by Scott Soriano

ĎTis time to sum up 2006 and to tell you what I think the best records of that year are. Truth be told, Iíve already written up a top ten or fifteen (I donít remember) and after thinking about it for a while, I started wondering how relevant that list really is. I can try to recall which records released last year really hit me, but the further away a record is released from the first of the year, the more dim my memory is about it. Too many damn records pass through these ears and I certainly donít have a notebook on hand while I am giving them a listen. So what that means is that I have to rely on my memory of records and trust that time doesnít warp my perception of a record or make me forget one even existed. All of this begs the question: If I canít remember a record flipping though a box or two to find that it exists, how can I really say that this is one of the best? And if I just pick through the records I recently received/heard and therefore remember, isnít that really a Top Ten of whatever came through these doors in the last few months?

Iíve got a better idea. How about a real Top Ten, one based on records that I listened to most often in 2006. Repeated listening is the true test of quality. As you will read, with a couple exceptions, the records stuck on repeat were not released this year. Many are very well worn and will hit the turntable often in 2007. That said, the records that were 2006 releases that made this list are real winners. Doubt it? Look at the company they are in. And with that: Scott Sorianoís Most Listened to Records of 2006. No real order here other than numerical though 1 & 2 were the most listened to. Also note that no record I put out is on this list, though I am pretty sure I listened to most of them - before and in production - more than many of those below.

1. The Zombies - "Odyssey & Oracle" LP: I never thought much of 'Abbey Road' or the Beatles and, though 'Pet Sounds' is a great record, Iíve hit the point where the Beach Boys are fine in limited doses. That being the case, I propose that The Zombiesí 'Odyssey & Oracle' is the best album of the 1960s (perhaps challenged by the Kinksí 'Arthur'). Iíve listened to O&O as background music and a close as you can listen to a record. It served as a soundtrack to many train rides from Sacramento to San Francisco. I know this record from front to back and I cannot find anything flawed. It is a perfect piece of music. It is funny, smart, sarcastic, perfectly written, and magnificently produced. Even the much played "Time of the Season" is fresh listen after listen. An astounding record.

2. Thin Lizzy - "Vagabonds of the Western World" LP: The third Thin Lizzy record and certainly the best. It rocks when it needs to but what stands out about 'Vagabonds...' is the depth of emotion in Phil Lynottís voice. He doesnít emote like the fakers today do. The feeling you hear in Lynott has an understated depth. There is a quality to his voice that is rare. He sings and you shudder. There is a reason why Thin Lizzy was one of the few established rock bands to escape vilification as dinosaurs by '77 punks. Lynott makes Thin Lizzy sound real, authentic. 'Vagabonds...' is easily one of the best hard rock albums ever made.

3. Country Teasers - "The Empire Strikes Back" LP: That a contemporary record hits this high on the list should tell you that, 1. I listen to a lot of stuff that was released ages ago and 2. It is a great record. Panned by some when this came out, I was immediately taken by the Teasersí latest. Musically and lyrically smart, playful, and catchy, Ben Wallers uses EmpireÖ to discuss race, sincerity, and misanthropy in a way people donít really like to do so: Up front and unvarnished. That he creates great music to back up his words, makes this the only record released in 2006 that Iíve played at least once a week, since its birth.

4. Willie Colon - "The Hustler" LP: A classic Latin record and one that revolutionized Salsa. Colon and his singer Hector Levoe were the bad boys of Latin music, as reviled by their musical elders and the straight Puerto Rican community as gangsta rappers are by Oprah and the NAACP. Their music had an edge to it that was far from the ballroom polish created by Xavier Cugat and Perez Prado (not dissing either of them). At times funky and soulful, 'The Hustler' is as simmering of a Latin platter as you are going to hear. It is one of my all time favorites.

5. Ronnie Dio & the Prophets - "Ten Days with Brenda" 45: When I picked this record up a couple years ago it was a big revelation. I knew Ronnie Dio had had a singing career before Dio, Sabbath, and Rainbow, but I had always assumed it was ELF. Little did I know that Dio had made some great 60s pop. "Ten Days..." is a great tune and totally heartless as well. The lyrical premise is that Dio is going to break up with Brenda, but, without telling her, he is going to hang out with her for ten days before the dumping. Why? Because, he knows those ten days will mean something to her. Bad boyfriend: Great song.

6. Heldon - "Stand By" LP: Electronic music is a total blind spot for me, so when some Terminal Boredom blabs started throwing around the name Heldon, I had no idea what the hell they were chatting about. A couple of themís taste I trust and one of themís offered a copy of 'Stand By' for sale/trade and I bit. Glad I did. 'Stand By' keeps finding its way to my turntable, usually late at night when Heldonís raw Kraftwerkish buzz sound right.

7. Pink Reason - "Throw It Away" EP: Another gem from this year, Pink Reasonís debut (and a CDR of unreleased stuff) has gotten plenty of listens around here. Dark without being goofy, morose without the dismay, Green Bayís finest is an exposed nerve with a beat. Those anticipating PRís upcoming releases will not be disappointed.

8. Andy Kim - "Baby I Love You" LP: I really donít know why this had so much platter time other than it very catchy and has little odd moments. It isnít a 100%er, nor is it the best or even one of the best bubblegum records I own. But it cost me a buck and Jeff Barry is always worth a chance. Worth it for "Walkiní My La De Da".

9. Billy Bao - "Bilboís Incinerator" EP: 'Bilboís Incinerator' might be the best ďdifficultĒ sludge punk song since the Brainbombsí "Jack the Ripper Lover" and if you understand that, you know why this got repeated plays.

10. Queen - "Sheer Heart Attack" LP: Or at least side one, which as good as you are gonna get by this (nowadays) cult favorite. It is strange how ďrockersĒ leave Queen out of discussions of great rock bands and when they do mention Queen it is always in the context of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and not a masterpiece like "Brighton Rock". I donít understand.

Check out some of Scott's past columns here.
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