Top Rock Albums of 2013
As far as classic-rock albums go, 2013 was all about familiar sounds by old favorites, with a few welcome returns and at least one totally surprising comeback that nobody knew was coming. We also got another posthumous Jimi Hendrix album — but at least it’s a good one. From metal marathoners to cozy piano ballads, here are the Top Rock Albums of 2013.
This tribute record/duets album, which pairs the former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman with modern-day stars like the Foo Fighters and Miranda Lambert, works best when it doesn’t try too hard (we’re looking at you, Kid Rock). Fogerty is a gracious host, letting his guests take center stage. But they pay it back, drawing mostly committed performances out of Fogerty.
‘Sound City: Real to Reel’
In the ‘Sound City’ documentary, Dave Grohl eulogized and celebrated a Los Angeles recording studio where classic albums by Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty and Neil Young were made. This soundtrack album features guests like Stevie Nicks and Paul McCartney joining Grohl through one last romp with some brand new songs. It’s part relic, part tribute and all heart.
‘People, Hell & Angels’
The 3,876th album to be released since Hendrix’s death compiles a dozen previously unreleased tracks that the guitarist was considering for the followup to ‘Electric Ladyland,’ his first post-Experience album. These bluesy, experimental tracks play like workbook sketches of songs that would take shape somewhere down the line.
Lemmy Kilmister wasn’t going to let a little thing like multiple health problems get in the way of a new Motorhead record. Maybe it’s his mortality finally creeping up on him, but ‘Aftershock’ is the band’s best album in decades, with Lemmy and the gang revisiting their blues roots as well as plowing forward with monstrous rhythms that would stop a frailer man’s heart mid-beat.
Gov’t Mule recorded their latest batch of blues-singed songs … then they went back and recorded them again, this time with friends like Steve Winwood, Dr. John and Elvis Costello. It’s a pretty hefty concept, but the band pulls it off with grace and style on the two-CD ‘Shout!’ We think Warren Haynes‘ big pipes do a grand job on the first disc, but his pals on the second one aren’t too shabby either.
Elton John strips down on ‘The Diving Board’ — it’s often just him and his piano on these reflective songs. And while his voice no longer soars to ‘Rocket Man’ heights, his weathered tones contain a lifetime of joy, love, hurt and lessons learned. It’s an autumnal work of introspection by an artist coming to terms with his final chapters.
‘Wise Up Ghost’
Elvis Costello teams up with the best live hip-hop group on the planet for an album that’s more ’70s funk than ’80s B-boy. It’s a groove record in which the various textures drive the music — from warm, climbing keyboards to an undercurrent of horns that sweeps in from time to time.
On his best album in years, Paul McCartney works with four producers who know when to leave well enough alone and when to spark the legend toward something, um, new. The album’s best songs expand on McCartney’s pop and rock pasts without ripping them off, revitalizing him in the process.
The 10th volume of Bob Dylan’s ‘Bootleg Series’ attempts to make sense of 1970’s messy ‘Self Portrait’ album with demos, alternate takes and outtakes. And it manages the impossible — turning one of the most critically savaged albums in history into a revealing work of subtlety and transformation. By stripping away the strings and other unnecessary overdubs, this double record uncovers purpose and reason.
When Bowie announced his first album in a decade on his 66th birthday, nobody was expecting a new record by him, let alone his best work in 30 years. ‘The Next Day’ spins off Bowie’s landmark Berlin Trilogy and slips into ‘Scary Monsters’ territory, resulting in an album that’s almost as wild, ambitious and fulfilling as those late-’70s classics.