the year in music (2013)

First, a lengthy quote:

     Doctor Labyrinth, like most people who read a great deal and who have too much time on their hands, had become convinced that our civilization was going the way of Rome. He saw, I think, the same cracks forming that had sundered the ancient world, the world of Greece and Rome; it was his conviction that presently, our world, our society, would pass away as their did, and a period of darkness would follow.

     Now Labyrinth, having thought this, began to brood over all the fine and lovely things that would be lost in the reshuffling of societies. He thought of the art, the literature, the manners, the music, everything that would be lost. It seemed to him that of all these grand and noble things, music would probably be the most lost, the quickest forgotten.

     Music is the most perishable of things, fragile and delicate, easily destroyed.  –Philip K. Dick, “The Preserving Machine,” 1953

It is with some measure of trepidation that I begin this post, knowing full well that my cynicism towards music this year has reached an epic level.  We were force-fed a steady (and putrid) diet of Miley Cyrus and The Voice, both of which are epic-level fails of quality music.

I mean, seriously. I loved the first Maroon 5 album, Songs About Jane. At this point I can’t even look at a photo of Adam Levine (the singer) without laughing.

Anyway.

I’ll include a list of all the new albums I bought in 2013, but I want to start with the BEST of what I got in 2013, including albums I got but weren’t put out in 2013.

BEST OF THE NON-2013 ALBUMS

MD.45, The Craving.  I have always been a fair-weather Megadeth fan, in that I love love love the music they play but really wish Dave Mustaine was a better (more melodic) singer. He’s got a gruff voice that is good for metal, but he’s just not a good singer.  You can’t deny the guitar skills, though, and Megadeth is still one of the best (if not most relevant) metal bands around.  The Craving came out in 1996 during a time when Mustaine was disillusioned with Megadeth, and he got Lee Ving (of Fear) to do all the singing.  What it became was a punk/metal extravaganza and it’s an excellent album, even with the harmonica solos.  Be careful tracking down a copy of this album, though, as Mustaine remastered his entire back catalog and says he couldn’t find Ving’s vocal or harmonica tracks when it came time to redo The Craving, so he replaced Ving’s voice with his and the harmonica with guitar. As little as I like harmonica solos, they work in this context, and Mustaine’s vocals turn this album into just another ho-hum old metal record.

Leon Redbone, Up a Lazy River.  If you watch reruns of Saturday Night Live episodes from the 1970s, sooner or late you’ll come across a white-suited, Panama-hatted dapper fellow called Leon Redbone. Many of the songs he played on SNL were done with just him and an acoustic guitar, and he has a rich, oddly soothing – yet occasionally disconcerting – baritone voice.  Nowadays what he plays is called “Americana.”  I wanted one of his albums, so I dug through reviews & discussions of his music and came across Up a Lazy River, which many of his fans say is his best recent album. I haven’t heard any of his other albums, recent or otherwise, but I have truly enjoyed this disc.

Huey Lewis and The News, Greatest Hits.  Duh.  Why didn’t I have this album already?  Chock full of toe-tapping, finger-snapping hits you already know, plus some other songs that you could graciously call “filler.”

Andres Segovia, The Art of Segovia.  Two discs stuffed full of some of the most amazing classical guitar playing you’ll ever hear.  If you’ve listened to classical guitar in the last 50 years, you’ve heard Segovia, somebody taught by Segovia, or somebody influenced by Segovia. This is the master at his finest.

John Fogerty, Centerfield (25th Anniversary Edition).  You can get tired of hearing a great song over and over. I worked at a minor league baseball stadium (selling beer, flipping burgers, etc.) for four years starting in 1988. I probably heard the song “Centerfield” a thousand times – at least the beginning of it, anyway.  I will admit that I sometimes skip that tune when I play this album, but I never heard the rest of this record until buying it this past summer.  It’s a terrific record from start to finish.

