Go figure. I read a review of an album that sounds like something I'd love, so I go grab a copy from the library. Turns out to be a killer - I play it over and over and over again. An easy #1 pick for the year … except it's from 2006. Oh well. The album that turned out as my #1 was also a "play it to death" type of album for me, so it all works out. Enjoy the list.



cover art
Robyn Hitchcock
I Wanna Go Backwards

I Wanna Go Backwards is a new 5-CD box set that combines Hitchcock's solo debut (Black Snake Diamond Role), his two acoustic albums (I Often Dream Of Trains and Eye), and a double CD set of demos titled While Thatcher Mauled Britain: Demos '81-'90. Each of the first three come with bonus tracks, and in the case of the two acoustic albums, the bonus tracks don't quite line up with the track listings from the 1995 Rhino reissues (so, completists, don't unload the old ones!).

Black Snake Diamond Role is a fine debut, mixing classic Hitchcock whimsy like "Do Policemen Sing?" with rockers like "I Watch The Cars" and "Brenda's Iron Sledge", both of which could have fit nicely in the Soft Boys' catalog. However, it certainly doesn't compare with I Often Dream Of Trains and Eye, a pair of terrific acoustic albums recorded in 1984 and 1990. Trains combines gorgeous, delicate songs like "Autumn Is Your Last Chance" and "Cathedral" with weirdness like the a cappella "Uncorrected Personality Traits". Eye's gem is "Queen Elvis", one of Hitchcock's best.

For long-time fans, the prize here is While Thatcher Mauled Britain: Demos '81-'90, which is a terrific Hitchcock album on it's own, the same way Invisible Hitchcock is. Highlights include a beautiful "Raymond Chandler Evening" (with a sax part that works very well) and a stunning take on "Queen Elvis", as well as previously unreleased songs like the rockers "Captain Dry" and "I Wanna Go Backwards" and the gentle "Melting Arthur" and "Lovely Golden Villians".

Definitely a must for Hitchcock fans, and a fine introduction for newbies as well.

tracks (Black Snake Diamond Role): "The Man Who Invented Himself", "Brenda's Iron Sledge", "Do Policemen Sing?", "The Lizard", "Meat", "Acid Bird", "I Watch The Cars", "Out Of The Picture", "City Of Shame", "Love", "All I Wanna Do Is Fall In Love", "A Skull, A Suitcase, And A Long Red Bottle Of Wine", "It Was The Night", "I Watch The Cars" [#2], "Give Me A Spanner, Ralph", "It's A Mystic Trip", "Grooving On An Inner Plane", "Happy The Golden Prince"

tracks (I Often Dream Of Trains): "Nocturne (Prelude)", "Sometimes I Wish I Was A Pretty Girl", "Cathedral", "Uncorrected Personality Traits", "Sounds Great When You're Dead", "Flavour Of Night", "Ye Sleeping Knights Of Jesus", "This Could Be The Day", "Trams Of Old London", "Furry Green Atom Bowl", "Heartful Of Leaves", "Autumn Is Your Last Chance", "I Often Dream Of Trains", "Nocturne (Demise)", "Winter Love", "The Bones In The Ground", "My Favourite Buildings", "I Used To Say I Love You", "Chant / Aether", "Heartful Of Leaves" [Alternate Version], "I Often Dream Of Trains" [Demo], "Not Even A Nurse", "Slow Chant / That's Fantastic Mother Church", "Traveller's Fare"

tracks (Eye): "Cynthia Mask", "Certainly Clickot", "Queen Elvis", "Flesh Cartoons", "Chinese Water Python", "Executioner", "Linctus House", "Sweet Ghost Of Light", "Transparent Lover", "Beautiful Girl", "Clean Steve", "Raining Twilight Coast", "Agony Of Pleasure", "Glass Hotel", "Satellite", "Aquarium", "Queen Elvis II", "Century", "Shimmering Distant Love", "Lovers Turn To Skulls", "The Beauty Of Earl's Court"

tracks (While Thatcher Mauled Britain: Demos '81-'90): "She Reached For A Light", "August Hair", "Take Your Knife Out Of My Back", "Fiend Before The Shrine", "Raymond Chandler Evening", "Birdshead", "Victorian Squid", "You've Got", "Captain Dry", "Raining Twilight Coast", "Point It At Gran", "Vegetable Friend", "Flesh Number One (Beatle Dennis)", "Surgery", "I Got A Message For You", "If I Could Look", "Parachutes & Jellyfish", "Queen Elvis", "Nothing", "Stranded In The Future", "Melting Arthur", "The Abandoned Brain", "You're So Repulsive", "Opiatrescence", "September Cones", "Lovely Golden Villains", "Dr. Sticky" [Live], "Toadboy", "Trash", "The Pit Of Souls" [Country Version], "Mr. Deadly", "Let There Be More Darkness", "Listening To The Higsons", "College Of Ice", "My Favourite Buildings", "Lightplug", "Ye Sleeping Knights Of Jesus", "Insect Mother", "I Wanna Go Backwards"

cover art
Pink Floyd
The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
40th Anniversary Edition

Back in 1967, Syd Barrett was the singer, primary songwriter, and the face of Pink Floyd. His eerie, childlike pop songs combined with the Floyd's "spacey" style yield a haunting collection. This album sounds nothing like anything Pink Floyd did later as Barrett self-destructed and was replaced shortly after Piper came out.

The 40th Anniversary Edition is a 3 CD set, one disc with the album in stereo, one with the album in mono, and a CD of odds and ends. As was not uncommon in the late 60's, the stereo and mono versions are noticably different. It's interesting to hear the differences, but none are critical. As long-time Floyd fans would probably expect, the two unreleased and long-bootlegged "Vegetable Man" and "Scream Thy Last Scream" do not show up here - instead there's a mix of the band's 1967 non-LP singles (including the twin classics "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play") and B-sides along with previously unreleased alternate takes and edits.

