Dec 152014
 

Anyone who has ever looked at a list of best albums, songs, pizza or whatever, knows that there will never be an agreement. Music is subjective and heavy influenced by ones environment and friends. We will be listing not only MojoLists Best Albums of 2014, but a few others from music lovers around the country. Look for additional lists throughout the month of December.

Great albums are more than a radio hit, they are a coherent collection of songs that share a vision or forward a story. It is a single work of art created from many pieces. The art of the album is lost on many of today’s recording artists, especially within the pop genre but that isn’t to say that is something new, just perhaps more prevalent. For as long as recorded music had a long play format, there have been albums with untouched B sides and others that compelled the listener to play the complete work, both sides.

These albums stand out as the very best of what all of us here at MojoLists heard this year, the albums that made us stop and pay attention, the albums that we will still be listening too for years to come. It was no easy decision either, 2014 has been one of the best years for music releases in a long time.

  1. Spanish Gold – South of Nowhere

spanish1To our ears, everything that Adrian Quesada touches turns to gold. Put him in a room with the likes of former Hacienda singer Dante Schwebel, My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan and you have the perfect recipe for something new and outstanding.

Not only is this album full of infectious earworms, it is solid from beginning to end, one long piece that stirs bruising blues and garage rock with Adrian’s own brand of psychedelic magic. It is like nothing else we have heard while being everything good we have ever heard. Kick back and let South of Nowhere wash over you again and again.

  1. St. Paul and The Broken Bones – Half The City

st-paul-and-the-broken-bones-half-the-cityYou can hear an unrestrained passion inflected in lead singer, Paul Janeway’s voice but you really can’t fully appreciate its power until you see him in action. The story in the music takes over Paul’s body as if he is about to sing in tongues, and with one of the tightest bands we have ever heard behind him, he creates magic.

Half The City is a complete work of soul perfection that keeps calling you back. In a period where the heart of soul music is seeing a strong revival, St. Paul and The Broken Bones came out of nowhere and blew the roof off our expectations.

  1. The Black Keys – Turn Blue

Blackkeysturnblue_LeadThere are people, a lot of people, who need bands to make the same album over and over again. Don’t believe me? Kiss and AC\DC are just two of the bands that have been making the exact same album for decades and making a fortune doing it. A loud outcry of Black Keys fans voiced their displeasure that the band would dare to mature, grow or forward their sound. These musical troglodytes wish to remain in the past but we think Turn Blue is fantastic.

Singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney were joined by Brian Burton, a.k.a. Danger Mouse as a co-producer this time around. The combination was magical and allowed The Black Keys to maintain their punk blues foundation while expanding beyond the confines of their garage sound. True Blue is as good as anything the Keys have done and show they are not a simple one sound band.

  1. Temples – Sun Structures

homepage_large.bf196edbIt doesn’t take more than 3 seconds to know you love this album, the psychedelic guitar and retro feel take you back to the best of the 60s and 70s. Temple is a four piece English band that keeps their music planted firmly in the best parts of their early influences, like the Beatles and Zombies. They feel like your favorite jeans, like they have just always been there and you could swear several of Sun Structures songs resided on an 8-Track in your first car.

  1. Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes

High_Hopes_album_Bruce_SpringsteenSpringsteen cranks out albums in his sleep and we don’t mean that in a bad way, he has always put out worthy music. High Hopes somehow leaps out in a way Bruce hasn’t managed in a long time. It is clearly the best work he has done in decades. There was no easy consensus on where this album should be but it was clearly among the very best albums of the year.

 

In no particular order are the albums that round out MojoLists top 10 Albums of 2014.

Watch for more MojoLists and Friends Best of 2014 Lists!

Dec 122014
 

Sadly, I don’t currently own a turntable to spin my classic vinyl albums of the pre-CD era. But I still enjoy the LP format on whatever media I have available. One album that has thoroughly impressed me is “Bird In a House”, the 2002 release from Railroad Earth, an album that likely has been spun on nary a turntable.

MI0000363019I often try to breakdown the musical components of classic rock to determine what makes a song fit the genre. Is it the make, model or style of the instruments? Is it the songwriting or the sounds of the singers’ voices? Is it a specific vibe or something less tangible? Likely, it’s a combination of all of the above. But when you hear a song from the classic rock era, you just know it!

