Style: The multi-platinum hard rock pioneered by guitarist Tom Scholz; R.I.P., vocalist Brad Delp, who committed suicide in March.
Cautions: Boilerplate hedonism ("Smokin'," "Let Me Take You Home Tonight").
Worldview: "It's more than a feeling when I hear that old song they used to play."
Overall quality: "[I]t's easy to forget that it was Brad Delp who gave the Boston sound . . . heart and soul . . . " (David Wild's liner notes).
Style: Jazz: specifically, the last will and testament of the prolific and virtually ubiquitous tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, who died in January.
Worldview: That sometimes man does know his time: The title of the second song, "Five Months from Midnight," accurately measured the number of Brecker's remaining days.
Overall quality: A moving and exhilarating attempt to capture in unfettered musicianship the flashing of one's remarkable life before one's eyes.
Style: The soft-rock magnum opus of Fogelberg, who succumbed to prostate cancer in December.
Worldview: "Man's youth is a wonderful thing: It is so full of anguish and of magic and he never comes to know it . . . , until it has gone from him forever" (the album's Thomas Wolfe-composed epigraph).
Overall quality: "Same Old Lang Syne" and "Leader of the Band" capture universal emotions; the rest, alas, wallow in them.
Style: The classic 1970s Philly soul pioneered by producer Thom Bell; R.I.P., founding member Billy Henderson, who died in February from complications associated with diabetes.
Worldview: "Their brand of Philly soul was about self-esteem, spirituality, opportunity, team work, hard work, . . . family, compassion, and love" (Leo Sacks' liner notes).
Overall quality: The post-Motown, post-Stax black pop standard from 1972 to 1977.
Style: Undiminished honky-tonk swing circa 2000 from country's other legendary Hank, who died in November.
Worldview: "My first recollection of any kind of music has to go back to when I was a preschooler. I would go to a neighbor lady's house and listen to . . . Jimmie Rodgers on her wind-up Victrola. . . . He was my first inspiration and idol . . ." (Thompson's liner notes).
Overall quality: Alternately charming and rakish; consistently sharp.
The tenor saxophonist (and trumpeter and flautist and electric wind instrumentalist) Michael Brecker recorded 14 albums under his own name, 10 as a member of the Brecker Brothers, and six as a member of Steps Ahead; but it was as a session musician that he entered the lives of most music fans. In a career spanning almost four decades, he performed on over 700 albums, from jazz (Chet Baker, Charles Mingus, Gerry Mulligan, Dave Brubeck) and funk (James Brown, Bootsy Collins, George Clinton) to rock (John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen) and pop (Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, James Taylor).
Brecker recorded his final album, the exploratory jazz showcase Pilgrimage (Heads Up) in August 2006, less than six months before succumbing to leukemia. Consisting of nine Brecker originals and the accompaniment of Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, and Jack DeJohnette, the music reflects the determination of a gifted musician who knew his end was near to redeem the time he had left.