Tuesday , February 20 2024
These are twelve recordings that made a difference in my world over the year.

The Music That Rocked My World In 2006

Talk about having an over-inflated sense of my own worth! I've got the absolute gall to put out a list of my favourite music recordings from the year 2006. As if my opinion actually might have some importance in the scheme of things.

My rationale is that I reviewed more music CDs and DVDs than I can remember in the past year (thank you, Blogcritics, for your writer's pages and archives — without that I would have had no way of knowing what I had reviewed) and from that ton (or tonne if you're on metric) of music there have to be a few albums that I could recommend that some people would find interesting.

A lot of the music I reviewed over the past year was stuff that was mainly off the beaten path and not what you're going to hear on your radio very often, if at all. I'd give good odds that the music you see on my list is not going to find its way onto too many other such creatures that you happen to read in the next week or so.

The least you can say for me is that I'm different, although strange, odd, and downright weird also seem to be popular as well. (I've even heard "beady-eyed Canadian with a head full of lies" on occasion but considering that the source of that comment has been known to have his way with goats, and is a former candidate for the United States Senate, you can take it with as many grains of salt as you'd like.) The music that appears on this compilation of discs probably reflects that peculiarity through its complete lack of popularity. I can't see any of the performers I've recommended being invited to perform at the half-time show of the Super Bowl in the near future.

Of course given the fact that probably at least a third of the artists are dead makes it difficult for them to be getting up on stage anywhere these days. My stipulation for this list was that it had to have been released this year, and that I had to have reviewed it. Since so many companies are involved with re-issuing and re-packaging these days, a good many "new" releases that I reviewed might have first seen the light of day at least forty years ago.

Anyway enough of the excuses, the explanations, and the justifications — here is my list, in no particular order save the date they were reviewed, with earliest in the year first and traveling on down until we end up near today's date. I hope you see something on this list that piques your interest enough that you'll at least give it a listen.

