I don’t know about all of you out there, but for us down here at B&V, 2018 was one tough year. The world has gone completely mad. At least we have bourbon and rock n’ roll to get us through. I saw on the news the other night that some college had done a study and concluded that the most lonely times in a person’s life were late 20s, mid 50s and late 80s. Thankfully I’m through the first and drink enough that the latter probably won’t be a problem. As for the middle one, I’m lucky that my pal Doug lives only a few miles from here and we met for beers last night. No matter how crazy things get out there, it’s nice to have someone other than the Rock Chick to grab a beer with. Everyone needs a drinking friend to help you blow off steam. We drink a few beers and talk a little treason.
2018 was a tough year in rock and roll. We lost the Queen this year, Aretha Franklin. While that was tragic it wasn’t as bad as last year when we were losing rock stars at an alarming rate. Elton John has announced he’s retiring from the road, which I consider a bummer. I saw Elton when I was in high school, against my will, only to discover he was amazing. Paul Simon seems to be retiring, which is too bad because his last few albums have been some of the most inventive of his career. Both Jack White and Lenny Kravitz delivered highly anticipated new albums that were both duds. #Disappointed. Hell, even Fleetwood Mac broke up with Lindsey Buckingham. I’m delighted to see that Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers and Neil Finn of Crowded House found employment with the Mac (everyone needs a steady job), but it just doesn’t feel the same without Lindsey.
It was a pretty good year for concerts here at B&V. I was able to catch Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, Robert Plant, and Billy Idol in the friendly confines of local theaters. I had to travel to catch Depeche Mode for the second time on the Spirit tour and it was certainly worth braving the drive through Oklahoma to get there. I felt like I was behind enemy lines… If the last few years have taught me anything, and I’ll say it again, buy the ticket – see the show. I’m looking forward to seeing Ozzy and Metallica in the coming year. If those shows are any indication, it’s going to be hard rock year in 2019. I’m also looking forward to seeing Salina’s Sunset Sinners, but that’s more of a regional thing right now.
I would be remiss in not mentioning that the biggest movie of the year was the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen, ‘Bohemian Rhaposdy.’ There were a number of great documentaries about musicians this year – ‘Elvis Presley – The Searcher’ and ‘Jeff Beck, Still On The Run,’ were both exceptional. I do urge any true Springsteen fan to pull up ‘Springsteen On Broadway’ on Netflix. For comedy fans, I urge you to see both documentaries about Robin Williams and Garry Shandling that were done this year. If I can’t go to a concert or a comedy show, at least I can watch it on TV.
I glanced back at my “best of” for last year, 2017. There just seemed to be a whole lot more music released last year. There were so many bands I had hoped would release a new album this year that opted out. The Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, and Bruce Springsteen were all on my radar for new music this year… alas, nothing. This year we had to look a little harder for good music. I have compiled, below, what I think are the best new albums of 2018. As I was compiling this list, I realized there were a lot of great vault releases – stuff that was recorded years ago and never released. Those usually come in the form of box sets. There were also some re-releases that were just great. So, breaking with tradition, I also compiled a list of the best of the reissues/vault releases. I urge you to check all of this great music out. Both lists are in alphabetical order… we’re not into the competition thing here. On the archival stuff, I’m sure I’ll get some arguments…
B&V Best Albums of 2018
- David Byrne, American Utopia – I was totally surprised by this album. It’s his most Talking Heads-ish work to date. “Gasoline and Dirty Sheets” is my favorite track. I hear he’s releasing a live EP from his critically lauded tour in support of this album. This is a great, late career release that we just love at B&V.
- Billy Gibbons, The Big Bad Blues – It appears Billy has dissolved ZZ Top for good but he’s back in Texas blues-boogie form on this great, dirty blues album. While you’ll find great blues covers of “Standing Around Crying” and “Rolling and Tumbling” there are also great originals like “Missin’ Yo Kissin'” and “My Baby She Rocks.” Classic and new all at the same time.
- Greta Van Fleet, Anthem Of the Peaceful Army – Admittedly, I liked the “double-EP” From the Fires a little better, but these kids are still forming. I hear a lot of Zeppelin and even some Rush here (thanks for pointing that out BG) but these guys will find their own voice. It’s just encouraging to hear kids rawk out.
