Best of April 2013: Deep Purple, Steven Wilson, Todd Rundgren, Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath

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Baby, you’re a Beatles fan: The monthly readers poll for April 2013 is dominated by Fab Four-related stuff — though, ultimately, Deep Purple’s terrific new effort topped the newest Something Else! list.

A concert souvenir from Ringo Starr’s latest guest-packed edition of his All-Starr band charted highest among the Beatles stuff last month, as the ever-affable drummer was joined by Gregg Rolie of Journey/Santana, Steve Lukather of Toto, Todd Rundgren and others at the historic Ryman in Nashville.

A scorching vocal turn by John Lennon on “Honey Don’t,” delivered in a 1963 performance for the BBC was next, then a seemingly deathless debate on the relative merits of a few tracks we’ve deemed decidedly un-Fab. Our readers also flocked to a new song from Lennon’s son Julian, who was joined on “Someday” by pal Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.

Elsewhere in this monthly poll, decided via page views for original content, we have the new studio album from Rundgren — who, as the fates would have it, also toured with a Beatle recently.

So, enough already. There are no obvious mop-topped connections for the rest of our honorees.

Breaking news from the Steven Wilson camp, an intriguing new recording of 1900-era songs featuring the Band’s Garth Hudson and piping hot reunion tracks from Fleetwood Mac and Black Sabbath also made the Top 10 for April.

Then there’s Deep Purple’s complete return to form on the long-awaited Now What?!

No. 10: ONE TRACK MIND: JULIAN LENNON WITH STEVEN TYLER, “SOMEDAY” (2013): This is a mature, fully integrated effort that takes in both the obvious influences that DNA hath wrought, and everything that Lennon has slowly built into his own songwriting craft in the interim — from his tandem opening reading with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler of a line from the Beatles’ “Baby You’re a Rich Man,” set amidst swooning strings, to his gimlet-eyed philosophizing about community in this unmannered age. — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Julian Lennon’s 2011 album ‘Everything Changes,’ more than anything he’s ever done, confronts his father, and his father’s legacy — both musically and personally.]

No. 9: SOMETHING ELSE! SNEAK PEEK: BLACK SABBATH, “GOD IS DEAD?” (2013): The song starts slowly with a very dark, brooding and clean guitar lick from Tony Iommi. “God is Dead?” then drops back to the original lick as we get our first taste of Ozzy’s voice. As might be expected from his recent solo work, the vocals do, at times, seem a little processed. Interestingly, though, Rubin has chosen to allow the age on Ozzy’s voice to show through here and there; it’s a weariness that works well for the song. The vocal line also features some nice melodic turns that mix up what could possibly have been a droning melody. — Fred Phillips

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Every one has their favorite, but we’re making the case for 1975’s often overlooked and criminally underrated ‘Sabotage’ as Black Sabbath’s masterpiece.]

No. 8: DEEP BEATLES: “HONEY DON’T” (Live at the BBC, 1963): “Honey Don’t” goes back to some of the Beatles’ 1962 shows; then, Lennon always sang lead on the cut. But when the group entered Abbey Road Studios on October 26, 1964, Ringo Starr had been chosen as the new vocalist. Starr’s performance demonstrated his charm and ability to capture the wit of the words. A year before, however, Lennon continued singing lead. They recorded a live version of “Honey Don’t” for BBC radio’s “Pop Go the Beatles” special, and Lennon’s gritty voice gave the song a sexier edge. His rank as one of the best rock singers in music is solidified. — Kit O’Toole

[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: 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

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: We chatted with co-founder Jeremy Spencer about Fleetwood Mac’s early days, how Elmore James altered everything, and Spencer’s newest solo effort.]

No. 6: ONE TRACK MIND: FLEETWOOD MAC, “SAD ANGEL” (2013): Fleetwood Mac is back with new original music — its first in a decade — including the newly composed “Sad Angel,” which begins with a staccato guitar signature, as Lindsey Buckingham launches into one of his patented hurtful yodels, only to be joined by a completely reinvigorated Stevie Nicks. Despite its plaintive title, however, this thing rocks — with a muscular rhythmic counterpoint from Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, and one of Buckingham’s most propulsive solos since “Holiday Road,” back in 1983. — Nick DeRiso

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No. 5: TODD RUNDGREN – STATE (POP/ROCK): Todd Rundgren’s State ping pongs between electronica and full-on rock — sounding like a mash up of the synthesized experiments of 2011’s (re)Production and the grinding riffs of 2008’s Arena. As with the best of his music, State — Bon Iver meets the Nazz? Or maybe Nine Inch Nails meets the Buggles? — is neither fish nor fowl, at once diverse and of a piece. Still, for all of its blips and burps of sound, Rundgren has actually collected some of his most finely tuned recent performances at the mic here, recapturing the revealing depth — if not the wondrous romanticism — that marked 1970s-era hits like “Hello It’s Me.” — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Todd Rundgren makes a long-awaited return to the charts with his 2013 album ‘State’ — but this time, it’s on the dance charts.]

No. 4: RINGO STARR, STEVE LUKATHER, GREGG ROLIE, TODD RUNDGREN, JOE WALSH – RINGO AT THE RYMAN (2013): Don’t let the goofball demeanor fool you: Ringo Starr is the model of consistency these days, as solid and professional a frontman as there is — and maestro of one of the last decades’ most reliably entertaining guest-packed tours. So the question for any All-Starr concert comes down to the chemistry among the patch-work amalgam of musicians he assembles on stage — and the 2012 edition might just be the best (or at least the most reliably cohesive and entertaining) since Ringo’s very first lineup, back in 1989. — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Toto’s Steve Lukather joins us for an exclusive talk about his emotional new solo album, completed just before joining Ringo Starr on his latest All-Starr Band tour.]

No. 3: GARTH HUDSON, RICHARD THOMPSON, OTHERS – THE BEAUTIFUL OLD (2013): In a guest-packed tribute to turn-of-the-century songcraft, it’s Hudson, the album’s one true common musical thread, who holds everything together — just as he did with the Band — circling the song’s themes, unfurling these billowing asides then working so brilliantly in miniature too, creating this crazy-quilt tapestry of sound that binds all of the voices, and all the themes. — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Garth Hudson joined us for an exclusive SER Sitdown to connect the dots between his early influences and the Band’s later rootsy triumphs.]

No. 2: IN AN SER EXCLUSIVE, STEVEN WILSON CONFIRMS HIATUS FOR PORCUPINE TREE: “I think it’s slightly more complex with Porcupine Tree, which can’t really happen without me instigating it and being the main writer and director of that situation — so, that’s more problematic,” Steven Wilson said, in an exclusive SER Sitdown. “I don’t have time in my life to do that, and what I’m doing now. So, I guess I have made the decision, right now, to concentrate on the solo career. But that’s not to say that the band has broken up or anything like that. It’s always conceivable that we could get back together in a year or five years, or 10 years. I really can’t say. There are no plans at the moment.” — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Steven Wilson’s ‘The Raven’ is ambitious, connective and simply unforgettable — not just his best solo album to date, but a rival to anything he’s done..]

No. 1: DEEP PURPLE – NOW WHAT?! (2013): Deep Purple doesn’t simply return, it sets out to remind you of everything that once made this band a contender for Led Zeppelin’s throne in the early 1970s as the biggest heavy-rocking band of them all. Now What?!” finds Ian Gillan and Co. once again masterfully blending the metal, progressive rock and R&B influences that gave Deep Purple its unique persona — even as they stir in new flourishes to keep things fresh. — Nick DeRiso

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