Saturday, December 27, 2014

My Top 3 albums of 2014 (one bored music nerd's opinion)

Full disclosure, I am mostly a classic rock, classic alternative rock fan. I really don't hear a lot of new bands or new music that hits me. Sure ,once in a while I'll here a cool song from a current band. It's just rare I check out the whole album...

I really had a hard time thinking of 5 great albums of "NEW" music that came out this year! Songs popped up in movies or on Sirius I would like and find they are a few years old...There are always cool reissues, but I am not counting them...

 One of the big hypes, this year, of course, was the new U2 album released for free by Itunes/Apple. I've listened a few times and would give it 3 out of 5 stars. 
My main problem with it is they used a couple of current trendy producers to , I guess, sound current! but to me what it'd done is generisize (is that a word?) the music. It sounds like maybe what a Bono solo album would sound like(?) Producers like Daniel Lanois and Steve Lillywhite have been an integral part of U2's classic sound and their success. Their touch is missing here...

      



Elsewhere in former Superstar world, Prince released not one but two albums! I confess I have not had the patience to wade through them...
 His Saturday Night Live performance was energetic but the songs were unfamiliar and somewhat unremarkable...





Pink Floyd released the much-hyped "Endless River" only containing 1 mediocre song with vocals.  I confess I am a "Gilmour" guy in the battle of Gilmour/Waters. He always had stronger melodic instincts than Waters who is a limited musician but a fine lyricist. 
I've heard bits and pieces of the rest of the album, but I think I have to be in the right mood to digest this mostly instrumental album...



John Mellencamp used to be a favorite in the 80's. His sound has basically evolved into "Americana", folk and blues. Having said that, if you can accept that change, his "Plain Spoken" is a decent release. The lyrics especially show a maturity and braveness in confronting the aging process.

                 



I did like "Milwaukee" by The Both (Aimee Mann and ted Leo). I confess I haven't listened to the whole album... 




Bryan Adams put out a fine album of covers of some of his favorite old songs as well as putting out a 30 annv. deluxe issue of "Reckless", but I wouldn't count those as "new" music..


                                         

AC/DC returned, against the odds, to release "Rock or Bust". I haven't listened to the whole album , but what I have heard, I already like more than their 2008 over-hyped "Black Ice" release.



Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham returned from the ashes of the excellent hard rock band Black Country Communion to form California Breed. I must admit, I was disappointed with the release. I'm a "melody" "hook" guy and there is a dearth of them here. The music is mostly riffed based; more aggressive than BCC but lacks the catchiness of those BCC songs. Bonham has already left the project apparently over the lack of potential income...

Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers released an album of covers of classic Stax/Volt songs. Recorded with some of the original musicians from the originals. It is a good album, but not one I listen to repeatedly.




 Robert Plant released a new album as well and his "Rainbow" single ishis catchiest since "29 Palms" in 1993. I havent fully investigated the full album so I can't include it here.

               


This brings me back to my original premise. 5 great new albums! but I can only really name 3!




















Chrissie Hynde returned with the excellent "Stockholm". While her first actually "solo" album, she has stated this was one of the more collaborative experiences she's had.
 Chrissie is a rare artists that still writes songs as good or even better than when she started! 
The last "Pretenders" album was released in 2009 and was a mixed batch of ballads, aggressive rockers and even a little country sounding material. Martin Chambers didn't play on it but Nick Wilkenson and James Walbourne did. They are now in her current band. (Confused? I guess no "Martin Chambers"= no "Pretenders"?)

I think the roots of her current style were laid in her excellent collaboration with singer JP Jones and their "JP, Chrissie and the Fairground Boys" release. 
If you missed it, go back and check it out. Lots of great, catchy tunes. I was lucky enough to see the tour and they were great. 
Collaboration seems to suit Chrissie these days. The proof is in the songs. Guests on the "Stockholm" include Neil Young and John McEnroe (!). I caught her current tour and she was great (when she wasn't yelling at people ,who paid $80 to see her, for taking pictures).



                                  

 



 











                                          


















 


Billy Idol is not a name you would think of sounding "vital" in 2014, but his latest "Kings and Queens of the Underground" is one his strongest albums and maybe his best overall since "Rebel Yell". Combing some of his original aggressiveness with a more reflective, introspective sound. Some of the lyric subject matter was brought on by the writing his autobiography. 
Legendary producer Trevor Horn does an excellent job with combing all of the sonic elements. Horn also plays bass on the album and brought in his old Buggles/YES bandmate Geoff Downes to contribute some fine, subtle keyboard work. Steve Stevens is still a great guitarist. Here, he shows some restraint to mix in with all of the other elements of the music.
                               
                     








                                                 














I couldn't remember if Circa Zero's "Circus Hero" came out this year or last. They had done some early press in 2013 but the album came out the Spring of 2014. 
They then did a few promo appearances and disappeared! The group, Andy Summers of the Police and Rob Giles from the Rescues, combined to write and perform an excellent album that mixed elements of the Police with, say, some more modern elements of groups like the Foo Fighters. STING has not put out a solo album this consistent!
The guys even appeared on Jimmy Kimmel
In interviews, they sounded ambitious and committed to the group; even speaking of doing a second album! 
I was hoping for a tour, but they talked about finding the "right opportunity" and not wanting to play "clubs".  (uh-oh)
I would assume this would mostly be Summers reservations. (His last tour was the Police reunion tour, one of the biggest of all-time.)
 
They really should have reconsidered and played this past summer at some of the popular clubs in the US (here in this area, the 9:30 club would have been good). I think they were hoping to get an opening slot with a current big band on a tour of arenas or outdoor sheds. Obviously, this didn't happen. 
They stopped tweeting and updating their website.. (not a good sign).. I thought they had a lot of potential... Maybe they will surprise and continue on...

    





                                              
                       



Those are the 3 essential albums from this year, to me.

some "Honorable Mentions" would include:

 Spandau Ballet, have returned with a documentary and a career spanning compilation that included 3 new songs produced by Trevor Horn (him again!). 
"This is the Love" is in the fine tradition of "Gold" and "Soul Boy" reminds me of a good ABC-type track (think "By Default By Design" meets "The Night you Murdered Love").



Also, Bryan Ferry released, to me, his best solo album in a long time. I hear elements of classic, late period Roxy and also his "Bete Noire" era. I would recommend, and if this were a "Top 4" list I would include him...





Hopefully 2015 will bring us some more good stuff

Cheers and Happy New Year.