The B&V List Of Our Favorite Rhythm Guitarists – “Strictly Rhythm…” – The Riff Meisters Of Rock N Roll


“You check out guitar George, he knows-all the chords, Mind, it’s strictly rhythm he doesn’t want to make it cry or sing” – Dire Straits, “Sultans of Swing”

I believe it was John Mellencamp who once sang, “Let me give you some good advice young man, you better learn to play guitar.” Every rock n roll fan wants to be the guitar player. Oh, sure I had those weird friends who played “air drums” but for the most part the guitar is the star. And I suppose a number of us have held a beer bottle in our hand and pretended it was a microphone as we lip-synced along. But for my friends and I, we all imagined being Hendrix and melting faces off with our epic, gnarly solo where we finish by playing the strings with our teeth. In most of our imaginations we were all the lead guitar player. Some of us – my friend Brewster or my friend Drew – actually owned a guitar. OK, Drew’s was a bass guitar but he owns a number of guitars now. Drew has what appears to be an awesome music room which unlike mine, has actual instruments in it. Brewster’s guitar had the neck snapped by a guy named Mickey (named changed to protect the guilty), karmic retribution for taking Mickey to see Springsteen on The River tour. My brother used to play an acoustic guitar but I don’t know if he still plays? I can’t play the radio.

But my utter lack of musical ability with an instrument didn’t stop me from dreaming. Other than lead singers – who often suffer from LSD, “lead singer disease”  – when I was a teenager, I always held the dream of being the lead guitarist in a band. Whether I was Hendrix or Clapton in a power trio or Eddie Van Halen, the wizard, on guitar in a four piece, that was what I wanted to do… in my head at least. You’re in the spotlight but you’re sharing the spotlight with David Lee Roth, er, or whoever is singing. Some bands – the Allman Brothers Band, Thin Lizzy or the Paul Butterfield Band – had two lead guitar players. Oh, my… guitar nirvana. However, there are many, many bands that play as a five piece with two guitar players where there’s only one lead. That second guitarist is usually listed in the credits as playing “rhythm guitar.”

The Stones were always my gateway drug into rock n roll and while early on I had a Mick Jagger fetish, I quickly shifted my focus to Keith Richards. I couldn’t dance like Mick, but who can? At my most inexperienced, I assumed like most my guitar heroes, Keith was the lead guitar player. Paging Brian Jones… Mick Taylor… Ronnie Wood, but I digress. As time went on, the more liner notes I read taught me that there was such a thing as this fabled rhythm guitar player and that’s what Keith played (mostly). While playing solo’s gets all the attention the rhythm guy is just as important. He’s the guy that sets the riff which is the foundation of the song. It’s the riff that allows the soloist to soar, so to speak.

I’ve always thought of the rhythm guitar player as being the linchpin in any five piece (with two guitarists). He’s part of the front line of any band along with the lead player and the lead singer. That front line is face to face with the crowd. But he’s also part of the rhythm section with the drummer and the bassist. And as any true rock fan knows, the rhythm section is the engine of any band. In the parlance of the restaurant industry, the rhythm player is working the front of the house and the back room. He’s helping set – with the aforementioned drummer/bass player – the foundation upon which the singer and the lead guitarist “stand” upon.

Sadly, true rhythm players never get the glory, outside of a very few. If you google rhythm players the lists you’ll find are littered with lead guys. And yes, there are plenty of lead guitar players – Eddie, Jimi, Angus Young – who play fabulous rhythm guitar. Many of the lead guys are the only guitar player in the band so they do double duty. For the purposes of my list, I wanted to focus on the guys who are dedicated rhythm guitar players. And yes, occasionally the rhythm guy might step forward and take a solo… heaven knows they’ve earned it. Without further adieu, these are my favorite (predominantly) rhythm guitar players. These guys might be hanging out in the shadows by the drum riser having a smoke, but they certainly deserve some attention and love… I’ve listed the player and the band(s) they played with below.

