Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ten Plus Three: The Best of 2013

This past year in music was significant for many things, but who would have guessed that British acts of the 1960s would be vital 50 years later? Consider the following artists who all released new albums this year: Justin Hayward, Eric Burdon, Paul McCartney, Black Sabbath, Roy Harper, Eric Clapton, Richard Thompson and David Bowie. But with the old, we also heard from new artists including Arcade Fire, Serena Ryder, The Sheepdogs and Lady Gaga, all with varying degrees of success. The jazz world had plenty of new releases showcasing the healthy state of jazz and blues music. Classical music, albeit with the smallest portion of the pie, continued to milk the old favourites (Bach, Beethoven and Brahms) and the anniversaries of Verdi, Britten and Wagner, all treated with healthy and hefty CD box set re-issues. 

But the year really marked the fallout of EMI’s end in 2012. This year Universal Music Group (artists) and Sony Music (publishing) added EMI’s massive back catalogue to their rosters, which reduced the corporate ownership ranks by one. Nevertheless, smaller labels such as Dine Alone, Yep Roc and New West still managed to maintain a business plan while issuing some pretty good records. The Canadian upstart label Arts & Crafts celebrated 10 years in the business, proving it is possible to have a successful label while maintaining artistic integrity. 

The following is a list of ten previously reviewed favourites, plus three additional releases that were too good to ignore.

1) BOWIE’s so-called comeback album reminds the musical world that he never really left us.

2) PAUL McCARTNEY proves he can still deliver a great record.

3) THE CIVIL WARS soared to the top with their “marriage” of musical minds, hearts and souls. It’s a pity that this album marks the end of such a short and astonishing career.

4) No matter where you look in jazz, MILES DAVIS continues to inspire and influence the sound of progressive music. Re-visiting these historically important albums in mono proves it.

5) Nominated for a Grammy award, Old Yellow Moon by EMMYLOU HARRIS and RODNEY CROWELL is an album of unpretentious beauty.

6) RICHARD THOMPSON continues to work harder than anyone at his musicianship, as a singer and guitarist. This album produced by Buddy Miller was just what the doctor ordered.

7) BLACK SABBATH’s new release didn’t cover any new ground musically, but it did remind fans that their misspent youth wasn’t a total waste of time.

8) One of the most respected guitarists in contemporary blues today, RONNIE EARL proves that musical risks do have their own rewards.

9) JOSHUA REDMAN continues to work on his art form. This album is a fresh, introspective sound that stirs the soul.

10) A ridiculously good album by MY DARLING CLEMENTINE that could easily be dismissed as a “copy-cat” record from the 1950s, but it’s not.

Re-issue of the Year:

A beautifully rendered compilation that proves Duane Allman was no fluke.

Music Book of the Year: 

Ten years in the making. Over 800 pages and this is only Volume 1 of a three-part history!
Marc Lewisohn has outdone himself and every wannabe music biographer. Read Devin McKinney's solid review for Critics at Large here

Music Documentary of the Year:

Muscle Shoals (dir. Greg Camalier)

A story of artistic triumph over personal tragedy as Rick Hall tells his tale of the Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It’s a beautifully made documentary with great recordings from one of the most important sources of American music. Check out Shlomo Schwartzberg's review for this site here.

Happy New Year!
 – John Corcelli is a music critic, broadcast/producer, musician and member of the Festival Wind Orchestra.

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