The music world lost a legend yesterday with the passing of Freddie Hubbard at the age of 70. Hubbard was one of the finest jazz trumpeters of all time and was one of my first favorites when I delved into the world of jazz several years ago. He played with a fluidity that was instantly recognizable and could blow with power one minute while playing a beautiful ballad the next. His debut album as a leader, 1960's Open Sesame, as well as 1961's Ready For Freddie, are two of my favorite jazz albums ever. Although his health and his chops had diminished during his later years, he never lost his passion for music. He will be sorely missed.
This has not been a particularly strong year for new releases. That being said, my Top 10 is actually once again a Top 11 (sue me). Although there were a number of quality reissues and live albums that were released, I'm sticking with new stuff for this list (although technically #11 was actually recorded live in front of an audience).
1. Aimee Mann - @#%&*! Smilers
Mrs. Penn’s long-awaited follow up to 2005’s The Forgotten Arm was a shot in the collective arm of her audience. Another collection of outstanding songs with only a couple of minor hiccups. Hopefully, her recent trend of an album of new songs every three years won’t continue.
2. R.E.M. – Accelerate
While I love the album, the style seemed a little forced after the disappointment of 2005’s Around The Sun. Critics and fans alike were pumped over the band’s return to its “rockin’” roots. Personally, I wasn’t disappointed with ATS. As long as the songs are good, I don’t give a shit how much an album “rocks” (see Automatic For The People).
3. Sugarland – Love On The Inside
I’m gonna catch hell for this pick but damn if I can’t stop listening to these songs over and over. Though the production and presentation is highly commercial, Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush are actually considered to edgy by Nashville standards. And speaking of catching hell…
4. John Oates – 1000 Miles Of Life
Believe it or not, the other half of Hall & Oates is one hell of a songwriter. This album flew under the radar but it has legs.
5. Teddy Thompson – A Piece Of What You Need
Teddy released another splendid album of outstanding pop tunes this year. He’s one of the most consistent songwriters around these days – and he doesn’t throw tantrums!
6. Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
Fresh off her last album, Rabbit Fur Coat, Ms. Lewis has put together another outstanding set of songs, albeit a shift back toward her indie sound from the country leanings of last year. The title track is one of my favorite songs of the year.
7. David Byrne & Brian Eno – Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
I always liked the Talking Heads but Byrne’s solo material has never done anything for me. And while Brian Eno has worked wonders producing U2, his own stuff has also been less than appealing. Which made this album a pleasant surprise – a collection of (mostly) straightforward pop songs without the usual Byrne/Eno weirdness.
8. Anat Cohen – Notes From The Village
Quite simply my favorite jazz musician currently out there. Anat likes to mix it up from album to album not only thematically but instrumentally as well, often changing pace from clarinet to tenor sax to soprano sax with consistent ease and beauty.
9. AC/DC – Black Ice
The boys still have it. Although the songs aren’t quite as catchy as they used to be, they bring it on every time with crunch and gusto. How Brian Johnson is still able to sound like Brian Johnson is beyond me.
10. Jackson Browne – Time The Conqueror
The first album of new material after two live Solo Acoustic releases, Jackson is still on top of his game both musically and lyrically, touching on today’s social and political topics. And that voice – simply one of the best.
11. Joe Lovano – Symphonica
A beautiful album from the longtime tenor saxophonist, Lovano is constantly stretching the boundaries of jazz – this time orchestrally.
Auburn President Jay Gogue commented about the school's football program in Ray Melick's column in today's Birmingham News:
"Borrowing a line from former Auburn President Harry Philpott (1965-1980), Gogue believes the ideal football season is going 8-3, because it's just enough wins to keep fans happy but not so much that the football program becomes bigger than the university."
I finally made it to a Wal-Mart the other day and picked up the new AC/DC album, Black Ice. I must say that it booms out of the speakers with that familiar crunching pleasure that only AC/DC can provide – the boys definitely still have it. But I noticed something during the first chorus of track #13 (Rock N Roll Dream) that I literally have never heard before – a Phil Rudd tom fill. This is not a knock against Phil or the band. Phil Rudd is one of the most solid rock drummers of all time. But the dude could play every song in the AC/DC catalog with nothing more than a kick, snare, floor, high-hat and crash symbol - that’s all he ever plays (again, not that there’s anything wrong with that). Phil doesn’t give a shit about being on the cover of Modern Drummer with a 48 piece kit in the background. He just pounds away with thunderous fury while he and his band mates make millions of ear drums bleed. And next month I’ll finally be seeing the band live for the first time. Rock on, Phil.
How happy do you think the Las Vegas Bowl and the Sugar Bowl representatives are right now? While the Sugar folks are surely excited to have the well-traveled Bama faithful descend upon their fair city of New Orleans, they can’t be entirely happy about having the Utah Utes paired with the Tide. Somehow I can’t see Mormons letting it all loose on Bourbon St.
And how about the Las Vegas Bowl matchup of Arizona vs. BYU? Once again, Mormons are not going to be throwing money around the Sin City. Bibles maybe, but not coin. Hell, there are too many damn bowls anyway.
It’s been an interesting few weeks for me lately. My stepfather has been in the hospital after some post-surgery complications, with 12 of those days in ICU. So I’ve spent more time at the hospital lately than I ever have in my life. During our time in the ICU waiting room area, we encountered many other families with loved ones in ICU. And, in our own way of coping with stress, we were thoroughly entertained by some of these folks.
Among them was a family whose situation I became very familiar with due to the fact that they didn’t care who heard their conversation. A woman’s husband had fallen ill and was lucky to still be alive. According to her story, he had begun feeling dizzy several days earlier and felt extremely weak. Besides vomiting and having other symptoms, she described in great detail a boil that had formed on his butt. And not just any boil, but a large black boil that grew to the size of a saucer. After several days of not knowing what to do, she said that he finally passed out one night while sitting on the toilet, fell to the floor, and began coughing up blood. It was only then that she decided to take action and call 911.
Well, the doctors asked all kinds of questions and were perplexed when they couldn’t determine the cause of his symptoms. Finally they asked her if he had been bitten by anything.
“Oh yeah,” she answered, “he got bit by a spider last week – that’s what caused the boil in the first place.”
It turned out he had been bitten by a Brown Recluse, one of two poisonous spiders native to the U.S. In the meantime, the poor man’s condition had worsened and he almost died before they found out this key bit of information. But the worst part of this story was when the woman and her friends, who were there for support, began trading their own “butt boil” stories, as if this were as common of an occurrence as catching a cold. Personally, I can’t recall ever having a boil, much less on my buttocks. And I certainly never expected to be regaled with multiple anecdotes dealing with such a phenomenon.
The next day a large man who was with the butt boil family asked my mother who she was there for and what his name was. He said he was an evangelist and could add his name to their television prayer list.
“Um, no thanks – I’m good,” she replied.
With that, he stood up and, in the middle of the room, began preaching to everyone within earshot. My mom promptly picked up her belongings and left. Fortunately, my stepdad has been moved into a private room. We won’t have to deal with anymore of that lunacy. But as long as I live, I’ll never forget the “butt boil” family.