  • Keith Richards, The Rolling Stones/Xpensive Winos – Keef! Well, any long time reader would know this would be where my list started… Keith is the self described “Riff Meister.” He’s got so many iconic riffs that he and Mick built into songs, “Satisfaction,” “Jumping Jack Woman,” and “Honky Tonk Woman” to name but a few. When I think of sublime rhythm this is what I think of. He’s admitted playing with a virtuoso like Mick Taylor allowed him to perfect the rhythm guitar. Indeed.
  • Malcolm Young, AC/DC – We lost Malcolm only a few years ago which truly makes me sad. While his brother Angus gets all the glory in AC/DC for his amazing solo’s (check out “Whole Lotta Rosie”) it’s Malcolm whose the hero in that band. AC/DC is all about riffs and feel and that starts with Malcolm.
  • Stone Gossard, Pearl Jam – I feel Stone Gossard is sometimes the forgotten member of Pearl Jam. The chicks all dug Eddie Vedder and the guys like Mike McCready’s wicked solos but I always dug the riffs coming from Stone. He wrote most the music on their epic debut Ten. They’ve gone through a number of drummers but they couldn’t survive losing Stone in the engine of that band!
  • Izzy Stradlin, Guns N Roses/solo – I’m still pissed the greedy Axl Rose hasn’t included his old Indiana buddy Izzy in the GnR reunion. When Slash, Duff and Adler first teamed up with Axl, he made Izzy’s being in the band a condition. Slash wasn’t too happy about it but Izzy wrote a lot of the songs and played fabulous riffs that Slash could play off of. He’s truly a great player. I saw Izzy and the Juju Hounds from right in front of the stage and oh, my, the riffs!
  • John Lennon, The Beatles/solo – Sure John gets credit for his singing and songwriting and he was the front man of the Beatles, at least in the beginning, but he never gets credit for his great rhythm guitar. Ringo said he always played too fast but I love the way he plays. It’s an under appreciated part of the juggernaut of the Beatles.
  • Joe Strummer, The Clash/solo – Much like Lennon, Joe sang most of the Clash tunes. He was another great songwriter. But he was also a great rhythm player. He didn’t adopt the last name “Strummer” for nothing. I love his playing on the early stuff like The Clash or Give ‘Em Enough Rope.
  • James Hetfield, Metallica – Hetfield is perhaps the greatest rhythm player in all of heavy metal. He plays some lead with Kirk Hammett but I love the aggressive, in  your face rhythm the guy plays. When he and drummer Lars Ulrich lock into a groove, look out.  I’m really digging the new songs they’re putting out from “Lux Aeterna” to “If Darkness Had A Son.”
  • Bob Weir, The Grateful Dead/various bands – The Dead were like the Allman Brothers in that they played rock n roll with an almost jazz sensibility. Bob Weir would probably have been a lead guy in other bands but he was in a band with genius Jerry Garcia. He developed into one of the most original, extraordinary rhythm players in the game. I’m not a huge Dead fan but I do dig Weir. I do like the Dead’s country rock stuff.
  • Brad Whitford, Aerosmith/Whitford St. Holmes – Whitford is another guy who might have been the lead guy if he wasn’t in Aerosmith with Joe Perry. Indeed he was the lead player in his short lived band Whitford St. Holmes. Check out their tune “Sharpshooter.” And, in truth Whitford does play lead on songs he co writes. But for the most part he’s playing those dirty blues rock riffs that allow Perry to solo to his hearts content. When asked who his favorite guitar players were, Joe Perry included Whitford… rightly so.
  • Joan Jett, Runaways/Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Whether with the Runaways or solo Joan Jett’s rhythm guitar is the foundation of all her music. I saw her recently with Cheap Trick opening, and man does she play the riffs. She’s more known as the front woman of the Blackhearts but close your eyes and listen to that rhythm guitar, it’s super rich.
  • Nile Rodgers, Chic/producer/session player – Most of us rockers probably don’t own a lot Chic records. But Nile Rodgers who went on to become a big time producer started in that iconic band. The rhythm guitar that Nile laid down when he produced Bowie’s Let’s Dance with Stevie Ray Vaughn playing lead is enough to land him on this list. I love what he played on “China Girl.”
  • Chrissie Hynde, The Pretenders/solo – Like Joan Jett or John Lennon, Hynde is known more for her singing and songwriting. But, if you listen to the punchy punk rock of the Pretenders you know it’s all about her pugnacious riffs. I love the way she plays. I saw the Pretenders open for the Stones once and she was so impressive on guitar.
  • Bob Marley, Bob Marley & The Wailers – Bob is so iconic, he’s on posters and t-shirts everywhere I turn. Especially when I vacation in warmer climes. And he’s known for his singing and onstage dancing. But I really dug his rhythm guitar playing especially in the early days when Peter Tosh was playing the lead. “Positive Vibrations,” indeed.
  • Tom Petty, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers/solo – Petty always shied away from lead guitar because he was standing next to guitar maestro Mike Campbell in the Heartbreakers. But he was quite a good guitar player in his own right. He was such a great singer and songwriter nobody noticed he was playing all these iconic riffs. I can’t help but think of “Change Of Heart,” one of my all time favorite riffs…

