Top 10 Albums of 2011
The top albums of 2011 find a diverse group of classic rockers seeking to expand their already impressive resumes by making new music. It's a risky proposition, since the results are sure to be compared to their most popular albums, but we think you'll find a strong collection of legacy-enhancing records on our Top Albums of 2011 list:
'Eclipse' may take hardcore Journey fans a bit longer to warm up to than some of their classic '80s albums, but judged on it's own merits it succeeds quite nicely. 'Eclipse' is heavy on the Neal Schon side of the scope, with lots of guitars and less of the pop-influenced sound that marked the band's ultra-successful era. An eclipse is described as the total or partial obscuring of one celestial body by another, and it seems that once Journey found the sound that would help them move on from their past, they titled their art accordingly.
'Panic Of Girls'
Thirty-plus years later, and Blondie can still pack 'em in on a dance floor. 'Panic Of Girls' isn't necessarily a dance record but it certainly lends itself to a club-like groove. It's polished, full of hooks and includes at least a half-a-dozen potential singles. 'Girls' is also fun and melodic. There's even a song sung in French and a single ('Mother') that will make any DJ look like a superstar. With a few covers and doses of pop, rock, and even punk, the actual sound of this release is a little hard to peg. Still, in a world where attention disorders are rampant, this inconsistency actually works to the band's advantage.
'Rave On Buddy Holly'
Every few years a really excellent tribute record is released, and clearly 'Rave On Buddy Holly' has kicked off this decade with a homage worth shouting about. Fifty-some years after Holly's death his songs are still of great importance, as you can see by the list of artists who turn up to give thanks. Paul McCartney, Lou Reed and Patti Smith are just a few of the classic rockers who pay their respects. Honestly, this isn't some obligatory sympathy pick, this tribute is very enjoyable from beginning to end.
The title 'The Great Escape Artist' is all about escaping the past, and even though Perry Farrell seems proud of his musical travels to date, he loves his future far more. This may explain why the band chose to team up with David Sitek from alt-rockers TV On The Radio. The resulting combination mixes their old sound with fresh ideas that obviously come from Sitek. Navarro's heavy guitar riffs are largely traded in for more atmospheric work and a surprising amount of keyboards. But don't worry, Jane's epic songwriting style and their wonderful rhythm section work remains intact, and Farrell is in fine, charismatic form throughout.
The band's 15th and last studio album will be remembered by the majority of fans as a good record to go out on. Even the most fervent loyalists would admit that over the past few years R.E.M. have struggled to reclaim the magic that they had in the early part of their career. Here, they do so in fine style, touching on musical ground from throughout their history. In hindsight, the haunting last track 'Blue' comes off like a premonition, as if they knew this was goodbye.
Even with newcomer Benoit David taking over for longtime frontman Jon Anderson, Yes delivered a record that harkened back to their classic sound, earning praise for re-embracing the long-form format with tracks such as the 24-minute long title suite. Fans of both the ’80s and “classic” eras of Yes should enjoy this album equally. If you can leave your vocal prejudice at the door, you’ll find that David is a worthy addition to the group.
Now, we were as excited to hear the new Cars record as anyone, but the truth is, our feelings were mixed with a bit of skepticism. Surprise! It's uncertain what sort of mojo Rick Ocasik managed to bottle up for decades, but 'Move Like This' sounds dated in the most brilliant way possible. Pop-synth riffs drive the songs straight back to the '80s. The May 2011 timing of the record's release was also well suited -- there's something about the Cars that makes one want to open the sun roof and "let the good times roll."
The original witchy blonde songstress rates high on our top albums list this year, delivering the kind of quality record we've come to expect from her. Stevie's voice is still superb and though she's not breaking any new ground here, she's dancing all over a foundation that she's worked incredibly hard to maintain. The songs are strong, full of haunting imagery and have enough "ooooohs" to keep the sisters in leather and lace bowing down to the moon. Producer Dave Stewart is successful at keeping Nicks on track as she hammers out another worthy record for the wild at heart.
Preferring to go on the merit of their songs alone, Chickenfoot continue to prove that they're in it for the right reasons. When they initially hooked up it was just about four friends hanging out, playing music together. Now, presto, they're a full fledged band with powerful songs and riveting live shows that are the talk of the town. There are arena-rattling riff-rockers throughout 'III,' of course, but also a surprising amount of songwriting growth and diversity. Van Halen have their work cut out for them if they're looking to top this with their own new record next year.
Classic rock's original villain Alice Cooper returned this year with a sequel to his 1975 concept record 'Welcome To My Nightmare' and hands down, it earns the No. 1 spot on our top albums list. Thirty-five years have passed and Cooper still has plenty of nightmares, stinging thoughts on modern culture, and loads of questions as to who's under the bed or what's in the closet. Strong connections to themes that showed up on the original recording ('Steven,' 'The Awakening') are everywhere in the form of familiar piano parts and lyrics. This recurring connection enables old fans the luxury of flashing back while giving new fans an undeniable lust to seek out the original. There's also a supremely impressive amount of new ground broken on this record. Cooper tries on a variety of new and old hats and whaddya know? They all fit great.