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There was really only one big surprise in reviewing albums from 1976. I’d never heard of The Numbers Band, and the more I looked into them, the more intrigued I became. They formed in 1969 in Akron, OH (a place of some sentimental connection for me) and are said to be part of the “Akron Sound” (a la the “Bakersfield Sound,” immortalized by the likes of Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Dwight Yoakam). I’m not sure how to describe the Akron Sound, although The Numbers Band, at least on this album, deliver some molar-jarring blues rock that’s infectious and clearly meant to be heard live. The lineup has had some noteworthy characters over the years, like a future member of Devo and Chrissie Hynde’s brother (both Akron natives). This band is alternately known by the moniker 15-60-75 which took a semi-exhaustive search on the ol’ ‘net to figure out, so I must share. In music there is a thing called the 1-4-5 chord progression and the sequence 15-60-75 comes from the following math: 15 divided by 15 = 1; 60 divided 15 = 4, and 75 divided by 15 = 5. Yes, so ridiculous that people just started calling them The Numbers Band. If you’re feeling at sixes and sevens about all this, put the calculator away and just check out the tunes. They’re a real treat!
As for record of the year, Stevie Wonder’s legendary double LP is a work of art, so big, bold and beautiful in it’s production value that it stands up every bit today as it did in 1976, when it broke all kinds of musical norms. On a personal note, much of Songs in the Key of Life was recorded and mixed at the Record Plant and Chrystal Sound studios in Los Angeles, both about a 10-minute walk from my humble abode. Everytime I think of it when I pass either location I hum a few bars of “Isn’t She Lovely” and think about one of the great musical masterminds of our time.
1. Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life
2. Billy Joel, Turnstiles
3. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
4. Boz Scaggs, Silk Degrees
5. Steely Dan, The Royal Scam
6. Steve Miller Band, Fly Like An Eagle
7. Bob Dylan, Desire
8. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, Night Moves
9. The Numbers Band(15-60-75),Jimmy Bell’s Still in Town
10. Ramones, Ramones
HONORABLE MENTION: Joni Mitchell, Hejira; Eagles, Hotel California; Patti Smith, Radio Ethiopia; Tom Waits, Small Change; Ry Cooder, Chicken Skin Music; Bad Company, Running With The Pack; Al Stewart, Year of the Cat; Led Zeppelin, Presence
One thing I’ve discovered, going back in time reviewing albums by year, is that some years in music are better than others. I’ve now compiled lists for nineteen different years and for the first time, while reviewing records from 2006, I struggled to find ten that rose to the level of exceptional. Without question the first five are phenomenal. It’s then next five that have issues. They contain plenty of nice tunes, but also plenty of duds, which is the antithesis of a superior album. In a good year, these five would have probably ended up in the honorable mention category. In the case of the Cold War Kids’ record, maybe not even that. Makes me wonder how much of this can be blamed on the producers. Both Kasabian and TV on the Radio are capable of greatness (they’ve both made these lists in the past). In the case of the normally sensational TOTR, the last eight songs are interesting and cool, but the first six leave me completely unmoved. As for record of the year, it’s a toss up between Thom Yorke and Goldfrapp. We Are Glitter is actually a remix of Goldfrapp’s 2005 studio album and thus not technically a new release in 2006. But it’s so damn good, with some of the best mixes of any Goldfrapp material ever, that I’m bending the rules slightly to include it here.
Ten Best 2006
1. Goldfrapp, We Are Glitter
2. Thom Yorke, The Eraser
3. Phoenix, It’s Never Been Like That
4. Beck, The Information
5. LCD Soundsystem, 45:33
6. The Decemberists, The Crane Wife
7. Kasabian, Empire
8. Silversun Pickups, Carnavas
9. TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain
10. Cold War Kids, Robbers & Cowards
HONORABLE MENTION: John Mayer, Continuum; The Strokes, First Impressions of Earth; Hot Chip, The Warning; Snow Patrol, Eyes Open;Bob Dylan, Modern Times; Brightblack Morning Light, Brightblack Morning Light; Dennis Ferrer,The World As I See It; Johnny Cash, American V: A Hundred Highways; The Chicks, Taking The Long Way; Sonic Youth, Rather Ripped; Band of Horses, Everything All the Time; M. Ward, Post-War; Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass; Sean Ono Lennon, Friendly Fire; Amy Winehouse, Back to Black; Morrissey, Ringleader of the Tormentors; Booka Shade, Movements; Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat