My brow furrows a bit when I read “Best of” lists published in November or early December; are December releases set aside for consideration in the following year? Or are they ignored? A look at albums released in the last month of 1967, for example, includes Jimi Hendrix’s Axis: Bold as Love, Traffic’s Mr. Fantasy, my favorite Rolling Stones album (Their Satanic Majesties’ Request), The Who Sell Out, and Van Dyke Parks’ Song Cycle. So…you get the idea. Now that we’re into February, I’m happy to share by Best of 2017…sort of.
The following are my top ten albums of 2017 that you’ve (a) likely not heard and (b) quite possibly not heard of.
Jean-Michel Bernard – Plays Lalo Schifrin
Schifrin wrote the most thrilling and accessible jazz of his era, including the Mission: Impossible theme. This new collection pays tribute to his work. Review coming soon.
The Brigadier – Wash Away the Day
Imagine a hybrid of mid-sixties Brian Wilson, Raspberries, Brill Building girl group pop (sung by a guy) and Paisley Underground rock, but with original songs. Review here.
Don Bryant – Don’t Give Up on Love
A Memphis singer and staff writer at Hi Records, Bryant cut one soul album in 1969. Now he’s back with his second. He’s still got it. Feature/interview in December issue of Living Blues; coming to Musoscribe soon. Watch for it.
Dolcetti – Arriver
Dizzying guitar runs, taut drums, thunderous bass … and hooks galore. Instro-prog rarely manages such a fine balance of technique and widespread appeal as found here. Review here.
Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House – Seven Secrets
The revered guitarist passed away this year, but left behind this stunning (sort-of) reunion album from his groundbreaking fusion ensemble. Review here.
The Fritz – Natural Mind
A kind of current-day rethink of ’70s r&b a la the Brothers Johnson, this is a skillful balance of musical interplay, top-flight musicianship, groove and thoughtful lyrics. Review here. Feature on the band here.
Heirs of Fortune – Circus of Mirth
If this supremely melodic group is reminiscent of anything, it’s Head First-era Badfinger. That alone makes it worth of further investigation. Review here.
Helen Kelter Skelter – Melter
The other psychedelic band from Oklahoma*, Helen Kelter Skelter breathes life into the 1960s garage psych aesthetic. Review to come.
Mushroom – Psychedelic Soul on Wax
If Brian Auger’s Trinity made a krautrock record and flew in vocals from speeches by Eldridge Cleaver, it might sound like this. Weird, wonderful, and on vinyl. Review here.
The Pollyseeds – Sounds of Crenshaw, Vol. 1
With strong elements of soul, jazz, hip-hop and r&b, this set is wonderfully evocative of the mishmash of stylistic juxtapositions that is Los Angeles. Review here.