Best of January 2013: Readers pick Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Steven Wilson, Richard Thompson, Depeche Mode

Four of this month’s reader-selected Top 10 items on Something Else! Reviews deal with Beatle-y things: Specifically, the times they whiffed as a group and as solo artists — oh, and just to burnish our Fab-loving credentials again, some favorite Ringo Starr deep cuts.

January 2013’s best-read original content award went to a reexamination of Bob Dylan’s emotionally resonate 1975 release Blood on the Tracks, however.

A fierce argument over the Pogues’ legacy pushed the review of their new greatest-hits package into the Top 5, as well.

Elsewhere, you flocked to an early sneak peek at Steven Wilson’s stunning new solo album, and sat down for a rare in-depth talk with Anthony Phillips, Genesis’ co-founding guitarist.

We previewed the new song from Depeche Mode, their first original content since 2009, and grooved like hell to the crunchy new recording from Richard Thompson.

Still, the interest in all things Beatles continue to shock and amaze. After all, your No. 4 item on this list — the Fabs’ initial entry in our often-reviled Sucks Series — was published some 13 months ago, and it has remained in our Top 10 ever since.

Sequels devoted to more Beatles misfires as well as music from after their 1970 breakup followed, and those too have made our monthly list, which is based on total page views …

No. 10: ONE TRACK MIND: DEPECHE MODE, “HEAVEN” (2013): Dimly foreboding, funereal in the most intriguing of ways, Depeche Mode’s new single “Heaven” moves with a delicious deliberateness. It’s all atmosphere, all feel, completely enveloping. And completely in keeping with some of their most celebrated work — from its pulsing melody, to those weird industrial sounds to Martin Gore’s majestically dark lyrics, as conveyed by that impossibly fragile nihilist Dave Gahan. Think “The Things You Said,” from 1987’s Music for the Masses, but with more of the well-placed guitar touches that propelled 1993’s Songs of Faith and Devotion.Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: The last thing we thought we wanted, back in 2003, was a pair of solo albums from Depeche Mode's David Gahan and Martin Gore. Turns out, we were wrong.]

No. 9: RICHARD THOMPSON – ELECTRIC (2013) Electric, produced by Buddy Miller and due February 5, 2013 via New West Records, makes good on the promise of 2010’s Dream Attic — which found Thompson recording stripped-down new originals in a live setting. The guitarist appears here, in a series of utterly concise Nashville sessions, with only Taras Prodaniuk (Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams) on bass and Michael Jerome (John Cale, Better Than Ezra) on drums. Then, perhaps as expected with a title like Electric, he simply plugs in and speaks his mind — about love (or more particularly, love lost), politics, the work week’s grind. — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Alterno-guitar god Bob Mould discusses his once-unrecognized musical debt to Richard Thompson, saying 'it was sort of embarrassing.']

No. 8: GIMME FIVE: SOLO BEATLES RECORDS THAT, WELL, SUCKED: For all of the promise that greeted their time apart — we’ll get four Beatles albums a year now! — the reality was far different as Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison embarked on solo careers. You’ll notice that fewer Lennon recordings appear on our list than do those from McCartney or Harrison, because it seems even his failures were more interesting than theirs. You also might expect most of our entries to have come from the 1980s, a largely bereft period for many of their generation, but our list is actually evenly divided between that decade and the 1970s. — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Alan White joined us to talk about the genesis of the Plastic Ono Band, and his contributions to early John Lennon recordings like "Instant Karma."]

No. 7: SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: GENESIS CO-FOUNDER ANTHONY PHILLIPS: Anthony Phillips has taken a series of interesting paths since leaving Genesis after the legendary prog-rock group’s eclectic first two albums. The co-founding guitarist was a guiding force, and one of the principal composers along with Mike Rutherford, during Genesis’ earliest era. But Phillips had begun suffering from a crippling bout of stage fright. He quit the business, and didn’t re-emerge until 1977. Since, Phillips has been on a creative tear, producing 26 more solo studio efforts — including the multi-part Private Parts and Pieces series, which saw an 11th edition issued last December. — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett talks about collaborating with Chris Squire, the deep impact of Bach and a lasting passion for his old band.]

