Best Non-2007 Music of 2007
U2, The Joshua Tree (20th Anniversary Edition): Besides a slick remastering job that renders Edge’s guitar even more clarion than before, any opportunity to revisit the thundering “Bullet the Blue Sky” and crystalline “In God’s Country,” and even underrated harmonica jam “Red Hill Mining Town,” is welcome indeed. The extra disc of B-sides and outtakes isn’t exactly essential, but it does contain the excellent “Spanish Eyes,” the original “Sweetest Thing” and the studio version of Rattle and Hum standout “Silver and Gold,” while a third disc is a workmanlike concert DVD filmed at Paris’ Hippodrome at the height of Joshua Tree mania. Tres bon.
Bob Dylan, Dylan: Wow. Another Dylan anthology? Wow, another Dylan anthology. The crème de la crème of Mr. Zimmerman’s Mariana-Trench-deep catalog, give or take maybe “Desolation Row” and Love and Theft’s “Lonesome Day Blues.” Disc 3 shines brightest, mixing latter-day standards like “Brownsville Girl” and “Make You Feel My Love” with timeless toss-offs like “Silvio” and “Everything is Broken.” Things have changed, maybe, but Dylan (and Dylan) endures.
Waylon Jennings, The Essential Waylon Jennings: I’m pretty sure Waylon done it this way: A two-disc, 42-track, more-than-generous helping of the original Nashville Rebel’s finest moments (“Stop the World (And Let Me Off),” “Amanda,” “Bob Wills is Still the King”) and equally leathery catalog nuggets (“Big Mamou,” “You Can Have Her,” “Waymore’s Blues”). Yes, the Dukes of Hazzard theme is here too, and it pales in comparison to “The Chokin’ Kind” and Jennings’ squinty reading of Rodney Crowell’s “Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This.” Don’t you wish this outlaw thing would done get out of hand again? Here, it does.
Billie Holliday, Lady Day: The Master Takes and Singles: Impeccably annotated four-disc set drawn from Lady Day’s vast Columbia archive and a timely reminder why it’s called the Great American Songbook: “Summertime,” “A Fine Romance,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “Them There Eyes,” “Night and Day,” and, of course, “God Bless the Child.” Closes with the prophetic “Until the Real Thing Comes Along” – it certainly has now. I mean, again.
Frank Sinatra, A Voice in Time (1939-1952): Subdivides the Chairman’s pre-Capitol period into four discs: The Big Band Years (“East of the Sun (and West of the Moon),” “Night and Day”); Teen Idol (“I’ve Got a Crush on You,” “She’s Funny That Way”); The Great American Songbook (“All of Me,” “As Time Goes By,” “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)”); and The Sound of Things to Come (“I Could Write a Book,” “Autumn in New York”). No Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, perhaps, but plenty of songs for swingin’ lovers, and plenty more for only the lonely.
Sly & the Family Stone, The Collection: Dallas-born Sylvester Stewart and his funk-rock-soul visionaries’ entire catalog, from exuberant 1967 debut A Whole New Thing to 1974’s so-so swan song Small Talk, with at least three stone classics in between: ‘68’s party-on-wheels Life, ‘69’s epochal Stand! , and ‘72’s coke-addled caution There’s a Riot Goin’ On. Don’t sleep on 1973’s oh-so-smooth Outkast inspiration Fresh (“If You Want Me to Stay,” “Que Sera, Sera”) either.
Lisa Gerrard, Best of Lisa Gerrard: Don’t be put off by song titles like “A Host of Seraphim” and “The Promised Womb.” A mystical travelogue of the former Dead Can Dance chanteuse’s innermost secrets and outermost desires that brushes Mediterranean shores and Indian philosophy on its way to complete musical nirvana.
Chicago, The Best of Chicago: 40th Anniversary Edition: Sure, the former Chicago Transit Authority basically invented jazz-rock on early cuts like “25 or 6 to 4” and “Saturday in the Park,” but for my money, they didn’t get really good until the Peter Cetera power-ballad period ushered in by 1976 smash “If You Leave Me Now,” which closes disc one. Massive hits like “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” “Hard Habit to Break,” “You’re the Inspiration” and “Will You Still Love Me?” – and, most of all, the completely over-the-top post-Cetera “Look Away” – are pathos-bleeding garment-renders of the highest order. Overproduced, overdone, overblown and over the moon. Shut up. – Chris Gray