Best of May 2013: The Band, Deep Purple, the Beatles, Toto, Steve Hackett/Ray Wilson, John Frusciante

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May was dominated by both the Band and the Beatles — two titans of the 1960s whose legacies continue to intrigue and delight successive generations of music aficionados.

To that end, Something Else! established a song-by-song look into the Band at mid month, and readers helped both installments into the Top 5 of this poll.

A new project called The Beautiful Old, featuring extensive contributions from the Band’s ever-inventive multi-instrumentalist Garth Hudson, also found its way toward the top of the May 2013 list.

Meanwhile, a sprawling repackaging of Wings Over America, recounting Paul McCartney’s first U.S. tour since the dissolution of the Beatles, is joined by a perennial entrant of these polls — the Fab Four’s initial installment in our on-going explorations of least-favorite songs by legendary bands.

SER’s monthly poll is determined through original-content page views.

Two exclusive interviews made the Top 10, one with David Paich, on the even of Toto’s much-anticipated 2013 tour; and the other with Steve Morse, who has just helped Deep Purple complete a return-to-form effort with producer Bob Ezrin.

Single-song examinations of songs by Red Hot Chili Peppers alum John Frusciante and Genesis alums Steve Hackett and Ray Wilson also joined the list.

Singer-songwriter Marshall Chapman’s tough new release, Blaze of Glory, rounded out the new poll …

No. 10: PAUL McCARTNEY AND WINGS – WINGS OVER AMERICA (1976; 2013 reissue): Maybe it wasn’t the career exclamation point that it once seemed. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t much to recommend here. You’ll just have to take out the lesser items from Wings, and skip over the tracks from his old band. Luckily, that will still leave you with plenty of material. In fact, The leftovers actually make up the heart of Wings Over America, and it stands today — yes, even after all of those deletions — as some of the most vital work that Paul McCartney has ever done. (More here.) — 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. 9: MARSHALL CHAPMAN – BLAZE OF GLORY (2013): The heart of the album can be found in Chapman’s raw and so very brave originals, the moments when she confronts the kind of demons we all bed down with — be that our uncertainties about love, looming mortality, or the search for broader meaning in things. Meanwhile, hard-eyed, tartly hopeful moments like “Let’s Make Waves” and the closing title track make clear that, whatever the misgivings and concerns, Chapman remains a tough-as-polished-nails, take-no-shit survivor. — Nick DeRiso

No. 8: ONE TRACK MIND: JOHN FRUSCIANTE, “WAYNE” (2013): John Frusciante has released a lengthy, darkly emotional rumination, written for a friend that went back to the guitarist’s days in the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s of particular interest because Frusciante’s most recent release — 2012’s progressive synth-pop stunner Letur-Lefr — contained so little, well, guitar. This one on the other hand is all guitar, moment after searing moment of emotion. — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: John Frusciante’s ‘Letur-Lefr’ was a brisk amalgam of aerated, early 1980s-inspired electronics, soaring R&B vocals and gritty hip hop realism. You were expecting, like, guitar?]

No. 7: ONE TRACK MIND: STEVE HACKETT WITH RAY WILSON, “CARPET CRAWLERS” (2013): Guitarist Steve Hackett, with an assist from criminally underrated fellow Genesis alum Ray Wilson, has finally found the emotional centerpoint within one of their old band’s signature tunes, “Carpet Crawlers.” Initially part of 1974’s The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, a farewell project by founding frontman Peter Gabriel, “Carpet Crawlers” has undergone a second revision as a new bonus track on the single-disc version of Hackett’s celebrated 2012 tribute set Genesis Revisited II. — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: We caught up with Genesis’ Ray Wilson only to find him in a relaxed and centered mood. Things finally seem to be breaking his way again.]

No. 6: 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

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No. 5: SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: TOTO’S DAVID PAICH: Toto has begun its 2013 tour, which began May 30 in Europe and will also be making a few rare U.S. appearances, beginning in late summer — something David Paich says “almost feels like a homecoming after so long away.” In this exclusive SER Sitdown, Paich discusses their plans to dig deeper into Toto’s catalog this time around, the construction of his signature hit “Africa,” his lengthy musical relationship with Boz Scaggs, and the prospects of a long-awaited studio effort. — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Steve Lukather and Billy Sherwood stopped by for a lively discussion of lesser-known Toto gems, including “Angela,” “The Other Side,” “Good For You,” and others.]

No. 4: GARTH HUDSON, RICHARD THOMPSON, GRAHAM PARKER, OTHERS – THE BEAUTIFUL OLD (2013): It’s difficult, as this plays, to believe that The Beautiful Old focuses on sheet-music favorites from before the advent of electricity. These 19 gusts of folk-tinged turn-of-the-century Americana still hold boundless insights. Multi-instrumentalist Garth Hudson, of the Band, is the most consistent presence here, showing up 10 different times with an array of guest stars that includes Richard Thompson, Graham Parker, Dave Davies and Eric Bibb, among others. — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: With his powerful, and aptly named, new project ‘Electric,’ Richard Thompson amps up the dying-light rage that has always made for his best albums.]

No. 3: ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE: THE BAND, “ORANGE JUICE BLUES”: People forget that it was Richard Manuel, that lost, beautiful soul, who created some of the Band’s first original compositions — including this one, which serves as the debut track for our new song-by-song examination called Across the Great Divide. Even amid this early track’s floorboard-rearranging clatter, so much of what will make their music a culture-shifting force is firmly in place. — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: In a free-ranging, very emotional talk, Garth Hudson recalls how the Band gathered itself to go on after Richard Manuel’s shocking death.]

No. 2: SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: DEEP PURPLE GUITARIST STEVE MORSE: Guitarist Steve Morse joined us as Deep Purple released both deluxe and vinyl editions of their new album Now What?!, a comeback which has already topped the charts in four countries — and gone Top 20 in 13 more. The well-received studio project, Purple’s first since 2005, is the fifth to feature Morse — who took over for Ritchie Blackmore in time for 1996’s Purpendicular. Morse has since become the band’s longest-tenured guitarist, after co-founding the Dregs and serving a late-1980s stint in Kansas. — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: With the return-to-form ‘Now What?!,’ Deep Purple has stayed true to bed-rock principles that helped establish its own legend, even while boldly exploring new sounds.]

No. 1: ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE: THE BAND, “YAZOO STREET SCANDAL”: The Band explores a red-lit, gothic landscape — with Levon Helm serving as our vagabond tour guide. Guitarist Robbie Robertson gets the sole songwriting credit, as per usual, but the ringing specificity of “Yazoo Street Scandal” could only have sprung from the fertile memory of a native-born Southerner like Helm. He certainly handles the lyric as if its his own. In fact, there is no small amount of wonder, today, in hearing Helm — felled in 2012 after battling throat cancer — letting loose this wild-cat wail. — Nick DeRiso

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