1. Music: The Very Best of Vince Guaraldi, The Very Best of Bill Evans, and The Bill Evans Trio, Moon Beams
In the last year, Concord Music Group re-released and compiled great jazz collections for those into mid-century modern jazz. The best offerings included Vince Guaraldi’s Peanuts-infused classics and Bill Evans’ elegiac piano stylings. Moon Beams may be one of the saddest jazz records of all time, but it has some of the most elegant, beautiful piano chord progressions recorded in music history.
Guaraldi’s “hits,” of course, are Christmas-appropriate and make you feel like walking, head down, past a doghouse containing a sleeping beagle and his canary friend who flies upside-down. This reviewer is very grateful these recordings have been released again for generations of future fans and music historians.
2. . . . And more music: The Monks, Black Monk Time
While this hasn’t been rereleased this year, this aural boot to the head has been invading my iPod’s playlist throughout most of 2012. I love garage rock music from the 1960s, and if you do too, this may be a revelation. I first heard this militaristic mid-1960s punk classic when I was a disgruntled G.I. in the late 1990s, and it fit my mood perfectly. Although I’m a lot happier (and no longer in the military) now, I still love revisiting this petulant sound time and time again. This is an essential purchase. This album makes the Velvet Underground sound like the Free Design.
3. EVEN MORE MUSIC: France Gall, Made in France: France Gall’s Baby Pop
You don’t even have to know French to know “Les Sucettes,” written by dirty old man/genius Serge Gainsbourg, was sort of filthy. It’s made even better (by better, I mean worse) by the fact that Gall was about 16 when she recorded it. This disc is full of stomping French-girl yé-yé pop and deserves heavy rotation.
4. Screw Liz & Dick, let’s talk about the real Liz Taylor.
One of the year’s biggest TV events was the premier of Lifetime’s craptastic Liz & Dick, which was an attempt to tell the story of the world’s two biggest drama queens with the aid of one current hot mess, La Lindsay Lohan, who at the time of my writing this, has just been arrested AGAIN (this time for beating up a psychic palm reader at some grimy club—I wish I had made that up).
In all fairness to Lohan, in my estimation, the movie’s shortcomings weren’t her fault. The story line jumped around insanely, with no regard to real timelines, and the script was pretty ridiculous. The real Liz died in 2011, but I have just discovered her foray into mid-1970s craziness with some Italian mess of a film called The Driver’s Seat. It had a cameo by Andy Warhol, which sort of explains the whole thing. At any rate, here’s a clip of the real deal putting on her makeup while looking like your crazy, 89-year-old Aunt Mamie. You were gone too soon, Liz! White Diamonds forever (“NOT SO FAST, TOM RYAN!”).
5. AND WAIT, DID YOU GET SICK OF MUSIC? BECAUSE HERE IS MORE: John Cale, Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood
This year was a pretty great year for reissues, but this is my favorite original disc delivered by one of rock music’s biggest badasses, 70-year-old John Cale. His latest disc hearkens back, I think, to some of his glacial, mid-1980s best sober moments (Artificial Intelligence). Cale has been in the business for almost 50 years, but unlike the Rolling Stones (yeah, I said it), he still holds on to modernity and relevance. This is essential listening for Cale fans and people who just love good music. Let’s hope Cale sticks around for at least another 70 years!