masterpiece. Harrison's eastern spirituality comes through the album, both in the lyrics and in the relaxed feel of the record. Phil Spector's dense "wall of sound" production style dates the record a bit, but the songs are just too good to be overshadowed. The majestic "Isn't It A Pity" (complete with wonderful guitar solo), the soothing "All Things Must Pass", the catchy "What Is Life", and the cover of Dylan's "If Not For You" are the immediate grabbers, but the rest of the album is just as good.

Five bonus tracks have been added as well. Of those, "I Live For You" is as good as anything on the original album and is a terrific addition. The remake (more of a remix) of "My Sweet Lord" has nothing on the original.

George's passing in late 2001 makes this re-release into an epitaph of sorts, and considering the spiritual nature of the songs, kind of a fitting one as well.

tracks: "I'd Have You Anytime", "My Sweet Lord", "Wah-Wah", "Isn't It A Pity","What Is Life", "If Not For You", "Behind That Locked Door", "Let It Down", "Run Of The Mill", "Beware Of Darkness", "Apple Scruffs", "Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)", "Awaiting On You All", "All Things Must Pass", "I Dig Love", "Art Of Dying", "Isn't It A Pity" (Version Two), "Hear Me Lord"

tracks (Original Jam): "It's Johnny's Birthday", "Plug Me In", "I Remember Jeep", "Thanks For The Pepperoni", "Out Of The Blue"

bonus tracks: "I Live For You", "Beware Of Darkness", "Let It Down", "What Is Life" [instrumental], "My Sweet Lord" [2000 Version]

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Love
Forever Changes (2001 Reissue)

A superb reissue of Love's 1967 masterpiece, Forever Changes. Long cited as a big influence by many major rock acts, Forever Changes combines psychedelic rock, folk, and more baroque sounds into a beautiful whole. "Alone Again Or" is the closest thing to a hit single on the album, but don't worry about hits, just take it in as a single piece.

tracks: "Alone Again Or", "A House Is Not A Motel", "Andmoreagain", "The Daily Planet", "Old Man", "The Red Telephone", "Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale", "Live And Let Live", "The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This", "Bummer In The Summer", "You Set The Scene"

bonus tracks: "Hummingbirds", "Wonder People (I Do Wonder)", "Alone Again Or" [Alternate Mix], "You Set The Scene" [Alternate Mix], "Your Mind And We Belong Together" [Tracking Session Highlights], "Your Mind And We Belong Together", "Laughing Stock"

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The Soft Boys
Underwater Moonlight ... And How It Got There

Back in 1980, The Soft Boys recorded their second proper album, Underwater Moonlight. Back then, the Soft Boys' updated psychedelia mixing "Beatles, Byrds and Beefheart" was completely out of touch with what was then popular. Now, 20 years later, the Soft Boys still don't fit in, but at least they're appreciated.

Underwater Moonlight is a classic, mixing the punk rage of "I Wanna Destroy You", the leering "I Got The Hots" and the pure Byrdsy pop of "Queen Of Eyes". Leader Robyn Hitchcock's lyrics are in his usual style, mixing clever wordplay with bizarre (and occasionally creepy) imagery, and the band's sound is powerful and versatile. Lead guitarist Kimberly Rew (who would later lead Katrina And The Waves) plays much more aggressive, punky guitar that you'd ever hear on Hitchcock's solo albums.

On the first CD, the bonus tracks are as good as the regular album. Mainly taken from Soft Boys singles, the highlights are a great cover of Syd Barrett's "Vegetable Man" and Hitchcock's "Only The Stones Remain", one of the Soft Boys best songs ever.

The bonus CD, ... And How It Got There, runs though some early takes and rough cuts. It's fascinating listening, but the main CD is the real deal.

tracks (Underwater Moonlight): "I Wanna Destroy You", "Kingdom Of Love", "Positive Vibrations", "I Got The Hots", "Insanely Jealous", "Tonight", "You'll Have To Go Sideways", "Old Pervert", "Queen Of Eyes", "Underwater Moonlight"

bonus tracks: "He's A Reptile", "Vegetable Man", "Strange", "Only The Stones Remain", "Where Are The Prawns?", "Dreams", "Black Snake Diamond Rock", "There's Nobody Like You", "Song No. 4"

tracks (... And How It Got There): "Old Pervert" [Section 1], "Like A Real Smoothie", "Alien", "Bloat", "Underwater Moonlight", "She Wears My Hair", "Wang Dang Pig", "Old Pervert" [Section 2], "Insanely Jealous", "Leave Me Alone", "Goodbye Maurice Or Steve", "Old Pervert" [Section 3], "Cherries", "Amputated", "Over You", "I Wanna, Er ...", "Old Pervert" [Section 4]

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The Who
The Kids Are Alright (2001 Reissue)

The Kids Are Alright is a documentary film covering The Who's career made up of a collection of rare live footage, interviews, and TV appearances. The soundtrack covers a lot of the material in the film, but a lot is unique to the soundtrack. The result is more of a live sampler than anything else, and absolutely works on it's own without the film (although the film is a must-see).

Highlights include their infamous appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour tearing though "My Generation", their showstopping version of "A Quick One While He's Away" from the Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus program, and blistering versions of "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" from a special concert set up for this film, which ended up being Keith Moon's final performance.

The Who's reputation was built not on being the best band in the studio, but for being the best live rock and roll band in the world. This album gives you a little taste of that power.

The Kids Are Alright was issued on CD a number of years ago, but songs were cut to make everything fit on one CD. This reissue includes all the original tracks (and clocks in a shade under 80 minutes). Don't bother with the old version, get the reissue.

tracks: "My Generation", "I Can't Explain", "Happy Jack", "I Can See For Miles", "Magic Bus", "Long Live Rock", "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere", "Young Man Blues", "My Wife", "Baba O'Riley", "A Quick One While He's Away", "Tommy Can You Hear Me", "Sparks", "Pinball Wizard", "See Me, Feel Me", "Join Together", "Roadrunner", "My Generation", "Won't Get Fooled Again"


LIVE ALBUMS

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Asia
Alive In Hallowed Halls

Taken from Carl Palmer's personal tapes, Alive In Hallowed Halls documents the final show of the original Asia lineup. There are a number of Asia live albums out there with the various lineup permutations that have occured since this tour, but this album is the only official recording of the original band. Sadly, I doubt this is a complete show as "Heat Of The Moment" and "Sole Survivor" are missing from the set, but the perfomance is terrific nonetheless. If you liked the original two Asia albums (Asia and Alpha), this is definitely worth hearing.

