Album of the year 2011
On a winter’s night in a deep and dark December two friends and contributors to this site, Lady Jane Rushmore and Ray D’Ariano, got together for some holiday cheer and just for fun to select their album of the year. They sipped wine, listened to music, and were aware that we taped their conversation. Here are some highlights of the discussion and their conclusion.
LJ: What did you think of Radiohead’s CD, “Lotus Flower?”
R: The record requires a lot of concentration and many listens. It is so different to me, yet I think there is greatness to it. You know what I mean?
LJ: The lyrics are cryptic and the overall sound is, well (laughs) lush in an electronic way. It is difficult music to describe, but worth listening too. It’s not for everyone.
R: A bit down for my taste, the music I mean.
LJ: (laughs) I know, that’s what I love about them. I love the bass, and as you kind of suggested this one gets better each time you hear it. How about Adele, “21?”
R: She’s great, reminds me of Dusty Springfield.
R: British, female, but above all soulful. More torch song stuff than Dusty, but…
LJ: British, female, soulful…I got it and I can’t argue with any of that, but she’s her own person. Every once in awhile someone comes along who has just “got it’ and I think Adele is the real deal. She has soul and on this album a genuine realness, a broken hearted angst if you will that makes it great, makes it art. ‘21” is a sensational album and she is an amazing artist with a bright future.
R: So is it your album of the year?
LJ: Top 10
R: Ok, Top 10 for Adele.
LJ: Excellent, but how can we talk about Adele without taking Lady Ga Ga into consideration?
R: I love her whole trip, but to be honest she’s not an artist I listen to on my I-Pod.
LJ: You loved her Thanksgiving TV show.
R: We saw it together; yeah I thought it was fine. I think a big part of her appeal is seeing her. She has millions of fans, but I think her non-fans make the mistake of dismissing her as the new Madonna. Of course, I get what they mean, but I was talking with Rick Frio, a former big time record biz executive, and we both agreed that she’s really the new Elton John.
LJ: (laughs) Explain that please.
R: Think back to when Elton first came on the scene, great music, “Take Me to the Pilot,” “Boarder Song,’ all that…then you saw him live and he’s in some ridiculous costume with neon glasses.
LJ: Dressed like Donald Duck.
R: That came later, but, yeah, that’s the idea, but the talent at the piano and singer could have stood alone without all the flash and razzle dazzle. Ga Ga is the same. Take away the costumes and sit her at a piano and hey, it’s Adele, different, but talent wise….
LJ: So you are saying Ga Ga could have done it without the gimmicks.
R: Yes because like Elton she is a pure great talent, but like Elton the costumes and all are great. They add to the excitement and fun for her fans.
LJ: So Lady Ga Ga “Edge of Glory” is your album of the year?
LJ: (laughs) Here’s what we are going to do. Let’s name our top 5 albums of the year and out of the list we’ll pick one.
R: Ok, so Radiohead, Lady Ga Ga, and Adele are in…
LJ: I like”Watch the Thrown.”
R: The Jay-Z and Kanye West collaboration. I knew you’d like that one.
LJ: It is very cool, “No Church in the Wind” is a trip, and then there’s the tribute to Otis Redding, “Otis.”
R: I appreciate these young guys wanting to pay tribute to Otis Redding, but I hate it. You don’t mess with a classic.
LJ: (laughs) It’s always new for someone.
R: Otis recordings are still available.
LJ: But this cut may turn on some younger people to his music.
R: OK, they did a good job, but it’s not my album of the year. Rap, hip hop whatever isn’t for everybody neither is thrash, but I liked the Anthrax CD, “Worship Music.” You got fist pumping riffs and its hook city, but is it my album of the year? In my top 10.
LJ: Fair enough, have you heard TV on the Radio “Nine Types of Light.”
R: I heard it, but….
LJ: (laughs) Not your thing. This one got to me. I like to listen to it alone when I can give it my full attention. Another CD that came out this year is called “Ceremonials” by Florence and The Machine. They had a great debut and this, their follow up, is even better, in my opinion. What else.
