Bob Dylan, both with and without his legendary collaborators the Band, roared to the top of Something Else! Reviews’ reader poll for September 2012 — with entries at both Nos. 1 and 2.
Our preview of Tempest, his soaring new original album, plus an intriguing new documentary on his work with Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson — famously known as the Band — from the mid-1960s through the late-1970s.
Readers flocked to our preview of Mark Knopfler’s rootsy double album Privateering, which still doesn’t have a U.S. distributor. Also, our first-anywhere look into Neil Young’s stirring new album Psychedelic Pill, his second in less than a year with those garage-rocking rebels Crazy Horse, quickly surged into the No. 4 spot, though it’d been posted for less than a week.
Prog rock fans flocked to the new album by Marillion and the release of unearthed multi-disc date from Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe — this time, with do-anything bassist Tony Levin present.
Jeff Lynne, the former leader of the Electric Light Orchestra, returns in October with two albums, and our sneak peek into an advance take on the old Etta James favorite “At Last” made last month’s Top 10.
Finally, two entries in our on-going Sucks Series, devoted to moments when good bands do some very questionable musical things, also made our readers’ poll for September — the ageless edition devoted to the Beatles, which has remained in our Top 10 since its publication late last year; as well as a list devoted to the Beach Boys.
Let’s get to them, our reader picks for September 2012 based on page views. Click through the titles for more …
GIMME FIVE: SONGS WHERE THE BEACH BOYS, WELL, SUCKED: Beginning with the band’s foundering efforts to complete SMiLE in the late 1960s, Wilson and Co. have (let’s face it) raised expectations almost as many times as they have dashed our hopes — sometimes with truly catastrophic aftermaths. From rap songs to creepy come ons from Mike Love, from disco mixes to songs that were Seinfeldian in their commitment to being about absolutely nothing, the Beach Boys have — again, let’s face it — often charted a roadmap to disappointment. Here are five of our least favorite moments along the way. — Nick DeRiso
[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Who would have guessed, after decades of awful public squabbling, that the battling Beach Boys would return at all — must less in perfect harmony?]
GIMME FIVE: SONGS WHERE THE BEATLES, WELL, SUCKED: Major discovery: Beatles songs themed on the word “long” are bad karma — as our heavily debated list includes both the perfectly titled “Long, Long, Long” and treacly “Long and Winding Road.” We called the latter, in a point of deep contention for many Beatles fans, “this syrupy ballad.” Even at three-and-a-half minutes, it seemed to be overly long and, yes, winding. Well, to us, anyway. (Originally posted on December 27, 2011, but still going strong with our readers.) — S. Victor Aaron and Nick DeRiso
[BEYOND THE BEATLES’ HITS: Think you know the Fab Four? Kit O’Toole’s ‘Deep Beatles’ series takes you into some undiscovered corners of the group’s ageless musical legacy.]
MARILLION – SOUNDS THAT CAN’T BE MADE (2012): My only complaint about this dramatic return to form is the sequencing of “Gaza” — a career-making triumph, perhaps misplaced so early in this song cycle. A 17-minute album-opening examination of the dangers of nationalism, the often-shocking aftermath, and the small things we grab for in order to make sense of the emotional dissonance surrounding war, “Gaza” pulls no punches, musically — or lyrically. Perhaps inevitably, the remaining album feels like a bit of a let down, at least on initial listenings. Keep going, though. All of these sounds are worth hearing. — Nick DeRiso
[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Marillion’s 2004 triumph ‘Marbles’ was a modern-rock concept album with few of the pretentions of the prog-rock that is typically associated with the concept album.]
ONE TRACK MIND: JEFF LYNNE, “AT LAST” (2012): At last! Jeff Lynne, having most recently issued a solo album in 1990 with Armchair Theatre, will be returning with two new studio recordings. But … “At Last”? The Etta James number? At first, I couldn’t get past the first two words on this advance track from Lynne’s Long Wave, the two words that James so completely owns — the two words that she has come to personify. I heard Lynne sing “at last,” and I turned it off. Careful readers will remember my enthusiasm in this space for “Point of No Return” — a new song on a set of ELO remakes that will be released in tandem with Long Wave. But this is different. — Nick DeRiso
[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Jeff Lynne is offering previews of all 12 songs from his upcoming album of Electric Light Orchestra solo remakes at elo.biz. Click here to check them out!]
