Once again, for about the thirtieth year in a row now, I spent far, far too
many of the past twelve months strapped beneath my trusty Radio
Shack-o-phones, lost within -- amongst MANY others -- the fabulous old and
especially New sounds which flooded my way during Y2K. And I can happily
report it was particularly tough this year keeping my Best Of Lists
relatively succinct and manageable, such was the great glut of cool sounds
which came to my utmost attention.
So, then, restricting myself to a mere Ten in both the Recent and Vintage
categories, here are my picks (in purely ALPHABETICAL ORDER, mind you) as I sit
RICK HARPER "Boot" (Double D)
Yet another home-recorded (and home-burned) compendium of work from one of
America's best-kept secret musical treasures. How Rick manages, year after
year, to come up with such a vast array of great tunes, great arrangements,
great performances -- and then great RECORDINGS of it -- all continues to
astound me. As it really should you too.
IT'S MY PARTY! "Can I Get To Know You Better?" (Mister Cat)
The truly blessed innocence which was the schoolyard girl-group singalong
circa 1961 -- before the Big Boys at the Brill Building et al began writing
the rules -- has SOMEHOW been perfectly recaptured and recreated by this
fresh trio of young upstate New Yorkers. Suffice to say, if words such as
"Honeys," "Marvelettes" and/or "Angels" still bring a lump to your eardrum,
then this crinoline-sturdy gem just HAS to be yours. Right now!
MARK JOHNSON "Last Night On The Roller Coaster" (RadioGhost / Lazy Cat)
True, even a Bronx King the like of Dion DiMucci may have spent his fair time
heel-cooling within the afore-mentioned House of Brill, but fellow Gotham
renegade Mark Johnson has duly captured every ounce of that Belmont Ave. (by
way of Coney Island) charm and swagger on this, his second album in far too
many years. There truly is nobody I know of left who can befriend a song --
and an entire ethos -- quite like Mark does, and you honestly owe it to
yourself to get clued in to what this remarkable man is putting right down.
LOLAS "Ballerina Breakout" (Jam Records)
Y'know, even if head Lola Tim Boykin hadn't the brain (or the brawn) to cover
my all-time favorite Archies tune herein, "Ballerina Breakout" would STILL
have spent the majority of A.D. 2000 lodged within my nearest disc, man.
This is a record Jam-packed end-to-end with exactly the kind of trash-happy
rec room rollickin lesser bands would cower behind their effect units to shun
from. Not our Lolas though: They put the F-u-n BEFORE the A-r-t and nobody
but nobody who comes within ten yards of this mini masterpiece will ever be
able to resist.
THE MASTICATORS "Masticate!" (To MLou Music)
I wonder if Im to be disqualified from mentioning this, because I liked it so
much that I actually put it out? hmmmm.
JAMES RICHARD OLIVER "Psychotic Hillbilly Rock N Roll" (Illbilly)
If any one record during the nuts-o year that was 2000 fully lived up to its
title, it's this latest dollop of grease-fed guitarnoise from the Wild Wild
One of Blue Ridge, GA. Mr. Oliver, as The New York Times shall someday soon
be calling him, has out-done himself yet again with, to cite but one example,
a little song called "Gwyneth Paltrow," which certainly falls in line with
this artists particular m.o. (namely? "pissin folks off since 1992," to
quote his labels anti-corporate slogan). To each and every one of you out
there still declaring "Rock is dead," well, you certainly haven't heard THIS
PUFFY "Fever Fever" (Epic / Sony Japan)
I think I'm at least a year late in picking up on this J-poppin duo, and I
remain blissfully unconcerned over how shamefully uncool it just might be in
the far East to get ga-ga behind such unapologetic gal-pop confectionery.
But, you see, I for one can easily draw that silk-fine line between Brenda
Lee, Pet Clark, Madonna and on up through even Britney if I have to, so Puffy
are more than welcome to live forever beside my teen-caged heart. So There!
