I feel it necessary to note that I didnít consider 1998 to be a great year for the music industry, as a whole. The majors seemed determined to release product that was justifiably forgotten after only one or two listens. Thatís sad. Itís even sadder that many talented musicians were among those who released some of the quickly forgotten CDs. There was great music released this year, you just had to extend much more effort find it. With that said, these are my choices for the best releases of 1998.
This "pop band from Boston" burst onto the scene with their self-released debut. It absolutely rocks from beginning to end and still hasnít left my disc changer. Theyíre part Kinks, part Beatles, and part punk. Theyíre also the clear leader on my list this year. See my full review and a link to their homepage in the pop/rock section.
2. BILLY BRAGG & WILCO/Mermaid Avenue
Billy Bragg & Wilco accepted the challenge of putting some of Woody Guthrieís unrecorded lyrics to music. This was a project that would either be viewed as a great success or an abysmal failure. Luckily for all of us it turned out to be a great success. The chemistry between Bragg and Wilco is excellent and they appear to have enjoyed themselves throughout. See a full review in the folk section.
3. THE MAVERICKS/Trampoline
The Mavericks are quite simply one of the most talented bands currently playing together. The bandís instrumental talent and the incredible vocals of Raul Malo were just meant to be together and it shows. These guys meander through many styles but always manage to get it right.
4. LUCINDA WILLIAMS/Car Wheels On A Gravel Road
I know, Lucinda Williams makes every critics top ten list! I donít like to go with the crowd but thereís a reason why she makes everyoneís list, sheís a perfectionist who doesnít release an album until she thinks itís right. So far her opinion has held up. Car Wheels On A Gravel Road is her latest masterpiece.
5. LIZ PHAIR/Whitechocolatespaceegg
I personally would have ranked this disc a little lower on the list but after several long debates with people who felt it deserved nothing less than the number one position I agreed to place it a little higher. Any CD that evokes such devoted support among those whose opinions I trust will always get my support. You can call it alternative, modern, or even indie rock. The fact is itís good and people, including my friends, really love it.
6. BRUCE HORNSBY/Spirit Trail
The album cover looks dumb and probably hurt sales a little but the 2 discs hidden within show an excellent musician enjoying his craft. Bruce Hornsby has always been a great live performer but never seemed to capture the same feeling in the studio. This release was recorded at his home and catches Bruce relaxed and at his best.
7. THE PUDDLEJUMPERS/Choices
The Puddlejumpers are a new talent from Seattle, Washington. Their second self-released CD is and excellent mesh of folk, rock, and progressive stylings that leave you somewhat strangely, but yet undeniably, satisfied. Youíll find a review and a link to their homepage in my folk section.
8. VARIOUS ARTISTS/Where Have All The Flowers Gone:The Songs Of Pete Seeger
This 2-disc collection was released early in the year on the independent Appleseed Recordings label and has seemingly gone unnoticed. Itís too bad because this is a great tribute to one of the worldís best songwriters and contains performances by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Tommy Sands, Richie Havens, The Indigo Girls, Bruce Cockburn, Jackson Browne, Peter, Paul & Mary, and many others. The packaging is exceptional and includes notes for each track by both Pete Seeger and many of the artists who recorded the tributes here. This is how these collections should be done. Contact Appleseed at "www.appleseedrec.com"
9. FAIRPORT CONVENTION/Who Knows Where The Time Goes?
Fairport returned with yet another awesome release this year. This is simply one of the most talented bands ever. See a full review in my folk music section.
10. SON VOLT/Wide Swing Tremolo
A band called Uncle Tupelo broke up several years ago, it's with great pleasure that two of the members of that band are in this year's top ten with their new ventures. To Son Volt and Wilco, Congratulations. Son Volt could be one of the most important bands of the next decade, catch them on their ride up.
1. Joe Louis Walker/Preacher and the President 2. John Lee Hooker/The best of Friends 3. Robert Nighthawk/Live on Maxwell Street 1964 Best wishes and thank you for a great site which I have only recently discovered. John Weiner Melbourne, Australia
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