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Best music of 1985

This past year has been pretty damn boring. Compared to 1984, this year was a snoozer.

Well, anyway, there were some comparative highlights, here presented in order by order of mein editor:


Tribute to Steve Goodman1. Tribute to Steve Goodman

This album featured some of the greatest folk singers of all time, people like Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Bonnie Raitt and the Nitty Gritty Dirty Band, gathered together to remember their friend Steve Goodman.

This album, recorded during a concert in Chicago, is the best "live" album I've ever encountered. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's cover of "Face on the Cutting Room Floor" blew me away, as did David Bromberg on "I Will Not Be Your Fool."

Diamond Life2. Diamond Life – Sade

Sade Adu's appearance on the music scene represents the only noteworthy new artist. Her jazz-inspired music and silky voice are classic, bringing back memories of Ella Fitzgerald. Sade will be around for years.

"Diamond Life" contains two songs that are destined to become classics: "Your Love is King" and "Smooth Operator." Her follow-up album, "Promise," was also impressive.

Sweet Baby Blues3. Sweet Baby Blues – Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham

The Cheathams run a jam session every Sunday at the Bahia, where they play the best jazz going down in San Diego. This album features them with top players from both San Diego and L.A. going over some Cheathams' originals, mixed with some standards. This was the best jazz album I heard all year. [2004 note: Ended up being one of the best jazz albums I've ever heard!]

Brothers in Arms4. Brothers in Arms – Dire Straits

Mark Knopfler and Co. are back in force, with their first studio effort in two years. The wait was worth it, with "Walk of Life" and "Money for Nothing" being among the best tunes Dire Straits has done.

False Accusations5. False Accusations – Robert Cray

Cray mixes blues with pop and rock devices to arrive at a unique sound that makes no artistic sacrifices. Not only that, but Cray is a superb guitarist and vocalist.

Cray could be the second coming of George Benson. [2004 note: Is it too late to point out that when written it was not meant as an insult?]

Word of Mouth6. Word of Mouth – the Kinks

Who says old men can't rock? The Stones are going strong, and Ray and Dave Davies, both in their 40s, turned out their best album since 1978's "Low Budget." [2004 note: "Old men"? Criminy ...]

Serious Business7. Serious Business – Johnny Winter

With his second pure blues album for Alligator Records, Winter seems to be putting his career back on track. It appears that he's gotten the heroin under control and it's nice to see him performing again.

A Bach Celebration8. A Bach Celebration – Christopher Parkening

Parkening, who plays with the L.A. Chamber Orchestra, is one of the finest classical guitarists around, and this album features some of Bach's finest songs. All around, you can't lose.

Queen of the Blues9. Queen of the Blues – Koko Taylor

Ah, sweet home Chicago. The title says it all. [2004 note: That's it? That's all I wrote about this? Snot-nose punk that I was then, I should still have sung this album's praises to high heavens. This remains one of Taylor's best, defining recordings, some 20 years later.]

Unaccountable Effect10. Unaccountable Effect – Liz Story

Story's piano playing and compositional skills place her at the top of the New Age movement.


Hmmm ... when you see Miles Davis at Humphries, John Lee Hooker at the Belly Up, Al Di Meola at Montezuma Hall, and Dire Straits at the OAT, how do you pick a favorite?


Springsteen didn't release any albums this year, thank God.