Thursday, January 29, 2009

Top 20 CD's of 2008

Well, I have officially joined the 21st century... Presenting my first ever blog. Please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors. These are my Top 20 favorite CD's released in 2008. Hopefully, I didn't make any factual errors in my descriptions. As far as whether or not you agree; these are simply my opinions, and you know what they say about opinions... Anyway, here it is, for better or worse (alphabetic order).

* Jeff Beck - Live at Ronnie Scott's
JB is on top of his game these days, as evidenced by this excellent live set with wunderkind Tal Wilkenfeld on bass... This CD was recorded during an extended run of shows at Ronnie Scott's in London. Very nice production and has music spanning most of his career; Beck's Bolero, Wired, Blow by Blow, and There & Back albums, a few tunes from more recent albums; and even a few choice covers from the likes of the Beatles, John McGlaughlin, and Billy Cobham. There are also some bootleg soundboard recordings circulating from some of the other sets not on this CD. Buy the CD here:

* Marco Benevento - Invisible Baby
Marco on a variety of keyboard instruments with Reed Mathis on bass, Matt Chamberlain and Andrew Barr on drums. Funky and experimental compared to the duo, perhaps a result of gigging with Bobby Previte's Coalition of the Willing... I prefer this over his duo project. Buy the CD here:

* Will Bernard - Blue Plate Special
Will's best recorded effort yet, in my opinion... Then again, how can you go wrong with Will Bernard, Stanton Moore, John Medeski, and Andy Hess? Lots of nasty funky groove, great musicianship, and no filler. Buy the CD here:

* The Black Crowes - Warpaint
I have never been a huge Black Crowes fan, but I've always liked them and have been catching live shows intermittently since I saw them open for Aerosmith in 1989. Luther Dickinson handles lead guitar duties on this release and brings a lot to the table. Nothing new really, but I personally think this is their best release since Amorica, which came out back in '94. Buy the CD here:

* Bill Frisell - History, Mystery
Live recordings from 2006-07 with his octet, a 2 CD set - Kenny Wollesen (drums) and Tony Scherr (bass) rhythm section; along with cornet, sax/clarinet, violin, viola, and cello. This music blows me away! It's a recent buy, late-December, and it's better with each listen. Moves freely between classical, jazz, groove (Ex. "Struggle), blues, and out. Very well produced by Lee Townsend. The first adjectives that come to mind are beautiful, haunting, hypnotic, and abstract. Buy the CD here:

* Garaj Mahal - w00t
The 3rd studio effort by Garaj Mahal. They are one of those bands who I prefer studio over live, and they definitely deliver on this album. Lots of funky moments and technical virtuosity, and 3 tracks feature Fareed Haque playing the Moog guitar. Buy the CD here:

* Gongzilla - Five Even
In the past kind of jazz, kind of progressive rock; now Gongzilla has mixed things up and added vocals... The core of the band is still the same: Bon Lozaga on guitar, Hansford Rowe on bass, and Phil Kester on drums; along with guests David Fiuczynski, Chuck Garvey, Kai Eckhardt, and Jake Cinninger. They still have the textural abstract thing going on, and groove; but there's less percussion/marimba, and the songs are a little more structured with melodies and hooks, etc, versus their previous releases. Buy the CD here:

* Buddy Guy - Skin Deep
In my opinion, all of Buddy's Silvertone releases have been keepers, and this latest effort is no exception. This release has a lot of nice moments featuring guests such as Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeski, Robert Randolph, and Eric Clapton. Buy the CD here:

* Charlie Haden: Family & Friends - Rambling Boy
Charlie has gone back to his roots on this fine release... Lots of guest vocalists and musicians; Jerry Douglas (dobro), Sam Bush (mandolin), and Stuart Duncan (fiddle) are all over this recording. The CD is worth the price alone for the burning solo's by Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, and Bela Fleck on the track "Old Joe Clark." Buy the CD here:

* Jimmy Herring - Lifeboat
It's about time the jam world's most humble sideman released his own CD. The core band is Jimmy on guitar, Oteil Burbridge on bass, Jeff Sipe on drums, and Kofi Burbridge on piano. Then there are all the other great musicians contributing to different tracks: Derek Trucks, Greg Osby, Bobby Lee Rodgers, Ike Stubblefield, Matt Slocum, Scott Kinsey, and Tyler Greenwell. I was expecting this to sound similar to Aquarium Rescue Unit; but to my ears its closer to Weather Report. My favorite track on this CD is the "Jungle Book Overture." Buy the CD here:

