Most of the CDs featured in Bloggerhythms Mid-year Review remain at the top of the list as 2007 winds down. Because I don't want to bore everyone by restating for a third time all of the great things I wrote about these discs (most were praised in their individual reviews and at the year's half way point) I'll just list the winners in order with a link to each CD's original review and add any additional comments I feel are worthy. You know it was an eclectic year because new music by some old reliable classic rockers share the list with a few who released their first CDs after Y2K, and so not wanting to snub any of my favorite CDs, I expanded this year's list from five to ten.
There is essentially a three way tie for the top spot. Deciding who recorded the best CD of 2007 is almost an impossible task. America's album, released early in the year, wins in a photo finish because it held the number one position for most of it. The Cat Empire also deserves to be number one for recording the most original sounding music in many years. Their CD is both a triumph of arranging and musicianship. In contrast to America, who relied on a proven formula, The Cat Empire excelled because of its startling uniqueness. Austin based Jimmy Lafave wrote some of the best new songs of the year and his cover versions of other artist's work, especially Bob Dylan, are wonderful.
Listen to all of these great discs and decide for yourself.
1. America - Here & Now
Score one for the old guys. By staying true to their roots Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell created a classic.
2. The Cat Empire - Two Shoes
A little hip-hop, ska, reggae, and Latin jazz combine to create an original Australian stew.
3. Jimmy Lafave - Cimarron Manifesto
Lafave is a genuinely talented singer-songwriter with impeccable taste in cover tunes and a rocker with a heavy Bob Dylan influence. I am taken aback that Lafave is not rich and famous based on both this CD and a recent Austin live performance I had the pleasure of attending. Both critic Dave Marsh and country-rocker Lucinda Williams are huge fans.
4. The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
5. Brandi Carlile - The Story
A great voice, band, and songs make this the best disc by any female artist this year. The title track is the song of the year.
6.The Young Dubliners - With All Due Respect: The Irish Sessions
7. Seamus Kelleher - Four Cups of Coffee
I highly recommend this debut solo release by Kelleher, who is well known in Philadelphia as the lead guitarist for the area's most popular local band Blackthorn. Kelleher fulfilled his life-long dream of finally making his own solo album. It may have been a long wait but after hearing Four Cups Of Coffee I wish he had stepped out on his own a long time ago.
8. California Transit Authority - Full Circle
I like this CD a lot but since the band's leader, Danny Seraphine, the original and former drummer for Chicago, included two-thirds old Chicago songs on the album, I couldn't put it higher on the list. I wouldn't even consider Full Circle a covers album. Can you really cover your own songs? Anyway, Seraphine is back, his drumming is as great as ever, and his band is really cooking. The vocal star is Tower of Power's Larry Braggs.
9. Lewis Taylor - The Lost Album
10. Sea Wolf - Leaves In The River
This is the first full length CD by the band put together by singer/songwriter Alex Brown Church and it's a dandy. At times Sea Wolf sounds like both The Moody Blues and modern rockers The Shins. (Phil Ek, The Shins producer, helms this one for Church and company) Two songs are receiving substantial airplay, "Winter Windows" and "You're A Wolf." This CD was a Christmas gift so I haven't had time to fully absorb it yet and when I do look for a full review.
Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full
The Eagles - Long Road Out Of Eden
Grace Potter and The Nocturnals - This is Somewhere
Potter and her fine band improved upon their fine first CD, Nothing But The Water, by broadening the subject matter of their songs beyond Water's one note theme of broken love affairs. Be sure to check out the new disc's closing track "Big White Gate" as a great example. They turned up the volume by writing harder rock 'n roll arrangements.
Sterling Harrison - South Of The Snooty Fox
Harrison is one of those hard luck R&B vocalists whose success and popularity never came close to matching his talent. This CD was recorded in 2001 but it was never released until this year.
Reissues of the year
Arthur Alexander - Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter
Like Harrison, Alexander is another R&B artist whose talent far outstripped his success and popularity. Both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones covered his songs. Need I say more?
The Dynamics - First Landing
This great vocal group is the third soul music act that I heard for the first time this year who missed out on success that should have been theirs. There seems to be more of these hard luck talents in the R&B world than anywhere else. I give a special tip of the hat to Hacktone Records for making Harrison, Alexander, and The Dynamics available to music fans everywhere. The label deepened my appreciation of soul music.