It's that time of year where most everybody gives out their year end reviews...So here's mine even though I haven't finished off the '90's. That'll come someday soon. Anyways fast-forward to now.
Maybe, it was the sign of the times and things to come. Woodstock '99. The three days of peace and love in concert, that was marred by a barrage of heavy metal and rap acts. A show of superheated sun and four dollar bottles of water. This was a buildup that lead to riot that left the place burnt to the ground. What happened here? Was it the greed and the allure for instant self gratification? The power of commercialism? Well. it's a trend I'm seeing these days.....
Things didn't get much better from there. As luck would have it, my relationship/marriage of 16 years crumbled and then failed. The divorce was a pathetic nightmare that I wish to never repeat. All that I worked for, my family and my home, gone...all because of instant self gratification.
Instant gratification seemed to run its course throughout the 2000's. The Internet fed thousands of downloaded tunes to I-pods everywhere. While technology made lives easier, it created the faster, better and more mentality. I saw music regressing. Fewer people bought CD's to listen to as a whole. Bands came and went faster than I could up with with. Songs got shorter and solos became almost non-existant. Seems like attention spans get shorter. In spite of it all, I managed to uncover some great stuff!
Let's check it out!
Gov't Mule High & Mighty-2006 It may be a surprise to many see this album number one on my list! For starters, this album is very personal to me on so many levels. Especially the climatic "Stairway to Heaven" like anthem, "So Weak, So Strong" Secondly, this Allman Brother Band spin-off musically reached a new plateau. Warren Haynes and the boys muscle their way through southern fried rockers, blues-even a little reggae! Bonding the elements with wailing guitars and haunting vocals! Gov't Mule is the real deal!
Neil Young Le Noise-2010 One man, one guitar. That is all that was needed here. Neil Young pours his soul into the most personal and reflective album in a decade! The absence of any other instrumental elements just amplifies the heart and soul is the very essence of this album! Young just rocks my brains out here!
Robert Plant/Alison Krauss Raising Sand-2007 Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant collaborates with a most unlikely source, country/bluegrass crooner/fiddler Alison Krauss. Together, they dive into a world of country, blues, rockability and American folk. The results are surprisingly brilliant! Plant may no longer have the voice the old Zeppelin days, but its filled with more emotion and passion than ever!
U2 No Line on the Horizon-2009 The days are gone when U2 were trying to keep it simple—at this point, the lads have realized that over-the-top romantic grandiosity is the style that suits them, so they come on like the cosmic guitar supplicants they were born to be. Here U2 pushes forward with beautiful lyrics and diamond like guitars! As the U2 train keeps on rolling like a locomotive, one has to wonder if they are ever going reach a zenith...
Allman Brothers Band Hittin' the Note-2003 I really really loved the Haynes/Betts guitar combo. Boy, was I ever bummed out over the dismissal of founding member Dickey Betts. Thought that would be the end for the Allman Brothers. Miracles do happen. Enter young slide guitar prodigy, Derek Trucks! This new combo rejuvenates the band with a fresh new set of songs, quite possibly their best since 1972's Eat a Peach!
Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam Coming Up for Air-2009 "A legend in the making" were the words spoken after the concert that we've seen in the summer of '09. Young guitarist Davy Knowles just wailed and played with such an unbridled passion that I haven't seen in a LONG time! This guy is on the right path towards success...Oh yeah, he is a real nice guy. Very humble about the position that he is in. He seemed glad to shake my hand.
Rush Vapor Trails-2002 Following the deaths of drummer/lyricist Neil Peart's wife and daughter, Rush takes a five year hiatus. Peart then travels cross country on his BMW motorcycle to mourn and reflect. Armed with a chock-full of ideas, Peart's return brought out an album that was very personal and devoid of any keyboards. Rush boldly enters a new era!
Metallica Death Magnetic-2008 Metallica ROARS back in into action after a few year gap between albums. This time, they return to their roots of epic speed metal with their signature time changes. A first since 1988's ...And Justice for All. This was the album that the die hard fans were waiting for!