By the way, don't be deceived by the track listing on the back of the CD. The non-album track "Ride Easy" (from a single B-side and now available on their "best of") is on here, but it's NOT a live recording.

tracks: Geoff Downes' Keyboard Intro, "Time Again", "Wildest Dreams", "Without You", "Midnight Sun", "Only Time Will Tell", "Daylight", "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes", Geoff Downes' Keyboard Solo, "Don't Cry", "Open Your Eyes"

bonus track: "Ride Easy"

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Asia
enso' kai

In 1983, Asia was set for a mini-tour of Japan with an MTV broadcast ("Asia In Asia"). Prior to the show, bassist/vocalist/songwriter John Wetton was fired and replaced with Carl Palmer's former ELP partner Greg Lake. This album (the title is the phonetic spelling of the Japanese word for "concert") captures the broadcast version of the show. The band sounds tight, but Lake's voice really doesn't fit the material as well as Wetton's. For completists only.

NOTE: The track listing on the back of the CD only shows nine songs. The list below is correct.

tracks: "The Heat Goes On", "Here Comes The Feeling", "Eye To Eye", "Only Time Will Tell", "Sketches In The Sun", "Open Your Eyes", Geoff Downes' Keyboard Solo, "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes", "Wildest Dreams", "Heat Of The Moment", "Sole Survivor"

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Lou Reed
American Poet

Taken from Lou's first solo tour (backed by The Tots), this album shows Lou's transitional period from the final Velvet Underground release (Loaded) to the near-heavy metal of the Hunter/Wagner Rock And Roll Animal years. The songs mix tracks from Lou's first two solo albums with a few VU gems thrown in. For my taste, far preferable to the Rock And Roll Animal onslaught, this performance shows off how great Lou's songwriting is, not how loud his guitarists can play.

tracks: "White Light/White Heat", "Vicious", "I'm Waiting For The Man", "Walk And Talk It", "Sweet Jane", "Heroin", "Satellite Of Love", "Walk On The Wild Side", "I'm So Free", "Berlin", "Rock And Roll"

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Pete Townshend
Live: La Jolla Playhouse 2001 (22/06/01)

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Pete Townshend
Live: La Jolla Playhouse 2001 (23/06/01)

In June of 2001, Pete Townshend played two acoustic shows to benefit the La Jolla Playhouse. The La Jolla Playhouse was where his Broadway version of Tommy was first performed. Both shows were released on CD through Pete's eelpie.com shortly thereafter. As you can see from the track listings below, the shows are fairly similar, but differ near the end. Wonderful performances, and a must for the Townshend fanatic (who probably already has 'em anyway).

tracks (22/06/01): "Pinball Wizard", "Let My Love Open The Door", "Heart To Hang Onto", "Cut My Hair", "Slit Skirts", "Drowned", "Greyhound Girl", "Tattoo", "The Sea Refuses No River", "The St. James Infirmary", "Eminence Front", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Behind Blue Eyes", "Won't Get Fooled Again"

tracks (23/06/01): "Pinball Wizard", "Let My Love Open The Door", "Heart To Hang Onto", "Cut My Hair", "Slit Skirts", "Drowned", "Greyhound Girl", "Tattoo", "Collings", "Eminence Front", "Sheraton Gibson", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "I'm One", "Behind Blue Eyes", "Driftin' Blues", "Eyesight To The Blind", "Won't Get Fooled Again"

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Pete Townshend & Raphael Rudd
The Oceanic Concerts

Probably one of the more unusual albums in Townshend's career, The Oceanic Concerts presents highlights from two invitation-only concerts in 1969 and 1970 done for the Meher Baba Oceanic group featuring Pete Townshend and harpist/pianist Raphael Rudd. The CD is split between them, with Rudd backing Townshend on most of his cuts. The Townshend songs are breathtaking - simple acoustic live performances with piano or harp backing. Rudd's songs are pretty instrumentals, but not really my cup of tea. Still, it's a must for a Townshend fan.

tracks: "Raga", "Drowned", "The Seeker", "Magic Grace", "Who Is Meher Baba?", "The Ferryman", "Kitty's Theme", "A Little Is Enough", "Contact In Solitude", "Sleeping Dog", "Sound Barrier", "Bargain", "Longing For The Beloved", "Tattoo", "Let My Love Open The Door", "Awakening", "Western (American) Arti", "Parvardigar"

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The Velvet Underground
Bootleg Series Volume 1: The Quine Tapes

Before Robert Quine had his own career working with people Richard Hell and Lou Reed, he was a Velvets fanatic. Back in 1969, he taped a gang of shows (with the band's knowledge) and those shows have been unheard until now. Sometime in the 70's, Quine copied the best bits from his original cassettes onto reel-to-reel tape to save the performances. Highlights from those reels are presented officially on The Quine Tapes. The CD shows off the later version of the band (with Doug Yule on bass instead of founder John Cale), and the performances are just amazing. The sound is hardly perfect, but given the source, it's surprisingly good. One of the real surprising highlights is an uncut, 38-minute version of "Sister Ray", but everything on these CDs is pretty amazing. Definitely for the hard-core fan, but a must.

tracks: "I'm Waiting For The Man", "It's Just Too Much", "What Goes On", "I Can't Stand It", "Some Kinda Love", "Foggy Notion", "Femme Fatale", "After Hours", "I'm Sticking With You", "Sunday Morning", "Sister Ray", "Follow The Leader", "White Light/White Heat", "Venus In Furs", "Heroin", "Sister Ray", "Rock And Roll", "New Age", "Over You", "The Black Angel's Death Song", "I'm Waiting For The Man", "Ride Into The Sun", "Sister Ray / Foggy Notion"

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Paul Weller
Days Of Speed

Days Of Speed is a live album taken from Weller's 2001 tour. For this tour, Paul played mainly solo on acoustic and electric guitars (with occasional help from drummer Steve White on bongos). This tour also marked the first time that Weller dipped into his back catalog and pulled out songs from his days with The Jam and The Style Council to go with his solo numbers.

As you'd expect, the feel is very different from anything Weller's done up until now, but it absolutely works. What it really shows is the quality of Weller's songwriting over the years. These songs are terrific, and they hold up to the sparse treatment magnificently.

tracks: "Brand New Start", "The Loved", "Out Of The Sinking", "Clues", "English Rose", "Above The Clouds", "You Do Something To Me", "Amongst Butterflies", "Science", "Back In The Fire", "Down In The Seine", "That's Entertainment", "Love-Less", "There's No Drinking, After You're Dead", "Everything Has A Price To Pay", "Wild Wood", "Headstart For Happiness", "Town Called Malice"

bonus track (Japanese issue only): "The Butterfly Collector"

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various artists
The Concert For New York City

The several 9/11 benefits were clearly aimed at different demographics. The Concert For New York City was mainly set for "classic rock" fans, although obviously not entirely. Despite my rather obvious bias, The Who clearly stole the show. They rip through a white-hot set ("Who Are You", "Baba O'Riley", "Won't Get Fooled Again"), that adds intensity to cover for any sloppiness in the performance. Worth buying just for that alone. Other highlights included Bowie's nice cover of "America", James Taylor's set, and Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy on a great "Hoochie Coochie Man". Paul McCartney was the main draw, and he delivered for the most part. His set was a bit ragged as well, but the spirit was in the right place. The only disappointment was his new song, "Freedom". It's a wonderful sentiment and although it needed to be written quick to make the show, it just doesn't hold up that well.

