I’d like to share with our readers some music moments of the past year. This is not really a best list as I don’t believe in one artist being better than another. I do believe in pointing out an artists grand achievements no matter how big or small. The following 10 artists/collections deserve a mention for their contributions to the music industry in 2010.
WELCOME BACK – DEVO: It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since Devo issued a full collection of new songs. “Something For Everybody” sums it up with its title, that is if you enjoy that signature Devo sound. Amazingly, the new disc ranks right up there with the feel of the ground breaking 1980 release “Freedom of Choice.” What’s even more amazing are that these guys are over 50 and still singing the same type of music. Luckily their subject matter is usually way off center and not pigeonholed into romantic conflicts like most pop bands. Every track on “Something For Everybody” is pure classic Devo, and there are no stinkers to be found! So get ready to crack that whip and re-explore a sound that makes you jerk back and forth.
COUNTRY BUMPKINS – LADY ANTEBELLUM: Every year has it’s emerging country group that crosses the line into pop territory and converts a new audience. Last year it was Sugarland, this year it was Lady Antebellum. Like Sugarland, using female and male lead vocals can only broaden the reach your of listeners. “Need You Now” the title track was without a doubt the song heard all over the world as it ranked high on Country, Pop, and European markets. The unfortunate truth is that is the strongest tune on the set and the others couldn’t match it’s success. With that said overall the entire “Need You Now” disc carries a very even sound, exploring traditional, alternate country, and pop moods, making it a worth while listen and their best to date.
OUTSTANDING DEBUT – RON ISLEY: How can it be that after 5 decades Ron Isley, one of the original members of the Isley Brothers has released his first solo collection? No need to really wonder, just enjoy! That same slick groove that Rhythm and Blues fans have known to embrace is still vibrant on “Mr. I.” Though I prefer the funky disco tracks like “Living In The Life” and “It”s A Disco Night,” there is something to be cherished in those late night satin sheet ballads. The highlight of the collection is the tender and touching version of Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend,” featuring the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. “Mr. I” is definitely a turn the lights down and break out the wine glasses event.
LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION! – GLEE CAST: Who could have predicted that “Glee” would not only dominate the small box, but cause such in impact in the music industry. Billboard’s Hot 100 was flooded this year with songs from “Glee” debuting many weeks with 4 or 5 tracks at a time. Not only was the money rolling in from their interpretations but the added interest in the original cuts didn’t hurt the business either. Dishing out seven CD releases since November of 2009, you would think the phenomenon would have run its course, but there seems to be no end to this juggernaut for now. I think the guys behind the curtain are fully aware that the music buying public has dropped in age starting around 12, leaving a whole younger set to determine what’s popular. Get ready for a few more years of teen drama medleys and guest spots to tug at your heartstrings and ears. And that’s how I and Sue sees it.
NEXT GENERATION – MIRANDA LAMBERT & LAURA BELL BUNDY: Some could say the future of country music lies within the young-ins. Each of these artists harkens back to the country sounds of the 60s and 70s. Miranda Lambert carries the ruff persona and Laura Bell Bundy handles the fluff. Lambert’s “Revolution” set from 2009 is still holding up strong due to her ability to scowl when she’s rockin’ and soften it up a bit when needed. It also helps her street-cred buy writing and playing on the cuts establishing that what you hear is coming from within. Bundy’s “Achin & Shakin” (previously reviewed) still finds it’s way to my player periodically. It is such a well put together collection and her big voice sits well whether sheÅs kicking up the party or seducing you in a ballad.
IF YOU HAVEN’T NOTICED, I’M STILL HERE – HOLE: Oh how we love to watch a tragic mess and their ups and downs. Courtney Love is Hole and visa versa, but that’s not a bad thing. Most bands are engulfed by there lead singer and thatÅs just the way it is. Few acts have broken that mold and I have no issue has long as the musicÅs good. “Nobody’s Daughter” appears to be a timid continuation of 2004’s solo-titled “America’s Sweetheart.” With the exception of “Skinny Little Bitch” the set seems to have a more folk inspired vibe, even with Billy Corgan’s influence to bring back the “Hole” as known in 1998. There’s something more intimate and personal found in these recordings. Seems to me that Love should have remained solo and let Juliet Lewis take over the reins of Hole, since she’s dropped the Licks.
BACK FROM HELL – SISTERS OF MERCY: Way before Team Edward and Team Jacob from Twilight and the gender blending of “Emo” there was Goth. The Sisters of Mercy almost brought that dark brooding spark to the forefront with their second release “Floodland.” The Sisters broke new ground letting a dance beat infiltrate their Rosemary’s Baby chants and Crypt-Kicking guitar riffs. Much like Philip OakeyÅs (Human League) gloomy baritone style, Andrew Eldritch was more suited for a menacing format. The result was 1987’s three single loggings on the top 40 Dance/Club Chart. The 2010 reissue captures my favorite cut, “Lucretia My Reflection,” in it’s full unscathed extended version. That’s almost 9 minutes of hell-bound fun!
I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN – JOSH TURNER: It took 22 weeks for Josh Turner to score his third number one country track with “Why Don’t We Just Dance” in 2010, from his fourth release this decade, “Haywire.” The country chart is very tight and tough to crack, let alone hit the top. This release is not as traditional as his previous outings, but it’s one of those collections that has everything you’d want in a country album. Turner’s deep vocals reminds you of Randy Travis, George Strait, and Johnny Cash all rolled into one and he’s not too bad on the eyes either. It seems he can tackle any country style and make it his own. As of this writing he hit his fourth number one single, with “All Over Me.”
FINDING A PLACE – JOHN BARROWMAN: On his newest self-titled release John Barrowman aka Captain Jack Harkness-Torchwood (as I remember him best) seems to venture into where he is most comfortable, Broadway. As his previous 2008 disc “Music Music Music” took on a more adult contemporary turn, some stars just seem to belong to the stage. John Barrowman is one of those entities. Tackling cuts from Modern Playbill favorites like Jersey Boys, Dreamgirls, The Boy From Oz, and Mamma Mia, heÅs in his safety zone. It’s not that safe, however, because not many male vocalists dare and can belt out “One Night Only,” “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” or “The Winner Takes It All” as Barrowman does with ease. I’m glad Captain Jack continues to explore his music roots, but for now I’ll be dreaming of an imaginary pairing of him with Jane Lynch on Glee. Casting agents take note, you’re missing the ball on this one, Sue Sylvester needs a villain nemesis.
HOT TRACKS – CAZWELL & CHRIS WILLIS: Though we have only gotten a taste of what’s next on Cazwell’s plate, the track “Ice Cream Truck,” has satisfied me well this year and left me aching for more. This is a rising star and if opening for Cyndi Lauper or Lady GaGa on your resume doesnÅt land you a good industry deal, nothing will. Chris Willis has scored well from his affiliation with dance music’s powerhorse, David Guetta. You may have heard his voice on the outstanding dance track “Getting Over,” which hit number one on the dance chart earlier this year. He has recently released his first massive solo track “Louder,” which hit the number one spot this week after riding nine weeks on Billboard’s Dance Club Chart. These are two artists to watch for in 2011.