BRUCE NESMITH'S 10 NOTABLE ALBUMS OF 1997

1 The Book of Secrets, Loreena McKennitt (Quinlan Road). Another remarkable set of compositions by this harpist/singer/songwriter/ musicologist from Stratford, Ontario, reflecting Celtic and Middle Eastern influences.

2 The Healing Game, Van Morrison (Polydor). 25th studio album by this Irish rocker has strong lyrics, but the sound is so good you can still enjoy it even if you're constantly distracted by, say, small children. Favorite cut: "Burning Ground".

3 Seven Sisters, Brooks Williams (Green Linnet). This year's Williams of the Year is originally from Georgia, now living and working in Boston. This is his fourth album, mostly vocals though with some virtuoso guitar pieces to boot.

4 L'Amour ou La Folie, Beausoleil (Rhino). Led by Michael Doucet, the foremost Cajun band in the land produces fun, danceable albums of consistent high quality; the tradtional form is adapted for the modern age, but with integrity.

5 Dan Bern, Dan Bern (Work). First album by a singer from Mt. Vernon, Iowa. We used to live down the block from his mom. His acerbic wit draws Dylan comparisons but I can't comment because I don't know Dylan's mom. Best tracks: "Jerusalem", "Wasteland".

6 End of the Summer, Dar Williams (Razor and Tie). The third album in three years from a superior songwriter. There's more top flight stuff here ("What Do You Hear In These Sounds") but too much junk, a lot of it overproduced.

7 Blue Moon Swamp, John Fogerty (Warner Brothers). The former scion of Creedence Clearwater Revival has found love and is in a good mood for a change! Upbeat, joyous rock music, solid all the way through. Best cuts: "Southern Streamline", "Blueboy".

8 Small Revelations, Chris Smither (Hightone). New Orleans native has been releasing albums since 1970. Most of the songs are contemplative and bluesy, but "Winsome Smile" and "Hold On" are uptempo, almost rockabilly.

9 After the Fall, Mary Coughlan (C-Notes). An Irish woman featured on the all-star Celtic album "A Woman's Heart". What I've heard of this album sounds sharp, particularly "Sunburned". I wish I'd bought this instead of Mary Black, but live and learn.

10 Kon-Tiki, Cotton Mather (Copper). What the Beatles might sound like today. Energetic, hard-driving melodies, succumbing to the occasional temptation to make your teeth ache and your nose bleed. As far as I know they don't endorse witch burning.

SONGS OF THE YEAR

1987 Touch Of Grey, Grateful Dead
1988 Time And Tide, Basia
1989 The Living Years, Mike and the Mechanics
1990 Heartbeats Accelerating, Kate and Anna McGarrigle
1991 Country Home, Neil Young
1992 Summer of '88, Spider John Koerner
1993 Democracy, Leonard Cohen
1994 Like A King, Ben Harper
1995 My Winter Coat, Roches
1996 The Christians and The Pagans, Dar Williams
1997 Jane, Brooks Williams

MALE SOLOIST OF THE YEAR

1987 Peter Wolf
1988 George Harrison
1989 Don Henley
1990 Billy Joel
1991 Neil Young
1992 Neil Young
1993 Leonard Cohen
1994 Ben Harper
1995 John Prine
1996 Steve Forbert
1997 Van Morrison

FEMALE SOLOIST OF THE YEAR

1987 Whitney Houston
1988 Basia
1989 Kirsty MaColl
1990 Christine Lavin
1991 Patty Larkin
1992 Loreena McKennitt
1993 Patty Larkin
1994 Sam Phillips
1995 Dar Williams
1996 Dar Williams
1997 Loreena McKennitt

GROUP/DUO OF THE YEAR

1987 Grateful Dead
1988 Bruce Hornsby & the Range
1989 Edie Brickell/New Bohemians
1990 Kate & Anna McGarrigle
1991 Parachute Men
1992 Ed's Redeeming Qualities
1993 John and Mary
1994 Five Chinese Brothers
1995 Roches
1996 Kate & Anna McGarrigle
1997 Beausoleil

NOTABLE ALBUMS OF THE PAST

1987 In The Dark, Grateful Dead
1988 Songs From The Southside, Bruce Hornsby and the Range
1989 Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars, E. Brickell/New Bohemians
1990 An Attainable Love, Christine Lavin
1991 Ragged Glory, Neil Young
1992 The Visit, Loreena McKennitt
1993 The Future, Leonard Cohen
1994 Singer Songwriter Beggerman Thief, Five Chinese Brothers
1995 Lost Dogs and Missed Blessings, John Prine
1996 Matapedia, Kate and Anna McGarrigle

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