Complaint time: Why on Earth the organizers thought that a crowd coming to see Paul McCartney, The Who, Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, and Eric Clapton would be the least bit interested in the Backstreet Boys, Destiny's Child or Jay-Z is completely beyond me. In all three cases, their styles of music are just completely out of place in a concert like this. Personally, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, and John Mellencamp don't move me a lot, but I get why they're there. They definitely fit in with this lineup.

Oh, and a comment for Columbia Records: Yeah, I know that non-Who fans don't necessarily know how to spell "Baba O'Riley", but surely someone at Columbia knows it's not "Baba O'Reilly", right?

tracks: "America", "Heroes" - David Bowie, "Livin' On A Prayer", "Wanted Dead Or Alive", "It's My Life" - Bon Jovi, "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" - Jay Z, "American Girl" - The Goo Goo Dolls, "Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)", "New York State Of Mind" - Billy Joel, "Emotion", "Gospel Medley" - Destiny's Child, "Hoochie Coochie Man" - Eric Clapton, "Operaman" - Adam Sandler, "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" - Backstreet Boys, "Miss You", "Salt Of The Earth" - Mick Jagger featuring Keith Richards, "Who Are You", "Baba O'Riley", "Won't Get Fooled Again" - The Who, "Come To My Window", "Born To Run" - Melissa Etheridge, "Fire and Rain", "Up On The Roof" - James Taylor, "Peaceful World", "Pink Houses" - John Mellencamp, "Superman (It's Not Easy)" - Five For Fighting, "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" - Elton John, "I'm Down", "Yesterday", "Let It Be", "Freedom" - Paul McCartney


TRIBUTE ALBUMS

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various artists
Better Than The Average Weekend: A Tribute To Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet

Ted James (of Squid Vicious and Deep Eddy records) assembled this tribute to Toronto's instrumental heroes, who are well documented on my Shadowy Men web page. The result is a diverse album that captures the spirit of the original records, but with a new feel. The highlights include the hosts' sinister take on "Spy School Graduation Theme", The Neptones' reggae-tinged rework of "Harlem By The Sea", Breakfastime's blistering take on "That Wuz Ear Me Callin' A Horse" and Toronto's Sadies putting a little country twang in "Algoma Reflections". If you like the originals, definitely get this one.

tracks: "Good Cop Bad Cop" - The Heatscores, "Zombie Compromise" - The Dead Barons, "Shake Some Evil" - The Mulchmen, "Egypt Texas" - The Insect Surfers, "Customized" - The Unknown, "Harlem By The Sea" - The Neptones, "Having An Average Weekend" - Dirk Doom & The Overdrive Orchestra, "Reid's Situation" - Spy-Fi, "Aunt's Invasion" - The Sandblasters, "Hot Box Car" - Derf Zorr & Stella, "Jackpot" - Bass Playin' Ben, "Ben Hur Picked Off In A Gazebo" - Popdefect, "Siesta Cinema" - The Deoras, "Unwatchable / Three Piece Suit" - The Mill Valley Taters, "That Wuz Ear Me Callin' A Horse" - Breakfastime, "Spy School Graduation Theme" - Squid Vicious, "Mecca" - The Cocktail Preachers, "Algoma Reflections" - The Sadies, "Peas Porridge Rock / You Spin Me Round '86" - The Surfdusters, "They Don't Call Them Chihuahuas Anymore" - The Fabulous Planktones, "Off Our Back Conrad Black" - Sawney Bean, "Memories Of Gay Paree" - Urban Surf Kings

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various artists
Substitute: The Songs Of The Who

There have been a few indie Who tributes, but this is the first major label (and major act) one to surface. Like many tributes, this is a bit hit and miss, but the hits are terrific. Pearl Jam roars through "The Kids Are Alright", Paul Weller absolutely nails "Circles", and Stereophonics do a very nice take on "Who Are You". For the most part, the covers are pretty faithful, with the exception of David Bowie's take on "Pictures Of Lily", which slows the song down to an eerie crawl. The version of "Substitute" is taken from the new live DVD from the last Who show of their 2000 tour.

tracks: "The Kids Are Alright" - Pearl Jam, "Behind Blue Eyes" - Sheryl Crow, "Pictures Of Lily" - David Bowie, "5:15" - Phish, "Circles" - Paul Weller, "The Real Me" - Fastball, "Who Are You" - Stereophonics, "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" - Ocean Colour Scene, "The Seeker" - Cast, "Naked Eye" - Unamerican, "Substitute" - The Who featuring Kelly Jones


COMPILATION ALBUMS

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Syd Barrett
Wouldn't You Miss Me?

There have been several Syd Barrett compilations done, and this one wouldn't have been worth a separate review except for the stunning inclusion of "Bob Dylan Blues", a previously unreleased (and amazingly, unbootlegged) Barrett track. Essential for the faithful.

If you're not familiar with Barrett's work, this is a good cross section of his solo work, which can be both beautiful and harrowing at the same time. Very, very unlike his work with Pink Floyd, Syd's solo recordings are stark, bare-bones recordings. They're kind of an acquired taste.

tracks: "Octopus", "Late Night", "Terrapin", "Swan Lee (Silas Lang)", "Wolfpack", "Golden Hair", "Here I Go", "Long Gone", "No Good Trying", "Opel", "Baby Lemonade", "Gigolo Aunt", "Dominoes", "Wouldn't You Miss Me (Dark Globe)", "Wined And Dined", "Effervescing Elephant", "Waving My Arms In The Air", "I Never Lied To You", "Love Song", "Two Of A Kind", "Bob Dylan Blues", "Golden Hair" [Instrumental]

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Buffalo Springfield
Box Set

Most people know Buffalo Springfield as either a "one-hit wonder" for the classic "For What It's Worth" (you know, the one that goes "stop, hey, what's that sound, everybody knows what's goin' down ..."), or as a trivia answer for being the launching point for the careers of Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Poco's Richie Furay. Even though they only recorded two proper albums, the Springfield was a band with a big influence.

