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07 January 2008 @ 01:06 pm
My Picks for 2007  
Happy Holidays and I hope this finds you in good health, good spirit and rockin' to the Holiday sounds of Trans-Siberian Orchestra :-)

Well, it's a good thing I started working on this in June or it would have never been completed, but it's finally that time of year and another year is coming to a close. The traditional list is back again and while over 350 albums went into the making of this list, I feel as though I didn't fully connect with as many full albums as in the past - but more songs jumped out at me. Therefore I've included a new section that highlights some great songs from albums that were good, but didn't fully connect with me, but I feel as though the songs deserve to be recognized. Also strangely enough, there weren't as many new artists that I discovered this year that made the list, not that I didn't try, but the connections weren't there. I liked songs, but not full albums. That combined with a lot of releases from my favorites made for some tough competition. I'll shut up already...

But before I do, there are a couple things I'd like to highlight. One is that a few months prior to the whole Radiohead 'pay what you want' campaign, a brilliant songwriter and performer put his whole catalog out there for free in the hopes that if you downloaded, that you liked it enough to pass it along and turn on others. 17,000 albums were downloaded in a month! Not bad! His name is John Wesley - touring guitarist for Porcupine Tree, and frequent support for Marillion - and he is one of the most genuine and nicest fellows in the industry. I've had the pleasure to chat with him on many occasions and interview him, he's brilliant. He's the new Springsteen in many ways in my mind. Check out his stuff - download it free and pass it on:
http://www.john-wesley.com/Discography.html

Also on the download front, another one of my favorite musicians, singer/songwriter/producer James Kinne, released some tracks via download only. One of those tracks is one of my favorite songs of the year, "Countryside," and I highly recommend at the very least streaming it here: http://www.broadjam.com/artists/artistindex.asp?artistID=41576. If he released an album it would definitely be on this list, he didn't, but this new material deserves a light shone on it and I'm doing that here. Check out "A Place I Know" and "The Long Road Back" as well. But via that link above you can stream everything James has put to tape/CD/memory, etc! Check him out: http://www.myspace.com/jameskinne

And now the list...

Bp's Favorites of 2007


1.) Rush: Snakes & Arrows (Atlantic/WEA)
One of the coolest musical moments of the year was listening to this a month pre-street with my Rush friend of 15 years Chris (who always starts cynical about new Rush - or at least they have to prove it each time around) and watching his reaction as the album unfolded. Let's break it down - Geddy Lee's best vocal performances of his career, check. Neil Peart's most insightful as well as political and spiritually charged lyrics to date, check. A lot of sweet acoustic guitar textures and passages from Alex Lifeson, check. Neil Peart's amazing drums, need I say more, check. Three instrumentals, check. 5.1 Surround Sound mix on the MVI, double-check!! Plus a documentary with in-studio footage for the first time ever, check. This record had me at hello. Listen to "The Way the Wind Blows" - one of the best songs released this year.
Choice Cuts: The Way the Wind Blows, The Larger Bowl, The Main Monkey Business, Workin' Them Angels
http://www.rush.com/v4.html - click on the 'Player' box
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nktf6nhbU4 - "The Way the Wind Blows" live in Europe


2.) Tara MacLean: Signs of Life EP - digital only release (Nettwerk)
At only 7 songs, 35 minutes, this is a stretch, but then again some of my favorite albums from the '70s are this short, and when it comes to Tara, I'll break the rules :-)
My favorite female vocalist and female singer/songwriter explores loss and love over a varied musical backdrop. Her first marriage to guitarist and producer Bill Bell is addressed in "Carve" (still friends, he produced the EP): "With you gone, there's no music in song, you really didn't stay long considering, we were gonna die in each others arms." She delivers a haunting, slowed down version of Tears for Fears "Mad World" which is stunning. Her harmonies are soaring, the melodies crashing and cascading with emotion - she is simply amazing.
Choice Cuts: Over and Out, Here and Now, Carve, If I Don't Have You
http://www.myspace.com/taramaclean - Here and Now, Carve, Mad World, and more