Black Crowes Freak 'n Roll...Into the Fog-2006 A live album that features the most popular line-up of the Black Crowes. Recorded live from a performance at The Fillmore in San Fransisco. This show is nothing short of being magic! The band just rips and burns through their classic and obscure numbers showing their strengths in the Allman Brother like jams, the horns and the gospel singers. Breathless I am!
Counting Crows Hard Candy-2002 Hard Candy is the sound of a band at a creative and poetic summit. Adam Duritz and the rest of the band moves through varied musical territories as a way of conveying emotion through performance, texture, and nuance, the place where the mood meets the heart meets the mind. This is storytelling at its best!
Queen+Paul Rodgers The Cosmos Rock-2008 The second coming of Queen! You can't replace Freddie Mercury, no one can. Instead, Bad Company's vocalist Paul Rodgers joins the surviving members of Queen and they put their own stamp on things. Kind of like having a whole new band! There are powerful catchy hooks here as well some amazing guitar work from Brian May!
REM Accelerate-2008 After their dismal 2004 release, Around the Sun, REM was desperate for a comeback. And they found it with Accelerate! Accelerate corrals 35 minutes of the fastest songs Stipe and Co. have written in decades, all performed with a sense of joyous purpose that clearly comes from a "Fuck it, let's just do this" attitude. It's the bare bones sonic riff filled attack that has kept me the edge of my seat! I love it!
Pearl Jam Riot Act-2002 Pearl Jam always have been an interesting band to me. They never followed trends, in fact, they create them! So why should this album be any different? Here they explore the more artier side of rock. They managed to seamlessly blend politics, electronic experimentation, ballsy hard rock, acoustics with other odds and and ends together in a restless, passionate record that delivers musically and emotionally!
Los Lonely Boys (s/t)-2004 What you get when you cross Santana and Stevie Ray Vaughan? These guys! Inspired by the rock and roll basics of Chuck Berry, the Beatles and Ritchie Valens, this trio of Garza brothers blend them with the Latino Tex/ Mex sounds of Santana and Freddy Fender. This stew is rich not only in history, but energy, songwriting craft, fine singing, and amazing playing! And there's the blues! At moments I feel that I could hear the ghost of Stevie Ray Vaughan playing...Contains the hit single "Heaven"
Widespread Panic Earth to America-2006 There is something about jam bands that I love. I could easily listen to long instrumental breaks and still feel the emotion within. In this Widespread Panic album, they fill that role perfectly. Not only that, they'll take on a variety of musical genres. There's the hard rocking of "Solid Rock", the Latin flavored "You Should be Glad" and the acoustical "Whiskey and Ribs" It'll be interesting to see how this band evolves...
Deep Purple Bananas-2003 This album, Bananas has every sign of being a disappointment. Jon Lord's grandiose keyboards and Richie Blackmore's fiery guitar were always a focus, but they're gone. Surprise! It's fantastic! Replacements Don Airey and Steve Morse provide the perfect backdrop to vocalist Ian Gillan's dry and witty delivery. There's the light funky reggae in "Doing It Tonight" to the winding and pastoral "Never a Word" Loose, but tight is the best way to describe this album!
Bon Jovi Have a Nice Day-2005 Bon Jovi has certainly come from a long way from the days of "You Give Love a Bad Name". Gone are the glitter, glam and the big hair. The boys from Jersey have strengthened their songwriting skills as they made their shift from pop metal to a more visionary Springsteen like landscape. I can see the American Heartland in here!
Bruce Springsteen The Rising-2002 America suffered a huge loss in the 9/11 attacks and the Boss answered the call magnificently with a killer album! Here the music is often fierce in its execution, but in essence it is a requiem for those who perished in that sudden inferno, and those who died trying to save them. Springsteen grandly salutes their innocence and their courage, and holds out a hand to those who mourn them, who seek the comfort of an explanation for the inexplicable. My hat is off to Bruce!