Buffalo Springfield coupled a folk-rock sound with Neil Young's stinging lead guitar, Stills & Young's songwriting, and superb harmonies (including Richie Furay). Songs like "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing", "Mr. Soul", "Expecting To Fly", "Bluebird", "Rock and Roll Woman" and "Broken Arrow" should be as well known as "For What It's Worth" (and they are to Neil Young and Stephen Stills fans). Box Set is a 4 CD box containing the two original albums (Buffalo Springfield, and Buffalo Springfield Again along with three CDs of demos, early takes, and unreleased tracks. (The 3rd Springfield album, Last Time Around, was drawn from this material). This is a lot to pick up if you're not familiar with the band. Go pick up the single CD best-of, Retrospective, and if you love it, come back for the box. You'll love it too.

tracks: "There Goes My Babe" [Demo], "Come On" [Demo], "Hello, I've Returned" [Demo], "Out Of My Mind" [Demo], "Flying On The Ground Is Wrong" [Demo], "I'm Your Kind Of Guy" [Demo], "Baby Don't Scold Me" [Demo], "Neighbor Don't You Worry" [Demo], "We'll See" [Demo], "Sad Memory" [Demo], "Can't Keep Me Down" [Demo], "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing", "Go And Say Goodbye", "Sit Down, I Think I Love You", "Leave", "Hot Dusty Roads", "Everybody's Wrong", "Burned", "Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It", "Out Of My Mind", "Pay The Price", "Down Down Down" [Demo], "Flying On The Ground Is Wrong", "Neighbor Don't You Worry" [Remix], "Down Down Down" [Remix], "Kahuna Sunset", "Buffalo Stomp" [Raga], "Baby Don't Scold Me", "For What It's Worth", "Mr. Soul", "We'll See", "My Kind Of Love", "Pretty Girl Why" [Previously Unreleased Mix], "Words I Must Say" [Demo], "Nobody's Fool", "So You've Got A Lover", "My Angel", "No Sun Today", "Everydays", "Down To The Wire", "Bluebird", "Expecting To Fly", "Hung Upside Down" [Demo], "A Child's Claim To Fame", "Rock & Roll Woman", "Hung Upside Down", "Good Time Boy", "One More Sign" [Demo], "The Rent Is Always Due" [Demo], "Round And Round And Round", "Old Laughing Lady" [Demo], "Broken Arrow", "Sad Memory", "On The Way Home", "Whatever Happened To Saturday Night" [Remix], "Special Care", "Falcon Lake (Ash On The Floor)" [Remix], "What A Day", "I Am A Child", "Questions", "Merry-Go-Round", "Uno Mondo", "Kind Of Woman", "It's So Hard To Wait", "Four Days Gone" [Demo], "For What It's Worth", "Go And Say Goodbye", "Sit Down, I Think I Love You", "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing", "Hot Dusty Roads", "Everybody's Wrong", "Flying On The Ground Is Wrong", "Burned", "Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It", "Leave", "Out Of My Mind", "Pay The Price", "Baby Don't Scold Me", "Mr. Soul", "A Child's Claim To Fame", "Everydays", "Expecting To Fly", "Bluebird", "Hung Upside Down", "Sad Memory", "Good Time Boy", "Rock & Roll Woman", "Broken Arrow "

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Elvis Costello
The Very Best Of Elvis Costello

Finally, a well-done Elvis Costello "best-of" CD. This compilation was released overseas in 1999, but Rhino Records picked it up for a US issue this year. Previous compilations have either omitted any covers, or not covered his whole career. The Very Best Of Elvis Costello has songs from every album through his 1999 contribution to the Notting Hill soundtrack, and includes all of Elvis' US and UK hits. Perfect for a casual fan, or for someone new to Elvis' work.

tracks: "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding", "Oliver's Army", "Watching The Detectives", "Alison", "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea", "Accidents Will Happen", "Pump It Up", "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down", "Radio Radio", "Clubland", "Good Year For The Roses", "Man Out Of Time", "I Wanna Be Loved", "Everyday I Write The Book", "Brilliant Mistake", "The Other Side Of Summer", "Tokyo Storm Warning", "Sulky Girl", "So Like Candy", "Veronica", "She", "Big Tears", "Beyond Belief", "Lipstick Vogue", "Green Shirt", "Pills & Soap", "Tramp The Dirt Down", "Shipbuilding", "High Fidelity", "New Lace Sleeves", "(The Angels Wanna Hear My) Red Shoes", "Talking In The Dark", "New Amsterdam", "I Hope You're Happy Now", "Riot Act", "My Funny Valentine", "Indoor Fireworks", "Almost Blue", "I Want You", "God Give My Strength", "That Day Is Done", "I Want To Vanish"

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Bill Hicks
Philosophy: The Best Of Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks was one of the best and most influential comics of the last 20 years. His style was a mass of contradictions. He could be angry, positive, inspiring, profane, and thought-provoking, but he was always intelligent. Philosophy is a well-chosen "best of" from Hicks' 4 CDs. The individual CDs are better, simply because they flow better, but Philosophy gives you a good feel for his material and style. This is definitely NOT material for the offendable (politics, religion, drugs and pornography are all common topics), but if you're up to it, try it. Hicks was one of the greats.

tracks: "Greetings", "Flying Saucer Tour", "Please Do Not Disturb", "Gays In The Military", "Smoking", "Great Times On Drugs", "Sex On Trial", "What Is Pornography?", "Save Willie", "Confession Time (COPS)", "Step On The Gas (L.A. Riots)", "Hooligans", "Politics In America", "The Elite", "Time To Evolve", "Odd Beliefs", "Easter", "Gideons"

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Pink Floyd
Echoes: The Best Of Pink Floyd

Selected by votes by the four members of the most famous lineup, Echoes attempts the daunting task of distilling 14 studio albums by four very different editions of the band onto a double CD. The song selection isn't bad, although I would've preferred to see less of the Gilmour-led years and more tracks from their classic The Final Cut. A lot has been made about how the songs all fade into each other, but it's not particularly jarring. The cross-fades are quite subtle. The truly odd aspect of the album is the song ordering, and some of the song editing ("Echoes", "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and "Marooned" are not the original complete versions). On the whole, it's not a bad overview of the Floyd's career, but their style of album doesn't really lend itself to this sort of compilation. The albums, especially from Dark Side Of The Moon to The Final Cut are really best listened to as whole works, not in pieces.

tracks: "Astronomy Domine", "See Emily Play", "The Happiest Days Of Our Lives", "Another Brick In The Wall (Part II)", "Echoes" [edited], "Hey You", "Marooned" [edited], "The Great Gig In The Sky", "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun", "Money", "Keep Talking", "Sheep", "Sorrow", "Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Parts 1-7", "Time", "The Fletcher Memorial Home", "Comfortably Numb", "When The Tigers Broke Free", "One Of These Days", "Us And Them", "Learning To Fly", "Arnold Layne", "Wish You Were Here", "Jugband Blues", "High Hopes", "Bike"

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John Oswald
69 Plunderphonics 96

Canadian producer John Oswald caused quite a stir back in 1989 with his Plunderphonic album. Expanded from a previous EP, Plunderphonic contained 25 compositions, each made 100% from samples of other work. Oswald cuts the originals up, speeds 'em up, slows 'em down, pastes 'em backwards, and basically folds, spindles and mutilates the original into a whole new piece. You can still figure out the originals (which is part of the point), but you've certainly never heard 'em like this. For instance, the opening cut "btls" is made up of rearrangements of the final chord from "A Day In The Life", "power" is built from samples of a Led Zeppelin riff intermixed with a radio preacher. Oswald gave copies of Plunderphonic to libraries and radio stations, making a point of never charging for it. Due to all the samples (along with the cover photo that made Michael Jackson look like a nude, white woman), Oswald was sued over Plunderphonic and had to destroy the masters. The notariety helped, because Oswald got other requests for "plunderphonic" projects, including his double-CD rework of live performances of the Grateful Dead's "Dark Star" titled Gray Folded.