3.) Shaye: Lake of Fire (EMI Canada)
Tara MacLean, Dahmnait Doyle, and Kim Stockwood join forces again for a host of brilliant harmonies and a fair balance between haunting and upbeat windows-down, sing-along melodies. Originally streamed at the end of 2006 on their web site, this was released in February of '07 in Canada only. A couple of covers (Ron Sexsmith's "Someway, Somehow," Patty Griffin's "We Are Water," and a brilliant "Tupelo Honey") and stunning originals including a gorgeous piece, "Star," (for Tara's younger sister who died a few years ago and where the band's name originates), "This is the Moment" (inspired by An Inconvenient Truth), and the a cappela "Ocean of Sorrows," result in a diverse mix of tracks. Three amazing voices - brilliant!
Choice Cuts: We Are Water, Ocean of Sorrows, This is the Moment, Lake of Fire
http://www.shayemusic.com - stream the entire album!
http://www.myspace.com/shaye3


4.) Threshold: Dead Reckoning (Nuclear Blast/Caroline)
This was hopping in and out of the #1 spot for much of the year. Another amazing effort from an amazing set of musicians hailing from the UK. A brilliant balance between melodic prog-rock and metal with a strong focus on musicianship, but never sacrificing the feel of the song for showmanship. They have a certain melodic prog sound that just can't be beat. Top 20 favorite band hands down. Fantastic interplay between the guitars and keyboards with a solid and locked in rhythm section and Mac's vocals are always tremendously powerful.
Choice Cuts: Slipstream, Elusive, Disappear, Safe to Fly
http://www.myspace.com/thresholdofficial for "Pilot in the Sky of Dreams" and "This is Your Life"


5.) Editors: An End Has a Start (Epic/SonyBMG)
There isn't a bad second on this record and many of you were subjected to my "Editors Moment" when the double punch of "Smokers Outside..." and "Racing Rats" had me spinning for a couple of days this summer. I keep seeing many comparisons with Interpol, but frankly they don't do it for me, while the vocals of Tom Smith send these guys over the top for me - I love his voice! One of my fave's was a one take live in the studio - pure magic ("Well Worn Hand").
Choice Cuts: The Racing Rats, Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors, Well Worn Hand, An End Has a Start
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtkaIZd2J_Y The Racing Rats (live on Later with Jools Holland) - Brilliant! Stunning! Amazing!
http://www.myspace.com/editorsmusic - full tracks of The Racing Rats, Smokers..., and An End Has a Start


6.) Within Temptation: The Heart of Everything (Roadrunner/WEA)
While this didn't connect with me on the level as their previous release (2004's The Silent Force), it's still absolutely brilliant (and their first Stateside release). Symphonic rock/prog-metal with a Celtic and symphonic flair from this Dutch band. Features one of the best lead-off tracks of the year in "The Howling," which is a stormer: "When we start killing, It’s all coming down right now, From the nightmare we’ve created, I want to be awakened somehow / When we start killing it all will be falling down, From the Hell that we’re in, All we are is fading away, When we start killing..."
Choice Cuts: The Howling, Frozen, Hand of Sorrow, The Cross
http://www.myspace.com/withintemptation - full tracks of "The Howling," "Frozen," and more
http://www.fye.com/WT - good friend and fellow TW employee Chris Kay did an in-depth interview for fye.com


7.) Joe Bonamassa: Sloe Gin (J&R Adventures/IDN)
No such thing as compression on this sonic gem. With Kevin Shirley producing again, Joe delivers a smokin' blues rock record with acoustic tones. I've been a fan of Joe's since his days in Bloodline in the mid-90's when I followed the band around the Northeast and became friends with the band - was at their 2nd to last show in Utica, NY and congratulated Joe on passing his driver's permit test which he had taken earlier in the day LOL. Anyway, he's come a long way since those days and his vocals are steeped in tradition, while his guitar work is simply amazing.
Choice Cuts: Ball Peen Hammer, Around the Bend, Richmond, Seagull
http://www.jbonamassa.com
http://www.myspace.com/jbonamassa - full tracks of Ball Peen Hammer, Sloe Gin, and more


