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Published:December 25th, 2013 11:49 EST
ELEVEN! The 11 Best/Top Records For 2013!

ELEVEN! The 11 Best/Top Records For 2013!

By John G. Kays

Down In Washington Square Dave Van Ronk (The Smithsonian Folkways Collection) Numero Uno!

This triple record easily gets the top slop this year. Dave`s been waiting patiently backstage for more than 50 years to get his own, and finally it`s payback time for this Folk Troubadour and Sea Shanty collector. If you don`t have this yet, get with it, before it`s too late for you. You could spend an entire year researching one song, say, House of the Rising Sun. Hell, Dylan got it from Dave and The Animals lifted it from Dylan, who had already purloined it from Van Ronk (see No Direction Home). No excuse for STUPIDITY any longer (I keep telling myself).

Another Self Portrait (1968-1971) Bob Dylan (Columbia) # Two

I`ve rediscovered Bob Dylan when picking up this double record a few weeks ago. And timely with the rediscovery, I found out something meaningful about myself, when spending endless hours in revelry, pondering on those years, mainly 1968-1971, such as are included on this album. If I hadn`t a had Dylan to listen to in those years, I don`t know how I could of gotten by. Starting with John Wesley Harding my eyes were opened to history and what`s referred to today as the American Experience. Thanks, Bobby, you helped me get here (welcome to the United States, Mister John!).

Loaded The Velvet Underground Warner Special Products # Three

Really, what I mean for the # three choice, is the Complete Works of The Velvet Underground, but this is my favorite record of theirs. It was shocking news, hearing that Lou Reed left us this year; Andy left us in 1987, Nico in `88, and Sterling Morrison in `95. I have a copy of The Rough Guide to The Velvet Underground, by Peter Hogan, and its helpful for me to use as a guide for their band history. Sweet Jane and Rock & Roll are two of the best in this uniquely American genre. All you protest kids, you can hear Jack say.

On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2 The Beatles (Apple) # Four

This collection of BBC live radio recordings has completely changed my thinking about this little combo hailing from Liverpool. What we have here is the Four Lads playing together in harmony as a band. Their egos are suffused with the larger concept of what they`re trying to get across, the Big Picture (sorry, phrase over-used), if you will, is to turn obscure B Sides into mega-hits (Sir Paul) and to bring across their own sound as commercial, when really it wasn`t; kind of a hoax, but it ended up coming off splendidly - losing your ego can do that sometimes!

Live At the Cellar Door Neil Young (Silver Bow Productions) # Five

1970 was a long time ago, but this recording sounds like it was made yesterday (reel tape must have a longer shelf life than I had previously suspected?). I was around back then and was a very big fan of Neil Young`s. His playing and singing is superb on these live shows, and these are some of his best songs too; a vision comes across that spoke to us Kids in those days, something that addresses that Generation Gap thing mentioned in Newsweek one issue (or was it Time). Stirs up memories of those days like hornets buzzing about your head, but that`s okay anyhow, Mister Young!

Bootleg Booty! Starring: The Cap`N, The Potatoes, Garage Echo, John P. Franzen, & The Waffles (Maroon Toons) # Six

This razz-a-ma-taz sampler from Maroon Toons` Records spans (nearly) Cap`N Brew Kidd`s entire music career, dating back to the Punk Rock/New Wave period (1980) here in Austin, and the unusual (weird, bizarre, perhaps timely) release of his Art Cassette, Urban Buccaneer, which was sorta about the plight of desperate, starving artists (in a modern setting), who will occasionally turn to piracy when all else fails (that is, using legitimate channels to accomplish some artistic goals). Track 2, Jennifer Greene, by a good, dearly departed friend of the Cap`N`s (John Franzen), is yet still unheard by most, but I`m hoping to reverse such a negative trend.

There`s a Dream I`ve Been Saving: Lee Hazlewood Industries 1966-1971 Lee Hazlewood (Light In the Attic) # Seven

This box set has just about everything Lee Hazlewood ever did, if you get the Deluxe Edition. I didn`t have two C notes handy I could peel off of a green roll, so I settled (for the time being) in with The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes & Backsides (1968-71), which is totally worth it. I`m winging it for now, until I can get the Box (does Waterloo have lay away plans?), with research on the internet. Lee`s songwriting is the best, and his techniques in the studio are worth a lot of careful study. I`ve never heard many of the cuts on this collection before, such as The Night Before; wonder where I`ve been? 

Brahms Concertos Helene Grimaud (Deutsche Grammaphon) # Eight

I`ve had this double CD on my boombox constantly for around a month now; It`s two of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) piano concertos, No. 1 in D minor and No. 2 in B flat major. I allowed myself to include some classical music for my Best Records checklist, since so little came out in 2013 in the world of pop music, that much struck A Lost Chord for my fare-weathered (withered) ears. The other primary reason, is that I mostly shop for music that can nicely accompany my writing, inspire my Muse and whatnot; Mister Brahms does that to me! Another thing, is I never could get the piano down too good, so I let Helene Grimaud do the heavy lifting for me; I just go along for the ride and channel like crazy (I understand JB could twinkle those ivories quite good hisself).

Philomena (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) Alexandre Desplat (Decca - 2007) # Nine

I`ve been listening to Alexandre Desplat`s soundtracks for quite a while, but wasn`t really aware of it. Okay, so he`s the credited composer for The Queen, The King`s Speech, The Tree of Life, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Argot, and my favorite of his from 2006, The Painted Veil (starring Edward Norton and Naomi Watts). Philomena is an outstanding film anyway, probably the best for 2013, but the soundtrack seals the deal, what with the mystery surrounding the adoption of Philomena`s (played wonderfully by Judi Dench) son, Anthony. Makes me want to see all of the films he`s scored (many of which I haven`t seen yet, like Renoir).

Inside Llewyn Davis (Original Soundtrack Recording) Music Produced By T Bone Burnett, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (Studiocanal) # Ten

Once I saw the movie, I appreciated the songs more, given the context of where they were inserted. I see the theme as a demonstration of how a fellow failed miserably in the music business, but he plugs away at it anyway, since trying to succeed in the music business is not why he does it in the first place. This film is about how Llewyn discovers this startling revelation within himself, and just sits on it. He`s where he needs to be; lets Bobby Zimmerman breathe New Life into the Village, while his preference is to just play interesting Folk Songs, which is okay too. Five Hundred Miles, with Carey Mulligan singing, is the keeper for this Dude!

ArtPop Lady Gaga (Interscope) # Eleven

ArtPop didn`t work out so good for Lady Gaga so far, but it may still have some life left in it (on the charts) for 2014. I really dug it, the way it was recorded, the concept, the Anti-Andy Warhol deal that was going on, or what not. Jeff Koons` cover definitely gets record cover of the year, in my book. I`m too old to go to discotheques, but I`ve certainly been cutting the carpet furiously In My Room! Always appreciated the metaphor of sound as the color splashes of a paintbrush.

*Honorable mention goes to the Boardwalk Empire II soundtrack and to the soundtrack for American Hustle, with so many great `70s classics, most especially, America`s A Horse with No Name.