Newt’s Top 10 albums of 1997



By Steve Newton

There were a lot of things that sucked the biggie in the world of music this year. From a local angle, the major disappointment was the continued vacancy of the once-fabulous Commodore Ballroom. Nationally, the lack of a new studio album from the Tragically Hip kinda bit. And as far as the international music scene goes, I sure could have done without Aqua’s “Barbie Girl”—the frightful chorus of which is right now roaming around, uninvited, in my head. “I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world.” Somebody help me! Make it stop! Aauuggh!

Here are 10 things that didn’t suck in ’97.

Robben Ford Tiger Walk  Bay Area guitar great hooks up with bassist Charlie Drayton and drummer Steve Jordan—the stalwart rhythm section from Keith Richards’s solo albums—for his first-ever instrumental CD. Add the funky keyboard stylings of Bernie Worrell and you’ve got a jazz-rock platter on a par with Jeff Beck’s Wired.

Southern Culture on the Skids Plastic Seat Sweat  Southern-fried white-trash boogie that’ll make you want to pinstripe a Naugahyde La-Z-Boy, install an 8-track in it, and keep it on your front porch. If there’s a music to carve possum to, this is it.

Junkhouse Fuzz  The addition of former Crash Vegas member Colin Cripps’s guitar-playing and songwriting talent has turned one of Canada’s most promising guitar-rock bands into one of the world’s finest.

Mutton Birds Envy of Angels  The Tragically Hip did everyone a favour when they snagged this New Zealand pop quartet for their last Another Roadside Attraction tour. Twin Peaks meets the Beatles in the evocative pop of singer-songwriter Don McGlashan, heir apparent to Neil Finn’s songwriting throne. The shimmering cover of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” is a nice finishing touch.

Sour Landslide They Promised Us Jobs  Toronto-based indie trio concocts exhilarating punk-edged guitar rock that crosses the raw power of the Ramones with the catchy melodies of Soul Asylum. Check them out when they tour the West Coast this spring, after the Rockies thaw.

Friends of Dean Martinez Retrograde  I’ve yet to slip on a velvet jacket and head out for cocktails at one of those local Gin & Sin nights, but in the comfort of my own home I can feel like a suave hipster with this Arizona quartet’s blend of high-lonesome instrumentals and covers of Henry Mancini and Santo & Johnny.

Various Artists Merry Axemas: A Guitar Christmas  It’s Christmas all year long with this guitar-based collection of instrumental yuletide numbers, conceived by Steve Vai, who frets magically along with the likes of Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Steve Morse, Alex Lifeson, and Joe Perry.

Supergarage Supergarage The self-titled debut album by Supergarage  The consistently impressive debut by Supergarage proves that the Hip aren’t the only Ontario guitar-rock band worthy of world domination. And it’s nice for a change to see our federal tax dollars, via a Factor grant, going to a band with the potential to actually pay them back.

Big Head Todd & the Monsters Beautiful World  Denver, Colorado’s underrated roots-pop trio rerecorded three tunes from its late-’80s indie days for Beautiful World, but those tracks are as fresh-sounding as the rest of this soulful, funk-infused offering, smartly produced by ex–Talking Head Jerry Harrison.

David Gogo Dine Under the Stars: Recorded Live  The more I miss Stevie Ray Vaughan, the more I appreciate Nanaimo blues-rock guitar wizard Gogo. Recorded live at the Queen’s Hotel in Gogo’s hometown of Nanaimo, Dine Under the Stars displays his monster talent on tunes by Magic Sam, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Son House, Albert Collins, and B.B. King.

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