DEEP BEATLES: EVERYBODY’S GOT SOMETHING TO HIDE EXCEPT FOR ME AND MY MONKEY (1968): Regardless of various opinions on the album’s consistency and overall quality, most listeners agree that The Beatles contains some deeply spiritual and self-reflective moments, and at times rocks hard. A perfect example of the playful and sometimes rougher sound of some tracks is “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey.” Its meaning remains vague — does “monkey” refer to drug addiction, or a term used by their spiritual guru the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi? No matter the interpretation, the track soars with John Lennon’s screaming vocals and piercing lead guitar as well as McCartney’s furious bass playing. — Kit O’Toole
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ANDERSON BRUFORD WAKEMAN HOWE – LIVE AT THE NEC, OCTOBER 24, 1989 (2012): The song list largely mimics the original 1993 concert film An Evening of Yes Music Plus, beginning with a series of solo features. Also repeated are ABWH renditions of legacy Yes items like “And You and I,” “Close to the Edge” (interesting, of course, because Bill Bruford left before the tour in support of that album commenced) and “Roundabout”; as well as the tracks from ABWH’s underrated self-titled 1989 release. New is their explosive take on “I’ve Seen All Good People” on the first disc, and an intriguing redo of “Starship Trooper” on the second disc — as well as the presence of regular bassist Tony Levin, who was absent from the earlier An Evening. — Nick DeRiso
[ONE TRACK MIND:]
NEIL YOUNG, WITH CRAZY HORSE – PSYCHEDELIC PILL (2012): He opens with “Driftin’ Back,” a thunderous, nearly half-hour track that equals and, in some cases, surpasses so many of the songs that seek to contextualize the 1960s. I’m not sure anyone has better illustrated the impotent fury that followed for those who worked so hard toward change, only to see it all come to such a thudding conclusion. The album might have ended right there, if Psychedelic Pill — due October 29, 2012, from Reprise Records — were sequenced differently, if it only sought to look back. Instead, Crazy Horse is then granted a chance to do what it does best — to completely rock out, and thus recall every one of its earlier, floor board-rearranging triumphs with Young. In that way, they end up reconstructing the soaring promise, and the boundless joy, of the decade Young started out eulogizing here.
[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Nils Lofgren stops by for an emotional talk about his time with Neil Young, Crazy Horse and Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.]
MARK KNOPFLER – PRIVATEERING (2012): Knopfler works with a loose theme here, that of living by your wits on the high seas, but the broader messages found on Privateering are sure to resonate with anyone who’s faced down life’s mighty struggles. It’s been three years since the former Dire Straits frontman issued Get Lucky, and he clearly has been busy: This album includes 20 new original songs — to go with eight additional cuts on an expanded super deluxe edition. I’m struck not just by the depth of music, though, but also by the breadth of sounds on this, Knopfler’s seventh solo album.
[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: In honor of Bob Dylan’s birthday last year, Something Else! Reviews presented 7 for 70 — our list of top recordings from across the then-70-year-old’s lengthy career.]
BOB DYLAN – TEMPEST (2012): For all of the album’s off-handed menace, for its many betrayals, for all of its fiery condemnations, Tempest offers commiserate moments of community, of gritty determination, of desire, of grace. Nobody ever gets saved, or even forgiven, as far as I can tell, But there are tender mercies, things worth grabbing onto, fleeting pleasures for those who’ve made it this far. Dylan — occupying simultaneously the role of leathered curmudgeon who’s seen it all, and tender-eyed romantic baring his chest — once more walks the fine line of contradiction, a place he has called home for so long that it ought to be re-christened in his honor. And, wouldn’t you know it? Even 50 years in, he still never loses his balance.
[REMEMBERING LEVON HELM: We celebrate the late Levon Helm’s stirring legacy both as a solo artist and as the loamy voiced, rail-jumping rhythmic center point of the Band.]
BOB DYLAN AND THE BAND – DOWN IN THE FLOOD (2012): A film that goes in-depth on one of rock’s most intriguing musical intersections, all of it over roughly a single decade beginning in 1966. In the end, Dylan had an incalculable impact on the Band: His lyrical mysteries, his sharply intuited narratives, permeated their earlier influences, creating an as-yet-unheard synthesis. The Band’s debut, utterly distinct, timeless and yet new, was different in every way from the ornate, polished hits of the day. At the same time, it was different than Dylan too, more vulnerable, more straight forward. As Dylan himself retreated further into the safety of country music into the late 1960s, the Band emerged with some of the guttiest, most mythically complex, most honest music of the decade. — Nick DeRiso
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