Mixed Media

Whether it’s a one-shot collaboration, a permanent foray into a solo career, or time away from a band, artists can stretch out, experiment or prove they can stand on their own with projects outside of their group. The following represents some of the best such projects from the past year.

Steve Cropper & Felix Cavaliere—Nudge It Up A Notch (Stax)
How can you miss when pairing the ex-lead singer and keyboardist of The Rascals and the guitarist of Booker T & the MG’s and countless sessions? Why Cavaliere hasn’t recorded for some time is a mystery given how great his singing is here. This recording sounds fresh and new, and works on every level. How about a tour of Booker T and the MG’s and The Rascals?

Jenny Lewis—Acid Tongue (Warner Bros.)
Lewis has shown flashes of brilliance as part of Rilo Kiley, but she has hit a home run with this solo release. She’s a superb singer, but her ability as a songwriter makes her one of the fastest emerging artists in music today.

Walter Becker—Circus Money (Mailboat)
Becker has made fine solo albums before that never captured the magic of Steely Dan. On this new, Larry Klein-produced disc, Becker finds his solo groove. It’s a wonder why Becker, a producer in his own right, decided to have someone else produce him, but Klein, who has worked wonders for many others, including his ex-wife Joni Mitchell, has helped Becker make the best solo album of his career and a work that can stand alongside Becker’s band Steely Dan’s best.

Lindsey Buckingham—Gift of Screws (Reprise)
Buckingham has written some very commercial music for Fleetwood Mac, but also has a quirky, experimental side that is much in evidence here. Buckingham’s rhythmic guitar approach and loopy drum sounds are infectious and dizzying. Buckingham is also an adept producer, whose magic touch could benefit other artists as well. Yet another vastly underappreciated solo album from one of American pop music’s most gifted and multi-talented artists.

Gary Louris—Vagabonds (Ryko)
Whether a member of The Jayhawks or Golden Smog, Louris makes gorgeous, sparse pop that is inviting and unforgettable. Another artist who for some reason flies under the radar screen, after so many projects, Louris has made finally made his solo debut and it was worth the wait.