11 Bob Dylan – Triplicate

Bob Dylan’s profound influence on popular music in the last century is undeniable, so much so that Nobel’s Royal Swedish Academy, amidst a great deal of controversy, awarded him the world’s most prestigious prize for literature last year, marking the first time this award has ever been handed out to a recipient active in the field of popular music. Dylan’s impact on song and the lyric is unquestionable. His writing deeply affected an entire generation of his peers and beyond, changing the course of popular culture forever. And so it goes that a man who spent the better part of 50 years transforming the world with his words has now chosen to spend whatever time he has left casting light on the poetry of others through the great American songbook. Unbelievably, the last five Dylan records have included 52 covers and not one piece of original music written by the master composer himself, unthinkable just a short time ago. According to Dylan, “I don’t see myself as covering these songs in any way. They’ve been covered enough. Buried, as a matter a fact. What me and my band are basically doing is uncovering them. Lifting them out of the grave and bringing them into the light of day”. Of his latest recordings Dylan says, “I am finding these great songs to be a tremendous source of inspiration that has led me to one of my most satisfying periods in the studio. I’ve hit upon new ways to uncover and interpret these songs that are right in line with the best recordings of my own songs, and my band and I really seemed to hit our stride on every level with Triplicate”. Heralded by the record company as Dylan’s first ever triple album as well as his 38th studio album Triplicate is actually three separately themed albums ‘Til The Sun Goes Down, Devil Dolls and Comin’ Home Late all packaged together as one. Expertly backed by Tony Garnier on bass, George Receli on drums, Donnie Herron on lap-top steel along with Charlie Sexton and Dean Parks on rhythm and lead guitars, Dylan has assembled a band for the ages, rivaling every other band he has ever recorded with, including THAT one.

Rating: 8.5/10

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12 Amelia Curran – Watershed

A mediocre effort from one of Canada’s most gifted songwriters. Watershed feels like a contractual obligation album featuring an uninspired Curran simply going through the motions. Never has Six Shooter Record’s mission statement “Life is too short to listen to shitty music” sounded more ironic. Particularly disappointing in light of the fact that Curran’s previous albums Lullabies For Barflies (2002) and War Brides (2006) are two of the finest Canadian albums of the century.

Rating 5/10

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13 Dan Auerbach – Waiting On A Song

As light as his Black Keys are heavy, Dan Auerbach’s second solo album in eight years is a delightful ’70’s flashback chock-full of upbeat melodic hits the decade’s chart topping AM radio fare is now famous for. Waiting On A Song is 32 minutes of toe-tapping sunshine and optimism. The perfect summer record enjoyable all year round.

Rating 8.5/10

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14 Thundercat – Drunk

32-year-old multi-genre bassist Stephen Bruner has achieved much in the twenty odd years he has been professionally immersed in the business of making music. At 15 he was a member of 90’s boyband No Curfew, contributing to their overseas chart success in Germany before leaving to join legendary Los Angeles punk band Suicidal Tendencies at the tender age of 16. By his early 20’s he was a highly sought after session musician heralded for his contribution to Erykah Badu’s 2008 masterwork New Amerykah. His biggest success came in early 2016 winning a Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for the song “These Walls” from Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 ground-breaking To Pimp A Butterfly album. By that time Bruner, better known by his stage name Thundercat, was already a seasoned industry professional having released two solo records in as many years from 2011 to 2013. Earlier this year Bruner released his third and most challenging work to date, 2017s Drunk. By the sounds of it, Bruner may have locked himself in a room and listened to nothing but the strange and intricate melodies of ‘70’s prog rockers Gentle Giant along with the early works of 10CC and their arty experimental offshoot Godley & Crème before tackling his latest opus. Add to that the odd and unexpected ingredient of MOR yacht rockers Michael MacDonald and Kenny Loggins (the song writing duo behind 1978’s million-dollar “What A Fool Believes” single from the Doobie Brothers 40 year old Minute By Minute record) and there you have it, pure genius. One of the most intriguing albums of 2017!

Rating 8.5/10

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15 Dave Davies/Russ Davies – Open Road

Dave Davies is rock royalty, full stop. Not only is he credited with single-handedly creating distortion for rock n roll guitar by taking a razor blade to the now legendary green amp, he was a key member of England’s first and most famous sibling rivalry band, The Kinks. Davies, along with brother Ray, spent the better part of 30 years over four decades contributing to the most comprehensive body of work of all England’s Big Four bands. Surfacing just under the radar after the demise of The Kinks some 20 years ago, Davies suffered a severely debilitating stroke in 2004 and spent the better part of two years convalescing, heroically learning to talk, walk and play guitar again. In the decade since Davies has continued to write, tour and record, releasing half a dozen albums since 2006. Of all Davies’ recent recordings, his latest is perhaps his most accessible. Earlier this year Davies recalled, “This time we wanted to make a more song-oriented piece of work with catchy hooks and emotional melodies, so we decided on a more rocky-poppy approach more in the mainstream”. Written, arranged and performed entirely by Davies and his son Russ (himself a noted EDM artist, having produced more than 15 albums, performing under the pseudonyms Abakus and Cinnamon Chasers) the father/son duo recorded Open Road over an extended period of time in both Lisbon, Portugal and Wiltshire, England. All nine tracks feature a soft, fierce vulnerability to the elder Davies’ vocals unlike any other in rock music today. Uniquely poignant and deeply personal, Davies spends a great deal of Open Road looking back, reflecting on his 70 year journey through tracks Don’t Wanna Grow Up, Path Is Long, Forgiveness, Slow Down, Sleep On It and others. Captivating and surprising, Open Road is an extremely moving listening experience, an exquisite record.

Rating 8/10

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#16 Kacy & Clayton – The Siren’s Song

Recorded and produced in Chicago by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy at his hometown recording studio The Loft, Kacy & Clayton’s latest is very much a swinging full band affair, seeing the millennial acoustic folk duo from rural Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan beefed up this time around by the rock steady rhythm section of Mike Silverman and Shuyler Jansen on drums and bass respectively. Their third album in four years, Tweedy’s production expertly captures the loose and easy essence of the Kacy Clayton Band throughout, preferring to record all four musicians live off the floor as opposed to overdubbing them seperately. A real gem, fans of vintage ‘60’s folk music and the glory days of British folk-rock will revel in this record.

Rating 9/10

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#17 Aldous Harding – Party

27-year-old Aldous Harding’s latest album Party, contrary to what it’s title might suggest, is a refreshingly poignant acoustic reprieve from most of the ear crushing computer-generated electronic noise and mind-numbing beats that make up much of the soundtrack to the twerk infested bump and grind of today’s popular music. Quiet, meditative and thoughtful without being insular, earnest and boring, Harding, discovered while busking on the streets of her native New Zealand, has come up with an album that is an absolute throwback to a previous golden era of acoustic folk music, one that produced the first wondrous albums by the likes of Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins and a host of others. Add a dash of Nico along with a touch of menace and just a hint of danger and there you have it; not only the self admitted gothic folk singer’s second album in three years, but hopefully, the beginning of a long and storied career in the business of music in the 21st century.

Rating: 8/10

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