Railroad Earth is a band that formed long past the death of classic rock. In fact, upon first listen, you’ll clearly hear the country and bluegrass influences, not rock, which are front and center on most of the album’s tracks. Next you’ll quickly notice the influences of the Grateful Dead, Charlie Daniels Band and Gram Parsons. The music, created and recorded in 2002, immediately takes you back to the early 1970s, the heart of the Classic Rock Era. How, why? Is it important to understand it or is it better to just sit back, listen and enjoy? I say, the latter. Just enjoy it!

The title track, Bird In a House, is instantly recognizable as if it’s been in your DNA since birth. The Dead’s influence is unmistakable. You can close your eyes and envision the song in a 20-minute jam at some music festival! The rest of the album follows. The fiddles, banjos and mandolins abound and you can tell these guys are having fun. You will too as you join them for the ride!

The Allmusic Guide has similar thoughts (http://www.allmusic.com/album/bird-in-a-house-mw0000223848) and rated the album 4.5 out of 5 stars! I highly recommend you give this album a listen, as it’s thoroughly enjoyable. You can find it here on Spotify (the album in its entirety is not available on YouTube): http://open.spotify.com/album/2dexlp8RQhcmePzeotbCBG.
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Dec 122014
 

Now Playing: The JB’s – These Are The JB’s

Hot damn, this is absolutely sick!!! An absolute must-buy!

In 1970 James Brown perfectly captured a definitive moment in modern music when he called Bootsy Collins into the studio to record the tracks that would be These Are The J.B.’s, a title given to a King Records test-press LP that was never released, and only rumored to exist.NA5119-LP

This album is the epitome of funk music, Brown’s innovation that influenced everything that came after it, from Afro-beat to disco to hip-hop. And if there is any funk ensemble as influential as Brown’s in the post-“Cold Sweat” musical landscape, it’s the Bootsy Collins/Parliament/Funkadelic contingent. Those two streams, as Grammy-winning James Brown historian Alan Leeds details in this album’s liner notes, converged for the first time here, making this a Rosetta Stone of funk’s dominant idioms.

This link between Brown’s funk and all that followed features Bootsy and his young band running through twelve-minute instrumental take of Marva Whitney’s “It’s My Thing,” replete with blues chord changes, alongside interpretations of the Meters, Kool and the Gang and none other than Jimi Hendrix. This is a young band’s James Brown-turned-on-his-head style of funk that they nail in a one-minute vamp that embodies the essence of the psychedelic-flavored music that would propel them into the orbit of George Clinton’s mothership.

This is the first commercial issue of this album, overseen by Now-Again’s Eothen “Egon” Alapatt alongside Leeds and Universal Music Group’s James Brown expert Harry Weinger. It was mastered specifically for vinyl by Elysian Master’s Dave Cooley, from the original two-track stereo master that James Brown and his engineer Ron Lenhoff delivered to production forty-four years ago. It’s packaged in a thick, “tip-on” Stoughton jacket, with a booklet with liner notes by Leeds and Alapatt and unpublished photographs. Vinyl-only release limited to 3,000 copies.

 

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Dec 122014
 

The McCartney reissues have been nice and Venus and Mars is an upgrade for me as my old copy was in the worse shape of any record I own, a bad bin purchase that just never got corrected, until now. This has been one of my all-time favorite albums and is bested only by Ram IMHO.

This is what Rolling Stone had to say when the album was originally released. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/venus-mars-20010503

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Dec 042014
 

Getting things done around the house with some serious funk playing in the background, courtesy of Ubiquity Records, one of my favorite labels.

Here is what AllMusic has to say about Bay Area Funk:

Everyone slags on the pop music of the 1970s, and with very good reason. It was an era of unprecedented rock & roll wankiness, disco vapidity, and jazz-rock fusion. But let’s not forget that for one or two pop music genres, the 1970s were a classic era: these include reggae (which has yet to rise to the level of sublimity it achieved between 1972 and 1979) and funk, which came into its maturity in the early ’70s and shortly went senile before dying quietly somewhere around the mid-’80s.

Skeptical? Then check out this exquisite collection of funk singles by artists based in and around San Francisco and Oakland between 1967 and 1976. Chances are good that even the most avid rare groove crate-digger will be unfamiliar with much of this material, which includes stunning tracks by such obscure artists as the 12-year-old soul prodigy Little Denise (on the show-stopping “Check Me Out”), the jazz-influenced Pi-R-Square (“Fantasy”), and Oakland funk avatar Johnny Talbot (“Pickin’ Cotton”). Every single track on this album is well worth hearing, and more than half are brilliant. And best of all, this is apparently the first of a planned series of such collections. Highly recommended.

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