Thursday, December 31, 2015

THE RECORDCHANGER YEAR-END EDITION 2015

     When each year ends, it’s human nature to look back on the previous twelve months and reflect on the changes in the world around you, and within you. Such reflection often leads to new insights and revelations, but this year, I got nothin’. It was business as usual. I drifted through the year marking the days and months by the music I was listening to, and now it’s time to empty my head of all that so I can make room for more of the same in 2016.
     To paraphrase Led Zeppelin, the format remains the same. New Releases are at the top, followed by a trio of sections spotlighting Reissues, the Best Singles of the Year, Finds of the Year, Best Music Reads, Most Played Artists of the Year, Label and Artist of the Year. Each list is prefaced by a short paragraph detailing in the vaguest of ways, what’s on the list. As always, nearly everything was bought and paid for with money I earned. So if it’s on the list, I considered it money well spent. Consider that an additional recommendation if one is needed. I hope you see something you want to add to your Internet stream.

__________

     This year’s Top Ten features a nice mix of brand new acts and gray beards side by side. No Pier Pressure by Brian Wilson was, by far, the record I played most in 2015. It’s not a perfect record, but it’s a great listen from beginning to end, and there are a half dozen songs on it as good as anything in Wilson’s entire catalog – and that’s saying something extraordinary at this late date.
     Gospelbeach, formed from the remains of the expired Beachwood Sparks owes much to the architects of the West Coast sound as it evokes a more rustic California, but one no less drenched in sunshine and good vibrations. David Gilmour proved he is the keeper of the Pink Floyd sound by making a solo record that sounds like the band while sounding like a David Gilmour solo record, and Keith Richards returned with his first solo record in years, and reminded everyone that he is more alive than you’ll ever be. Ornette Coleman’s New Vocabulary record appeared with no fanfare in January, and was the immediate subject of a lawsuit because it had not been authorized by Coleman’s estate. I have no idea where the lawsuit stands, and I’m not certain the album is still available for sale anywhere. If it is, I recommend it highly. It’s different, but bears Ornette’s trademark sound, and because he now resides in the heavens, is invaluable to fans of his music. Van Morrison revisited some of the less celebrated, but no less superb recordings from his catalog with an ear for updating and re-imagining how they might sound with some hand-picked special guests bringing their talents to the festivities. As always, he succeeds on every level because the best songwriting and chops always rise to the occasion.
     Datura4 has a fine rock & roll pedigree, and they made a great classic rock record just when it seemed someone had pulled the plug on that style. Whitesnake made a Deep Purple record the same year Deep Purple finally got inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Purple founder/guitarist Ritchie Blackmore announced his return to rock in 2016 with the reformation of his post-Purple band Rainbow. I never stopped listening to the originals, but Whitesnake did them justice, and I welcome the opportunity to revisit the catalog no matter who’s playing the songs. Bob Dylan paid tribute to songwriters he loves and appreciates by cutting an album of songs Frank Sinatra could love (and in some cases, also recorded). And Mike Stax not only publishes one of the two best music magazines still published in 2015 (Ugly Things), but he has a band called The Loons that cut a new, and impressive garage-psych pop record that would’ve sounded good in any century, but is especially welcome in this one. It’s fitting the record is on one of rock’s oldest, and best indie labels, Bomp.
      

TOP TEN NEW RELEASES

  1. No Pier Pressure – Brian Wilson (Capitol)
   2. Pacific Surf Line – Gospelbeach (Alive Naturalsound)
   3. Rattle That Lock – David Gilmour (Columbia)
   4. Cross-eyed Heart – Keith Richards (Mindless)
   5. New Vocabulary – Ornette Coleman (System Dialing)
   6. Duets: Reworking The Catalogue – Van Morrison (RCA)
   7. Demon Blues – Datura4 (Alive Naturalsound)
   8. The Purple Album – Whitesnake (Frontiers)
   9. Shadows In The Night – Bob Dylan (Columbia)
  10. Inside Out Your Mind – The Loons (Bomp)

__________

     The reissue business is steady these days as artists and labels continue to sift through the ashes of the crashed and burned record industry for remnants of better days. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don’t. This year produced mostly collections of previously released material in new configurations, studio outtakes and demos from landmark or forgotten records, and a plethora of live concerts that remind everyone of a time when the concert business was booming, too. The Rolling Stones label was very active with their From The Vault series of reissues, and the three listed below are gems. These packages come with both audio and video media, and Stones fans need deep pockets to maintain pace with the band. But it’s a good problem to have. Atlantic’s Progeny set by Yes (I bought the 2 disc version rather than the 14 CD set) spotlights the incredible year the band had in 1972 when it released one of the two greatest albums of all-time, Close To The Edge, and then took that record on the road to adoring fans. Omnivore Records is restoring to print some of the lost classics from the late 70’s/early 80’s West Coast rock scene, and in 2015 resurrected what was maybe the defining record of that period, Dream Syndicate’s The Days of Wine and Roses. Meanwhile, Sundazed Records continues to keep the 60’s alive and this year issued a pair of live essentials by two of the era’s most respected, and revered bands, The Standells, and Shadows of Knight.

     To get a good anthology you need good source material, access, and purpose. There was no better shining example of that this year than Steve Howe’s (Yes guitarist) Anthology on Rhino spanning his entire solo career. Beautifully packaged and annotated, the set makes the case that had he not been a key member of one of the greatest bands in rock history that Steve Howe would’ve forged a sterling solo career anyway, and established himself as a master of the guitar even without his associates in Yes. A great listen from beginning to end.
     The twelfth installment of Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series on Columbia, The Best of The Cutting Edge 1965-1966, collects the essential unreleased recordings from Dylan’s most fertile and groundbreaking period. Crypt Records somehow discovered two more discs of classic, lost and forgotten garage rock by bands you never heard, or don’t remember. One of Alive Naturalsound’s contributions to Record Store Day in 2015 was a collection of fantastic power pop by a band that defined that genre as well as any other, Shoes. Alive also resurrected recordings by DM3, a less celebrated, but no less important power pop act of that late 70’s/80’s era, too. And Alive celebrated its 20th anniversary by issuing a 2 record set for Record Store Day that samples the best of what the label has to offer right now.

