Our Top 10 songs of 2013 countdown may not feature quite as many of the superstars who dominate traditional classic-rock radio as last year's list. But the past 12 months have seen a couple of very welcome comebacks from true legends, and some exciting new acts continued to elbow their way into the tightly guarded classic-rock hierarchy. Most importantly, these songs demonstrate that a number of the genre's most important artists seem to have found fresh inspiration and new ways to connect to the spirit and style that made their earlier music so great. With apologies to the Winery Dogs and Sammy Hagar, here's our Top 10 Songs of 2013.
Before Lemmy's health problems threw a big wrench into the band's touring plans, Motorhead hit the studio and delivered their 21st album. If you expected a bold stylistic departure you're a fool, but once again they've found a way to add just enough wrinkles to their well-established formula to make it all sound brand new again.
From: 'Made Up Mind'
Allman Brothers Band guitarist Derek Trucks and his wife, noted solo singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi, took a big leap forward from their group's already-impressive 2011 debut with this year's 'Made Up Mind' album. On this track, the 11-piece band fleshes out a gritty boogie guitar riff with horns, gospel piano, Tedecshi's dynamic voice and Trucks' equally expressive slide guitar.
Yes, it's little more than 'N.I.B.' Part Two, but let's be fair: Entire generations of heavy-metal bands have been making big bank by mining the territory Sabbath carved out on their first six albums. So maybe when the results are as ear-pleasing as they are here, we can forgive Ozzy, Tony and Geezer for doing a little repurposing of their own?
'Cut Me Some Slack'Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear
From: 'Sound City' Soundtrack
Dave Grohl further pads his "future classic rocker" status by pulling an extremely game Paul McCartney back into 'Helter Skelter' territory on this delightfully raw number -- which also served as a reunion of the surviving members of Nirvana.
From: 'High Hopes'
It looks like Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morrello did much more than just fill in for Steven Van Zandt on the E Street Band's recent tour dates. His squealing, hip-hop-inspired guitar playing seems to have lit a much-needed fire under Springsteen's ass on this rousing, horn-heavy song, and has us very interested to hear the rest of this album early next year.
From: 'Another Self Portrait (1969-1971)'
The 10th volume of Dylan's 'Bootleg Series' successfully redeems one of the singer's most reviled eras, stripping away excess instruments and syrupy arrangements to reveal the great songs often buried on the 'Self Portrait' and 'New Morning' albums. It also features some fantastic previously unreleased songs, like this delicate take on an 18th-century English folk song.
Several years ago, Elton John made the wise and welcome decision to stop chasing pop-chart success and return to the purer, piano-based sound of his early days. Here he proves his ability to deliver a lovely ballad without resorting to overblown Disney / Hallmark schmaltz is fully intact. So ... is it wrong that now we want him to revisit the louder, weirder 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' days next?
From: 'Clockwork Angels'
This intricate, impressively warm ballad from 2012's 'Clockwork Angels' was given new life this year as a Black Friday 10" single, which in our books (and by your demand) makes it eligible for this year's list. As you can see from the video below, it's also the perfect showcase for the real-life string section the trio brought along on its most recent tour.
From: 'New' (2013)
Mere months after showing what he could do with distorted guitars (see No. 7 on our list of the Best Songs of 2013), McCartney reminded everyone he's still the master of bouncy, infectious piano rockers here. As our October review pointed out, "It’s nostalgia, but it’s the right kind of nostalgia, gracefully finding cozy comfort in the familiar."
From: 'The Next Day' (2013)
It's not just that he managed to completely surprise the world by suddenly releasing his first new album in a decade, or the fact that it was his best in at least 30 years. What earns this swirling, spacey track the No. 1 spot on our Top Songs of 2013 list -- and 'The Next Day' the same honor on our Top Rock Albums of 2013 list -- is the sense of mystery Bowie effortlessly brought back to what has -- let's face it -- too often become a somewhat predictable genre.