Best of July 2013: Readers pick Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Journey, Sammy Hagar — and Miley Cyrus?!

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Readers flocked to content focusing on Led Zeppelin solo projects, partial Journey reunions, Sammy Hagar’s Van Halen years, a key late-period Bob Dylan project and the Beatles, of course.

But Miley Cyrus?

That’s admittedly not a name often found in our mix of music obsessions. But the former Hannah Montana star’s new video sparked a reply from our own Kit O’Toole, and lots of interest.

Meanwhile, three of July 2013’s top items were Beatles related, as our Suck Series took on the Fab Four and drummer Ringo Starr while O’Toole returned with her examination of the deep cut “Dr. Robert.”

Speaking of sucking, we posited that not all of Hagar’s work in replacing David Lee Roth did. And we dug out some forgotten gems from individual work by Zepsters Plant, Jones and Page. A full-on reunion for Journey seems highly unlikely, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some intriguing examples of what such a thing might look like.

In response to Rolling Stone’s much-debated list, Mark Saleski argued for a more personal amalgam of greatest guitarists. And Mickey Thomas stopped in to talk about how Jefferson Starship morphed into Starship.

This monthly content best-of compilation is based on user page views; click on the titles from each for a complete read …

No. 10: DEEP CUTS – LED ZEPPELIN SOLO PROJECTS FROM ROBERT PLANT, JIMMY PAGE AND JOHN PAUL JONES: For most Led Zeppelin fans, the group’s canonical releases between 1969’s self-titled debut and 1979’s In Through the Out Door are consumptive enough that they needn’t bother with the solo efforts that followed. Still, there are a number of musical treasures to be found — even excluding obvious radio hits like Robert Plant’s “Big Log,” his collaborative “Tall Cool One” with ex-bandmate Jimmy Page, the Honeydrippers or “Radioactive” from Page’s post-Zep band the Firm. We’ve collected a handful of these deep cuts to keep you started, all of them from solo projects. — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Despite their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame street cred, not everything from Led Zeppelin glitters like gold. In fact, there were times when they, well, sucked.]

No. 9: DEEP BEATLES: “DR. ROBERT” (1966): While one may not agree with the song’s apparent pro-drug stance, there’s no denying the Beatles’ exquisite harmonies and gritty guitar work. When the refrain arrives, it sounds classically influenced and contrasts with the straight-ahead rock comprising most of the track. This highbrow/lowbrow comparison demonstrates John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s dry humor, that this drug supplier is somehow better and more elevated in stature than everyone else. George Harrison’s guitar, which cuts sharply through the track, adds a rougher edge that obviously contrasts with the chamber-music feel of the refrain. —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. 8: GIMME FIVE: SAMMY HAGAR SONGS WITH VAN HALEN THAT DON’T, YOU KNOW, SUCK: Sure, this second edition of the band lost much of the original David Lee Roth-era’s randy charm, not to mention its edgy attitude, as Eddie Van Halen and Co. seemed to spend too much time chasing chart hits. It also fell apart with such suddenness and finality that the group ended up making a desperation move in hiring Extreme’s former frontman for a disastrous one-album experiment. But Van Halen’s Sammy Hagar years weren’t without their charms, even on admittedly charmlessly titled albums like OU812 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony formed Chickenfoot in the aftermath of their stints in Van Halen. We caught up with the band’s touring drummer Kenny Aronoff for an update.]

No. 7: GIMME FIVE: PARTIAL JOURNEY REUNIONS WITH STEVE PERRY, GREGG ROLIE, NEAL SCHON, JONATHAN CAIN: Fans of Journey’s best-known lineups — Gregg Rolie’s free-form 1970s version, and Steve Perry’s arena-ballad 1980s edition — have little hope of seeing any meaningful reunion of these wildly divergent camps.
After all, Rolie split back in 1980, and the similarly departed Perry hasn’t even put out a solo album since 1994. Meanwhile, Journey — featuring original members Neal Schon and Ross Valory, along with platinum-era stalwart Jonathan Cain — have continued forward with a new frontman in Arnel Pineda. Nevertheless, there have been some tantalizing tastes of what might have been along the way. — Nick DeRiso

[ONE TRACK MIND: Craig Chaquico goes in depth on some favorites songs from Jefferson Starship, as well as key moments from his subsequent solo albums.]

