It's time for a look back over the releases that came our way in 1986, a year distinguished not so much by new material as by extensive and generally outstanding repackaging of classic older recordings. Actually, the year opened pretty strong and then petered out without any real blockbusters along the way.
From my vantage point, there isn't one individual or company in the current record biz that has any clear idea of where the public's taste is headed or which way they want to lead it. les getting harder for new acts to get exposure and while a few, like the Rave Ups and BoDeans, did produce some quality LPs, the vast majority of memorable recordings were the work of established artists. The following is this reviewer's choice for the ten best of an above average but not extraordinary year.
Peter Case delivered the outstanding debut recording of the year, although he had been heard previously as one of the founding members of the LA-based Nerves as well as the Plimsouls. According to the press info, Case is a street minstrel from lotus land whose blue collar wonderings have shaped his elipitcal lyrical stance. Whatever the source, there is a specialness to this T Bone Burnett-produced album that sustains.
Elvis Costello reclaimed his real name, Declan McManus, for his first release of the year, King of America. But he returned to his old persona and band, the wonderful Attractions, for his contribution to the year's top ten. The jagged, jarring, vital music of Blood and Chocolate (CBS 40518, $8.98 list) reaffirms Costello as punk's one enduring genius. Costello is a man possessed of both poetic verbal skills and marvelous vocal ability who consistently works closer to his core truth than almost any other artist I can think of. For that matter, King of America wasn't half bad either.
As is almost always the case, the toughest decision in any top ten listing is the last selection. My vote this year goes to the Pogues's Rum, Sodomy & the Lash (MCA 5744, $8.98 list). And I must admit that its title (best of the year) probably played some part in that decision. It's true that Ireland has recently produced some of the best of current rock music, notably U2. But the Pogues are something else again — the wild rebellious spirit at the heart of rock and roll, cloaked in the traditional music which has echoed from that sad country's pubs for generations. This album is a powerhouse recording and it includes what may be the most compelling anti-war song I've ever heard, "And the Band Played Marching Matilda."
In additionie the above listed ten were some other fine releases which deserve your consideration, If country (in the real, not the Nashville sense) appeals to you, then Steve Earle's Guitar Town and T-Bone Burnett's self titled albums are musts. I also enjoyed Fine Young Cannibals, Cyndi Lauper's True Colours, The Pertenders Get Close, David & David's Boomtown, Timbuk 3, Robert Cray's Strong Persuader and side two of Dylan's Knocked Out Loaded.