Like all seven regular readers know, I’ve been making these way too big end of the year list for a long time and 2009 is no exception. This year I start things with this retro list, because I went a little reissue crazy and bought a huge amount of them during the year. However, The Beatles box set was too expensive for my wallet and I didn’t buy it. That’s why it’s not on the list. And the imaginary award goes to:
RETRO TOP 20 (reissues, compilations)
1. Emitt Rhodes: The Emitt Rhodes Recordings 1969-1973 (Hip-O-Select, 2009)
Emitt Rhodes would have taken the top spot even if I could have afforded to buy The Beatles box set, because before this release it was incredibly difficult to get hold of Emitt Rhodes solo material and therefore this was a really important release and one that I had been waiting for. After all, Emitt Rhodes is one of the true pop geniuses and deserves a much wider recognition. The Emitt Rhodes Recordings contains all of his four solo albums on two CDs. The other huge Emitt Rhodes news of the year was that the man is back in studio. I’m really looking forward to hear some new material. Italian director Cosimo Messeri also made a documentary about Emitt Rhodes entitled The One Man Beatles that premiered on International Rome Film Festival. Here’s hoping for a quick DVD release.
2. Mark Eric: A Midsummer’s Day Dream (Now Sounds, 2009)
This lost soft pop masterpiece was reissued by wonderful label Now Sounds. There’s great liner notes and huge amount of bonus tracks. This young guy certainly wrote quite a stunning pop album back in 1969 and he should go to the soft pop / sunshine pop hall of fame with the likes of Roger Nichols, Curt Boettcher and Bergen White. A Midsummer’s Day Dream is definitely a masterpiece and I spent an awful lot of time listening to it during the last few months. Time well spent.
3. Big Star: Keep an Eye On The Sky (Rhino, 2009)
Big Star is one of the greatest bands ever. A great power pop band from the seventies who made three amazing albums and have been a major influence to a huge amount of pop bands. If you have all those albums, do you really NEED this box set? Well if I’m honest, I’m not 100% sure. I mean does it contain anything incredibly significant that isn’t on the albums. Maybe not. But it looks oh so beautiful and it sounds oh so wonderful and if there is band that deserves this kind of box set treatment, Big Star is the one. A few more expensive releases like these from my favourite bands and my low self-esteem issues are gone, because my penis will become enormous.
4. The Blackeyed Susans: Reveal Yourself (Liberation Music, 2009)
Australian The Blackeyed Susans have a small fanbase in Finland thanks to Miettinen who played them a lot in the greatest radio show ever Räkärodeo. This is also how I found the band about ten years ago. The thing I love the most about them is the voice of Rob Snarski. The material ranges from intimidating and almost distressing to sweet and everlastingly beautiful and everything sounds extremely convincing. This career spanning box set contains two discs of their finest songs, one disc of rarities and a DVD that has all their music videos on it.
5. Where The Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968 (Rhino, 2009)
This needs no explanations. It’s another beautifully crafted nuggets box set from Rhino. This time the focus is on Los Angeles and that suits me fine. As a whole I like this a bit more than the previous San Francisco nuggets even though both are of course great releases. I still need to spend more quality time with this one though. It’s easy to love these nuggets box sets, but a bit harder to master them completely. It takes time and sometimes I’m too impatient to give enough of it.
6. The Jayhawks: Music from the North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology (American, 2009)
The Jayhawks is a huge favourite of mine and this anthology contains some of the finest songs written in the 90’s or early 2000’s. The first CD is a perfect introduction if you don’t know them already and the second cd full of rarities is a big treat for those who already have all the albums. A wonderful band and also a big stepping stone on my way from pop music to country music.
7. Bobby Russell & Bergen White: Bobby & Bergen (T-Bird, 2009)
Bergen White’s album For Women Only was my big find of the year 2008. I still love it to bits and therefore I was really interested about these duet recordings of Bobby Russell and Bergen White that a new reissue label T-Bird dug out from the shelves. The release Bobby & Bergen doesn’t dissapoint me. It doesn’t completely reach the level of For Women Only, but it does get surprisingly close and is a freakin’ awesome altogether. Classic enjoyable pop music from the 60’s.
8. Tee and Cara: As They Are (Rev-Ola, 2009)
Another reissue treasure from Rev-Ola. I had never heard about them before, but I fell in love soon after hitting the play button. If I try to overanalyze it, I could find all kind of reasons of why not to think it’s something spectacular. After all, it’s just young boy and a young girl singing beautiful folk-pop songs back in 1968. But when you start to listen to it, there’s no way of denying that there’s something magical and captivating on it and songs like Waiting List effortlessly reach the core of your heart. Soft, gentle and warm.
Rodriguez is one of the artist that the wonderful Shindig! magazine brought to my attention and I’ve been enjoying the music of this folk troubadour a lot. I just bought the debut album Cold Fact as a christmas present for myself. So I haven’t heard that one yet, but this second album is a beauty. Very thoughtful and poetic, but has also a lot pop sensibility and is therefore easily accessible.
