2006 has been a strange year. Music has re-centered my life in a big, big way – primarily because of high-speed internet becoming affordable in the backwoods I call home. The internet has bloated my music collection to such an extent I almost feel it necessary to step away and absorb for a while. The dearth of anything on the horizon I even feel like giving half a listen to will help ease that feeling. As the year winds its way down, I wanted to make some notes of things I “discovered” this year, from both the magical, mystery nodes of the ‘net and from getting my greedy mitts on some back catalog I’ve unjustly ignored.
AC/DC – Angus Cha Cha. Already brought this up, so suffice it to say I still think it is stellar.
Adam & The Ants – Antbox. This collection of rarities, demos, hits and b-sides was chosen by the Antman himself, and released overseas back in 2000. I found it for a good price and picked it up. It only reinforced my impression that he is one of, if not the, most overlooked artists of the punk/new wave era. Three cds of pure genius (even his filler is killer).
The Beatles – Alternative Sgt. Pepper. A bootleg comprised of outtakes, demos and related pieces, with audio culled from the Anthology dvds and other sources where George Martin, Paul McCartney and others discuss the evolution of the songs and the recording process itself. I’m not a big Sgt. Pepper fan, but hearing the process of making such a seminal recording is incredibly interesting for a music geek like myself.
Billy Bragg – Live in Hamburg (radio broadcast). A download available from Archive.org, wherein the loquacious Billy pontificates on the Mermaid Avenue project instead of blathering on about Billy himself. I saw him once on a double bill with Robyn Hitchcock and he talked for ten minutes on either side of each song he played, with such witty remarks as calling Oasis “Osmosis” and that he bathes his son with pride. The focus on Woody Guthrie really helps, for Woody was actually interesting, unlike ol’ Billy.
Bob Dylan – Blood On The Tracks (N.Y. Sessions), Folksinger’s Choice, and Thin Wild Mercury Music. I have accumulated too much Dylan, but these three are outstanding. The N.Y. Sessions are the original recordings, before he found them too spartan and re-recorded with a fuller arrangement. They deserve a legitimate release. The Folksinger’s Choice is an early radio performance, with wonderful question and answer pieces with the host and some killer versions of songs like “Death of Emmit Till.” Thin Wild Mercury Music covers 1965 & 66, with Dylan going electric. As those first two electric albums are my favorites this is near Grail-like for me. More information on these and thousands of other Dylan bootlegs is available at Bob’s Boots.
David Bowie – 50 Dead Dogs. A bootleg of his star-studded fiftieth birthday concert at Madison Square Garden in 97. Great sound, and the Foo Fighters really kick up a proper bombastic racket on “Hallo Spaceboy.”
Faces – Wicked Messenger. More from the bootleg parade! A collection of 1970 radio performances, wherein these drunken boys prove their worth. I don’t much care for their studio albums, but every live recording has blown me away.
Fugazi – The Argument. I somehow missed this upon it’s release in 2001. Picking it up this year I was flat-out stunned. If it came out this year it would most likely be my top pick. Instantly vaulted to the top of their catalog. I eagerly await the follow-up (I can hope can’t I?).
Little Feat – Live at Ultrasonic Studios (73 & 74). Two more from archive.org. Little Feat has always had a generous taper policy and an active and inviting tape-trading community. These two radio performances are better than their entire studio output. So what are you waiting for? Ultrasonic 73, and the next years return engagement.
Neil Young – Time Fades Away & Going Back To Canada. The first is the lost Neil Young – an official live album from 73 that has yet to be released on cd. It is really good, and interesting as a follow to the commercial high of Harvest. Touring on that album and assaulting the audience with these ragged, rocking new songs must have been an experience. Somehow big and extremely personal, Time Fades Away is a powerful work. On the opposite end of the spectrum of scale and sound is Going Back To Canada, a 1971 concert recording from Toronto. A nervous Neil prefaces new songs with a humility and warmth the bristly Young is not known for. Worth tracking down.
Pogues – all them reissues. They sound great, and I touched on them in the AC/DC writeup linked above.
Prince – Dream Factory. Another boot, this one an early draft of Sign ‘O’ The Times. This has some tracks recorded before the breakup of The Revolution, and Wendy & Lisa’s influence looms large. I think I may like it more than the final version, as it doesn’t contain “Housequake” or “Hot Thing”, and Prince – though heir to the Godfather he may be – doesn’t do a good James Brown. This is in some ways the culmination of the explorations of Around The World In A Day and Parade, whereas Sign ‘O’ The Times is more of a crossroads, and after hearing this sounds more of a hodge-podge than the amalgam of past and future Prince it seems.
Q-Tip – Kamaal The Abstract. This is an unreleased album from 2002, and I’ll be damned if I’ll ever understand why this was shelved. It may not have been a great commercial album, but it is outstanding! It is an even greater homage to the jazzy soul of the 70s and early 80s than even the Tribe’s great The Low End Theory. To these ears it is the apotheosis of the neo-soul sound, an album that stands high above heads of the D’Angelos and Bilals of the world. Q-Tip melds hip-hop and soul into an organic other – not just a different beat, a different thing.
Sly & The Family Stone – Live at the Fillmore East. Another shelved recording, this time scheduled for a 2003 release. Live at the Fillmore East is a recording of both shows from October 5, 1968. Sly and co. were at the top of their powers, a grooving, jamming monster of a band. The recording suffers from some hot vocals, which may have led the perfectionist Sly to nix the release. That’s a shame, as this recording is the hotness.
Talking Heads – Live on Tour. A promotional vinyl recording from 1979, this is the Heads before the big suits and the bigger band, when they were a rock band not a world music traveling extravaganza. Nice compliment to Rhino records deluxe reissue The Name of This Band is Talking Heads. I liked them as punky white funksters more than as a Fela Kuti/Roxy Music world/art/pretentious hybrid.
Velvet Underground – Live at End Cole Ave. Part of this show is chronicled on 1969: Velvet Underground Live; this is the whole damn thing. Though the legend of the Velvets may have overshadowed the music, some of it was outstanding. Though the studio albums are great, some of the live recordings (like this one and The Quine Tapes) blow them out of the water like so much flotsam and jetsam.