Before June slips into our collective memory, let’s take a look back at a month that was hot for new music, and just plain hot. Here are some of my personal favorites:
#1 Willie Colon * El Malo
This is 70’s latin funk at its finest. Colon leads an impressive band through a series of infectious, upbeat party anthems (‘Willie Whopper’ is my favorite of the moment). If El Malo is any indication, the reissues from the legendary Fania label are well packaged, loaded with great music, and worth your pocket money.
#2 Babylon’s Burning * by Clinton Heylin
Heylin is one of the best music journalists in the world, so it’s a delight to see him turn his critical gaze once again towards Punk. His 2005 book From The Velvets To The Voidoids brilliantly illuminated pre-punk, and Babylon’s Burning picks up (more or less) where that book left off, tracing the rise and evolution of Punk music through the stories of the bands who made it happen. Week by week, month by month, the book draws a finely detailed account of the incubation and growth of the genre. Another platinum effort from a sterling author.
#3 Dave Alvin at The Freight & Salvage * Berkeley, CA
The P and I caught Dave Alvin’s acoustic show at the Freight & Salvage last Thursday night. If you haven’t been to the F&S, it’s basically a barn in Berkeley with 220 mismatched seats – a great venue. And Alvin lit the room up. The guy is a fabulous storyteller and a magician with the guitar. He claimed to be playing a lot of stuff that he normally doesn’t get to, but he still found time for great versions of ‘King Of California’ and ‘4th Of July’. Don’t miss the chance to see him live – it’s a musical experience you won’t soon forget.
#4 George Brigman * Jungle Rot
Temperatures have been in the 90’s in the Bay Area for the last couple of weeks – and when the thermometer’s in the red, this album is a must. I’m beginning to believe that side one of this record is flat out one of the finest album sides of the entire decade of the 70’s.
#5 Cold War Kids * Robbers & Cowards
Hang Me Up To Dry baby!
#6 Spank Rock * YoYoYoYoYo
Back in December I chose YoYoYoYoYo as my 33rd best album of 2006, but if I were picking that list over again today, it would certainly make my top ten. I docked Spank Rock points for misogyny and bad language, but in hindsight, that’s a bit like penalizing a cat for having fleas. This album rips, and as I wrote back in December “the first half… is arguably the best Hip-Hop produced all year.”
#7 Junior Wells * Blues Hit Big Town
Wells’ debut recordings from the early 50’s weren’t released until 1977 as Blues Hit Big Town. A ferocious harp player, and by all accounts one badass dude, Wells stomps and struts his way through an amazing set of songs. At various points on this record, his band includes Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Willie Dixon, and Otis Spann. But Wells is never overshadowed by his celebrated sidemen, and his raw take on the dirty Chicago Blues makes this a must-have for fans of the genre.
#8 X * Los Angeles
A great, great record. I didn’t include this in my 20 Greatest Punk Albums Of All-Time (Wild Gift got the nod) and my brother let me hear about it right away. Hey, I love this one, and it’s yet another album that is perfect for those days when the sun is hanging uncomfortably low in the sky.
#9 Various Artists * Trojan Sunshine Reggae
One more for Mr. Sun. This compilation of sunshine-oriented tracks is perfect for a hot summer day – but then, what Reggae isn’t? The latest in Trojan’s long line of super-affordable, three-disc box sets, Sunshine Reggae compiles the likes of Bob Marley, Lee Perry, and U-Roy alongside lesser know performers such as Byron Lee & The Dragonaires and Jamaica Duke. If you love Reggae and don’t know about this series of compilations, do yourself a favor…
#10 Beastie Boys * The Mix-Up
The key to getting your money’s worth from the Beasties’ new instrumentals-only album is to forget who’s playing and just enjoy the music. Does this hold up to their best albums? Not a chance – this is lightweight funk that probably doesn’t even equal their instrumentals compilation The In Sound From Way Out. But is this a funky fun album that makes great background music? Absolutely. As my friend Kevin so eloquently put it, this is fresh muzak.