Saturday, January 7, 2012

Best cd's of 2011...

Disclaimer: Below is a list of my favorite music of 2011. This list and individual reviews are my opinions only, and yours may vary, and that is okay. Also, there are a couple things I would've listed here, but excluded them instead for the reasons noted:

* Bruce Piephoff - Still Looking Up At the Stars
I have a production credit on this, so I can't include it in my top 20 with a clear conscience (conflict of interest). I can say though, this cd is fan-f*cking-tastic, and I listened to this disc more than anything else this past year. It's introspective music with vivid lyrical imagery that would probably be in the folk section of your record store, but crosses over into many other genres (country blues, electric blues, roots rock, free jazz/spoken word, Latin jazz); and it was produced by and features heavily my bro, Scott Sawyer. I am just as proud to be associated with this cd as I was with Scott's "Go There" cd which featured Kofi and Oteil Burbridge, and everyone who heard that one knows how great a cd it is… So, if you know me, and trust my judgment when it comes to great music, and like to and have the means to support the working artist, buy yourself a copy if you haven't already :-)

* Medeski Martin and Wood - 20
Each month during 2011, MMW released new, never-released tracks, for a total of 20 tracks to celebrate their 20th year anniversary. It's roughly 105 total minutes in length; and if it would've all been released at one time as a "hard copy" cd, instead of 20 individual tracks to download, then it definitely would have made my top 20!

Here we go… Without further ado, my top 20 cd's of 2011, in alphabetical order:

* Gregg Allman - Low Country Blues
As a longtime hardcore Allman Brothers Band fanatic, this is the cd on this list I consider myself most qualified to critique. Gregg Allman has had a very long career (40 plus years), with his share of mostly ups and a few downs. Now 14 years since the last studio recorded cd, and a year since receiving a liver transplant, Gregg Allman has released this fine effort. First off, it was produced by T-Bone Burnett, who seems to have the Midas touch when it comes to making albums (10 time Grammy winner!). This cd is no exception - The musicians are Gregg on vocals, B3, and some acoustic guitar, T-Bone on guitar; along with Doyle Bramhall III, Dr. John, and T-Bone's "go to" rhythm section of bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Jay Bellerose, and a horn section. Gregg Allman is 64 years old, his voice is weathered, and when he sings the blues you believe him. This cd is song oriented, a nice contrast to the long jammy improvisations of the Allman Brothers live concert experience. One song Gregg co-wrote with Warren Haynes; the rest are covers of tunes written by the likes of Muddy Waters, Skip James, Little Milton, BB King, Amos Milburn, Otis Rush, and Sleepy John Estes. Gregg doesn't flub any of the lyrics like he has become prone to doing (on stage) these last few years, and I only wish the Allman Brothers Band would release a studio album of this caliber in 2012. This cd has been nominated for a Grammy, best blues cd of 2011.

* Tab Benoit - Medicine
Blues from the Bayou... This music is beautiful, tasteful, sometimes dirty, Cajun blues; drenched in soul. Tab's voice reminds me of Jimmie Vaughan and his brother Stevie, he is spokesman for the Voices of the Wetlands Activist group; and some of his lyrics are regarding Louisiana's rapidly shrinking wetlands, while he also sings of love, joy, loss, and heartbreak. This is Tab's best effort yet, not that his other releases haven't been top shelf; but this is more or less a Nola supergroup of a band - Tab on guitar and vocals, Anders Osborne on guitar (and he co-wrote 7 of the 11 songs), Michael Doucet on fiddle, Ivan Neville on Hammond B3, and Brady Blade on drums. This band rocks it - Anders Osborne continues (see my best of 2010 list) to play guitar like a man possessed, and is on the verge of "breaking out" and each and every one of Michael Doucet's notes is perfect!

* Black Country Communion - Black Country Communion 2
This is a very strong sophomore effort from the supergroup that is Joe Bonamassa on guitar, Glenn Hughes on bass and vocals/from Deep Purple Mark III, Jason Bonham/son of Bonzo on drums, and Derek Sherinian of Dream Theater on keyboards. Like their previous cd, this is more 70's style hard rock that fits firmly in the Zeppelin/Deep Purple camp. If you're looking for something new sounding, you've come to the wrong place. If you prefer the classic rock sounds of the 70's, sit back and enjoy the ride. Their style may be seasoned, but they do it with much finesse. This is great summertime crank-up-your-car-stereo music, and I suspect a Black Country Communion concert would be filled with air guitarists!

