5. Love, Black Beauty (High Moon)
This came to me only in the (pretty durn unnecessary) deluxe edition late in the year. It’s for Love/Arthur Lee fans, but deserves a nod because it got little notice and because the finest tracks (“Can’t Find It,” “Beep Beep,” “Product of the Times”) are touching or funny or properly reflective. If you know the other work, seek this out. The interview is an interview on a CD. The live tracks have quite poor sound.
4. Various, Bring It on Home: Black America Sings Sam Cooke
An outstanding crate dig that affirms Sam Cooke was a telling presence in soul all through the ’60s. If I own more than half of these, they sailed right past me. It’s not nothing that one track, “Pow! You’re in Love” by the Falcons, appears on two of my Reissues of the Year. For whatever reason, more consistent than the collection devoted to Otis Redding. For whatever even stranger reason, the collection devoted to Dan Penn is almost a dud.
3. Conlon Nancarrow, Studies for Player Piano
Though it came out in 2008, this was a major for me this year because more and more Nancarrow here sounds like a composer/innovator up my alley for decades when I couldn’t find him. The curious are directed to earlier posts about these recordings. I have to add that I’ve become very fond of the non-chronological programming across the four discs. That it’s almost a tragedy it doesn’t include all of the piano studies. And that I’m more convinced than ever that treatments of these works without Nancarrow’s supervision will skew too much toward the chilly and cerebral. Or the silly and satirical.
2. Captain Beefheart, Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972
I’ll deal with the controversy right off the top: as usual, Don Van Vliet’s crummiest parallel with his high-school buddy Frank Zappa is that his deeply devoted band members don’t get enough credit or cash as the years roll on. Would it have killed anybody to credit this to “Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band”? That said, I don’t see how Magic Band vets benefit from boycotting this and keeping people from hearing the first flowering of a roots-and-branches innovator finding his own common tongue. You like funk fantasmagoria and pre-punk pokes in the eye? Might want to grab this whole package. The outtakes disc is worthy not wondrous (I’ll take it for the fascinating alternate of the instrumental “Alice in Blunderland” and the ferocious alternate version of “Dirty Blue Gene”). But the three albums themselves sound more wondrous now because …. well, dammit, unique.
1. The Falcons, The Definitive Falcons
What can I say? A kid from the sticks, liberated by blues and soul as much as any changing social mores and chemicals and oncoming exposure to a wider world, wanted to hear where soul came from and the wise guys said here and more or less they were right. The original LPs snarfed from Cheapo Records in Central Square, Cambridge were sacred sides. I didn’t care if you wanted to listen to that classic rock crap or that hippie shit or that punk puss — the Falcons were from a church I declared sacred. And this includes the everything mostest possible. Maybe it’s not for you. (And I gotta say it’s an eternal shame the recordings are generally so lo-budget.) But for me this is a broadcast from heaven.