It’s that time of year again!

Following our successful outings the past four years, we’re at it again. Our (belated) Different Kind of Top 10 Music List for 2008. If you missed prior versions, then here’s the deal with what makes this list different:

There are lots of Best of Lists out there, but most of them aren’t relevant to adults (a group I have begrudgingly joined). Those of you with families, careers, hobbies, etc. do not listen to 200 new CDs each year.

Hence, this list. Rather than cranking out yet another collection of music you never heard, this is a more useful list: What a relatively informed music fan has been playing the hell out of all year. These 10 abums are what was most frequently spinning in the car/ipod this past year — my personal soundtrack for 2009.

This year’s list is a bit skewed: Writing the book meant that the background was mostly vocal-free jazz. Second, one of the selections — a Boxed Set — dominated everything else for the latter months of the year. This may be our most eclectic list yet:

The Beatles Box Set (Stereo) I normally save the Box sets for the end, but why bury the lead? This beast simply dominated what I listened to the last 3 months of the year. 14 CDs plus a DVD containing a short “making of” each album.

The sound quality is revelatory. A team of engineers from Abbey Road Studios spent four years using both state of the art technology plus renovated vintage studio equipment to maintain the authenticity and integrity of the original analog recordings. And it shows. The vocals sound like Paul and John are singing from the middle of your living room. The guitar three-dimensional, with resonance of buzz and acoustics of a real guitar. The songs come alive, full of small details not heard before. It sent me off to buy a new pair of front speakers.

As sound quality gets worse as files get compressed ever more small in the age of the iPod, this is a delightful throwback. A memorable sonic experience.

Terence Blanchard   Let’s Get Lost New Orleans trumpeter Terence Blanchard (and former musical musical director to Spike Lee) reinterprets the songbook of  Jimmy McHugh, with the vocal assistance of Diana Krall, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, and Jane Monheit. The vocals are top mothc, the arrangements first rate, all the while Blanchards’ wonderfully evocative trumpet drips with cool. This was my favorite jazz album of the year.  (Home Page)

Mo’ Horizons  … And The New Bohemian Freedom: This disc was my most unexpected surprise of the year to me. I found it ’cause the song Shake It Loose got under my skin. A wisp of electronica layered over a nice Brazilian rhythm.

But the rest of the album was the stunner — an eclectic mix of Latin, Techno, funk, and bossa nova, with funky soulful vocals. Even stranger, its by a German acid jazz duo.

Its a mind blowing mix of guitar, drums’n’bass, often Latin style vocals, and great beats. No two songs are very similar — its like a musical world tour of Brazil, Africa, Mexico, Spain.

Raphael Saadiq, The Way I See It This disc could have been a lost Motown recording from 1965 that was uncovered 25 years later. Its retro, yet fresh, filled with class R&B hooks and Motown infused soul.If you were a fan of Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson, Curtis Mayfield, or The Temptations, you should give this a listening to.

If you recognize Saadiq’s name, it might be from his earlier work with Tony Toni Tone! Suffice it say this is far more sophisticated.  (Home page)

Peter Blanchette, Archguital Cinema Italiano:  Peter Blanchette is the inventor of the 11-string archguitar, a modern, 16th century instrument. He uses it to play a broad mix of classical music. But what grabbed me was his reinterpretations of the music of Italian Cinema: Federico Fellini, Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly alone is worth the cost of the disc, but other film soundtracks include Fellini’s 8 1/2, Once Upon A Time In America, La Dolce Vita, and Fistful Of Dollars. Not your typical soundtrack . . .

Kylie Auldist, Made of Stone Straight out of Motown: Past years, I’ve made a habit of finding retro-inspired new music from female vocalists, and this year was no different. Kylie Auldist does old-school funk soul and pop with a warm, retro-modern flavor. She has a big voice, which is complemented by a tight band (Quantic Soul Orchestra) with a big sound.  (Home page)

Les Triaboliques, rivermudtwilight Ben Mandelson, Lu Edmonds and Justin Adams are the multi-instrumentalist trio collaborating on this eclectic mash up of blues, classical, Cuban and West African music. The title track is the odd man odd — a rocking blues number that allows each member to cut loose.

I’d love to hear a full album of rock & blues from these guys as a power trio . . .