Overall, it's a very nice package, but hardly essential unless you're crazy about Piper. I really love the album, so I had to have it, but the 3CD package is really for the hardcore fans only.

tracks (disc one is mono, disc two is stereo): "Astronomy Domine", "Lucifer Sam", "Matilda Mother", "Flaming", "Pow R. Toc H.", "Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk", "Interstellar Overdrive", "The Gnome", "Chapter 24", "The Scarecrow", "Bike"

bonus tracks: "Arnold Layne", "Candy And A Currant Bun", "See Emily Play", "Apples And Oranges", "Paintbox", "Interstellar Overdrive" [French Edit], "Apples And Oranges" [Stereo], "Matilda Mother" [Alternate Version], "Interstellar Overdrive" [Take 6]

cover art
The Style Council
Our Favourite Shop
Deluxe Edition

A deluxe reissue of The Style Council's second full-length album, which was easily the band's best. Our Favourite Shop (originally retitled Internationalists for the US Release) is a terrific mix of jazzy, soul-influenced pop that's light-years away from Paul Weller's earlier work with The Jam or his later solo career. The album's light sound could probably have dated it terribly by now, but Weller's songwriting makes the album work. The "loud" political songs ("Internationalists", "Walls Come Tumbling Down", and "Shout To The Top!") balance out the quiet and jazzy songs like the elegant "Down In The Seine" and "The Lodgers". About the only misstep is the spoken word "The Stand Up Comic's Instructions", which makes terrific political points about racism, but just doesn't really work musically. The bonus disc is a mix of B-sides and demos highlighted by "A Casual Affair", which is as good as anything on the original album.

tracks: "Homebreakers", "All Gone Away", "Come To Milton Keynes", "Internationalists", "A Stone's Throw Away", "The Stand Up Comic's Instructions", "Boy Who Cried Wolf", "A Man Of Great Promise", "Down In The Seine", "The Lodgers (Or She Was Only The Shop Keeper's Daughter)", "Luck", "With Everything To Lose", "Our Favourite Shop", "Walls Come Tumbling Down!", "Shout To The Top"

bonus tracks: "Shout To The Top" [Instrumental], "The Piccadilly Trail", "Ghosts Of Dachau", "Spin Drifting", "The Whole Point II", "Blood Sports", "(When You) Call Me", "Our Favourite Shop" [Club Mix], "The Lodgers (Or She Was Only The Shop Keeper's Daughter)" [Club Mix], "The Lodgers (Or She Was Only The Shop Keeper's Daughter)" [Extended Mix], "The Big Boss Groove", "Move On Up", "You're The Best Thing", "Money-Go-Round / Soul Deep / Strengh Of Your Nature", "A Stone's Throw Away", "(When You) Call Me" [Demo], "A Casual Affair" [Demo], "Soul Deep" [The Council Collective], "The Lodgers (Or She Was Only The Shop Keeper's Daughter)" [Demo], "Internationalists" [Demo], "With Everything To Lose" [Blue Remix], "Our Favourite Shop" [Alternate Version]

cover art
Paul Weller
Wild Wood
Deluxe Edition

Back in 1994 I wrote:

Wild Wood is easily Paul Weller's best album since The Jam's classic Sound Affects from 1981. His last band, The Style Council, emphasized the jazz/quiet R&B side and the songs suffered. Wild Wood finds Weller combining that jazz/R&B side with the rock & roll of The Jam into a solid whole. The album opens with a rocker, "Sunflower", that has both light flutes and heavy guitar. Weller also seems to address the Style Council's diminished reputation in "Has My Fire Really Gone Out?" Weller has never been a big name in the US, and this album probably won't change that (it was released in '93 in the UK, '94 in the US), and that's unfair. This is an album with great songs top to bottom. Definitely check this one out.

The bonus material mixes a few live tracks (very good ones), a few outtakes, and a demos for a lot of the album. The demos are the real highlight here. The demo versions are far mellower than the official release, with the power guitar missing. The official versions are far better, but the demos are fascinating listening. If you're a fan of the album it's worth upgrading to the Deluxe Edition.

tracks: "Sunflower", "Can You Heal Us (Holy Man)", "Wild Wood", "Instrumental One (Part 1)", "All The Pictures On The Wall", "Has My Fire Really Gone Out?", "Country", "Instrumental Two", "5th Season", "The Weaver", "Instrumental One (Part 2)", "Foot Of The Mountain", "Shadow Of The Sun", "Holy Man (Reprise)", "Moon On Your Pyjamas"

bonus tracks: "Hung Up", "Wild Wood" [Sheared Wood Remix], "Magic Bus", "Ends Of The Earth", "This Is No Time", "Another New Day", "The Loved", "Sunflower" [Demo], "Wild Wood" [Demo], "All The Pictures On The Wall" [Demo], "Country" [Demo], "5th Season" [Demo], "The Weaver" [Demo], "Shadow Of The Sun" [Demo], "Moon On Your Pyjamas" [Demo], "Ends Of The Earth" [Demo], "Love Of The Loved" [Demo], "Price To Pay" [Demo], "Changes" [Demo], "I'm Only Dreaming", "Ohio" [Demo], "Oh Happy Day", "Greetings", "Wild Wood" [Demo 2], "Weaver Of Dreams" [Demo 2], "Foot Of The Mountain", "Hung Up", "Black Sheep Boy"


