Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 Crackin' Countdown

So, here we are. Another year is behind us and the time to share (or possibly subject) your opinion with everyone about the year's best and worst has arrived. This past time began rather humbly a few years ago as a basic mail between some friends highlighting the best tunes of the year. Since then and as the emails starting circulating to a wider audience it has grown and (d)evolved into a list of things from the past year about anything that you want to write about. Since I spent six months of this year traveling with my head (more or less) in the sand I don't really know what was good or bad this year. Actually, everythingwas good! That's me done.

Here's my 2007 Crackin' Countdown:

Good stuff - everything!
Bad stuff - nothing!

Well, I suppose I should be a little bit more forthcoming than that. Therefore, I have decided that I am going to write about the music from the road trip. The CDs we bought and played in the car.

In no particular order or style, I give you the 2007 crackin' countdown of Tarmac Soul. The Stereo Love.

Doolittle - Pixies
This was the very first CD we played on the trip after we arrived and rented our first car. We were excited. We were in Boston. It's probably their best album. It was our own little salute to the Bean Town.

Magical Mystery Tour - The Beatles
This album was very experimental and was in fact asoundtrack to a TV film of the same name. The film was totally crap but thankfully the tunes weren't. From the melodic McCartney songs 'Penny Lane' and 'Your Mother Should Know' to the heady Lennon tunes 'Strawberry Fields Forever' and 'I Am The Walrus' it is a great album to listen to while driving and sounds as good as it did when it was released forty years ago. It is also a very good representation of the infamous Summer of Love sound from 1967 during our Summer of No-Love in 2007...

Carte Blanche II - Various Artists
A nice little compilation that I found buried in a cardboard box in Rebel Rebel in New York. It was released by Naked Music and makes its way through lounge, nu jazz, breakbeat and house. Perfect for chilling out to and watching the miles go by. Not really Paulo's cup of tea but he never complained whenI played it. Even after the fourth or fifth time.

A Cut Above The Norm - Various Artists
A little beeeauty that I found in a shop in Boston for only six dollars! It is a collection of all the original tunes that Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim) used as samples for all of his singles. I like Norm's stuff although some of it can wreck my head after a while. But this CD gives a nod to all the obscure stuff he must have dug through thousands of crates to find. Qualiteee!..

The Doors - The Doors
A classic first album and one of the best debuts of all time. Even though they didn't have a bass player and Jim Morrison could barely look at the crowd when they performed live. I read somewhere the other day that The Doors still sell two million albums a year. When you listen to this, it's not hard to figure out why.

Dig Your Own Hole - The Chemical Brothers
The Chemicals second album that moved a little bit away from big beat / techno to introduce rock music into the equation. Kick-ass bass lines, hip-hop drum loops and sampled guitars all make for a collection of serious grooves. I dare you to try and stay within the speed limit while driving and listening to 'Block Rockin' Beats'.

Back In Black - AC DC
The first album after Bon Scott's death and the one that introduced the world to Brian Johnson. Paulo was driving while we played this and how we didn't crash the car is totally beyond me. I have never seen anyone do more air guitars, air basses, air drums and more air guitars in the course of 42 minutes in my life.

Rykodisc 20th Anniversary Collection - Various Artists
I picked up this compilation in Philadelphia in Repo Records on South Street. The label was formed in 1983 and claims to be the very first CD-only independent label. Twenty years can see a lot of music and this compilation does a great job at including just about everything but the kitchen sink. Eclecticism is always a great way to pass the time during long drives.

Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not - ArcticMonkeys
Of course we were going to listen to this. Paulo can't go more than a few days without listening to these guys. Another crackin' first effort by a bunch of guys who probably wouldn't have even been able to legally drink in a bar in the States when this was released. I'm still kicking myself for not buying their T-shirt in Newbury Comics in Boston. The usual - 'Oh, I'm sure I'll see it again'. After 12,000 miles I didn't see the shirt even once more...

Gets Next To You - Al Green
This one was one of my selections. After seeing this CD in loads of different shops over the years, I finally bought it in Bleecker Street Records in NewYork because the price was right. And because I finally decided that I couldn't live another day without his cover version of 'Light My Fire'. The album is full of covers and the whole thing is seriously funky. Willie Mitchell told Al Green that he would be famous within one year of moving to Memphis in 1969. It actually took two years and two albums but once this was released, everyone in the world knew who Al Green was.

High Havoc - Corduroy
One of Paulo's favourite albums from one of his old favourite bands. The lads from London who played acid jazz and were referred to as the guys who didn't really give a toss and didn't sport polo necks and didn't sit around comparing sideburn growthage. Either way their groovy film soundtrack(ish) take on the acid jazz scene goes down wonderfully when one has many miles to cover.