•  Madeleine Peyroux  Bare Bones On Bare bones, Peyroux successfully transitions from songstress to songwriter.  The title could describe the somewhat spare arrangements, which show off that wonderfully distinct voice all the more.

Much has been made of her doing original songs rather than covering Jazz standards and music songbook classics. Ignore all that noise. The chanteuse has made a beautiful, intimate disc that is worthy of your living room. (Home page)

Melody Gardot,  My One and Only Thrill Gardot is a surprisingly gifted songwriter, capable of penning catchy, haunting melodies and wistful, poetic lyrics. The albums rolls on from traditional jazz to Brazilian samba, with a bluesy, world weary vein running throughout.

The elegant string arrangements and acoustic guitars create a spare, mix of silky jazz and smokey blues.

The disc reveals a startling maturity for a 25 year old. Full of noir, longing, and forlornness, this is a surprisingly sophisticated album. (Home page)

Sting  If On A Winter’s Night… I have yet to figure out why this album was not better received. The album careens through a tender collection of songs, carols, and lullabies “spanning the centuries.” Its a creative mix of British Isles traditional songs, part Scottish, part Celtic and part Classical.

It seems to have been misinterpreted as a Christmas album, with it is decidedly not. Rather, think of this as a “Winter” album — like George Winston’s December or Windham Hill’s A Winter’s Solstice.


Well, that’s my list for this year — and I didn’t mention releases from Bruce Springsteen, U2, or other major artists.

I hope you find something you haven’t heard before that you find worth listening to . . .

Category: Music

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

22 Responses to “A Different Kind of Top 10 Music List for 2009”

  1. Master Shake says:

    The best album (I’m an old fart) was The Hazards of Love by The Decemberists. My wife and I saw them at The Tower Theater in Philly in June. One of the best concerts I’ve ever seen.

  2. Dennis says:

    I love the Jazz collection you highlighted — Terence Blanchard, Madeleine Peyroux and Melody Gardot are all terrific.

  3. Byno says:

    A few you don’t have on your list I think you’d enjoy from all your other music posts over the years are Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and the new albums from Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth. Or maybe you heard and said meh. Happy New Year.

  4. jdjed says:

    Excellent list. Billboard Magazine did a nice video of Sting’s production of On A Winter’s Night…

    Barry, you should use to publish and share your playlists with readers. I believe Apple has looked into acquiring lala.

  5. Wes Schott says:

    @Dennis- on the same page with you, nice mellow jazz

  6. Wes Schott says:


    nice link…some good jazz…Roy Guzman Quintet on NPR = very sweet

  7. Wes Schott says:

    …try this “impressions” coltrane with eric dolphy

  8. Wes Schott says:

    …or, if you really want to get out there, eric dolphy, especially at about 4:00, on…

  9. tsokol1 says:

    My major CD purchase was Miles Davis The Complete Columbia Album Collection. I’ve been listening to bits and pieces (how can you do much more with 73 CD’s) from different eras. Right now I’m surprised at how varied, how creative, how current Miles was.

    Aside from that, we have a 400 disc changer filled with very varied jazz. There’s so much to hear and rehear — stuff I’d forgotten I have. Old favorites fresh again.

    As an example, the first 10 CD’s are
    Marsalis – From The Plantation To The Penitentiary
    Parker (Bird) – Complete Storyville Performances
    Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder
    Kenny Dorham, Joe Henderson – Una Mas
    Oscar Peterson – Another Day
    Sonny Rollins + 4 (Clifford Brown, Max Roach, Richie Powell, George Morrow)
    Lee Konitz, Chet Baker, Gerry MulliganThe Complete 1953 Haig Performances
    Ben Webster and MJQ 1953
    Art Blakey + The Jazz Messengers (Lee Morgon, Bobby Timmons, Benny Golson, Jimmie Merritt)Red Garland, John Coltrane, Donald Byrd – Soul Junction

    There’s also a lot of earlier and later stuff — lots of Ella, Jackie McLean, and quite a bit of one of my favorite piano players – Jessica Williams. If you do not know her, give a listen.

    It’s such a luxury to have so much music at your fingertips — these are amazing times.

