Within a matter of hours, 2010 will give way to a brand new year.
What that new year may hold for us musically both excites and terrifies me.
I know there will be new music that will take me to that very special place where the blood rushes to my head, the hair stands up on the back of my neck and an expletive shoots out of my big mouth before I take stock of who’s within ear shot.
But I also know there will be new music that will simply leave me shaking my head while muttering something unpleasant under my breath.
You won’t read about the latter in this column though.
I made a conscious decision some years ago to write only about music I believed was worth plunking down your hard-earned money for. The rationale for doing that is simple. Why should I waste space telling you what not to buy when that space would be better utilized pointing you in the direction of something you should seriously consider taking home or purchasing online?
All of which leads me, in a long, roundabout way, to a look back at 2010, a year in which I found more good albums than usual to write about.
They came from here, there and everywhere — from across the Atlantic, from south of the border and from here at home.
Unfortunately, not everything I stumbled upon that was worth writing about made it into print because I tend to think short and write long.
What follows is a list of 25 of the best recordings I came across last year. The top five recordings are ranked in order one to five. The remainder do not appear in any particular order.
1. Emotion and Commotion — Jeff Beck: Rough and ready guitarist Jeff Beck topped my year-end best list with Emotion and Commotion, his 10th studio album. Beck, who’s never really gotten the kind of respect he deserves outside of the guitar community, floored listeners with this set that featured classic blues rock, funk and a mish-mosh of other things served up in some places with the help of a 64-piece orchestra and a guest list that includes Joss Stone, jazz singer Imelda May and opera singer Olivia Safe. Where else can you hear Screamin’ Jay Hawkins covers and a sweet cover of Somewhere Over the Rainbow? This album debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S., the highest-ever debut in Beck’s 45-year career. It debuted at No. 9 in Canada.
2. Clapton — Eric Clapton: Co-produced by guitarist and long-time collaborator Doyle Bramhall II, Clapton saw the rock icon mix it up with a set that incorporated brass band pieces more than 100 years old, obscure country blues songs and gritty new originals. Guest artists included J.J. Cale, drummer Jim Keltner, bassist Willie Weeks, keyboard player Steve Winwood, horn player Wynton Marsalis, Sheryl Crow and guitarist Derek Trucks.
3. Six String Theory — Lee Ritenour: If the guitar is your instrument of choice you need to hear this record. Grammy Award-winning jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour brought together 20 of the world’s leading guitar players from all styles of music to help celebrate the world’s most popular music. The guest list included George Benson, B.B. King, Steve Lukather, Slash, John Scofield, Vince Gill, Keb’Mo, Robert Cray and Joe Bonamassa. They play solo and in combinations of three, four and even five guitar players. Rock, classical, jazz, ragtime, blues — everything under the sun is found here.