MY YEAR IN MUSIC 2016

December 16th 2016

2016 will be certainly be remembered as a year and for more important things than music. But it was also a year of musical genius and of great losses – which words are not adequate to describe. Without further to do my musical highs:

MY BEST ALBUMS

  1. David Bowie – Black Star

A magnificent goodbye. Bowie’s best album since the early 1980s. Not easy listening and with added pathos.

  1. Nino Katamadze and Insight – Yellow

A Georgian Goldfrapp – only more melodic without losing the experimental edge. Latest in a series of themed albums: ‘Black’, ‘White’, ‘Blue’. Love them all.

  1. Solange – A Seat at the Table

Solange finally delivers the big album and promise after years of changing and shifting styles.

  1. Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate

A beautiful sounding album of soul reflections. So good and smooth that on first listening you miss its depth.

  1. Drive-By Truckers – American Band

America’s greatest contemporary rock band produce a state of the nation album. They don’t like what they see. If anyone doubts this band’s greatness check out their 2001 double ‘Southern Rock Opera’.

  1. Céu – Tropix

Contemporary Brazilian grooves mixed with Western influences.

  1. Floating Points – Kuiper

Japanese mini-album release of UK EP by Sam Shepherd: British electronic muso.

  1. Orchestra of Syrian Musicians

Africa Express Presents … The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians and Guests

A project of Damon Albarn which not only shows political solidarity with Syrian refugees but a wonderful music cross-fertilisation and mix making light of old classics.

  1. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker

I bought this the day of release and managed to play it several times before his death. It is a majestic album, the last in a series of brilliant albums which run back to his re-invention with ‘I’m Your Man’. Still hasn’t sunk in that he has gone.

  1. Elza Soares – A Mulher do Fim do Mundo

Translated as: ‘The Woman at the End of the World’. Despite my love of Brazilian music I had never heard of 79-year-old Elza Soares until ‘The Guardian’ reviewed it. An amazing album, glancing back over her life and sharing her wisdom with us: combined with a fierce less musical experimentation of dance, rock and Afro-Brazilian sounds.

Also Recommendations:

C Duncan – The Midnight Sun

Steven Wilson – 4 1/2

Auntie Flo – Theory of Flo

New Order – Complete Music CD

Rolling Stones – Blue and Lonesome

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

BEST COMPILATIONS

  1. Sandy Denny – I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Acoustic Sandy Denny

Denny unplugged and magnificent.

  1. The Rolling Stones – The Rolling Stones in Mono

Finally the Stones UK early sixties albums come out and properly remastered. Why in today’s retro-culture this wasn’t a bigger hullabaloo I have no idea!

  1. Betty Davis – The Columbia Years 1968-1969

Betty Davis was a brilliant, uncompromising soul singer in the late 1960s and 1970s and married to Miles Davis, with whom she cut these blistering sides in 1969 (alongside Hugh Masekela tracks from 1968).

  1. Momus – Pubic Intellectual

Three CDs worth of Momus who has been called ‘Scotland’s Morrissey’ (which is unfair as Momus, unlike Morrissey, can write books). Not a typo in the title.

  1. Paul McCartney – Pure McCartney

Four albums worth of Macca chosen by the man himself. You can quibble with some of the selections: too many tracks from ‘Flaming Pie’, scandalously none from ‘Flowers in the Dirt’, and no rarities, but it is musical wonder.

BEST REISSUES

  1. Lewis Taylor

Britain’s lost soul genius. This is his solo album from 1996 – which was hailed by everyone at the time and is stunning from beginning to end. Now with an entire album of B sides and remixes. Taylor retired as a front man.

  1. The Chimes

The promise of this still shines all these years later. Pauline Henry’s (Edinburgh born) interpretation of ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ knocks U2 for six.

  1. Manuel Göttsching – E2-E4

German experimental music recorded in 1981 and released  in 1984. Still sounds stunning. HT to David Ilett in the States for this recommendation. 60 minutes of near-continuous music: like a modern day adventurous Pink Floyd.

  1. Jose Mauro – Obnoxius

Brazilian 1970s grand pop with sweeping orchestrations and ambitions.

  1. Laura Nyro – American Dreamer: Live at the Bottom Line, 12 July 1978.

Nyro was a one-off – and this captures her promoting her ‘Nested’ album of the same year.

PREVIOUS REISSUES

  1. Marva Whitney with Osaka Monaurail – Live in Japan

James Brown’s ‘Soul Sister Number One’ rare Japanese live album. Cut during her comeback in 2007.

  1. Auntie Flo – Future Rhythm Machine

First release from Brian D’Souza as Auntie Flo from 2012. Even more eclectic, infectious and danceable than his latest album.

  1. Julian Cope – Floored Genius 3 and 4

Follow-ups to more commercially available Vols 1 and 2 showcasing lots of the best of rare Saint Julian.

  1. ESG – Dance to the Best of ESG

My musical discovery of 2015. Double album of all their best tracks and numerous remixes. Still sounds like music from the future – and defying any conventional genres. Unbelievably danceable, funky and original.

BEST BOOTLEGS

  1. Miles Davis and Prince – Miles from the Park

Miles and Prince play live together at Paisley Park, New Year’s Eve, 1987.

  1. George Michael – The Trojan Soul Sessions

Michael’s abandoned deep soul album.

  1. Talk Talk – Montreux, Casino, July 11th 1986

Double album of complete concert. When are we ever going to get a Talk Talk box set or unreleased sessions of ‘Spirit of Eden’ and ‘Laughing Stock’? And yes, I know they were recorded in large parts in single takes.

AND MANY THANKS FOR ….

Duncan Ballantyne – Tiger’s Milk Brasil Mix. 80 minutes of delightful Brazilian music: courtesy of the fab and thoughtful Monorail music shop and emporium of delights in Glasgow city centre. Truly one of the best record shops in the UK.

BEST CONCERTS

  1. ESG, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, December

Musical experience of the year. The post-funk/post-punk sounds of ESG in the CCA before an intimate crowd of 250 at best.

  1. Kamasi Washington, Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow, June

What better way to get over Brexit (and on the day Iceland beat England in the Euros). Washington’s soul jazz sounds convert to the stage well aided by his charm, banter, and supporting cast of great musicians, including his dad.

  1. Max Richter, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, May

This is what daring music looks and feels like. Cuts 8 CD album ‘Sleep’ and then takes a selection of it on the road.

  1. Steely Dan, Beacon Theatre, New York, October

Last night of a two-week residency in NYC. A stunning Manhattan theatre on a Saturday night. And Becker and Fagen do an evening of Steely Dan.

  1. The Bathers, Saint Luke’s, Glasgow, October

A homecoming for Chris Thomson and the gang. Special call out for Ken McHugh for making the whole reunion thing possible.

AND A COUPLE OF MUSICAL THOUGHTS

What is Neil Young doing? The ‘Earth’ and ‘Peace Trail’ albums sound awful and completely ill-conceived. Then in a year of musical losses – a special word for American soul sensation Sharon Jones – who with her band the Dap-Kings – remade and revitalised classic soul. And as she struggled with cancer (and the US non-health care system) she even made an inspiring, uplifting film about it!

And on a less serious note: when is the Sinatra estate going to stop releasing ‘Come Fly With Me’ around the world live box sets, the latest of which is, ‘World on a String’, and start dipping into the real musical archives. That’s how musical legends (Dylan, Elvis, Miles) are treated, and Frank is every bit their equal at least!