My fault (Cal speaking) entirely that this didn’t appear sooner…but we hope to have a fresh list from the Kibitzer for ‘07 and I promise I’ll get it up in a timely manner, and if he tells me on some drunken night to post his partial list I won’t forget…
- Hank Williams III ~ Straight to Hell
Completely impressed and mesmerized by his previous effort, Lovesick, Broke and Driftin’, I was convinced Hank had found his sound and was destined for greatness. His new album would be a fresh new start for what country should still be. Straigh to Hell would be my ‘most anticipated’ album of 2005. It had been continuosly pushed back for a good remainder of the year, ultimately finding its way to the public in February of 2006. Wal-Mart had rejected the censored version and the album was already generating controversy. The first disc opens up with a cover of a Louvin Brothers tune, “Satan is Real,” and you chuckle as a deep demonic laugh segues you into the rip-roarin’ title track. “Country Heroes” & “D Ray White” beautifully pay tribute to the legends, from both the radio of old, and from the “non-star” side of the family tree. “Pills I Took,” “Smoke and Wine,” “Crazed Country Rebel” and the Randy Howard cover “My Drinkin’ Problem”, are unapollagetic and rockin’, all with a sly sense of humor. “Rebel” reminds us of what is wrong with “pop country music,” and how it should be in the songs “Dick in Dixie” and “Not Everybody Likes Us.” He takes a stab at not Kid Rock, but the media-brain washed consumers of generic radio. The album ends with “Angel of Sin,” a sad-but-true” and perfect “cryin’ in your beer” tune. The production of Staight to Hell is perfect in what is needed, along with an incredible band and fabulous guest musicians. The second disc is basically background music, using the sounds of rural America. Trains and stream waters can be heard , mixed with faint instrumentation. This disc is pretty trippy. Let’s just say it’s not something you would probably listen to while driving a car, or truck. Over all this record was far beyond what I could have ever expected, and as soon as I heard it for the first time back in February, I knew it would be a tough one to beat.
2. Peeping Tom ~ Peeping Tom
Another record I was curious about, hearing much about it during the long production process, was Peeping Tom. A side project or “super group,” if you will, of the great Mike Patton, this record features many talents of both the hip hop and jazz worlds. As soon as I heard that turntablist, Dan “The Automator” Nakamura of Handsome Boy Modeling School would be gracing the album I had to believe its contents would have me jammin.’ Kicking you right in the jimmy, “Five Seconds” immediately delivers a massive blow, carpet-bombed by Patton’s spitfire vocals. “Mojo” smoothly hips and hops as human beat box Razel perfectly compliments Mikey. Kool Kieth appears on “Getaway.” Pop producer mogul Massive Attack takes the ropes on “Kill the DJ.” Dan the Automator moves over for Kid Koala to tear it up on “Celebrity Death Match.” The once sweet Nora Jones gets down and dirty with Mike on “Sucker,” a sexy vocal duo not uncommon for the Lovage veteran. I was actually less than impressed with the last song on the album, “We’re Not Alone,” sounding a little too much like the rap-rock music that plagues the radio. This song lacks the intensity and creativity that is forefront to the rest of the disc, but is a small price to pay for an otherwise stellar album.
3. Ministry ~ Rio Grande Blood
Wow, what a treat! Not wasting any time, Al follows up 2004’s Houses of the Mol, making a sandwich of the delicious mixes of previous material on 2005’s Rantology with Rio Grande Blood. This record is the most intense Ministry album since Psalm 69 back in ‘91. Houses had been the relief to a couple of bad albums put out before it, and in my opinion could be ranked along with Filth Pig’. Very good, but not mind blowing. When Rantology was released I sensed possible closure for the arguable originator of what we now know as industrial music. I was happy that Ministry had put out at least one more good album with Houses and that was better than going out on a sour note. Then BAM! Rio Grande Blood! I played the album for friends that had either long forgotten the band or had basically given up on them and they were all saying “kick ass!” (The only other descriptive word worthy other than “choice!“) This album fiercely and not surprisingly rips apart the Bush administration and its disaster of a morally corrupt war. But this record is not just an excuse for political revolt…well, maybe it is, but it has the substance to make it a historically masterful album. Another super group is forged into Ministry as Jourgenson recruits metal veterans Tommy Victor and Paul Ravens of Prong and Killing Joke, respectively. Jello Biafra joins once again on the hillarious “Ass Clown,” starting out a pissed off tune with a little bit of taunting to the ridiculous president. Al twists up W’s speeches that seem totally believable throughout the album, just as he had done on 69 with George Sr. “Gang Green” is reminiscent of the drill sergeant of “Full Metal Jacket”, used on 1989’s A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste, but is improvised by “Sgt. Major,” and is quite a bit of fun. The songs “Fear (Is Big Business)” and “Lies, Lies, Lies” rile you to the point of wanting to destroy everything in sight with the feeling of helplessness like a caged animal. The album overall is Ministry’s heaviest to date, proving it is not just an industrial band but also one of metal’s finest.
4. Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan ~ Ballad of the Broken Seas
Known for his collaborations with musicians such as Dean Ween and Queens of the Stone Age, Lanegan has also duetted with many female vocalists on his solo albums. This time he is the one to join up with Isobel Campbell’s band. The songs on this record touch upon styles from spaghetti western score master Ennio Morricone, and from poet/musician Leonard Cohen. The opening track “Dues Ibi Est” is beautiful thanks to Isobel’s hypnotic vocals complimenting Mark’s whiskey-and-cigarettes voice. This is pretty much what most of the album is like. They do a cover of Hank William’s “Ramblin’ Man”. The two are so sweet on “(Do You Wanna) Come Walk with Me?” “The False Husband” and “Revolver” are songs that are easy to love as well. Admittedly, three of the songs at the end lose might lose the listener’s interest, but the album is saved by Mark on the last song, “The Circus is Leaving Town.” This album is a good example of how well Mark Lanegan sounds with female vocalists and introduces us to yet another wonderful singer with awesome songwriting and playing abillities.