Now that we’ve done that, here’s

BEST OF THE 2013 ALBUMS

Black Sabbath, 13.  When I heard Black Sabbath was reuniting for an album and a tour, I was pretty excited.  Then I heard the original drummer wasn’t included, but they were getting the drummer from Rage Against the Machine.  See, I was never a Sabbath purist, and I didn’t get into them until I was in my 30s, and I’m not a die-hard fan.  I only have one album plus the Greatest Hits compilation – until now.  I don’t miss the original drummer, and I find the new album compelling and a fitting close to what has been a very long career as the godfathers of heavy metal.

Rodrigo y Gabriela, 11:11. Above I mention Andres Segovia. Rodrigo y Gabriela is what you’d get if you took Segovia and made him listen to Metallica for years.  This is an album where they pay tribute to their influences, which range from piano players to Pink Floyd.

Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats, Mind Control.  A Facebook friend turned me on to this album, and I got it almost on a lark.  Totally. Blown. Away.  This album is the most Sabbathy-sounding non-Sabbath album I’ve ever heard.  I suppose it helps that they’re English and using instruments, amps & recording gear made in the 1960s & 70s.  This album is filled with dark, sludgy, wonderful songs.  Buy it.  Note that I also picked up Blood Lust, the album they put out in 2012. It’s OK, but not as good as this one.

Volbeat, Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies.  This was the first great album of 2013.  It opens with a goofy (and pointless) instrumental and has a couple of real clunkers that feature the singer’s overuse of auto-tuning, but all the other songs are catchy, heavy, well written, and exceptionally well played.  An excellent album.

Rush, Vapor Trails (Remixed).  This is the Rush album I always wanted to love but couldn’t, simply because it was basically impossible to listen to.  The original version of this album was completely brick-wall limited – with the levels just slammed to the max.  It was so …tiring… to listen to that after a couple of spins, I put it away.  Rush listened to their fans and not only remixed the album, but had it properly mastered to put the dynamics back in this excellent collection of songs.  The new version is a joy to listen to.

There you have it, folks, my top 10 albums of 2013.  Here’s a list of all the albums I bought in 2013, then, in alphabetical order, with non-2013s first.

  • Andres Segovia, Art of Segovia (1969)
  • Charlie Daniels Band, A Decade of Hits (1983)
  • John Fogerty, Centerfield (25th Anniversary Edition) (1985/2010)
  • Rush, Presto (Re-Issue) (1989/2013)
  • Daryl Hall & John Oates, The Very Best Of Daryl Hall & John Oates (1990)
  • MD.45, Craving (1996)
  • John Williams, Great Paraguayan: Solo Guitar Works By Barrios (2004)
  • Huey Lewis & the News, Greatest Hits (2006)
  • White Wolf, Victim of the Spotlight (2007)
  • Tom Lehrer, The Tom Lehrer Collection (2010)
  • Leon Redbone, Up a Lazy River (2011)
  • John Williams, Guitarist (2011)
  • The Nightwatchman, World Wide Rebel Songs (2011)
  • Halestorm, The Strange Case of… (2012)
  • Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Blood Lust (2012)
  • Black Sabbath, 13 (2013)
  • Ray Charles, Forever (2013)
  • John Fogerty, Wrote a Song For Everyone (2013)
  • Iron Maiden, Maiden England ’88 (DVD) (2013)
  • Pinnick Gales Pridgen, Pinnick Gales Pridgen (2013)
  • The Quill, Tiger Blood (2013)
  • Rodrigo y Gabriela, 11:11 (2013)
  • Rush, Vapor Trails (Remixed) (2013)
  • Scale the Summit, The Migration (2013)
  • Shawn Smith, So the Heart Can See (2013)
  • Stryper, Second Coming (2013)
  • Stryper, No More Hell to Pay (2013)
  • Roger Taylor, Fun on Earth (2013)
  • Thicker Than Water, Coming Soon! Side 1 (2013)
  • Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Mind Control (2013)
  • Volbeat, Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies (2013)

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