69 Plunderphonics 96 is a double-CD compilation of Oswald's work, including most of the original album (including the Michael Jackson picture in the liner notes) along with other projects over the years. Frankly, I'm amazed this CD even exists. Given the infamy (within the recording industry) of the original, I would have expected this to be sued out of existence before you could even blink. However, media pranksters Negativland (responsible for the infamous U2 single which contained vulgar Casey Kasem outtakes) issued the box on their label and are ready to defend the work in court.

This is challenging and fascinating listening, but nothing even close to "easy" listening. In some ways, 69 Plunderphonics 96 is more of an audio puzzle than a conventional album. Certainly not for the faint of heart, but interesting listening none-the-less.

tracks: "btls", "power", "o'hell", "2net", "anon", "vane", "mother", "z", "angle", "way", "sfield", "ebb", "madmod", "brazilianaires theme", "bday", "philosphry", "cuss", "explo", "sonic euthanasia", "cyfer", "pretender", "dont", "white", "black", "brown", "dab", "case of death (part one, chapters 1-16)", "fabulous", "case of death (part two, chapters 1-9)", "andy", "z24", "net", "birth1", "mist", "barely", "birth2", "prelude", "mach", "barely" [version 2], "barely" [version 3], "barely" [version 4], "barely" [version 5], "birth3", "rose", "ten4gv", "debizet", "pocket", "tune", "fold", "mirror", "dWig", "7th", "lune", "aria", "spring", "discorite", "lovedrops", "v&", "preLieu", "para d", "rainbow", "1001"

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various artists
Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969

In 1972, Lenny Kaye compiled the original Nuggets, a double album of lesser-known garage rock gems from the late 60's. In 1998, Rhino reissued the compilation as an expanded 4 CD box. Now, Rhino has issued a 4 CD sequel. Nuggets II follows in the same vein as the original, but instead focuses on the non-US acts. The results are another great set. Unlike the first, a few big names crop up on this box: notably The Move, The Pretty Things, The Troggs, The Status Quo, Tomorrow (with future Yes-man Steve Howe), The Idle Race (with ELO's Jeff Lynne), and John's Children (with Marc Bolan). If you liked the original box, you'll like this too. Same spirit, just from different countries.

tracks: "Making Time" - The Creation, "Father's Name Was Dad" - Fire, "I Can Hear The Grass Grow" - The Move, "My Friend Jack" - The Smoke (UK), "My White Bicycle" - Tomorrow, "I'll Keep Holding On" - The Action, "When The Night Falls" - The Eyes, "Sorry" - The Easybeats, "Imposters Of Life's Magazine" - The Idle Race, "How Is The Air Up There?" - The La De Das, "Mud In Your Eye" - Les Fleur De Lys, "Everything (That's Mine)" - The Motions, "Garden Of My Mind" - The Mickey Finn, "Take A Heart" - The Sorrows, "The Life I Live" - Q'65, "Midnight To Six Man" - The Pretty Things, "I See The Rain" - The Marmalade, "The First Cut Is The Deepest" - The Koobas, "You Stole My Love" - The Mockingbirds, "125" [Album Version] - The Haunted, "My Mind's Eye" - The Small Faces, "Going Nowhere" - Los Bravos, "All Night Stand" - The Thoughts, "War Or Hands Of Time" - The Masters Apprentices, "It's A Sin To Go Away" - We All Together, "A Dream For Julie" - Kaleidoscope, "I Read You Like An Open Book" - The Tages, "Children Of The Sun" - The Misunderstood, "Save My Soul" - Wimple Winch, "Desdemona" - John's Children, "I Can Only Give You Everything" - Them, "Lost Girl" - The Troggs, "I Must Be Mad" - The Craig, "Say Those Magic Words" - The Birds, "Baby Your Phrasing Is Bad" - Caleb, "Daddy Buy Me A Girl" - Golden Earrings, "Exit Stage Right" - Ronnie Burns, "Gone Is The Sad Man" - Timebox, "I'm Rowed Out" - The Eyes, "You've Got A Habit Of Leaving" - Davy Jones, "Reflections Of Charles Brown" - Rupert's People, "Words Enough To Tell You" - The Mascots, "That's The Way It's Got To Be" - The Poets, "14 Hour Technicolour Dream" - The Syn, "Walking Through My Dreams" - The Pretty Things, "You Said" - The Primitives, "This Life Of Mine" - The Lost Souls, "Shadows & Reflections" - The Action, "Friday On My Mind" - The Easybeats, "In The Land Of The Few" - Love Sculpture, "For Another Man" - The Motions, "Fire Brigade" - The Move, "Gaby" - The Boots, "Biff! Bang! Pow!" - The Creation, "Your Body Not Your Soul" - Cuby & The Blizzards, "Cathy, Come Home" - The Twilights, "Circles" - Les Fleur De Lys, "Get Down From The Tree" [Album Version] - The Matadors, "Cry In The Night" - Q'65, "Changing The Colors Of Life" - Los Chijuas, "Social End Product" - The Bluestars, "Crawdaddy Simone" - The Syndicats, "Don't You Remember?" - The Sound Magics, "It's My Pride" - The Guess Who, "Magic Potion" - The Open Mind, "You're Driving Me Insane" - The Missing Links, "Who Dat?" - The Jury, "A Midsummer's Night Scene" - John's Children, "Listen To The Sky" - Sands, "How To Find A Lover" - The Mockingbirds, "Days Of The Broken Arrows" - The Idle Race, "By My Side" - The Elois, "Path Through The Forest" - The Factory, "Love Hate Revenge" - Episode Six, "Pictures Of Matchstick Men" - The Status Quo, "The Train To Disaster" - The Voice, "Sad" - The (Australian) Playboys, "Slaves Time" - The Slaves, "You Can Be My Baby" [Single Version] - The Red Squares, "I Wish I Was Five" - Scrugg, "Glendora" - The Downliners Sect, "Rosalyn" - The Pretty Things, "Come On" - The Atlantics, "The Madman Running Through The Fields" - Dantalion's Chariot, "How Does It Feel To Feel" [US Single Version] - The Creation, "I'm Just A Mops" - The Mops, "Why Don't You Smile Now" - The Downliners Sect, "Nothin'" - The Ugly Ducklings, "Break It All" [US Single Version] - Los Shakers, "The Bitter Thoughts Of Little Jane" - Timon, "Touch" - The Outsiders, "Vacuum Cleaner" - Tintern Abbey, "My Life" - Thor's Hammer, "Bad Little Woman" - The Wheels, "No Presents For Me" - Pandamonium, "Bat Macumba" - Os Mutantes, "Real Crazy Apartment" - Winston's Fumbs, "No More Now" - The Smoke (NZ), "No Good Without You" - The Birds, "Kicks & Chicks" - The Zipps, "Dance Around The Maypole" - The Acid Gallery, "Get Yourself Home" - The Fairies, "I'm Your Witchdoctor" - The Chants R&B, "But You'll Never Do It Babe" - The Boots, "One Third" - The Majority, "Flight From Ashiya" - Kaleidoscope, "Here Come The Nice" - The Small Faces, "It's My Fault" - The Rattles, "When The Alarm Clock Rings" - Blossom Toes


