Best of 2008? Maybe…

OK, there have been some pretty fair albums so far this year but none have hit me like “Dig! Lazarus, Dig!!! by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I think part of the reason is that Mr. Cave had sort of the same take on the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead as I’ve always had…did anybody ask Laz if he WANTED to be resurrected? Wasn’t it sort of presumptuous of Monsieur Jesus to just take it upon himself to bring ol’ Laz back from beyond the pale to shuffle once more upon this mortal coil? Put that attitude to work with some serious back-up by the Bad Seeds and you’ve got a heck of an album. Other highlights include “We Call Upon The Author,” “Jesus of the Moon” and the epic “More News From Nowhere.” Now, can we talk about Leonard Cohen’s take on the “Story of Isaac”? Hey, Judaeo/Christian lore makes for some dramatic rock and roll.

Brian Wilson is supposed to be a genius. He is certainly at the very least Southern California’s Gershwin. I guess that would make him a genius then, wouldn’t it? I thought hearing “Smile” in its entirety a couple of years ago was proof that the Beach Boys were indeed, Four Wankers and a Genius. Brian didn’t need The Boys, but The Boys sure needed him. Fast forward to the Summer of ’08 and Mr. Wilson has unloaded another opus on us. “That Lucky Old Sun” is a paean to SoCal like no other. If you had never been there, hearing this suite would pretty much qualify as a month on the Harbor Freeway with the radio on full blast. Wilson gets a little help from long-time collaborator and L.A. icon, Van Dyke Parks as well as angel-voiced choirs and seasoned Hollywood session players. Carole King even chimes in on the bonus tracks.

It may seem as though over the last couple of decades Van Morrison is just making the same album over and over again. Maybe. But “Keep It Simple” is proof that practice makes perfect. Of course, I can’t think of too many clunkers in the Belfast Cowboy’s career — and this one don’t clang either. As far as I’m concerned, Van can make this album as often as he likes, I’ll buy it every time… gladly.

Jack White’s “other” band, The Raconteurs, put out a pretty decent album a couple of years ago (Broken Boy Soldiers) and their latest, “Consolers of the Lonely” would have been a pretty decent release as well except for one thing. What this album has that their last one didn’t is “Carolina Drama” — an unabashed masterpiece of a song. Story is that Jack was afraid that his new song’s protagonist, “Billy”, was a bit of a cliché so he asked his buddy, Bob Dylan, if he should change the character’s name. Bob, a bit of a songwriter hisself, said, “Yeah, call him Eddie.” Bob was kidding, but Jack wasn’t. The track is worth the price of the download. Really.

By now, I’m sure everybody knows the story of Mudcrutch. Well, if this album is any indication, Tom Petty should have told MCA to take a hike when they suggested dropping a couple of players from the band and replacing them with ringers. Hey, not that the Heartbreakers were a bad thing but whether its nostalgia, guilt or just plain chemistry, these guys bring out the best in Petty as a songwriter and band leader. This stands as the best Heartbreakers record the Heartbreakers never made. Swampier, rootsier and maybe a little more jammy than we’re used to from T.P. But, that ain’t no drag. Great album.

OK, I gotta confess, when you say “Beck” I still think of Jeff. I’m not apologizing for that, but even an old, dusty codger like me knows a great album when he hears one. I’ve heard some people complain that it’s too short (it clocks in at barely half an hour) but it’s just right if you ask me. No more, no less, don’t change a thing, dude. The cover even has a mid-sixties feel to it, sorta Highway 61ish, don’t you think? It makes me feel a little more comfortable about the whole “Beck” thing.

I know, it’s been out for a while, but the for real and true release date for Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” was actually January 1, 2008. Besides, this album is good enough to be mentioned two years in a row anyway. This may be my favorite Radiohead album…running neck and neck with “The Bends” I guess. No, on second thought, this one wins just for its street cred. “Pay What You Want” politics pushes “In Rainbows” into “classic” territory on general principle. The fact that it’s a musical masterpiece is just gravy.

There are a handful of artists that have been putting out great records for around 40 years. Emmylou Harris is one of them. Always impeccably tasteful in song selection and production she does it again with “All I Intended To Be”. Guest appearances by Dolly Parton and Kate & Anna McGarrigle (who co-wrote some tracks with Harris) assures that once again, Emmylou delivers.

Stay tuned for the rest of Philbert’s picks for 2008… there’s a couple that might surprise you!

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3 Comments on “Best of 2008? Maybe…”

  1. WEB SHERIFF Says:

    WEB SHERIFF
    Protecting Your Rights on the Internet
    Tel 44-(0)208-323 8013
    Fax 44-(0)208-323 8080
    websheriff@websheriff.com
    http://www.websheriff.com

    Hi Phil,

    On behalf of Exile Productions, Exile Publishing and Exile Films, many thanks for plugging Van Morrison’s new album and, for your readers’ info, up-to-the-minute news on Keep It Simple and Van’s 2008 shows is, of course, available on http://www.vanmorrison.com and http://www.myspace.com/vanmorrison and, for a limited period, you can still see Van’s exclusive BBC sessions at http://www.bbc.co.uk/musictv/vanmorrison/video/ . We’re also pleased to announce that an increasing archive of exclusive film footage of Van Morrison performances has now been made available for fans on Exile Film’s official YouTube channel at http://uk.youtube.com/user/OfficialExileFilms.

    Thanks again for your enthusiastic and encouraging support.

    Best Regards,

    WEB SHERIFF

  2. WEBSHERIFF Says:

    WEB SHERIFF
    Protecting Your Rights on the Internet
    Tel 44-(0)208-323 8013
    Fax 44-(0)208-323 8080
    websheriff@websheriff.com
    http://www.websheriff.com

    Hi Phil,

    On behalf of Exile Productions and Exile Publishing, many thanks for plugging Van Morrison’s new album and, for your readers’ info, up-to-the-minute news on Keep It Simple and Van’s 2008 shows is, of course, available on http://www.vanmorrison.com and http://www.myspace.com/vanmorrison and, for a limited period, you can still see Van’s exclusive BBC sessions at http://www.bbc.co.uk/musictv/vanmorrison/video/ . We’re also pleased to announce that an increasing archive of exclusive film footage of Van Morrison performances has now been made available for fans on Exile’s official YouTube channel at http://uk.youtube.com/user/OfficialExileFilms.

    Thanks again for your support.

    Regards,

    WEB SHERIFF

  3. ThomG Says:

    There’s no punk on this list.
    The Beck CD is good, the first couple of times through. But it just doesn’t hold up. And I’m still waiting for Uncle E to cut me a CD of Nick Cave. Tell him I’m coming for him…..

    Thom, there hasn’t been a “punk” album since 1977, has there? But, I’ll be posting more picks from ’08 a little later… maybe there’ll be one that you approve of… oh, and if “E” won’t burn it, let me know…
    -P


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