cover art
Fantasia: Live In Tokyo

In late 2006, the original lineup of Asia (John Wetton, Steve Howe, Geoff Downes & Carl Palmer) reunited to begin a tour to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of their debut album in 1982. Surprisingly, the results are great. Wetton's voice is as powerful as ever, and the band sounds amazing. The set list for the tour consisted of all of Asia (including the rare single B-side "Ride Easy"), a few songs from Alpha, and some "songs from [their] pasts". The old Asia songs sound terrific, but those "songs from the past" make this an intriguing live album. From Howe's past, they take the Yes staple "Roundabout". From Palmer's, it's ELP's arrangement of "Fanfare For The Common Man". Wetton's is King Crimson's "The Court Of The Crimson King", which is an odd choice because Wetton wasn't in that lineup of King Crimson (although the cover is great). Downes' pick is "Video Killed The Radio Star" from his days with The Buggles. All four covers work very well, and blend in very nicely with the originals. The tour is continuing, and the band's website is reporting that a new studio album is a possibility. Who'da thunk it?

tracks: "Time Again", "Wildest Dreams", "One Step Closer", "Roundabout", "Without You", "Cutting It Fine", "Intersection Blues", "Fanfare For The Common Man", "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes", "Don't Cry", "The Court Of The Crimson King", "Here Comes The Feeling", "Video Killed The Radio Star", "The Heat Goes On", "Only Time Will Tell", "Sole Survivor", "Ride Easy", "Heat Of The Moment"

cover art
The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
Wrestle Poodles .. And Win!

Last year, the newly-reformed Bonzos released a DVD of their first reunion concert. About that DVD I wrote:

Normally, I don't review DVDs for these pages, but this one was too tempting to pass up. The DVD documents the reunion concert staged to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Bonzo Dog Band's debut single, "My Brother Makes The Noises For The Talkies". Founders Neil Innes, Roger Ruskin Spear, Rodney Slater, Sam Spoons and Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell are backed by Innes' current touring band. Former Bonzo "Legs" Larry Smith joins in for a few songs as well. Of course, the big gap is left by the late Vivian Stanshall, whose parts are covered Innes and occasional guest stars like Stephen Fry (who's got the perfect voice for the "posh" side of Viv's vocals) and Adrian Edmonson (who's got the guttery growl covered).
During the show, Innes jokes that they haven't rehearsed, and the show makes it seem like maybe he's not kidding. The music sounds great, it's just the weirdness like Roger's trouser press solo that doesn't quite work out right. However, everyone seems to be having a total blast on stage, and you easily forgive the miscues. It's too much fun not to.

This double-CD is taken from the same show, and my same thoughts apply. It's not perfect, but it's a lot of fun.

tracks: "Rule Britannia", "Hunting Tigers Out In Indiah", "My Brother Makes The Noises For The Talkies", "On Her Doorstep Last Night", "Little Sir Echo", "Ali Baba's Camel", "Falling In Love Again", "I'm Going To Bring A Watermelon To My Girl Tonight", "Look Out, There's A Monster Coming", "Noises For The Leg", "By A Waterfall", "The Sheik Of Araby", "Hello Mabel", "Jollity Farm", "The Equestrian Statue", "Cool Britannia", "We Are Normal", "The Strain", "The Sound Of Music", "Exodus", "Trouser Press", "My Pink Half Of The Drainpipe", "I'm Bored", "Sport (The Odd Boy)", "Mr. Apollo", "Humanoid Boogie", "Tent", "Can Blue Men Sing The Whites?", "Look At Me, I'm Wonderful", "I Left My Heart In San Francisco", "Rhinocratic Oaths", "Mr. Slater's Parrot", "Monster Mash", "I'm The Urban Spaceman", "Canyons Of Your Mind"

cover art
Jefferson Airplane
Sweeping Up The Spotlight: Jefferson Airplane Live At The Fillmore East 1969

Sweeping Up The Spotlight catches the "classic" Airplane lineup on it's final tour, and it shows how explosive the band was live. They mix their own "hits" like "White Rabbit", "Plastic Fantastic Lover" and "Crown Of Creation" with longer workouts like the "The Ballad Of You & Me & Pooneil" and "The Other Side Of This Life", and the electric blues of "Uncle Sam Blues". A must for Airplane fans.

tracks: "Volunteers", "Good Shepherd", "Plastic Fantastic Lover", "Uncle Sam Blues", "3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds", "You Wear Your Dresses Too Short", "Come Back Baby", "Won't You Try / Saturday Afternoon", "The Ballad Of You & Me & Pooneil", "White Rabbit", "Crown Of Creation", "The Other Side Of This Life"

cover art
R.E.M. Live

Although R.E.M. has released several live DVDs (Tourfilm, Perfect Square, and Road Movie), this is their first official live album. A double CD (with DVD) recorded on the 2005 tour to support Around The Sun, R.E.M. Live shows the band clicking on all cylinders mixing the big songs like "Losing My Religion", "Everybody Hurts", and "Man On The Moon" with lesser known gems like "Cuyahoga", "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville", and a killer run through "Bad Day". The only new song on the album, "I'm Gonna DJ" is the only weak song here - it's clear why it was never released on an R.E.M. studio album. But don't let that stop you - R.E.M. is still one of the best live bands around, and this album catches 'em on a great night.

