10 Best CDs of 2006 Page 4

0702_hitchcock_best200Andrew Nash's Top 10 of 2006 Best Sound on CD

1. Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3: Olé! Tarantula (Yep Roc). Bright psychedelic pop from a master of the eccentric - uncluttered but with just enough jangle and reverb to remind us of the '60s.

2. Gov't Mule: High and Mighty (ATO). Amazing full-spectrum guitars and dynamic drums, with tasteful keyboards/bass and powerhouse vocals. Rock with confidence.

3. Umphrey's McGee: Safety in Numbers (SCI Fidelity). A meticulously democratic mix shows off skilled playing in every corner of these compositions, but the overriding impression is of a band unified in musical delight.

4. Regina Spektor: Begin to Hope (Sire). Crisp, clean takes on a dozen endearingly vulnerable, offbeat originals.

5. Cracker: Greenland (Cooking Vinyl). Another crackerjack production from David Lowery and company, who manage to sound polished and coarse at the same time.

6. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals: Nothing but the Water (Ragged Company). Only hints at the band's live potential - but even in the studio, Ms. Potter's soulful blues-belting is colorful and rousing enough to perk up any listener's ears.

7. Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs: Under the Covers, Vol. 1 (Shout! Factory). These two well-matched, maturing rockers pull 15 nuggets out of the wayback machine and lovingly revisit them with an invigorated audio freshness.

8. Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris: All the Roadrunning (Warner Bros.). The perfect blend of two unique voices and Knopfler's gently fluid guitar makes for a lush, satisfying collection of laid-back tunes.

9. Roger Joseph Manning, Jr.: The Land of Pure Imagination (Cordless). Adventures in Beatledom (and XTC-osity) using the complete sonic palette: a rich, creative bit of (home) studio wizardry.

10. Dan Reeder: Sweetheart (Oh Boy). In these days of multichannel mixes and high-definition, there's something comforting about the old-fashioned sound of a wryly amusing guy on his acoustic guitar. Soothing in its simplicity.