R. David Smola's best music of 2006

Best of 2006

Year End Music / Music Home / Bullz-Eye Home

A little country, a little metal, a little funk; 2006 was a good year for diverse releases. My 10 favorites include the following.

Cathy Richardson1. Cathy Richardson: Delusions of Grandeur (Cash Rich Records)
Ms. Richardson is an artist who needs to be noticed. She comfortably shifts between country and pop, with shades of reggae and gospel thrown in for good measure on this marvelous record. She knows exactly when to let that powerful voice let loose and when to hold it back. Like 2004’s Road to Bliss, Grandeur is not only a great record, but a complete piece of art with a unique fold-out design and liner notes that set the work up like a play. The music and art all blend to make the album of the year.

2. Prince: 3121 (Universal)
All pop music is derivative, so when you need to borrow, why not borrow from yourself, especially if you have created some of the most interesting pop music of the last 25 years? The swearing and constant erection might be gone, but the pop sensibility and funk beat are in this man’s soul. By releasing two excellent albums in a row (following 2004’s Musicology), the Artist Formerly Known as Prince but Now Known as Prince Again is demonstrating a relevance that have escaped many of his peers that emerged in the same era (ahem, Michael Jackson). (ALSO: Check out R. David's list of Prince Deep Cuts!)

3. Albert Lee: Road Runner (Sugar Hill)
Country picker extraordinaire Albert Lee records songs written by John Hiatt, Dozier, Holland and Dozier and Jimmy Webb, and stamps them with his sound. The Richard Thompson track “Dimming of the Day,” recorded as a duet with Alexandra Lee (his daughter), is absolutely breathtaking.

4. Ween: Shinola, Volume I (Chocodog)
I realize a fan club version or limited release of Shinola might have been available in ‘05, but an official release of this rarities and stuff lying around the studio occurred this year. Like all things Ween, this is one eclectic, whacked out collection, but it sounds like a Ween record, because all things Ween are whacked out. Anyway, shades of Prince, Thin Lizzy and Spongebob on acid are within this brilliant album.

Queensryche5. Queensryche: Operation Mindcrime II (Rhino)
This album would be on my list alone for featuring a duet between metal god Ronnie James Dio and Geoff Tate. Dusting off a rock opera classic was a risky move, but the Ryche was up to the challenge and delivered an excellent sequel with some of that sonic intensity that loyal fans crave.

6. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan: Ballad of the Broken Seas (V2)
The contrast of their voices with Cambell’s brilliant arrangements and production make this a brilliant record. I don’t believe any other release this year (or in recent memory) has the same haunting kind of beauty and sound that this one does.

7. The Little Willies: The Little Willies (Milking Bull/Blue Note/EMI)
Norah Jones and her buddies put together a really fun country record. This is quite different than the sultry, sullen work she puts out under her own name. The lyrics to “Lou Reed” are brilliantly funny.

8. P.O.D.: Testify (Atlantic)
I loved the idea of taking hit-making producer Glen Ballard and mixing him with the Christian, metal, reggae-tinged, and occasionally rapping P.O.D.. The results were very cool, including the ballad, “If You Could See Me Now,” which features the best singing that Sonny Sandoval has offered thus far in his career.

Chicago9. Chicago: XXX (Rhino)
Sappy and overproduced, but yummy as hell. I love a good pop record, and I would argue that this record is better than 99% of what is put on in the “pop” genre today. Tell me you really enjoyed the last Jessica or Ashlee Simpson record (barf!). This disc does turn the volume down a bit on the signature Chicago horns, but does revive their ‘80s heavy keyboard/synth sound. My editor might have hated it (And he did – Ed.), but I loved it.

10. Revolting Cocks: Cocked & Loaded (Megaforce)
After a 13-year hiatus, Al Jourgensen grabbed guest spots from Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander (Cheap Trick) and Billy Gibbons for his latest sleazy industrial metal dance experiment. This was the perfect contrast to the relentless Rio Grande Blood by Al’s other band, Ministry. Cocked’s sense of humor was the antidote to the political statement of Blood. Both were strong releases, but Cocked was easier to digest.