Wednesday, December 30, 2009


For those of you who are new to No Expiration, every Wednesday morning I go on the SIRIUS XM channel OutQ on the show The Morning Jolt With Larry Flick. Tomorrow I will continue a theme a discussed a few weeks ago: great, overlooked albums from the past decade.

First is actually not one of my picks, but one from OutQ listener and No Expiration reader (and he leaves nice comments, flattery will get you somewhere around here) Mel Beavers II, who does his own blog, Pop Goes The Culture. He suggested Cyndi Lauper's 2008 album Bring Ya To The Brink. I definitely enjoy Cyndi -- She's So Unusual is a classic, and I had a great time interviewing her when I wrote her record label bio for her 2003 covers album At Last. Bring Ya To The Brink is a dance music album, which I think makes sense for her, as lots of her songs have been remixed for the dance floor. I downloaded a few songs, but some of them (I felt) could have been anyone, it sort of lost her disctintive identity. I did enjoy "Into The Nightlife." My favorite song on the album is a ballad called "Rain On Me."

Everyone who reads No Expiration knows what a huge Ben Harper fan I am. I discussed his latest album, White Lies For Dark Times on the show a few months back, and Larry nearly knocked me out of my seat by saying that he mixes up Ben Harper with Counting Crows (of all things!). But the album I am bringing in tomorrow is his 2004 collaboraton with legendary gospel group The Blind Boys Of Alabama, There Will Be A Light. After hearing this, he won't mix up Ben with Counting Crows anymore. This is probably my second favorite album of the decade, after Aimee Mann's Bachelor No. 2. This album just makes me feel great. Ben says that he is a "god-fearing agnostic," a great term.

It may be odd to refer to anything that Bruce Springsteen does as "underrated" (particularly the day after The Kennedy Center Honors aired on TV), and Bruce certainly doesn't need any extra acclaim from me. But I think that his 2006 album, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, was unfairly ignored by many. I think they heard "Bruce Springsteen... Pete Seeger songs" and "tuned out" right there. I get that: he was coming off of a fairly dry album, Devils and Dust, and I guess people didn't like The Ghost Of Tom Joad either. But the fact is, We Shall Overcome is garage-rock, 1930s style. It's party music, if the party is in a barn with no electrity, and I mean that in the best possible way. I think it is one of the best things he's ever done.

Larry had a great time (and so did I) when he made fun of Fiona Apple when I bought her up a few weeks ago. I get it, she's a wreck. But I think her songwriting is redeemed when her songs are sung by other artists. Meet Bettye Lavette, who put out an incredible album in 2005, I've Got My Own Hell To Raise. Produced by the great Joe Henry, it's all covers of songs written by women, including Fiona's "Sleep To Dream."

I can't think of any artist who had such a huge career revival after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as Solomon Burke. After being inducted in 2001, he hooked up with Joe Henry (him again!) for an incredible comeback album, Don't Give Up On Me. Dylan, Waits and Costello were just some of the people who wrote songs for the album. It is really great. And he's done three great albums since then.

One of my favorite artists of all time is the late, great Chris Whitley. He is totally underrated, which is partially his own fault, because he seemed to sabotage his career more than once. But that's the way he was. However, if you're reading this, you only care about an artist's artistry, not their marketing acumen, so do yourself and get some Chris Whitley records. I'll do a post about him soon. The record I choose for tomorrow's show is Perfect Day, a covers album that is stunningly beautiful. I have it in my mind that he recorded the album in one day, but I may be remembering that wrong.

It may be tough to argue that George Harrison is underrated, but lots of people missed his final album, Brainwashed, released in 2002, a few months after his death. The song "Any Road" is one of my favorite George songs, I've talked about this one recently when I guested on The Catholic Channel 's Busted Halo Show. He has always had a unique way of looking at death and spirituality. I don't share his religious beliefs, but I'm moved by his songs about spirituality all the same.

I'm sure that we won't get to all of the albums that I've mentioned, and there's many more underrated albums that I didn't include. What are some that you think I missed?


Mel Beavers II said...

Brian, thanks for reviewing and including 'Bring ya to the Brink'. I'm not sure if I missed your appearance on OutQ. Some of my favorites on the disk are 'Set your Heart,' it plays multiple times on my ipod. I know there is a sample in it, but I can't think of the artist. I also, enjoy 'Rain on Me.' But, I'll have to disagree about the sound of the album. I think its definitely got Cyndi's stamp on it. It is a dance album and I think the vibe in that genre is pretty consistent in terms of sound. But, think about Madonna's last ablum, Hard Candy, now that could have truly been a Nelly Furtado, Britney, or Gwen Stefani ablum. But who would you say Cyndi's album could have been. Thanks for the shout out, posting my blog address. You are the man. Oh and I will be getting better aquainted with Ben Harper this year.

Minority said...

Mel! You did miss my appearance I guess! I mentioned your name too. Ah well. Anyway, I maybe judge albums too much by the first song - but I always think that the first song should make an impression about what the rest of the album will be like. "High and Mighty" felt like it could have been almost anyone. But I did really like "Into The Nightlife" and Rain On Me. And yeah, I guess Madonna's last album wasn't her most distinct one. Anyway, have a happy new year, thanks for listening and reading1

Sandra Gibson said...

Great blog! I saw The Blind Boys of Alabama in concert in Birmingham and was blown away.