Best of November 2012: Readers pick Garth Hudson, Monkees, King Crimson, Beatles, Aerosmith

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A rare talk with co-founding Band multi-instrumentalist Garth Hudson, presented in two parts over the course of November, shot to the top of our November 2012 readers poll, with a live report on the Monkees’ stop in Chicago finishing at No. 2.

There was also a spirited debate on the merits of Aerosmith’s long-awaited new studio offering, Music from Another Dimension, while we thrilled to new projects from Black Country Communion and Blackmore’s Night.

Once again, the Beatles earn multiple places in our monthly voting, first with an installment of Deep Beatles in which Kit O’Toole flips the 1970 “Long and Winding Road” single to examine the George Harrison B-side “For You Blue.”

Closer to the top of the polls, which are based on page views, the Beatles-themed edition of our Sucks Series continues its nearly year-long run in the monthly hit parade. And, what do you know? “The Long and Winding Road” is at the center of that conversation, as well.

A long-awaited official release of 2007’s reunion of the remaining members of Led Zeppelin, and a 40th anniversary reissue of King Crimson’s Lark’s Tongues in Aspic were consistent vote-getters in November. Respected sideman Will Galison also joined us for a three-part talk about his experience recently working on the new studio effort from Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen.

Here are the final totals; click through the story titles for more …

No. 10

DEEP BEATLES: “FOR YOU BLUE” (1970): Unlike many bands, the Beatles’ B-sides were often just as good, if not better, than the A-side single. Case in point: “For You Blue,” the B-side to the hit single “The Long and Winding Road.” While “Long and Winding” certainly contained great emotion, “For You Blue” represents pure George Harrison, a man who enjoyed blues and country just as much as rock. “For You Blue” contains what would become a trademark of Harrison’s songs: slide guitar. Therefore, many listeners assume that Harrison plays lead throughout the track. Surprisingly, it was John Lennon who performed the solos on lap steel guitar, using a shotgun shell as a slide. Harrison can be heard encouraging Lennon in the endeavor, yelling “Go, Johnny, go!” and “Elmore James’ got nothing on this baby,” a reference to another slide guitar master. — Kit O’Toole

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: 2003’s terrific ‘Let It Be … Naked’ reissue underscored how the album worked as an artistic bridge from the Beatles’ tousled innocence to their later individual personas.]

No. 9

LED ZEPPELIN – CELEBRATION DAY (2012): Were it any other band, it would be easy to scoff at the prospect — three old dudes and a replacement for the now-apparently requisite missing dude, but this is Led Zeppelin and nothing about Led Zeppelin has ever been remotely “requisite.” The band has wisely held off properly reuniting until it truly felt like a celebration to the band and not just the fans, and that’s exactly what makes Celebration Day so exhilarating. They may not sound so young anymore, so a few songs are taken at slower paces than they used to be, and Robert Plant’s voice is noticeably less capable than it was, and he phrases some songs in new ways to keep from needing to hit high notes, such as on “Black Dog” and “Whole Lotta Love,” but there’s a palpable sense of joy running through the entire set. — Tom Johnson

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Return with us now to ‘Houses of the Holy,’ the often-overlooked successor to ‘Led Zeppelin IV.’ Even all these years later, though, we still can’t decide where it ranks.]

No. 8

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.]

No. 7

BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION – AFTERGLOW (2012): The pity of it, really, is how perfectly named this album is. See Afterglow, a thunderous delight, arrives just as Black Country Communion appears to be falling apart. It’s a shame. A shame because there aren’t enough bands playing this kind of straight-ahead, no-bullshit rock anymore. It’s a record that doesn’t bother speaking to your head — only your heart. Or maybe some place lower. A shame because, for guys like drummer Jason Bonham (always, it seems, toiling in the lengthy shadows of his famous father) and vocalist/bassist Glenn Hughes (who’s been in legendary bands, but always as a late add-on), Black Country Communion seemed to be a ticket-punching pathway to establishing their own legacies — separate from anything that came before. — Nick DeRiso

[STEELY DAY SUNDAY: Can’t get enough Steely Dan? Join S. Victor Aaron has he celebrates the band’s musical legacy — song by memorable song — in our weekly Steely Dan Sunday feature.]