* The Black Dahlia Murder - Ritual
This is the heaviest, rawest, most punk inclusion on this list. I have been following this Michigan band off and on for the last decade. Their sound seems to have gotten more melodic over time; but it's still very heavy death metal, with lots of cookie monster vocals, and at times it is aurally brutal. I consider this BDM's best cd yet. The production to me sounds better than their last couple albums, the tunes are a little more "finished" sounding. This is the 2nd Black Dahlia Murder cd with new guitarist Ryan Knight, and they have really stepped it up.

* Endangered Blood (self titled)
This is a NYC downtown acoustic jazz supergroup of sorts; Trevor Dunn on contrabass, best known for Mr. Bungle and also his work with John Zorn and Mike Van Patton. Longtime friends and collaborators Chris Speed (tenor sax) and Jim Black (drums), who have worked extensively with such NYC heavyweights as Tim Berne, Uri Caine, Dave Douglas, and Kurt Rosenwinkle. Lastly, Oscar Noriega on alto sax and bass clarinet, who is best known for his recent work with Paul Motian, Lee Konitz and Tim Berne. All tunes were written by Chris Speed with the exception of TS Monk's Epistrophy. This music is hard to describe, it's all blowing, no chords; but despite their name, the entire cd is not wall-shaking free jazz - Although there is a substantial free jazz vibe, there are also bits of straight-ahead and contemporary jazz, and some rock.

* Bill Frisell - All We Are Saying
Bill Frisell is a true Beatles fan, obviously… That thought springs to mind immediately when you hear him playing this collection of John Lennon tunes. This is another of his projects where jazz meets blues meets pop meets folk meets Americana. This band has uncovered many fine jewels deep in the terra firm of these songs I've heard hundreds of times. Lots of unworldly tones, swells, and twangy guitars can be heard on these very interesting arrangements; where sometimes the melody is so subtle it's almost hidden and other times it's very pronounced. I was one of the lucky few that caught this set live with the same lineup (Bill on guitar, Greg Leisz on steel guitar, Jenny Scheinman on violin, Tony Scherr on bass, Kenny Wollesen on drums), which makes this cd even more special to me. Bill Frisell can do no wrong. Also worthy of a listen or three is Frisell's other 2011 release, Sign of Life, music for his 858 Quartet >

* Morgan Agren / Henry Kaiser / Trey Gunn - Invisible Rays
Trey Gunn on bass and Warr guitar (an instrument similar to the Chapman Stick), Henry Kaiser on guitar, and Morgan Agren on drums. Morgan is from Sweden and has been associated with Zappa family side projects since the mid 90's. Henry Kaiser is a bay area guitarist who has played with everybody everywhere (first musician to record in Antarctica), and is recognized world-wide as a leader of the second generation of free improvisers who came of age in the '70s. He's been doing soundtrack work for the last decade too (He collaborated on Warner Heezog's "Grizzly Man"), and he's also a professional video camera operator (his underwater sequences have been used in "Wild Blue Yonder"). I actually met him randomly when he was filming Bill Frisell @ Yoshi's a couple years, ago for a documentary that I haven't seen officially released yet… Anyway, his playing and use of effects at times reminds me of both Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew. Trey Gunn was a member of King Crimson from 1995 through 2003 and also was involved in various KC related projeKcts. This music is very intense, a later 2000ish King Crimson like frenzy with a large dose of avant-garde experimentation. The opening track is nearly 23 minutes in length. This is another cd for the musically adventurous, I Love it!

* Warren Haynes Band - Man in Motion
What a surprise, another Allman Brother is on my list this year. Like Gregg's new one, this cd (his first studio band recording that is not Gov't Mule, in 18 years) has also been nominated for best blues cd of 2011 Grammy, which I find a bit odd, as Warren was going for more of a soul/R&B thing on this cd. While the cd is great and worthy (to me) of making this list, it's not a blues cd. However, genres aside, there is plenty of formidable guitar playing all over this cd, as expected… Also, the casual Warren Haynes fan might not have realized that he is also a great vocalist and songwriter, as he amply demonstrates on this cd. His band is top shelf as well, Ron Holloway on tenor sax in particular sounds great! So, yeah, not as heavy as a Mule cd - This is mainly soul and R&B with sprinkles of funk, blues, and gospel - but still a gift to the legion of Warren fans out there, and a great listen for all.

