Sometimes the best albums are the most surprising.
2008 has been a pretty good year for music so far. New releases from several classic hard rock acts, new supergroups, and up-and-comers have highlighted the scene so far. I decided to give a quick overview of some of the albums that have invaded my earspace lately. Two I have already mentioned on this blog, at least in passing, the other two I don’t believe I have breathed a word of…
First, we have the latest from Mötley Crüe, Saints of Los Angeles. It is a biographical album loosely based on their book The Dirt. In many ways it is a return to old-style Crüe, with many memorable hooks and hum-along melodies. My favorite songs on the album are “Face Down in the Dirt,” “Down at the Whisky,” “Saints of Los Angeles,” and “Goin’ Out Swingin’.” Unfortunately, they have not been playing many songs from the album on the tour, but with such a deep back catalog and short setlist, they couldn’t fit many more into the show.
Next up is the concept album from Judas Priest, Nostradamus. I’ve listened to the two-disc set once, and probably never will again. I take that back. I will give it another try. But I didn’t like it the first time. At all. I wasn’t expecting a re-creation of British Steel, but it would have been nice to have at least thrown me a bone. I’ve never been a big JP fan, and the only songs I really like are those that get airplay on commercial radio stations. For those who love JP, you will probably love this album. But for those who are expecting tracks like “Breaking the Law,” well, you’ve got another thing coming.
Wednesday 13 is not a classic rock artist by any stretch of the imagination. But the new album, Skeletons, has helped me immensely in my writing. A large part of that has been the thematic uses of murder and horror in the songs, but musically the record is very strong. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t listen to it, regardless of the lyrical content. My favorite songs on the disc are “Gimme Gimme Bloodshed” and “From Here to the Hearse.” If you happen to pick up this album and like it, check out the Bloodwork E.P. also, if for no other reason then for W13’s cover of the Tom Petty classic “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” One of the best cover versions of any song I’ve heard in a long time.
Finally, we have Alice Cooper, Along Came A Spider. When I first heard this was a concept album, I immediately developed an aversion to it. Memories of WASP’s The Crimson Idol and, more recently, JP’s Nostradamus came back to me. I was positive I would hate this album. Concept albums are rarely well done. In fact, The Who is the only band who has successfully pulled it off. Until now. Alice has put out a quality record here, and there are several songs that should be included on future “Best of” packages. This is one of those albums that make it difficult to pick favorite songs, because every track is good. I highly recommend it to any fans of classic Alice Cooper. For more info on the concept part of the album, read the Wikipedia entry for it.
Other albums will come out before the calendar says 2009, but so far these four have made the biggest impact (either positive or negative) on me. For up-to-the-minute hard rock news, check out one of my favorite sites, Hard Rock Hideout.