I bought 50 albums that came out in 2006, if you include reissues and compilations. Following is a list of the 15 or so I enjoyed the most. It was also a big DVD year for me. I have been buying movies – mostly double feature B-movie packages distributed by Something Weird Video – like a fiend, so I am including a short list of video favorites which came out this year. My main reading kick has been the crime novels of British writer Ted Lewis, who wrote the book the film Get Carter was based on, as well as seven other tough guy novels that are both harder and better-written than much of what is considered to be great pulp fiction. Early 2007 album releases I am looking forward to are the new one by Lee Hazlewood, Cake or Death, and The Go-Go Music of The Mark Wirtz Orchestra & Chorus, both of which are due to come in late January.
*His Name is Alive-Detrola: After releasing two criminally underappreciated soul albums, the diverse Michiganders return to left-of-center pop, with a little jazz thrown in. Think of the more indie rock stuff on Ft. Lake.
*Sid ‘n’ Susie-Under the Covers, Vol. 1: Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet record a jukebox of cover versions of their favorite 60s songs. When “Susie” hits the crescendo on the Stone Poneys’ “Different Drum” every hair on my arms stands on its end.
*Gnarls Barkley-St. Elsewhere– Uncategorizable, genre-bending mini-masterpiece from Cee-Lo Green and Danger Mouse. Hip Hop, Trip Hop, Rock and Roll, Power Pop, Psych Rock – they do it all, and it all comes off with energy and urgency.
*Sonic Youth-Rather Ripped: Everything that’s good about Sonic Youth bottled up in one long-player. Somehow perfectly accessible and dissonant at the same time. Both Kim and Thurston are on here.
*Of Montreal-The Sunlandic Twins: Precocious psychedelia with hooks around every curve.
*Neko Case-Fox Confessor Brings the Flood: By many accounts she is a prima donna. So don’t have her over for dinner, but the power of her voice is undeniable.
*Persephone’s Bees-Notes From the Underworld: Girl-fronted, Euro-sounding power pop, that has both a 60s and 80s feel. Kinda like The Primitives/Darling Buds (but better than them) meets Shocking Blue (but not as good as them – nobody is).
*Grandaddy-Just Like the Fambly Cat: Jason Lyte & Co.’s swan song is their best album. Gorgeous melodies that make your head feel funny in a pleasant way.
*The Essex Green-Cannibal Sea: A notch below their previous record, the excellent The Long Goodbye, but any album with a song as catchy as “Don’t Know Why (You Stay)” needs to be on this list. They still sound like the Go-Betweens with a girl singing half the songs.
*The Tyde-Three’s Co.: Ditto what I said about Essex Green. This doesn’t match the band’s last album, Twice, but if you took the four or five best songs, you’d have a fine EP. Sun-drenched surfer boy rock with some Britpop spliced in.
Reissued Records and Compilations
*The Hoodoo Gurus-Stoneage Romeos: The Aussie psych-rockers got more pastoral on their second album, but this debut was all fuzz blasts and tribal chants.
*Various Artists-Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited: Most tribute albums are crap, but this one rises above. The highlights are versions by Jarvis Cocker/Kid Loco and Marianne Faithful.
*Buck Owens-21 #1 Hits: What to say? Buck was the coolest guy around, without ever trying to be cool. His songs are so simple, yet they hit at a deep place.
*Delaney & Bonnie-Home: The white Ike & Tina, with Booker T. the MGs backing them. This is like Exile on Main St. meets Otis Redding’s Greatest Hits.
*The dB’s-Like This: When Chris Stamey left the dB’s they got less spastic and more a straight-ahead power pop outfit; both versions of the band were excellent. This is Peter Holsapple peaking as a songwriter and frontman.
*Various Artists-The In-Kraut Vol. 2; Hip Shaking Grooves Made in Germany 1967-74– The subtitle says it all. Beat Club, psychedelia, soundtrack sounds . . . Includes a track by an early version of what would become Can.
Best DVDs Released in ‘06
*The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder: Punk Icons: The whole two-disc set is worth the price, if not just for the opening segment, where the quirky Snyder discusses “this new punk rock thing” with an uptight Bill Graham, an exuberant Kim Fowley, and a professorial rock critic. Throw in memorable performances by, and interviews with, Elvis Costello & the Attractions, The Ramones, et al, and you’ve got a party.
*Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel: A documentary on GP that doesn’t mind pointing to his foibles while shining a light on his greatness. The first time I’ve heard his wife and family members talk about how hurtful it was to them when Phil Kaufman famously stole Gram’s dead body and took it out the desert.
*The Last American Hero aka Hard Driver: Compelling 1973 race-car drama. Jeff Bridges is convincing as a North Carolina boy from a moonshining family who decides to become a champion driver. Able supporting cast includes Ned Beatty, Gary Busey, and Valerie Perrine. Two-Lane Blacktop meets Rebel Without a Cause.
*Alley Tramp/Over 18 & Ready: Drive-in double feature from Something Weird is on this list for Alley Tramp. The scene where the rebellious teenage girl hysterically tells her parents they can no longer control her features some of the most delightfully horrid acting ever committed to film.
*The New York Dolls: All Dolled Up: The Dolls in their heyday, being followed around by a crude camera. See them drunkenly carry on backstage, take Hollywood by storm, and play their rears off in cool-looking clubs.
*Red Lips Double Feature: Two Undercover Angels/Kiss Me Monster: Two of Jess Franco’s best films. A team of hottie detectiives solve art-related crimes in exotic locales. Lots of great clothes, great music, and one of the most riveting cage-dance scenes ever. Plot-lines? Who needs ‘em?