Saturday, 23 December 2017

Music of 2017 - Part 1

This year's been a strange one in many respects. I spent the early part of the year convalescing at home after having been run over by a van on a zebra crossing and sustaining a minor brain injury as a result, and to fill the time I had I tried reading and listening to music, but both of these activities proved troublesome. But I did manage some listening, and 2017 proved to be another excellent year for the music that interests me, which is mainly Jazz and Progressive Rock.

So, as is my wont at this time of year, I will try and review my year in music as best as I can recall it. Over the year I've managed to amass around 120 albums of various kinds, and trying to rank them has proved difficult - there's just so much good and interesting music out there at the moment! I've managed (just) to choose a Top 20 for the year, but before then my usual sub-categories and a mention of those 'bubbling under'.

Gigs of the Year
5. Danfest, my first visit and a great day with The Room, Tiger Moth Tales, Red Bazaar and Schnauser
4. Steve Hackett at Sheffield City Hall
3. Snarky Puppy in Manchester
2. Big Big Train at Cadogan Hall. I was at the Friday gig, which wasn't the best for sound, but was the usual awesome experience of sublime music and wonderful camaraderie.
1. Summer's End Festival in Chepstow. Quite simply a stunning line-up of acts throughout the weekend, but the highlight had to be 'Tangekanic' (The Tangent & Karmakanic), who were just awesome!

Live Albums of the Year
5. Yes - Topographic Drama
4. The Fierce and The Dead - Field Recordings
3. John McLaughlin & the 4th Dimension - Live @ Ronnie Scott's
2. David Gilmour - Live at Pompeii
1. Brand X - But Wait... There's More

Discoveries of the Year
This is bands that I've come across for the first time this year who have stood out for me. They're listed in no particular order other than alphabetical.
Kaprekar's Constant: some really interesting and innovative narrative prog in the classic mode
Once & Future Band: jazzy and interesting
Dean Watson: another jazz-influenced act, with some wonderful tunes on his latest album, 'Sum of Parts'
Weend'O: The surprise package of Summer's End this year
Yussef Kamaal: released last year, but discovered early this year; some fascinating contemporary jazz

Before I move on to my Top albums, a word about those that I've enjoyed almost as much, and I want to start by making particular reference to two labels which have both brought me (and others) some great music this year (as other years).
The first is Edition Records, which panders to my growing love of jazz in its many forms, and this year I have especially enjoyed these offerings (again alphabetically):
   Denys Baptiste - The Late Trane
   Nicolas Kummert - La Diversité
   Rob Luft - Riser
   Malija - Instinct
   Phronesis - The Behemoth
   Verneri Pohjola - Pekka
   Aki Rissanen - Amorandom
   Morten Schantz - Godspeed
   Alexi Tuomarila - Kingdom

The second is Bad Elephant Music, whose roster continues to grow in its breadth, diversity and interest, and whose releases never cease to entertain, educate and illuminate. This has been a quiet year for them, with only 16 releases (and one to come later this month):
   Big Hogg - Gargoyles
   The Bob Lazar Story - Baritonia
   Charlie Cawood - The Divine Abstract
   The Fierce & the Dead - Field Recordings
   Murder & Parliament - Murder & Parliament
   My Tricksy Spirit - My Tricksy Spirit
   Orange Clocks - Tope's Sphere Episode 2
   Rog Patterson - Flightless
   Robert Ramsay - Confound and Disturb
   Schnauser - Irritant
   Shineback - Minotaur
   Tom Slatter - Happy People
   Syncage - Unlike Here
   Trojan Horse - Fukushima Surfer Boys
   Valdez - This
   Whitewater - Universal Medium

So, apart from those already mentioned above, here's another 25 of this year's releases that I think deserve recognition, but haven't quite made my Top 20. These are listed, again, in alphabetical order.

Agusa - Agusa
Yazz Ahmed - La Saboteuse
Anubis - The Second Hand
Circu5 - Circu5
Comedy of Errors - House of the Mind
Cosmograf - The Hay Man Dreams
Damanek - On Track
The Dear Hunter - All Is As All Should Be
Encircled - The Monkey Jamboree
Nubya Garcia - Nubya's 5ive
Godsticks - Faced with Rage
John Hackett Band - We Are Not Alone
Steve Hackett - The Night Siren
Brett William Kull - Open Skies Exploding
Lifesigns - Cardington
Lonely Robot - The Big Dream
Machines Dream - Black Science
Magenta - We Are Legend
Magic Bus - Phillip The Egg
PFM - Emotional Tattoos
Public Service Broadcasting - Every Valley
Nad Sylvan - The Bride Said No
Weend'O - Time of Awakening
White Willow - Future Hopes
Steven Wilson - To The Bone

As you can see, the quality this year has been very high. The Top 20 will be outlined in Part 2 - coming soon...