Top 20 Rock Albums, January 2014
Though the opening weeks of the year are, traditionally speaking, a slow stretch for new releases, 2014 has quickly proven an exception to the rule. Rock fans have the one and only Bruce Springsteen largely to thank for this welcome development. His recently released High Hopes is in many respects an Odds & Sods-type mishmash of re-recorded rarities and outtakes, yet it also manages to display enough cohesion to be deemed a full-blown new effort from The Boss. What's more, it features Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello as both guitarist and collaborator. His modern rock bent (punk guitars, programmed beats, touches of electronica) can be felt all over the album.
But it isn't only Springsteen setting the polar vortex doldrums ablaze with the combustible passion of rock 'n' roll. Black Sabbath -- whose Ozzy-era titles have just been made available for streaming -- unveiled the fantastic Complete Studio Albums: 1970-1978. As any Sabbath fanatic will tell you, the box set contains the band's greatest records, including Paranoid, Master of Reality and Vol 4, which were unleashed back to back to back between the years 1970 and '72 -- one of rock's most stunning runs.
And speaking of classic British rock, The Rolling Stones just released the soundtrack to Live 1965: Music from Charlie Is My Darling, a fairly rare concert film that even a lot of the band's hardcore followers have never seen. I'll be honest: I first approached this archival set with a certain amount of trepidation. While I was stoked to hear vintage live recordings of the Brian Jones-era Stones, I also know the group is thoroughly unpredictable when it comes to concert recordings. Luckily, the refurbished Live 1965 boasts a clutch of performances that accurately capture the band's early, snarling, bluesy sound. Be sure to check out its rendition of "Time Is On My Side" -- totally heavy and raw.
I'll leave you with mention of one more title: Los Lonely Boys' Revelation. Due to the trio's Mexican American heritage, the music press tends to overemphasize its Chicano/Latin rock roots. Such a genre tag certainly isn't inaccurate, yet it needs noting that Los Lonely Boys are one of the best mainstream rock bands period. If you want to hear a modern group that possesses the craftsmanship required to make classic-sounding rock 'n' roll, then Los Lonely Boys are a must-hear.