Sorry, We're Closed

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

My Favorites of 2007

Here are seven great records that I first heard in 2007.

First of all, I'm omitting things done by friends of mine—Green, Lou Carlozo, Florence Yoo, and Switchback—because I’m not interesting in stacking up my friends against people I don’t know, or people who are dead.

So there you go. Here, in chronological order, are my top seven of 07. (Thanks to the Burke’s Landed Gentry site for inspiring this list.)

1. The Pink Floyd, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (mono mix), 1967
For those of you who know and love this album, the mono mix is almost a different version, and in some ways even more fascinating than the stereo. If you don’t know this album, and you enjoy mid-60s sound, great ensemble playing, and catchy songs, I recommend it heartily. Piper mono is out on limited-edition vinyl, but if you pony up for the new three-CD version of the LP (stereo CD, mono CD, bonus CD) you get all their 1967 singles and some unreleased early versions, too! Here's the mono version of the awe-inspiring "Flaming."

2. The Music Emporium, self-titled, 1969
This privately-manufactured, obscure garage-psychedelic gem features the absolutely hardest-rocking female rhythm section ever, and one of the most precise rhythm sections of any group. I don’t know how this utterly square quartet, three of whom hailed from utterly square Orange County, California, recorded such a fantastic one-off mind-expanding, hard rocking, drony album, but I’m so glad they did. Great songs, great sound. Thank you, Sundazed, for reissuing this. I didn’t have $1,000 for an original. Enjoy "Prelude" in its apocalyptic glory.

3. The Patron Saints, Fohhoh Bohob, 1969
After starting out as a five-piece rock combo, this suburban New York City band shrunk to three by summer 1969 but went ahead and recorded their album anyway—in the drummer's parents' house. It’s a glimmering folk-psychedelic record, amateurish in some ways but remarkably fresh and clear, and so beautiful in places that it breaks my heart. Originals of this (there were only 100 made) cost at least a grand—if you could ever find one...the Bohob legend is deserved. The album sounds like nothing else I’ve ever heard. Here's perhaps the most "conventional" cut, "Reflections on a Warm Day." Lovely and funny, yes, but, er, conventional?!?

4. Trizo 50, self-titled, 1974
Yes, yet another legendary private-press record. This five-piece aggregation from rural Missouri made one of the great power-pop records EVER—at the same time as Big Star, two years before Shoes, four years before Off Broadway—but hardly anyone's heard it. The fact that fewer than 100 were pressed might have something to do with that. The group actually had cut enough songs for more than two full albums.
A few years ago a Swedish label, World in Sound, issued a Trizo 50 album, but they messed it up (I mean remixed it), removed half the songs from the original LP, and replaced them with a bunch of demos. Some of those demos are really good, but others aren’t. Yeesh. I consider it one of my life’s ambitions to somehow get the original album properly re-released.
This is "Everytime."

5. Michael Angelo, self-titled, 1977
Playing all the instruments but drums, this super-talented guy from Kansas City—who appears to have been under 20 years old and seriously Beatles-obsessed—composed and sang what I take as a concept album, either about either psychedelics or the search for beauty and truth in a world of violence. (I guess they’re similar topics, really.) It's equally gorgeous and harsh, in perfect lo-fi hi-fi. The backward guitars and lyrics of “Checkout,” the guitar harmonics on “Oceans of Fantasy,” the melody and solo from the song below, “World to Be”….geez.

6. Thievery Corporation, Versions, 2006
Rob Garza and Eric Hilton are the only DJs who I've heard consistently do well with such a wide variety of music. They have good records, they know how to remix them and wind them into a cohesive whole, and as a result almost always hit that spot in my pleasure center.
I don’t love this one quite as much as their earlier Outernational Sound, but it’s still quite a fun trip, featuring radical refashionings of Anoushka Shankar, Herb Alpert, Nouvelle Vague, the Doors, and Sarah McLachlan (!), to name some. They’re a pretty solid live act as well, which was a real surprise.
Here's what they did with Sarah McLachlan's "Dirty Little Secret."

7. Maya Beiser, Almost Human, 2007
This cellist, who lives in New York, is one of many young people redefining “classical music,” moving it from the realm of snobbery and incorporating real-world influences. Working with various composers of new music, she repeatedly overdubs her instrument and uses all sorts of effects to establish a universe of her own.
This, her third solo CD, features a recitation of poetry by 1920s surrealist Henri Michaux, as well as wordless vocals from Alexandra Montano, over a musical landscape conjuring up both eastern Europe and her native Israel. While hard to describe, this CD—my favorite of hers—is truly worthwhile. Her concerts are better.
It might be dumb to remove an excerpt of the two long pieces included on this CD, but I'm going to try anyway. This is the opening of Eve Beglarian's "I Am Writing to You From a Far Off Country."

In addition, I'm listing, in alphabetical order, some outstanding tracks (not on the above albums) that I first heard in 2007. Many of these songs came from two volumes of Love, Peace, and Poetry, a series of compilations of rare psychedelic music which has changed my life.

I’m sure I’m missing a ton of great songs...thanks to everyone who shared music with me in 2007.

Freddy Bliffert, “Lullaby” (1972)
The Brain Police, “Election For Mayor/Train of Love,” “I’ll Be on the Inside, if I Can” (both 1968)
Nick Drake, “Tow the Line” (1974)
Justin Heathcliff, “You Know What I Mean” (1971)
George Jackson, “Hey, Aretha, Sing One for Me” (1972)
Juanes, “Tres” (2007)
Jungle, “Slave Ship” (1969)
Lazy Smoke, “All These Years,” “There Was a Time” (both 1968)
Bobby McClure, “Peak of Love” (1966)
Alan Poe, “Week End Man” (196?)
Prototypes, “Je Ne Te Connais Pas” (2006)
Radiohead, “Weird Fishes” (2007)
Sal Ul Lim, “It Was Probably Last Summer” (1975)
The Sharpees, “Tired of Being Lonely” (1965)
Spoon, “The Underdog” (2007)
Strawberry Alarm Clock, “Pretty Song from Psych-Out” (1967)
Trizo 50, “Lonely,” “Live Like You Wanna Live” (both 1974)
Victoria, “Ride a Rainbow” (1970)