Monday, January 01, 2024

2023 in music

Kat:  2023 was an interesting year.  No new break out sounds.   One of the best selling albums of the year -- in the US and the UK -- was Fleetwood Mac's Rumours.  Yes, the 1977 rock classic continued to sell.  It often seemed little else did.

Vinyl album sales continued to increase.  And we saw some good dips into the archives.  Three examples?  Diana Ross' SURRENDER.  The 1971 album was re-released with no extras or frills but it did have a great remastered sound.  In 1995, Carly Simon gave a concert for LIFETIME TV.  This year finally saw it released as an album -- LIVE AT GRAND CENTRAL.  It should have been released back in 1995 but its great to have the sound recording now.  And, yes, we had video and DVD but when I want to listen to music, I want to listen to it.  Now for the top ten.

1)  The third great archive release of 2023 would also be my pick for the best album of the year: JONI MITCHELL ARCHIVES -- VOL. 3: THE ASYLUM YEARS (1972 - 1975).  Not sure how they follow this up but it was a great multi-disc effort covering material from the time when Joni released the classics FOR THE ROSES, COURT & SPARK and THE HISSING OF SUMMER LAWNS.  You get studio cuts, demos, live recordings.  It's really something.  And I'll declare it the number one album of 2023.  I'm not sure how you follow it.

I mean, we've had REPRISE so I know you follow it.  After ASYLUM, Joni ends up on GEFFEN RECORDS.  So we'll be getting to that shortly.  First up though would be Joni's HEJIRA (a classic album) and then her jazz recordings which ran off listeners in real time.  Not seeing the point in printing up a lot of copies of a set revolving around those albums.  So jump to GEFFEN?  That would cause problems because in the 80s, she only has one great album: DOG EAT DOG.  Trashed by many in real time, the album is finally starting to be appreciated.  It's amazing that the lousy WILD THINGS RUN FAST got praised and DOG EAT DOG, the album after it, was trashed.  Joni was alive on every track of DOG EAT DOG and she had a lot to say and said it well.

Maybe they'll figure it out.

2) Sam Smith's GLORIA.

After the so-so LOVE GOES, we might have written off Sam but GLORIA restarted the career,  It's a dance album, it's a mood album, it's a sex album.  It's one of his best albums and one of the year's as well.  And "Unholy" is the best dance track of the year.

3) Rolling Stones' HACKNEY DIAMONDS.

Along with the Mac's RUMOURS, one of the big sellers on vinyl this year was the latest from the Rolling Stones.  Their first album of this decade came out in October.  Big problem for end of the year lists.  A BIGGER BANG was an album I really enjoyed.  In its first months of release.  Within six months, it was an all time favorite.  Repeat listens are important to bands like the Stones.  Had this album came out in June, it might be even higher than number three on my list.  12 tracks of excellence.


Does Carrie Underwood just think she's lucky to have any kind of a career -- even such a weak one?  Maybe so.  She and Miley started recording around the same time.  Now 40-year-old Carrie struggles for airplay as a solo but Miley's still at the top of her game.  It's as though all the bitterness and anger has taken away whatever life had been in Carrie's vocals.  "Flowers" was pretty much the only song we wanted to hear on radio this year and we wanted to hear it over and over again.  


This is an ambitious follow up to Chase's THE ALBUM and it's a strong album.  It would rank higher but some of the relationships songs on THE ALBUM kept calling me back this year.  It's a strong album but, please, more songs about "droppin' cotton" on the next release.  

6) Pretenders' RELENTLESS.

With their 2008 release, I really thought the band was over and had nothing else to say.  Then band leader Chrissie Hynde released her first solo album (STOCKHOLM) putting everyone on notice that she still had a lot to say and a lot to play.  Since 2014, there have been three solo studio albums and three studio albums with the band.  All six belong in the rock canon.  This album is a classic and "Let The Sun Come In" and "I Think About You Daily" haunt.

7) Joan Armatrading's LIVE AT ASYLUM CHAPEL.

This is the album I mentioned last week, the one Ginger e-mailed about.  It came out November 25th . . . of last year.  But I agree it's a strong album and I had missed it until Ginger's e-mail.  Equally true, releasing an album that late in the year pushes it onto the next year's list.  And let's note that if you bought it last year, you bought it outside the US or you bought it as an import because it's still not been released in the US on CD or vinyl. You can stream it in the US at least.  It's a 26-track live album.  And Joan's a great live performer.  She's also someone with a long career and many of her albums suffer from production after her early classics.  That's why this live album especially works.  You get the great  songs with a live band and they work together -- something that doesn't happen with a greatest hits collection that just features the same tracks from various albums.


8) Cher's CHRISTMAS.

Don't ever expect to see a Christmas album on a top ten by me.  But this album really does work.  A gift for Cher fans of all ages and a gift for Christmas albums.  Now get in the studio and do the power ballads albums we've all been waiting 30 years for.  Last week, by the way, Lars Brindle (BILLBOARD) reported:

Cher enters the U.K. history books - twice - as "DJ Play a Christmas Song" (via Warner Records) blasts to No. 20 on the national singles tally.

The pop legend's holiday number vaults 41-20 on the Official U.K. Singles Chart, published Dec. 22, meaning Cher becomes the first solo artist to land top 40 hits with new material in seven consecutive decades, and she becomes the oldest female to snag a top tier hit.

At 77 years, 7 months old, Cher is the oldest solo female performer to secure a top 40 on the Official U.K. Singles Chart, beating the previous mark set by Shirley Bassey, who was 70 years and 4 months old when "The Living Tree" peaked at No. 37 in 2007.

No other solo artist has achieved a top 40 U.K. hit across seven consecutive decades, the Official Charts Company reports. Cher got the ball rolling with her debut solo single "All I Really Want To Do" from 1965, and has cracked the top 40 every decade since.

[. . .]

"DJ Play a Christmas Song" has been a record-setter on both sides of the Atlantic. When the single jingled to the top of the Dec. 2-dated Dance/Electronic Song Sales survey, she became the first solo artist to earn a new No. 1 on a Billboard songs chart; the only other act to have at least one new No. 1 on a Billboard songs chart in each of the seven decades from the 1960s through the 2020s is the Rolling Stones.


In August, I first listened to this album due to an e-mail from Lucy who loves this album.  My fifth listen of "Pawnshop" had me hooked.  This is the song that many cite as a stand out:

But again, it's "Pawnshop" that has me hooked.

WHY DOES THE EARTH GIVE US PEOPLE TO LOVE? will either be remembered as a glorious one-off or the start of an amazing career.



Hopefully, this isn't Joni's final album (aside from archive releases) but if it ends up being the last one, it's a strong one to go out on.  Ten of Joni's classic songs performed live as well as the Gershwin's "Summertime." 

 2023 end of the year pieces:  Rebecca's "sexiest men of 2023,"   "2023 in film (Ann and Stan)" and Stan's "2023 in film (Ann and Stan)," Mike's "Idiot of 2023,"  Ruth's "Ruth's Streaming Report." Martha & Shirley's "2023 in books (Martha & Shirley)." Kat's "2023 in music"  and our "2023: The Year of Touch Grass."