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11 December 2003 @ 09:55 am
Bp's Musical Picks of 2003  
Hello!

You’ve been waiting with baited breath since this time last year I know! Here’s my list for the Best of 2003 – my annual list started many moons with my brother and consisted of the 8 cassettes I bought that year – this year I listened to over 230 CDs to compile this list. Eligibility is strict – 2003 release date only (and in the case of Chantal Kreviazuk’s ‘What if It Means Something’ since the Canadian import was on last year’s list I kept it off this list even though the U.S. release on Columbia was in April) and a separate section for Live/Hits/Compilations below.

Favorite CDs of 2003:

1 – Blue Man Group – The Complex (Lava/Blue Man Group Records)
One of the best CDs released in recent memory. Innovative, creative, dynamic, surprising and evocative. This has been firm since
April and nothing has been able to come close. Vocal elements are worked in for the first time and they are brilliant – further extending
the themes of the ‘everyman’ living in the 21st Century. My favorite track of the year is on here – “Up to the Roof” – chills on every listen.
Who thought a mallet against the strings of an open grand piano would resonate as brilliantly as it does on “Piano Smasher” – amazing!
If you love to crank and air drum ‘the fill’ in Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” then you have to have this CD!
2 – Shaye – The Bridge (EMI Music Canada)
Tara MacLean possesses the most beautiful voice on earth. Joining with fellow East Coast Canadians Kim Stockwood and Damhnait Doyle,
they harmonize like angels and mix some rocking material with pop and folk wonderfully. “Beauty” is runner up for song of the year.
Canadian release only – I hope this is released stateside in 2004!
3 – Angie Aparo – For Stars & Moon (Angie Aparo)
Taking #1 on my list in 2000 with ‘The American,’ Angie is back with a folkier disc but no less powerful. Clive Davis loved him but he was a
casualty of Clive’s move to J. Remind me again why no major has picked him up though? This disc is only found at awarestore.com
4 – Live – Birds of Pray (Radioactive/UMVD)
Through think and thin these guys never disappoint (only a bit with ‘V’). Thirteen amazing songs dripping with heartfelt emotion and passion.
If you still think they’re angst-ridden alt-rockers from the ‘90s – their stuff has always been so much more than that. Universal themes of
peace & love with powerful music. “…pick up a pen and fight a war for the right to dream…”
5 – Iron Maiden – Dance of Death (Columbia)
‘Brave New World’ was a triumphant return and this is even better! Two epic historical ‘battle-tracks’ are the highlights and the three-guitar attack
is taken to new levels of subtlety and precision. Kevin Shirley is a master producer and again he helps Maiden deliver a masterpiece.
6 – The Music – s/t (Capitol)
Frenetic Zeppelin-like wailing at 2,000bpm – but with a groove. A groove deeper than the Grand Canyon! May be hard to digest on first listen, but
the vibe is brilliant. “Disco” and “The People” are controlled (barely) fury of notes and bizarre guitar events/sounds. Although I think they nicked a
guitar riff from a 1983 Fastway song (props if they did) this is a stellar piece of original and bizarre-guitar-driven work.
7 – Evanescence – Fallen (Wind Up)
Politics, religion and band squabbles aside – this is a rockin’ disc with a perfect combination of moody piano-driven balladry and all out rock. Dare I
say, it has a lot of progressive elements (did I just hear sales drop like a stone?). Others say Linkin Park, but seriously I don’t see it as I’m not a fan
of L.P. and these guys are all about melody and great riffs with some nice twists and turns. Amy Lee has a great, emotion-filled voice and can handle
soft and hard vocals really well. She reminds me a bit of Ann Wilson (Heart) that way, but she’s got some years of practice ahead to top the master.
8 – Styx – Cyclorama (Sanctuary)
The long-awaited first post-DeYoung studio album and it rocks! I vowed to never see Styx again with DeYoung as he bored me (great singer, but I’m
really tired of his voice) and I’ve loved Lawrence Gowan for many years so I love this new line-up. “One With Everything” sounds like it was from ‘Pieces
Of Eight’ with that majestic feel – brilliant. It rocks (all of it) with great harmonies, musicianship, songwriting and Sucherman can beat the skins!
9 – Kelly Clarkson – Thankful (RCA)
Stop groaning! This doesn’t make my guilty pleasure category because I don’t feel guilty. Is American Idol the downfall of music? Maybe, but Kelly has
an amazing voice (tired from too many appearances now) and it shines on this disc. Songwriting is solid – not stellar – but her voice more than
makes up for it. Powerful, emotional, dynamic and with tracks like “Low,” and “Just Missed the Train” they not only sound good, but rock as well.
“Anytime” is a classic ballad and she sounds as good as any rock ballad vocalist from the ‘80s. Not to mention it’s diverse – lots of styles and superb
vocals. You should hear her pre-American Idol demos (Whitney’s “Queen of the Night” is a quasi-metal rocker and she smokes on it!).
10 – Blackmore’s Night – Ghost of a Rose (SPV)
Deep Purple/Rainbow guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and vocalist Candice Night bring renaissance music and progressive guitar-work together. They’ve been
very successful with this collaboration in the past and this disc is brilliant from stem to stern. Haunting melodies at times, other times upbeat frolicking
minstrel-like folky, traditional renaissance pieces - all around superb guitar work complemented by Night’s soothing vocals. A touch of electric guitar
and an almost-searing guitar solo rip on “All for One.”
11 – O.S.I. – Office of Strategic Influence (SPV)
Dream Theater, Chroma Key & Fate’s Warning members collaborate for a progressive dream come true. Blistering and moody at times.
12 – Matt Nathanson – Beneath these Fireworks (Universal)
“Angel,” which leads off this brilliant disc, is a dripping-with-emotion 2-minute masterpiece. Emm Gryner guests, Ron Aniello produced, other notables.
13 – Longwave – The Strangest Things (RCA)
Wow. NYC band sounds like a descendent from the best of European/U2/Coldplay/Travis movements. Effects on vocals, guitars, haunting stuff – brilliant.
14 – Stage – s/t (Maverick)
Ferociously intense, even at it’s weakest moments it’s gripping and gut-wrenching. Good snow shovelling disc (don’t ask)
15 – Idlewild – The Remote Part (Capitol)
Not as heavy as their previous, but still superb – more Beatles-like in melody. Supergrass put out a great one this year but this is even better.
16 – Queensryche – Tribe (Sanctuary)
A return to power – dissappointed in the last two but this one is solid. Not as majestic, but it’s got all the other Ryche elements I’ve loved since ’83.
17 – Sam Roberts – We Were Born in a Flame (Universal)
“Time is a slippery fish” – what a great line. Canadian so of course it’s great – eclectic and U2-ish in spots. Very solid disc.
18 – Jesse Malin – The Fine Art of Self Destruction (Artemis)
The song “Solitaire” is one of the finest of the year – acoustic and vocals, “reach in chest, pull out heart, cry out in pain” vocals. Perfect song.
19 – Plumb – Beautiful Lumps of Coal (Curb)
She used to be all country I guess, she rocks it (hard at times) on this one and the song “Boys Don’t Cry” is magic
20 – Josh Kelley – For the Ride Home (Hollywood)
Someone on my list is getting exposure! VH1 is actually spinning “Amazing” currently, very good singer/songwriter stuff – excellent.