* Charlie Hunter - Baboon Strength
Charlie is one of my favorite artists... In the event you are not familiar with him, he plays a guitar with guitar and bass strings, plays bass lines and guitar lines simultaneously. If you haven't seen Charlie Hunter live, you most definitely should check him out; and if you're a musician, prepare to be amazed... On this trio recording he is back to 7 string guitar (I'm pretty sure he's been using an 8-stringer on his previous recent CD's). He's accompanied by Erik Deutch on keyboards and casio tone, and newcomer Tony Mason on drums... On his earlier releases, Charlie's music was more in the jazz vein - Like his more recent releases, this CD continues to go more in the rock and experimental direction. Buy the CD here:

* Eric McFadden Trio - Delicate Thing
Eric McFadden is the best kept secret in the Bay Area; he plays out fairly regularly, releases CD's regularly, and is one of the most versatile guitarists I have ever seen. This guy is equally at home playing Django style gypsy jazz, flamenco, solo acoustic songwriter type stuff, bluegrass mandolin, and shredding electric guitar. The fact he is not more well known boggles my mind... The trio is him on guitar, James Whiton on upright bass (using effects, and a bow); and a rotating cast of drummers - On Delicate Thing the drummer is Paulo Baldi. Songs on this disc run the gamut from slower tunes with interesting lyrics, to more rocking tunes that would fit right in on Headbanger's Ball, such as "Bigger Piece of You." Buy the CD here:

* Medeski Martin & Wood - Radiolarians I
MMW's "Radiolarian" endeavor is this, in this sequence: In 4 months write new songs, perform songs live while on tour, record the songs, release the CD. Repeat 2 more times... So in a reversal from the normal trend, they are playing the music before making it available on commercial release; and this is the first of the 3 Radiolarian CD's to be released... Quite ambitious in my opinion... Since MMW is one of my favorite bands live and/or studio, its no surprise that this excellent CD is on my list. Based on the live performances I heard throughout 2008, I suspect the next 2 volumes will appear on my best of 2009 list. Buy the CD here:

* Ohm - Circus of Sound
Ex-Megadeth lead guitarist Chris Poland's instrumental progressive band, they've been making music since 1997. Along with Chris, there is Robertino Pagliari on bass, and 3 different drummers including Kofi Baker.... Nothing new or groundbreaking here, their 3rd studio recording, just more "metal-ish" fusion... What can I say? Old white guy music? Buy the CD here:

* Opeth - Watershed
Opeth's 9th album, and their first with a new lead guitar player and drummer. Like their previous efforts, I consider this death metal overall; but I also hear traces of different influences - 70's style progressive rock keyboards, lots of crunchy guitar solos and equally virtuosic acoustic guitar lines, intricate musical collaborative work-outs ala Rush and Dream Theater; and equal parts cookie monster unintelligible growls and soft ballad-like vocals. Buy the CD here:

* Railroad Earth - Amen Corner
I'm pretty particular about bluegrass/jamgrass music. String Cheese Incident didn't do it for me, nor do most of the like minded bands that came along afterwards. Railroad Earth is the exception to the rule. I saw them play at a festival a few years back and have been hooked ever since. More rock elements than bluegrass in my opinion. Great musicians in this band. My favorite track off the CD is "All Alone" which could easily pass for a "Jerry song" - A good thing... Buy the CD here:

* Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog - Party Intellectuals
This CD is pretty out... The tracks are as diverse as his sideman gigs are... Although I classify this as a rock album, it covers a lot of different ground. The band is a stripped down 3 piece - guitar, bass and moog, drums and electronics; along with some guest vocalists on a couple tracks, and guest percussion on one track. Edgy, dark, and eclectic. I like their grunge punk version of "Break On Through." Buy the CD here:

* Rose Hill Drive - Moon is the New Earth
One of the better old school rock power trio's in my opinion. A Colorado band... Reminds me of Zeppelin, Cream, and also newer band Wolfmother. This excellent album is their 2nd studio release; I was skeptical it would match their debut album, and I was pleasantly surprised. This is a very young band, If they stay together I expect more great things from them. Buy the CD here:

* McCoy Tyner - Guitars
This is a KILLER CD... McCoy along with the rhythm section of Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette along with guitarists Bill Frisell, Derek Trucks, John Scofield, Marc Ribot, and banjoist Bela Fleck. The package also includes a DVD of the studio sessions, which I haven't yet watched, so I can't comment on that... The CD though, is excellent. I like the Bela Fleck tracks best. Buy the CD here:

* John Zorn - Zaebos: Book of Angels 11
This is music composed by John Zorn, but performed by Medeski Martin & Wood; a continuation of Zorn's "Masada" theme. This CD is dark and dense compared to MMW's 2008 Radiolarians release, in my opinion. Buy the CD here: