Well, 2012 has come to a close. Personally, I’m quite surprised by how things have come out this year. It looks like I got more music compared to last year. Like previous years, I will sum up each album I got in one paragraph. This will also include albums I got a bit later and did not review when they came out. The albums will also be split into two categories: new albums and archival/live albums.
Not much is expected from Ringo Starr when it comes to his studio albums. Ringo 2012 is an example of this. The album is average at best but it’s still a fun album to listen to. Ringo decided to re-record “Wings” and “Step Lightly”, both of which are nice renditions. My favorite song might be “Wonderful” but everything else is just alright.
Kisses on the Bottom
Rating: *** ½
It sounded great at first: two former Beatles would release new studio albums this year. In all honesty, Kisses on the Bottom is nice album but it isn’t the Paul McCartney we are used to. Still, Paul wanted to make an album like this for a long time: an American songbook. “My Valentine”, which is one of the two original songs on the album, is probably my favorite. Overall, it isn’t a bad album at all but I would want the next McCartney album to be a Paul McCartney album.
A Different Kind of Truth
Van Halen are back! I’m not kidding. They really are. A Different Kind of Truth is the band’s first album in 14 years as well as their first album with singer David Lee Roth since 1984. It really is a return to the old-school Van Halen sound. With songs like “Blood and Fire”, “She’s the Woman”, “Bullethead”, and “Stay Frosty”, you’ve got yourself a very Van Halen sounding album. Even with original bassist Michael Anthony absent, Van Halen still rocks!
Thick As A Brick 2
Rating: *** ½
With the 40th anniversary of Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick this year, Ian Anderson decided to the released a “sequel” of some sort but as a solo album. The sequel explores the possibilities of what might’ve happened to Gerald Bostock, the boy who wrote the controversial long poem all those years ago. While an interesting idea, I’m really not a fan of sequels to classic albums. Considering what it’s up against, Thick as a Brick 2 can be considered one of the best sequels to a concept album.
Much to the surprise of some people, Accept reunited in 2009 with former TT Quick singer Mark Tornillo taking over for original singer Udo Dirkschider. The 2010 reunion album, Blood of the Nations, won both critics and fans over. Almost two years later, Accept released the follow-up Stalingrad. In all honesty, I didn’t listen to Blood of the Nations until two years after it was released. Blood of the Nations is a great album and Stalingrad is a pretty worthy follow up. Songs such as the self-titled track, “Shadow Soldiers”, and “Flash to Bang Time” are all heavy duty material. Still, I prefer Blood of the Nations but Stalingrad is a very good album.
In their four decades of being together, Rush are not a stranger to doing the conceptual song. However, Rush haven’t ever released a full-blown conceptual album…until now. Clockwork Angels, the band’s 19th studio album, is a remarkable piece of work. I’m just surprised at how much thought went into this one album. The album follows the concept of the voyages of a man living in a steampunk world. Songs like “Headlong Flight” and “The Wreckers” are up there with Rush’s best songs. “Seven Cities of Gold” is another personal favorite of mine. Overall, Rush have really impressed me with Clockwork Angels.
FAVORITE ALBUM OF THE YEAR
I have to say that I do like a good surprise. Bob Dylan has done just this with his 35th studio album, Tempest. I wasn’t crazy about his last studio effort, Together Through Life. It was painful to listen to because of Dylan’s shot voice (and because of this, I didn’t bother getting his Christmas album released later that year in 2009). On Tempest, Dylan’s voice has not changed. So what makes this album better? I would have to say it’s the songs. “Duquesne Whistle” is a dark but somehow warm approach to Dylan’s music. The entire album is like a modern day version of Blood on the Tracks, in my opinion. I do enjoy the 14 minute long self-titled track, which tells the story of the sinking of the Titanic. “Roll on John” is a heartfelt tribute to John Lennon while “Pay in Blood” is personally my favorite song off the album. At 71 year old, Bob Dylan is still a pretty cool guy.
When I’m President
Ian Hunter returns with a simple little rock n roll album. Hunter’s solo career is a bit overlooked compared to his time in Mott the Hoople. When I’m President sees Hunter still at it and it’s just really good. There’s the boogey-fueled “Comfortable”, the brilliantly written self-titled track, and the hip shaker “What For”. I like this album.
Much to the surprise of many people, Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris decided to release a solo album. The result is one of the most confusing albums I’ve ever listened to. Sure, this isn’t Iron Maiden. This is a Steve Harris solo album and his first too. So that allows him to do whatever he wants since it isn’t Iron Maiden. The problem is Harris’ choice in lead singer, Richard Taylor. Taylor has a good voice but it isn’t ballsy enough to tackle the heavier tracks. It’s just a really strange album but still, it isn’t bad at all.
Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood
John Cale decided to release an album this year, his first in seven years. Cale is one of those musicians who will try anything at least once (and you can expect that from a former member of the Velvet Underground). Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood sees Cale experimenting with electronic music and even dabbling in Autotune a bit too. Compared to the other albums in Cale’s solo career, Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood does stick out. I really enjoy songs like “Face to the Sky” and the brilliantly written “December Rain”. Cale even works with Danger Mouse on “I Wanna Talk 2 U”. Overall, Shifty Adventures is a good album.
