A Look Back: My Top 10 Albums of 2014

  1. Eve by Angelique Kidjo. This vocalist is one of my all-time faves. And one of the most dynamic vocalists to come out of Africa. A top-notch album.
  2. Sonic Highways by the Foo Fighters. Eight songs written in eight cities that represent the history of American music. Love the premise. And the music. This album is FIERCE. Haven’t watched the companion TV show, but I need to.
  3. The London Sessions by Mary J. Blige. I’m not a regular listener of R&B. Too formulaic for my tastes. Mary J. is one of the rare exceptions. And this album is her absolute best.
  4. Beautiful Life by Jimmy Greene. This is a sublime album on its own, made all the more poignant because it’s a loving eulogy to his 6-year old daughter, Ana Márquez-Greene, who was killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
  5. Dave Koz & Friends: The 25th of December by Dave Koz. I don’t listen to a lot of smooth jazz these days. It’s a shadow of its former self from the 80s. But I saw Tavis Smiley’s interview of this wonderful gentleman where he also performed “O Holy Night” with Jonathan Butler. And he made a believer out of me. I predict that this album will become a new holiday standard. The collaborations, and remakes of old faves, like Johnny Mathis’ “Wonderful Time of the Year” — that one alone is worth the price of the ticket. And I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I LOVE this album.
  6. Emmaar by Tinariwen. This album was released at the end of December 2013, but it’s on Afropop Worldwide’s 2014 list. I’ve loved this group from Day One. Their musical heritage as Malian musicians is currently under attack by the same kind of folks who brought murder and mayhem to Paris, and kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls.
  7. Platinum by Miranda Lambert. A refreshing take on country music as storytelling.
  8. Southern Comfort by Regina Carter. Musings based on traditional folk music. This is the second album in a series that explores her family heritage through music. (First Album in the series is Reverse Thread.) Nice departure for this virtuoso violinist.
  9. Girl by Pharrell Williams. I didn’t see the movie Despicable Me 2, which put the song “Happy” on the map. (And earned him a Grammy award.) I still like the song (though one co-worker with small kids is tired of it). I like the whole album. It’s popping.
  10. Beautiful Life by Dianne Reeves. Stellar set of new, and some old, standards with a great group of musicians and collaborators.

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