tracks: "I Took Your Name", "So Fast, So Numb", "The Boy In The Well", "Cuyahoga", "Everybody Hurts", "Electron Blue", "Bad Day", "The Ascent Of Man", "The Great Beyond", "Leaving New York", "Orange Crush", "I Wanted To Be Wrong", "Final Straw", "Imitation Of Life", "The One I Love", "Walk Unafraid", "Losing My Religion", "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?", "Drive", "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville", "I'm Gonna DJ", "Man On The Moon"

cover art
Richard & Linda Thompson
In Concert, November 1975

A complete Richard & Linda Thompson concert from 1975, In Concert shows off Richard's terrific songs and killer guitar work, Linda's beautiful voice, and a crack band backing them up. Highlights include Richard's long guitar workouts "Night Comes In", "For Shame Of Doing Wrong", and "Calvary Cross", a beautiful cover of Fairport Convention's "Now Be Thankful", and a rocking "It'll Be Me".

tracks: "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight", "Hard Luck Stories", "Night Comes In", "Morris Medley", "A Heart Needs A Home", "Why Don't You Love Me?", "Now Be Thankful", "Jet Plane In A Rocking Chair", "Streets Of Paradise", "For Shame Of Doing Wrong", "Calvary Cross", "Hokey Pokey (The Ice Cream Song)", "Things You Gave Me", "It'll Be Me", "Together Again"

cover art
Neil Young
Live At Massey Hall 1971

Long regarded as one of Neil Young's best-ever performances, Live At Massey Hall 1971 captures Young solo on acoustic guitar and piano playing a set that included a batch of then-unreleased songs like "Old Man", "Journey Through The Past", "The Needle And The Damage Done" and a medley of "A Man Needs A Maid" and "Heart Of Gold". Along the way, he also mixes in acoustic versions of two classic Crazy Horse workouts, "Down By The River" and "Cowgirl In The Sand" and "Bad Fog Of Loneliness", which still has no released studio version. If you enjoy Young's folkier side (think Harvest, Comes A Time and Harvest Moon), you'll love this album - It's a must.

tracks: "On The Way Home", "Tell Me Why", "Old Man", "Journey Through The Past", "Helpless", "Love In Mind", "A Man Needs A Maid / Heart Of Gold Suite", "Cowgirl In The Sand", "Don't Let It Bring You Down", "There's A World", "Bad Fog Of Loneliness", "The Needle And The Damage Done", "Ohio", "See The Sky About To Rain", "Down By The River", "Dance Dance Dance", "I Am A Child"

cover art
Frank Zappa

Buffalo is the second complete concert released by the Zappa Family Trust (2002's FZ:OZ was the first). This time around, it's the Buffalo, New York show from October 25, 1980 with the excellent band from Tinsel Town Rebellion. Zappa's massive You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore series mixed material from all of his bands, but complete live shows like Buffalo really show off just how good Zappa and his bands were live. A must for Zappa fans, and a pretty darn good introduction for newbies.

tracks: "Chunga's Revenge", "You Are What You Is", "Mudd Club", "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing", "Cosmik Debris", "Keep It Greasey", "Tinsel Town Rebellion", "Buffalo Drowning Witch", "Honey, Don't You Want A Man Like Me", "Pick Me, I'm Clean", "Dead Girls Of London", "Shall We Take Ourselves Seriously?", "City Of Tiny Lights", "Easy Meat", "I Ain't Got No Heart", "The Torture Never Stops", "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes", "I'm So Cute", "Andy", "Joe's Garage", "Dancin' Fool", "The 'Real World' Thematic Extrapolations", "Stick It Out", "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted", "Bobby Brown", "Ms. Pinky"

cover art
various artists
Attic Jam

Pete Townshend's girlfriend, singer/songwriter Rachel Fuller, is the host of a webcast called "In The Attic" which eventually followed The Who out on the road, bringing on Townshend and other guests for live performances on the show. The show can be painful viewing, but some of the music is pretty wonderful. This CD of highlights, released exclusively on iTunes captures the best of these acoustic performances, which mostly have the feel of something that's being played for the first time. As you'd expect, several of the bands (The Flaming Lips, The Raconteurs, The Zutons) go for Who covers. All three are great, but the Lips' sparse take on "Baba O'Riley" is the big winner. The Kooks' "Ooh La" and Death Cab For Cutie's "Photobooth" are the best of the guest originals, and Townshend himself steals the show on a rare full-length performance of The Who's mini-opera, "A Quick One While He's Away". The show's not great, but this CD is.

tracks: "Ooh La" [The Kooks], "Last Cigarette" [Ed Harcourt], "These Flowers" [Martha Wainwright], "All Sparks" [Editors], "Blue" [Rachel Fuller], "The Seeker" [The Raconteurs featuring Pete Townshend], "Photobooth" [Death Cab For Cutie featuring Pete Townshend], "The Acid Queen" [Pete Townshend], "Got Ma Nuts From A Hippie" [The Fratellis featuring Pete Townshend], "Long Legs" [The Magic Numbers], "Music Box" [Regina Spektor], "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hands" [The Zutons featuring Pete Townshend], "Soul Searching" [Simon Townshend], "Baba O'Riley" [The Flaming Lips featuring Pete Townshend], "Brain Novocaine" [Rose Hill Drive], "What's It All About" [Razorlight], "Misery" [Mikey Cuthbert], "Homebird" [Foy Vance], "A Quick One While He's Away" [Pete Townshend]


cover art
The Traveling Wilburys
The Traveling Wilburys Collection

After being out of print for many years, the two Traveling Wilburys albums finally get reissued and packaged as a three disc set. Both of the original albums, Volume One and Vol. 3 get their own disc with bonus tracks on each. The bonus tracks for Volume One, "Maxine" and "Like A Ship", are outtakes from the original album. Certainly not as good as the songs that made it, both are a lot of fun and certainly worth hearing. The bonus tracks for Vol. 3 are a pair of covers. "Nobody's Child" was recorded for a benefit album, and Del Shannon's "Runaway" was originally a B-side for "She's My Baby", and it's the best of the bonus tracks. The third disc is a DVD with an interesting documentary about the creation of the band and Volume One with tons of behind the scenes footage of the band making the album. Also included are the videos for "Handle With Care", "End Of The Line", "She's My Baby", "Inside Out" and "The Wilbury Twist". Overall, if you don't have copies of the original two albums, this repackage is a must - the albums have held up very well and are still a blast. If you've already got 'em, the "need" for this one depends on how big a fan you are. If you really loved the albums, then grab this.

