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Tracks of the year: musicians, DJs and our readers choose their sounds of 2017

By Martin Smith | 31 December 2017

Every year we invite musicians, DJs and readers of this blog to send us their five favourite albums or tracks of the year. The selections by our contributors for 2017 are eclectic and cross many genres. See what you think of their choices…

Please feel to tell us about your favourite albums or tracks in 2017 in the comments box below the post.

DJ KOZE

A DJ, Producer and owner of Pamper Records. His last album is DJ Kicks 50th Anniversary.

Soulphiction: Get It Right

International Pony vs LoSoul: International Snootleg

Ark: Punkadelik (Mr Oizo Remix)

Ada: Luckycharm

International Pony: Solid Gold

TOM ROBINSON

Songwriter and broadcaster on BBC Radio 6 Music

St Vincent: Masseducation

Benjamin Zephaniah: Revolutionary Minds

Lisa Knapp: Til April Is Dead: A Garland Of May Songs

Hamell On Trial: Tackle Box

Jim White: Waffles, Triangles & Jesus

NANCY KERR

Nancy Kerr, Folk Singer of the Year BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2015. She has recorded over 20 albums including Station House (with James Fagan and Robert Harbron), Sweet Visitor, Murmurs (with Martin Simpson and Andy Cutting) and her latest album Instar.

Purcell’s Polyphonic Party: An Invitation To Dance

Luke Daniels: Singing Ways To Feel More Junior

Magpie Lane: Three Quarter Time

Rafiki Jazz: Har Dam Sahara

Chris Foster: Hadelin

ORPHY ‘VIBES’ ROBINSON

Member of Black Top and presenter at Delite Radio. Robinson has played, recorded or toured with numerous artists including Don Cherry, Evan Parker, Carleen Anderson, William Parker, Robert Wyatt, Lester Bowie, Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and Robert Plant.

Kevin Eubanks: East West Timeline

Philip Baden Powel: Notes Over Poetry

John Beasley: Monkestra Vol 2

Jazzmeia Horn: A Social Call

Meg Morley: Can’t Get Started

Somi: Petite Afrique

Nate Smith:Kinfolk; Postcards From Everywhere

Harriet Tubman: Araminta

Keyon Harrold: The Mugician

China Moses: Nightintales

VIJAY IYER

Vijay is a pianist, composer, bandleader, producer, electronic musician and professor at the Department of Music at Harvard University. As leader and co leader he has recorded at least 23 albums including Blood Sutra, Historicity, Solo and Break Stuff. His latest album is Far From Over.

JLin: Black Origami

Jen Shyu: Song of Silver Geese

Esperanza Spalding
: Exposure (studio live stream)

Wadada Leo Smith: Najwa

Roscoe Mitchell: Bells for the South Side

RUSS CHANDLER

Walthamstow Folk Club and Steve White & the Protest Family. Check out their latest album Protest For Dummies.

Rhiannon Giddens: Freedom Highway

Opening with a gourd banjo (the earliest American ancestor of the instrument, and one which make the sound angels make when they talk in their sleep) and climaxing with a kick arse rock ’n soul blow out and with great politics too. This is a sensational album.

Melrose Quartet: Dominion

Dominion doesn’t really break any new ground but it’s selection of great material played with skill, love and real heart was an absolute joy.

Viv Legg and Thomas McCarthy: Jauling The Green Tober

The first album of traveller singing recorded in Britain since Ewan MacColl put one together decades ago and the first curated and produced by travellers themselves. Two singers from different traveller traditions, one of whom is too shy to regularly perform at formal concerts take it in turns to sing their songs. Shorn of any accompaniment, I bet this is the most austere recording in the Dream Deferred list this year. I reckon it might be the most complex too.

Lal and Mike Waterson: Bright Phoebus; ; Songs Of Mystery, Love, Loss And Hard Soil

A beautiful re-issue of a famous lost album from the early seventies. Wintery as hell and packed with astonishing harmony lines which twist around each other like the briar over Barbara Allen’s grave. During the recording of Child Among the Weeds it was discovered that the arrangement wasn’t in a key anyone present could sing. The moment Bob Davenport unleashes his broadsword of a voice to simply annihilate the problem is simply sublime.

Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet: Ladilikan

Three griots – hereditary musicians and story tellers from West Africa in collaboration with the always restless Kronos Quartet. Mesmerising – I suspect there is a witch hiding somewhere in the grooves of this record.

ALISON ROSS

A pianist who has performed with Melody Gardot and the Philadelphia Improvisation Orchestra.

Jóhann Jóhannsson: Orphee

Víkingur Ólafsson: Philip Glass: Piano Works

Kurtag: Complete Works For Ensemble And Choir

Danish String Quartet: Last Leaf

Los Angeles Percussion Quartet: Beyond

JAMES MADDOCK

Musician whose new album Insanity vs Humanity is out now.

Tinariwen: Elwan

I just discovered this band and now I think they are amazing. The guitarist is like an African JJ Cale.

