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Old 12-27-2017, 09:15 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The Year In These Ears: Trollheart's Favourite Albums of 2017/2018

A perhaps natural spawn of my Albums of 2017 thread, this one will concentrate on the albums that have impressed me most as I trudge through 2017, and will allow me to go into deeper detail about some of the albums I've liked. Were this thread to have been begun last year, you would have been able to easily predict the type of albums you'd see here, or at least the genres. It would be very limited to most of you. Thankfully however – for both me and you – scouring through every album on Wiki's list for 2017 has opened my eyes to albums, genres and artists to whom I would previously have refused to give the time of day, so expect everything from hip-hop and punk to jazz and blackgaze.

As I'm currently only a quarter of the way through the year as I begin this thread, there is no possible way I can rank these albums, nor do I intend to. To most intents and purposes, it is kind of an AOTY list, but not really: I could post an album I'd rave about and believe the very best I've heard this year and two months later find something even better. So I won't be doing a top twenty, fifty or even hundred, and these albums will be in no order, but I will be picking the ones I found impressed me the most, particularly perhaps concentrating on ones I had not expected to like, or did not even know of.

Those albums don't of course have to have been on Wiki's list – some of you have suggested incredible albums that weren't, and really blew me away – but I imagine the vast bulk of them will be, as that is, at the moment, primarily my source for new material. As I'm beginning this thread as the year ends, I will have no problem including albums I like that are released in 2018.
Reviews will be, as I say, longer and more involved than they have been in my other thread, as I will be updating this much less frequently than the album thread, and I will already have heard these albums, if only once, so will know what to expect and therefore what to say, or what to add or expand upon. You may have seen these albums being reviewed in short-form format already in my main thread, or it's even quite possible you may have missed them, as due to time constraints and the amount of albums, I tend to post anything up to seven or eight a day, and some are bound to pass you by. I'll be using mostly the same format as the album thread, with perhaps a few tweaks here and there.

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Last edited by Trollheart; 12-28-2017 at 10:01 AM.
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Old 12-28-2017, 05:29 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Album title: Joy Comes Back
Artist: Ruthie Foster
Genre: Soul/Funk/Gospel
Nationality: America
Position in Discography: Ninth
Average RYM Score: 3.26
Soul, funk and gospel: just three of the many genres nobody would associate with me, so when an album that embraces all three speaks to me, you can bet it's something special. And this is. There's simply not a bad track on this, and it was a real revelation for me when I first listened to it. Ruthie Foster has been going since 1997, but in reality longer than that, as she joined the US Navy after high school and performed pop and funk songs, and was in fact courted by label giant Atlantic Records. However, their plans for her did not coincide with her own ideas of her future, and so she turned down the deal. Since then she has released nine albums, the first of which she self-released, and has been nominated for three Grammys, and won seven Blues Awards, while being nominated for many more.

The first thing that impresses me about this album is of course her voice, which has been compared to Bonnie Raitt and Aretha, and I can see why. The melody on “What Are You Listening To?” is simple but effective, and reminds me of the seventies soul hits coming out of Detroit at that time, with a very smooth edge. Mostly attended by fine piano, the song also reminds me for some reason of a Bowie number, but I can't place my finger on which one. There are also small elements, to me, of Linda Ronstadt's “Still Within the Sound of My Voice”, and then swirling, powerful organ pulls in “Working Woman”, a real anthem for female equality in the workplace. Great backing vocals on this track too. Excellent double solo, first on organ then on piano, but by who I don't know, as information on the album is pretty damn scarce. Love the line “If you paid her for half of what she does you couldn't afford her”. You tell 'em, girl!

The title track is where the gospel really starts to come through, and the first word is the prime emotion that runs through the song. All that is missing here is the name Jesus, and you can definitely imagine this being played in some Baptist church with a full choir and dancing preachers. More fine organ, allied to some screeching guitar giving the song some real teeth. Like much of this album, the song is not intricate or complicated. It probably would not be fair to call it simple, but it's direct and straight forward and it works really well. Whoever is on guitar gets a chance to shine about halfway through, but this is Ruthie's gig all the way and her voice carries the song to its triumphant conclusion, taking us into “Open Sky”, a beautiful little ballad with some sprinkly piano driving it.

Ruthie sticks with the ballads and goes into kind of Fleetwood Mac/CSNY/Eagles territory with “Good Sailor”, which really is a very relaxing song and allows you to feel like you're just floating along, but the real surprise comes with the next track. Yeah, if you read my original review you know what I'm talking about. She covers Sabbath's “War Pigs”, and what's more, she does an amazing job with it. Her vocals are certainly up to it, there's no problem there, but how to replace the stop/start guitar? Why, with a harmonica of course! It's a slower, bluesier version of one of the best war protest songs ever writtten, and one of the few metal ones; the percussion in particular really works here. There's some pretty fine acoustic guitar too, but the harmonica really runs the show here.

That takes us to the upbeat “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever”, with some beautiful digital piano (maybe Fender Rhodes, not sure) and organ, with that gospel chorus doing its thing again. Country and bluegrass for “Richland Woman Blues”, which is great fun, and then the album ends on two stellar ballads; still can't decide which is the best. “Abraham” rides on soft digital piano with a low, gentle vocal from Ruthie, the song slowly building in layers, Foster's vocal rising and getting stronger with it, bringing in the backing vocal section, taking the song to a powerful, emotive ending, while the gentle simplicity of “You Are Forgiven” is a perfect closer to a perfect album, which I'm not ashamed to say left me somewhat shaken the first time I heard it, and though it doesn't have quite the same surprise factor this time around, it's still one hell of an album and will definitely be on my AOTY list, if I ever get around to making one.

Track Listing

What Are You Listening To?
Working Woman
Joy Comes Back
Open Sky
Good Sailor
War Pigs
Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever
Richland Woman Blues
You Are Forgiven

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Old 12-28-2017, 05:47 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I thought you played War Pigs (or is it somewhere else on the forum?)

Never mind. Wrong thread
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Old 12-28-2017, 03:58 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Ruthie Foster is a good "deuxième chanteuse" as it means second singer. She is a great harmony singer. She has a great voice but if you put her with another person, she harmonizes so beautifully.

Thank you for mentioning this woman. She is a great singer but especially as a "deuxième chanteuse".
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