Friday, May 19, 2023
The View On Pop Culture: The Best Music of 2001 (2001)
THE BEST MUSIC OF 2001
As certain as the return of the swallows to Capistrano, late December sees the average arts critic sharpening their pencils and firing up their word processors in anticipation of creating endless lists of the best movies, music or whatever of the year in question. Your humble pop culture scribe is certainly not above such an exercise in futility, but rather than merely bore you with a mundane “top ten” list of the best music of 2001, I’ve broken my selections down into categories. Music comes in different flavors, after all, with each having its own qualified “best of” artists. Therefore, for your consideration, here is a list of those worthwhile recordings that have spent the most time on the Reverend’s stereo during the past twelve months.
BEST ROCK & ROLL ALBUM
The Dictators’ D.F.F.D. (Dictators Multimedia) The toughest rock ‘n’ roll band in the land reunited in ‘01 and came roaring back with D.F.F.D. (which stands for Dictators Forever, Forever Dictators), their first studio album in twenty-five years. For those of us who care, it was worth the wait. When “Handsome” Dick Manitoba asks “who will save rock ‘n’ roll” you know that it’s no rhetorical question; when he sings “I wish Sgt. Pepper had never taught the band to play” you know that the battle lines have been drawn. High-energy, humorous and politically incorrect rock ‘n’ roll as only the Dictators could deliver – welcome back, guys!
BEST PUNK ROCK ALBUM
Lars Frederiksen & the Bastards (Hellcat Records) Frederiksen’s self-titled solo debut doesn’t stray far from the raucous sound that made his full-time band Rancid the most popular punkers on the continent – but then again, why should it? With Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong at the production helm, guitarist Frederiksen delivers a solid effort, frankly biographical songs recounting his reckless youth in Campbell, California while a steady, guitar-driven musical uproar holds down the bottom line beneath the vocals. The most engaging punk rock record of the year, delivered with heart and soul and passion.
Ozzie Osbourne’s Down To Earth (Epic Records) I almost chose System of A Down’s excellent Toxicity as the best of this category, but another spin of Ozzie’s powerful solo effort convinced me otherwise. The sophomore effort from SOAD is a solid album, but with anarchic guitar-slinger Zakk Wylde back in his corner, Ozzie has never sounded better than he does on Down To Earth. Ozzie answers his critics and addresses the future with a monster set of songs grounded in Wylde’s uncompromising six-string madness. Without Ozzie, there would be no nu-metal movement currently toppling the charts; yet with one swift blow, Ozzie manages to show pretenders like Staid, Static-X, and their diaper-metal brethren how its done.
BEST AMERICANA ALBUM
Bob Dylan’s Love and Theft (Columbia Records) Dylan celebrated his sixtieth birthday this year with a magnificent set of songs that sound like they could have been recorded forty years ago. Mixing elements of folk, blues, rock, and country in a way that nobody has ever before achieved, Dylan comes across as the harbinger of some new style of music. With his dark, apocalyptic lyrics, the humble Mr. Zimmerman evokes memories of Charley Patton, Leadbelly, Blind Willie Johnson, and the hellhounds of Robert Johnson. Love and Theft is simply an incredible recording, and one that is certain to become as influential to the “Americana” genre as Dylan’s musical idols – many of whom are quoted in these grooves – were to him.
BEST BLUES ALBUM
Paul Reddick & the Sidemen’s Rattlebag (Northern Blues Music) With Rattlebag, their fourth album, this highly underrated blues outfit manages to incorporate damn near the entire history of the blues into sixteen rollicking songs. Reddick and the Sidemen have enough rock chops to boogie with the best of them but they also have a firm grasp on the artistic demons that drove hundreds of young men out of the Mississippi Delta and north towards the promise of a better life. The sixteen songs on Rattlebag mix rural blues, the Chicago sound, Texas six-string wizardry and New Orleans R&B into a thick musical gumbo that will satisfy your soul even while tickling your lobes.
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band’s Live In New York City (Columbia Records) Sure, the sequencing is terrible and the last minute decision to tack on extra songs makes this entire two-CD set a confusing mess but the live performances it captures are top-notch. In their prime, nobody could touch Springsteen and the E Streeters onstage (and I’ve seen hundreds of bands try); as shown by this CD compilation and accompanying HBO special, the boys from Asbury Park still know how to rock ‘n’ roll with a fervor unmatched by artists half their respective ages. Worth the price of admission, if only for the blistering three-guitar attack of “Youngstown” or the haunting sentiment of “Land of Hope and Dreams.”
BEST RETROSPECTIVE SET
The Yardbirds’ Ultimate! (Rhino Records) The Y-Birds receive a lot of lip service from critics such as myself, and for good reason. They may not have been the first British blooze-rock ensemble to dance across the musical horizon, but they were one of the best, yielding three world-class guitarists in Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. Comprised of hit singles, obscure B-sides and live tracks, this two-CD retrospective shows why the band’s mix of classic blues and three-chord rock is so revered thirty-five years after the fact. (The View On Pop Culture, December 2001)