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Best Singer-Songwriter Albums of 2007

I'm eternally grateful to Rolling Stone's inaugural list of the "100 Greatest Albums of All Time" for introducing me to two of my favorite artists: Graham Parker and Richard Thompson. Both of them show up in the top three on my top-10 list of this year's under-the-radar singer-songwriter albums.

I still recall tearing off the plastic CD wrapping and listening to Parker's landmark 1979 album Squeezing Out Sparks. Smart, snarling, tuneful and emotionally raw without punk's excesses or new wave's wimpiness, I'd never heard anything like it. I had found a musical soul mate.

The '80s may have been unkind to Parker, but in the last 15 or so years, he has put out a string of albums that ranks among the smartest, most engaging adult-style pop music around. Don't Tell Columbus, released in March, may well be his best yet. Good luck finding a finer paean to the opportunity America affords the immigrant than the single "Please Don't Tell Columbus."

"Somebody Saved Me" is an ode to a woman any anniversary-forgetting clod must have on hand. Yet the curl of the lip remains in place on the jaunty, Bush-skewering "Stick to the Plan." ("Don't pay attention to what the experts say/Too much intelligence gets in the way...") And no other songwriter could have penned the eight-and-a-half-minute epic musing on urban development's personal costs, "The Other Side of the Reservoir."

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