If you’re referred to as a “classic rock” artist in 2013, then you probably have a catalog of unforgettable songs and great albums that have stood the test of time, and then some. If people still remember, and listen to, your songs two or three or four or five decades after you recorded them, you’ve done well, and no one would fault you from retiring from recording new music, particularly when it’s so difficult to live up to your past work.
But who really wants to retire from doing what they love the most? So, we’re grateful that some of the greatest artists of all time are still adding to their respective legacies with excellent new albums. Here, then, are five great albums that legends released in 2013.
1. Black Sabbath – 13: In which Ozzy Osbourne returned to the band for their first album together since 1978’s Never Say Die. Oz rejoined his mates in Sabbath for 1997’s Ozzfest tour, and have toured frequently and recorded a few songs here and there since then. But could a full length album live up to the anticipation? Well, the fans spoke, and in large numbers: 13 was Sabbath’s first #1 album in the U.S. and was also nominated for three GRAMMYs. Perhaps just as important is the fact that when the band played the new songs on their tour, the fans didn’t split for the bathrooms en masse. A lot of the credit is due to their producer Rick Rubin, who worked for years to get these guys into the studio. The only bummer: it was just a 75% reunion, as Bill Ward declined to be involved due to contractual disputes.
2. Elvis Costello and the Roots – Wise Up Ghost: For a career solo artist, Elvis is one hell of a collaborator; he’s recorded and/or performed with a wide array of artists in his career, including the Beastie Boys, George Jones, Tony Bennett, Lucinda Williams and Paul McCartney, to name a few. He’s even done full-on album-length collaborations with New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint, pop powerhouse Burt Bacharach and opera singer Ann Sophie von Otter. On Wise Up Ghost, he teams up with hip-hop’s greatest band for an album that really combined the best of both worlds: Costello’s wry lyrics with the Roots’ snappy backing. It’s just too bad that they didn’t tour together, but of course, the Roots have a day job: they’re the house band on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
3. David Bowie – The Next Day: 2013 started with something of a shock to Bowie fans: on January 8 (his birthday) he announced that he completed a new album and released a new single. That was a surprise because (a) it had been accepted among his fans that the Thin White Duke had quietly retired and (b) in this era where everyone knows everything, the fact that he was able to keep the fact that he was recording an album a secret was, frankly, rather astonishing. Later in the year, pop superstar Beyonce would follow Bowie’s lead by releasing a full album with no advance notice. There was a lot of hype around The Next Day, although Bowie made no appearances to promote it. No concerts, no TV performances, no interviews; just a series of music videos, including one for the title track that garnered a bit of controversy.
4. Aaron Neville – My True Story: On which Neville revisited the doo-wop classics of his youth. The guy could sing the phonebook and it would sound great, but he avoided getting too saccharine with the album by keeping the arrangements stripped down. Don Was produced and enlisted Keith Richards as his co-producer, giving the the album a four-on-the-floor feel, akin to what the original doo-wop groups sounded like. There wasn’t much schmaltz, but it was a great collaboration all the way around.
5. Eric Burdon – ‘Til Your River Runs Dry: This one didn’t have the splash of a big reunion or big name collaborators to help give it the “narrative” that most media outlets need to encourage them to cover an album. But what it lacked in hype, it made up for in performance: it showed one of the greatest singers in the history of rock and roll is still able to bring it. Miss this one at your own risk.
— Brian Ives, Radio.com