Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best Of The Rest Of The Decade

It's gotta be a strange twist of fate, Olivia Newton John has an important question to ask. No,it has nothing to do with getting physical.

Okee Dokee, time to start wrapping up this set of posts I haven't even gone over my favorites of '09 and the year's almost over. No cohesive theme to what's left just as Rush would say "Subdivisions"

One Nation Under A Groove

Dance sister dance, as Genesis said I can't dance but I do like dance music when it's done with a little funk. The kind of funk you get with real musicians not samples of real musicians or computer programming. So who was jammin' on the one this decade? The Red Hot Chili Peppers mellowed out a lot yet on their double disc Stadium Arcadium (2005) they mixed things up so you got the chill Chilis ("Snow"), the rock Chilis ("Dani California") and the funked up Chilis ("Tell Me Baby"). It took a little bit for this to grow on me but it has become a classic to me.

Fellow for 90's groove experts Dave Matthews Band shook off the need to sound like someone else on this year's Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King. Groo Grux is the most natural sounding DMB release since Beyond These Crowded Streets (1998) and a fine tribute to their late saxophonist Leroi Moore.

While far from his best the Purple One started a comeback in 2004 with Musicology. A nice rehash of the type of melodies and beats Prince does so well.

All About Retro Soul

A wave of nostalgia hit pop music the past few years and some artists were able to hook up with a sizable audience by performing soulful music sans hip hop cool. Train wreck Amy Winehouse led the charge with her excellent Back To Black (2006) disc. That album contained performances by the Dap Kings who were with Sharon Jones for her outstanding '07 release 100 Days, 100 Nights.

That's Retro Progress

Progressive Rock has died a million deaths yet one band that keeps the spirit alive is Dream Theater. The New York band put out new music on a regular basis my favorite of which was their softest of the decade Octavarium (2005). The singles "I Walk Beside You" and "The Answer Lies Within" were OK but hid the real pleasures of the disc such as the knotty "Panic Attack" and the absolutely epic 24 minute title song.

Meanwhile standard bearers of the Prog name Yes mustered their last studio effort, 2001's Magnification. Recorded with an orchestra in between Wakemans, Magnification is shaping up to be the classic band's last shot of new material. Outside of the silly "Don't Go" it's a treat with some nice hooks and sweeping arrangements, you know, the stuff that makes Yes great.

Guitarist Steve Howe couldn't leave things at that though, reconciling a quarter century old grudge with John Wetton to reform the original lineup of Asia. Their '08 reunion album Phoenix was more mellow than I liked but no one...wait let me restate NO ONE can deny the power of original Asia! OK, a lot of people can and do deny it but not on my watch.

Have You Never Been Mellow?

Have you ever tried - that is the question Olivia Newton John posed decades ago. And the answer is yes, I have been mellow and to prove it I have to give props to Norah Jones jazzy pop debut Come Away With Me (2002) that goes down easy like - must resist dirty metaphor - hot tea on a cold winter night. Bluegrass experts Alison Krauss and Union Station were finger pickin' good on Lonely Runs Both Ways (2004). Then Krauss went and teamed up with Led Zepper Robert Plant for their Grammy lauded team up Raising Sand (2007). And the 21st Century kicked off with a tight reunion via Walter Becker and Donald Fagan a 'la Steely Dan. 2000's Two Against Nature was a return to their tastefully clean pop rock ways.

You're Getting Even While I'm Getting Odd

We now arrive at the potpourri category of Jeopardy taking random bands for $100. Kicking it off is the one hit wonder Los Lonely Boys whose 2004 album is a treat for fans of Latin inflected Texas blues rock (I know, such a large category). Aussie retro rockers Jet converted millions to IPOD listeners with their awesome advertisement hit song "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" from the feckless Get Born disc (2003). Really belonging to the Old Timers post, Tom Petty had a pleasant mellow ride on the Highway Companion (2006) album. And just for laughs, the amazing comedy duo Flight Of The Conchords served up a very funny EP The Distant Future (2007) which I played as recently as two nights ago.

That's almost all, next up I choose my favorite CD of the 2000's so far. A hint, it's a shocker. At least it shocks me and I'm the one picking it.

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