Ummm... "ALTERNATIVE IMPORTS"

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Pink Floyd
Building The Wall

An amazing artifact to show up all of a sudden, Building The Wall contains early demos for Pink Floyd's classic The Wall album. These are sketchy versions of the songs, showing off the power of the songwriting without all of the production. A fascinating "behind the scenes" peek at a classic.

tracks: "In The Flesh?", "The Thin Ice", "Another Brick In The Wall (Part I)", "The Happiest Days Of Our Lives", "Another Brick In The Wall (Part II)", "Mother", "Goodbye Blue Sky", "Empty Spaces (Part I)", "Young Lust", "One Of My Turns", "Don't Leave Me Now", "Empty Spaces (Part II)", "What Shall We Do Now?", "Another Brick In The Wall (Part III)", "Goodbye Cruel World", "Is There Anybody Out There? (Part I)", "Vera", "Bring The Boys Back Home", "Is There Anybody Out There? (Part II)", "Is There Anybody Out There? (Part III)", "Comfortably Numb", "Hey You", "The Show Must Go On", "In The Flesh", "Run Like Hell", "Waiting For The Worms", "Stop", "The Trial", "Outside The Wall"

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The Who
Instant Party: The Complete UK & US Singles Collection

Instant Party is a nice compilation of The Who's singles with phenominal packaging loaded with tons of rare photos. However, it's not the "Complete" collection it claims to be (although it's pretty close). It's also not "taken from the original master tapes" as claimed. It's pretty clearly from vinyl and CD. However, if you're a Who fanatic, this one's worth it for the packaging. A wonderfully done 3CD set that really shows how to do this sort of thing right. I hope the expected My Generation remaster (due in '02) lives up to this one.

tracks: "I Can't Explain", "Bald Headed Woman", "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere", "Daddy Rolling Stone", "Anytime You Want Me", "My Generation", "Shout And Shimmy", "A Legal Matter", "Circles (Instant Party)" [Talmy Version], "The Kids Are Alright", "The Ox", "La La La Lies", "The Good's Gone", "Substitute", "Circles (Instant Party)" [Who Version], "I'm A Boy", "In The City", "Happy Jack", "I've Been Away", "Pictures Of Lily", "Doctor, Doctor", "The Last Time", "Under My Thumb", "I Can See For Miles", "Someone's Coming", "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hands", "Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde" [US Version], "Dogs", "Call Me Lightning", "Magic Bus", "Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde" [UK Version], "Pinball Wizard", "Dogs Part Two", "The Seeker", "Here For More", "Summertime Blues", "Heaven And Hell", "I Don't Even Know Myself", "Let's See Action", "When I Was A Boy", "Join Together", "Baby Don't You Do It", "The Relay", "Wasp Man", "5:15", "Water", "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" [Alternate Vocal], "I'm A Boy" [Long Version], "Magic Bus" [Long Version]

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Frank Zappa
St. Patrick's Day

A very good quality CD of a whole show from Zappa's 1988 Broadway The Hard Way tour. For the hardcore Zappa fan, this is an absolute must. A nice complement to the official '88 Tour CDs.

tracks: "Black Page #2" [New Age Version], "Dickie's Such An Asshole", "Stick Together", "My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama", "Willie The Pimp", "Montana", "City Of Tiny Lights", "A Pound For A Brown On The Bus", "When The Lie's So Big", "Jesus Thinks You're A Jerk", "Florentine Pogen", "Andy", "Inca Roads", "Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up", "Let's Move To Cleveland", "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling", "Godfather Part II Theme", "Who Needs The Peace Corps?", "I Left My Heart In San Francisco", "Stairway To Heaven", "Norwegian Jim", "Louisiana Hooker With Herpes", "The Texas Motel", "Sofa No. 1", "The Illinois Enema Bandit"


WOULDA-BEEN TOP TENS HAD I HEARD 'EM IN TIME ... aka ... "D'OH!"

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Lewis Black
The White Album

Lewis Black, known to many for his "Back In Black" commentaries on Comedy Central's The Daily Show is a fabulous stand up comic. His style in his Daily Show bits is very similar to his standup - intelligent, sarcastic, loaded with angst, but incredibly funny.

tracks: tracks: "Wisconsin", "The Fall, Hurricanes And Weathermen", "The Ozone, Sunblock, The Flu, And NYQUIL", "Miami And Las Vegas", "F**K, New York, Los Angeles", "TV Pilot", "IHOP (International House Of Pancakes)", "Heaven's Gate", "Bill Clinton And Oral Sex", "The Impeachment", "Education In Arkansas", "Other Idiots From Arkansas"

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One Bell Ring
The Trees Are Where I Left Them

After three solo albums (playing almost every instrument), Steve Louis took the band route this time, forming One Bell Ring to quickly record his latest songs. The result is a much looser feel that Steve's other records, partially from the band setting and partially from the speed of the recording. The songs are excellent again, especially the epic closer, "The Gospel".

tracks: "Wrong For You", "Fill My Heart With Love", "I Will Love Again", "Without You", "Shape And Form", "It's Not The End Of The World", "The Gospel"


OTHER NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

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Jello Biafra
Become The Media

Become The Media is the latest set of recordings of former Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra's live spoken word appearances. This time out, Jello includes a triple-CD set worth of talks about the Green Party, the Seattle WTO convention, the impact of Columbine, engineered food, and "becoming the media" by recording real events yourself. As with his other spoken word sets, Jello is an articulate, witty, intelligent, thought-provoking speaker who's not even remotely afraid of taking a stand. You may not agree with all of Jello's positions, but he'll definitely make you think about your own. Definitely worth a listen.

