In honor of The Boss’s newest release, Wrecking Ball, we decided to list out our favorite albums from the old timers that can still pull together good albums. More often than not, artists that try and push themselves past their prime ultimately end up fizzling out very slowly, leaving most of the general public annoyed with their insistent presence (i.e. Cher, Ringo Starr, Michael Bay). It is rare to see an artist come out with something 20+ years after the release of their debut, that doesn’t warrant them spending the rest of their career performing nightly on the Vegas Strip. However, as is with everything, there are a few exceptions. Thus, our rule for this list is born … the album must have been released 20+ years after the debut. Below are what we consider to be those old-timer exceptions:
10. Neil Young – Ragged Glory
In 1990, Neil pulled together a very straight forward grunge album that could make Meat Puppets sound like Britney Spears. Bands like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam (whom Neil would record an album with 5 years later) were just on the horizon, and Seattle grunge was about to conquer the music scene to make its mark forever. Neil’s Ragged Glory was a timely musical precursor to this sound, and left us with staples in the Neil catalogue such as “F*!#in’ Up”, a brilliant Don and Dewy cover “Farmer Jon”, and “Days that Used to Be”, which is apparently Neil’s take on Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages”.
9. Tom Petty – Highway Companion
Tom Petty? Really? … Yes! Really! Tom Petty had a long stint with the Heartbreakers before he began his side project with one of the all-time greatest supergroups, The Traveling Willbury’s. After they disbanded, Tom was left with quite a few leftovers that he and ELO front man Jeff Lynne had written together. The problem was, “they didn’t sound like Heartbreaker songs”. So Tom went solo and recorded Full Moon Fever which resulted in lots of heartache within the Heartbreakers, and “Free Falling” to be introduced to karaoke machines around the world. Luckily, Tom was forced to sign a three-album contract with his label, and all three were to be recorded as solo albums. With the help of Cameron Crowe, his third and final solo album was released in 2006, 30 years after his debut, and turned out to be the only Tom Petty album I know of that is worth listening from front to back, rather than just a few hits and some filler tracks. Highway Companion is also home to Petty’s greatest, and possibly the most diverse Petty track, “Jack”.
8. Bob Dylan – Modern Times
One of the most interesting concepts for a legendary artist to ever come up with, was the one Bob Dylan came up with for Modern Times. Instead of covering the songs you love, adapt them. Dylan took legendary blues staples and created entirely new versions of them based around their song structure and lyrics. I know what you may be thinking at this point, and yes I know, white people have been doing this with blues music for over half a century now. Dylan did it in a way that had never been done before. It was like he was giving the songs credit, but also giving them a twist to fit the “modern times” as well. He even went as far as changing Ma Rainey’s name to Alicia Keys in “Thunder On the Mountain”, a pretty honorable shout out for Miss Keys. Dylan’s latter days career has dwindled down considerably since he has become to frail to hold his guitar, but his ability to write lyrics combined with his exenstensive understanding of song and music will never change. His 32nd album displays that well, 34 years after the release of Bob Dylan.
7. Prince – Musicology
There is no doubt that in Prince’s expansive career and sprawling amounts of released music that there is bound to be some fairly poor albums in the mix. At the very least, many poor tracks. Musicology is most certainly an exception. Released in 2004 (the last of three albums he released that year … seriously), it is one of Prince’s most cohesive and user friendly full albums since Sign O’ the Times was released in 1987. This was 26 years and 30 albums after the release of his debut. Simply remarkable.
6. Robert Plant/Alison Krauss – Raising Sand
Two vocalist masters, an incredible track listing, and expertly produced by T-Bone Burnett, this album is still one of the greatest sounding recorded efforts in recent history. The kicker is, it came out 22 years after Alison’s debut album, and 38 years after the debut of Led Zeppelin. Whoever had the idea to pair those two up in the studio and have T-Bone behind the mixing board is nothing less than a genius, and the proof is in the pudding.
5. Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped
A lot of great bands hit their peak at about album two or three. The band is still young and growing, they are excited and motivated to write good music for their new-found fan base, and they generally are not creatively burnt out just yet. Sonic Youth’s best albums landed around their 6th and 7th studio efforts (Daydream Nation and Goo), with a close third residing 24 years after their debut and being the 14th studio album dropped by the band. It was a very straightforward album for the band and contained some of their best tracks in years including “Incinerate”, the very melancholy “Do You Believe In Rapture?” and “What a Waste”. It was easily one of their most accessible albums, and was still unscathed in its critical reception. It also marked the end of the band’s legendary relationship with indie label Geffen, before they jumped ship to rival label Matador Records.
4. Bruce Springsteen – The Rising
Bruce’s reunion withe the E Street Band, and hailed to be the rebirth of his career … 29 years after his debut. Bruce and E Street essentially went through Splitsville after the synthesizer and pop music was introduced to the band in the making of Born in the USA. They worked together sparingly afterwards, but it wasn’t until The Rising before they fully reunited. After 9/11 Bruce decided to go back to his heartfelt, heartland, everyday working-class American roots, and unlike most music that was a result of 9/11, it didn’t suck. Quite the contrary actually, it was like have good ole’ Bruce back. The good news is that it really was his rebirth, and he has been sticking around making blue-collared music for us ever since. Just like old times.
3. Johnny Cash – American IV
Cash’s first album dropped in 1957. 45 years later, the last of his albums released in his own lifetime was gracefully given to us listeners. It was Part IV of he and Rick Rubin’s American Recordings Series, and possibly the best of the bunch. The album was raw, modern, and just like Cash, extremely bad ass. It included covers like NIN’s “Hurt”, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”, Hank W’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, The Beatles “In My Life”, and Cash’s last living hit single, “The Man Comes Around”. Just typing that gave me chills.
2. Tom Waits – Orphans
Of course Tom Waits would be on this list, and naturally we pick Orphans yet again to represent him. Yes, Mule Variations also deserves to be on this list, and yes, Bad As Me could ALSO very easily be on this list as well. But we feel like if we were to pick one of his latest, why not choose the one that is 30+ tracks of equally dispersed greatness, softness, and all-out weirdness wrapped into one package. It’s a perfect representation of Ole Tommy.
1. Paul Simon – Graceland
22 years after he and Art’s debut album, Paul Simon released the best work of his career. To this day it is still notoriously praised as one of the better albums of all time. Introducing African rhythms and vocal stylings behind Paul’s soft voice and poppy guitar melodies was a brilliant maneuver, and was the perfect move to give Paul’s career the shot in the arm to last him another 20 years. Graceland left fans with songs like “Graceland”, “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” (a personal favorite of mine), and “You Can Call Me Al”. Whether you care for Paul on average or not, chances are, you’ll still enjoy this album.
The Just Missed List …
Todd: Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2
I like my sugar with coffee and cream, and I like my Beasties in 2011 just the same as the year I was born … which was 1986. It’s hard to imagine these white punk-ass rappers are so old. They still sound like whiney 12-year olds trying to rhyme, and I love every second of it.
Wes: Gil Scott Herron – I’m New Here
This was an album Austin and I did not know enough about to allow it on out list. However, after previewing only two tracks from the album while writing this article, I can see why Wes was disappointed for us not having heard it earlier. Perhaps if LxL ever gets to the point where we must retool a list like this, Gill will be a front-runner.
Austin: Aerosmith – Honkin’ On Bobo
As high school idiots, Austin and I had just discovered that you could purchase concert tickets on eBay. And if those concert tickets happened to be Aerosmith tickets, they were only $10. Naturally we clicked on “Buy It Now!”, rounded up the troops, and rushed down to Deer Creek Amphitheater so fast we were passing cars on the shoulder (honestly) in my father’s newly purchased Chevy Tahoe. This was Austin’s first introduction to Honkin’ on Bobo and wouldn’t be his last. It has stayed close to his heart and pumping through his ear buds ever since.
So there is the list. Let us know what we unforgivably missed, or got right, but still feel free to just rip on us in general …