* Eric McFadden - Bluebird On Fire
This latest Eric McFadden cd is a bluesy cd; but stylistically all the songs are very different. This is no surprise if you're familiar with his guitar playing, as Eric is a virtuoso musician (and a great singer/lyricist) equally adept in many, if not all, music genres. The supporting cast on this cd is no joke either: James Whiton on a song, Dave Schools on 5 songs, and Norwood Fisher (Fishbone) on 3 songs; and that's just the bass players! EM is vastly underrated, he consistently releases great music, and his live shows are always off the hook (and the best deal in the bay area). On this latest cd, I hear traces of Johnny Cash, Nick Cave, John Lee Hooker, Jimi Hendrix, and a little Scotty Moore, to name a few… Bluebird On Fire is all killer, and no filler! My favorite tune is the meltdown that is It Takes a Man.

* Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood - In Case the World Changes Its Mind [Live]
John Medeski (keyboards), John Scofield (guitars), Billy Martin (percussion), and Chris Wood (bass). Intense, dark, crazed, electric, out, textured, discombobulated… These are adjectives that come to mind while listening to this excellent live double cd set. Most music heads I know are either: (A) fanatical about MMW, or (B) don't care for MMW… Then regarding the hardcore MMW-heads (I've interacted with on listservs and email lists), a lot of them don't like Sco with the band, they prefer just the trio; or if there must be a guitarist, Marc Ribot… Sco's musical personality seems to be too loud for some folks, they like Ribot because his voice is less prominent in the MMW plus 1 mix. Anyway, while I love seeing the Trio, I am also a huge John Scofield fan, and for me, MSMW is a match made in heaven. Sco has said in recent interviews that MMW is his favorite band, period, and this sounds to me like a band having a lot of fun on stage. But jazz purists and fans of John Scofield's traditional straight-ahead side, be warned; this isn't your grandfather's jazz, this is very jammy groove-heavy avant-garde stuff… I bet Wynton Marsalis hates it.

* Megadeth - Th1rt3en
50 year old Dave Mustaine is one of the most intense and interesting personalities in today's musical universe, metal or any other genre. Megadeth has been making music since 1985; and despite Dave's ups and downs, and whatever personnel changes have occurred over the years, nothing has deterred Dave from executing his mission - which is to consistently deliver the tightest loudest shred-guitar-heavy bone-crunching most real metal imaginable. The nickname world's state-of-the-art speed metal band has been used to describe Megadeth's sound, as well as the critic penned term intelligent metal and this cd is no exception. If any of you are worried that Dave's recent religious conversion has dulled his perspective or his lyrics, worry not, that has not occurred. Megadeth has been, and still is, simply the best working metal band for the last couple decades. Also, I highly recommend Dave's autobiography "Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir" published in 2010.

* Buddy Miller's Majestic Silver Strings (self titled)
Buddy Miller has been pretty huge in Nashville since the mid 90's. He's been on my radar for a few years now, but my first time seeing him was a very special night of this band (mostly) playing this material at Yoshi's in Oakland, in April of 2011. That was followed a few weeks later with Robert Plant's Band of Joy at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, with Buddy Miller on guitar. I've since listened to some of Buddy's back catalog, and I have deduced that he has been more than a minor influence on Bill Frisell's technique this last decade, as Frisell's Americana excursions have become more frequent. This cd is a Nashville/Downtown (NYC) Superband Masterpiece. Buddy Miller, Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, and Greg Leisz on strings, that same Bellerose and Crouch rhythm section that plays on the above-listed Gregg Allman cd, and different guest singers (including EmmyLou) appear on this cd. Ribot's contributions to this music are prominent, this could easily be a Marc Ribot cd instead of Buddy Miller's. It also includes a DVD with a 21 minute documentary on the making of the cd, plus one live song on video. The music is mostly old country music covers along with a couple Ribot and Frisell penned tunes. Track 6 is a brilliant rendition of Roger Miller's Dang Me with Marc Anthony Thompson/Chocolate Genius on lead vocals - If I had to pick my favorite song of 2011, there it is. This is not straight up country music, traditional country music fans and Buddy's wider fanbase might not get it; but fans of Ribot and Frisell and guitar in general will dig this music immensely.

