Sunday Morning music critic Bill Flanagan offers his choices about the best music to give to people of all tastes, from fans of rock to lovers of jazz.
We tell you about a lot of music through the year on Sunday Morning, but there are always terrific albums that we don¹t have a chance to mention. This Christmas, I¹d like to skip the expensive box sets and recommend some great single CDs that would make wonderful gifts and still leave you with a little money for the collection.
One of the very best albums of 2006 is "The Greatest" by Cat Power. Recorded in Memphis with a band of great R&B players, this music might remind you of Laura Nyro and Labelle or early Rickie Lee Jones. "The Greatest" by Cat Power — it lives up to its title.
More subtle but equally beautiful is "Blue Alert" by Anjani. Anjani is a serious musician and soulful singer who has co-written this album with the great Leonard Cohen. It¹s a very grownup view of romance and disappointment. "Blue Alert" by Anjani — for the sensitive poet on your list.
Also extremely cool is Corinne Bailey Rae, a British singer songwriter who makes the sort of jazzy, airy music you want to have when you¹re sitting in front of the fireplace wrapping presents and sipping egg nog. Rae is a strong contender to win Best New Artist at the next Grammy's. Give someone her album now and look really smart later.
But what about a gift for the loved one who¹s not into coolness and subtlety? What about the New Year's Eve party? The new album by Brazilian Girls is a funny, fun and pretty much irresistible disco record that will light up the tree of anyone who thinks Madonna has been going downhill since 1984. Put this on, set the Christmas lights on strobe and turn your front parlor into Studio 54.
Alright, I hear you saying, enough with the new — what do I get Dad? Well, there¹s no getting around the Beatles. "The Beatles Love" is a re-mix album conducted by Sir George Martin, the Beatles' producer, and approved by Paul and Ringo. Sir George has taken apart the Beatles¹ recordings and reassembled them in a way that makes you hear every familiar piece as if it were the first time. He lays George's vocal to "Within You Without You" over the backing track from "Tomorrow Never Knows." He runs Ringo's drum solo from Abbey Road into the opening chord of "A Hard Day¹s Night." Purists may hate it but it does make you hear those old Beatles songs as if they were brand new. As we used to say in the sixties, it¹s mind-blowing.
And speaking of blowing minds, the late John Phillips was the leader and songwriter of the Mamas and the Papas. When the group broke up he made a beautiful solo album called "John The Wolfking Of L.A.," which chronicled the end of the sixties, the end of his band, and the end of his marriage to Michelle Phillips, the beautiful woman who pretty much epitomized the California Dream for a whole generation.
This was the only solo album John Phillips ever completed and it¹s finally released on CD. It¹ll break your heart, beautifully.
A contemporary of John Phillips who survived drug addiction, prison, a liver transplant and a lot more monkey business with his voice, his attitude and most of his marbles intact is David Crosby. Crosby has two archival albums in the stores — a CD reissue of his fine first record, "If I Could Only Remember My Name," and "Voyage," a career retrospective that begins with the Byrds' "Eight Miles High" and covers 40 years of hits and misses.
We¹re all used to hearing Crosby's songs between Stills and Nash's, but it¹s very interesting how different they sound out of that context. Crosby has a choral gift that is almost liturgical. He stacks up harmonies like a Gregorian building a cathedral. Listening to this collection I was thinking, David Crosby could do a heck of a version of "Adeste Fidelis." But I suppose the other Crosby has that one covered.