Honorable Mention & Notable Emerging Artists:
Delerium – Chimera
Lucy Woodward – While You Can
Maroon 5 – Songs About Jane
Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez – The Trouble with Humans
Vertical Horizon – Go
Sense Field – Living Outside
Will Hoge – Blackbird on a Lonely Wire
Marshall Crenshaw – What’s in the Bag?
Joe Bonamassa – Blues Deluxe
Magellean – Impossible Figures
Damien Rice – O
Marty Lloyd – Marigold
Lyle Lovett – My Baby Don’t Tolerate
Sleeping at Last - Ghosts

Wish I’d Spent More Time with Before Making this List (but may have impacted it):
Sarah McLachlan – Afterglow (she’d have made the list but only heard it once - she’s always brilliant)
Dream Theater – Train of Thought (still haven’t picked this up)
Gordon Downie – Battle of the Nudes (still haven’t picked this up)
Dar Williams – The Beauty of the Rain (still haven’t picked this up)
Default – Elocation (still haven’t picked this up)

Guilty Pleasure of 2003:
Robbie Williams - Escapology

Hits/Live/Compilation Discs of 2003:
1 – Rush – Rush in Rio
2 – Coldplay – Live 2003
3 – Our Lady Peace – Live
4 – Just Because I’m a Woman: Songs of Dolly Parton
5 – Willy Porter – High Wire Live
6 – R.E.M. – In Time 1988-2003
7 – Allison Moorer – Show Live

Looking Forward in 2004:
Marillion – Marbles (april)
James Kinne – currently in studio
Jo Davidson – currently in studio
Alexandra Slate – Edge of the Girl (promo’d in 2003, no release date scheduled)

Live Shows:
1 – Blue Man Group – 30 Aug 2003 Saratoga Springs, NY
2 – James Kinne – 12 April 2003 Albany, NY
3 – Coldplay/The Music – 27 Feb 2003 Wallingford, CT
4 – Shania Twain – 11 Oct 2003 Albany, NY
5 – Rik Emmett – 20 June 2003 Clifton Park, NY

DVDs of 2003:
1 – Rush – Rush in Rio
2 – Blue Man Group – The Complex Rock Tour Live
3 – Heart – Alive in Seattle
4 – Coldplay – Live 2003
5 – The Cure – Trilogy



2002 re-cap - Top CDs only:

1 – Rush – Vapor Trails
James Kinne – Between (tie)
2 – Josh Joplin Group – The Future That Was
3 – Our Lady Peace – Gravity
4 – Kasey Chambers – Barricades & Brickwalls
5 – Tragically Hip, The – In Violet Light
6 – Spock’s Beard – Snow
7 – Kreviazuk, Chantal – What If It All Means Something
8 – Stochansky, Andy – Five Star Motel
9 – Bonamassa, Joe – So, It’s Like That
10 – Sexsmith, Ron – Cobblestone Runway
11 – Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head
12 – Counting Crows – Hard Candy
13 – Dishwalla – Opaline
14 – Benjamin Gate, The - Contact
15 – Springsteen, Bruce – The Rising
16 – Porcupine Tree – In Absentia
17 – Greenwheel – Soma Holiday
18 – Course of Nature – Superkala
19 – Burke, Solomon – Don’t Give Up On Me
20 – Nelson, Willie – The Great Divide