* North Mississippi Allstars - Keys to the Kingdom
NMAS cd's have been hit and miss for me. I thought Shake Hands With Shorty and also Electric Blue Watermelon were both excellent cd's that will continue to get spins in my stereo for the foreseeable future, and same thing applies to this latest release; which is pretty much 2 son's eulogy for their father. It's not the furious electric guitar jams of past NMAS albums, it's more stripped down roots rock and unplugged, with guests from Jim Dickinson's generation, not Luther's and Cody's… Alvin Youngblood Hart is on board for a song, Mavis staples, Spooner Oldham, and Ry Cooder. Ain't no Grave (with Ry) is as heartfelt and poignant a goodbye as I have ever heard. Although death is one of the subjects of this cd's lyrical content, overall it is a celebration of life. Most of this material was written while Jim Dickinson lay dying in a Memphis hospital, and Luther's wife was pregnant with their daughter; and in the months following Jim's death they went in the studio and recorded this cd. Consequentially, it's the most personal collection of songs this band has released, and this cd ranks among the best of the NMAS.

* Opeth - Heritage
Swedish progressive death metal band Opeth's 10th studio release has certainly generated a lot of online discussion/debate. The cookie monster growls are gone; thus they have shifted away from their signature death metal sound, to something more reminiscent of 70's progressive rock. Think 70's Yes, 70's King Crimson, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd; and Mikael Akerfeldt's non-death vocals remind me of Greg Lake. This equates to a huge bummer for a lot of entitled metal fans, who feel the band owes them something; whereas the other camp of fans mostly dig the music and the experimental nature of this cd. It was mixed by Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, who also produced the 2003 Opeth cd, Damnation... Not coincidentally, Damnation was also too mellow for a lot of Opeth's fanbase; I thought it was great. Anyway, Heritage still has plenty of Opeth's trademark lightening fast intricate musical passages, and they demonstrate their masterful use of dynamics/space and silence with plenty of contrasting electric and acoustic instrumentation. This is the best Opeth cd yet, and I look forward to hearing what they do next.

* Primus - Green Naugahyde
Primus is back! Their 1st studio cd in 12 years sounds like what I expected it to sound like, a whole lot of Les Claypool wackiness :-) Plenty of indulgent very badass bass, some songs about fishing, very tight musical interludes that reek of Frank Zappa and 80's King Crimson, and the odd lyrics and quirky vocal delivery of Les Claypool; it's all there! I'm not a hard core Primus fan, my favorite cd's by the band are from early on in their career - Suck on This, and Sea's of Cheese - Green Naugahyde is just as good if not better .

* Red Hot Chili Peppers - I'm With You
I discovered the RHCP via Mother's Milk, I then went back and discovered their early catalog, the 3 cd's featuring founding guitarist Hillel Slovak (great music!) and by the time Blood Sugar Sex Magik came out, I was fanatical. For me, Blood Sugar was the RHCP's musical peak. Afterward, guitarist John Frusciante left the band and was replaced by Dave Navarro for the luke-warm One Hot Minute cd. Frusciante was back for the next one, Californication, and the RHCP fell off my radar after that. By the Way just didn't press my buttons. It sounded like rehashed versions of material they had previously recorded, and was a little too mainstream for my tastes; and what little I heard of Stadium Arcadium sounded like more of the same. When a band's albums begin to bore me, even a band I love, they generally fall off my radar then… Anyway, now in 2011, I'm happy to report the Peppers are sounding fresh and energized, following an extended hiatus; during which Flea returned to school (University of Southern California) to study music theory, composition, and jazz trumpet. John Frusciante is gone, again, and Josh Klinghoffer is the latest Chili Pepper guitarist. For what it's worth, Josh is a friend and collaborator of Frusciante's, having appeared on 4 of his cd's between 2004 and 2009. His style is less frenetic than Frusciante's, not quite as edgy. That has a lot of RHCP fan crying foul. I personally feel it's their best work since Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Less flashy guitar has them in a more experimental funk post-punk direction that is reminiscent of their early days. The hiatus and college experience seem to have inspired Flea; his bass playing is sounding better than ever, and his musical voice is strong and pronounced enough in the vibe to compensate for Josh's understated guitar work. The more I listen to this cd the more I like it.

