Smola's 2007 Year End Music Review
Best Albums of 2007
1. Ken Hensley: Blood on the Highway
Hensely’s autobiographical account of his experiences in the music business isn’t necessarily original in theme but is flawlessly executed. Fellow Uriah Heep alumni John Lawton, Jorn Lande and the soulful Glenn Hughes join Hensley in providing the vocals for this terrific rock opera. Several songs, like the title track, have stuck in my head and won’t get out. There are wonderful touches of Uriah Heep sprinkled throughout the record, but the album sounds fresh and is mixed perfectly.
2. Nine Inch Nails: Year Zero
Reznor follows up a very strong record (2005’s With Teeth) with a paranoid apocalyptic concept record that is oozing with hooky beats and that trademark Reznor passion. In between loops, Josh Freese plays a mean drum kit.
3. Johnette Napolitano: Scarred
During the 4:09 seconds of the title song, it sounds as if Johnette is bleeding all over the place as she screams from her very soul. There is no doubting her intelligence and passion when listening to anything she is involved in, but every once in a while she hits you with such power you almost can’t breathe. The title track isn’t necessarily a pleasant listen, but it is moving as all hell. There are some very cool tracks on the record, including covers of the Velvet Underground and Coldplay, and the production and mixing is pristine.
4. Serj Tankard: Elect the Dead
There was no let up in intensity between the last work of System of a Down and Serj’s first solo record. Like SoaD, this record left me gasping for breath with its sweeping musical tempo changes and emotionally and politically charged vocals. “Honking Antelope” is one of my favorite tracks of the year.
5. Bruce Springsteen: Magic
I think the bombastic production style of Brendan O’Brien was the perfect complement for this “state of the world in which we live” record from The Boss. We’ve come a long way from “Dancing in the Dark,” and Bruce isn’t real impressed with what is going on around him.
6. Duran Duran: Red Carpet Massacre
I completely disagree with the assessment of this record by my esteemed editor. There are several postulates we do agree on: the album is heavily influenced by the exterior parties who worked on the record, particularly Timbaland and his protégé Nate “Danja” Hills; the band has always tweaked its sound and looked for hits, (they are a great singles band, by the way); and that Andy Taylor will be missed. My big disagreement with the esteemed Mr. Medsker: I like the minimalist hip hop feel of the record. I can’t believe that Duran Duran, some million years removed from Rio, is still making very good music.
7. Doug Pinnick: Strum Sum Up
This record has the focus and strong material lacking in the second Poundhound record (Pineappleskunk) and 2005’s Emotional Animal. Wally Farkas (Galactic Cowboys) provides the perfect complement in getting Pinnick, and the other musicians, to capture that fabulous live-like vibe on the recording. Guest musicians like Steve Stevens and Kelli Scott (Failure, Veruca Salt) sound inspired, especially on the extended jam pieces included on the album.
8. Eagles: Long Road out of Eden
After inspiring everyone and their uncle in the country/pop rock genre, the Eagles cut a 20-song double album that sounds wonderful. Don Henley might be a cantankerous, arrogant prick, but he sounds great when he is making music with his mates. This may be the last record that the Eagles ever put out (it only took 28 years) but maybe Hell will freeze over again.
9. Lee Rocker: Black Cat Bone
Just when you thought all the talent in the Stray Cats belonged to Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker releases a record as smooth as dark molasses. There are some really good Elvis-inspired grooves on this disc, and Rocker and his band find a groove and ride it out -- much to the listeners’ delight.
10. Satellite Party: Ultra Payload
Perry Farrell and uhm…Nuno frickin’ Bettencourt -- WTF? Turns out, the record was really very fun and full of trippy, danceable tracks. This was the most pleasant surprise of the year. Nuno has already bailed and decided to re-form Extreme, and who knows what will be next on Farrell’s plate, but this was a very cool one-off little record.