Garland: 14 Steps

I just love the words and the story he tells

Willie Nile: Every Grain Of Sand

I didn’t know this Dylan song and now I love it and Willie’s version

Ben Arnold: Nobody’s Hurting Like Me

I’ve been touring with Ben and think this song is just terrific.

Jeffrey Gaines: Come Out Tonight

He’s amazing singer songwriter from Philly and I think this song is damn near perfect.

ROGER HUDDLE

One of the founders of Rock Against Racism and the co-author of the new book Reminiscences of RAR: Rocking Against Racism 1976-1982.

Rhiannon Giddens: Freedom Highway

Beautifully crafted songs and music in the US radical folk tradition.

Vijay Iyer Sextet: Far From Over

Driving, imaginative ensemble playing, my favourite jazz album this year.

CGS: Canzoniere

Traditional music from Puglia, Southern Italy. Tremendous.

Benjamin Zephaniah: Revolutionary Minds

A poet that never fails to thrill. Musically thrilling too! Here he really lets his hair down.

Maryam Saleh, Tamer Abu Ghazaleh and Maurice Louca: Lekhfa

Contemporary Egyptian dance floor beats. Warm wrap up stuff to get you dancing through to Spring.

Lal and Mike Waterson: Bright Phoebus; Songs Of Mystery, Love, Loss And Hard Soil

Best re-issue of the year. One of the great albums in the English folk tradition, by two great songwriters.

LIZ WHEATLEY

DJ and radio presenter. You can catch her radio show featuring uplifting soul, funk, hip-hop, RnB and Rare Groove every Wednesday on www.urbanjazzradio.net

Stormzy: Gang Signs and Prayers

I never thought I’d have a grime artist constantly playing but I found this album beautiful and thoughtful and have listened to it again and again

Christian Scott: Ruler Rebel, Diaspora, The Emancipation Procrastination

Ok this is three albums but Scott has released them as a project, The Centennial Trilogy so I’m counting them as one choice

Amp Fiddler: Amp Dog Knights

He always does interesting stuff and this includes Moodyman and some J Dilla. Well worth checking out

Tom Glide: Divas Got Soul

An excellent line up of female vocalists and I’ve found myself playing this repeatedly

Trombone Shorty
: Parking Lot Symphony

Actually I’ve put this one in really to suggest that if he does a gig near you, go to it, you won’t be disappointed! Seeing him live was one of my highlights of a good year for live music

NICK GRANT

A member of The Fred Hampton Appreciation Society whose new album is out now.

Alina Bzhezhinska:

One delightful discovery in 2017 was harpist Alina Bzhezhinska who in November opened the Coltrane tribute night at the London Jazz Festival. Here she is performing an Alice Coltrane composition.

Ambrose Akinmusire: A Rift In Decorum (Live at the Village Vanguard)

This was also my gig of the year at Ronnie’s, especially the drumming of Justin Brown.

Dwight Trible: Inspirations

By now a rare kind of vocalist (think somewhere between Leon Thomas, Gil Scott-Heron and Johnny Hartman) doing a series of covers. Donny Hathaway’s Tryin’ Times probably the standout and utterly relevant track.

Trio Dakali and Kronos Quartet: Ladilikan

A global fusion that is surprisingly attractive over repeated listenings. Ideal driving music!

Jordon Rakei:

Another welcome surprise was pop-soul Kiwi Jordan Rakei’s band who I saw at the Love Supreme festival. While George Benson peddled turgid Vegas lounge-music on the main stage JR was kicking up a storm in one of the tents. Here he is at The North Sea Jazz festival a month previous.

• Would add a quick mention for Stuart Cosgrove’s excellent book ‘Memphis 1967: The Tragedy of Southern Soul’.

MARTIN SMITH

Here at Dream Deferred…

Arca: By Arca

This artist has worked with Björk, Kanye, FKA twigs and Frank Ocean. This his third album is a masterpiece of pared down industrial noise, electronic soundscapes and operatic hymns.

Jlin: Black Origami

Black Origami is dark, relentless, powerful and demands total concentration. In the world of electronic music, nobody but nobody is doing it anything like this.

Four Tet: New Energy

A beautiful electronic album with echoes of Alice Coltrane’s harp.

Karen Gwyer: Rembo

Techno at its most inventive. The track titles – Why is there a long line in front of the factory and The Workers Are On Strike was enough to hook me in.

Mankunku Quartet: Yakhal Inkomo

Winston “Manaunka” Ngozi should be regarded as a giant of Jazz, but like so many other black South African musicians his music was never released outside the Apartheid state. Released in 1968 the music is reminiscent of John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter refracted through the prism of the Cape Town scene. This is without doubt my favourite reissue of 2017.

HAPPY 2018…


1 comment

  1. DJ Kicks said:

    My favourite tunes of 2017 are:

    Kendrick Lamar: Humble

    Vince Staples: Bagback

    Tyler, The Creator: 911 / Mr. Lonely

    Drake: Passionfruit

    Kamasi Washington: Harmony of Difference

    31 December 2017 at 1:08pm

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