That’s our list folks. It was high time we turned a bright, hot spotlight onto these great players. All of these rhythm guitar players are legends in my mind. Do you have a favorite I might have missed? Drop them in the comments section. I love to talk about the nooks and crannies of rock n roll. And sadly, I fear the rhythm guys have been wrongly pushed into the background of rock n roll.

Cheers and I hope everyone is recuperating from their St. Patrick’s Day festivities with Bloody Mary’s and bloody good rock n roll.


Lookback: The True Peak of Aerosmith – 1975 – 1976, ‘Toys In The Attic’ and ‘Rocks’ – Spectacular Rock N Roll


I was at a party a while back and I got into a discussion with this guy about rock n roll, per usual. I was talking with this guy a little younger than me – although not much younger than me – and he wanted to talk about Aerosmith. I’m always down to talk rock n roll and especially Aerosmith – Steve Tyler/vocals, Joe Perry/lead guitar, Brad Whitford/guitar, Tom Hamilton/bass and Joey Kramer/drums – who I consider to be one of the greatest rock bands America ever produced. This guy I was talking to was trying to convince me that Aerosmith’s 1989 album Pump was the greatest rock album ever. The guy was about 10 years younger than me so it makes sense, Pump was big when he was coming of age. I had managed to get on their bandwagon in the late 70s quite a bit before Pump. I had to tell the guy Pump wasn’t even one of Aerosmith’s greatest albums let alone one of the greatest rock albums of all time… “The conversation,” as Bob Dylan once sang, “was short and sweet.”This is why I don’t go to many parties any more.

It makes sense that Aerosmith has different sets of fans or perhaps better said fans of different eras of the band. They had a meteoric, incredible run through the 70s and then fell apart as drugs, ego, exhaustion from touring and infighting all took their toll. By the time I was in high school in ’80 we were already asking, “What happened to Aerosmith?” Both guitarist Joe Perry and Brad Whitford split, Perry for his Joe Perry Project and Whitford formed Whitford St. Holmes with Nugent’s old rhythm guitarist/vocalist Derek St. Holmes (check out the tune “Sharpshooter,” great stuff). Aerosmith finally put out another album Rock In A Hard Place in 1982, a three year gap since 1979’s A Night In The Ruts which was an unheard of amount of time between albums in those days. At that point they had Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay on guitar. Most bands were on the album-tour-album-tour treadmill and put out an album every year. My roommate bought Rock In A Hard Place and other than the song “Lightning Strikes” it was a disappointment. Tyler looked perilously thin in the video for “Lightning Strikes.”