10. The Blades Of Grass: Are Not For Smoking (Rev-Ola, 2009)
I’m not sure is this technically eligible, but it’s my blog so I suppose I should make the rules (I think the 2002 reissue was sold out and therefore Rev-Ola re-released this during 2009). Anyway, The Blades Of Grass were a sunshine pop group from Rochester and this release contains their only album from 1967 plus all the non-album singles. It’s pretty gorgeous stuff and extremely enjoyable. Oh how I just love to listen to groups like this sing. That’s art for me.
11. Jimmy Campbell: Son Of Anastasia & Half Baked (Esoteric, 2009)
Esoteric released Jimmy Campbell’s three solo albums and so far I’ve bought the first two of them. I’ll group these two beautiful folk albums together on this list, because I can’t decide which one is better. Half Baked is a bit more instant and Son Of Anastasia a bit more moving. Both of them are marvellous records even though I admit that they also contain a few songs that I’m not that thrilled about. I think I do need to pick up that third album as well, even though I’ve understood that it doesn’t reach the level of these.
12. The Peppermint Trolley Company: Beautiful Sun (Now Sounds, 2009)
Another awesome release from the Now Sounds catalog. The Peppermint Trolley Company operated in california in the 60’s and also recorded the theme to the first season of The Brady Bunch. This soft psych gem from 1968 was now reissued for the first time and it’s a really great record. I suppose there are a couple of just ok tunes in there as well, but it hardly matters because the finest moments are pure GOLD.
13. The Rationals: Think Rational! (Big Beat, 2009)
The Rationals were led by Scott Morgan and they came from Ann Arbor, Michigan. This 2cd release contains their whole recording output between 1965-1968. This is pretty great stuff that ranges from garage rock all the way to soul music. If one could cut this into a one disc best of, this would be an absolute killer. Not that I would like to do that, because the less perfect stuff is also interesting and enjoyable. Just pointing out that because it contains everything they did during that time it’s not all pure A++ class. But a large chunk of it really is.
14. The Cowsills: The Cowsills (Now Sounds, 2009)
The Cowsills compilation might have contained everything I really need from The Cowsills, but I couldn’t resist this debut album reissue because it was released by Now Sounds. This of course means that I probably need to buy the other ones eventually. The Rain, The Park and Other Things is obviously the best known song, but stuff like Thinkin’ About The Other Side and (Stop, Look) Is Anyone There? is almost equally wonderful.
15. Billy Childish: Archive from 1959 – The Billy Childish Story (Damaged Goods, 2009)
Then something completely different. If I’m honest, two cds of short unpolished garage rock numbers is a way too big one time dose for me, but who says I have to listen to it through on one go. In small doses this is truly enjoyable. Yeah it’s raw, but it feels alive and kickin’ and that’s what counts in the end. I didn’t know that much about him before so for me this is a great introduction to wild Billy Childish. Extra points for beautiful packaging.
Because I’m a power pop fan, the lack of it on this list needs to be corrected. Radio City operated in the New York area in the late seventies and recorded some great stuff that was never released. Well until now at least (maybe this should be on the album of the year and not on the reissue of the year list). Anyway, it’s pretty darn good stuff on most parts and doesn’t fall far behind all those classic 70s power pop groups.
17. Duncan Browne: Give Me Take You (Grapefruit, 2009)
I just got this UK folk / baroque pop classic a couple of weeks ago and what a beautiful piece of music it is. Alfred Bell and Dwarf In a Tree (a Cautionary Tale) are so magnificent. Well obviously the whole record is. I need to spend more quality time with this one in the not so distant future.
18. Bert Jansch: L.A Turnaround (Virgin Records, 2009)
Introducing myself to this somewhat legendary folk singer-songwriter Bert Jansch has been a long time project, but I finally got started by acquiring L.A Turnaround. There’s still a long way to go, but this was certainly a pleasant way to begin. Occasionally almost too pleasant, because it feels it ranges from absolutely marvellous folk songs to just pleasant sunday morning songs. Not that there’s really anything wrong with the latter either. And obviously it’s quite possible that the songs that I consider relaxing feelgood songs are actually stories about mass murderers.
19. Iron and Wine: Around The Well (Sub Pop, 2009)
Even though this fell so far on this list, this is the kind of Iron & Wine I love. I was not that big fan of The Shepherd’s Dog and these early rarities sound much better. Soft and gentle. That’s the way to go. And nice to finally own The Trapeze Swinger, because buying a soundtrack just to get one song was never an option.
20. The Wigs: File Under Vocal Pop (2009)
And then some skinny tie power pop from the early eighties. The Wigs were from Milwaukee and released this really good album in 1981. The early stages of the album are really amazing. The packaging leaves some room for improvement, but it doesn’t really matter at all. The most important thing is that hidden treasures like this become available again.
That’s it for now. Obviously tons of great releases are missing due to the fact that I don’t own them and haven’t therefore heard them. One Chord To Another’s album of the year list will hit this blog sometime after christmas. Until then.. I and love and you.. or am I still learning love.