Top Ten Albums of '98:
1-Spun- Keller Williams
Keller Williams writes and performs songs the way Salvador Dali painted, with compelling, sometimes bizarre images; windows to perception as viewed by the mind of a creative genius. Williams has an articulate voice that may remind some of a young James Taylor, and an out-of-this-world acoustic guitar that's a trippy transcendence of Leo Kottke's distinctive finger-picking style. There's no way to anticipate the quirky, humorous and occasionally brilliant lyrics that are so uniquely "Keller." There's also no way to get that smile off your face once the music starts. Give a listen to this amazing recording and have your head "Spun."
2-Supralingua- Mickey Hart
Supralingua speaks in words without literal translation. Abstract vocalizations release the melodies from predisposed imagesÖ unshackled by limits of common expression, the trip is more personal, the message potentially profound, Each track has a distinctive, thickly textured feel and the album itself succeeds as an experiment in improvisational percussion that goes beyond the normal limitations of a ~percussion~ session. Supralingua explores ambient "new-age" spaces with world beat instrumentation and a spiritual essence, however Supralingua also has an element of danger, a fiery passion and intensity that burns brightly through Hart's creativity.
3-Make Believe- Wise Monkey Orchestra
"The Truth" opens -Make Believe- with a trap drum cymbal talking to a conga. Sultry and soulful female voice intonations float over a jazz-funk guitar riff. A chunky clavinet rolls rhythm while the bass bumps and grinds below. Every once in awhile, a superbly charted horn-section kicks the jam into a state of groovus-maximus. And that's just the first song! The entire album grooves with the decadent spirituality of life on Southern Cal's beaches and the swanky syncopation of a New Orleans Mardis Gras. Even when they -Make Believe- WMO is for real, and so is this delightful album.
4- A Go Go - John Scofield
John Scofield received his post-bop degree from the Miles Davis University of music many years ago. On -A Go Go-, the jazz guitar master enlists next generation of -acid-bop- pioneers, Medeski, Martin and Wood for this post-graduate -cool school- session. Showcasing the jazz guitar master's melodic and edgy fretwork, -A Go Go- is a brilliant, four way musical discussion among highly skilled players. -A Go Go- not only succeeds musically, Scofield has carried on the Miles Davis tradition of working with young players, and in the process has handed the next graduating class their diploma.
5- Combustication- Medeski, Martin and Wood
In the hands of MMW, the bass, drums and keyboards transcend their regular roles and speak with countless voices. They bend funk grooves into acid-roasted jazz pretzels that are hot, uniquely twisted and-oh-so-tasty. From the beatnik gem, "Whatever Happened To Gus," to the techno influenced "Sugar Crait," every track smokes a different blend of musical influences. Combustication is a blaze of creative energy that burns bright from the first spark, reflecting the intense flame stoking MMW's musical furnace.
6-The Uninvited- The Univited
Nobody does pop-rock better than -the Uninvited-. Can you say, "radio friendly?"
Fronted by the Taylor brothers, Steve takes the lead on the poignant, meaningful stuff. Introspective ("Is That Me"), defiant, ("Down In Flames"), or philosophical ("Rose Street"), ST is never heavy, just real. On the other hand, his brother John can be quite unreal. A dazzlingly slick and funny wordsmith, JT deals in vivid, over the top images. From the altered state observations of "Too High For the Supermarket," and the divine enlightenment of "What God Said," to the less obvious, "That's What You Get," a hilarious tale of a "future-ex-girlfriend," JT is eloquently outrageous.
7- Light Fuse, Get Away- Widespread Panic
Along with Phish and Blues Traveler, WSP is among the second-generation jam band elite; a travelling tie-dye circus intent on keeping the lava lamp of improvisational music and hippie ethos lit in the post-Grateful Dead era. The songwriting and polyrythmic soundscapes that have always been WSP strengths are centerstage on this double live CD. From the sit-down-and-join-us warmth of the -Porch Song- opener to the soaring -Pigeons- which caps the 2nd disc, -Light Fuse, Get Away- is an explosion of musical fireworks, one dynamite groove at a time.
8-Funky Friends - Live - Merl Saunders
Merl Saunders -With His Funky Friends Live- showcases the numerous strengths of the bay area keyboard master in a variety of concert settings. Spanning the early to mid '90s. Saunders Funky Friends include Blues Traveler's John Popper, Steve Kimock of San Francisco powerhouse Zero, David Grisman, Trey Anastasia of Phish, Dr. John and of course, Jerry Garcia. Among the many highlights is a touching duet with Maria Muldaur, flirting with Merl in all her silky smooth glory on "Gee Baby Ain't I good To You." Whether he's playing blues, funk, rock or exploring deep space, Saunders continues to makes friends wherever he goes.
9-Home Grown 3- Organic Grooves- Various Artists
With bands like Juggling Suns, the Ominous Seapods, Foxtrot Zulu, Jiggle the Handle, the Headstone Circus and the Disco Biscuits all on one CD, the 3rd compilation from the Home Grown Music Network is healthy dose of the most dynamic new music on the -Kind- music scene today. Helping independent touring bands spread word of their music, the HGMN currently includes over fifty up and coming stars of the jam band scene. Home Grown 3 - Organic Grooves is an introductory sampler of music from ten of those mind-blowing bands.
10-Inside #21- Mama Zeus
Inside #21 is the best album to be released from a Las Vegas band in quite some time. From the aggressive guitar riffs of the opener, -Prayer for You-, to the moody rocker -Never an Answer,- Mama Zeus has a sophisticated, multi-layered sound that oozes creative urgency and projects a healthy dose of rock and roll attitude. Each song showcases the bandís wide ranging dynamics, sometimes building intensity toward a raging jam, other times backing off to mellower grooves. The result is a musical tension within each song and a solid album from start to finish. Mama Zeus has raised the standard for original music from the neon city with -Inside #21-, and thatís a good thing.
Jubilation - the Band / It's a joy to hear Levon Helm and Rick Danko having fun again
At This Point In Life - BBZ / this is the album that kicked off the big bad buzz, what's next?
Self Titled - Conni Emerson - / -I Feel Fine- is the most -radio friendly- song to come out of Vegas this year.
Island Of Tahoe - Zen Exit / Trippy lyrics and funky crunch are the karmatic essense of music that makes people smile.
Scrumptdillyumptious - Melancholics / -Feeling Funkydory-
and -Two Crows- highlight this new batch of Vegas pop.