No. 6

STEELY DAN SUNDAY, CONFESSIONS OF A SIDE MAN: RECORDING ON DONALD FAGEN’S ‘SUNKEN CONDOS,’ PART 1: Over three Sundays, beginning with this installment, we took a break from the Steely Dan-related song-a-week format and cede the floor to Will Galison. A highly accomplished chromatic harmonica player as well as a guitarist and singer-songwriter, Galison appears on two tracks of Donald Fagen’s new Sunken Condos album. He went on to place you, dear reader, inside the studio — reliving the entire experience of this unexpected encounter with Fagen, beginning with an e-mail from co-producer Michael Leonhart requesting Galison’s services through to finally hearing his finished work nearly a year and a half later.

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No. 5

BLACKMORE’S NIGHT – A KNIGHT IN YORK (2012): A Knight in York, a live album/DVD, finds Candace Night singing in fine form: she has a good voice, not designed for vocal gymnastics, but for effective storytelling through song. She fronts the proceedings like she was born to it, leaving Blackmore to sit back and make his contributions through his masterful acoustic guitar playing. The accompanying flutes, hand percussion, and various acoustic instruments provide the background and color where the two main performers can show off their talents. They play a mixed selection of songs from most of their albums, some going back nearly a decade or so and some going back only a couple of years. — JC Mosquito

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Deep Purple alum Ritchie Blackmore gives a hilarious preview of his upcoming new studio album, saying ‘it’s the same old crap.’]

No. 4

AEROSMITH – MUSIC FROM ANOTHER DIMENSION! (2012): I’m a huge fan, but the truth is Another Dimension kinda sucks. I was hoping for the revitalized Aerosmith. Jack Douglas, producer of the band’s best records, was back on board. They’d had 11 years to write it. I’d hoped the swagger would be back. At times there are flashes of it, but more often than not, it sounds like the same overproduced commercial claptrap they’ve been trotting out for a long, long time. — Fred Phillips

[SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: Before ‘Another Dimension’ arrived, we dug into some lesser-known deep cuts from Aerosmith, most of which (but not all!) come from their creative peak in the 1970s.]

No. 3

KING CRIMSON – LARK’S TONGUES IN ASPIC [40th Anniversary Edition] (1973; 2012 reissue): While the set is packed with goodies, the gem here, of course, is Steven Wilson’s new mix. For an album four decades old, it sounds extremely fresh. Not updated, mind you – there’s no doubt this music’s vintage. It sounds bright and clean in a way that the original mix simply never could have. Wilson followed the basic template set out by the band’s self-production forty years ago, but made slight variations to give everything a bit more space to breathe. Some tracks you won’t notice it as much — “Book Of Saturday” sounds only slightly improved – but others are revelatory, such as “Easy Money,” where percussionist Jamie Muir’s contributions become much more noticeable in their own right. Everything benefits from Wilson’s touch, however. This is, without a doubt, the best this music has, or will, ever sound on CD. — Tom Johnson

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: John Wetton takes us into his legendary collaborations with Robert Fripp in the early 1970s-edition of King Crimson, as well as his time with UK and Asia.]

No. 2

SHOWS I’LL NEVER FORGET: THE MONKEES, NOVEMBER 16, 2012: Many so-called nostalgia acts figure all the crowd wants is to hear the big hits. However, longtime fans were richly rewarded when The Monkees hit the stage and treated the audience to deep album tracks as well as the hits. In other words, fans of the Head movie were in their glory, as the now-trio — Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork — performed a healthy dose of the soundtrack. Along the way, the three saluted other Monkee member Davy Jones, who passed away in February 2012. Through videoclips and music, Jones was present in spirit. By the time it was over, the Monkees had accomplished their goal: celebrating their loyal fans and demonstrating that they have all evolved into top-notch performers. At the same time, they respectfully honored their departed bandmate. While the Monkees celebrated their past, they also acknowledged how far they have come as musicians. — Kit O’Toole

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: A new film explores one of rock’s most interesting intersections — the nearly decade-long collaboration between Bob Dylan and the Band.]

No. 1

SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: GARTH HUDSON, CO-FOUNDING MEMBER OF THE BAND: November’s “Songs of the Band” event at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pennsylvania didn’t just pay tribute to Rick Danko, Levon Helm and Richard Manuel. It featured in multi-instrumentalist Garth Hudson one of just two surviving members of the original Band lineup, performing the songs that bolstered their well-deserved legend. Hudson took time out with us to remember each of the lost voices of his old group — passing along personal anecdotes that only a life-long friend could share. He also discussed another recent Band-related project: A Canadian Celebration of the Band, which featured Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, the Cowboy Junkies, the Sadies and others. (Our follow up talk with Hudson actually finished third for the month of November as well, so we consolidated the two entries here.) — Nick DeRiso

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