The beginning of every year is like a rebirth. It’s always something new and different despite U2’s old insistence that “nothing changes on New Year’s Day.” Whether it’s changes at work or the implementation of self-improving New Year’s Resolutions, the New Year always seems to bring the possibility of exciting change and rejuvenation and 2022 was no exception on that front. For me this year, I moved to a new residence, completely changed my job responsibilities at work (reducing my stress) and spent those early days in 2022 listening to David Bowie’s vault release Toy. No matter how different every New Year’s beginning seems to be, the end of each year tends to be exactly the same for me and like the beginning of the year, 2022’s end is no exception on that front either. Every year after the dreaded Christmas Holiday passes I find myself stuffed with leftovers and floating around the house like I’m Baron Harkonnen from Dune with a mug full of what remains of the eggnog, mired in reflection. Here it is the waning days of 2022 and I’m back in the same old mindset I was in last year…and the year before that one…and the one before that one, and so on… It’s like those old cartoons with Father Time holding Baby New Year to symbolize the passage of time. I hate to think of the end of the year is the opposite of the rebirth we feel on New Year’s Day… what would we even call that? But I have to admit with each passing year I hear Hannibal Lecter in my ear saying “Tick tock, Clarice.” It was Steve Miller who sang, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future,” and I can verify, he wasn’t kidding. Maybe that’s why I also spent early 2022 listening to my playlist of songs from 1972…always looking both forward and backwards.
I feel like I was happier in 2022 but there were so many bad things that happened over the course of this year. I’m still staggered that in the year 2022 there was a land war started in Europe. The immoral, illegal and insane Russian invasion of Ukraine has been a cloud over the entire year. There were elections in many countries that gave us uniformly terrible commercials and mixed results. The shadow of authoritarianism still lurks strong in the world. The world population reached 8 billion this year which sounds like too many people and yet we aren’t taking very good care of this planet of ours… there is no Planet B folks. In the world of rock n roll we lost the beautiful voice of Christine McVie who seemed like the only nice person in Fleetwood Mac. We lost so many other rockers, some who I wasn’t a big fan of: Meatloaf, Jerry Lee Lewis and Olivia Newton John and some who I liked: drummer Alan White of Yes, Ronnie “The Hawk” Hawkins who was backed by the Band when they were young and Pub Rock guitarist Wilko Johnson.
At least we had music. With the pandemic mostly behind us I finally got to return to going to concerts semi-regularly. I saw the Cult in both Denver and Kansas City, Starcrawler in a small venue, and I returned to my first big arena show in 3 years, Roger Waters. I can’t overstate how great it is to be standing in a darkened room – whether it’s a 20,000 seat arena or a bar – with like-minded rockers, facing the stage, arms raised and singing along. Although admittedly I feel sorry for anybody whose within earshot of my belting out any tune. There were some big acts who didn’t release albums but gifted us with a single this year. Beck covered Neil Young’s great song “Old Man.” Unfortunately it was for an NFL commercial and we know Neil hates rock n roll being used in commercials (crank up “This Notes For You” if you doubt me). It was still a great cover but then I love cover songs. And speaking of covers, Stevie Nicks dropped a cover of the Stephen Stills penned, Buffalo Springfield classic “For What It’s Worth.” With women’s rights being infringed upon from Iran to Ohio it’s a very resonant version and one that the Rock Chick surprisingly loved. Best of all, Pink Floyd reunited for the first time since 2014 (well, David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason anyway, Roger Waters was clearly not invited) to release a protest song to raise money for the Ukrainians, “Hey, Hey, Rise Up.” Other than Beck these great songs were done in support of something important proving that rock n roll remains a force for good in the world.
As I do every year in this reflective mood, looking back on the year that was, I can’t help but compile lists of my favorite albums of the year. It was a really nice year for rock n roll and many artists put out new albums. A few acts like Springsteen and the Smashing Pumpkins managed to somehow disappoint me. Like the past few years the vaults of some of our favorite classic rockers opened up and we got to hear unreleased gems, enhanced anniversary versions, and overlooked live performances from long ago. As I did last year, I split these lists between the new albums and the vault/live/re-released stuff. This year there were two EPs that I didn’t include on these lists of LPs, but deserve honorable mention as some of my favorite music of the year: The Black Crowes released a great EP of cover songs from 1972 (“Papa Was A Rolling Stone” might be my favorite) and Billy Idol released an EP of his best music in years, The Cage. Check out both of those!
Without further delay, here is our look back at the year that was 2022. These are in no particular order and this is not to be seen as a ranking… and as usual, please, no wagering. Maybe once I get these 2022 lists out of my system I’ll be free to look forward into 2023…
B&V Best New Albums of 2022 – New Music
- Eddie Vedder, Earthling – Eddie has always seemed a reluctant solo artist. He’s released stray singles, a soundtrack album and a full album of songs on ukulele so this feels like his first actual solo album. Produced by my current favorite producer Andrew Watt this is a great LP that shows the range of the things Eddie can do.
- Scorpions, Rock Believer – A blast of classic 80s style hard rock/heavy metal. These guys still have plenty left in the tank and this album was great start to finish.
- Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs, External Combustion – If you’re like me and you miss Tom Petty, his guitarist Mike Campbell can scratch that itch for you. This is good, straight up rock n roll which we can all use these days.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers, Unlimited Love and The Return of the Dream Canteen – My Chili Pepper cup runneth over this year. The lads in the RHCPs celebrated the return of guitarist John Frusciante with not one but two double albums. As the cliche goes, there was probably a great single album lurking in each of these records but I’ll take all the Chili Peppers I can get. If pressed I’d probably say the better album was Dream Canteen, but there is plenty to like across the 34 new songs over both LPs. Only Prince would release this volume of music at one time…
- Black Keys, Dropout Boogie – The Black Keys are so consistently good they don’t always get the attention they deserve. This was a great record and should be played at max volume.
- Jack White, Entering Heaven Alive – Like the Chilis, Jack White was prolific in 2022 and released two LPs. The first LP, Fear of the Dawn, was a crazy sound experiment that I just couldn’t connect to. I did like the single “Taking Me Back,” but felt I shouldn’t comment on the album as a whole, such was my dislike. This second, less experimental, mostly acoustic album was the best thing White had done in years. I knew from the first single, “If I Die Tomorrow” this was going to be a classic Jack White album.
- Ozzy Osbourne, Patient Number 9 – This is another one produced by Andrew Watt (keep an eye on that guy) and features a laundry list of great guitarists: Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Tony Iommi, Zakk Wylde, and Mike McCready. A true heavy metal feast! Rumor has it Ozzy tried to get Jimmy Page to play on a song (which would have given Ozzy the ex-Yardbird trifecta) but alas he declined.
- The Cult, Under the Midnight Sun – A truly sublime listening experience. They’ve come a long way from “Fire Woman” but I find what the Cult do a fascinating listen. I like to play this thing as a whole vs just a track at a time.
- Bush, The Art of Survival – I had almost forgotten about these guys and then they release this heavy riff gem. If you’ve given up on Bush, give this album a spin, it will change your mind. They aren’t surviving, they’re thriving.
- Neil Young & Crazy Horse, World Record – Neil & Crazy Horse (Nils Lofgren/guitar, Billy Talbot/bass, Ralph Molina/drums) return with their third winning LP in a row. This one is focused on the Ecology but also has a 10-plus minute jam about a Chevy. Who’d have expected Neil would be having a creative resurgence this far down the road?
B&V Best Archive/Re-Releases/Box Sets/Live Albums
- David Bowie, Toy (Box Set) – Early in the millennium Bowie went back and rerecorded songs he’d written back in the 60s. He got push back from the record company so went back to the studio and recorded the amazing Heathen. Toy was often bootlegged but finally saw the light of day with this great box that also has demos and different takes on the songs. Bowie was clearly enjoying revisiting these obscure tunes from his early songwriting days.
- Keith Richards, Main Offender 30th Anniversary – Keef revisiting his oft overlooked but still sensational second LP complete with an unreleased concert. The X-Pensive Winos always brought it live.
- Rush, Moving Pictures 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition – Revisiting Rush’s masterpiece 1981 album. This box has a complete concert from the accompany tour which puts Exit Stage Left to shame. The live disc is worth the price of admission.
- The Rolling Stones, Live At the El Mocambo – This legendary club show recorded in 1979 finally sees the light of day! The Stones are loose in a club setting but play like the hungry young kids who took over London’s blues rock movement of the 60s. This is a must for Stones fans.
- Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Toast – Another lost LP from the vaults for Neil with Crazy Horse. He went in and cut these songs but felt they were too personal to release so shelved the album. He ended up doing lesser versions of some of the songs for the album Are You Passionate? but to me these versions with the Horse are definitive. I love Neil’s vaults are releasing a torrent of previously unreleased music!
- Creedence Clearwater Revival, Royal Albert Hall, April 14, 1970 – The Beatles had just broken up and CCR arrive in London for their first concert tour of Europe and proceed to tear the roof off the Royal Albert Hall like it was a Mississippi juke joint.
- The Beatles, Revolver – Super Deluxe – The Beatles masterpiece, where they really came into their own in the studio, with outtakes and early versions of the tracks. The stereo version of the album here produced by Giles Martin (George’s son) may be the definitive version but just in case the mono version is included too.
- Guns N Roses, Use Your Illusions Box Set – While it lacks any unreleased studio stuff (which is disappointing) the two concerts from that era/tour are worth it. I like the New York show better than Vegas… but you decide. It’s a mess but it’s a hot mess.
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience, L.A. Forum April 26. 1969 (Live) – The Hendrix Experience were just that – an experience – especially when you saw them live. That’s why every show recorded is worth a listen. This is a very jam forward set for a very unruly crowd and some very uncomfortable cops.
- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Live At the Fillmore 1997 – Great compilation of live cuts from their legendary 20-night residency at the Fillmore West in San Francisco in Jan – Feb 1997. They scrap the arena set lists and play a ton of covers and deep tracks with unbridled joy. A must have for Petty fans and perhaps their greatest live document.
- Paul McCartney, 7′ Singles Box (*Streaming Only) – I considered listing this one under “honorable mention” but it deserves at least a mention here. I would never recommend anybody paying $600 for a crate full of vinyl singles. But streaming these 159 songs gave me a real appreciation of how ingrained in my rock n roll life McCartney has been. There are some b-sides you may not get into… skip em. The overall body of work is extraordinary.
There you have it, our “best of 2022.” I hope everybody had a great Xmas and that some of these gems were wrapped under the tree for you. I hope everybody had a good and safe ’22. While I’m still looking backward in this reflective mood I’m in, I’m actually really looking forward to 2023. We already know we’ll see releases from Iggy Pop and Metallica in the near term, they’ve both released singles (“Frenzy” and “Lux AEterna” respectively). I appreciate everybody’s continued support and reading of B&V. I hope ’23 brings all of you only good things!
Happy & Safe New Year to all of you. See you next year at B&V and of course, Cheers!