Then something utterly improbable happened. Perry and Whitford returned. The band toured at that point and I saw the mighty reconstituted Aerosmith at Starlight Theater over on the East side of town. They were amazing that night but when we went to rush the stage, one of my buddies passed out. I had to baby sit him from back in the cheap seats while my other two friends stood in front of the stage basking in the power of Aerosmith. The place was only half full that night. They finally got off drugs – Tyler and Perry delighted in using cocaine and heroin such that their nickname was the Toxic Twins – and then they made what may be the greatest comeback in rock history. Personally I really dug Done With Mirrors, it was more of an old school Aerosmith album, but the comeback didn’t really take hold until Permanent Vacation which came out when I was just out of college. That led to a pretty big run from the late 80s to the late 90s. That second era of success for the band tends to dwarf that run in the 70s where Aerosmith established their reputation.

As we sit here now when Aerosmith hasn’t put out an album in 10 years – and really haven’t put out an interesting album in over 20 years – it’s easy to forget about those great Aerosmith days in the 70s. Today the guys in Aerosmith with their highlighted, poufy hair and flowing clothes look more like the Scary Housewives of Rock N Roll than the menacing rock band of the 70s. I don’t think these guys get along very well anymore. I think drummer Joey Kramer even sued the band. Why can’t hard rock bands get along the way Rush did? With all these horrible ballads like “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing,” a song so garish I once hurt myself lunging at the radio to change the station when it came on, it’s easy to overlook their killer hard rock origins. Like this guy I was talking to at the party many people think that late 80s to late 90s run was the entirety of the Aerosmith story. Well, I for one, have not forgotten those glory days. I have not forgotten the true peak of Aerosmith – 1975 to 1976.

I didn’t get into music, as I’ve shared, until I was in junior high so about 1978 or 1979. While we didn’t know it, by ’79 Aerosmith was musically a spent force… at least in terms of their initial run. A Night In The Ruts was widely considered a disappointment to their hardcore fans. The cover song “Remember (Walking In The Sand)” was the only track that got radio play. They had made the mistake of joining the cast of the 1978 musical movie Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with Peter Frampton and gads, disco kings The Bee Gees. At least they did a great cover of “Come Together.” Even though they were fading at the time, when I was in junior high Aerosmith still cast a long shadow. They were huge to us. They were menacing and seemed dirty and druggy. Everything a junior high kid in the late 70s could ask for. Tyler’s lyrics often sounded nonsensical but we read all sorts of innuendo into them. The first record of theirs I ever bought was their 1978 live album Live Bootleg. I listened to that a few weeks ago and it’s still mighty. But then I love live albums.

While Aerosmith’s eponymous debut LP was widely overlooked upon it’s release it’s one of my favorites. Their second album Get Your Wings was even better. The constant touring and playing finally began to jell in terms of their songwriting. It was in the mid 70s that Aerosmith finally burst through the clouds and into the stratosphere. If they’d never recorded again after the two albums they recorded in 1975 and 1976 respectively they would still be considered one of the greatest rock bands in American history. So dude at the party – these are the two greatest albums Aerosmith ever put to tape and thus, are two of the greatest rock albums ever.

Toys In The Attic (1975)

For Aerosmith, it turns out the third time was the charm… Everything came together here. This album contains not one but two of their greatest rock anthems, “Walk This Way” (the original, not the one ruined by Run D.M.C.) and “Sweet Emotion.” When people think of 70s rock and think of Aerosmith, this is the music they think of. Let’s look at the tracks.

