My Favourite Releases of 1998
compiled 1 January 1999
At the time of compiling this list, there are a number of albums which I am
yet to hear. This is not the best albums of 1998 as decreed by me - these are
my favourites amongst those I did get the chance to hear.
- Born - Hothouse Flowers
Rarely have I awaited an album as impatiently as I did with this one. Their
previous effort "Songs from The Rain" has taken up what I expect will be
permanent residence at the top of my "favourite albums ever" list (it's been
there for 5 years so far). As suggested by the title, this is a new incarnation
of the band, having lost Jerry Fehily (drums) and Leo Barnes (sax) with Peter
O'Toole discarding the bass in favour of guitar. The breathtaking bandwork was
lacking on this one but the appealing song structures remained, underlined by
a real sense of adventure on a number of tracks (eg. "Turn Up The Reverb", "Pop
- Tracks - Bruce Springsteen
Almost two months after it's release, I'm still finding my way around this one:
66 songs, 58 brand new for me with 7 others being alternate takes. Some songs
here are nothing less than stunning (eg. "Roulette"), others are revelatory (the
original acoustic version of "Born in the USA") and others simply deserve
widespread radio airplay ("Back in Your Arms Again"). You will be amazed that
Bruce could have ever decided that these were not to be released - fortunately,
he finally came to his senses this year. I wonder if we'll ever hear the other
200 or so that remain in the vaults.
- Car Wheels On A Gravel Road - Lucinda Williams
I used to say I didn't like country music. After hearing Emmylou Harris's
wonderful "Wrecking Ball" from 1995 I had to start qualifying the statement: I
don't like mainstream country music, as perpetuated by the likes of Garth
Brooks. Although I bought and enjoyed Emmylou's '98 live release "Spyboy", this
offering of new songs is something else again. After six years of recording,
Lucinda finally got the songs the way she wanted them and I'm hard pressed to
find any flaws.
- Redneck Wonderland - Midnight Oil
The Oils return with their lyrics and guitar squalls a little more brutal than
usual but no less melodic. I thought that their cutting edge days were behind
them, with "Earth and Sun and Moon" built on solid grooving and "Breathe"
venturing into full acoustic mode (including a duet with Emmylou Harris).
Pauline Hanson may have a lot to answer for, but I think I can forgive her for
provoking this tour de force.
- Mermaid Avenue - Billy Bragg & Wilco
Working with unrecorded lyrics by Woody Guthrie, Billy Bragg and Wilco create
a set of songs of which are frequently charming, joyful and beautiful, sometimes
all at once.
- (sketches for) My Sweetheart The Drunk - Jeff Buckley
Although it's not what Jeff may have intended as his second album, the first
disc of this is still very good. It's probably best to approach the second disc
a little more cautiously as things are...um, well...a little "experimental".
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