Okay, so this post may be a little late, considering 2009 is nearly a month and a half old. But I wanted to chronicle some of the great music I discovered in 2008. But, since I didn't buy many new releases in 2008, I decided to change courses and write about the best music I discovered in 2008, regardless of when it was recorded.
Freddie Hubbard, "Red Clay"
Okay, this was a re-discovering. I've had this CD for many years, but I hadn't listened to it in a long time when I pulled it out again last summer. It's a great, adventurous jazz album from 1970. Freddie Hubbard was one of jazz's great trumpeters, and here he worked with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Joe Henderson to create a masterpiece. (He also worked with Lenny White, who played drums, but I've never heard of him before. Sorry Lenny.) Sadly, Freddie died in December, 2008. I'm glad I re-discovered his music before he passed away. (Freddie and I share a birthday, April 7th.)
Chris Isaak, "Speak of the Devil"
Why didn't I get into Chris Isaak in the late 90's, when I was going through my Elvis/Roy Orbison phase? I have no idea, but I've finally jumped on the bandwagon. Isaak has a gorgeous, haunting voice, and he emulates the sound of the 50's and 60's without seeming stuck in a timewarp. From the slow sultriness of "Flying" to the all-out rock of "Like the Way She Moves," Isaak is at his best on these songs, which show him to be a great songwriter as well as a great singer.
Robyn Hitchcock, "Moss Elixir"
This is the album that really made me a fan of Robyn's music. I don't know exactly when things clicked for me, but suddenly, listening to this album, I seemed to "get" Robyn. "Beautiful Queen" and "De Chirico Street" are two of my favorites off of this album.
Queen, "The Platinum Collection"
After years and years of forgetting that I liked Queen, and after hearing so many people sing their songs on "American Idol," I realized I needed to have some Queen in my collection. So I bought "The Platinum Collection," a 3-disc set covering their whole career. It was money well spent. It was amazing to hear all the different sounds of Queen, from "Killer Queen" to "Bohemian Rhapsody" to "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" to "The Show Must Go On." What a brilliant group. And Freddie Mercury had one of the greatest voices in rock.
Nick Lowe, "Jesus of Cool"
It was great to actually hear all of Nick's first solo album, along with lots of B-sides and extras thrown in. Nick is a genius, and extremely underrated.
Mick Ronson, "Only After Dark"
This 2-CD set collects Mick Ronson's solo albums "Slaughter on 10th Avenue" and "Play, Don't Worry." Ronson was the lead guitarist for David Bowie from 1970-73, and he played a vital role in creating four masterpieces, Bowie's albums "Hunky Dory," "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars," "Aladdin Sane," and Lou Reed's "Transformer." (That's Mick playing piano and arranging on "Perfect Day.") A sorely underrated talent, Ronson didn't blow his own horn very much, and was apparently quite content in the sideman role. Which is too bad, because he had enough talent and charisma to be a frontman. (Just watch the "Ziggy Stardust" movie for ample proof of both.) As a die-hard David Bowie fan, I don't know why I waited so long to buy Mick's solo records, but they were worth waiting for. Mick sounds uncannily like Bowie on his version of "Love Me Tender." Mick gets to show off his guitar skills on the instrumental track "Slaughter on 10th Avenue," which was written by Richard Rodgers, or Rodgers and Hart and Rodgers and Hammerstein fame. I think that David Bowie's music lost something when he parted ways with Mick Ronson at the end of 1973. Which isn't to say that Bowie's music went downhill, but he lost a terrifically talented musical partner. (The arrangement on "Life on Mars" and the solo on "Moonage Daydream" are perhaps Mick's finest moments with Bowie.) And I don't really know how Ronson would have fit into, say, "Young Americans," but I would have loved to hear it anyway. Like many other talents, Mick Ronson died much too young, of liver cancer in 1993 at just 46. Fortunately, he and Bowie reconciled shortly before his death, and he played guitar on some tracks on Bowie's 1993 album "Black Tie, White Noise."