My Morning Jacket Evil Urges-2008 Perhaps the most unique band that I've heard in ages! They are so hard to pigeon hole to any category! They're NOT a neo-psychedelic outfit, an alt-country group, a jam band, or the contemporary torchbearers of Southern rock & roll. They're none of those things -- or perhaps they're ALL of those things, as Evil Urges offers the widest swath of musical fare in the My Morning Jacket catalog. There's rock & roll ("Aluminum Park," "I'm Amazed"), country ("Sec Walkin'"), rootsy pop nuggets ("Two Halves"), ballads about sexy bookworms ("Librarian"), and the aforementioned trips into Funkytown. "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream, Pt. 2" concludes the album with eight minutes of kaleidoscopic sound!
Iron Maiden A Matter of Life and Death-2006 I had fallen out of touch with Iron Maiden since their 1988's release, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. The main reason for that was the constant line-up changes. Well, they're back together in their most popular line-up with the addition of a third guitarist, Janek Gers. I'm glad that I stumbled across the album! If you take a look at it, the whole record is a loosely-knit song cycle with war at its core, they exhume prog rock complexity and discipline yet manage to bristle with the kind of small-club intensity usually reserved for acts half their age.
Blues Traveler Bridge-2001 After the death of their bass player, Bob Sheehan, John Popper and the boys take time off to heal and reflect. Resurfacing as a five piece with their addition of of keyboardist Ben Wilson, the band takes a more personal direction. There's a sense of peace and maturity to the record that's appealing, especially since it's weighted with an undercurrent of loss and experience.
Them Crooked Vultures (s/t)-2009 Damn! As I was writing this blog, I realized that I had forgotten about this album! Kinda late to rewrite this blog to place where it should be. No matter. What matters is how sensational this album is! A supergroup staring Led Zeppelin's bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, Queens of the Stone Age's vocalist/guitarist Josh Homme and Nirvana's drummer David Grohl. This trio can play grippingly musical hard rock, where power is secondary to interplay. And while there are melodies and hooks that certainly dig into the skull, what impresses is chemistry, how the three play together, how they instigate each other, and how they spur each other on, to the point where their familiar tropes sound fresh!
Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-2002 Favored among many critics! Unwilling to change the album to make it more commercially viable, the band bought the finished studio tapes from Warner/Reprise for 50,000 dollars and left the label altogether. No matter! This long-anticipated album continues their genre-jumping and worthwhile experimentation. Front man Jeff Tweedy takes the band on a evolutionary journey that few dare to tread....
John Mayer Heavier Things-2003 I really don't care about what is said about John Mayer in the tabloids. What matters to me the most is the music! This is mood music here, slick, smooth and streamlined, perfect for a romantic date. Here Mayer keeps things simple, concentrating on how the record sounds and feels. His music just floats through the speakers, leaving a lush laid back feeling...
Muse The Resistance-2009 With its titanic guitar solos, symphonic suites, and multi-layered melodies, Muse's fifth album operates under the assumption that bigger is better. This is the very definition of a super-sized album, an album that takes its cues from Queen, its lyrics from science fiction novels, and its delivery from rock opera. Presiding over the mix is frontman Matthew Bellamy, a man who seemingly aspires to be both Brian May and Freddy Mercury! He plays guitar, pounds the piano, and composes the album's orchestral parts, but his strongest asset is his voice, a sky-scraping tenor dripping with so much emotion that it's almost lewd. He croons, whispers, annunciates, and belts with confidence! This album is a must have!
So here it is, my top 25 for the decade! Weather you agree with me or not, that's fine...After all music is a matter of taste. This list is not even set in stone. I go through my phases...Anyways, those honorable nominees that almost made my list-Train Drops of Jupiter, Rolling Stones A Bigger Bang, Bob Dylan Love and Theft, Black Country Communion (s/t), Heart Red Velvet Car, Green Day American Idiot, Phish Round Room and others! So what's your list?