Saturday, December 15, 2007

The best music of 2007

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”.

Herbie Hancock River: The Joni Letters/Joni Mitchell Shine. I haven’t heard these, just a few tracks that I’ve downloaded, so if anyone wants to get them for me for Christmas, feel free. River is a tribute to Joni Mitchell. What I like about it is that it’s not a tribute in the sense of a set of covers, but in the sense of being inspired by her, and thinking about music differently because of her. Unsurprisingly, been Grammy nominated, as it has the “serious, quality” aura that wins awards, that often turns me off music. And Hancock is too slick a fellow for me to really dig him, but he’s a great musician. The track I listen to a lot is the quirky spoken word “The Jungle Line” (featuring Leonard Cohen). Shine is, as far as I can tell, as good as anything Joni Mitchell has done in the last three decades. The title track is fantastic. A Tribute to Joni Mitchell was also released this year, with tracks by interesting artists like Caetano Veloso, Sufjian Stevens, and Cassandra Wilson. Audioblog links: Hero Hill: The River and the Harlem Experiment; Mainstream isn’t so bad (including “The Jungle Line”); Modern Music; Blog Critics, Shameless Complacency. Visit Herbie’s website, his label Verve Records, become his friend on MySpace, and buy the record at

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. “Kern River”, “Are the Good Times Really Over For Good?” and “Workin' Man Blues” are my favourites. In Bluegrass Sessions, he makes a foray into old school bluegrass – but it isn’t bluegrass enough for the Grammy committee. Again, I’ve not heard the whole albums, just downloaded some tracks. Download great play lists including Haggard at Nine Bullets, Radio KGB, This recording, Good Bad and Unknown, Lonesome Music and Blogcritics.

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

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 Philadelphia) on Song Of America. Audioblog links: Stereogum, KEXP, Large-Hearted Boy, KGB, Snuh, Brooklyn Vegan. Visit Bettye’s webpage, be her friend at MySpace, buy Scene of the Crime on

Devendra Banhart Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon. Banhart is a complete nutter, and some of his music is unlistenable, but I love it when he goes all whimsical in Spanish or Portuguese, and becomes the mutant child of Caetano Veloso, as in “Cristobal” or “Samba Vexillographica”.

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, Oi Va Voi, Porter Wagoner and more!!

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


RSVP said...

cheers for the honourable mention there Bob


radio scotvoid

The Contentious Centrist said...

I didn't know there was an OiVaVoi new CD. Your mentioning it prompted me to search, and indeed as the Wise Sages say, if thou laboureth, thou shalt find.

Found it on Amazon UK. I hope it is as good as their first one. Any idea if there is a new Sophie Solomon cd in the works?

RSVP said...

new album by radio scotvoid
chek it out!

bob said...

Very cool. Don't grab me as immediately as Fae Ecosse, though. Need to listen more.