Top 10 albums of 2012 critics' picks: Steve Newton
Sorry, I’m just not into the Gangnam style.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse
The Can-Am rock legend gets back together with his favourite combo for a platter that, while not in the league of Crazy Horse offerings like Zuma and Ragged Glory, still delivers the primo guitar-rock goods. And you’ve gotta love a guy who kicks things off with a song that’s nearly 28 minutes long.
The classic Soundgarden lineup of singer Chris Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil, bassist Ben Shepherd, and drummer Matt Cameron releases its first album in 16 years, and it sounds like it’s never been gone. The raging, three-minute “Attrition” might be the best damn rock tune of the year.
Like an unstoppable force of nature, the Canuck prog-rock trio of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart just keeps on bringin’ it. The band sounds as vibrant and adventurous as ever on its 19th studio album.
A Different Kind of Truth
Despite its subpar lead-off track, “Tattoo”, the first Van Halen album with David Lee Roth since ’84 is a joy for those who’ve pined for another full-bodied taste of the ultimate party band’s raunchy rock. Just don’t get me started on Diamond Dave’s performance on tour.
Driving Towards the Daylight
Guitar great Joe Bonamassa covers blues legends Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, and Willie Dixon on his 11th studio album, and—via moving numbers like the exquisite title track—shows his own composing skills as well. Having Aerosmith’s underrated Brad Whitford add guitar to seven songs doesn’t hurt, either.
Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance
The singer, songwriter, and guitarist from the Drive-By Truckers targets the heart with his third solo album’s redemptive tales of loves lost and addicts saved. His slow-burning acoustic show at the Biltmore last June, in the company of Hope for Agoldensummer’s Campbell siblings, was a concert highlight of 2012.
Death & Taxes
Celtic-tinged punk rock doesn’t normally thrill me to the bone, but when singer-guitarist Jon Landry and his Nova Scotia mates hook up with Langley’s producer to the stars Mike Fraser, the results bring to mind the Ramones, the Pogues, and Crazy Horse tearing it up in a rowdy Dublin pub.
It might seem a bit strange including Ringo in a Top 10, but the former mop-top released what is arguably his finest album this year. The homage to his skiffle roots, “Rock Island Line”, is a standout, thanks to a little help from friends like Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench, saxophonist Edgar Winter, and guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Last year, veteran Vancouver instrumentalists the Falcons made my Top 10 with their fab Atomic Guitar album. This year’s instro-rock pick goes to the twang-crazed amigos out of Nashville, Tennessee. Look up cool-sounding in the dictionary and you’ll see their smiling faces (hidden behind Mexican wrestling masks).
Tribute albums can be patchy efforts, and this homage to Deep Purple’s monumental Machine Head definitely sports one major flaw in the Flaming Lips’ juvenile reworking of “Smoke on the Water”. But there’s enough killer contributions from the likes of Iron Maiden, Metallica, Joe Bonamassa, Steve Vai, Carlos Santana, and former Purple member Glenn Hughes to make up for that waste of space.