Volume One:

tracks: "Handle With Care", "Dirty World", "Rattled", "Last Night", "Not Alone Any More", "Congratulations", "Heading For The Light", "Margarita", "Tweeter And The Monkey Man", "End Of The Line"

bonus tracks: "Maxine", "Like A Ship"

Vol. 3:

tracks: "She's My Baby", "Inside Out", "If You Belonged To Me", "The Devil's Been Busy", "7 Deadly Sins", "Poor House", "Where Were You Last Night?", "Cool Dry Place", "New Blue Moon", "You Took My Breath Away", "Wilbury Twist"

bonus tracks: "Nobody's Child", "Runaway"


cover art
Atomic 7
… Something For The Girl With Everything

In between the last Atomic 7 album, 2004's …en Hillbilly Caliente, and this one, Atomic 7 leader Brian Connelly started up a side band called Ancient Chinese Secret that focused on instrumental covers of old-school country. … Something For The Girl With Everything shows the influence of this work on songs like "Junior Miss Chop Shop" and "Children's Letters To God". The album mixes these with rockers like "Lava Devils!", "Glow In The Dark Underpants" and "The Whirly Girly Revue" (a rework of an unreleased Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet song). Great stuff.

tracks: "Junior Miss Chop Shop", "Ivy Rocks", "Children's Letters To God", "I Regret Nothing", "Knicker Toss", "Glow In The Dark Underpants", "Encyclopedia Of Self-Indulgence", "100 Years Of Mayonnaise", "The Whirly Girly Revue", "Highschool Knee", "Lava Devils!", "Hawaii Kai X²", "Thingmaker", "This Person Loves You Sincerely", "Guilt Wears A Dazzling Chapeau"

cover art
The Bears

Using a similar approach to their first reunion album, Car Caught Fire, Eureka! was recorded in bits and pieces over the course of several years' worth of weekend get-togethers between other projects. While their Car Caught Fire pretty much picked up where the band left off, Eureka! plays up Adrian Belew's experimental guitar work far more than the previous albums. Only "Normal" (a terrific rocker), the gentle ballads "Troubled Beauty" and "Idiot In The Sky", and the closing cover of "Comin' Round The Mountain" would fit seamlessly into an older album. The rest change things up a bit. "Zelda Fitzgerald" and "Veneer" are typical Bears power-pop, but the guitar work is way more avant-garde than anything they've done before. "Doodle" would fit nicely on any number of Belew solo albums and "On" is a Bears version of a song from Belew's 1996 album Op Zop Too Wah. In general, I found the first three Bears albums were instant favorites. One listen would do it. Eureka! didn't impress me nearly as much at first, but the more I listen the more I like it. It's certainly not where I'd suggest a new listener start, but it's still a heck of an album.

tracks: "Zelda Fitzgerald", "Veneer", "On", "Troubled Beauty", "Normal", "We Never Close", "Think", "Keep Your Own Counsel", "Idiot In The Sky", "Doodle", "Comin' Round The Mountain"

cover art
The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
Pour L'Amour Des Chiens

Following their 2007 reunion concert, here comes a full-fledged reunion. Pour L'Amour Des Chiens (the first new Bonzo album in 35 years) reunites the lineup from the Bonzos 1967 debut, Gorilla, along with Bob Kerr (an early Bonzo who left before the debut album) and Adrian Edmonson, Stephen Fry and Phill Jupitus filling in for the late Viv Stanshall. Pour L'Amour Des Chiens runs the gamut from reworked old standards (and new ones like a 40's-style cover of The Kaiser Chiefs' "I Predict A Riot"), skits, and original songs. Highlights include "Early Morning Train" which matches a classic Neil Innes pop song with Adrian Edmondson as a "selfish bastard", the traditional "Making Faces At The Man In The Moon", the punny "Wire People" (the best of the skits), Adrian Edmonson's very beautiful and totally nasty "Beautiful People", and "Stadium Love" which lampoons stadium rock. Viv Stanshall's here in spirit - "Now You're Asleep" is a previously unreleased Stanshall co-write. Strangely, it's the "straightest" song on the album, and quite pretty.

There is also a limited edition that includes a bonus DVD, and the bonus DVD is better than the CD itself. The DVD has 30 minutes of live performances (split up with bits of interviews) from the short tour that followed the reunion. The performance is much better than on the reunion DVD, and the interview snippets are terrific. The highlight is a terrific version of "Canyons Of Your Mind" with Phill Jupitus as the old Elvis and Neil Innes' wonderfully awful guitar solo.