R: Tom Waits was good, I liked Coldplay…
LJ: “Take Care” by Drake. He’s got this cut with cut with Rihanna and Gil Scott-Heron that is very amazing.
R: Glad you enjoyed it.
LJ: (laughs) You pick one.
R: Warren Haynes solo “Man in Motion.”
LJ: Exceptional CD.
R: It’s a soul record, funky, syncopated and old school call and responses with the keyboards and horns that all blend into a fantastic musical gumbo.
LJ: (laughs) Well put. He really has a, you know, humid summer night groove running through the entire record, but not as heavy as Gov’t Mule.
R: No, this is Warren, but it’s not Mule. That’s why he did this one without those guys, it’s a different trip.
LJ: The bass kind of holds everything together.
R: I know what you mean. That guy is George Porter Jr. You know Warren is known for his guitar work, which is stellar, but on this CD you really get to hear his soulful vocals.
LJ: He’s a fantastic singer; "River's Gonna Rise."
R: Great selection, a stand out, nice gospel feeling from the backup singers.
LJ: Well, if you’re gonna talk gospel you have to talk about the last tune on the record, “Save Me.” I mean this is right out of Solomon Burke’s bag of tricks. Incredible, it rivals Warren’s composition, “Soulshine.” I’d love to hear Aretha do this one.
R: Absolutely a song that could only be on the album of the year.
LJ: Is that your pick?
R: I’m leaning toward it. Did you see that Rolling Stone Top 100 Guitarists list? Warren wasn’t even on it.
LJ: Ridiculous, when The Allman’s needed a guitarist they got Warren.
R: When the Dead needed a guy to fill in for Jerry Garcia they got Warren.
LJ: Was Andy Powell from Wishbone Ash on the list?
LJ: Also ridiculous. Wishbone’s album “Elegant Stealth” may be my album of the year.
R: I like it too. I don’t know if it’s that well known.
LJ: Maybe not in the states. Leon Tsilis, one of this sites founders, sent me mine. Which was a trip because back in the seventies I did 10 PM to 2AM on a station in Florida and Leon was the promotion man for MCA. Whenever a new Wishbone Ash album came out I’d arrive at the studio and there would be a copy waiting for me with a note from Leon just like the one he sent me with “Elegant Stealth.” Listen to this, “L – I can’t say enough about this new album from Andy and Wishbone- Best album from them since the 70’s- Enjoy.” (laughs) He’s been sending me their albums with these little notes for over 30 years.
R: He is right. It is their best since the 70’s.
LJ: They are the group that started the twin-guitar harmony sound that so many acts; Iron Maiden, who I know you love….
R: I do, but it’s great that Wishbone was an influence on them. No Wishbone Ash, no Maiden; No Beatles, no ELO, No Poco, no Eagles, all rock is derivative. Give credit where credit is due. Wishbone influences many bands, Thin Lizzy.
LJ: Right, you can hear some Priest in there. Look, they really started the entire twin-guitar sound that so many other groups picked up. On this new CD founding-member Andy Powell goes through the paces with Muddy Manninen.
R: Great, sounds like they’ve been playing together forever and the drummer is incredible.
LJ: Joe Crabtree, Bob Skeat is on bass. Andy sings lead on most of the stuff and his voice and range, you know, his voice just fits perfectly blends in with the guitar-laden sound.
R: The Ash harmonies are back.
LJ: Beautiful, but this is first and foremost a guitar fans album, lots of extended solos by both guitarists.
R: Great songs on this album too.
LJ: This song, 'Migrant Worker', I wasn’t crazy about the lyrics first time around, but by the third or fourth time I heard it I thought if John Lennon was alive today this would be a lyric he’d write. You know what? I’m just going to say it; this new CD “Elegant Stealth” is their greatest album since “Argus.”
R: It’s great.
LJ: How about this, it’s the album of the year.
R: I’ll have to think about that.
LJ: Think all you want it is my 2011 album of the year! What’s yours?
R: I liked Warren Haynes solo album.
LJ: Love it, great, but not the album of the year.
R: I like Anthrax.
LJ: Great opening act on The Big Four, good metal album, but not album of the year. Name more.
