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Published:December 29th, 2010 10:52 EST
'Days of Wine and Roses'-The Ten Best Records of 2010

'Days of Wine and Roses'-The Ten Best Records of 2010

By John G. Kays

This year was characterized by multi-culturism, retro-revivalism and an unlikely resurrection of ancient punks, who still had one chord left in `em to strum for your naked ear. Don`t like these best of lists, so let`s get this over with. You can make your own checklist, but here`s mine. Take it or leave it! Not hostile, but just a little short with you. Toss that Susan Boyle in the trash and get thee to a nunnery. There are wider horizons to conquer, so put on your travel backpack and let`s take the journey of our lives!
 
1. GRINDERMAN 2 (Anti)

abbey road coffee cup

No brainer! Nick Cave and his Grinderman collaborators pulled off a minor miracle, a coup d` etat or some such nonsense as these words. This is the record of the year for 2010 and Palaces of Montezuma is the song of the year, with lines such as The hanging gardens of Babylon, Miles Davis the black unicorn, I give to you. Just one line amongst many other greats. Tune is Velvet-like, a talky/sing like Sweet Jane. Theme of whole record is de-evolution, as technology goes bonkers/gangbusters, mankind goes in an opposite direction, goes Java man, heads for a hills with eyes, goatskins and charnel bones again. Back to the Future when Stanley Kubrick ruled the earth. You get it!
 
2. SMALL CRAFT ON A MILK SEA " Brian Eno (Warp Records)

afrocubism

My enthusiasm for this new offering of ambient music by Brian Eno is unbridled. The songs put your head in places galaxies away from your dirty laundry and mundane chores, itching on your checklist of things to do today. Instead, get out your DVD 2001 A Space Odyssey, turn down the volume, and turn up Small Craft On A Milk Sea. Best thing since Music For Films or Music For Airports, the staples of New Wavers in the late 1970s.

best records of 2010

3. PHOSPHENE DREAM  " The Black Angels (Blue Horizon)

I just discovered The Black Angels a few weeks back when sampling tracks at the Waterloo Ipod stations. I was attracted to the blue and orange Op Art cover done by Christian Bland and the sounds punched a hole in my circuit board that foretells a gadget graveyard for a destination. Still exploring-pop sensibility married to divinations of drenching reverb against Vox organs rattling. Great harmonies. Concoction of Psychedelia and Garage Rock carefully controlled makes it accessible. Flower Power is back, reincarnated in a new generation from Austin! That`s where I live too.

collaborations

4. RAVI SHANKAR GEORGE HARRISON COLLABORATIONS (Dark Horse Records)

I still can`t believe I got this box set for Christmas! I must be in heaven. Three albums and one DVD of a concert at Royal Albert Hall. Also, a coffee table booklet with photos of all the Indian musicians, George and Ravi, of course. Good documentation for all the records and even some descriptions of Indian instruments. These albums from the 1970s were out of print, so I have to thank Olivia. I`ve never heard lots of this, so I finally get to see the light. I did have the pleasure of experiencing George and Ravi on the Dark Horse tour back in 1974. Little fuzzy, but I recall it being up in Fort Worth. Just barely tapping into these pearls of Eastern wisdom; this gives me something to look forward to for 2011!

sound of siam

5. COME AND GET IT-THE BEST OF APPLE RECORDS (Apple Records)

A must have for your collection. Puts it all together for you, what the Fab Four were doing in their spare time, who they admired, and how they could express themselves when meandering away from the full-proof formula of success that was their coveted secret. How could they pull this experiment off? By way of Mary Hopkins, or James Taylor, or Jackie Lomax, that`s how. All the songs have been remastered from this Apple basket, and it shows when listening from my Beovox S 40s, (Bang & Olufsen) that were re-coned in 1997.

6. NATIONAL RANSOM - Elvis Costello (Hear Music Trademark of Starbucks)

The illustration of that bad wolf as a carpetbagger sneaking off with all the money (done by Tony Millionaire) is what caused me to buy this record. And then I found out it was produced by T Bone Burnett, and that only improved my outlook all the more. 16 fascinating songs; Elvis Costello`s songwriting has only improved through the years. No one can measure up to the way he handles a lyric line, wordsmith of the highest order. As best I can tell, these songs were written with the Great Depression in mind, where our times seem to mirror the Thirties. It`s like a play or a movie, where we jump around to different times or places. Still trying to put this puzzle together?

7. LUISA MAITA - Lero Lero (Cumbancha Discovery) 

I found this Luisa Maita CD at Tesoros Trading Company on Congress; you can find trinkets, novelties or marvels from all over the world here, but their specialty seems to be Latin and Indian. Love it, and have been shopping there for years. Luisa is from Brazil, specifically from Sao Paulo. Great singer, with a variety of exotic sounds that recall Antonio Carlos Jobim or even Billy Holiday. Quite luscious, I feel as if I`m slinking in a tropical rain forest while listening and pristine brookwater is dripping over my head. Scratch that, you get the picture!

8. AFROCUBISM - (Nonesuch)

In 1996 a group of Mali musicians were supposed to fly to Havanna to record with Cuban singers and musicians. This never happened, but the Buena Vista Social Club did, which sold 8 million records. It finally did come together in Cartegena, Spain 14 years later. What I know about Mali or Cuban music would fit in a thimble. Studied the history and culture of these two nations yesterday. I love anything with Toumani Diabate`s kora in there. 14 cuts that meld African sounds with Cuban sounds. Can identify most with the Djelmady Rumba and the mellifluous guitar riffing of Djelmady Tounkara.

9. THE SOUNDS OF SIAM 1964-1975 - (Sound Way)

Didn`t know so much was going on in Thailand in the 1960s and 1970s. You will need to add these nineteen songs to your collection; Chris Menist put this CD together and did the linernotes that explains the history of this music in Thailand. The forms of music are luk thung and molam, but in this context, when the artists tried to make 45 records they are giving it a pop twist. Know nothing about these forms, but that`s the impression I get.  They still have many record stores in Bangkok, as Chris Menist explains, that still have there original owners. Never been to Bangkok, but The Sounds Of Siam does a good job of transporting me there-Sao Ban Pak Pab, with wailing oboe and three-note bass riff sends me to Thailand. Will need more time to consider-here`s a pic of cover, this will help. Western boy, all the way!
 
10. THE ROUGH GUIDE TO BOLLYWOOD - (Rough Guides)

Do your self a favor and pick up this platter, treasures await you inside. Bombay, markets teeming with the bounties of India and the way out movie industry there, that`s all the fashion in the West now. Has a DVD that siffs through some of this history, then the CD has an ample sample of great artists like Lata Mangeshar, who`s made more recordings than any artist in the history of recording. This puts lip-synching up on a pedestal and assures it a place amongst our greatest forms of art-the ballot, the sonnet, or a concerto by Amadeus himself. This Rough Guide platter is your Bollywood 101;now if I could only get my hands on some of these Indian films, I`ll watch all day long until this blizzard passes over.

Okay, so John Lennon has been dead now for 30 years. Get over it. But I can`t. Need to retrace his steps from London to NYC. Got Lennon NYC now, the PBS special. The best and only one. For George we have Collaborations and all his work with Apple Records. But the old punks made a come-back too in 2010. Nick Cave, Brian Eno and Elvis Costello all were on top of their game this past year. I hope you will give my list careful consideration. I put a lot of work into it, and I think I got it right. You can have my new Susan Boyle, if you want it!