Just in time for the Grammy’s, here’s my top ten list for 2002. You won’t see many of these represented at Sunday night’s ceremonies except for Norah Jones - root for her, she’s nominated in many- categories.
1. Julia Fordham - Concrete Love (Vanguard). Triumphing over a record industry snafu that left her briefly with no label and held up this disc’s release for almost a year, this superb outing features the can’t miss combination of incredible songs and vocal performance by Julia, great session musicians, and superb production by Larry Klein, resulting in a perfect album, equalling Porcelain as her best ever.
2. Norah Jones - Come Away With Me (Blue Note). From New York’s Livingroom club to worldwide acclaim virtually overnight, in the process bucking all commercial trends with an album of understated jazz/blues/country/singer-songwriter excellence. The songwriting and session contributions of Jesse Harris (Once Blue) were icing on the cake.
3. Dougie MacLean - Who Am I (Dunkeld Import). Scotland’s answer to Jackson Browne and James Taylor surpasses both of their 2002 releases with this, his 17th album on which he does what he does best - songs about basic values such as love, family, tradition, honest work, and the history and natural beauty of Scotland. Dougie writes, sings, and plays a variety of instruments including guitar and some hauntingly beautiful fiddle. Cynics feel free to skip this one.
4. Del Amitri - Can You Do Me Good (A&M Import). 2002 was a tough year for this great Scottish band. Record industry consolidation left them without American or worldwide distribution, resulting in this their sixth album being released in Britain only. After a short but enthusiastically received U.K. tour and halfhearted label support, they were dropped entirely by year’s end and are currently on hiatus. They tried some new things on this album, and although it doesn’t come close to the level of thier masterpiece Twisted, this disc does sound better and better with each listen.
5. Garrison Starr - Songs From Take-Off to Landing (Back Porch). After a bad label experience with her first album Starr shook the record industry chip off her shoulder convincingly with this second album full of well written, well produced songs, all powered by her wonderful electric guitar.
6. Mark Knopfler - A Shot at Glory Soundtrack (Warner Brothers). It was almost a tough choice between this and The Ragpicker’s Dream, but this excellent soundtrack took the honors for me with more of the kind of music I enjoy hearing Knopfler play. There are several vocal tracks, including an unusually jazzy turn on “Say Too Much.”
7. Chris Isaak - Always Got Tonight (Reprise). I never paid much attention to this artist in the past, but after two seasons of watching his excellent Showtime series, I’ve developed a high appreciation for him, his band, and his music. This is a solid album with lots of great songs, including the theme song from the aforementioned television show.
8. Zero 7 - Simple Things (Quango/Palm). With a combination of instrumentals, male vocals and female vocals, well written, well performed, and well produced, this album was way better than the WXPN-single-track-airplay suggested. Keyboard trendy but not overly so. A keeper.
9. Kim Richey - Rise (Lost Highway). The pleasures of this disc were not totally evident on first listen; this music is much subtler than her previous work. However, with repeat listening, the quality of the songwriting, performance and production of this fine album became clear, and at the last minute it charged into the top ten, knocking out Nerissa & Katrina Nields’ excellent Love and China disc.
10. Shannon McNally - Jukebox Sparrows (Capitol). The songwriting may be uneven, but several great songs included here proved to be unstoppable, and her concert performance was even better with an excellent mix of American rock. She handles her Fender Stratocaster well too.
One Comment: I would never have imagined that there could be a time when new albums by previous personal icons such as Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, George Harrison, Santana, Carole King, Aimee Mann, Swing Out Sister, and Chris Rea, as well as more recent favorites such as the Dixie Chicks, Rebecca Martin, Mae Moore, and Grey Eye Glances would all leave me so unmoved that they wouldn’t even make a dent in my top ten, but such was 2002. I still can’t believe it. I should probably mention that although I did enjoy Springsteen’s resuscitation of the E Street Band, I just couldn’t get past the fact that all the songs on The Rising were about September 11th. The above notwithstanding, 2002 was a very good year. I know it’s late for this sort of thing, but I’d enjoy reading others’ best of lists. Cheers.
P.S. This is my first thread on SDMB. Hope you like it.