2010 in Review: Most Improved CDs
Several other bloggers have done year-end posts with either entirely subjective “favorite CDs of 2010” lists or somewhat more objective lists of the CDs that received a 5-star rating. Seven new CDs and three DVDs received 5 stars; that list is here. The ones that just missed the list, the 4½ star reviews, are here.
So let’s use this space to take a look at the most improved CDs of the year—the ones that were the biggest step up from the group’s previous effort.
- Never Walk Alone, Brian Free and Assurance. The over-processing that made the vocals on their previous few projects rather too perfect is not a factor on Never Walk Alone. That, added to the strength of the individual songs and the unity of the overall narrative, left me no choice but to disregard my preferences for less progressive music and give the project 5 stars—and, now, a place at the head of this list.
- Declaration, Booth Brothers. This album received critical acclaim as a landmark album for the group and for the genre. Whether you compare it to their previous of new songs (from three years previously), or to several intervening table and special event projects, the song selection and production quality makes it hands-down the best Booth Brothers album yet.
- Just Stand, Legacy Five. Legacy Five’s 2008 CD, God’s Been Good, was, frankly, their weakest effort to date. They came back in a big way, teaming up with Lari Goss for their strongest effort to date. Though initially released in 2009 with Frank Seamans, the final version (with new tenor Gus Gaches) did not come out until this year; it’s debatable whether it is eligible for this list, but there were four other obvious choices, and no other entirely-2010 project stood out.
- Across the Lands, Revelation. Revelation’s previous projects were table projects of classics and cover songs. This major-label debut / U.S. debut project was a huge step forward for the group.
- Songs in the Night, Lauren Talley. Lauren’s first three solo projects showed her diversity of influences—but their very diversity was, to an extent, a weakness. With Songs in the Night, Lauren’s increased confidence and maturity is evident; the narrative—that these were the songs which got her through a severe illness two years before—adds to the project’s appeal.
Are there any others that should make the list?