8.) Porcupine Tree: Fear of a Blank Planet (Atlantic/WEA)
Steven Wilson is a great songwriter and this album finds the band on a higher plane than previous efforts. Live this is even more powerful. Not for those looking for a party record or a pick me up, but a strong social commentary on today's youth and the culture they are willingly or unwillingly growing up in. "Don't try engaging me, The vaguest of shrugs, The prescription drugs, You'll never find, A person inside / How can I be sure I'm here?, The pills that I've been taking confuse me, I need to know that someone sees that, There's nothing left, I simply am not here"
Choice Cuts: Way Out of Here, Fear of a Blank Planet, Anesthetize
http://www.myspace.com/porcupinetree - video links (no audio only full tracks) for "Way Out of Here" and "Fear of a Blank Planet"


9.) The Dollyrots: Because I'm Awesome (Blackheart Records)
Even before the National marketing campaigns hit the airwaves, I was lucky enough to find this somewhat guilty pleasure. Think part oldies girl group melodies, a splash of power punk and a whole lotta rock with songs so catchy your grandmother would love them (well, maybe). Lyrically it doesn't match up to anything else on the list (although "S.O.S." is a great cautionary lyric about today's current political and world affairs), but it's a brilliantly fun record and definitely a must for car trips!
Choice Cuts: Because I'm Awesome, This Crush, My Best Friend's Hot
http://www.myspace.com/thedollyrots - full tracks of Awesome, My BF's Hot, and more!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6Vze7ZlLH8 - the hilarious American Idol spoof video for Awesome


10.) Grace Potter & the Nocturnals: This Is Somewhere (Hollywood/UMGD)
Thanks to Big Lou for introducing me to them last year - Grace is an amazing vocalist, songwriter, Hammond B-3 player, etc. Did I mention that voice? She's the new (and improved) Janis Joplin mixing roots-rock, with a splash of country, lots of rock and some jam tossed in for good measure, resulting in a rousing and rockin' album that doesn't let up. The highlight is the last track, "Big White Gate": "It's coming on time now, My body's getting cold, I've got no will I've got no prayer, My story's all been told, I'm ready for the land of fire, But I'd love to see the land of gold, So nurse bring me my guitar, One more song before I go / St Peter won't you open up the big white gate, Cause I heard about forgiveness and I hope it ain't too late, I ain't no holy roller but you go tell your king, That all the folks up in heaven might like to hear me sing."
Choice Cuts: Big White Gate, Stop the Bus, Ah Mary
http://www.gracepotter.com - click on media to stream Ah Mary, Stop the Bus, and more!


11.) Chris Caffery: Pins & Needles (Locomotive/Ryko)
What growth over his first solo record, Faces in 2005. Lots of diversity and musical textures make this fresh on each listen - it's not just a metal record, there are so many flavors and styles that it's never boring. His vocal tracks are superb and in parallel to the music, they too are diverse and flavorful. The transition and subsequent atmospheric section of "YGBFKM" is a perfect example of his knack for changing up tempos and moods and making it work and sound smooth. By juxtaposing the aggressiveness nature of the song with a really smooth transition to the outro solo, the song rises to a new level.
Choice Cuts: The Time, Walls, Chained, It's S.A.D.
http://www.chriscaffery.com
http://www.myspace.com/chriscaffery - full length of Chained


12.) Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos (Roadrunner/WEA)
Can everyone please put together a documentary on the recording process? I love those! Also, mix in 5.1 as I love that too! Both Rush and Dream Theater came through on those two fronts and that's what really got me into this album even more. Too technical? Too many notes? Not enough emotion? Hogwash. It's stellar!
Choice Cuts: The Ministry of Lost Souls, Forsaken, The Dark Eternal Night
http://www.myspace.com/dreamtheater - Constant Motion, Forsaken, EPK, and more


13.) Matt Nathanson: Some Mad Hope (Vanguard)
His last studio record was on Universal and that's how I became aware of this amazing voice. Then a live release with one of the best live songs I've heard, "Answering Machine," (At the Point CD) with just him and 6-string - brilliant. This is a bit more polished than I hoped for, loving the starkness of the live release so much, but brilliant songs and a great voice make this a pleasure to spin and crank up.
Choice Cuts: Bulletproof Weeks, Detroit Waves, Wedding Dress, Car Crash
http://www.myspace.com/mattnathanson - Car Crash, All We Are, and more