It's certainly the best thing we've done for 34 years. - Neil Innes

tracks (CD): "Pour L'Amour Des Chiens", "Let's All Go To Mary's House", "Hawkeye The Gnu", "Making Faces At The Man In The Moon", "Fiasco", "Purple Sprouting Broccoli", "Old Tige", "Wire People", "Salmon Proust", "Democracy", "I Predict A Riot", "Scarlet Ribbons", "Paws", "And We're Back", "Stadium Love", "Mornington Crescent", "L'Essence d'Hooligan", "Early Morning Train", "My Friends Outside", "For The Benefit Of Mankind", "Beautiful People", "Ego Warriors", "Cockadoodle Tato", "Tiptoe Through The Tulips", "Sweet Memories", "Sudoku Forecast", "Now You're Asleep", "Jean Baudrillard"

tracks (DVD): "My Brother Makes The Noises For The Talkies", "Trouser Press", "Les Deux Callapsos", "The Monster Mash", "Jollity Farm", "Canyons Of Your Mind", "The Equestrian Statue", "I'm The Urban Spaceman"

cover art
Richard Lloyd
The Radiant Monkey

Six years after his last solo album, The Cover Doesn't Matter, and mere months after officially leaving Television, Richard Lloyd finally released his fourth studio album. Much like The Cover Doesn't Matter, The Radiant Monkey doesn't overlap much with Television's territory - it's bare bones rock and roll with a dazzling guitar player, and much improved vocals from Lloyd. "There She Goes Again" may be Lloyd's best solo song, and The Radiant Monkey is easily his best solo album.

tracks: "Monkey", "Glurp", "There She Goes Again", "Swipe It", "Only Friend", "Kalpa Tree", "Amnesia", "Carousel", "Big Hole", "Wicked Sun", "One For The Road"

cover art
The Nematoads
Five Guns West

The Nematoads debut album combines classic surf guitar songs like "Bandera!" and "Capoburro" with more complex songs like "Dos Diablos", which goes through several movements, and the heavy rock of "Distant Drums". A really nice addition is a trumpet which adds a Latin flavor to songs like "Five Guns West", "Deadwood" and "Dos Diablos". Not your daddy's surf music.

tracks: "Deadwood", "Border Run", "Harlingen Shuffle Pt 1", "Urban Sombrero", "Five Guns West", "Entrada Del Oeste", "Laredo By Sundown", "Bandera!", "Havana Gila", "Dos Diablos", "Matagorda Bay", "Devil Ridge", "Distant Drums", "Cuero Gold", "Capoburro"

cover art
Randy Newman
A Few Words In Defense Of Our Country

Last year, Neil Young used his Living With War albums to rail against the Bush Administration and their policies. This year, Randy Newman's taken his usual satirical approach. On the download-only "A Few Words In Defense Of Our Country", Newman describes the Bush administration as "the worst we've ever had", but defends them as not being worse than Hitler or Stalin. Another snide gem for his catalog.

track: "A Few Words In Defense Of Our Country"

cover art
Patti Smith

Cover albums are always a touchy proposition, but Patti Smith does far better than most with the concept. The biggest surprises on here is easily the bluegrass-flavored cover of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit". The rest of the covers are played relatively straight (except for details like the moody intro to "White Rabbit"), but the song selections are terrific and Patti's band sounds top notch. I figured this might be an interesting listen, but it's much better than that.

tracks: "Are You Experienced?", "Everybody Wants To Rule The World", "Helpless", "Gimme Shelter", "Within You Without You", "White Rabbit", "Changing Of The Guards", "The Boy In The Bubble", "Soul Kitchen", "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "Midnight Rider", "Pastime Paradise"

cover art
Lewis Taylor
Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica Reborn

Described on as a "neo-soul multi-instrumentalist", Lewis Taylor recorded (but still hasn't released) a tribute album to Captain Beefheart's legendary Trout Mask Replica, and the results are pretty amazing. Musically, Taylor's got the odd time signatures & quirkiness of Beefheart's original, but adds his own smoother vocal instead of attempting Beefheart's signature growl. It shouldn't work, but it absolutely does. In general, the covers are pretty faithful with the exception of a slowed-down version of the rocker "Moonlight On Vermont". Heck, he's even got Beefheart's surreal intro to "Pachuco Cadaver" ("a squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast and bulbous, got me?"). If you like Trout Mask, you really should check this out.

Wanna hear it? Go to this page on the wonderful Captain Beefheart Radar Station.

tracks: "Frownland", "The Dust Blows Forward 'n' The Dust Blows Back", "Dachau Blues", "Ella Guru", "Hair Pie: Bake 1", "Moonlight On Vermont", "Pachuco Cadaver", "Bill's Corpse", "Sweet Sweet Bulbs", "Steal Softly Thru Snow", "My Human Gets Me Blues", "Hair Pie: Bake 2"

cover art
Richard Thompson
Sweet Warrior

Richard Thompson's back to a band album with Sweet Warrior. The centerpiece of the album is the political protest of "Dad's Gonna Kill Me" ("dad" being military slang for Baghdad). Thompson mixes the fears of a soldier in Iraq with political commentary with lines like "Out in the desert there's a soldier lying dead / Vultures pecking the eyes out of his head / Another day that could have been me there instead" and "Dad's in a bad mood, Dad's got the blues / It's someone else's mess that I didn't choose / At least we're winning on the Fox Evening News". The other big winners are the rock and roll and stinging lyrics of "Mr. Stupid", the catchy opener "Needle And Thread", and the dramatic "Guns Are The Tongues". The high points are terrific, but overall the album doesn't hold up with his last couple of band albums, 2003's The Old Kit Bag and 1999's Mock Tudor.

