Sunday, January 10, 2010

2009 Wrap Up: Highs, Lows, Reissues & Buried Treasures

Highlights: Leonard Cohen at Radio City (at last!); Grace Jones at Hammerstein (give Hurricane, her latest, a try - it's magnificent); dancing to Michael Jackson at every party (why did we ever stop? Did we get enough?); watching Stephen Stills rip it at the Hall Of Fame concerts on HBO (go to 2:09 in the clip); Lou Reed/Metallica was cool, too; discovering DJ/Rupture's Mudd Up podcast; taking my daughter and nephew to Girl Crazy at City Center (can't have too much Gershwin); DJ'ing New Year's Eve again; and my 120 gig iPod.

Lowlights: Death of Michael Jackson (more on him another time) and so many other valuable musicians; playing requests at my New Year's Eve DJ gig (if you ain't going to dance to it, don't ask for it!); getting a targeted marketing email from Amazon trying to sell me the new album from self-justifying woman-hitter Chris Brown (this was related to my buying history how?); and yet another year with no new music from Portuguese genius Gecko Turner.

Reissues: This year was dominated by that four-headed elephant in the room: The Beatles remasters. And rightly so - whether you swing stereo or mono, this was a necessary upgrade, if even only for the packaging. The biggest surprise for me was Magical Mystery Tour. Finally, all the takes George Martin mashed-up to create the final masters blend beautifully on Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane and the rest sounds terrific, too. Chuck out those clunky jewel-cases with those indifferent CD's and get this behemoth now.

However, there were other reissues of note: The Who Sell Out and Tito Puente's Dance Mania got well-deserved deluxe editions. The Who's fake radio station shows the contrast between British rock and the culture it was blowing up. It's outrageous, polished, profound, hilarious, and it rocks. Tito was simply el rey of mambo and this album (and it's successor, included here) sealed his rep. The production gleams and displays all the interlocking parts of his amazing band like an exposed V12 engine. A pinnacle of Latin music and music in general.

Buried Treasures: While the resurgence of Rodriguez continued to amaze (check out his Daytrotter session), it was undiscovered wonders from Death and Tim Buckley that forced 2009 listeners to reassess some piece of the past. 

For The Whole World To See, Death's lone recording, is a six song blast of proto-punk, with an almost proggy expansiveness to songs like "Politicians In Their Eyes." Aside from a misguided drum interlude (I hesitate to call it a solo), this record is fresher than many sounds recorded today. But in 1974, these three African-American brothers from Detroit had their fingers on a pulse only they could feel. Keep an eye out for the film of their startling story. 

Live at the Folklore Center, March 6th, 1967 finds Tim Buckley pouring his heart out to a crowd of 35 enthusiastic fans. Sometimes compared to Nick Drake, Buckley typically burns at a much higher intensity and this stunning performance is no exception. His high tenor is lush and impassioned and his guitar playing is deft - in short, he's at the top of his game. Did I mention there are six (six!) Buckley songs that appeared nowhere else? Whether you're an old fan or a curious newcomer, this is essential listening. Thanks to Izzy Young and the Buckley estate for giving this collection a long overdue airing. 

In two weeks: Enough of 2009. A review of Spoon's latest serving, Transference.

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