     It was a good year for box sets as well, although I was usually confined to the less expensive versions rather than the deluxe models. But the smaller sets are often far more listenable, and concise in presentation.
     Bruce Springsteen’s The Ties That Bind: The River Collection brings together the original album, the earlier, unreleased single disc, and very different version of the two record set, an album of unreleased tracks, a video documentary, and a 2 DVD concert from The River tour in 1980 at Tempe, Arizona. The material recorded for The River is far richer than even the material that surfaced as The Promise from the Darkness On The Edge of Town sessions. It is, arguably, Springsteen’s finest hour, although you could make that case about the previous two records as well. Bottom line is that if you ever loved Springsteen, and his records mattered to you the way they did to me, this is a set you must own.
     Columbia Records has done a real service to its greatest jazz artist, Miles Davis, by reissuing all of his work for the label in beautifully packaged box sets over the past several years. At Newport 1955-1975, a collection of the trumpeter’s performances at the jazz festival spanning three decades and 20 years of work looked, on paper at least, to be one of the lesser sets in Columbia’s series simply because Miles’s music evolved so much in that span that the set would surely prove to be a quality, but uneven listen at best. After all, there are many Miles fans that love his jazz groups, but find his electric ensemble records unlistenable. I’m not one of those, however, so this latest box, is, for me, the best buy in the whole lot because it showcases the evolution of Miles’s genius, and his facility as a bandleader and performer. These performances are brilliant across the board, and if you only wanted to own one Miles Davis box that was representative of his entire body of work for the label, this is the one.
     The Velvet Underground remain popular with labels as reissue subjects, but that’s proving far more difficult with each passing year because the band was only actively recording for about four years, and nothing of their live history was preserved by either of their record labels at the time. All that has ever been available are bootleg tapes that surfaced after the band broke up. While Cotillion’s Live At Max’s Kansas City was certainly a valuable document, it wasn’t definitive. Polydor’s 1974 double record set, 1969 was better, but wasn’t there more? As a matter of fact, there was The Quine Tapes, issued by Polydor several years back. And there are a few more bootlegs with very rough sound making the rounds as well. But there was nothing definitive – until now. Polydor has rounded up the Matrix recordings from 1969 in San Francisco, done a remarkable job remastering the sound, and presented four separate shows in a single box as The Complete Matrix Tapes. David Fricke’s superb liner notes detail the entire history, and what we finally get, after decades of waiting, is an essential, and definitive live Velvet Underground experience. Some of this material surfaced in inferior form on both 1969 and The Quine Tapes, but this is something else altogether. You won’t believe how good this sounds. And what a series of performances! It’s mind blowing from beginning to end.
     Even though England’s The Jam was never a big commercial proposition in America, thanks to their continuing worldwide popularity, Polydor has, once again, returned to the band for yet another box set. Fire and Skill collects six separate, previously unissued live shows spanning the band’s career from 1977-1982. The Jam was, in addition to being great makers of studio records, an extraordinary live act. That’s well documented in prior live releases, and a DVD collection released years ago. But this latest offering is probably the definitive live document of the band, and a perfect companion to the Direction Reaction Creation box of complete studio recordings. It’s also one of the most attractive box set packages I’ve seen in some time with a book, and collection of photos included.
     Rubble, garage rock specialists, had issued a series of highly regarded garage rock collections from the late 1960’s under the title Acid Dreams. Now we get a 5 CD box (The Ultimate Acid Dreams Collection) that collects the originals, and the best recommendation I can give this set is to tell you that I’m someone with a huge collection of garage rock, (and all but ten of the 90-plus tracks presented here were not in my collection already), and as far as I’m concerned, it’s as important to the genre’s recorded history as Nuggets, Pebbles, the Back From The Grave series, Teenage Shutdown, or Psychedelic States sets. There truly seems to be no end in sight for finding quality garage rock from that very fertile period from 1965-1969.
     Though I’m hardly an expert on classical music, I know what I like. When I use to work as music department manager at a Borders store that specialized in classical music, I was smart enough to hire people who knew the music far better than I did, and I was smart enough, too, to grill my employees almost daily about what they liked, and why. One of my best people told me that his favorite artist was a pianist named Martha Argerich, and he insisted I get acquainted with her work. I trusted his judgment, and I did exactly that. Over the past twenty years, I’ve added several of her recordings to my collection, but I had none of her work with conductor Claudio Abbaddo. So when Deutsche Grammophon issued the pair’s Complete Concerto Recordings on 5 CD’s spanning 45 years, and at a bargain price, I reached for my wallet. After 20 years listening to Argerich, I’ve yet to hear anything that’s less than extraordinary. It’s some of the best musical advice ever given to me. Argerich brings the same passion and fire to her work that the greatest artists in any genre do.

TOP RE-ISSUES (ORIGINAL)

   1. The Marquee Club 1971 – Rolling Stones (Rolling Stones)
   2. Progeny: Highlights From Seventy-Two – Yes (Atlantic)
     (2CD)
   3. Live At The Tokyo Dome – Rolling Stones (Rolling
     Stones)
   4. Live in Leeds: Roundhay Park 1982 – Rolling Stones
     (Rolling Stones)
   5. The Days of Wine and Roses – Dream Syndicate
     (Omnivore)
   6. Live On Tour 1966! – The Standells (Sundazed)
   7. Live 1966 – Shadows of Knight (Sundazed)
    
   TOP RE-ISSUES (ANTHOLOGIES)

    1. Anthology – Steve Howe (Rhino)
    2. The Bootleg Series: Vol. 12 – The Best of The Cutting
      Edge 1965-1966 – Bob Dylan (Columbia) (2 CD)
    3. Back From The Grave Vols. 9 & 10 – Various (Crypt)
      (2CD)
    4. Primal Vinyl – Shoes (Alive Naturalsound)
    5. West of Anywhere – DM3 (Alive Naturalsound)
    6. Rock & Roll Is A Beautiful Thing/Alive 20th Anniversary
       – Various (Alive Naturalsound) (2LP)

    TOP RE-ISSUES (BOX SETS)

    1. The Ties That Bind: The River Collection – Bruce
      Springsteen & the E Street Band (Columbia/Legacy)
      (4 CD/3DVD)
    2. At Newport 1955-1975 – Miles Davis (Columbia/Legacy)
      (4CD)
    3. The Complete Matrix Tapes – The Velvet Underground
      (UM) (4CD)
    4. Fire and Skill – The Jam (Polydor) (6CD)
    5. The Ultimate Acid Dreams Collection – Various (Rubble)
      (5CD)
    6. Complete Concerto Recordings – Martha Argerich &
       Claudio Abbado (DG) (5CD)
   

     As you might imagine, the increase in vinyl prices extended to 45’s as well – when you could even find something worth buying. But both Norton and Bomp have held the line to some degree, not allowing prices to skyrocket as they have for vinyl everywhere else. Four of my five best 45 buys of the year came from Norton, while the remaining title, a repro came from Bomp. Norton’s Bobby Fuller Four demo of I Fought The Law is fantastic. I like it as much as I do the original hit. So it was an easy choice for the top spot. Norton’s Rolling Stones Tribute Series continued, and one of my favorite garage bands, The Fleshtones, added their name to the long list of contributors with a cover of Gotta Get Away. The Seeds single came from a new version of the Raw & Alive LP, while the Kim Fowley hit was a straight reissue of the original record. Both have nice picture sleeves. A couple of hundred years ago I bought a Pebbles album from Bomp mail order, and flipped for a song called Swami by the William Penn Fyve. Swami is one of my all-time favorite garage classics, so when I saw that Bomp had a repro of the original I had to get it. It’s one thing to collect garage rock on various artist albums and CD’s, but it’s much cooler to have the best of them on 45, the way they were meant to be heard.

