8 Dhani Harrison – In///Parallel

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Dhani Harrison (named after the 6th and 7th notes of the Indian music scale dha and ni by his Indian-music loving Dad) has been quietly whittling away at his own musical legacy since winning the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for his work on father George’s “Marwa Blues”. It’s been 15 years since the younger Harrison formed thenewno2, releasing two full length albums and a film score recorded at Abbey Road with a 100-piece orchestra under his own personal direction. In addition to scoring music for five different television shows Harrison has found time to painstakingly curate his father’s history making guitar collection for mixed interactive media as well as over-see the maintenance and restoration of the elder Harrison’s entire solo catalogue. His tenure as organizer of the first ever Concert For George and the subsequent GeorgeFest shows seal the deal for someone uniquely positioned to make it a full time occupation securing his father’s musical legacy for all the ages. It is only now the 39-year-old Harrison has found time to turn his attentions towards his first ever solo record.

In Parallel finds Harrison working in pure Cinemascope on a broad canvas fleshing out every aspect of the 59-minute opus from the tiniest minutiae to the boldest brushstrokes. Throughout, his cinematic background is evident, as is his immersion in the dark brooding electronica of his youth. As highlighted by Sounds & Revelations, Harrison’s Spotify playlist accompanying the album’s release, the genesis of much of the music on In Parallel can be found on ‘90’s records by Orbital, Portishead, Tricky, Massive Attack, The Prodigy, Leftfield, Aphex Twin and a host of others. A grand sweeping statement, In Parallel is an all ‘round splendid time guaranteed for all, not just the diehard Beatles fans.

Rating: 8/10

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#9 – Jarvis Cocker & Chilly Gonzales – Room 29

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The Chateau Marmont is a 90-year-old hotel located in the heart of Los Angeles’ famed Sunset Boulevard. It’s 63 rooms have been frequented over the years by such romanticized luminaries as Jim Morrison, Sharon Tate and her then Roman Polanski, Hunter S. Thompson, Billy Wilder, Annie Leibovitz, Dorothy Parker, F. Scott Fitzgerald and a host of others too numerous to mention. John Belushi died there. Now former Pulp front man Jarvis Cocker and Grammy Award-winning Canadian pianist Chilly Gonzales have taken up residence in Room 29 of the infamous chateau with nothing more than a grand piano and their wits about them. A surreal modern day Coward-esque drawing room dramedy fueled by Cocker’s bittersweet dialogue and acerbic wit, Room 29 is perhaps the most refreshingly unique and unusual albums of the year.

Rating: 9.5/10

10 Valerie June – The Order Of Time

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After spending a decade independently releasing three albums of her own music Memphis born multi-instrumentalist singer songwriter Valerie June can now successfully lay claim to her second major label release in just under four years. The Order Of Time marks June’s first album of new material since her 2013 break through Concord Music Group record Pushin’ Against A Stone which prominently featured considerable contributions from Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. With her latest release, June internalizes a unique blend of music personalizing a hybrid of styles and genres ranging from gospel to folk, country, soul, Appalachian, Motown, bluegrass and beyond. Vocally the 35-year-old June is a stylist at heart and rides a hard nasally twang so consider yourself warned. As singers go she may not be every listener’s cup of tea, however, the same can be said of a great number of singers who adhere to a particularly uncompromising vocal style but remain adored by millions. Right Bob?

Rating 7.8/10

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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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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