- The Longshot, Love Is For Losers – Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s latest side project is pure punk rock fun. He throws in a crazy cover of Ozzy’s “Goodbye to Romance” just for good measure. He’s clearly having a lot of fun.
- Dave Matthews Band, Come Tomorrow – DMB’s first album since ousting violinist Boyd Tinsley is an atmospheric, catchy brew. I missed the violin, but all the classic pieces are here on a great DMB record.
- Paul McCartney, Egypt Station – I’m not into the whole ranking but this is hands-down, the best album of the year. The former Beatle returned in fine form. Rockers like “Come On To Me” to gorgeous, lush ballads like “I Don’t Know,” Macca proves he can do it all and do so with a magic touch. Classic album.
- Van Morrison, The Prophet Speaks – Van reunites with his jazzy pals Joey DeFrancesco’s quartet and produce a laid back, groovy record. I hope Van keeps up this pace of an album every six months.
- Paul Simon, In The Blue Light – I didn’t write a review of this record on B&V but I really do like this one. It’s Simon going back into his catalog and pulling out rarities and songs that just didn’t feel right… “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor” is great here. This is a wonderful trip through the back catalog to places you might not have been.
- Bruce Springsteen, Springsteen On Broadway – An intimate evening with Springsteen where he brings his autobiography to life on stage. The spoken word passages are probably better than the actual acoustic, stripped down performances. Probably for Springsteen fanatics only but worth a listen or a view on Netflix.
- Slash, Living The Dream – Finally some hard rawk on this list!! Slash reunites with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators for a hard rock gem. Slash’s playing is at once powerful and melodic.
- The Smashing Pumpkins, Shiny and Oh So Bright – The return of Jimmy Chamberlin and James Iha was not the guitar tour de force I was expecting but this is a great, albeit brief album.
B&V The Best of the Vault/Archival Releases & Box Sets
- The Beatles, The Beatles (Super Deluxe) – This is the ultimate release of the Beatles famous 1968 album, dubbed The White Album. The original album gets a stereo remastering by Giles Martin. You find the entire Esher Demo sessions and a lot of great outtakes. A must have for Beatles fans.
- Chris Cornell, Chris Cornell (Deluxe Edition) – I tried to put together a playlist encapsulating Cornell’s varied career on Spotify, but I never scratched the surface based on this box set. This covers everything from Soundgarden to solo work to Audioslave and beyond. RIP Chris, we still miss you.
- Bob Dylan, More Blood, More Tracks – The complete sessions for Dylan’s masterpiece, Blood On the Tracks, from both New York and Minnesota. It’s big so my review is still being formulated, but it’s moving stuff.
- Jimi Hendrix, Electric Ladyland 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition – With three CDs and a blu-ray, this is a pretty complete look at Hendrix’s double-lp. The Hollywood Bowl concert is a bit rough from a sound perspective but the content is mind blowing.
- Jimi Hendrix, Both Sides of the Sky – This one I almost put on the “best of” list of new LPs. This is the third in a series of vault releases from Hendrix that unearth alternative versions, outtakes and never heard before songs.
- Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, An American Treasure – This box of alternate takes, unreleased stuff and live cuts proves the title to be true. Petty really was an American treasure.
- Bruce Springsteen, Live At the Roxy 1978 – Springsteen continues to release classic concerts from the archive. This is another one from the 1978 Darkness tour and it may be the best release yet. I’m still hoping for a better release from The Rising tour. If you’re not checking out these archives, you’re missing out!
- Pete Townshend, Who Came First – The charming, homespun first solo album from Townshend gets the deluxe reissue treatment. I loved this album, always have. I love that he covers the Ronnie Lane tune, “Evolution (Stone)” live.
- Neil Young, Roxy: Tonight’s The Night Live – Neil on stage, joyfully performing his darkest album. This was a real treat. Young’s archive rivals Springsteen’s. He also came out with a compilation of live, acoustic releases from a 1976 tour, Songs For Judy that I found pretty compelling.
I’m sure some will argue I should have added the John Lennon box to this list, but I found it overwhelming. And I’m sure there are some of you who will argue with my best albums list. If you have suggestions, please add them in the comments.
I do think 2019 is going to be a great year for rock n’ roll… with Springsteen, the Stones, Pearl jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers all rumored to be releasing albums, it should be a great year…but that’s what I said last year.
Happy Holidays and toast to all of you! Cheers!