TOP 45’S

       1. I Fought The Law (Demo) – Bobby Fuller Four
         (Norton)
       2. Swami – William Penn Fyve (Thunderbird)
       3. Gotta Get Away – The Fleshtones (Norton)
       4. Night Time Girl – The Seeds (Norton)
       5. The Trip – Kim Fowley (Norton)

     Finds of the Year has long been my favorite section of this year-end roundup because every title listed is something I either knew nothing of, or had not intended to add to my collection. They had flown under the radar, and suddenly surfaced and have become treasured additions to my collection. Because these are such a mixed bag of artists and genres, I don’t rank them. But I recommend them highly.

FINDS OF THE YEAR (In Order of Acquisition)

       The Art of Conversation – Kenny Barron & Dave Holland
       (Blue Note)
       Bremen-Lausanne Solo Concerts – Keith Jarrett (ECM)
       (3LP)
       Two Sides of Peter Banks (Lilith)
       Live At Hammersmith Odeon, 1975 – Todd Rundgren’s
       Utopia (VinylLovers)
       Johnny Burnette & The Rock & Roll Trio (Wax Time)
       Hallucination Generation – The Fuzztones (Lilith) (2LP)
       Classic Masters – Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
       (Capitol)
       In Greenwich Village – Albert Ayler (Impulse)
       Small Craft On A Small Sea – Brian Eno w/ Jon
       Hopkins & Leo Abrahams (Opal)
       Hidden Treasures – Dave Davies/The Kinks (Sanctuary)
       Evening Star – Fripp & Eno (DGM)
       Wasted Words: The Havoc 45’s – The Motions
       (Pseudonym)
       Highway Call – Richard Betts (Capricorn)
       #8 – J.J. Cale (Mercury)
       Neither One of Us – Gladys Knight & The Pips (Soul)
       Live at the BBC…and Beyond – Rolling Stones (Coda)
       Finjan Club, Montreal, Canada 7.2.62 – Bob Dylan (BDA)
       Live At The Agora, Cleveland, Ohio – The Runaways
       (Vinyl Lovers)

LABEL OF THE YEAR

       Bomp/Alive Naturalsound

     This year’s choice for label of the year is really two labels, brother and sister labels under the same roof sharing a mail order operation, and a husband and wife team I’m proud to call friends, Suzy Shaw, and Patrick Boissel. Bomp, one of the greatest (maybe the greatest of all independent labels) is really a mail order business now (and the only one I’ve been able to count on every time), but Suzy and Patrick still issue the odd title on the Bomp imprint now and then (this year’s Top 10 entry by The Loons, for example). Bomp is the reason I created The Recordchanger. It was the music I was getting from them – both on and off the label by mail order that made me want to write and spread the word about what they were doing. Alive Naturalsound came along a few years after I began buying from Bomp, and quickly became, in my opinion, the finest independent record label in the world today. There’s a great mix of quality, original recordings by young bands and archival material licensed from long forgotten, but important labels and artists whose work deserves to be made available again. Alive’s releases have so dominated my Top 10 lists over the past few years, that I often worried that people saw me as a shill for the label, and an “under-the-table” employee on the take. I was neither. What I am is a fan of the label, its artists, and the way they do business. Since this is the final edition of The Recordchanger, I thought it fitting that I honor them one more time. That, and they had a helluva great year! After all, they’re represented in this year’s Top 10, the reissues lists, 45’s, and some of the titles in the Finds section came from Bomp mail order, too. Suzy and Patrick, thank you for everything.

ARTIST OF THE YEAR
 
   Brian Wilson

            Brian Wilson is, in my opinion, the greatest composer/producer/musician of my lifetime. Musically, he invented the state of California, and his influence is widespread, and ongoing. He is also enjoying something of a renaissance in his career, and is, in the 21st century, more than 50 years after his career began, doing some of the best work of his entire life. There is simply no one with a better ear for melody and harmony than Brian Wilson. When Brian’s music plays anywhere in the world, the sun comes out. We’re truly blessed that he is still with us, and still making records.

BEST MUSIC READS OF THE YEAR

      From The Velvets To The Voidoids by Clinton Heylin
      This Is Reggae Music by Lloyd Bradley
      One Way Out – Alan Paul
      Ain’t It Time We Said Goodbye by Robert Greenfield
      Goodbye 20th Century by David Browne
      Record Collector Magazine
      Ugly Things Magazine

            I read a number of good music bios and histories this year. Clinton Heylin’s book From The Velvets To The Voidoids is the best treatment I’ve read of the genesis of the punk/new wave era. Lloyd Bradley’s This Is Reggae Music is the definitive history of reggae, as well as being the best-researched, best-written music book I’ve ever read. Alan Paul’s One Way Out is a verbal history of The Allman Brothers Band as told by those who lived it. Paul did an excellent job of collating and organizing the interviews into a readable narrative. Highly recommended, and the last, best word on the band. Robert Greenfield contributed another fine book to the growing Rolling Stones bookshelf with Ain't It Time We Said Goodbye, a story that catches the band at a career crossroads. And though it took me until the band had dissolved to get around to reading it, David Browne’s history of Sonic Youth, Goodbye 20th Century, was compelling and an essential contribution to post modern music history.
     I only read two music magazines regularly now. Record Collector out of England, and Ugly Things, the brainchild of musician Mike Stax (The Loons) are both thoroughly enjoyable, and do what good music magazines have always done – push you to seek out the music they’re writing about. I wouldn’t be without either of them.