Aha Shake Heartbreak - Kings Of Leon
No trip anywhere or any time spent in a car would be complete without these lads. I'm not so keen about their last album but the first two are among my favourites and Aha Shake got a few spins on the CD player. They are the band of brothers and one cousin who grew up in Tennessee and had a large exposure to the south when they traveled around with their father who was a preacher. They also claim to have sang at rodeos while growing up as well being members of a choir for a short while. Whatever they may have done in the past, these dudes now rock, roll and deliver. Like they say in the Volunteer state - Tennesseein' is believin'!

Under The Influence - Various Artists (Compiled bySuper Furry Animals)
Another compilation series designed to reflect an artist's influences and favourite tunes. Thankfully, this one is not mixed and since each of the four lads from Wales chose three songs, it truly is quite eclectic. For me the standout track has to be 'Rez' by Underworld. They may be the band that I constantly get confused with Supergrass but they sure know how to make a mixed tape!

The Mix-Up - Beastie Boys
The boys are back! Another cracking instrumental album from the B-Boys who told us how to fight for our right to party twenty years ago. I picked this CD up in Nashville in a shop called Grimey's and immediately fell in love with it. The lads show off their musical talent while displaying their influences from funk, jazz, rock and electronica. Sometimes they plod and bounce along. Sometimes they break it down. Sometimes they groove and other times they rock. But they are brilliant throughout and never ever miss a beat.

Florida Funk 1968-1975 - Various Artists
Another little gem that I found in Grimey's buried way down deep on the compilation shelf. All the tracks are extremely obscure funk numbers and were recorded by bands from Florida. I'm not so sure why it was so damn funky down there during those seven years but thank God it was! I generally don't buy compilations that I can't listen to first but this one was tempting me. And when I read the sticker on the front that said three featured tracks had been used as samples by DJ Shadow there was no way that I couldn't buy it! My favourite track is one called 'It's Gonna Be A Mess' by the Mighty Dogcatchers. And apparently their career was. It was the only song they recorded that made any sort of impression but they had a hard time trying to play it live. Apparently, the drummer would get so excited that he was unable to keep a steady tempo throughout the song and would wreck the rhythm. Even the recorded version is a bit wonky. But you gotta love the fact that the brother was truly overcome by the funk!

An End Has A Start - Editors
A great fucking album. That's all I have to say. Fucking great. Paulo bought it the day it came out and I bought a copy in Seattle. With two CDs floating around, it featured quite prominently in our rotation. Not a duff track to be found. Fucking great.

Soul Message - Richard 'Groove' Holmes
A wonderful CD that I bought in a shop called Vintage Vinyl in The Loop in St Louis. Another great shop that I am kicking myself over because I did not buy aT-shirt. They use a picture of Miles Davis as their logo and I really need to get my head checked for not buying one. Anyhoo, back to the tunes...

Richard Holmes certainly earned the groove moniker he used in his name and this album is certainly among his finest work. He took the Hammond B-3 organ from it's beginnings in church and brought it into the jazz mainstream. He played it like few others and managed to cover the rhythm, bass and organ solos in each song. All at the same time! Some people have referred to him as the Jimi Hendrix of jazz. I'm not sure about that but this album is perfect for driving with the windows down in the summer time. It was on constantly during the few days we stayed in Cincinnati and had to drive back and forth between the city and our hotel. A relaxed, cool summer vibe through and through.

Summer Of Love - Various Artists
OK. I'm going to have to come clean. When I was in America, I bought some music in Target. (Or as we say around here (and there) Tar-Jay. It's cheap and cheerful and it's not often that a compilation CD with twenty songs delivers twenty absolute crackers. An excellent homage to the 1967 summer long 'love-in'.

Magnifico! - Alex Chilton
I first heard of this guy when I was living in Madrid. I went on a day trip to a small town called Toledo that was once the capital city of Spain. After strolling around in the heat for a few hours, we ducked into a little cafe for a drink. We were greeted by unbelievably friendly staff and one of the coolest, most appealing CDs I have ever heard. When I asked who it was the gentleman told me it was Alex Cortiz and showed me the CD.

Since that day I tried to find just a single copy of one of his albums. No luck. Until I walked into Rasputin Records in San Francisco. I found it by accident and it was only ten dollars! Plus it is a greatest hits compilation so it is probably the best starting place for his music. The talent that Cortiz has and that places him head and shoulders above most of his contemporaries is his ability to sample old funk nuggets and soul biscuits in a way that you know the song but can't quite place it. And his production is perfect. Truly a gem of a CD and a great find that only took about 15,000 miles of travel to find!

I could keep writing but I should probably stop there. Now you have some insight into our musical journey from this summer.

Many thanks to all of you for reading my blog and a huge thank you to Paulo for being my best mate and the best traveling partner anyone could ever ask for. You are a leg-end lad!

I wish you all a very happy Christmas and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2008.

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