14.) Bruce Springsteen: Magic (Columbia/SonyBMG)
Hearing the free download of "Radio Nowhere" from a UK paper was electrifying - then hearing it on a serious system at our national convention (with a couple other tasty bits) and then to hear him open up his show with it - amazing. He doesn't rest on his laurels and this album keeps one foot planted in classic Bruce, while the other is kicking into the present. Timely and important.
Choice Cuts: Radio Nowhere, You'll be Comin' Down, Girls in the Summer Clothes, Magic
http://www.myspace.com/brucespringsteen - Radio Nowhere


15.) Scorpions: Humanity, Hour 1 (New Door/UMe)
After a few less-than-stellar albums, they sound re-energized with this pseudo-concept album. Strong twin guitar riffs from Jabs & Schenker, and impressive vocals from Klaus Meine, who never seems to age, combine for a tour de force!
Choice Cuts: Humanity, The Game of Life, We Were Born to Fly
http://www.myspace.com/officialscorpions - most of the new record


16.) Saga: 10,000 Days (InsideOut/SPV)
Choice Cuts: Lifeline, Sideways, Sound Advice
http://www.myspace.com/sagaca - stream of the song 10,000 Days


17.) Marillion: Somewhere Else (Intact/MVD)
Choice Cuts: The Other Half, Faith
http://www.marillion.com
http://www.myspace.com/marillion - Somewhere Else, Thankyou Whoever You Are


18.) A Fine Frenzy: One Cell in the Sea (Virgin Records/EMD)
Choice Cuts: Almost Lover, You Picked Me, Hope for the Hopeless, Lifesize
http://www.myspace.com/afinefrenzy - most of the album


19.) James Blunt: All the Lost Souls (Custard/Atlantic)
Choice Cuts: Same Mistake, I'll Take Everything, Carry You Home
http://www.myspace.com/jamesblunt - stream entire album


20.) Alison Krauss/Robert Plant: Raising Sand (Rounder)
Choice Cuts: Gone Gone Gone, Rich Woman, Through the Morning Through the Night
http://www.robertplantalisonkrauss.com - stream the album



Honorable Mention:
Brandi Carlile: The Story (Columbia/SonyBMG)
Eskimo Joe: Black Fingernails Red Wine (Rykodisc)
Fair to Midland: Fables from a Mayfly... (Universal Republic)
James Blunt: All the Lost Souls (Custard/Atlantic)
James Morrison: Undiscovered (Polydor/UMGD)
Jesse Malin: Glitter in the Gutter (Adeline Records/ADA)
Kelly Clarkson: My December (RCA/SonyBMG)
Little Big Town: A Place to Land (Equity Music Group/Koch)
Matthew Good: Hospital Music (Universal Canada)
Nightwish: Dark Passion Play (Roadrunner/WEA)
Peter Searcy: Spark (Toucan Cove/Fontana)
REO Speedwagon: Find Our Own Way Home (Speedwagon Recordings)
Silverchair: Young Modern (Eleven)
The Coral: Roots and Echoes (Red Ink/Columbia)
The Perishers: Victorious (Nettwerk)
Thought Chamber: Angular Perceptions (InsideOut/SPV)


Looking forward to in 2008:
Keri Noble: Let Go (released last month in Japan)
Kate Rusby (released in October in the U.K.)
Missy Higgins (already released in Australia)
Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Night Castle (could it actually happen?!?)


Tracks that can't go without a mention (but aren't represented above):
It seems there were a lot of great songs on albums that I didn't love all of - these are some great tracks from those artists

Athlete: "The Outsiders"
Ben Harper: "Heart of Matters"
Coheed & Cambria: "The End Complete IV"
Elana James: "24 Hours a Day" from her self-titled
Everybody Else: "The Longest Hour of my Life" and "Alone in the World" from their self-titled
Ian Moore: "To Be Loved"
Jesse Malin: "Broken Radio" with Bruce Springsteen - amazing
Kelly Willis: "Stone's Throw Away" from Translated with Love
Mandy Moore: "Gardenia" co-write with Chantal Kreviazuk
Martina McBride: "Everybody Does"
Minnie Driver: "Mary" - wow
Paramore: "Broken" from Riot!
Rooney: "I Should've Been After You" and "Are You Afraid"
Sara Bareilles: "Love Song" from her debut Little Voice
Shannon Wright: "They'll Kill the Actor in the End" from Let in the Light
Symphony X: "Set the World on Fire (Lie of Lies)" and "Eve of Seduction"
Test Your Reflex: "I'm Not Sorry" from their debut
The Last Goodnight: "Incomplete" and "In your Arms"
Travis: "Eyes Wide Open"
Tyrone Wells: "Hold On"
ZO2: "Get Up Now"