TAN SLEEVE "White Lie Castle" (Cheft)
Steve Barry and Lane Steinberg, d.b.a. for the second time hereupon as Tan
Sleeve, have once again brought all-new meanings to such catch-alls as "pop,"
"lounge," and possibly even "retro." Sure, it's the Bacharach-smooth
renditions of Mick and Keith's "Sad Day," Keith Partridge's "I Think I Love
You," and even F. Zappa's "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance" which may
first catch your ear, but what is truly going on here is much more extremely
enjoyable AND musical ...not to mention (unlike most such attempts at
recasting the past) darn well Respectful. As opposed to being simply ironic
or (ugh) "cute." If there's a Holiday Inn bar within that big venue in the
sky, then Tan Sleeve have just GOTTA be the house duo.
VARIOUS "HIT THE HAY, VOLUME 4" (Sound Asleep)
For the umpteenth year running now, Jerker Emanuelson of Sweden has gone and
beat the rest of the world at its own game: Constructing a practically
perfect collection of just about the finest songs (and songwriters!) ever
gathered together in one place. One must realize artists such as Jimmy
Silva, Will Rigby, Ron Flynt and Eytan Mirsky wont just show up on ANY old
label (or compilation), believe you me. Plus even the most discriminating
fan of the New Music is bound to uncover hitherto undiscovered gems within
this roster, which is the basic reason why more labels should be doing just
what Sound Asleep is to keep the sonic faith, as it were before were all
kidNapstered out of virtual existence, that is.
VARIOUS "LEFT OF THE DIAL: A POP TRIBUTE TO THE REPLACEMENTS" (Face Down)
In a year positively overstuffed with Tribute Albums (and Why The Heck Not, I
say, as such productions really do serve as brilliant new artist samplers,
not to mention pick up where the lowly vinyl B-side once left off) (but I
digress) THIS one's one of the best. Why? Well, it's not just because of
the veritable feast of indie-ground stars fully represented herein (including
Cockeyed Ghost, The Andersons, Popland and the Glowfriends, to name but four
out of two dozen!) It's because they have all chosen to honor herein
something far too often over-looked when recalling the late, extremely great
Replacements: Yep, it's their SONGS, stupid, and this album proves
Westerberg's canon is well along on its way to becoming downright
semi-classics and not a Tribute Too Soon too!
JIM BASNIGHT AND THE MOBERLYS "Seattle New York Los Angeles" (Pop The
Often cited at the time (meaning roughly "Give Em Enough Rope") as The Man
Who Brought The New Wave To The Pacific Northwest, Jim Basnight and his
Moberlys, retrospectively especially, can be seen and heard as nothing less
than a thinking-man's Romantics, a Cars with balls, and/or a far-more-genuine
Bruce plus E-Streeters. Translation then? Nothin but some good,
far-from-old-fashioned meat n french fried rock direct from the heart ...as
opposed from simply the heartland. And it took the coolest label in all of
(!!) FRANCE -- Pop The Balloon -- to realize as much, and make available
again a full 23 of this band's very best on one nice, loud disc.
BEACH BOYS "Surfin" (Varese Sarabande)
Sure, all this pre-Capitol material from the teenaged Wilsons has been
trawled across the sand multiple times before (most recently via that very
fine "First Wave" double-disc of early session and rehearsal tapes). But
THIS particularly handy little all-American compilation goes that extra mile
by including some frightfully rare Gary Usher creations as well. Magic,
magic material, believe you me ...and Wow, these kids sure knew how to sing,
THE DEVIANTS "This CD Is Condemned" (Total Energy)
Mick Farren and his Deviants (alongside such co-conspirators as Chrissie
Hynde, Wayne Kramer and even the one and only Twink) honestly did spend
roughly the years 1967 through 1977 mixing Syd Barrett with Sid Vicious and
Black Sabbath with the Mothers of Invention. Now, throw atop this
heady-and-THEN-some brew a dash of old sci-fi B-movies, a hint of Bonzo
dogma, and a thrash of Stoogery, and the results honestly can be -- and are
-- some of the cleverest listening you could ever partake in, this or any
other year REGARDLESS of whichever planet you choose to reside in or near!
FANTASTIC BAGGYS "Anywhere The Girls Are!" (Sundazed)
And speaking of Brian Wilson again, just about the best-ever retreaders of
that giant's genre just had to have been -- and probably still are --
P.F.Sloan and Steve Barri's sub-Jan & Dean motley collection of
papa-do-ron-running ...collectively known as The Fantastic Baggys, ladies and
gremmies. Released at the time (1964) to sorrowful teeny acclaim -- although
on his first U.S. visit, Mick Jagger for one become a lifelong devotee --
the Baggys' material (especially the utterly infectious "Summer Means Fun")
stands up undeniably well in even such a cynical, landlocked era as ours.
