A look back at the year in music
by Richard Antone
Dec 26, 2012 | 2941 views | 0 0 comments | 82 82 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Buying gifts for the holiday season? There's no need to rack up debt buying that $500 phone that will be replaced by a new model in six months. Instead, consider music downloads – they don't cost as much and last a lot longer. Here’s a look back at some of the best albums you may have overlooked in 2012:

Wrecking Ball

Bruce Springsteen

(Columbia)


Bruce Springsteen once described the E. Street Band as a band built for hard times; songs that get you through - that's what his music has always been about. When it comes to rousing and resonant anthems like "We Take Care Of Our Own," Springsteen delivers. The late, much-missed saxophonist Clarence Clemons unleashes joyful sounds on the title track and "Land of Hopes And Dreams," one of two bonus tracks on the special edition version of the CD.

Slipstream

Bonnie Raitt

(Redwing)


With her first album on her own independent label, Bonnie Raitt's soulful voice, blues-drenched slide guitar and impeccable choice of material are all intact. Highlights include choice covers, including a reggae take on Gerry Rafferty's "Right Down The Line" and Bob Dylan's "Million Miles." This is one of her best albums since Luck of The Draw.

Strange Euphoria

Heart

(Epic/Legacy)


A lovely box set spanning the career of Ann and Nancy Wilson's long-running band. It starts with a sparkling, rare 1969 single "Through Eyes And Glass" credited to Ann Wilson and the Daybreaks. This set is loaded with demos from the bands mid-70s Vancouver days, including "Dreamboat Annie," "Magic Man" and "Crazy On You." And the set is loaded with choice live tracks of favorites like "Never," "Barracuda" and several songs by the Wilson side project, The Lovemongers. There's also a DVD of a 1976 documentary on the band. This collection is long overdue and well worth every penny.

Echoes Of Indiana Avenue

Wes Montgomery

(Resonance)


Here are recently unearthed classic recordings by influential jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery made in Indianapolis circa 1957-1958, predating his solo debut. Montgomery's pioneering use of his thumb and his distinctive playing of octaves make for beautiful listening. Included are sly versions of Shorty Roger's "Diablo Dance," Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream" and ballads like "Misty" and "Body And Soul." His brothers Buddy and Monk are in fine form on piano and bass, as well.

All Fall Down

Shawn Colvin

(Nonesuch)


It's always a pleasure to hear acoustic singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin's silken vocals and crisp guitar style. Her songs, some co-written with longtime collaborator John Leventhal, explore the space between joy and melancholy. Songs like "Knowing What I Know Now" and the title track show her flair for the bittersweet, as does the evocative "Seven Times The Charm," written by Colvin, Leventhal and Jakob Dylan. Amidst a landscape of disposable pop and tacky faux celebrities, Colvin quietly makes adult music that counts.

Little Broken Hearts

Norah Jones

(Blue Note)


Versatile singer-songwriter-musician Norah Jones explores varying moods on songs co-written with Brian Burton and atmospheric arrangements fleshed out by the Sonus Quartet. These songs tend to soothe rather than sting. Lush sounds mask the downbeat moods of songs like "Good Morning" and "Take It Back." This is the perfect album to put on at the end of a long day.

Spirit Fiction

Ravi Coltrane

(Blue Note)


The tenor and soprano saxophonist continues his odyssey in jazz on his sixth CD as a leader. He plays with confidence on his own compositions and turns in astute covers of Ornette Coleman's "Check Out Time" and Paul Motian's "Fantasm," as well as tracks by trumpeter Ralph Alessi.

Live At Berkeley

Jimi Hendrix Experience

(Experience Hendrix/Legacy)


Jimi Hendrix is still the gold standard, his best recordings a blueprint for how far a rock guitarist can go. Over 40 years after his untimely death, he remains a towering influence as a soloist and songwriter. The second set of his May 30, 1970, concert in Berkely arrives in its stunning entirety. "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Machine Gun" are brilliant showcases for Hendrix solos and offer sizzling interplay with bassist Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

El Corazon Y El Sombrero

Marta Gomez

(Aluna)


Colombian singer-songwriter-guitarist Marta Gomez has set the poetry of Argentina's beloved Federico Garcia Lorca to music. Between her lovely voice and her band's relaxed, inventive arrangements, it's a perfect match. Ms. Gomez and associates move gently through different Latin American genres, from flamenco to zamba. Ms. Gomez makes this labor of love sound easy.

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