2007: BIG

by Jason Warburg

If I could spend my time with only two genres of music -- and wouldn't life be a drag if that were the case -- then I'd probably pick classic rock and alt/indie rock. In both cases, it was a big year. The Who issued an amazing bio-pic, McCartney moved to Starbucks, and Led Zeppelin reunited. Fountains Of Wayne, the Redwalls and Jimmy Eat World all issued new albums, and in at least one case, the results were amazing. 'Twas also a big year for CD/DVD sets (witness the Zep's Mothership, among others), and box sets, and, tellingly, independent releases. A couple of my favorite current bands, Switchfoot and the Redwalls, both completed the indie-to-major-to-indie cycle and are back in charge of their own destinies again, serving as a microcosm of industry wide developments that can only be described as... big.


Without further adieu, here comes another set of miscellaneous awards and "tops" and such:

Best Album That Came Out A Week Too Soon To Qualify

Switchfoot -- Oh! Gravity.

Granted, this is a flat-out cheat on my part to compensate for the fact that, despite their not issuing a new album this year, there was no band I listened to more frequently during 2007 than Switchfoot. And while I’d put The Beautiful Letdown a notch above Oh! Gravity, and Nothing Is Sound a notch above TBL, that doesn’t mean they aren’t all terrific.


Best Repetitive Redundancy Of A Compilation

There are, naturally, two winners in this category. ;-)

Jeff Buckley -- So Real

Another Jeff Buckley compilation? Are you kidding me? How many compilations does a guy who completed exactly one full studio album during his lifetime need? The answer is, this many, and no less. So Real is mind-bogglingly moving and impressive.

Led Zeppelin -- Mothership

C’mon, reunion show or no, how many Led Zeppelin fans are going to buy yet another version of this set of admittedly great songs just to enjoy the fabulous packaging, detailed liner notes and spiffy new essay from David Fricke? Oh. That many…


Pleasant Surprise Of The Year

Shaw-Blades -- Influence

A pair of singer-songwriters from two of my least favorite early 80s arena rock acts would not be my picks to issue one of the year’s most endearing albums, but Tommy Shaw (Styx) and Jack Blades (Night Ranger) pulled it off with this lovingly crafted album of ‘70s cover tunes. “Summer Breeze” makes me feel fine, yes indeed it does.


CD/DVD Of The Year

James Taylor -- One Man Band

It seemed like 2007 was the year of the CD/DVD release; I sure saw a bunch of them come through Daily Vault world headquarters, but none captured my attention more fully and rewarded more completely than James Taylor’s “back to the well” effort One Man Band. JT and piano player Larry Goldings keep it simple and keep it pure on this album of acoustic classics, supplemented on the DVD by Taylor’s witty between-song asides and stories.


Music Film Of The Year

Amazing Journey: The Story Of The Who

I’m ready to toss out my copy of The Kids Are Alright after watching Amazing Journey; it’s simply one of the best rock and roll biographies ever issued, essential watching for any Who fan and guaranteed to create new ones as well.


Prog Albums Of The Year

Big Big Train -- The Difference Machine
Circa -- 2007

It was another surprisingly strong year for the too-often neglected genre of progressive rock, as the new generation hit their stride with Big Big Train’s magnificent The Difference Machine, while the generation-spanning Circa delivered the best new Yes(-ish) album in many years.



Indie Of The Year

3. Diego Sandrin -- A Fine Day Between Addictions

Diego Sandrin spins twisted folk tales that explore the darkest corners of our souls.

2. Jon Foreman -- Fall (EP)

Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman sings quiet hymns about the pain of living and searches for grace from above.

1. Chris Cubeta -- Change (EP)

Finally, Indie of the Year winner Chris Cubeta delivers a richly lyrical, viscerally honest collection of roots-rock that captures and releases the emotional gestalt of “Thunder Road”-era Springsteen better than just about anything I’ve ever heard.


Album of the Year

3. Bruce Springsteen – Magic

Not as great as his best, but then what is? Magic is a powerful, timely set of songs from a man who in his late 50s remains one of America’s keenest observers, most passionate believers and most important voices.

2. Fountains of Wayne – Traffic and Weather

The wittiest American songwriters of the decade return with an album that’s every bit as good as Welcome Interstate Managers, without any of that messy MTV hoopla to distract from the jewel-like little vignettes they mine from four-minute guitar-pop tunes.

1. Ian Hunter – Shrunken Heads

The oldest guy on the list gets the biggest prize, but it has nothing to do with age; Shrunken Heads is simply the most consistently excellent album I reviewed all year, one masterful song after another from the acerbic, self-deprecating and immensely wise pen of (IMHO) the reigning dean of British singer-songwriters.

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