  • “Toys In The Attic” – The album’s rollicking opening track. A statement about their mental health at the time. This thing is a “meet me at the finish line” kind of racing rocker. It’s such a nasty riff. There’s no Pump type polish here.
  • “Uncle Salty” – This may be one of my favorite deep tracks from these guys. It’s midtempo but gritty. The sad tale of a fallen woman. “And when she cried at night, no one came…”
  • “Adam’s Apple” – A song where Steven Tyler teaches us about the Garden of Eden. Another great riff rocker. Eve gets a bad rap but when it comes to the apple… “she ate it and Lord it was love at first bite…”
  • “Walk This Way” – Joey Kramer’s drums start us rocking but then the guitar comes in like a Howitzer. Aerosmith were always considered a poor man’s Rolling Stones but I sure hear a lot of James Brown in their music… “I was high school loser never made it with the ladies” was a lyric that resonated more than it should have when I was in high school.
  • “Big Ten Inch Record” – Resurrecting a tune from 1952, this is one of the rare moments of comedy from Aerosmith. I still love the tune. Great harmonica solo. “Liquor just make her flinch…”
  • “Sweet Emotion” – I rank this up there with Joe Walsh’s “Turn To Stone” as one of the greatest guitar riffs of all time. “Talking ’bout things and nobody cares” could describe most of my conversations these days…
  • “No More No More” – Another great deep track with heavy riffage and boogie woogie piano.
  • “Round And Round” – One of the hardest tracks they’ve ever done. This points the way toward where they would go on Rocks.
  • “You See Me Crying” – A lovely piano ballad and I’m told Liv Tyler’s favorite Aerosmith tune. I don’t know why I like this ballad more than most of their late period balladry. With the piano and strings this almost sounds like Queen.

Rocks (1975)

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better than Toys In The Attic Aerosmith returned with the amps turned up to 11. This is their hardest rocking statement ever. It makes their 80s stuff look like the Bay City Rollers.

  • “Back In The Saddle” – The Rock Chick’s favorite Aerosmith song, to her credit. “A lusty cowboy song.” Joey Kramer is drumming like he’s barely keeping the guitars connected to the earth. Perry and Whitford’s guitars careen off each other. Amazing tune… “Barkeep give me a drink, that’s when she caught my eye…” is almost the story of when I met the Rock Chick.
  • “Last Child” – The funkiest hard rock you’ll ever hear. Maybe it’s just me but I feel the influence of James Brown here. A song about getting out in the country. “Hands on the plow and my feets in the ghetto.”
  • “Rats In The Cellar” – This track seems like an inherent sequel to “Toys In The Attic.” If I ever have a heart attack, throw me on a speaker and turn this racing rocker on the turntable and crank it up.
  • “Combination” – Another heavy rock riff tune. Tyler sounds like he’s being tortured on the vocal.
  • “Sick As A Dog” – One of their best, most overlooked tunes. “Sick as a dog, cat got your tongue?” I love the live version on Live Bootleg as well. This song should have been a monster hit.
  • “Nobody’s Fault” – Side 2 kicks off with this ominous rocker. I don’t know what happened but it sounds like somebody is in trouble and is very sorry. Another tortured vocal from Tyler over Perry and Whitford’s equally tortured guitar.
  • “Get The Lead Out” – I’ve always wondered if this funky rocker was a sly nod to Zeppelin. They were friends with Page and had covered the Yardbirds’ “Train Kept A’Rollin’.” I love the first line, “Got good boogie…” Yes they did. You can move to Aerosmith, I defy you to try and sit still during this record.
  • “Lick And A Promise” – They rock this one so hard and fast the band sounds like they’re on the verge of collapse.
  • “Home Tonight” – Like Toys In The Attic we end with a ballad. Perhaps my favorite mellow tune from Aerosmith.  A tune so longing in getting home it was on our Songs of Home playlist… gorgeous track.

If you’re ever at a party and someone starts talking about the hard rock artistry of Get A Grip or Nine Lives, sneak over to the stereo and crank one of these albums and simply behold the majesty and the power of the true peak of Aerosmith. And know, that in that moment I am somewhere out there on the dark road flashing the Devil Horns for you… “and I’ll be home tonight…”


B&V’s Favorite “Comeback” LPs


“Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years, rockin’ my peers, puttin’ suckers in fear” – LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out”

Everybody loves the drama of a good comeback. If you think about Hollywood there’s really only two story lines. There’s the story where our hero struggles, but all good things come to him in the end. I don’t know about y’all but “happily ever after” doesn’t usually happen in real life, at least to me…with the exception of the Rock Chick of course. The other story line that Hollywood loves is the comeback. Our hero gains fame or fortune but somehow, usually through some personality flaw or the machinations of some villain, our hero falls. It’s how the hero handles that adversity that fuels the drama. He struggles and then finally rights the ship and makes, yes, the comeback. That’s certainly the formula they used for the Freddy Mercury and Queen movie, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ In that case, I’m not sure how historically accurate it was.

