The Times (UK) Names Nonesuch Albums Among the Decade's Best in Classical, Jazz, World, and Pop
The Times of London has had its say on the best albums of the decade, covering a broad spectrum of styles and sounds over four categories for the best in classical, jazz, world music, and pop, and Nonesuch artists are represented in every one.
Starting at the top, the recent Nonesuch recording of John Adams's Doctor Atomic Symphony by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and conductor David Robertson takes the No. 1 slot on the Times list of the Ten Best Classical Albums of the Noughties. Neil Fisher and Richard Morrison describe the opera from which this orchestral work originated as "stunning" and credit the symphony's "coruscating instrumental power" and "fine lyrical moments."
Live in Tokyo, a solo piano album from Mehldau, was his first release on Nonesuch, and on it, this "ascendant star of American piano jazz sets out his broad musical vision," says The Times, finding "the link between Beethoven and Radiohead on an extraordinary 'Paranoid Android.'"
Frisell's East/West, comprising two sets over two discs, the first from New York's Village Vanguard, the other from Yoshi's in Oakland, proves that "sometimes simplicity carries the biggest clout," Bungey contends. "The second set is good, the first is stunning."
Over in the world music Top Ten of the decade, Nonesuch projects make up a full four of ten albums on the list. Youssou N'Dour's Nothing's in Vain (Coono du réer), from 2002, is on at No. 9. The Times's David Hutcheon sees it as Youssou's "artistic rebirth," through which "he turned African artists’ eyes inward, to celebrate and strengthen indigenous culture rather than chase foreign patronage."
Two World Circuit / Nonesuch collaborations come in at Nos. 7 and 4, respectively: Orchestra Baobab's Specialist in All Styles, also from 2002 and produced by N'Dour, and Cachaíto, the 2001 album from the Buena Vista Social Club bassist Orlando "Cachaíto" Lopez.
Hutcheon describes the album from Baobab, the first new recording from the Senegalese band in decades, as "the best old-style Cuban album of the decade." (It also happens to include a guest appearance from Buena Vista vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer.) On Specialist, says Hutcheon, the band "happily discovered they were what the world had been waiting for."
Placing Cachaíto at No. 4, the Times writer sees the bassist as "the unsung hero of the Buena Vista saga" and, with this album, the architect of "arguably the best album of the series. An eclectic, free-wheeling yet accessible odyssey into Cuban jazz, its inventiveness never fails to surprise."
Another joint effort, Dimanche à Bamako (2005), the first of two Because / Nonesuch releases from Amadou & Mariam, comes in at No. 2. On the album, produced by Manu Chao, the Malian couple "rewrite their rule book," says Hutcheon. "It’s a hot Sunday in the Malian capital and everybody wants to party. This is the soundtrack."
Dimanche à Bamako is the only album among these releases to make it onto two lists, finding itself at No. 51 among the 100 Best Pop Albums of the Noughties, which sums it up as "a dazzling bundle of pop smarts and African soul."
Brian Wilson conceived of his SMiLE record almost four decades before it was ultimately released on Nonesuch in 2004. It's on this decade's best-of list at No. 42, and is, "in many respects," says The Times, "the pop story of the decade."
Wilco's own Nonesuch debut, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, comes in at No. 25. "Heralded as an austere masterpiece of alt-Americana," The Times reminds readers, "it’s easy to forget what a joy it is to listen to. Between the album’s pop sensibilities and fractured fever dreams lies a sort of magic."
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