It is with that in mind that we bring you our first in a series of year end lists, this one focusing on albums and songs that returned to heavy rotation after extended time apart this year, or things we discovered behind the curve. Enjoy, and please let us know what you rediscovered during 2008 in the comments.
5. Tony! Toni! Toné!'s House of Music
New Jack Swing favorites Tony! Toni! Toné! supply three of my favorite '90s jams on this superb album: "Thinking of You," "Let's Get Down" and "Lovin' You." And DJ Quik's collabo with the Oakland trio is still the blueprint of how R&B/rap duets should roll.
4. Ray Charles' Modern Sounds in Country and Western, Volume Two
Unlike the first installment of Modern Sounds, this volume offers two sides: one gives us schmaltzy string ballads and the other brings the swinging up tempo magic of Brother Ray's take on "You Are My Sunshine" (the fantastic duet with growling powerhouse and Raelette, Margie Hendrix). Although this was never released on CD, the tunes can be found on The Complete Country & Western Recordings: 1959-1986 an awesome Ray box set.
3. D'Angelo's Live at the Cirkus, Stockholm, Sweden
OK, if you are lucky enough to locate this via torrent, eBay (sup Sweden!) or a sketchy Berklee College of Music connection, then thank your lucky lucky lucky stars 'cause this is one of the BEST live albums ever captured. The year is 2000, the tour is the Voodoo extravaganza, ?uestlove is the band leader/musical director, and Pino Palladino is the bass man. Oh, Anthony Hamilton (pre-fame) sings fierce background vocals and the star of the show, D'Angelo, is a force of nature; part James Brown, part Marvin Gaye, a dash of Sly Stone and a shit load of gritty and sexy funk.
2. Camp Lo's Uptown Saturday Night
Look, anybody who has the balls to use Dynasty's "Adventures in the Land of Music" successfully gets my vote. "Luchini AKA This Is It" is a classic and the rest of the blaxploitation love letter album follows suit: "Black Nostaljack AKA Come On" and "Coolie High" feel as if they are straight out of a Pam Grier film, and kudos go to producer Ski (he contributed to Reasonable Doubt). Even the cover is a nod to that special musical time and place, the '70s: it's a direct homage to Marvin Gaye's I Want You album art.
1. Willie Hutch's The Mack: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Speaking of blaxploitation, here is my number one rediscovery. I would like to start off by saying I first saw this legendary 1973 film at the age of 8 (great parenting Deb and James). It's about a pimp and stars Max Julian and Richard Pryor and is set in Oakland. Besides a killer score and soundtrack by Willie Hutch, this film has given us so much culturally: not only did UGK sample the brilliant "I Choose You" for my favorite song "International Players Anthem (I Choose You)" BUT thanks to the classic Annual Players Ball scene in the flick, we got the title for OutKast's first tune and this, the greatest sketch of all time:
5. Voxtrot's self-titled LP
This was one of the buzziest bands of 2007, right? I don’t know, I wasn’t really paying attention. I first heard them at the end of ’07, when the buzz was already starting to subside. But this year, I could not stop listening to the band’s debut self-titled LP. Their early EPs are also very good.
4. Sonic Youth's body of work
This was always a band I was more interested in as a cultural force than musicians. That’s how I came to read Goodbye 20th Century, David Browne's excellent biography of the band that convinced me to give some of their records another chance. The seemingly inevitable drop-off in quality as the band hits their 20-year anniversary is virtually nonexistent: in retrospect, their 2004 LP Sonic Nurse is as great a record as the middle period breakthrough Sister (1987) was. This music is some of the most rewarding in all of alt rock, if you have the discipline to listen to it. That sounds obnoxious, but SY can be like homework in that way.
3. Cloud Cult's Advice From the Happy Hippopotamus and The Meaning of 8
Alright, I had 2006’s Advice From the Happy Hippopotamus on my iTunes for a long time long before I fell in love with Feel Good Ghosts, their latest LP. That new one inspired me to go back and retry both Happy Hippo and 2007’s The Meaning of 8, and now Cloud Cult are truly one of my favorite bands of all time—they strike the fine line between emotionally confessional and totally obnoxious, and between being adventurous and getting lost up your own ass. Also their show this November was the best one I saw all year.
2. The Rentals' Return of the Rentals
Matt Sharp, original bassist for Weezer, recorded debut The Return of The Rentals as a side project, and I never listened to it much til this year. Is it better than the Blue Album? The Blue Album wins by a hair. Is it better than everything Rivers Cuomo and co. have put out since Sharp left the band (after 1996’s Pinkerton)? Most definitely.
1. George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass
So this dropped practically the minute the Beatles called it quits for good, and yet it still remains the greatest solo work by any former Beatle. It didn’t hurt that George had the largest catalog of solo tunes to choose from when the band disbanded, and it definitely doesn’t hurt that the band backing up George on these songs is essentially Derek and the Dominoes, not to mention Billy Preston, and a young Phil Collins (wtf). Okay, Phil Spector’s production is at its most treacly and overdone here, but the songs and the playing are more than strong enough to overcome that fact. Bonus points for “Wah Wah,” one of the greatest shut-up-you-fucking-baby songs of all time.
So, readers, what was it that you came (back) around to over the last year?