MODERN LOVERS "The Original Modern Lovers" (Bomp!)
In a word? Seminal. The "new wave" (whatever that was) possibly did
actually begin during that long-lost Spring of 72, as -- pause for
hat-tipping -- Kim Fowley corralled Jonathan Richman's original Lovers
(including a future Talking Head and even Car) to cut these nine tracks in a
single Massachusetts afternoon. Or maybe these session actually took place
in L.A. a year later? No real matter. Several lives -- not to mention
several thousand careers -- would never be quite the same again.
MONKEES "Headquarters Sessions" (Rhino Handmade)
Now that we've just about all finally come to terms with the Prefab Four being
a "real" band, it's time to perhaps even give due credit to "Headquarters" as
not only Peter, Mike, Micky and Davy's first "real" album, but -- yes, indeed
-- one of the greatest albums released during that tres-heady year of 1967.
The proof, should you really need any, is spread all over these three discs
chockful of out-takes, run-throughs, and absolutely stunning ad-libs. Now!
Wheres that full "MONKEES Anthology" boxset / TV spectacular /
hundred-dollar coffee-table tome, huh??!
RICK NELSON "Legacy" (Capitol)
PS: and cranky Monkee Mike (as in Nesmith) isn't the only California dreamer
due abundant credit for crafting the monster known to this day as "country
rock." Nosir, coz Rick (as in Ricky) Nelson was busy gluing genres -- not to
mention mediums -- together as far back as 1957, courtesy of Dad's
adventurous hit television show. And as if THAT isn't triumph enough, Rick
then goes and throws together the landmark Stone Canyon Band a decade later
(think Eagles, only lightyears more able and willing). But then, a decade
after that, the hitherto-irrepressible Ricky borrowed Jerry Lee's prop-plane
and, shoot, went down rockin to the very end. DAMN, and Amen.
NIKKI AND THE CORVETTES "Nikki And The Corvettes" (Bomp!)
Amidst all the Bangle and Go-Go hoopla of its time, Nikki Corvette was
cruelly shunted aside in the Cool New-Chick Singer Sweepstakes of the early
Reagan years. Too bad too, coz if ever we needed a substantive antidote to
Susanna Hoffs at her MTV peak, it was such Corvette-rock as "Just What I
Need," "Boys Boys Boys" and -- oh boy -- "I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend." Not
only that, but the whole kindercore (fashion) movement seems to have been
based solely upon Nikki circa 1980 as well. Huh! That possibly dubious
honor aside, please just set aside your lunch (as in Lydia) and pick this
disc of REAL grrl group therapy up instead.
PAUL REVERE & THE RAIDERS "Mojo Workout!" (Sundazed)
I've long claimed that, with just the slightest of peeks beneath their
revolutionary war stage get-ups, the Raiders are revealed to be one of
America's greatest-ever hard pop combos (and Mark Lindsay in particular one
of his nation's rockinest, sockinest frontspeople!) Let their incredible
string of hit singles prove me out there, but then lest we also forget the
band's pre-fame terrorizing of the Pacific Northwest as well, the essence of
which has been fully recaptured here on these earliest, gnarliest recordings
for Columbia Records. Sure, the Sonics and the Wailers were proto-Seattle
and all that, but I doubt even they would dare even PERFORM, let alone commit
to tape, such an aural audacity as these here Raiders' legendary "Crisco
Party / Walkin The Dog" medley.
VARIOUS "SONGS IN THE KEY OF Z" (Which?)
A thoroughly ear-bending companion to Irwin Chusid's learned-and-then-some
text of the same name, this disc collects perhaps the wildest and wickedest
twenty chunks of stereophonic esoterica ever gathered together within one
jewel case. Shall I name some names then? The Shaggs. Daniel Johnston.
Lucia Pamela. Jack Mudurian. Joe Meek. The Legendary Stardust Cowboy.
Captain Beefheart. Jandek. Tiny Tim. But I think Ive already said too
much. Outsider music for the new millennium, to say the very least, though
such a pigeonhole really only pecks at the surface. So then! Open your
ears, tune in, and drop something!
(C) 2001 - Gary "Pig" Gold