   TOP TEN MOST PLAYED ARTISTS OF THE YEAR

        Brian Wilson
        Rolling Stones
        Dream Syndicate
        Beach Boys
        The Temptations
        Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
        Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
        Weather Report
        Fleetwood Mac
        Deep Purple

__________


     One more personal note: this is the final entry to The Recordchanger blog. Even on my best days I recognize my insignificance and irrelevance when it comes to my place in the world, but nowhere is that more evident than in a blog written in an age when everyone blogs, but few read, and what’s more, a blog about music chronicling a time when musicians still make music, but few listen, and almost nobody wants to pay for it. It’s time to stop writing, and just listen and read. There is still much to learn, and it’s easier to do that once you stop talking. I appreciate all those who took the time to read anything I ever wrote. I hope you found that time well spent. The blog will remain online for a while longer, but entries will gradually be deleted until there are no more entries. I reserve the right to retain the name for my Facebook page if I so choose, and my musical pursuits will still be detailed there, if less formally. Thanks again, and goodbye.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

THE RECORDCHANGER YEAR-END EDITION 2014

     It often seemed in 2014, that the ringing of the division bell was louder than the music on my stereo. In any year there are countless musicians who pass on, but the losses were particularly acute for me this year. It was a sobering experience to look back through the obituary pages in Record Collector and be reminded of who is gone now. Johnny Winter, Charlie Haden, Jack Bruce, Phil Everly, Bobby Womack, Gerry Goffin, Horace Silver, Bobby Keys, Ian McLagen, Dick Wagner, Tommy Ramone, Bob Casale, Scott Asheton, Rick Rosas, Paul Revere, Jimmy Ruffin, the venerable Pete Seeger, and, most recently, Joe Cocker all passed away this year. There were many more. I chose to list only those who made the most impact on me as a music listener. We got one last final record from Pink Floyd that honored the late Richard Wright, and after 45 years on the road, The Allman Brothers Band rode off into the sunset with their final show of October 28 bleeding into the wee hours of the morning of the 29th – the 43rd anniversary of the death of founding guitarist Duane Allman in a motorcycle accident. It was all a bit much to take in one twelve month period. But I was grateful for getting to know these musicians through their work during the course of my lifetime.
     What’s really lost, however, is that there’ll be no more new music forthcoming from any of them. The truth is, though, that we can bring them to life again anytime we play the records they left behind, and that’s great comfort. Everyone I listed above is someone whose music I had experienced on a regular basis over the years. So I didn’t need to be reminded of what they contributed. I listen to more music now than I ever have, and I feel closer to music than at any time in my life – closer even than when I was a teenager, and completely dependent upon the music to get me through the struggles of school, and my efforts to grow into adulthood. For most, music takes a back seat to the business of making a living, having a family, and trying to navigate the pressures of everyday life. But I had no interest in doing any of those things if I couldn’t bring the music along with me. It’s still my greatest pleasure, and the way I most prefer to spend my free time. So these annual recaps of the new music I experienced during the year are a way of marking time for me. The music continues to guide my own evolution and growth as a person – something that has always been of the utmost importance to me. The records on the lists below connected with me – for a variety of reasons.
     But the year is also notable for what I missed. There were numerous new releases this year that I never heard – many by artists of whom I’m a fan. For an art form that has been devalued by many, a lot of music has become unaffordable to any but the rich. I simply had to say no on many occasions this year to music I wanted to own, or at least hear because the industry is trying to maximize profits by reissuing older music in new, deluxe packages that are simply beyond my means. And the cost of vinyl has gone through the roof. So I picked and chose carefully the things I wanted most, paid for by money I earned at a backbreaking job that I can barely tolerate. So if you see it listed here, you can trust that it has genuine value to me.
     This year’s edition adds a list of music books I read in 2014, and recommend highly. And I restored the Artist of the Year feature that in recent years had been replaced with Artists of the Year - a section that listed the most-played artists of the year. That section remains but has been re-titled Top Ten Most Played Artists. The reason for the change is that I actually have a choice for Artist of the Year, but the irony is that her record is not represented. Before I explain that, let me explain the rest of what you’re about to see.
     We begin with Artist of the Year followed by the Top 10 New Releases of 2014. Following that are three sections of reissued material separated into three categories – Originals, Anthologies, and Box Sets (30 titles in all). The Top Single and Top Label get nods, and then my annual favorite section, Finds of the Year that collects music I was either unaware of, or not looking for at all that somehow made its way into my collection this year. And we finish with the new Best Music Reads, and Top Ten Most Played Artists. Each section will have a brief paragraph or two about the contents.
     I trust that explanation is sufficient. After all, it’s not rocket science – just music. If you’re looking for rocket science, I’m sure you can find a blog for that, too. I hope you enjoy the 2014 year-end edition of The Recordchanger.

     ARTIST OF THE YEAR

     Taylor Swift

          Taylor Swift seems to polarize people. I’ve never understood that. Maybe it’s simply a reaction to her unparalleled success in a career that began at age seventeen and eight years later finds her at the top of the music business, her latest album 1989 selling 1.3 million copies the first week of release – the biggest single-week number in 12 years according to Billboard magazine. Fans of genuine country music seemed to resent her success in the country charts because her music veered more towards pop (like that’s news anyway where contemporary country music is concerned). And there were the music critics who claim she can’t sing. She’s not Betty Carter, but she has a nice voice that suits her material just fine. She writes much of her own material, and has a genuine knack for writing hit records – something that’s rapidly becoming a lost art. She can play guitar and piano well enough to do so onstage, too.
          None of this, however, had any bearing on my choice of Taylor Swift as the Artist of the Year for 2014. I was in a position to observe the labyrinthine marketing plan she put in place with her management for her new album. I work at a big box retailer that has a relationship with Swift, and has released a number of special editions of her albums with bonus tracks, and has been an integral part of her marketing campaign – particularly for her previous album Red, and for this latest effort as well. I couldn’t help but be impressed by how well Swift knows and understands her primary target audience – teenage girls. She works overtime with her management crafting a marketing plan designed to make a real connection with her audience without pandering. She also appears to have embraced being a role model to her audience, and has been very careful in managing her image so that role is never compromised. She’s a very savvy business woman at the age of just 25, and I have no doubt that it is Swift, and not her manager, that makes the final decisions on what Taylor Swift, the artist, will and will not do. She should make any feminist proud. And no parent should fear his or her children bringing her music into the house.
          I don’t have kids though, and her business acumen, while certainly admirable to someone my age who has a history in retailing and music, would still not have been enough for me to choose her as Artist of the Year. No, it was her decision in November to pull her music from Spotify, the music streaming service. Swift was quoted in Rolling Stone as saying, "Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for." And with that, Taylor Swift struck a blow for herself and for every artist in the record industry struggling to be paid a living wage for their music.
          Earlier this year I heard an interview with Don Was, president of Blue Note Records. He was talking about the difficulties musicians are having making a living in the digital age. Specifically, he used saxophonist Ravi Coltrane as an example. He said that a million hits on Spotify for Ravi Coltrane translated into $7,000 a year – not even enough to record a single album, let alone support a group on tour for any length of time. Streaming services like Spotify are charging subscribers a low monthly fee, but they’re paying artists next to nothing for the use of their music. The gap is all profit for Spotify. Until now, artists have been forced to go along in the hope of getting their music some exposure in a world where there is no longer a record industry to support them. By removing her music from Spotify, Swift paves the way for other big name artists to do the same, thereby forcing Spotify, and all streaming services to amend their policies, and pay musicians properly for their work. In the time since she made the decision, Swift says she’s received countless messages of thanks and support from fellow musicians in the business.
          The public’s unwillingness to pay for music was a major contributing factor to the collapse of the record industry, and with it, millions of jobs – including mine. I didn’t buy Taylor Swift’s album not because it isn’t a quality piece of work. I didn’t buy it because she’s not really making music that’s targeted for someone old enough to be her father. I do like some of her music, and own some of it, but generally my tastes run in other directions. But when it comes to character and guts, Taylor Swift has it in spades. That’s something I can admire in anyone. And that’s why I chose Taylor Swift as Artist of the Year for 2014.
    

