Wednesday, December 26, 2007

2007 in Review:The “70’s Throwback of the Year” Award

This award, given in honor of masterful achievement in a variety of styles that are all typical of a bygone decade, goes to:

King for a Day
Bobby Conn
Thrill Jockey

My standard description when people have asked me about this album is that it’s everything bad about music in the 70’s made great. The opening track, “Vanitas,” is an 8-minute prog rock masterpiece of self-indulgence. The lyrics are in Latin, they’ve got as many guitars playing on it as they could fit in the studio, and after the three-minute, almost contemplative introduction, all Conn wants to do is beat you over the head with BIG, AWESOME, POWER CHORDS. It’s like Rush, on steroids. My two particular favorite tracks, “When the Money’s Gone” and “Love Let Me Down,” twist perky “Sgt. Pepper” melodies and lush production into “Rock & Roll Suicide” glam-rock doomsaying. Monica BouBou gets her chances to shine, of course, rocking the violin on “A Glimpse of Paradise” and singing the lilting “Mr. Lucky.” Their disco tendencies come out on “Twenty-One,” which also happens to feature surprisingly not-out-of-place and just freakin’ amazing trumpet work from Chicago jazz staple Josh Berman. But flash and dazzle is nothing new for Bobby Conn. He’s made his name as Chicago’s very own glam rock icon. That's not the attraction here. What’s startling is the amount of love in this album: this is music that comes from the pains and joys of everyday life, not from a life lived in the spotlight, only exorcised in it. It's got heart beyond anything you'd expect, and reaches beyond style.

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