tracks: "Needle And Thread", "I'll Never Give It Up", "Take Care The Road You Choose", "Mr. Stupid", "Dad's Gonna Kill Me", "Poppy-Red", "Bad Monkey", "Francesca", "Too Late To Come Fishing", "Sneaky Boy", "She Sang The Angels To Rest", "Johnny's Far Away", "Guns Are The Tongues", "Sunset Song"


cover art
The Hold Steady
Boys And Girls In America

This is the album I alluded to in the intro. Boys And Girls In America would have EASILY been my #1 pick this year (had it come out in 2007), and The Hold Steady has quickly become a big favorite of mine. On this album, they combine straight ahead rock and roll with catchy melodies, loud power chords, and even elegant ballads like "First Night". The lyrics follow several running characters, their relationships and their run-ins with drugs. It could have easily ended up either pretentious or boring, but the lyrics are extremely witty and literate and peppered with killer lines like "Most nights were crystal clear but tonight its like it's stuck between stations on the radio" and "I've had kisses that make Judas seem sincere". Craig Finn's vocal style is a little unusual (he reminds me a bit of Randy Newman), and he wanders between singing and rapid-fire talking (not rapping though), but the whole package just works. An absolutely amazing album.

tracks: "Stuck Between Stations", "Chips Ahoy!", "Hot Soft Light", "Same Kooks", "First Night", "Party Pit", "You Can Make Him Like You", "Massive Nights", "Citrus", "Chillout Tent", "Southtown Girls"


(in my exasperatingly less-than-humble opinion)

cover art
John Doe
A Year In The Wilderness

A Year In The Wilderness is another excellent John Doe album and one of his most diverse. You get the rootsy rock of "Hotel Ghost", the delicate ballad "Darling Underdog" the bluesy "Big Moon", and the straight-ahead rock of "The Golden State" and "Unforgiven", and even the X-ish "Lean Our Yr Window". Terrific.

tracks: "The Wilderness", "Hotel Ghost", "The Golden State", "Darling Underdog", "A Little More Time", "Unforgiven", "There's A Hole", "Lean Out Yr Window", "Big Moon", "The Bridge", "The Meanest Man In The World", "Grain Of Salt"

cover art
KT Tunstall
Drastic Fantastic

KT Tunstall's second album, Drastic Fantastic, picks up where her debut left off. However, this time around, songs like "Little Favours", "Funnyman" and "I Don't Want You Now" add some more rock & roll into the mix. There's not anything quite as irresistible as the debut's "Black Horse And The Cherry Tree", but overall, Drastic Fantastic is the better album.

tracks: "Little Favours", "If Only", "White Bird", "Funnyman", "Hold On", "Hopeless", "I Don't Want You Now", "Saving My Face", "Beauty Of Uncertainty", "Someday Soon", "Paper Aeroplane"

cover art
The Shins
Wincing The Night Away

Wincing The Night Away is a pop album at heart, but The Shins don't exactly play it straight. For every catchy singalong pop song like "Australia" or "Phantom Limb", you get the more complex "Turn On Me" and "Split Needles", the moody "Sealegs", or the general weirdness of "Sleeping Lessons" or "Red Rabbits". This is the sound of a band experimenting and doing it very, very well.

tracks: "Sleeping Lessons", "Australia", "Pam Berry", "Phantom Limb", "Sealegs", "Red Rabbits", "Turn On Me", "Black Wave", "Spilt Needles", "Girl Sailor", "A Comet Appears"

cover art
The White Stripes
Icky Thump

After 2005's odd Get Behind Me Satan, The Stripes are back doing what they do best - plus stretching out a bit, but in different directions this time. Raw rockers like the title track, "You Don't Know What Love Is" (and several others) would fit nicely on White Blood Cells or Elephant. "Catch Hell Blues" would have fit in with the Blind Willie McTell covers from previous albums (although this is an original). The rest of the album throws a bunch of curves. Most work - the long, multi-segmented "300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues" is terrific, mixing typical Stripes crunch with acoustic, folky sections. The two-part "Pricky Thorn, But Sweetly Worn" and "St. Andrew" mix in a Celtic feel (including bagpipes). They're definitely a big change, but they work better than the experiments on Satan. The only gamble that doesn't really work is a cover of an old Patti Page song, "Conquest", which brings in a mariachi trumpet along an over-the-top vocal from Jack White. I'd guess it's intended to be tongue-in-cheek, but it probably would've been a better B-side. Overall, a strong return to form.

tracks: "Icky Thump", "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told)", "300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues", "Conquest", "Bone Broke", "Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn", "St. Andrew (This Battle Is In The Air)", "Little Cream Soda", "Rag And Bone", "I'm Slowly Turning Into You", "A Martyr For My Love For You", "Catch Hell Blues", "Effect And Cause"

cover art
Once Upon A Time In The West

On their second album Hard-Fi takes a big chance - adding strings and horns to their sound, and the results are pretty tremendous. Their debut album was solid alternative rock in a somewhat similar mold to bands like Franz Ferdinand, but this album couples better songs and the big production suits them perfectly, with dramatic songs like "I Shall Overcome" and "Tonight", the horn-driven "Can't Get Along (Without You)" and the catchy single, "Suburban Knights". About the only time the album stumbles is when they go away from the main sound - "I Close My Eyes" is a grungy rocker that doesn't really fit in with the rest of the album, and the too-gentle "Help Me Please" is missing the anthemic feel of the album's best. Overall, a big step forward - a great album.

tracks: "Suburban Knights", "I Shall Overcome", "Tonight", "Watch Me Fall Apart", "I Close My Eyes", "Television", "Help Me Please", "Can't Get Along (Without You)", "We Need Love", "Little Angel", "The King"

cover art
Neil Young
Chrome Dreams II

Chrome Dreams is the title of an unreleased Neil Young album from 1977. Maybe. Depends on which story you read. There are bootleg copies of what is purported to be Chrome Dreams that has early versions of Young classics like "Like A Hurricane" and "Powderfinger" along with other songs that showed up on Rust Never Sleeps, American Stars 'N Bars and so on. So now, twenty years later, Young has playfully titled his new album Chrome Dreams II, making it a sequel to an album that never existed. Musically, Young is all over the map on Chrome Dreams II. The long-bootlegged "Ordinary People", an 18-minute workout from his late 80's band The Bluenotes (of "This Note's For You" fame) and the 14-minute guitar workout of "No Hidden Path" are the twin centerpieces to the album, and both are among Young's best. Typical of Young's more eccentric albums, he mixes in the folky, banjo-driven "Boxcar" (itself from a different "lost" album, Times Square), "Spirit Road" and "Dirty Old Man" (which would fit on pretty much any Crazy Horse album), and closes the album backed by a large choir on with "The Way". Not everything works, but the best songs on here are spectacular. "Ordinary People" is pretty much worth the price of admission on its own.

