Best Albums of 2007 and 2006

I didn't think to do this last year until I started reading all the end-of-the year lists. By the time I got mine together, it was already the middle of January and it seemed kind of pointless to put it out. (I did keep the 2006 list, however, and I've included here it after my 2007 list. I call it my "blast from the past".)

This year I got a jump-start on things. It was fun going back over the recordings of the past year and thinking about which ones were my favorites. Of course these lists are subjective and are made up of just the albums I've purchased or borrowed, so I've probably missed out on some good stuff. It's nice, however, to have a Best Albums list out ahead of everyone else and in time for the holiday shopping season.

Twelve Best Of 2007 (Albums released from Dec. 1, 2006 through Nov. 30, 2007)

# 1. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - "Magic". Springsteen is at his best when he is recording with the E Street Band, and this is one of his all-time greatest. Powerful and relevant from start to finish. Bruce's finest album since "The Rising".

#2. John Mellencamp - "Freedom's Road". This was my # 1 album until "Magic" was released. Mellencamp, like Springsteen, has followed in Woody Guthrie's and Bob Dylan's footsteps to become a Rock and Roll troubadour. His best album in many years.

# 3. New Pornographers - "Challengers". This group from Vancouver is one of my favorite bands. Their fourth album supplies more of the incredibly catchy and original power pop that is a New Pornographers trademark. Great vocals, many of which feature the sexy Neko Case.

# 4. Eagles - "Long Road Out Of Eden". It took twenty-eight years for them to produce a follow-up to "The Long Run", but it was worth the wait. Glenn Frey and especially Don Henley produced some very good recordings during the intervening years, but when they combine their voices with Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh the magic happens.

# 5. Neil Young - "Live At Massey Hall". This terrific acoustic concert was originally recorded in Toronto in 1971. It includes many of the songs that would appear on 1972's "Harvest" album. Besides being Young's best live album ever, he's also included a DVD of the show in the package.

# 6. Mary Weiss - "Dangerous Game". Mary, who was the lead singer of the incomparable Shangri-Las, released her first album in 40 years with "Dangerous Game". Weiss wrote and recorded the album with a garage-style band called the Reigning Sound. Together they've crafted a great Rock and Roll album that nods toward Mary's girl-group past while still sounding contemporary.

# 7. Arcade Fire - "Neon Bible". The "Canadian Invasion" continues with this unique sextet from Montreal. They have a totally original sound that might be described as a kind of orchestral pop-rock. A friend turned me on to "Neon Bible", Arcade Fire's outstanding second album.

# 8. KT Tunstall - "Drastic Fantastic". This is the follow-up to Tunstall's 2006 debut, "Eye To The Telescope". Although her new album doesn't contain a song as cool as "Black Horse And The Cherry Tree", it's an extremely consistent effort with great songs and vocals from KT.

# 9. Joe Henry - "Civilians". I love Joe Henry's albums. The former Michigan resident is a great storyteller. On "Civilians", Henry uses a jazzy combo to frame his wry observations of modern life.

# 10. Patti Smith - "Twelve". This is Patti's first all-covers album, and she hits the bulls-eye. Although every song is strong, I most like the tunes that she completely reimagines such as Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and the Beatles' "Within You Without You".

# 11. Kid Rock - "Rock N Roll Jesus". I'd never been much of a Kid Rock fan before this album. "Rock N Roll Jesus" is pretty derivative with Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd, AC/DC, and Warren Zevon references all over the place - and sometimes all on the same song. It is non-stop fun to listen to, however. I guess I'll have to call it my guilty pleasure selection.

# 12. Spoon - "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" This group somehow reminds me of John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band (minus Yoko). It's not that band leader and vocalist Britt Daniel sounds that much like Lennon, but the music is very stripped-down, yet catchy, like much of the ex-Beatle's early solo work.

(Honorable Mention) Bryan Ferry - "Dylanesque". Ferry has covered Bob Dylan a few times before, and odd as it may seem, the leader of Roxy Music is a great interpreter of Dylan's songs. "Dylanesque" is a very enjoyable eleven song trip featuring the unique vocal stylings of Ferry matched up with some of Bob's greatest songs.

The 2006 Twelve Best (Albums relased from Dec. 1, 2005 to Nov. 30, 2006)

01. The Hold Steady - "Boys And Girls In America"

02. Bob Seger - "Face The Promise" (iTunes version with bonus song)

03. Bob Dylan - "Modern Times"

04. The Raconteurs - "Broken Boy Soldiers"

05. Jackie Greene - "American Myth"

06. Tom Petty - "Highway Companion"

07. Allison Moorer - "Getting Somewhere"

08. The Replacements - "Don't You Know Who You Think I Was"

09. Pearl Jam - "Pearl Jam"

10. New York Dolls - "One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This"

11. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Stadium Arcadium"

12. Dixie Chicks - "Taking The Long Way"

(Honorable Mention) Eminem - "Curtain Call: The Hits"