Favorite Live Show (large venue)

1.) Trans-Siberian Orchestra: 12/22/06 - 4pm Show - Pepsi Arena, Albany, NY
2.) Rush: 6/30 - Saratoga Springs, NY
3.) Trans-Siberian Orchestra: 12/5 - Times Union Center, Albany, NY
4.) Bruce Springsteen: 11/15 - Times Union Center, Albany, NY
5.) Trans-Siberian Orchestra: 12/6 - Times Union Center, Albany, NY


Favorite Live Show (small venue)

1.) Porcupine Tree: 10/18 - The Egg, Albany, NY
2.) Chantal Kreviazuk: 5/6 - The Egg, Albany, NY
3.) The Tragically Hip: 4/18 - Northern Lights, Albany, NY


Favorite Live Songs:

1.) Christmas Eve/Sarajevo - Trans-Siberian Orchestra 12/22/06 4pm show
2.) Way Out of Here - Porcupine Tree
3.) Pinball Wizard/See Me Feel Me - Trans-Siberian Orchestra 12/6 soundcheck
4.) Mission - Rush
5.) Tracers - Trans-Siberian Orchestra 12/5
6.) Surrounded - Chantal Kreviazuk
7.) Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
8.) Grace, Too - The Tragically Hip
9.) Your Attention - Blue Man Group
10.) The Way the Wind Blows - Rush


Favorite Musical Moments of 2007:

*12/6 - Interviews with Bob Kinkel, Chris Caffery of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Soundcheck of The Who medley for upcoming Roger Daltrey appearance.
*Hanging with Chantal Kreviazuk at the Egg
*Seeing John Wesley on stage with Porcupine Tree
*6/30 - Getting together with Rush friends who I hadn't seen since the 2004 tour
*"Ornament" and "Old City Bar" during TSO's 12/5 performance
*Opening to the Springsteen show with "Radio Nowhere"
*The annual TSO w/ Dad show
*Nightly dancing to "All Around the Kitchen/Red Red Robin/Yellow Bus" w/ Emma
*Seeing and hearing Rush play 9 tracks from Snakes & Arrows on their tour


Looking Back at My Picks for 2006:
1.) Live: Songs from Black Mountain (Red Ink/Epic)
2.) Nothing About Grover: Remain (SC68)
3.) Muse: Black Holes & Revelations (Warner Bros.)
4.) David Ford: I Sincerely Apologise for All the Trouble I've Caused (Independiente/SonyBMG)
5.) Kasey Chambers: Carnival (Warner Bros.)
6.) Luca Turilli: The Infinite Wonders of Creation (Magic Circle Music/SPV)
7.) Chantal Kreviazuk: Ghost Stories (SonyBMG Canada)
8.) Gomez: How We Operate (ATO/RED)
9.) Saga: Trust [CD/DVD] (InsideOut/SPV)
10.) Jon Oliva's Pain: Maniacal Renderings (Locomotive/Ryko)
11.) Iron Maiden: A Matter of Life & Death [CD/DVD] (Sanctuary/RED)
12.) Grace Potter & the Nocturnals: Nothin' But the Water (Ragged Company/Hollywood)
13.) Blackmore's Night: The Village Lanterne (Steamhammer/SPV)
14.) Lacuna Coil: Karmacode (Century Media/Caroline)
15.) Frost*: Milliontown (InsideOut/SPV)
16.) Damien Rice: 9 (Warner Bros.)
17.) Snow Patrol: Eyes Open (Fiction/Polydor/A&M)
18.) Ryan Adams: 29 (Lost Highway)
19.) Rosanne Cash: Black Cadillac (Capitol)
20.) Blanc Faces: Blanc Faces (Frontiers/Locomotive/Caroline)
21.) The Editors: The Back Room (Fader Label/RED)