Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Random Groover's Best Music Picks of 2017

I actually compiled this list back in January, but realized today (5 months later) I never published it. So, without further ado, here is my list of best music of 2017. 5 jazz titles and 10 rock/blues/metal titles, and remember what they say about opinions. Let me know of anything I might've missed, via email or the comments section below. My favorite album of the year was 'Southern Blood.'

Top 10 rock/blues/metal

* Gregg Allman - Southern Blood
As close to perfection as possible, in my opinion, for a Gregg Allman solo album. It was recorded while he was battling the Liver Cancer that eventually claimed him, before the album was actually released. Initially, it was intended to be all new GA penned tunes, but instead it became covers of an autobiographical nature, plus one GA original and one Scott Sharrard (GA's guitarist) penned tune; with my favorite being the cover of Bob Dylan's 'Going Going Gone' -> - The vinyl version comes with a very nice Gregg Allman blood portrait poster.

* The Black Dahlia Murder - Nightbringers
This band has been a guily pleasure of mine since I saw them open for King Diamond roughly 13 years ago. They haven't deviated from their signature furious melodic raw high-tempo cookie-monster vocals sound. The album is ~33 minutes long, which for me is a good dosage, for music this extreme; a full hour would be too much.

* Gizmodrome (self titled)
Gizmodrome is considered a supergroup, and the band is comprised of Stewart Copeland on drums and vocals (The Police), Mark King on bass (Level 42), Adrian Belew on guitar (King Crimson, David Bowie, Frank Zappa), and Italian singer/multi-instrumentalist Vittorio Cosma. It's fun quirky prog music. I was suprised that Adrian isn't lead singer, but since Copeland wrote the lyrics it makes sense he sings them... Plus it keeps it from sounding like another Adrian Belew led King Crimson side project.

* Gov’t Mule: Revolution Come…Revolution Go
Another solid Gov't Mule Album.

* Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - The Nashville Sound
This album, it seems to me, has just a tad more commercial than the last one, in my opinion; more "hooks" I mean. It's not a bad thing, just an observation. I still hear a "Southern Neil Young vibe." I've read a few not great reviews, in comparison to their last couple albums; but I think this is as strong as any other this band's albums thus far.

* Taj Mahal / Keb' Mo' - TajMo
I'm a huge fan on both Taj and Keb as solo artists, so I was pretty excited to hear this album once I caught wind that it was happening. It's as killer as I expected it to be, and I anxiously await round 2. Bonus points for Joe Walsh sitting in on the 'Squeeze Box' cover.

* North Mississippi Allstars - Prayer For Peace
This is NMAS'es 19th album! Their approach hasn't changed much. Modern stripped down Hill Country Blues. The big man on bass, Chris Chew, has been out of the band for a few years now. This current version of NMAS is a duo, Luther and Cody Dickinson, augmented by guest musicians on different songs, including Oteil Burbridge and Grahame Lesh. 2 originals and 10 covers, their version of 'Deep Ellum Blues' is as good as any I have heard (, this album is outstanding.

* Robert Plant - Carry Fire
Another great Robert Plant album with the Sensational Space Shifters backing him, still one foot in the past (blues) and one foot towards the future.

* Chris Robinson Brotherhood - Barefoot In The Head
CRB's best album yet. More of the same 70's psychedelic southern rock sound, with the Jerry Garcia Band vibe a bit less pronounced in the mix; whereas the CRB funk is a bit more prominent.

* The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
The WoD is one of my favorite newer bands; I still hear the same Tom Petty, Dire Straits/Mark Knopfler and Pink Floyd influences that I heard on their last album.

Top 5 Jazz

* John Abercrombie - Up and Coming
John's last cd. AN ECM release, like most of his music. Very nice but also bittersweet.

* Chris Combs - Combsy
This was a Kickstarter crowdfund project. Chris is the guitarist/lap steel player in Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey (post Reed Mathis version of band) and was the mastermind behind their excellent Race Riot Suite album. Chris is based in Oklahoma and this album has a bit of a New Orleans vibe (the horns). He has his own thing going on, no doubt; not quite jazz and not quite rock fusion, and I do hear at times a Frisellian nod on the lap steel. His rhythm section at times reminds me of Bob Green's Grassy Knoll band. This is a must listen album if you're into modern avant garde experimental music. 5 stars all the way!

* DeJohnette Grenadier Medeski Scofield: Hudson
Another amazing project that John Scofield is part of, along with 3 other brilliant players. Sco quite simply can do no wrong.

* Bill Frisell / Thomas Morgan - Small Town
Guitar and upright bass, another ECM release, enough said. Bill's last ECM recording was back in '87! This new one was recorded live at the Village Vanguard in 2016.

* Craig Taborn - Daylight Ghosts
I pretty much enjoy any and all music with the Bad Plus'es Dave King on drums, especially an ECM Records production. In addition to Craig on piano and Dave on drums, there's also Chris Speed on tenor sax and clarinet, and Chris Lightcap on bass; all badass musicians! This album received much critical acclaim from multiple major jazz publications.