tracks: "Intro: Gary Dugger", "The Green Wedge", "K.O. the W.T.O.", "Hellburbia", "Hack The Planet", "World Bunk & International Monetary Fraud", "Frankenfood Landscape: Where Are We Going?", "Philadelphia Stories", "If You Like Tipper, You'll Love...", "Become The Media",

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Don Pyle + Andrew Zealley
The Law Of Enclosures

Pyle & Zealley's evocative soundtrack from The Law Of Enclosures is gorgeous, falling somewhere between classical music and the dense soundscapes of their last release as Greek Buck, Bucquiem, with a hint of East Indian influence thrown in for good measure.

tracks: "Opening Credits", "The Parking Lot", "Voyeur", "Red Deer", "Garbage Dump", "Waterpark", "It Was My Mother's", "Stan", "Like Shooting A Bullet Into His Brain", "Gulf Of Oman", "The Big Kiss", "The Keeper" [short version], "After The Operation", "Heavenly Missile F1-11", "Threshold", "Tea Party", "The Keeper" [long version], "War Is Over", "Bea In The Clouds", "Flaming Ivan", "Betrayal", "The Way Things Were Done Before He Was Cured", "Deer Death Experience", "Finding Grace", "The Clock Comes Unstuck", "Closing Credits"

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Radiohead
Amnesiac

Ostensibly part two of Kid A, Amnesiac continues the new direction for the most part, including a little pre-Kid A rock on songs like "Knives Out" and "You And Whose Army?". Kid A took a lot of getting used to for me, bet ended up being a very rewarding listen. I really wanted to like Amnesiac the same way, but it just isn't working the second time around. Kid A sounded like a single piece to me, Amnesiac sounds more like a collection of odds and ends.

tracks: "Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box", "Pyramid Song", "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors", "You And Whose Army?", "I Might Be Wrong", "Knives Out", "Amnesiac/Morning Bell", "Dollars & Cents", "Hunting Bears", "Like Spinning Plates", "Life In A Glasshouse"

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Pete Townshend
Scoop 3

Townshend's long awaited 3rd entry in his Scoop series (available only at Pete's eelpie.com website) is much like the first two volumes. Scoop 3 mixes experiments like the numbered orchestral "Themes", "971104 Arpeggio Piano" and "Wired To The Moon" with Who and solo track demos. Fascinating listening. If you liked Scoop and Another Scoop, you'll like this one too.

tracks: "Can You See The Real Me", "Dirty Water", "Commonwealth Boys", "Theme 015", "Marty Robbins", "I Like It The Way It Is", "Theme 016", "No Way Out (However Much I Booze)", "Collings", "Parvardigar" [German version], "Sea And Sand", "971104 Arpeggio Piano", "Theme 017", "I Am Afraid", "Maxims For Lunch", "Wistful", "Eminence Front", "Lonely Words", "Prelude 970519", "Iron Man Recitative", "Tough Boys", "Did You Steal My Money?", "Can You Really Dance?", "Variations On Dirty Jobs", "All Lovers Are Deranged", "Elephants", "Wired To The Moon (Part 2)", "How Can You Do It Alone?", "Poem Disturbed", "Squirm Squirm", "Outlive The Dinosaur", "Teresa", "Man And Machines", "It's In Ya"

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The Waterboys
Too Close To Heaven

In the summer of '85, Mike Scott met fiddler Steve Wickham and found the vehicle for the new direction he had in mind for The Waterboys. Scott and the band moved to Ireland and built a new sound, incorporating folk, country, and traditional Irish music into The Waterboys "big music" sound. The band recorded dozens and dozens of songs, and the original result was their 1988 album Fisherman's Blues. Too Close To Heaven is another album worth of songs from those sessions and despite the nature of the release, this is far from a CD of "rejects". Frankly, it sounds like the bridge between This is The Sea and Fisherman's Blues. If you're a fan of both albums, you'll probably love this one too.

tracks: "On My Way To Heaven", "Higher In Time", "The Ladder", "Too Close To Heaven", "Good Man Gone", "Blues For Your Baby", "Custer's Blues", "A Home In The Meadow", "Tenderfootin'", "Lonesome Old Wind"

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Warren Zevon
Hit Somebody! (The Hockey Song)

Combining a catchy melody from Zevon with a witty lyric from Mitch Albom (of Tuesdays With Morrie fame), "Hit Somebody!" is a great little song about the dreams of a hockey goon. This is a quickly released single to hook up with the interest generated from the song being played at NHL games. The "b-side" is a gem from Zevon's last album, Life'll Kill Ya.

tracks: "Hit Somebody! (The Hockey Song)", "For My Next Trick I'll Need A Volunteer"


THE TOP TEN FOR 2001
(in my irritatingly less-than-humble opinion)

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#10
Eels
Souljacker

Souljacker is almost a left turn of sorts for Eels, but the album's too mixed to really complete the change. The overdriven, distorted, grungy guitar and distorted vocals of "Dog Faced Boy" and "Souljacker Part I" set a harsh tone for a lot of the album, but the gentle "Fresh Feeling", "Friendly Ghost" and "Woman Driving, Man Sleeping" are in the older, more relaxed Eels mode. While I still prefer Electro-Shock Blues, Souljacker has got too much going for it to pass up. I wouldn't recommend it as a starting point, but it's still a keeper.

Annoyingly, Souljacker wasn't been released in the US in 2001 (even though Eels are an American band). They've become much more popular overseas, so you had to get this one as an import (a US release is planned for early 2002). The UK release ads a bonus CD with some single B-sides. The highlight is "Hidden Track", with lyrics made up entirely from fan suggestions for the title of this album. E ended up just using the title he wanted, but the extra suggestions weren't wasted.

tracks: "Dog Faced Boy", "That's Not Really Funny", "Fresh Feeling", "Woman Driving, Man Sleeping", "Souljacker Part I", "Friendly Ghost", "Teenage Witch", "Bus Stop Boxer", "Jungle Telegraph", "World Of Shit", "Souljacker Part II", "What Is This Note?"

bonus tracks (double-disc version only):"I Write The B-Sides", "Hidden Track", "Jehovah's Witness", "Mr. E's Beautiful Remix"

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#9
Wavewalkers
Heartbeat Harmonic

Wavewalkers is the new band from former That Petrol Emotion guitarist Réamann O'Gormain. This CD is a set of demos recorded by the first version of the band (including fellow ex-Petrols Damian O'Neill and Brendan Kelly). The CD isn't in stores, it's available from the band's web site (http://www.wavewalker.freeserve.co.uk).