     TOP 10 NEW RELEASES

     2014 wasn’t the best year for new releases. I only just managed to make a Top Ten list of new releases, and while all ten are worthy choices, in a more competitive year, a few of these would more likely have been found near the bottom of a Top 20 rather than a Top 10. I’ll admit that I’m no longer adventurous when it comes to seeking out new music by artists with whom I’m unfamiliar. But to be fair, with my budget severely limited, I no longer have the luxury of taking risks on music I haven’t heard or know nothing about. What I hear on radio or television rarely, if ever, appeals to me, so most of the money I spend on music is on reissues, and back catalog I don’t yet own. Having said that, you can trust that what is here was carefully chosen, and if I made a place for it in my Top 10, then it earned that place.
     The biggest problem I had was choosing a number one between Hollis Brown’s Gets Loaded, and Miriam’s Nobody’s Baby. These were the two new releases I loved and listened to most in 2014, and choosing one over the other was almost impossible. Gets Loaded is a recreation of the Velvet Underground classic Loaded with the track listing reversed. It was created for Record Store Day and, as such, might be regarded as a one-off side project. But it was so beautifully crafted, and so listenable that I simply couldn’t brush it aside. I played it many times instead of the Velvets original, and though it might be heresy to admit this, as a listening experience, I like it as much.
     Miriam Linna, with her husband Billy Miller, owns and operates Norton Records, and Kicks Books publishing as well. She has been, for years, the drummer in The A-Bones with husband Billy, and was briefly the drummer for The Cramps before they became The Cramps we all came to know and love. I don’t really know if cutting a record under her own name has been a lifelong dream for her, or was simply one of those chance things that happen once in a lifetime. It doesn’t matter, though because Nobody’s Baby is obviously a labor of love. It’s a collection of mostly cover songs you either never heard or probably don’t remember with a couple of originals thrown in for good measure. What’s special about the album, besides Miriam’s arresting voice, and the girl group style and Spector-esque production flourishes by Sam Elwitt, is the fact that these songs were picked by Miriam (with Sam) and bear no relationship with one another except that she chose to record them for an album. The amazing thing is that they fit together as if they were all written and recorded specifically for this project. To top it off, it’s perfectly sequenced as well. I only discovered this past week that it was husband Billy Miller who sequenced the record. And that is as important as the songs Miriam chose to record. She leaned on The Everly Brothers, Del Shannon, The Ramones, Reparata & The Delrons, Buffalo Springfield, Gene Clark, Bobby Darin, Tim Buckley and The Electric Banana for material. Maybe getting a Gene Clark song to sound right next to a Buffalo Springfield song isn’t that difficult, but who would have imagined you could record a Ramones song and follow it with something by Bobby Darin and not miss a beat? It’s an amazing accomplishment. And the album is a complete success. Miriam comes across on record as “America’s Sweetheart” and if this was 1964 instead of 2014, we’d all be joining her fan club, and writing away for an autographed picture.
     In the end, both were albums of covers with the artist putting a unique stamp on the music. I picked Hollis Brown for the top spot because I thought it took real guts to take on an acknowledged classic by one of the most influential bands in rock history, and make it stand up alongside the original. But I could easily have chosen them as co-number ones. But then I would’ve had to institute a playoff system, and gotten a computer ranking involved, and that would’ve just complicated my life. No thanks.
     Number three was an easier choice. Trilogy by the Chick Corea Trio (Christian McBride on bass, and Brian Blade on drums) is a three disc live set whose material spans Corea’s entire career. The trio recreates Corea’s past by reinventing the songs that established him as one of the greats, thereby fusing past and present in one satisfying experience. It’s a great concept, and a triumph. It’s also one of the finest trio albums I’ve ever heard. The playing is spectacular, and the rapport between these players is magic.
     I’ve written previously in these pages about Pink Floyd’s The Endless River, so I won’t detail its creation again. Suffice to say that it’s a moving and tasteful farewell to the late Richard Wright, and a perfect coda to an extraordinary career.
     I happened to catch a documentary film on the making of The Breeze: An Appreciation of J.J. Cale by Eric Clapton & Friends on Palladia this summer, a few months after this tribute album was released. I loved the music I heard, and knew I wanted to own the album. Clapton always had a feel for Cale’s music, and the “friends” he chose for this project shared his affinity making this Clapton’s best album since the album he made a few years back with J.J. Cale. Any project that spotlights Cale’s talents is one to be celebrated and shared.
     Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers just keep doing what they do better than anyone else. After nearly four decades, they pretty much have it down. Hypnotic Eye isn’t their best album, but it’s damn good, and one I’ll be playing for years.
     One of the nicest surprises of 2014 was that in a year when we lost so many great musicians, we got to keep Wilko Johnson, a founding member of Dr. Feelgood, diagnosed with terminal cancer, and pronounced all but dead by competent doctors. Wilko was told to get his affairs in order, and when Who vocalist Roger Daltrey called and offered to help him make any kind of record he wanted to make, Wilko said yes, and the two British R&B vets put together an album of their favorite roots music along with some Wilko signature songs for what has to be the year’s most satisfying album. Daltrey is singing better here than he has in years on material more suited for his voice now than what Pete Townshend can write for him. Wilko is a freak of nature who simply won’t be denied. His guitar playing here is sharp and inspired. He sounds nothing like a dead man. He has, by far, outlived his doctor’s prognosis, and let’s hope he’s around for a few more decades so he can cut a few more records like Going Back Home.
     The purest, most talented voice in country music today belongs to Lee Ann Womack. The Way I’m Livin’ is her first new record since 2008. Rolling Stone likened it to the kind of record Waylon Jennings was making in the 1970’s during the Outlaw Country movement. I read that before I heard the record, and thought such a claim was too far fetched to be taken seriously. But they were right. Womack’s record does have that same feel. Take it from someone who’s listened to a lot of Outlaw Country and a lot of Waylon Jennings. The record sounds “lived in” and Womack couldn’t tell a lie on record if she tried.
     The Top 10 is rounded off by two more releases from Alive Natural Sound. Paul Collins, who once fronted Paul Collins’ Beat back in the days of new wave and power pop brings that trademark sound into the 21st century with Feel The Noise, a fine set of energetic, hook-filled rock ‘n roll while Iowa’s Radio Moscow delivers Magical Dirt, their fourth band record of psychedelic electric guitar that doesn’t break any new ground but sure sounds good – especially when you turn it up loud enough to rattle the windows.