  10. Captain Ned says:

    The proper Beatles box set is the mono set. The Fab Four as they and George Martin originally wanted them to sound (up through the White Album). Rubber Soul and Revolver in mono (all I’ve listened to so far) are miraculous revelations compared to the pan-potted “stereo” crap currently in print. Also, the stereo mixes do not always come from the same session tapes as the original mono mixes, so stereo purchasers are not hearing what was originally released.

  11. Hey Ned,

    I considered the mono, but several discussions convinced me to go Stereo.

    • If you’re been resisting the Beatles Remastered in Stereo package and you’re an audiophile, you’re missing out on a memorable sonic experience.

    • The Beatles Remasters: Mono vs. Stereo

    • CD Reviews: The Beatles Remasters

    • You Never Give Me Your Money: Metzger on the Beatles Remasters

    (And surprisingly, I can hear this sound that only teenagers are supposed to )

    I am very happy with that decision.

  12. RandyClayton says:

    It’s hard to find good advice on new music, so many thanks for the tip on Melody Gardot! A few minutes of sampling her work was enough to convince me to buy her “My One and Only Thrill” CD. I am already enjoying it!

  13. The Window Washer says:

    Thank You Barry,
    And to think I was a DJ once and on the cutting edge. I’ve enjoyed you music post all year and I’ll enjoy going through this list over the weekend.

    BTW congrats on the reader count, looks like Bailout got on enough top ten list to push you over 200k

  14. Surprisingly light on new rock this year, though . . .

  15. BR,

    this “Writing the book meant that the background was mostly vocal-free jazz.”

    is something few, even, speak of..

    would you do us a favor, and expound? esp. on the interplay between “Writing the book”, and “vocal-free”..

    Thanks~ and, here’s hoping for an ’010, for you, and yours, even better than ’009..

  16. Trying to craft sentences and paragraphs with vocals int he background can get confusing. The lyrics going in your head confuses the brain when searching for the right words . . .

    I have always found reading and writing is better with just instrumental music versus songs.

  17. Ny Stock Guy says:

    Barry and Ned,

    Just do what I did and get the stereo AND the mono sets!

    They both have their good points and the differences in the the mixes are fascinating.

  18. rscof says:

    Do not forget Patricia Barber. If you have not heard her she is one of the best female jazz voices performing. An added bonus is her material is released on cd and 180 gram vinyl. IMHO, no other jazz performer can touch her voice and style. She is the best thing in jazz since Wayne Shorter teamed up with Miles Davis.

  19. jack says:

    some great suggestions here, so i look forward to checking some of these out this weekend.

    always been a big fan of peyroux, and was surprised i missed this release.

    i also went with the stereo beatles as well. i hadn’t restocked my beatles cd’s for a long time – most of mine were bought in the late 80′s – and some were beat up to the point of being unlistenable. the first one i played was abbey road, and it really took me back. the ‘second side’ is just one of the finest things ever recorded, imho. i was addicted to the rest for the next two months.

    listening to your mishka recommendation right now at work.

    2009 releases i played constantly: van morrison’s live remake of astral weeks at the hollywood bowl, costello’s ‘secret profane and sugarcane’, wilco (the album), monsters of folk, grateful dead ‘hartford 77′, steve earle ‘townes’.

  20. catman says:

    tsokol1 – My wife bought 30 odd discs at an estate sale. Horace Silver’s Song for My Father has some lovely stuff on it.

  21. tsokol1 says:

    Yep, Horace is still up there in IMHO. Someone mentioned Patricia Barber before — she’s another underappreciated artist.

    Try SonnyCriss – The Hampton Hawes Sessions, or perhaps Lee Morgan “Charisma”, or “The Jazz Messengers At The Cafe Bohemia” — Blakey, Silver, Mobley, Dorham, Doug Watkins. I know it’s an often heard “classic”, but it’s still well worth listening to.

    Then there’s a little thing called “Super Session” – with Bird, Ben Webster, Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges — an early “supergroup”. Some good jammin’.

    There’s so much good jazz out there, so much good music — I’ve recently re-listened to the Ellington-Blanton Duets — really wonderful stuff.

    Sonny Stitt’s “Stitt Plays Bird” is some nice stuff to have on while reading — again, not an “acclaimed” album, just some nice music.

    Johnny Smith, Kenny Burrell, Earland, Jimmy Smith, McGriff, etc., etc., etc.

    Just listen — you might find something you like, something you love.