1. Notorious Cherry Bombs: Notorious Cherry Bombs (Universal South)
Rodney Crowell and Vince Gill front a collection of Nashville’s best session players in a raucous set of rockabilly and hard swinging neo-country songs, like the soon-to-be-classic "It’s Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night That Chew Your Ass All Day." Furious, fun and immaculately played and produced.
2. Stevie Wonder: Fullingness’s First Finale (Motown)
Wonder’s nasty funk song about Nixon, "You Haven’t Done Nothing", has suddenly assumed an entirely new life:
But we are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong
‘Cause if you really want to hear our views
"You haven’t done nothing"!
It’s not too cool to be ridiculed
But you brought this upon yourself
The world is tired of pacifiers
We want the truth and nothing else
Jackson Five song along, now. Especially you, Michael…
3. Mahavishnu Orchestra: Lost Trident Sessions (Sony)
Lost for 25 years, the final Mahavishnu Orchestra album resurfaced a few years ago and proved to be better than anyone could have predicted, considering the colliding egos that were ripping the band apart as these tracks were being recorded. Jazz never screamed and thrashed like this again.
4. Willie Nelson and Ray Price: Run That By Me One More Time (Lost Highway)
It just doesn’t get any smoother sounding than this reunion between Price and his former bass player and songwriter. Someone should find a way to rig "I Just Destroyed the World I’m Living In" as Rumsfeld’s ringtone.
5. Joe Henderson: Lush Life (Polygram)
One of the most underrated tenor players transforms the sweet swing songs of Billy Strayhorn, the underrated composer for the Duke Ellington band, into a classic set of hard bop in a small group setting. Henderson’s solo version of the title track is one of the most stunning sax performances in post-Coltrane jazz.
6. Danny Barnes: Dirt on the Angel (Terminus Records)
Danny Barnes, picker and singer for the Bad Livers, is the funniest new songwriter around. Except, when Barnes sings songs like "Life in the Country", he sounds deadly serious, too. And he is.
Folks round here wanna drink and screw
And fight when there’s nothin better to do
That’s life in the country
Ain’t like in the movies
Poor folks go hungry
That’s life in the country
7. Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band: Express Yourself (Warner Bros.)
Smoother than War and a better feel for the blues than Sly Stone, Charles Wright is the neglected genius of LA funk.
8. Tift Merritt: Tambourine (Lost Highway)
A gorgeous new voice in American roots music, who can glide from gospel to rock to a bluegrass ballad in a heartbeat. And she’s a helluva guitar-player, too.
9. The Jayhawks: Rainy Day Music (Lost Highway)
Proof that these days smart songwriting, first class musicianship and energetic performances can only take you so far in the world corporate music.
10. Gilad Atzmon and Orient House Ensemble: Exile (Enja)
Lester Young meets Yusef Lateef in the house that Edward Said built.
By the time JEFFREY ST. CLAIR was 18, he’d been 86’d from more bands than Dickey Betts. Complaints can be registered to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jesse Walker and Phyllis Pollack called in sick this week. No one round here has heard from David Vest in a month.