R: “The King Is Dead”- The Decemberists, Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman- “World Wide Rebel Songs,” “The Hunter”- Mastodon, “Superheavy…”
LJ: Good, great, very good and ok, but…
R: (laughs) Not album of the year, ok Wishbone Ash has the album of the year.
LJ: Are you just saying that or do you really believe it?
R: I believe that it is a fantastic album, and I know it is your album of the year.
LJ: But not yours.
R: I didn’t say that. I said….
LJ: What’s yours? Paul Simon? “Are you ready for Christmas Day?”
R: (laughs) No.
LJ: Lou Reed and Metallica?
R: That was a disappointment. You know one that I really liked? Iron & Wine.
LJ: That was a very nice album, very cool. What was it called?
R: “Kiss Each Other Clean,” interesting title.
LJ: True, but you are right that was a very good CD, especially for the summer. It’s really one guy, right?
R: Yes, his name is Sam Beam and he is brilliant. The album is really a cross between pop, folk and rock. I mean it has things in common with The Band and The Beach Boys.
LJ: I know, but it also has a blues feel, and at times a bit, psychedelic. I’m glad you mentioned it. I forgot how great it is.
R: It reminds me of the group Love. It’s got horns, strings, harmonies and a mess of sounds going on. Try “Tree by the River,” that will size it up pretty much for you. It is a very mellow and for the most part pleasant trip, and audio valium.
LJ: Nice synth textures, I hear a touch Fleetwood Mac.
R: Ok, so “Kiss Each Other Clean.” I love it.
LJ: Me too, but album of the year?
R: (laughs) You are killing me with this. Ok, why is “Elegant Stealth” your album of the year?
LJ: It is beyond anything Wishbone has done in the last decade, and it is beyond any of those other albums, all good, and some great, that we mentioned. This is a record that fans of the band will adore and fans of classic rock music will love. It is a stand alone, by that I mean it doesn’t matter if you never even heard of this group. If you love good music you will love this, it has a magical quality and only gets better with each listen. You just have to hear it because it is such a pleasurable experience.
R: It does seem to get better with each listen.
LJ: You know the reason I love it so much? Because the music is uplifting.
R: I agree and it is that classic Wishbone Ash sound.
LJ: I even love the cover, beautiful pastels, the butterfly. It starts off with a cut called “Reason to Believe,” a kick ass rocker that just builds and soars, wonderful guitars on this cut, and it sets the standard for the rest of the record. Every cut is sensational. “Big Issues,” offers great extended licks, oh wow, just wonderful to hear.
R: You are right; I have to tell you they knocked me out with the instrumental “Mud-Slick.” In addition to the dueling guitars it’s got this organ weaving in and out…
LJ: Don Airey of Deep Purple.
R: Really? Cool, but the thing is if you played this for me and told me it was The Allman Brothers Band I would believe you. I don’t know if Andy had that in mind, but that cut sure sounds like The Allmans. I mean that in a good way. It is a lot of fun and one you turn up in the car.
LJ: You are so right, a perfect cut for your man Warren Haynes to sit in on.
LJ: But there are a lot of different musical and textures going on. How do you like “Heavy Weather?”
R: Funny you should pick that one. It may be my favorite.
LJ: I knew that you’d go for it that’s why I said it. It’s very complex.
LJ: There is cowbell, but so much more. It’s like three songs in one, by that I mean it starts out one way and then there is this prog-psychedlic thing in the middle and then the guitars and suddenly it sounds like they resurrected Keith Moon as it turns into some long lost track from Quadrophenia!
R: (Laughs) Right, with cowbell. Cowbell, Moon, the duel guitars, wow, you are right it is brilliant.
LJ: All part of my album of the year. After the last listed track “Invisible Thread,” there’s even a bonus unlisted track. Listen, you won’t see it picked in the slick mainstream magazines so you have to take my word for it. So go to Amazon or somewhere and get yours. So is “Elegant Stealth’ by Wishbone Ash our album of the year?
R: (laughs) It’s a classic rock masterpiece. It is our album of the year.
LJ: Yes! There is hope for you yet.
R: Thank you and to all a good night.
LJ: Happy New Year!