tracks: "Beautiful Bluebird", "Boxcar", "Ordinary People", "Shining Light", "The Believer", "Spirit Road", "Dirty Old Man", "Ever After", "No Hidden Path", "The Way"

cover art
The Waterboys
Book Of Lightning

The Waterboys' first new studio album in four years is a resounding return to form for Mike Scott after the mediocre Universal Hall. Since then, there's been an excellent live album and reissues of a number of older albums. The break seems to have paid off in a big way. The Fisherman's Blues-flavored epic "Everybody Takes A Tumble" and the delicate "Strange Arrangement" are some of Scott's best songs ever. The rest of the album keeps up nicely with the Big Music of "The Crash Of Angel Wings" and "Nobody's Baby Anymore" and and even a flat out rocker like "Love Will Shoot You Down". Essentially, it sounds like The Waterboys picked up right where 2000's wonderful A Rock In The Weary Land left off.

So far, there hasn't been a US release of the album. The special edition in the UK also comes with a bonus DVD (recorded in PAL format so it won't play on most US DVD players). The DVD is a compilation of some of the Waterboys' home movies, and they're a lot of fun. You get some live footage (with a terrific "Glastonbury Song"), some goofing around backstage & on the tour bus, and a visit to Spiddal House where Fisherman's Blues was recorded. It's definitely home movie quality footage (grainy and jumpy), but it's still fun.

tracks: "The Crash Of Angel Wings", "Love Will Shoot You Down", "Nobody's Baby Anymore", "Strange Arrangement", "She Tried To Hold Me", "It's Gonna Rain", "Sustain", "You In The Sky", "Everybody Takes A Tumble", "The Man With The Wind At His Heels"

cover art
The Polyphonic Spree
The Fragile Army

For their third album, the Polyphonic Spree have traded in their white robes for black uniforms and occasionally harder sound. In general, The Fragile Army continues the gigantic sound of their wonderful Together We're Heavy (my pick for 2004 album of the year), but songs like "Section 22 (Running Away)", "Section 23 (Get Up And Go)", "Section 28 (Guaranteed Nightlife)", "Section 30 (Watch Us Explode (Justify))" move away from their standard ornate pop and rocks out more. The epic closer, "Section 32 (The Championship)" pulls it all together perfectly. I wasn't sure that the Spree would be able to match Together We're Heavy, but they've pulled it off. Another magnificent album.

tracks: "Section 21 (Together We're Heavy)", "Section 22 (Running Away)", "Section 23 (Get Up And Go)", "Section 24 (The Fragile Army)", "Section 25 (Younger Yesterday)", "Section 26 (We Crawl)", "Section 27 (Mental Cabaret)", "Section 28 (Guaranteed Nightlite)", "Section 29 (Light To Follow)", "Section 30 (Watch Us Explode (Justify))", "Section 31 (Overblow Your Nest)", "Section 32 (The Championship)"

cover art
Foo Fighters
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

The last Foos album, In Your Honor, was split into an electric disc and an acoustic disc showing off both halves of the band's sound. Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace blends both into a terrific whole. You get the full-on Foo Fighters in songs like songs like "The Pretender" and "Erase/Replace". The band's hit single side shows up on classics like "Long Road To Ruin" and "Cheer Up, Boys". The lighter, acoustic side of the band shows up on songs like "Stranger Things Have Happened" and the instrumental "Ballad Of The Beaconsfield Miners". To wrap everything up, the album closes with a beautiful piano & strings ballad, "Home". I've enjoyed the band's previous albums, although they've occasionally been a little hit and miss. Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace is definitely the band's most diverse album, their best, and their first classic album. Absolutely wonderful.

tracks: "The Pretender", "Let It Die", "Erase / Replace", "Long Road To Ruin", "Come Alive", "Stranger Things Have Happened", "Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up Is Running)", "Summer's End", "Ballad Of The Beaconsfield Miners", "Statues", "But, Honestly", "Home"

cover art
Manic Street Preachers
Send Away The Tigers

The quiet, reflective Manics from 2004's Lifeblood have been locked back in the closet, and the Manics of Everything Must Go are back in full force. The epic title track, the lead single ("Your Love Alone Is Not Enough"), "Autumnsong" and the dramatic closer of the album proper, "Winterlovers" just cry out for maximum volume in a massive stadium. Songs like "Indian Summer" and "The Second Great Depression" are right out of the Everything Must Go mold. Rockers like "Underdogs" and "Rendition" call back to Richey Edwards edition of the band. Heck, even the hidden cover of "Working Class Hero" that follows "Winterlovers" works. It's hard to explain exactly why this album blew me away so much. Basically, they got back to the sound that really suits the band best, and delivered terrific songs to go with it. Spectacular.

tracks: "Send Away The Tigers", "Underdogs", "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough", "Indian Summer", "The Second Great Depression", "Rendition", "Autumnsong", "I'm Just A Patsy", "Imperial Bodybags", "Winterlovers"

hidden bonus track: "Working Class Hero"


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