  1. Gets Loaded – Hollis Brown (Alive)
  2. Nobody’s Baby – Miriam (Norton)
  3. Trilogy – Chick Corea Trio (Concord Jazz)
  4. The Endless River – Pink Floyd (Columbia)
  5. The Breeze: An Appreciation of J.J. Cale – Eric Clapton & Friends
      (Surfdog)
  6. Hypnotic Eye – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (Reprise)
  7. Going Back Home – Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey (Chess)
  8. The Way I’m Livin’ – Lee Ann Womack (Sugar Hill)
  9. Feel The Noise – Paul Collins (Alive)
10. Magical Dirt – Radio Moscow (Alive)

 
     TOP REISSUES (Originals)

          This was another memorable year for reissues, even though I passed on countless packages that were priced beyond my means. But I managed to find a total of 30 different sets of real value at a reasonable price.
          The year’s Originals saw the re-release of some classic jazz in better than ever packages along with a number of live sets, and some classic albums that had not seen release in this country – if at all – in decades.
          The 11th installment of Bob Dylan’s ongoing Bootleg Series was the most satisfying of all. The Basement Tapes Raw was 2 CD’s of the 38 best tracks from the legendary Basement Tapes sessions with Dylan and The Band, released this time as they were originally recorded – something not mentioned when Columbia first released the 24 track Basement Tapes set back in 1975. While the new set doesn’t diminish that earlier effort, The Basement Tapes Raw certainly eclipses it by being the definitive version available. There was a deluxe set with every usable track available as well, but after sampling most of it, I decided my money would be better spent on this 2 CD distillation. It’s classic American music that belongs in every collection, and the sound and packaging are superb from beginning to end.
          Miles Davis’s brief collected works for the Blue Note label in the early 1950’s has been issued over the years in a variety of different configurations. But Take Off finally issues these recordings in chronological order with alternate takes and all the original sleeve work reproduced in the booklet along with excellent liner notes. If you were to distill the enormous Miles Davis catalog down to, say, 10 essential titles, Take Off would have to be included in that list.
          John Coltrane’s Offering: Live At Temple University comes from a November ’66 date just 9 months before his death in July of ’67. This is the complete performance for the first time with vastly improved sound and packaging. It’s as essential as every other title in the Coltrane canon.
          I didn’t think I’d live long enough to ever see the reissue of the 1972 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival featuring a wide variety of some of the greatest jazz and blues artists of all-time. I’d been looking for it for years, and it did not disappoint.
          A resurgence of interest in the west coast Paisley Underground movement of the early 80’s yielded a previously unissued live set from guiding lights, The Dream Syndicate, The Day Before Wine and Roses. From a radio broadcast aired just prior to the band’s first album release, this is an important historical document, not to mention a textbook example of the band and the movement at its best. There’s plenty of psychedelic guitar work, and extended jams designed to blow young minds. It’s a reminder of how special, and influential The Dream Syndicate was in their day.
          Capitol gave country giant Hank Thompson the 2-fer treatment by issuing two of his classics on one set in the Songs For Rounders/At The Golden Nugget package. It’s honky tonk at its best.
          Oueen’s Live At The Rainbow ’74 becomes the best live Queen available, catching the band as their career was about to skyrocket.
          Numerous jazz titles saw reissue this year as well with the Wounded Bird label issuing numerous Weather Report and Herbie Hancock/V.S.O.P. titles via Sony Japan that had not seen the light of day in the U.S. and had only previously been available as expensive imports. Prestige issued Etta Jones classic Don’t Go To Strangers on vinyl, and ECM rescued Sam Rivers masterful Contrasts LP.
          BBR saved Motown singer Edwin Starr’s greatest album from oblivion. Involved features his biggest hit War, along with two more chart hits and 13 bonus tracks. This is a Norman Whitfield production and bears all the hallmarks of his style - raw, political, in your face psychedelic soul music.
          The Specials Live At The Moonlight Club gets an official release on vinyl from 2 Tone, and recreates a time when ska was king on the British club scene. And Ace Records gives the deluxe treatment to The Seeds Raw & Alive set presenting the album in its original form, and its undubbed glory as well. Great sound, and an excellent booklet make this a must for Sky Saxon admirers.
          The Cleopatra label issued a live set from rockabilly revivalist Robert Gordon from 1978 when he was working with the late, great Link Wray. Cleveland ’78 is taken from an Agora show and is just ragged, and rough enough to retain that period charm.
          Finally, The Rolling Stones have finally got their vault series in full swing with a pair of live sets including DVD’s documenting the previously undocumented 1975 Tour of the Americas, and the 1981 trek the band did to promote the Tattoo You album. The ’75 set is more interesting if a lot looser. Ronnie Wood had just replaced Mick Taylor on guitar. And the DVD is taken from a different night than the CD. So you get 2 shows instead of one. The ’81 set is more polished, but less exciting in part because that tour was already documented on the Still Life album. Let’s hope we’ll get some shows with Mick Taylor in the years to come.
         
   1. The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Raw – Bob Dylan &
       The Band
   2. Take Off: The Complete Blue Note Albums – Miles Davis
   3. Offering: Live At Temple University – John Coltrane
   4. Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival 1972 – Various
   5. The Day Before Wine and Roses – The Dream Syndicate
   6. Songs For Rounders/At The Golden Nugget – Hank Thompson
   7. Live At The Rainbow ‘74 – Queen
   8. Don’t Go To Strangers – Etta Jones
   9. Contrasts – Sam Rivers
 10. Tempest In The Colosseum – V.S.O.P.
 11. Herbie Hancock Trio with Ron Carter & Tony Williams
 12. Live In Tokyo – Weather Report
 13. Five Stars – V.S.O.P.
 14. Involved – Edwin Starr
 15. Live At The Moonlight Club – The Specials
 16. Raw & Alive – The Seeds
 17. From The Vault: L.A. Forum (Live In 1975) – Rolling Stones
 18. The Herbie Hancock Trio
 19. Cleveland ’78 – Robert Gordon & Link Wray
 20. From The Vault: Hampton Coliseum (Live In 1981) – Rolling Stones


     TOP REISSUES (Anthologies)