Heartbeat Harmonic doesn't just pick up where That Petrol Emotion left off. The sound mixes catchy rockers like "Girl From Miki City" with dreamy, hypnotic epics like "Constellations And Satellites" and "Quiet Revolution Of The Heart". I can hardly wait for a debut album. It should be amazing.

tracks: "Constellations And Satellites", "Quiet Revolution Of The Heart", "Hoodlum Angels", "Girl From Miki City", "Let Colour In", "Dream Language", "When Saturn Returns"

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#8
Stereophonics
Just Enough Education To Perform

Just Enough Education To Perform is easily the most varied of Stereophonics three albums. Kelly Jones strong lyrics are backed by more varied music this time out, and the change suits them. The wistful "Step On My Old Size Nines" and the snide pop of "Have A Nice Day" are huge change of paces, and two of the highlights. Just Enough Education To Perform bodes well for Stereophonics' future.

tracks: "Vegas Two Times", "Lying In The Sun", "Mr. Writer", "Step On My Old Size Nines", "Have A Nice Day", "Nice To Be Out", "Watch Them Fly Sundays", "Everyday I Think Of Money", "Maybe", "Caravan Holiday", "Rooftop"

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#7
Richard Lloyd
The Cover Doesn't Matter

Television guitarist Richard Lloyd's first album in nearly a decade shows off his jaw-dropping guitar playing (especially the solo on "Torn Shirt"), great songwriting, and average vocals. This is an album that's grown on me all year. At first, the vocals kinda put me off, but the more I listen, the songs and guitar work just blast right through. With the right singer, the middle section of the album "She Loves To Fly" through "Torn Shirt" could have all been big hits, and the album as a whole could be considered a classic. As is, it's still an amazing record, and a must-hear.

tracks: "The Knockdown", "Ain't It Time", "She Loves To Fly", "I Thought", "Strangestrange", "Torn Shirt", "Downline", "Raising The Serpent", "Submarine", "Cortege"

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#6
Simian
Chemistry Is What We Are

Chemistry Is What We Are is an album of lush, dreamy pop. There's more than a little influence from the Beach Boys, a touch of Syd Barrett, and a little techno feel thrown in. The results are gorgeous, melodic, catchy, and just plain amazing. Songs like "Doba" and "One Dimension" are perfect little pop gems with an other-worldly feel.

tracks: "Drop And Roll", "The Wisp", "Doba", "You Set Off My Brain", "How Could I Be Right", "One Dimension", "Tree In A Corner", "Orange Glow", "Mr. Crow", "Round And Around", "Chamber"

bonus tracks: "The Tale Of Willow Hill", "Grey"

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#5
R.E.M.
Reveal

Reveal isn't quite as experimental as Up was, but the overall feel is very similar. Reveal has an elegant, lush, ethereal sound that fits the material beautifully. "Imitation Of Life", "She Just Wants To Be", and "I'll Take The Rain" are the big highpoints for me, and they're among R.E.M.'s best.

tracks: "The Lifting", "I've Been High", "All The Way To Reno (You're Gonna Be A Star)", "She Just Wants To Be", "Disappear", "Saturn Return", "Beat A Drum", "Imitation Of Life", "Summer Turns To High", "Chorus And The Ring", "I'll Take The Rain", "Beachball"

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#4
The Bears
Car Caught Fire

Over the last few years, Adrian Belew and his former Bears bandmates would get together one weekend a month and just play with new Bears material, leaving everyone free for other work. After a while, there was enough material for a full album, and Car Caught Fire was born. The resulting album picks right up where The Bears and Rise And Shine left off, combining a Beatles-influenced pop with Adrian Belew's guitar gymnastics with clever lyrics. As with previous releases, each Bear contributes songs to the project, with terrific results. These guys were one of my favorites bands of the 80s, and it's great to have 'em back.

As far as I know, Car Caught Fire is only available at the Bears' official home page.

tracks: "Life In A Nutshell", "Under The Volcano", "When She Moves", "Mr. Bonaparte", "What's The Good Of Knowing", "Dave", "Caveman", "Waiting Room", "117 Valley Drive", "Safe In Hell", "Success", "Sooner Or Later", "As You Are"

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#3
Electric Light Orchestra
Zoom

The first new ELO album in 15 years is essentially a Jeff Lynne solo album. Lynne plays almost every instrument on Zoom, with few friends helping out, notably ELO alum Richard Tandy, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. However, the album works much better as an ELO album than Lynne's official solo album, 1990's Armchair Theatre. The sound picks up largely where the last edition of ELO left off, but with much better songwriting. "Moment In Paradise" is one of Lynne's finest ballads, and "Ordinary Dream" and "Lonesome Lullaby" rank with ELO's best. A fine return to form, and the best ELO album since their late 70s commercial peak of A New World Record and Out Of The Blue).

tracks: "Alright", "Moment In Paradise", "State Of Mind", "Just For Love", "Stranger On A Quiet Street", "In My Own Time", "Easy Money", "It Really Doesn't Matter", "Ordinary Dream", "A Long Time Gone", "Melting In The Sun", "All She Wanted", "Lonesome Lullaby"

bonus track (Japanese Issue only): "Long Black Road"

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#2
The White Stripes
White Blood Cells

The White Stripes are the latest rage in the UK, and it's not hard to see why. A simple duo of Jack White on guitar and vocals and his sister (girlfriend? wife? ex-wife?) Meg White on primitive, Mo-Tucker-style drums blast out catchy, no-frills rock with the occasional country or blues influence. Songs like "Fell In Love With A Girl", "Hotel Yorba", "Expecting" and "We're Going To Be Friends" just grab on to you and never quite let go. Folks, this is great stuff.

tracks: "Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground", "Hotel Yorba", "I'm Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman", "Fell In Love With A Girl", "Expecting", "Little Room", "The Union Forever", "The Same Boy You've Always Known", "We're Going To Be Friends", "Offend In Every Way", "I Think I Smell A Rat", "Aluminum", "I Can't Wait", "Now Mary", "I Can Learn", "This Protector"

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#1
Manic Street Preachers
Know Your Enemy

Know Your Enemy is an album filled with big hooks, catchy melodies, and powerful lyrics. The sound runs from the punk roar of "Found That Soul", "Intravenous Agnostic", and "The Convalescent" (which mixes in a somber, ogran-driven chorus in with the blasting guitar) to the Brian Wilson-tinged "So Why So Sad" and the mock funk/disco of "Miss Europa Disco Dancer". The Manics' political side shows up here as well, especially on "Let Robeson Sing", "Baby Elián", "Freedom Of Speech Won't Feed My Children". A stunning album, and one that has me looking to pick up the rest of the band's catalog.

tracks: "Found That Soul", "Ocean Spray", "Intravenous Agnostic", "So Why So Sad", "Let Robeson Sing", "The Year Of Purification", "Wattsville Blues", "Miss Europa Disco Dancer", "Dead Martyrs", "His Last Painting", "My Guernica", "The Convalescent", "Royal Correspondent", "Epicentre", "Baby Elián", "Freedom Of Speech Won't Feed My Children"


PAST YEARS' BESTS

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

2000: 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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