Bob Brozman, Blue Reflex:
To say that Bob Brozman is an original puts a strain on the word, but it's hard to think of any other word to describe a man who can play the music of the Solomon Islands as comfortably as that of the Mississippi Delta. Playing resonator guitars that he builds himself, he is a one-man world music encyclopaedia and one of the most spectacular guitar players I have ever heard. Flamenco to polka to blues and any stops in between are what you can expect to hear from this amazing performer.
Broadcasting The Blues: Black Music During The Segregation Era
Those wanting a history of the blues as told through song need look no further than this two disc set of music. From early recordings of field hands singing holler songs to the late fifties electric blues of Muddy Waters and a young B.B. King, they have them all. The music has been compiled by Paul Oliver from the series of radio shows that he broadcast on the BBC in England starting back in the 1950s. It was these songs and shows that influenced the young Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Eric Clapton.
Richard Wagner, Der Ring Des Nibelungen
This is a wonderful live recording from the Bayreuth Festival in 1953 of Wagner's complete Ring Cycle. Not only is the sound quality amazing, the performances are stunning. In a highly unusual move the director used the same cast for all the operas, making for a consistency of performance that is not often seen in full recordings or performances.
James Brown (DVD), Soul Session
Even without the "Godfather" dying on Christmas day of this year, this was going to have made it on to this list. There have been very few broadcasts of James Brown on video or TV that I've seen capture the dynamic energy of the man in concert. This one, perhaps because it was staged for the cameras, manages the trick. James is also joined by a couple of friends, and you've not lived until you've seen him perform with Aretha Franklin.
Willy DeVille (DVD), Live In The Lowlands
For those of you who can remember the late seventies and the band Mink DeVille, this DVD concert from 2005 by the former front man Willy DeVille will be a real treat. For those of you who haven't heard him before, this is the ideal time as he and the band are in top form. A must have for fans of Willy DeVille and the uninitiated.
Rory Block, The Lady And Mr. Johnson
Rory Block is one of the best slide blues guitar players out there. Here she sits down and plays the music of the man whose record inspired her to pick up the guitar in the first place. For Rory this is an appreciation and a thank you; for us it's a pleasure.
Bob Brozman (DVD), Live In Germany
Well look there, he made it onto the list a second time. Reason being is that listening to him is one thing, but watching Bob Brozman perform is like watching a small self-contained hurricane. If you've heard his music but never seen him, you have to own this. There's also a really nice interview included where Mr. Bronzman is almost too honest for own good.
Steve Goodman, Live At The Earl Of Oldtown
This is the man who wrote the song "City of New Orleans". If that's not enough to get you interested in listening to this disc, then how about because of him John Prine started recording. Don't feel bad if you haven't heard of him, Steve died in 1985 just as he was starting to come to the public's attention and becoming well known. A great singer, songwriter, and guitar player, this recently discovered live concert is a treat that shows off all his extraordinary talents when he was at the peak of his prowess. Only a few months later he would start chemotherapy treatments for the leukemia that would take his life.
Big Bill Broonzy, Amsterdam Live. Concerts 1958
This two disc set was recorded over two nights of concerts that Big Bill gave in Amsterdam. They had never been released before this year because the owner of the tapes wanted to wait until the technology was good enough to do them justice. They had been originally recorded using film recording hardware ensuring that the sound reproduction is of the highest quality. These are amazing recordings of one of the greats of the acoustic blues genre and make a fine addition to any collection.
Steve Goodman (DVD), Live From Austin City Limits and More
This is a compilation of a couple of concerts Steve gave on the famous television show, with a few other tidbits thrown in for good measure. One is a rather poignant interview with him just a year before his death, and there are also interviews with Kris Kristofferson and John Prine, both men who were great friends of Steve. Watching this DVD reminds you how much energy one man and his guitar can generate if they are totally involved with what they are doing. Anything I say about this disc will sound like an exaggeration I think it's so good, so I'll settle for saying it's almost a fitting memorial for a great performer.
John Prine, Fair and Square
One of my old favourites, John Prine has never disappointed me with any of his releases and Fair and Square is no exception. All the usual great elements are here, biting sarcasm, intelligence, social commentary, politics, and the real world of people whose lives aren't going to be profiled in People Magazine any day soon. A great antidote to the world of Paris and Britney is to play this disc and forget they exist.
Ruf Records Anthology (CD/DVD), 12 Years Of Blues Crossing Over
The CD of this two-disc set features the songs from each year that Ruf Records has existed that Thomas Ruf, owner of the label, considered the best song of that year. With songs from people as diverse as Walter Trout and Jeff Healy performing a duet, to the late Kevin Coyne's improvisation, the CD/DVD set gives a really good indication of what Ruf Records is attempting to do. From the world music inspired work of Bob Brozman to the barrelhouse boogie of Omar and the Howlers, Ruf Records lets people know the many different shades of blues available.

Well how about that, turned out to be twelve discs, one for each month of the year so that's okay. The link with each of them leads to my full review of the disc so if you're feeling masochistic you can read in detail what I had to say about them. You can tell that I spent a lot of the past year listening to the blues, but I find it's still some of the best and most emotionally honest music out there.

I've gotten too old and cranky to put up with the posing of rock and roll and the pretentiousness of those folk who take themselves far too seriously. Of course you can always interpret my snobbery as a form of pretentiousness too if you want — it does cut both ways.

However you want to look at it, these are twelve recordings that made a difference in my world over the year, and helped change the way I look at music in some cases. If you're looking for something more than a little off the beaten path that's still fun to listen to, then any one of the discs I've listed here is worth checking out.

Happy listening everybody, and see you in the New Year with a whole bunch more obscure music.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of three books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion" and "Introduction to Greek Mythology For Kids". Aside from Blogcritics he contributes to Qantara.de and his work has appeared in the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and has been translated into numerous languages in multiple publications.

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