All of that said, there have been some great comebacks in rock n roll. There are many cases where a band or artist makes it big but then… loses it. Whether they succumb to drug abuse or the pressure of fame gets to them, the artist drifts creatively. The Rock Chick continually marvels at these bands/artists who work all their young lives to get famous and sell records, who finally “make it” only to lose their shit. I kinda understand that whole thing. I don’t think anybody has any conception of what real, big fame is like. The artist perhaps feels isolated, turns to drugs or some other self-destructive behavior. Or maybe just freaked out by their fame, the artist changes their musical approach or fires the band. Certainly hubris plays a big part in all of this… I’m thinking specifically of Axl Rose who thought he was Guns N Roses. Never underestimate band chemistry, Axl.

There are many cases of big stars who eventually faded. For some odd reason I’m thinking of Sly Stone when I type these words. But for every star who eventually faded, against all odds, there are artists who have made the improbable comeback. They have somehow been able to summon the creative fire of their early success and create an album or a series of LPs that solidify their legacy and place in the rock n roll pantheon. There are many of these “comeback” albums that I just love. As I was thinking about this concept, I thought I’d share our favorites with you. There’s something about an artist with their back against the wall who comes out swinging that I’ve always loved… but then I’ve always been the underdog.

  • Elvis Presley, From Elvis In Memphis – The greatest comeback ever belongs to the King. His evil manager Colonel Tom Parker had Elvis stuck on a treadmill of making basically the same movie over and over again. The King wasn’t even doing concerts anymore. The Colonel had rendered the King irrelevant. The one time in his career Elvis bucked the Colonel was when he decided to do a television special at the end of ’68. Longtime fans were nervous… did Elvis still “have it?” Indeed he did. He mesmerized on the Comeback Special. But how to follow it up? Elvis went back home to Memphis and recorded one of his strongest albums, From Elvis In Memphis. “Stranger In My Own Home Town” still brings chills up and down my spine. Had he not come out with a strong LP after the TV show the comeback would have fizzled… The Memphis album as it came to be known solidified the comeback… Alas Colonel Parker took over again and put Elvis on the Vegas concert treadmill but that’s another story.
  • Muddy Waters, Hard AgainThe 70s saw a bunch of new musical trends and they all led away from the blues and blues rock that had dominated in the late 60s, early 70s. Muddy kept putting out LPs in the early 70s with diminishing returns. One might describe his 70s output as disappointing. Muddy acolyte, blues master Johnny Winter approached Muddy about producing an LP. Muddy agreed. They assembled a topnotch backing band and the alchemy struck gold. The version of “Mannish Boy” on this album is definitive for me…
  • Johnny Cash, American Recordings – Johnny Cash was washed up and left for dead by the Country Music establishment. He was doing dinner clubs with an ensemble of musicians. Uber producer Rick Rubin attended one of those dinner club shows and approached the Man In Black about doing a stripped down album. American Recordings, his first of several LPs with Rubin, was stark and fierce. The liner notes were a copy of something Johnny wrote on lined notebook paper. It was a staggeringly successful return. “Delia’s Gone” was my favorite but there’s a lot to like. He does everybody from Nick Lowe to Danzig. It was the beginning of one of Johnny’s most fertile periods.
  • Bob Dylan, Time Out of Mind – Even a diehard Dylan fan like me had given up on Bob by the late ’90s. The last LP I’d bought of his was Oh Mercy! almost a decade prior. Dylan had holed up and done a couple of albums of folk covers. I ignored them at the time – although I love them now – but those records recharged something in Dylan. Time Out of Mind feels like mortality itself reaching out to deliver a message It’s a late career masterpiece. It led to a series of great LPs in what can only be called a late career renaissance.
  • Paul McCartney, Flaming Pie – McCartney’s late 80s/early 90s losing streak was the thing of legend. I don’t think anybody was paying attention to him any more. It verged on being embarrassing. After he collaborated with the remaining Beatles on the Anthology Series, McCartney was able to reconnect with his creative spark. Flaming Pie was an amazing record and McCartney has been on a winning streak ever since, culminating in McCartney III last year.