          The Anthologies list is considerably shorter than the Originals list, but no less outstanding. The Uptown label did a superb job creating a Howard McGhee album, West Coast 1945-47, where there was none before. Collecting 19 performances from radio broadcasts and transcriptions and a couple of studio recording sessions, the label has spotlighted one of the unsung masters of jazz trumpet. McGhee was an obscure figure that toiled in the shadows of bigger names, but left behind some stellar performances that deserve attention and are well worth preserving. In terms of packaging, and historical merit, this set couldn’t be better. I recommend it to anyone who loves great trumpet playing and the stirring sound of West Coast jazz in those first couple of post-war years. If push comes to shove, I’d choose this as the single best reissue of 2014.
          Another year, another David Bowie anthology, but Nothing Has Changed is three discs that span his entire career, hand picked by Bowie himself, providing the definitive single set overview of an unparalleled career. There are new and unreleased tracks included. If you can only have one Bowie collection, this is the one.
          Blues singer Lou Ann Barton gets a long overdue Best of collection of her finest work, both as a solo act and working with the great Jimmie Vaughan and The Fabulous Thunderbirds as well.
          ‘Round Midnight does for Thelonious Monk’s singles what Take Off did for Miles Davis’s Blue Note albums. They’re all collected here in one place, 47 titles including alternate takes in a hardcover book with great historical notes and photos – just like the Davis set.
          Norton Records issued the fourth volume of Kim Fowley productions, Technicolor Grease, and there’s no decline in quality. This is the stuff that made AM radio special – even though little of it was chart bound. Columbia released a perfect collection in February of the best work by country gentleman Ray Price who passed away in December 2013. It’s the best I’ve seen of the countless Price sets on the market. And I’ve earmarked Ray Price as an artist deserving of further investigation. I never tire of his voice, and I think it’s time I added a few more Ray Price albums to my collection in 2015. Finally, 2 Tone offered up something special for vinyl lovers – a two record set of all the singles that made the label’s reputation in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

   1. West Coast 1945-47 – Howard McGhee
   2. Nothing Has Changed – David Bowie
   3. The Best – Lou Ann Barton
   4. ‘Round Midnight: The Complete Blue Note Singles (1947-1952) –
        Thelonious Monk
   5. Technicolor Grease – Kim Fowley
   6. The Very Best of Ray Price
   7. The Best of 2 Tone – Various

     TOP BOX SETS

     This year’s #1 box set is a ringer of sorts. There is no musician I hold in higher esteem than the late Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher. Gallagher passed away at the age of 47 in June of 1995. In the nearly twenty years since, his brother Donal along with legions of hardcore fans (myself included), have kept his legacy alive by talking up the guitarist to anyone who would listen, and buying up everything Donal was able to find in the archives and release to fans who wanted to own as much Rory Gallagher as possible. Rory’s catalog is probably in as fine a shape as the catalog of any artist in the history of rock. It took RCA years to learn to do justice to the legacy Elvis Presley left behind, and it wasn’t until the Hendrix family took control of Jimi Hendrix’s work that his legacy on record and film began to take shape. But Donal Gallagher seemed to know immediately how important his brother’s work was to his fans, and he’s seen to it that his catalog was given the respect and care it deserves. Irish Tour ’74, a 7 CD set with an additional DVD brings together for the first time the series of shows Rory Gallagher played at the end of 1973 and into 1974 in front of his countrymen in the cities of Cork, Belfast and Dublin. The original 2 record set drew material from just the Cork show. In addition there is previously unreleased extra material from that show, and Belfast, and Dublin are entirely new. Disc seven is titled City Hall In Session and presents studio and live material from January 4, 1974 – the “off day” between the two shows proper in Cork. The DVD is the documentary film of the tour, directed by Tony Palmer. It’s been available separately for years, but rightfully has been included here in order to bring the entire experience together in one place. The documentary alone is worth the price of the entire set. It’s as fine a music documentary as I’ve ever seen. But while you may come for the film, you’ll stay for the music, and the 7 CD’s in this set are the motherlode for Gallagher fans. I’ve listened to a lot of Rory Gallagher live through the years, but I believe he’s better here than at any other time in his career. Maybe it had to do with being on his home turf in front of the fans who loved and revered him. The band includes Rod D’Ath on drums, Gerry McAvoy on bass, and Lou Martin on keyboards, and they were never better than they are here. The sets from night to night don’t vary a great deal, but each show retains its own personality, with the Cork show offering the best sound. This set is to Gallagher fans what the Fillmore East sets are to fans of The Allman Brothers Band (and I should know as I’m an Allmans fan as well).
     There’s a nice booklet included with photos, essay and commentary via a Shadowplays (Rory’s website) interview with Robin Sylvester with whom Rory worked in those days. The only caveat for buyers is that the outer box is rather flimsy and did not travel well from England. The discs are housed in slots in the tri-fold cardboard within the outer slipcase, and while that probably helped make the cost of the set as low as it is (less than $50), it won’t wear well as the years go by. Packaging the set in a plastic box similar to that used for DVD box sets would’ve been wiser, and probably wouldn’t have made the set much more expensive. I’ve already moved the discs to four double disc jewel boxes for easier access. But the packaging, of which I was aware before ordering, was not enough to keep me from buying. It’s the music that matters most. If the set is reissued in the years ahead, perhaps they’ll address the packaging issue. Even with those issues, the box is an easy choice as best box set of 2014 because at the end of the day, there is nobody like Rory Gallagher.
     Creating a box set that restores to print Virgin Records Front Line series of budget reggae samplers in one place with enough bonus material to choke a horse was a stroke of genius. Sound of Reality is that box. There is a plethora of high quality reggae recordings from a variety of sources, and anytime you can get more of those recordings into the marketplace, you’re doing the music a great service. Great packaging and excellent sound along with first rate historical notes in a 5 CD set that retails from England for less than 50 bucks American, and a stack of rarities included as well? Roll that up and smoke it.
     Columbia Legacy issued yet another set of Miles Davis’s Fillmore Recordings from a 1970 concert stand. There is additional material from the last time these concerts were issued, and as grateful as I am for more material from the “electric” period, I’d like to see the label move along to issuing more shows from ’73 and ’74 – particularly sets from Europe and Japan. I think the label has mined 1970 recordings often enough now that a change is needed. Having said that, this package is the definitive, and presumably final word on the ’70 Fillmore shows. And I might have been more receptive had I not bought portions of these shows so many times before.

