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When Born To Run came out a lifetime ago, it was at once stunning, passionate, majestic and poetic, words that might also describe Magic. Listening to “Girls In Their Summer Clothes,” I’m still surprised it doesn’t once reference a boardwalk.


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2. AMY WINEHOUSE – Back To Black
This girl is a serious singer. With some serious problems. She might be the only singer in a position to follow up a classic album (and this is a classic) with a comeback album. I’m happy to hear you didn’t entirely rule out the rehab, Amy.


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3. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Putumayo Presents Gypsy Groove
Think Gogol Bordello but without the beer or the schnapps (or whatever fires them up) and with a club dj in mind. Slavic skanking for the dancefloor from such exotic places as Slovenia and Brooklyn.


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4. VARIOUS ARTISTS - I’m Not There – original soundtrack
A remarkably consistent collection of Dylan interpretations that hangs together much better than the film itself, which tries too hard and comes off feeling forced. Watching it, I was actually relieved when it was “all over now, baby blue.” Extra kudes for the first official release of Dylan’s bleakest song ever and Sonic Youth’s cover of it.


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5. VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Sandinista Project: A Tribute to the Clash
What the liner notes refer to as “a sprawling mess” of an album (the original) could easily have been turned into a sprawling mess of a tribute album. But this is actually a much more tuneful collection than the global political clusterfuck that was Sandinista. This one is hitsville, not shitsville.


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6. THE LEN PRICE 3 – Rentacrowd
The Len Price 3 channel The Jam who were channeling the early Who who were channeling The Kinks. They can all be heard on this very British, very cool collection.


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7. THE RUMBLE STRIPS – Girls and Weather [import]
Blue-eyed British soul boys get in touch with their inner Dexy’s. Full of youthful optimism and delightfully out of style with everything else that came out this year. This is music catchy enough for a future iPod commercial (and I say that as a compliment).


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8. NICK LOWE – At My Age
At his age, Lowe continues to effortlessly deliver his mixture of soul and sarcasm. As a longtime fan, I can say that I knew the groom when he used to rock and roll but I respect the fact that the 58 year old New Waver is not the least bit afraid to show his age.


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These garage rockers obviously have quite the 60s soul record collection. This hits on a number of my musical weaknesses. Look for their Life, Love and Leaving from 2001!


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10. ROBBIE FULKS - Revenge
Fulks is still the smartest guy in country music. Insert your own joke here. Don’t miss the opening studio cut that explains why he made a live album.


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11. NEW PORNOGRAPHERS - Challengers
After four releases, I cannot tell you what one song of theirs is about. But that’s part of the charm of their dense little pop songs. Who cares?


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12. LILY ALLEN – Alright, Still
Sassy and smart, Lily proves that with a good groove, bitterness can sound pretty damn cheerful. Utterly disposable pop music but a lot of fun for now.


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13. JOHN FOGERTY - Revival
I prefer the first half where Fogerty seems stuck in Lodi again to the second half where he rocks a bit harder. As to the slightly sophomoric political songs, perhaps the title of the record should have been “Who’ll Stop the Reign.”


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14. WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY – original film soundtrack
A sly romp through 50 years of popular music. Inspirational opening line: “Mailboxes drip like lampposts in the twisted birth canal of the coliseum” (“The Royal Jelly,” from Dewey Cox’s middle period).


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This is not Led Bluegrass or even anything like the two principals involved but more like two friends singing as if they’ve done this together their whole lives.

16. THE SADIES – New Seasons
For the second year in a row, the best practitioners of Americana are from Canada. Listening to them actually makes me nostalgic for American Beauty (the record, not the film).

17. SLAVIC SOUL PARTY – Teknochek Collision
Brooklyn’s best Balkan brass band.

18. 17 HIPPIES – Heimlich [import]
Actually, 19 musicians, playing 34 instruments, singing in 3 different languages, playing 12 songs in 12 different musical styles. But no hippies.

19. RUFUS WAINWRIGHT – Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall
This is the gayest album ever recorded. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it’s a fact not lost on either the audience or the performer, who feed off each other in an audacious display of camp.

20. GOGOL BORDELLO – Super Taranta!
This is gypsy dance music with the beer or the schnapps (or whatever fires them up). See #3.

21. BEIRUT – The Flying Club Cup
Jacques Brel is alive and living in. . . New Mexico?

VARIOUS ARTISTS – A Cellarful of Motown: Volume 3
Just what the hell else is in this cellar?
NEIL YOUNG - Live at Massey Hall 1971
In great voice and with even better material. Seen through 2007 eyes, it’s a veritable journey through the past.

Wow. What could people have been thinking when they first heard “Chimes of Freedom”?
With apologies to Johnny Cash and every other singer who’s ever been biopic’d.

MILLION DOLLAR BASH: Bob Dylan, The Band, and the Basement Tapes by Sid Griffin
This is for you if you are a fan of the complete basement tapes. A fascinating session-by-session, song-by-song, Ulster County map-filled, anecdote-driven account of what the hell happened in Woodstock, Bearsville and West Saugerties in 1967.

Marbletown Multi-Arts in Stone Ridge, NY
Intimate room, good acts, great house music, where everybody knows your name, and free hors d’oeuvres provided by Cliff, the Hudson Valley’s newest music impresario (if seating 100 people and surviving using only an email mailing list makes you an impresario).

Mark Rosen