  • George Harrison, Cloud Nine – Odd that there are a couple of ex-Beatles on this list… After his early solo success with All Things Must Pass, Harrison’s career had stagnated. The last thing I expected in the late 80s, driving around Ft Smith, Arkansas was to hear a great Harrison song, “Got My Mind Set On You.” Harrison had brought in Jeff Lynn of ELO fame to produce. Clapton and Ringo show up to help out. Cloud Nine led to the Traveling Wilburys and nice little late career surge for George, an underrated Beatle.
  • Warren Zevon, Sentimental Hygiene – Zevon had so many career collapses and comebacks I struggled to pick just one record here… I picked Sentimental Hygiene because it’s one of his greatest records. The title track features a blistering Neil Young guitar solo – recorded in one or maybe two takes. Everyone should be listening to Warren Zevon and for God’s sake if any of you have any pull – get him into the Rock Hall of Fame, please.
  • Neil Young, Freedom – Speaking of Neil Young… the 80s were a terrible decade for him. He was actually sued by his record company for “Purposely making uncommercial music.” Sigh. While many of the songs on Freedom had been around for a while, the album hung together as a whole. “Rockin’ In the Free World” in both its acoustic and electric versions is an iconic Young tune. It was a real return to form and set Neil up for a very creative decade in the 90s. Neil’s always got something left in the tank.
  • The Allman Brothers, Seven Turns – You could perhaps describe this as a reunion album more so than a comeback album, but I love it and it was so good to hear the Allman Brothers make new music in 1990. They had a great three or four LP run after this. “Good Clean Fun” and the title track remain amongst my favorites.
  • Aerosmith, Permanent Vacation – I had loved 70s Aerosmith but then they just fizzled into a morass of heroin and stupidity. I thought Done With Mirrors was a better album but it was this LP that brought Aerosmith back to center stage. While “Angel” bothers me, I loved “Dude Looks Like A Lady,” and “Ragdoll” with his greasy slide guitar. The world is always better off when Aerosmith is rocking.
  • Metallica, Death Magnetic – The Load and Reload albums sold well for Metallica but man, they left me cold. St Anger was to these ears, unlistenable. But then in 2008 Metallica dropped this gem of a record and everything clicked for me in terms of Metallica. This comeback LP got me on their bandwagon for good… I went back and purchased all their first four LPs and they are amazing.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers, Californication – In the video for the first single from this album, the amazing “Scar Tissue,” the Chilis look like someone beat the shit out of them. They’d certainly had a rough go of it. Lead guitarist John Frusciante had quit. Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction fame had joined and left. They were considering doing an electronica based record. But Flea reached out to Frusciante who was fresh out of rehab – his heroin addiction can only be described as harrowing – and John decided to return to the fold. The results were proof Frusciante is the only person who should be playing lead guitar for the RHCPs. I saw this tour, still a very dark vibe from these guys but it was a great show. They went on to even greater heights until Frusciante quit again after Stadium Arcadium… only to return again. Fingers crossed for a new album from these guys.
  • Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, The Rising – Bruce had disbanded the E Street Band, his longstanding back up band and wandered in the wilderness through the 90s. He’d gotten them back together for a reunion tour but wasn’t sure he could still write rock songs. When the tragic events of 911 unfolded, Springsteen was inspired. He was walking down the street and a fan had yelled to him, “We need you now, man.” He responded with one of his greatest sets of songs ever. The Rising was a measured and inspired response to a horrible tragedy. It’s truly one of his finest hours.

If you’re feeling like a little rock n roll comeback drama, I highly recommend every LP on this list. I’ve been cranking Cloud Nine all day. I do so love the title track. Hopefully rock n roll drama is the only thing you’re facing out there today and everything is going well. Take care of each other out there!