Artist of the Year – 2012 Ultimate Classic Rock Awards
We finish off the 2012 Ultimate Classic Rock Awards with arguably the biggest category of the bunch -- Artist of the Year. It's been a spectacular year for music, and we're here to make one last case for each artist that's been nominated based on what they've done over the past 12 months.
Aerosmith: 'Music From Another Dimension' was the band's first original outing in just over a decade and in the interim there had been quite a bit of band drama, making the disc one of the year's most intriguing releases. Other highlights included a successful tour with support act Cheap Trick, plenty of radio play, and lots of high profile appearances on TV in support of the disc.
Bob Dylan: The genius of Dylan has only been enhanced with the success of his latter-day recordings, which made 'Tempest' deservedly one of the more anticipated recordings of 2012. In addition, Dylan spent 2012 re-opening a Port Chester, N.Y. theater, plotting out a second volume of his 'Chronicles' book, and touring with Mark Knopfler.
Heart: It was a busy year for Heart, as the Wilson sisters first reflected on their past with the 'Strange Euphoria' boxed set, then kept the momentum going with their new album, 'Fanatic,' later in the year. There was also the autobiography, 'Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock & Roll' which kept fans enthralled. Plus, it was a memorable year for Nancy Wilson, who married music executive Geoff Bywater in late April. The group ended the year with a nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Kiss: Kiss continued their career revival with the 'Monster' album. The band returned to radio over the summer with the single 'Hell or Hallelujah,' while they continued their legacy of one of rock's greatest live bands by joining Motley Crue for 'The Tour.' And Kiss wouldn't be Kiss without some great marketing. This year the band doled out Hello Kitty toilet paper, a giant 'Monster' book, and the Kiss Monster Mini-Golf Course. It wasn't all great for Kiss though, as 'Gene Simmons Family Jewels' was cancelled after this season's run.
Lynryrd Skynyrd: The band returned to the record bins in 2012 with 'Last of a Dyin' Breed,' a standout record for the group that featured the title track and the follow-up single 'Homegrown.' The group did raise a few eyebrows by denouncing what the Confederate Flag means in today's society and contemplating the lessened usage of it going forward, but they eventually cleared up the confusion. The group also played a high profile gig at the Republican National Convention.
Rush: Could this be the year? Rush joined Heart among the acts nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The timing would seem right as the band's 'Clockwork Angels' album kept fans thrilled throughout 2012. Add in the ever-present Volkswagen Passat commercial on television and it's hard to keep Rush out of your heads. Plus the band had one of the year's more successful tours.
Bruce Springsteen: The Boss was back with the powerful 'Wrecking Ball' album this year, and even though he was without the late Clarence Clemons onstage for the first time in ages, he made the most of his touring. Springsteen shared stages with Paul McCartney, The Roots, Eddie Vedder and Tom Morello during his 2012 run, and remained a hot ticket on the road. He also was a major player when it came to fundraisers in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and he spent time on the campaign trail helping out President Obama.
Van Halen: It was the moment that many Van Halen fans had been waiting for, and luckily it came early in the year. The group's 'A Different Kind of Truth' had been the band's first output in years, and came with primarily positive praise from the media. The group kept up a hectic tour schedule, though they had to shut things down twice. The first time was due to overextending themselves, and the second time came when Eddie Van Halen required emergency surgery that has kept them out of action for the latter half of 2012. But while the band was on the road, they were hard to beat.
Joe Walsh: Walsh resumed his solo work in 2012 much to the delight of his longtime fans, and the result was the critically hailed 'Analog Man' album. Walsh enjoyed a solid summer on the touring circuit, reunited the James Gang briefly and talked about a future with the band, and had a chance to play with Paul McCartney at the Grammy Awards.
Neil Young: Neil Young was one of the busiest rockers of 2012, releasing two albums with his longtime band Crazy Horse. The first was an Americana-based collection titled 'Americana,' while the second was a more upbeat rock album titled 'Psychedelic Pill.' Audiences also got to dig deeper into Young's life with the 'Journeys' DVD and his 'Waging Heavy Peace' book. Plus, the aging rocker kept it going on the road with appearances at the Global Festival and his annual Bridge School benefit being among the highlights.
ZZ Top: It took several years and a wealth of material, but ZZ Top finally returned in 2012 with their stellar collection, 'La Futura,' led by the genre-bending single 'I Gotsta Get Paid.' Later in the year, the group were announced as inaugural inductees into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame and also took home the Classic Rock Magazine "Living Legends" award. Singer-guitarist Billy Gibbons also recorded a cover of Fleetwood Mac's 'Oh Well' for a tribute compilation.
So there you have it … some great rockers doing some great things in 2012. Who gets your vote? You have until Jan. 15, 2013 to decide. The winners will be revealed Jan. 16, 2013, so get to voting now!