No. 6: SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: MICKEY THOMAS, OF STARSHIP: At work on completing Starship’s first studio recording since 1989, with an important assist from Foreigner/Dokken/Dio bassist Jeff Pilson, Mickey Thomas joined us to talk about his lengthy history with Jefferson Starship, which morphed into the pop-hit machine Starship after the departure of founding member Paul Kantner in the mid-1980s; the importance of gospel, R&B and blues in his approach to singing — and how he’s come to terms with every part of his career. — Nick DeRiso

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No. 5: GIMME FIVE: BEATLES SONGS WHERE RINGO STARR DOESN’T, YOU KNOW, SUCK: Beatles drummer Ringo Starr has taken his share of knocks over the years — from Buddy Rich, even his old bandmate John Lennon. (Some of those knocks, in the interest of full disclosure, came from us, too.) Still, it wasn’t like he didn’t have his moments — often curiously effective moments, but moments nonetheless. In keeping, we’d like to give Ringo his due, highlighting favorites like “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “Rain,” “I Feel Fine,” and others. — Nick DeRiso and S. Victor Aaron

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: The 2012 edition of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band, featuring Gregg Rolie, Steve Lukather and Todd Rundgren, might just be the best since Ringo’s very first lineup, back in 1989.]

No. 4: MARK SALESKI’S TOP 10 GUITARISTS: After reading Rolling Stone magazine’s list of Top 100 guitarists,I felt the need to chime in. Not that there’s a problem with the list or anything. Well … OK, there is a problem. There’s a problem with any list that attempts to rank players as if one is ‘better’ than another. Does it really matter how ‘skillful’ a player is if they don’t do anything interesting with that talent? So that’s what the players on my list have in common. A unique sound. Most of them are from the rock world, with a few moderately ‘out-there’ jazz players. A list of favorite jazz players is a topic for another day. The order is just how they popped into my head. — Mark Saleski

[ONE TRACK MIND: Guitarist Bill Frisell joined us for a rangy discussion on his John Lennon tribute project, working with legendary jazz bassist Ron Carter … and Madonna?]

No. 3: 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! REWIND: On a sizzling summer night in 2013, Paul McCartney showed why he’s still one of rock ‘n’ roll’s signature showmen, playing a set packed with hits from across his career.]

No. 2: ON SECOND THOUGHT: BOB DYLAN – OH MERCY (1989): This was album in which Bob Dylan gave in to everything that had happened to his voice, when he finally started sounding old. He also gave in to the atmospheric process that producer Daniel Lanois established, creating a late-period classic. He gave in to worry, too, seeming to rebuke everything he’d preached on hope-filled albums like Saved — not to mention his goofball one-offs as part of the Traveling Wilburys. That last capitulation seemed to spring, unbidden, from his gothic surroundings — though it’s never really left his muse in the intervening years. — Nick DeRiso

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Bob Dylan can be dogmatic, reckless with his gift, frankly quite ornery. And that was just the 1980s. Here’s our checklist of five career avoidables.]

No. 1: ON MILEY CYRUS’ OVERSEXUALIZED NEW VIDEO FOR ‘WE CAN’T STOP’: PLEASE STOP: After hearing about it, I finally watched the video to Miley Cyrus’ new single “We Can’t Stop.” Here’s my beef: I get the whole breaking away from Hannah Montana thing. I understand that she wants to establish herself as an adult and enter a new phase of her career. But since when has becoming an adult woman equal becoming a skank? Singing about sex and drugs, wearing little clothing while humping pillows, grabbing other girls’ breasts and butts — these things make you an adult? Wow, I guess I missed the memo. — Kit O’Toole

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