No. 6: STEVEN WILSON – THE RAVEN THAT REFUSED TO SING [AND OTHER STORIES] (2013): Ambitious, connective and simply unforgettable, this new project is held together by Wilson’s passion for prog’s storied past. The Raven, even has it stuns and delights, unfolds like a road map through his influences. Across a six-song suite, Wilson references, by turns, the sweeping narratives of Yes’ signature projects (“The Watchmaker”), the spacey nihilism of Pink Floyd in all of its pre-Wall splendor (“Drive Home”), the boisterous musculature of classic Billy Cobham and Weather Report (“Luminol”), the nervy musical intellect of King Crimson (“The Holy Drinker”), and the literary aspirations of the Alan Parsons Project (on his title track). Yet, The Raven never sounds second-hand or pasted together. — Nick DeRiso

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No. 5: GIMME FIVE: SONGS WHERE THE BEATLES, WELL, SUCKED (AGAIN!): We called “All You Need Is Love” a pasted-together goof, “The Long and Winding Road” a devastatingly maudlin bore. And you ripped us to shreds. Now, we’re back for more. Actually, we could hardly wait to rejoin the fray. After all, the original Beatles entry from our hotly debated Sucks Series remains the best-read item in our site’s history. The most commented upon, too. So, let’s press on with Volume II: What we found was music we couldn’t stand from several of the Beatles most celebrated albums, including 1965?s Rubber Soul, 1967?s Sgt. Pepper and The White Album — in fact, there are two tracks from that overstuffed 1968 double album. — S. Victor Aaron, Nick DeRiso, J.C. Mosquito and Kit O’Toole

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: What you’re struck by, as Paul McCartney cuts a quietly emotional figure on the new concert standards set 'Live Kisses' is how un-dashing he is, how un-Sinatra. It's perfect.]

No. 4: 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. 3: THE POGUES – VERY BEST OF (2013): Confounding expectation, they played softly as often as they played loudly, with heart prominently on their sleeve. This compilation underscores just how successfully the Pogues combined these seemingly incongruent styles. Over the course of 18 well-selected tracks, the Pogues’ blend traditional jigs, serrated DiY attitude and aching balladry with a still-staggering ease. Only a band this complex could produce a single-disc set that’s so compulsive listenable. You’re just left wondering why the Pogues were never more famous. — Nick DeRiso

[BREAKING NEWS: Denny Seiwell told us this week that his former Wings bandmate Henry McCullough is unlikely to make a meaningful recovery from a December heart attack.]

No. 2: DEEP CUTS: FORGOTTEN SOLO GEMS FROM THE BEATLES’ RINGO STARR: Affably difficult to dislike, yet seldom transcendent as a solo artist, Ringo Starr would become the only ex-Beatle who failed to earn an individual chart-topper in his native Britain. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t hidden moments to enjoy. In fact, though the bulk of his albums away from the other Fabs have been roundly ignored, there remain a number of unjustly forgotten gems. (Leaving aside, of course a few obvious misfires that deserve their comfy spot in the musical dust bin: Ringo the 4th, we’re looking at you.) Still, where to begin? Leave it to your pals at Something Else!, who have happily (well, except for Ringo the 4th) sorted through the chaff. — Nick DeRiso

[SHOWS I'LL NEVER FORGET: On this singularly magical night, Bob Dylan once again proved he was no fan of history. And that's why I've been a fan of his for so long.]

No. 1: ON SECOND THOUGHT: BOB DYLAN – BLOOD ON THE TRACKS (1975): The themes of separation on this, Bob Dylan’s heartbroken, endlessly revealing mid-1970s triumph, still pack an emotional jolt — whether you’ve suffered through a divorce or not. There’s nothing that specific, or that straight forward, about its conception. For anyone who has ever given something up, then warred with himself about whether he was glad that it was gone or he was in fact desperately, hopelessly, infinitely lost without it, Blood on the Tracks remains both sounding board and roadmap. In many ways, though, I’m still untangling its history, and even its genesis. Chief among the mysteries here is how this album, a transformational moment both for Dylan and for his listeners, would ultimately be defined by the efforts of a group of largely anonymous players. — Nick DeRiso

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The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • kalie

    Bob Dylan has been making great music for a long time. His track “Ring Them Bells” was included on the soundtrack for West of Memphis which came out this past month. Just one of the many great artists that contributed to raise awareness for the West Memphis Three.