Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Best Music of 2007

The best new albums I bought in 2007 were:

Paul McCartney, "Memory Almost Full," a brilliant collection showing that McCartney is still at the top of his game. His solo work since 1993's "Off the Ground" has been very high quality, even when measured against his impressive back catalogue. I really believe that Paul McCartney is one of the greatest composers ever. Hundreds of years from now, he and John Lennon will be remembered as two of the great musical geniuses of the 20th century.

Nick Lowe, "At My Age," a super album with not a bit of filler among the 12 tracks, more people need to know about this vastly underrated singer/songwriter! Lowe is a bit similar to Paul McCartney and Ray Davies of the Kinks, he crafts gorgeous melodies and little vignettes, like short stories in miniature. (Note: I think part of the reason the Beatles worked so well is because John and Paul were such different writers. This is an oversimplification, but it's generally true, that Paul writes little story-songs with a cast of characters, and John wrote painfully lacerating autobiographical songs. Taken together, these two gifts complimented each other perfectly in the group.) Anyway, if you like Paul and the Kinks, you would definitely like Nick Lowe.

Dave Brubeck, "Indian Summer," recorded in January, 2007, an 86-year-old Brubeck shows that he still has the chops on this solo piano album. It's simply astonishing that Brubeck is this good at this age. His playing hasn't lost anything over the years. The disc is a mixture of standards and originals, and even includes a version of his alma mater's anthem, "Pacific Hail." (Brubeck's alma mater is the College of the Pacific.) My favorite song on the album is probably "Thank You," a song he wrote in 1958 for his Quartet. I'm a huge fan of Dave Brubeck, he's a great player and composer and also a great man.

Harry Connick Jr., "Oh, My Nola," buy this album! Connick is one of the most talented musicians around, he really is the heir to Bobby Darin's musical legacy. Like Darin, Connick writes songs, can sing just about any song in any genre, can act, is a dynamite showman, and is also a gifted instrumentalist. (Connick is a much better piano player than Darin was, but Bobby was still pretty good. And not many people are better at playing piano than Harry!) Connick also writes the arrangements for most of his albums. Yeah, he's a little bit impressive. Why is Michael Buble such a big deal??? I like Buble, but he has a very narrow range of talent. Connick simply blows him out of the water, there's no comparison. Yet when the New York Times reviewed a Buble concert this year, they favorably compared Buble to Connick! I think the reason is that people with a very narrow talent range can be very successful because people know what they are getting. Buble picks songs that are overly familiar, to the point where he really can't compete with the original version. But I think people pick up the Buble CD and say, "Oh, I know those songs, I'll buy this." They pick up a Harry Connick CD and say, "Oh, I don't know those songs, I'll put this back." People like Connick and Darin have a difficult time in the marketplace sometimes because they are so talented and so versatile, people can't just put them in one box. And we like to be able to put entertainers in a certain box. Singers get "typecast," much the same way that actors do.

Anyway, back to the album! Harry's album is a love song to New Orleans, the city where he was born and bred. It's a mixture of all kinds of different musical styles, just like a Jambalaya of great tunes! Sorry, that was cheesy...from the opening of Working in the Coal Mine to the closing Do Dat Thing, you will be vastly entertained by one of the very best. This CD is a great showcase for all of Harry's talent, his singing, piano playing, songwriting, and arranging. If you already like Harry Connick, you need to pick this CD up. If you don't know if you like Harry Connick, give this a listen. I think you'll dig it.


Holly A Hughes said...

I totally agree with you about the McCartney and the Lowe albums -- two of my favorite artists EVER. Nick Lowe in particular just keeps better and better. And since you compared him to Ray Davies, have you heard Ray's new album Working Man's Cafe? It's out in the UK already, but won't be released in the US until February. Absolutely superb...

Mark said...

Yes, I do have Ray's new album. Like everything else he does, it is indeed superb. Although the first time I listened to it I wasn't knocked out, which is why it didn't make this list. But I listened to it again, and it really is a great album. I saw you like Alan Price, he's great! He's totally underrated, O Lucky Man and Between Today and Yesterday are classics!