Top 20 Rock Albums, August 2014
If you crave rock 'n' roll from icons, then this month's roundup is for you. Leading the pack is Hypnotic Eye, the latest from Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers. Over grungy guitars and retro-freakbeat grooves (think Crazy Horse meets The Black Keys), a politically charged Petty spits venom about money-hungry power brokers, neo-cons hell-bent on destroying the middle class, small-town political corruption and the need to keep fighting for that strange thing known as the American Dream.
Eric Clapton also returns to the spotlight, this time paying tribute to old friend and pivotal influence JJ Cale. The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale is a star-studded affair featuring guest spots from John Mayer, Willie Nelson, Derek Trucks and, yes, Tom Petty. Another key title is the box-set treatment of Elvis Presley's That's the Way It Is, which was originally released in 1970. This truly Deluxe Edition (eight discs!) is the ultimate document of the King's early years on the Las Vegas circuit. Though he already was sporting those absurd peacock onesies, his live shows at this point still possessed a lot of fire and electricity.
As for those of you who prefer crushing guitars and howling vocals, our rock roundup also boasts an audacious amount of 21st-century hard rock. Sully Erna and Godsmack's 1000hp sounds like a long-lost collection of recordings from the mid-'90s. The band made a wise move: Rather than slather their jams in flavor-of-the-month EDM beats in an embarrassing attempt to stay "hip," they go back to basics, unloading riff-raging post-grunge for bros. But possibly the gnarliest release we feature is '68's In Humor and Sadness. Founded by guitarist and singer Josh Scogin (previously of The Chariot) and drummer Michael McClellan, the duo specializes in 100% scuzz rock that recalls both the early Sub Pop stable (The Fluid, Mudhoney, Nirvana) and the numerous heavyweights who recorded for the Amphetamine Reptile label back in the early '90s (Guzzard, Helmet, Gaunt). It's now time to get listening …