My new ISP should be hooking me up soon, so in the meantime, I have been without internet for the better part of a week. I am guessing that I have internet today because so many people near me have dropped the current provider. I apologize for the hit-and-miss (mostly miss) nature of this blog. I have actually been missing it. However, instead of working on a book or screenplay, I have instead listened to music and read a book about Prince by his first ex-wife Mayte Garcia. The book was fine, but the interesting part was someone so close to the Purple One giving the reader insight into his creative process, since she was his mid-90s muse. Also, she intimated that Prince may have been dabbling with pain pills as far back as the early-90s.
Interestingly, my reading of that book coincided with the release of the remaster deluxe edition of Purple Rain. The best parts of the release are the two extra CDs of music, one full of outtakes from The Vault and the other 7″ edits and 12″ remixes. The collection also included the video of a concert recorded during the Purple Rain Tour of 1984-85. I may be wrong, but it seems to be a digital copy of the concert released on VHS (remember that format?) back in 1985. Overall, it is a great package, and I cannot wait for more of these remaster jobs with extra CDs worth of music, especially of everything that was rumored to have been recorded when Sign ‘o’ the Times was released.
Another remaster that is getting a big push is U2’s The Joshua Tree. The band is on tour right now, playing arguably their first classic album, as well as other hits. This remaster job is nice, but it is the bonus CD of a 1987 concert that is the intriguing part of this release. As I finally have listened to these two classic albums, I still prefer Prince. Nothing against U2 at all! I simply love the music of Minnesota’s second favorite son (I’d give the top nod to Senator Al Franken).
Now, all of this brings me to some of the music that has been released lately. First of all, older artists are on a hot streak right now. I am NOT kidding! Great music has been released recently by the likes of Cheap Trick, Paul Weller, Todd Rundgren, Bruce Springsteen sideman and former Sopranos actor “Little Steven” Van Zandt, John Mellencamp, Roger Waters and Styx, to list but a few, have reached back to their heyday to find the inspiration to create some of their finest music in years.
First off, Cheap Trick quickly followed up last year’s excellent Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello with an album that seems to mine the same punky vein of their catalog as their classic first five albums back in the late-70s. I literally have been experiencing flashbacks to my youth because of this album.
On the other hand, Todd Rundgren has written several great songs that will hold up with the classics he has written over the years. The only difference is that most of the songs are sung by other artists. Rundgren teamed up with Steely Dan singer Donald Fagin to created one of the best political songs of the year. Other vocalists you will hear are Daryl Hall and, believe it or not, former pop chanteuse Robyn to great effect, with the latter possibly putting Rundgren back on pop radio.
Of course, I love the new Paul Weller joint, as he has been on a new creative roll over the past three or four albums. Additionally, John Mellencamp has figured a creative way to age gracefully in rock by following the Johnny Cash-stripped down country blues vein that Indiana’s favorite rocker has been mining since 2009. And, then there is Little Steven, who has been doing a garage rock radio show for the better part of a decade and that may have influenced the iconic sideman to rediscover his muse while never toning down his political views.
But, the most surprising development so far this year, is that someone has released a great concept album, like we are back in the 70s or something. Of course, former Pink Floyd bassist and main songwriter Roger Waters has released a new, fantastic concept album about the decline of society, like he has been commenting on since Floyd’s classic Animals album. But the real story is that Styx actually one-upped their Paradise Theater album’s concept with an actual focused storyline about a dystopian world as they did this without their former leader, the Broadway-wannabe Dennis DeYoung. The current lineup stepped up their game lyrically for a cohesive story while bringing the pre-Cornerstone rock sound that made them so popular with the late-70s teens, like me. When I began to listen to this one, I didn’t have much hope for it. Yet, it blew me away as the true heir to the concept album instead of their new wave-influenced turd of an album Kilroy Was Here from 1983. When a hard rock band becomes better know for a novelty hit like “Mr. Roboto”, you know the band had lost their creative touch. But, finally, after 34 years, they have an album makes forget their music after 1979!
So far, 2017 has been about the old farts rediscovering their magic touches. Even though the new Harry Styles album is a complete surprise to me in its quality, I will still prefer that late-70s/early-80s sound of punk/hard rock/new wave that I grew up on.