Aight, so one last list, done for a newspaper which didn't print it( or
anybody else's): this is written in my version of newspaperese, which some may
prefer to my usual blogifactions (which also means this is a lot shorter than
recent). Please support these worthy albums! Don Allred
TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2005
1. BOB DYLAN: The Bootleg Series, Volume 7: No Direction Home (The
Twenty-eight tracks, all but two previously unissued. From 1959's unaffected
warmth to 1966's brittle vibrancy, his vocals are as prodigiously agile as
his songwriting; meanwhile, the playing moves from living room to garage to the
highway to the stage, bringing his punky, psychedelic proclivities further
into the spotlight, and over the moon, but never far from the blues (or rap).
2. JAMES CARTER, CYRUS CHESNUT, ALI JACKSON, REGINALD VEAL:
Gold Sounds (Brown Brothers )
Saxologist James Carter, and his fellow mellow mad scientists of jazz,
alchemize light from the guardedly festive tunes of alternative rock icons Pavement
(sans sometimes cryptic, sidewalk graffiti lyrics).
3. JASON MORAN: Same Mothers (Blue Note)
Unlike many young jazz pianists, Jason Moran is less influenced by the
emphatic lyricism of McCoy Tyner than by the mercurial speculations of Andrew Hill,
who also co-composed some of the tracks on this album. Here, hellhound-chasin'
Jason introduces his agile (and hip-hop savvy) trio to the acoustic and
electric blues guitars of Marvin Sewell (previously and more sedately employed by
4. DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: J'ai Deux Amours (Sovereign Artists)
Jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater's Deux Amours are her birthplace, America,
and her "healing place," France. Despite recent disputes over Iraq, she tempts
both loves to get back together, over a sumptuous repast of French songs
(mostly untranslated, but you'll read her lips).
5. SHELLY FAIRCHILD: Ride (Sony)
Country newcomer Shelly Fairchild shows us her hope chest, which is full of
soul, but some folks don't think she's enough of a lady. Mercy!
6. THE HOLD STEADY: Separation Sunday (Frenchkiss)
Blame NAFTA, CAFTA, bad schools, and/or Classic Rock radio, but here's a
concept album, maybe even a rock opera, about young lives lived in retro. Of
course, all kids tend to think their problems are new, but on Separation Sunday
they get to squawk about the same old dramas (and get me trotting after the pack-a-day narrator), in brilliantly grubby musical
cartoons, drawn from the ink of The Who, early Bruce Springsteen, primetime
Replacements, Lifter Puller(?), and others.
7. Miranda Lambert: Kerosene (Sony) Next to Shelly's, country debut of the year. Anyone who looks like that can't be getting *all* her well-utilized songwriting scenarios from her private detective parents' files, Ah feel sure.
8. SLUNT: Get A Load Of This (Repossession)
Certain punks once ranted about the "female rule" of Thatcherized Britain.
Wonder if they've since gotten a load of Slunt, who (like Sleater-Kinney) state
the "female rule" of the best recent punk: Mother knows best, and Abby
Gennett's got a lot of cunning stunts to prove it, and here she lets favorite son Pat
Harrington play state of the art guitar, on a long (enough) leash.
9. PATRICIA VONNE: Guitars And Castanets (Bandalera)
Despite the title, the flamenco bits are interludes between songs often best
described as firecrackers tossed into a Southwestern quarry from a runaway
orecart. Appropriately, Patricia is the lil sister of Robert Rodriguez, director
of El Mariachi and Desperado.
10.SANSO EXTRO: Sentimentalist (Type)
I'm tempted to say that "Sanso-Extro (AKA Melissa Agate) is the Madame Curie
of laptop electronica." But Madame only discovered radium, while
Xantro-Extro's eerie microscopic sounds behave more like some kind of musical lifeforms,
fed by all kinds of instruments, acoustic as well as electronic.
