There comes a point in most artists’ careers where they just don’t care about making records anymore. Or at least they don’t care about making records that their fans want to hear. They tour sporadically, playing the old songs to pay the bills. And they release new albums every five years or so because they feel it’s something they should do. Eric Clapton got to this point years ago, but on his 21st solo album, ‘Old Sock,’ he settles into not caring like it’s his full-time job these days.
Thrash metal icons Anthrax ushered in 2013 with the typical blend of accomplishments (a well-deserved Grammy nomination) and setbacks (yet another departing band member) that, of late, have defined their career; but they’ve also gone about the business of surviving, performing and recording, as indicated by the release of an eight-song EP named 'Anthem' on March 19.
Nobody really expected anything from David Bowie at this point, let alone his best album in 30 years. After virtually disappearing following the release and aborted tour in support of 2003’s underwhelming ‘Reality,’ even the rock ‘n’ roll changeling’s biggest fans figured he was finished. He was rarely seen in public, and there certainly were no rumors swirling about a new record or anything like that.
Before the Allman Brothers Band hit it big, guitarist Duane Allman had played with Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Boz Scaggs and others. After their breakthrough live album ‘At Fillmore East,’ he continued working as a busy session musician, clocking gigs with Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, Derek & the Dominos and Laura Nyro. Through it all he established himself as one of rock’s great instrumentalists; a master axman with a show-stopping signature style who’d step out of the spotlight and let others shine.
The muted tones, occasionally punched by brass or hi-hat, on Boz Scaggs’ ‘Memphis’ should sound familiar to R&B fans. They’re the same warm, subtle sounds found on soul recordings made by Al Green and other artists at Memphis’ Royal Studio in the 1970s. Green’s producer, Willie Mitchell, drew a casual, inviting timbre from the room that gave Green’s classic songs their distinctive hue. Scaggs, recording at Royal Studio with producer Steve Jordan, conjures a similar sound on ‘Memphis.’
Breakup albums don’t get much better than ‘Rumours,’ Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 blockbuster that was recorded as band members went through various stages of relationship adjustment. When they made their breakthrough self-titled album in 1975, Fleetwood Mac included two couples, one married; by the time ‘Rumours’ was released, they were broken up. Listen to the record, and you’ll get an idea what happened.
When you get right down to it, AC/DC might be the most reliable band on the planet. In 40 years, they never once challenged fans with anything other than straight-up, uncomplicated rock ‘n’ roll played with fuss-free intensity. They never made a concept album. They never dabbled in pop, R&B, hip-hop or electronic music. And they never swerved from their playbook of barroom-meets-arena swagger dosed with a shot of heavy blues.