    
   1. Irish Tour ’74 – Rory Gallagher (7CD/1 DVD)
   2. Sound of Reality-Virgin Front Line – Various (5CD)
   3. Miles At The Fillmore 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3 – Miles Davis
       (4CD)

     TOP SINGLE

     Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind – Miriam (Norton)

     Norton Records Rolling Stones Tribute Series of 45’s continued this year, and since Miriam Linna added vocalist to a resume that already included label owner, book publisher, drummer, and blogger when she cut her Nobody’s Baby album, it seems fitting that she should contribute a number to her label’s own tribute series. Miriam chose the little known Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind, a track originally issued on The Rolling Stones Metamorphosis LP. She turns in a faithful version of the song, one that wouldn’t have sounded at all out of place on her new LP had she chosen to include it. The flip features her producer under the moniker The Sam Elwitt Orchestra doing a fine version of Bill Wyman’s In Another Land, originally waxed on Their Satanic Majesties Request. Of course the name, and style pay tribute to The Andrew Loog Oldham (Stones manager) Orchestra’s series of records in the 60’s designed to promote the Jagger-Richards songbook. The series now features 32 entries and a total of 64 songs, and really is a must if you’re a Stones fanatic.

     TOP LABEL

     Wounded Bird

     Wounded Bird is a reissue label responsible for unearthing a myriad of lost or forgotten, or just plain overlooked records from the past that were never made available on CD, or have gone out of print. The Wounded Bird catalog restores them to the marketplace at affordable prices with good packaging and sound. They are responsible for all of the Weather Report and Herbie Hancock titles you see on the reissue list above, not to mention The Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival set. Check their website for more at: http://www.woundedbird.com/.  You’re liable to find a number of titles you never realized were now available that you’ve been wanting for years.


     FINDS OF THE YEAR (In No Order)

     Every year there are titles I add to my collection that I had no prior knowledge of, or no intention of buying until I tripped over them in the browser at the store. Some are the result of a desire to expand my collection of albums by a particular artist (Todd Rundgren, John Cale, Weather Report, Branford Marsalis) others are albums I remembered hearing long ago, but had since forgotten (Eric Gale, Stephane Grappelli, The Heath Brothers), still others benefitted from finally getting some media exposure (The Congos, Aki Takase & Silke Eberhard). The rest are usually titles that had never seen the light of day before, or were finally reissued again after being out of circulation for years (Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Dream Syndicate, Shoes). Most of these records would appeal primarily to collectors who are well into the deep catalog portion of their collections by now.
     Specifically, the Bob Dylan LP makes a nice companion to his Hard Rain, and Bootleg Series titles issued from his Rolling Thunder Revue tour. The Roy Orbison is an import 2-fer of originals from Orbison’s heyday packed with classic recordings. The Dream Syndicate live set was issued a few years ago after it languished in the vaults for decades. It had slipped under my radar until I found myself searching to expand my collection of Paisley Underground recordings this year. I missed listening to power pop band Shoes, a staple of my musical diet from the late 70’s, and went looking for a compilation I didn’t know existed. The Congos appeared in an online magazine article of “10 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die”. And the Ornette Coleman Anthology, issued in 2007, features two women, a pianist, and sax player/clarinetist, playing through some of the great man’s catalog in a two-disc celebration of his work and legacy. I discovered it through a Facebook post by someone with a similar interest in Free Jazz. And if you want to hear a pair of first-rate Branford Marsalis records, I Heard You Twice The First Time, a blues album with some special guests is a gem, and so is Contemporary Jazz, a record modeled after some of the classic jazz group recordings (Trane, Miles, Sonny, etc.) of all-time, and deserving of their company.

      Live In Colorado 1976 – Bob Dylan
      Lonely & Blue + At The Rock House – Roy Orbison
      One Long Year – Todd Rundgren
      Shifty Adventures In Nookie Wood – John Cale
      The Complete Live At Raji’s – Dream Syndicate
      Live In Cologne 1983 – Weather Report
      35 Years-The Definitive Collection 1977-2012 – Shoes
      Heart of The Congos – The Congos
      I Heard You Twice The First Time – Branford Marsalis
      Contemporary Jazz – Branford Marsalis
      Ornette Coleman Anthology – Aki Takase & Silke Eberhard
      Multiplication – Eric Gale
      Uptown Dance – Stephane Grappelli
      Expressions of Life – The Heath Brothers
      Domino Theory – Weather Report

     BEST MUSIC READS

     In 2014, knowing my leisure time to read would be limited, I elected to focus on the volumes of still unread music books on my shelf. All but two of the books I read this year were music books. Below are the ten best of the year, published at different times over the past four decades. A brief description follows each title.

     There Goes Gravity by Lisa Robinson
          Rock writer extraordinaire finally delivers the long-awaited memoir of her decades covering the rock scene. A pleasure from start to finish.
     Last Shop Standing by Graham Jones
          The story of the collapse of the bricks and mortar record store set in England by someone who lived through it, and survived to tell the tale. Funny, and heartbreaking at the same time – especially if you ever worked in one.
     Elvis Died For Somebody’s Sins But Not Mine – Mick Farren
          A stellar collection of the best works by one of the best writers of his generation.
     Shots From The Hip by Charles Shaar Murray
          Another rock writer collects his favorite magazine pieces covering more than two decades on the London music scene.
     Simple Dreams by Linda Ronstadt
          A musical memoir from a woman who lived music and loved nothing more than singing.
     The Rolling Stones: Fifty Years by Christopher Sandford
          The definitive overview/history of The World’s Greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll Band written by a true journalist.
     The Doors by Greil Marcus
          Everybody’s favorite social scientist/rock critic turns his fertile mind on to The Doors, and what made them tick. Excellent read.
     Rocks Off by Bill Janovitz
          Musician/author turns his attention to the stories behind the songs that tell the tale of The Rolling Stones. 
     Celebrating The Duke…and Other Heroes by Ralph J. Gleason 
          From one of the finest jazz writers who ever lived and a co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine, Ralph J. Gleason, this anthology was published not long after he passed away in 1975, and contains some essential writing. I would probably have never even tried to write if not for Ralph J. Gleason.
     Live At The Village Vanguard by Max Gordon
          Terrific memoir about the history of one of the legendary jazz clubs of all-time written by the man who should know, owner Max Gordon.

     TOP TEN MOST PLAYED ARTISTS OF THE YEAR (In No Order)

     Riches abound in the catalogs of these artists.

     The Rolling Stones
     Miles Davis
     John Coltrane
     The Doors
     Weather Report
     Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
     Dire Straits
     The Beach Boys
     R.E.M.
     David Bowie

     Sources:

     Record Collector magazine (www.recordcollectormag.com)
     Ugly Things magazine (www.ugly-things.com)
     Bomp/Alive Records mailorder (www.bomp.com)
     Norton Records mailorder (www.nortonrecords.com)
     CD Universe (www.cduniverse.com)
     Collector’s Choice Music mailorder (www.ccmusic.com)
     Amazon UK (www.amazon.co.uk)
     Second Spin (www.secondspin.com)
     Music Stack (www.musicstack.com)