By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
16. Ornette Coleman Tone Dialing (Verve) Possibly his best recording with Prime Time, Ornette's music sounds less out with every passing year (but never less fresh). His treatment of Bach is a special treat.
17. Peadar Ó Riada Amidst These Hills (Bar/None) The son of Sean Ó Riada (one of the founders of the Chieftains and the acknowledged grandaddy of modern Celtic folk) delivers a lush, almost hallucinatory recording of creaky tradition woven together with ambient field recordings. Another soundtrack without a film.
18. The Chemical Brothers Exit Planet Dust (Astralwerks) It's startling how out-of-touch local club operators have been with regard to the new U.K. sounds. That's why the only jungle/trip-hop DJ jams you heard last year were at Walker Art Center, and why this crew skipped our town on their U.S. tour. Essentially a vintage soul/funk record, except it's assembled by these turntable maestros who magnify the grooves and leave the vocals on the cutting room floor.
19. Ketil Bjornstad/David Darling/Terje Rypdal/Jon Christensen The Sea (ECM) A surging, epic composition by Norwegian jazz pianist Bjornstad that tries to capture the deadly beautiful song of the sirens, and succeeds as only one from the North Sea could.
20. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Experimental Remixes EP (Matador) Ironic that the only indie-rocker to really explore the art of the remix is this NYC roots-punk mutant god. Knob-diddle duties went to Beck & Mike D., Moby, Wu-Tang's Genius & Killah Priest, and Calvin Johnson's Dub Narcotic Sound System. You also get 15 hilarious minutes of cut-up tourspiel vérité at the end.
21. John Oswald/The Grateful Dead Grayfolded (Swell/Artifact) The ultimate DJ record this year took dozens of recordings of the Grateful Dead's magnum opus, "Dark Star," and mixed them together into a single marathon that clocks in at a tad under two hours. As Natalie Cole proved with "Unforgettable," new recording technology can equal eternal life. R.I.P. Jerry Garcia, and look forward to hearing more of you... CP
Ends & Odds by Britt Robson
Another year, another set of genuflections. You know the drill: What follows are my top 20 in order of preference. But first, a few bits of arrogant advice:
Ignore the "acid jazz" hype; it's a pathetic attempt to validate funk-fusion from the '70s. Meanwhile, '95 had a slew of underappreciated jazz/hip-hop/funk/pop gems, including The Roots, Alphabet Soup, Hami, The Brooklyn Funk Essentials, and Greg Osby.
When it comes to Bruce Springsteen's Tom Joad, the potential for hypocrisy and delusion are prominent; as if the size of our approval for his penetrating cry against injustice connotes an equal amount of effort to alleviate it. If you really want to honor the spirit of the CD, donate time and money to your local homeless shelter.
Lastly, if you've ever sung along with "I Want You Back" or cut a rug to "Beat It," pray that Michael Jackson stops denying the demons that are eating him alive.
1. Boy George Cheapness & Beauty (Virgin) He flames on with an Iggy Pop cover that begins a traipse through the hedonism and horror of glam-thrash decadence. He mourns mothers and lovers of AIDS victims and those afraid to leave the closet. Even the should-be pop hits are loaded with brave, beautiful sentiments.
2. The Roots Do You Want More?!!!??! (DGC) There are slapstick raps of uncanny grace, funky jazz jams with churning beats and windswept saxes, delicate soul songs to ease your mind, and a chilling closer about surviving a gang rape that will shred your thoughts to shrapnel.
3. Bruce Springsteen The Ghost Of Tom Joad (Columbia) First-rate journalism meets raw-boned poetry, driven by a haunted conscience that refuses to sleep.
4. Ornette Coleman & Prime Time Tone Dialing (Verve) Like Mother Nature, Ornette's harmolodic music involves seemingly infinite layers in a gorgeously cacophonous weave that is spellbinding when you pay attention. His most accessible work since Dancing In Your Head.
5. AZ Doe Or Die (EMI) The year's best rap record is a concept album that glorifies and lambasts the materialism of a player. AZ's rhymes and rhythms are both slick and riveting, framed for repeated listening by Pete Rock and other ace NYC producers.
6. Alphabet Soup Layin' Low In The Cut (Prawn Song) Spacey hip-hop laced with hard bop from this racially integrated Frisco crew. Sometimes the horns rule, sometimes the blunts, sometimes the radical politics.
7. Jezebelle (Discovery) Zap Mama and Sweet Honey In The Rock fans should take note of an equally talented feminist harmony vocal group in the house, sacrificing a little complexity on the arrangements in favor of old-fashioned passion.
8. Vic Chesnutt Is The Actor Happy? (Texas Hotel) The preeminent daft sage in music today, you take Chesnutt's country-folk ditties seriously at your own risk--they'll make perfect cockeyed sense.
9."The Artist Formerly Known as Prince"The Gold Experience (Warner Brothers) It's not the bold new direction he'd have you believe, just top-notch recreations of his two primary modes--nasty staccato dance-funk and falsetto ballads--laden with a half-baked concept and some lush orchestration that still can't loosen these tight-ass grooves.