* Tedeschi Trucks Band - Revelator
'Are there any other Allman Bros related cd's nominated for a best blues cd of 2011 Grammy this year?' Actually, yes, there is! There are 2 Allman Brothers on the Tedeschi Trucks Band's Revelator cd, Derek Trucks on guitar and Oteil Burbridge on bass, and indeed, it has been nominated for a Grammy, best blues cd of 2011... Add Kofi Burbridge on keys and flute, and already you have a slam dunk! No, this is not a Stax Records release, although it could easily be mistaken for one. This was recorded in Derek and Susan's home studio in Jacksonville, FL with an 11 piece band. Less jazz/out than the Derek Trucks Band, and less straight blues ala Susan Tedeschi Band, means a nice common ground that is mostly roots rock, retro soul and R&B, and copious amounts of Burbridge funk. Same as Derek's previous DTB cd's, I like the instrumental songs best (Shrimp and Grits, and the final hidden track). Hardcore Derek Trucks Band fans: I do feel your pain. I miss their live shows too. However, this cd does stand up to Derek's recent releases, plenty of killer guitar and ethereal tones all over it, plenty of Kofi and Oteil, and this is definitely not some sort of Yoko Ono like project… It is a real working touring band, and this is the next chapter in this current phase of Derek Truck's continued evolution towards guitar god status, for which he is destined. Also, for the record, in a live setting, Tedeschi Trucks Band is burning up the stage!

* Trombone Shorty - For True
I first stumbled upon Troy 'Trombone Shorty' Andrews when his band played the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park in 2010. I don't have HBO and don't follow Treme, otherwise these fat funkified grooves surely would have been on my radar. Anyway, I was pretty blown away by their HSBF performance, and went on to buy the cd Backatown, and that cd wound up making my best of 2010 list. This cd is the same funky Nola sound, with his same band (Orleans Avenue), along with some special guest musicians: Jeff Beck, Warren Haynes, Kid Rock, Lenny Kravitz (he was in Lenny's touring band in '05), Stanton Moore, and Rebirth Brass Band. This is happy music, and if it doesn't make you tap your foot or shake your ass, then you must not have a pulse!

* Tom Waits - Bad As Me
Tom Waits is such a prolific artist, his album/cd output is vast, I'm pretty sure I haven't heard all of it. I do know that my favorite Tom Waits cd's are Nighthawks at the Diner, Mule Variations, and Rain Dogs… Is there any better whiskey drinking music than Rain Dogs? This is Tom's first cd new of new material in 7 years. The roll call of musicians backing him on this cd is impressive, it includes: Marc Ribot, Keith Richards, David Hidalgo, and Will Bernard on guitars - Flea, James Whiton, and Les Claypool on bass - Tom's son Casey Waits on drums, and Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica. Even with all these wonderful musicians on this cd, Tom's voice and storytelling/lyrical imagery is still without a doubt the star of the show. The music is equal parts blues and ballads. The subject matter/lyrical content is too broad and simple yet sophisticated, for me to begin to expound on… Let me just say, listening to this cd is like reading a newspaper with everything written by your favorite classic American literature authors; and its message/statements/observations are very relevant to what is going on today, socially and politically. This is my favorite cd of the year.

* Steven Wilson - Grace for Drowning
Steven Wilson is the busiest guitarist on my radar, even busier than Warren Haynes. Here is a list of most of the stuff he currently is involved in:
1. Porcupine Tree's front man and creative force.
2. His side project, Blackfield (they released a cd in 2011).
3. His side project No-Man.
4. His side project Bass Communion
5. He mixed Opeth's 2011 cd, Heritage.
6. He is currently doing the 5.1 surround sound remixing of King Crimson and Jethro Tull's back-catalogs of music.
…And on top of all that, he still found time to release what I consider to be a progressive rock masterpiece. This was initially meant to be 2 separate cd's, but instead it was released as a double cd set. There are special guests galore: Tony Levin, Trey Gunn, Pat Mastelotto, Steve Hackett, and Jordan Rudess, to name a few. It's somewhere in between Porcupine Tree's heavy side and Bass Communion, which is more ambient. It reeks of King Crimson and Dream Theater (see the featured guests), early Rush, and even Pink Floyd to some degree. I know, same description could be applied towards Porcupine Tree, although I tend to think PT has gone less experimental in the last 10 years or so; less of the Floydian sound that the Radioactive Toy and Voyage 34 era's had going on. Anyway, back to this Grace For Drowning cd - It is possibly my favorite Steven Wilson cd yet, definitely my favorite SW cd since PT's Deadwing (2005).

