1998: The Year in Lists

Sam Prestianni's Top Three 1998 Addictions
As a singular storm of extreme musicality and poetry in commotion, no one matches Polly Jean Harvey. An English country lass with one stiletto heel on the Yorkshire moors and another in the backwoods juke joints of the Mississippi Delta, Harvey channels the collective spirit of wrongfully spurned women the world over. Tunes like "Joy" and "My Beautiful Leah" on Is This Desire? shake up the viscera with a rib-cage-rattling intensity that reminds me I'm human. What more can one ask from a mere pop record?

Gillian Welch reaches into the dusky corners of the soul with tracks like "The Devil Had a Hold of Me" and "I'm Not Afraid to Die" on Hell Among the Yearlings. The album's apparently a coming-out rite for this high-bred, former new-country wanna-be who finally found her true voice as an all-American girl from the mining towns of Appalachia. It's perhaps an unlikely conversion of faith, but the timelessness in Welch's bluesy storytelling and the candor in her voice belie the lack of grit beneath her fingernails.

The duende of twentysomething Mexican singer Lhasa de Sela comes across like something out of a dream on her debut album, La Llorona. Think of the old-soul beauty of Peruvian goddess Susana Baca or Cape Verdean diva Cesaria Evora combined with the evocative sensuality of torch singer Cassandra Wilson. Toss in a South of the Border-styled rhythmic canter and the serpentine whorl of klezmer, the magic realism of Marquez and the surrealistic fan-tasy of Borges. Lhasa's from-the-gut passion says she's in no way fooling around -- she has to sing.

Craig Smith's Top Five Dumbest Decisions in Hip Hop, 1998
5) Oakland hit-maker E-A-Ski chooses DreamWorks SKG to release his highly publicized Earthquake. Sporting a contract that his label reps deem too lucrative, this quake will indefinitely wait.

4) Puff Daddy and Jimmy Page pair up for the Godzilla soundtrack. Nuff said.
3) Overhyped and underperforming Canibus selects alleged gun-pointer Wyclef Jean as his manager. Jean must have thoroughly read the Death Row Records expose Have Gun Will Travel.

2) Dionne Warwick miserably revamps "What the World Needs Now" with Big Daddy Kane, Kurupt, Coolio, etc. This from the woman who once referred to a prominent rap artist as "Snoop Doggy Doo Doo."

1) The Wu-Tang Clan's Ol' Dirty Bastard did so many dumb things this year, it's hard to say which was most dimwitted: bum-rushing the stage at the Grammys, changing his name to "Big Baby Jesus," failing to pay child support, threatening to kill his child's mother, being arrested multiple times and missing court dates, or stealing a $50 pair of Nike sneakers in Virginia. A source close to the Dirty One felt that "all the publicity was great."

Denise Sullivan's Geezer Rock Top 10 That -- Incredibly -- Does Not Include Lucinda Williams

1) Three nights of Cheap Trick as they re-created their first three albums at the Great American Music Hall.

2) Reissues. So many titles, so little time: Dylan's Live 1966; Kinks and Pretty Things catalogs; Mick Ronson's Slaughter on 10th Avenue.

3) Geezer wannabes Elliott Smith and Beck: XO and Mutations tie for albums of the year.

4) Kate and Anna McGarrigle live with special guest Loudon Wainwright III: Emotional content plus superb songcraft and musicianship put it in my top five shows ever.

5) Led Zeppelin at Concord Pavilion: Actually, it was just Page and Plant, but the all-Zep rep was wonderful.

6) X reunion with Billy Zoom at the Trocadero (and the $10 baby T's).
7) Current guilty pleasure (a geezer concept if there ever was one): New Radicals' "You Get What You Give" for its Todd Rundgren-style Philly soul hook.

8) Patti Smith singing Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" at the Fillmore for double geezer value.

9) Screen gems: Use of old Yes and King Crimson tunes in Buffalo '66; VH1's Behind the Music and Legends; Beatles' Anthology, twice as long on laserdisc; Storefront Hitchcock; Charles Mingus: Triumph of the Underdog; Dylan's "The Man in Me" in The Big Lebowski.

10) British music magazine Mojo, especially the September "American Giants" issue: Interviews with the Artist, Joni Mitchell, James Brown, Dr. John, and Randy Newman.

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