Don Allred's Pazz & Jop 2005 Ballot & Comments
1. Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series, Volume 7: No Direction Home (The
2. Insect Trust: Hoboken Saturday Night (Collector's Choice)
3. Jason Moran: Same Mother (Blue Note)
4. James Carter, Cyrus Chesnut, Ali Jackson, Reginald Veal:
Gold Sounds (Brown Brothers)
5. Benny Lackner Trio: Not The Same (Nagel Heyer)
6. Dee Dee Bridgewater: J'ai Deux Amours (Sovereign Artists)
7. Shelly Fairchild: Ride (Sony)
8. Slunt: Get A Load Of This (Repossession)
9. Wide Right: Sleeping On The Couch (Widerightmusic)
10. Sanso-Xtro: Sentimentalist (Type)
1. Aaron Neville: "Louisiana 1927"(live version) (no label)
2.Victoria: "Mister Let Me Go" (Shadoks)
3. Dorothy: "Softness" (Crippled Dick Hot Wax)
4. Mary J. Blige with U2: "One"(live version )(no label)
5. Cobra Verde: "I Feel Love"
6. Cobra Verde: "So Long Marianne"
7. Billy Joe Shaver with Big & Rich: "Live Forever"(Compadre)
8. Emmanuel Jal/Abdul: "Gua"(Riverboat)
9. Blind Arvella Gray: "Arvella's Work Song"(Conjuroo)
10. Fiery Furnaces: "Rehearsing My Choir" (Rough Trade)
NO DIRECTION HOME (THE SOUNDTRACK) suggests that Bob Dylan was always
electric. The '59 track, "When I Got Troubles," includes a stop/start passage in the
overall groove; already he's slipping a little rockabilly into his bluesy
folkiness, a little cumulative mashup. (He already had what Frank Kogan called
"the mind of a DJ", re LOVE AND THEFT). It's not a static groove, there's a sense
of momentum, of a vehicle sweeping up things it finds along the road, things
blowin' in the wind and rattling around the margins. "Rambler, Gambler"
further highlights degrees of force and delicacy, detail and pattern: waves and
cycles of elements rising and falling in the mix. This can be fluid, and mild or
powerful (depending on the size of the wave, the surge of the urge). It can be,
by the time of the next (only the third!) track, "Dink's Song," notes gouged
from passing, and often painful, insights, impulses. Here, and in "I Was Young
When I Left Home," is emotional roller derby, as the narrator sometimes has
to deal with isolation, fear, guilt (he's way out/in here; lost, fleeing,
drifting, stuck inside a mobile), contradictions that send him crashing into his
limitations, and boucing, pulled back into his cycles, in his lot full of his
stuff. (Ditto what happens to Wide Right's Leah Archibald, in her hot little
apartment, with that damn couch she can't get somebody onto and somebody else off
of; ditto the Fiery Furnaces' Grandma Olga, on the train of thought and manic
munday transit, spinning yarns of seemingly stranded strands, sics, tics, non
seqs, whirlwinds that sort into detail and pattern, stories within stories,
memories in their clashy mesh and meshy clash. Like No Direction's Dylan and The
Hold Steady's ramblin' urban hicks, runaway pilgrimettes, she's purposefully
wandering, off to visit her family plot, its storied, dented inner surface she
can't help but fill in with memory's riffing ritual. This process is served).
"Masters Of War" shines a harsh, steady light, a backdrop as he calls into the
shadows. "Hard Rain's" lighting gets even more theatrical, with the voice
getting spiky already, jabbing and wired, seaching the shadows and portents of his
profuse imagery, but posing too. "When The Ship Comes In" 's imagery is
buggin', its wires raise rocks to stand proud, and everything in it is juiced with
poison visions of vengeful victory. "Mr. Tambourine Man" indicates
self-awareness of the previously over amped ampitheatre of his mynd. His lot, full of his
stuff, while "meantime life outside goes on all around you."But where would we
or he be, if, to some degree, he hadn't bought "Advertising signs they con
you into thinking YOU'RE the One"? (And also he's got me thinking if Insect Trust
created their uniquely, perculiarly satisfying HOBOKEN SATURDAY NIGHT, while
destroying themselves as a group: busy being born *and* busy dying, rather than
the choices Mr. D. decrees we must make. But then he's got me mixing in "though
neither is to be what they claim," from NDH's Disc 2's vibrantly brittle
"Desolation Row," speaking of insight gouging notes and ticks and moments). "It's
Alright, Ma," source of previously mentioned decrees, isn't on here, but NO
DIRECTION's narrative groove leads me through it, through insights and
bouncebacks, flux and clues, glimpsed by "Chimes Of Freedom flashing," as the jingle
jangle morning becomes more and more electric, and Baby Blue's reindeer armies
roll down all roads to Mr. Jones' rolling stoned mirror, and vice versa. Disc 2
starts with the immaculately rowdy "Maggie's Farm" (hard to imagine why some,
not all, at Newport found it so immaculately frightful).Almost too hip,
"Desolation Row"(with guitars and hardassed attitude carving graffiti chronicles in
the near hopelessly sere surface of the costly, protectively low Row) and some
others don't quite have words and/or vocal nuance (yet) to match their music.
And by "music," I mean to include the sheer crackling resonance of Dylan's
stalwart to stoic voice, but "Visions of Johanna," in particular, lacks the
master take's intimacy and shading: it seems too brash, yet Dyl's force pokes
holes in his cool mask (he knows he needs 'em), letting more light, closer
listening into the music's fever sheen. "Inside the museum, infinity goes up on
trial," and he seems ready to judge, strutting with his unmellow fellows, brushing
sparks from the exhibits, still under construction in his scrawled halls.
Manchester '66's "Ballad Of A Thin Man" (only the last two tracks have
previously been issued; legitimately, anyway)is as triumphantly derisive as the studio
master take, but also already becoming as self-mocking as Before The Flood's
'74 comeback tour performance is wrenchingly, wretchingly purgative. Here, he's
persecutor and lost victim, O'Brien ("he was obviously quite mad") and
Winston Smith, both occupants of Orwell's Room 101, and what a workout band the
101ers are. "Like A Rolling Stone" celebrates its Titantic infinity, electocuties
parading an anthem no scarier than anyone born to sing it, and who isn't?
"How does it feeeluhhl," comin' round the swaying, plugged in mountain again.