Honorable Mention

* The Cars - Move Like This
The Cars 1st studio album in 24 years! The original bass player/lead singer Benjamin Orr died in 2000, from pancreatic cancer. The remaining 4 original members are all on this cd (bass now provided by keyboardist), Ric Ocasek now on lead vocals. Amazingly, it picks up right where they left off, with the same short hook-laden songs with their now signature (to me) synthesizer heavy sound… This music instantly transports me back to the early 80's when I was a young teenager and the Cars were all over the radio and MTV. I don't listen to commercial radio, so I don't know whether or not this is getting any airplay, but it wouldn't surprise me if this cd has some radio hits.

* Jane's Addiction - the Great Escape Artist
JA's first cd since 2003's Strays got a lot of mixed reviews from press and fans. I considered Strays pretty good, with more elements of metal than their run of albums from 1987-1990. On this new one, the Great Escape Artist, they've gone back to a more art-rock sound; but it's definitely minimalist compared to any other JA recording… While listening to Nothing Shocking for the first time was akin to unexpectedly being kicked in the teeth, the Great Escape Artist listening experience is more subdued. I guess the band has mellowed/matured in the last 25 years. It makes sense to me, I was a little wilder at 22 years of age, and lacking wisdom, compared to me at 45… I still hear the Zep influence, but I also hear Radiohead, and maybe some early U2. After the initial listen, I've been going back to this cd often. Less Dave Navarro flash, but he still gets his moments to shine; same thing applies to Stephen Perkins tribal drumming, and Perry Farrell still has something to say.

* Oz Noy - Twisted Blues, Vol. 1
Oz is an Israeli guitarist who relocated to NYC in '96, and since then has been a fixture in the scene there, playing regularly at venues like the 55 Bar and the Bitter End. Oz is a musician's musician; like Mike Stern, Allan Holdsworth, etc, the majority of Oz Noy fans are guitar geeks. I hear a lot of John Scofield influence in his playing, as well as Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughan. There are a lot of great musicians playing on this cd; including Vinnie Colaiuta, Anton Fig, Will Lee, John Medeski, Reese Wynans, and Eric Johnson to name a few. I would classify this music as blues fusion.

* Planet of the Abts
Planet of the Abts is a Gov't Mule side-project, born this year when Mule was on hiatus while the Warren Haynes Band toured. The band is Mule's rhythm section (Matt Abts/drums and Jorgen Carlsson/bass), along with Jorgen's friend T-Bone Andersson on guitars and keyboards; and Mule's Danny Louis blows some horns on the opening track. I bought this cd at the live show, and it greatly exceeded my expectations. I hear a strong Gov't Mule influence, obviously, and Led Zeppelin too; but also a strong progressive rock flavor that I didn't expect, like a hybrid of Wish You Were Here era Pink Floyd and Ozric Tentacles. This cd was a nice surprise, I highly recommend it.

* Todd Rundgren - Johnson
Runt's 21st album! This is a collection of Robert Johnson tunes. There is nothing new here, just TR's stripped-down interpretations of these classic RJ songs, with very little polishing. If I didn't know it was all just TR (guitar and drums) and Kasim Sulton on bass, I would've guessed this was recorded live in the studio. The blues purists probably don't appreciate this cd as much as the guitar heads - Todd definitely tips his hat not only to Robert Johnson, but also to RJ's British blues rock disciples like Eric Clapton and John Mayall; speaking of which, at 63 years old, Todd Rundgren still has a set of pipes on him, his voice sounds great, especially singing these old blues songs. Also, I didn't recall him being such a proficient guitar player, this is a nice reminder.

* George Thorogood and the Destroyers - 2120 South Michigan Ave.
First off, never in a million years did I think that George Thorogood would appear on this list. He became irrelevant to me not long after his I Drink Alone video (1985). I checked out this cd after reading a positive review of it somewhere on the web. 2120 South Michigan Ave was home to Chess Records, and it was the Stones song with that same title, that turned a young George Thorogood onto the magic that is Chicago Blues. This collection is mostly a bunch of covers from the classic Chess blues catalog, along with 2 originals; and Buddy Guy sitting in on 1 tune, while we're graced with Charlie Musselwhite's harmonica on 2 more. The cd was produced by Buddy Guy's drummer, Tom Hambidge, and the band's love and respect of the Chess label's history rings through loud and clear. I have no idea what his recorded output has been for the last couple decades; and I must say I am amazed at how natural he sounds, singing these songs you've heard countless versions of, countless times before. This is the cd that George Thorogood was born to record.