Here is part I of the official Bob From Brockley best albums of 2007. To be completely honest, there's only some of them I've heard all the way through - lots are ones I've heard bits of on the radio or via sundry downloads and streams. I'm planning to buy a bunch of them when I have time off work over the winterval.
4Hero Play With The Changes. Their warmly organic electronic music is sublime when at its best. They often work with great female soul vocalists, but their textured music lifts these singers to levels they often don’t reach in the dreadful world of contemporary soul music. Highlights: “Awakening” (featuring the wonderful Ursula Rucker), “Bed Of Roses” (featuring Jody Watley), “Morning Child” (featuring Carina Andersson). 4Hero’s remix of Nu Yorican Soul’s “Black Gold of the Sun” is part of the soundtrack to my life, and they are a great band for both remixing and being remixed; witness “Morning Child”, versioned by Massive Attack’s Daddy G among others. Analog Giant has another version, and sez: Get Playing with the Changes here. Check out more remixes like from Daddy G (of Massive Attack) here. Listen to tracks off the single here.
The Soundtrack of I'm Not There. I haven’t seen the film yet, but it sounds fascinating, and the soundtrack really makes you listen to Dylan’s music by reinterpreting it quite radically. The really stand-out track, by a mile, is “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, a song whose covers (Clapton’s, Guns N Roses’) have become classics too, a song which you hear so many times it has been neutralised and rendered banal, like the Beatles’ songs have. Here, Anthony and the Johnsons really make you listen to it afresh, in their heart-rendingly beautiful version. Download the track at mp7. Other good tracks are "Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)" by Willie Nelson and Calexico, "One More Cup of Coffee" by Roger McGuinn and Calexico, “Just Like A Woman” by Charlotte Gainsborough and Calexico, "As I Went Out One Morning" by Mira Billotte and "Ballad of a Thin Man" by Stephen Malkmus and the Million Dollar Bashers. Yes, Calexico are one of my current favourite bands. There are also some weak tracks, like Malkmus’ “Maggie’s Farm” and Karen O’s “Highway 61”.
Endless Highway: A Tribute to the Music of The Band. Another tribute thing. This features the Allman Brothers doing “The night they drove Ol’ Dixie Down” – how more perfect does it get than that? (mp3 from Born by the River). Otherwsie, the project is a bit too indie rock for me. Audioblog links: The Rich Girls Are Weeping (spot-on review), The Late Greats. Stream at the album’s website.
Merle Haggard Working Man’s Journey/Bluegrass Sessions. In Working Man’s Journey, one of my favourite country singers revisits his back catalogue, stripped of some of the gimmicky schmaltz that sugarcoated the more well-known versions. “
Beastie Boys The Mix Up. The incomparable Beastie Boys purely instrumental. Over the years, as the Beasties “mature”, their instrumental tracks have become their strongest feature, so this is a treat for people like me who love the Beasties but can only listen to so much rap in one go. Great dub track “Electric Worm” and jazz-funk “Freaky Hijiki”. Stream at Brooklyn Vegan, buy from Amazon.com.
Bettye Lavette Scene of the Crime. Betty LaVette truly is the Great Lady of Soul. How come I’d never heard of her before this year? I’m ashamed. The year has seen her being cool by pairing up with the Drive-By Truckers, a so-so Americana/rock outfit, who she way outclasses, but works well with. Actually, though, the track by her from 2007 which I really love is her version of Bruce Springsteen’s beautiful “Streets of Philadelphia” (which was itself the best thing about the dire film
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings 100 Nights. I’ll leave praising this one to Andrew.
Honourable mentions: Buddy Flett Mississippi Hill, Budos Band The Budos Band II, CéU CéU, Chromatics In the City, The Cinematic Orchestra Ma Fleur, James Blood Ulmer Bad Blood In The City: The Piety Street Sessions (for the song “Katrina”), The Harlem Experiment (see here), Keren Ann Keren Ann (great version of “Hallelujah”), Levon Helm Dirt Farmer (Favourite track: False Hearted Lover Blues. Bob links: Richard Manuel, Three Burials), Mary Chapin Carpenter The Calling, Radio Scotvoid Fae Ecosse, Spanish Harlem Orchestra United We Swing.
Look out for a second instalment of this feature before the end of 2007, featuring Mavis Staples,
Bob's beats genre keywords: jazz, country music, hip hop, rock, soul, electronica,
Bob's beats artist keywords: Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, Sharon Jones, Levon Helm