Four decades after their creation, Kiss have unleashed a monster of an album with Monster. The album heavy, hard-hitting rock n roll and it does tend to sound like their music back during the peak of their career. “Hell or Halleluiah”, “Freak”, “Long Way Down” and “The Devil Is Me” are all great. Even without the original line-up, Kiss still knows how to make a kick ass album.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse released two albums this year. The second of them, Psychedelic Pill, is a sort of “blast from the past” sounding album. Young’s voice hasn’t really aged and the band sound great. The album certainly lives up to the title: it really is psychedelic. “Driftin’ Back”, “Ramada Inn”, and “Walk Like a Giant” are very long jams from Young and Crazy Horse, which does sort of get boring after a while. The self-titled track is pretty good as well. Overall, Psychedelic Pill is worth checking out.
Music From Another Dimension
As their first album of original material in 11 years, Aerosmith had a lot to make up for: pop-oriented albums, Steven Tyler’s stint on American Idol, and the feud between Tyler and Joe Perry. Even with original producer Jack Douglas’ presence, Music From Another Dimension isn’t the comeback album fans were expecting. Sure there are some good rockers like “Lover Alot”, “Legendary Child”, and “Street Jesus”.
2012 Albums Ranked
1. Bob Dylan- Tempest
2. Van Halen- A Different Kind of Truth
3. Rush- Clockwork Angels
4. Kiss- Monster
5. John Cale- Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood
6. Ian Hunter- When I'm President
7. Neil Young- Psychedelic Pill
8. Accept- Stalingrad
9. Ian Anderson- Thick As A Brick 2
10. Paul McCartney- Kisses on the Bottom
11. Aerosmith- Music From Another Dimension
12. Steve Harris- British Lion
13. Ringo Starr- Ringo 2012
The Rolling Stones
Google Play have released five more albums in the Rolling Stones bootleg series. Those albums are:
Hampton Coliseum (Live, 1981)- ****
L.A. Friday (Live, 1975)- **** ½
Tokyo Dome (Live, 1990)- ****
Light the Fuse (Live, 2005)- ****
Roundhay Park (Live, 1982)- ****
All of these releases are very good and it’s a great way to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary. Of those five released this year, L.A. Friday is my favorite. All of the other ones are great as well. Still the best in the series was the one released last year, The Brussels Affair, but these albums follow it up just fine.
Bat Chain Puller
FAVORITE ARCHIVAL RELEASE OF THE YEAR
After years and years of being bootlegged, Captain Beefheart’s original 1976 Bat Chain Puller album has finally seen the light of day. Kept in the vaults by Frank Zappa’s estate, Gail Zappa was nice enough to release the long-awaited album. Listening to different renditions of songs such as “Bat Chain Puller”, “Harry Irene”, and “The Human Totem Pole” is just amazing. I really like the “new” songs too. My favorite song here is “Odd Jobs”, which is just a wonderful combination of spoken word poetry and rock music.
Live at the US Festival 1983
Quiet Riot’s performance at the US Festival in 1983 was finally released this year in a CD/DVD combo pack. The band plays an electrifying 40 minute set to a crowd of 500,000. The video has been brilliantly restored and remastered as well.
The Pearl Sessions
While this might be seen as a cash-grab of sorts, The Pearl Sessions is actually a pretty good release from the Janis Joplin estate. While this does come with the original Pearl album, the real treat is the second disc which has outtakes and all kinds of goodies. Listening to the second disc, the listener might feel as if they are in the studio with Joplin.
Early Takes- Volume 1
While really unnecessary, Early Takes is a surprisingly good release that ties in with the DVD release of the Martin Scorsese directed documentary on George Harrison. Hearing these songs stripped down is amazing.
Paul McCartney (and Linda McCartney)
Rating (original album): **** ½
Rating (bonus disc): ****
The McCartney Archive Collection continues with the reissue of the 1971 classic Ram. The original album sounds wonderful and the remastering is really top notch. The bonus disc is an improvement over some of the other bonus discs that have come with the three previous entries in the collection as we get song brand new songs. My personal favorite: “A Love For You”.
Much to the surprise of some people, Joey Ramone did have enough material recorded to make another posthumous solo album. Ramone, who died in 2001, had been working on his first solo album Don’t Worry About Me at the time of his death. That album would be released in 2002. So a decade has passed and it turns out Ramone had more material recorded. I would give this a low four-star rating but the material on here isn’t bad at all. “Rock N Roll Is the Answer” is probably the strongest cut on here. The other tracks are pretty good.
Rating: **** or **** ½
FAVORITE LIVE RELEASE OF THE YEAR
Nearly five years later, Led Zeppelin have finally released their reunion concert from 2007 at London’s O2 Arena. Even after being apart for so long, the band are still able to play these classic songs. At times, the band does sound a bit sluggish but as the concert progresses the band gets better. Even at his age, Robert Plant can still sing the material. The surviving members (Plant, Page, and Jones) are also with Jason Bonham, who takes the place of his late father for this one-off performance.
Bob Weston- guitarist for Fleetwood Mac
Mark Reale- guitarist for and founding member of Riot
Michael Kramer- bassist for the MC5
Davy Jones- singer for the Monkees
Ronnie Montrose- guitarist for Montrose, Edgar Winter Group, Gamma
Levon Helm- drummer for the Band
Robin Gibb- member of the Bee Gees
Bob Welch- guitarist for Fleetwood Mac
Jon Lord- original keyboardist for Deep Purple
Ed Cassidy- drummer for Spirit