To a fan of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, most of today’s music isn’t exactly a huge turn on, so bless the “old hands” for keeping the show going with new music! Plus, every now and then, I also get excited by newer artists. Following are my five favorite new albums of 2016:
Blue & Lonesome (The Rolling Stones)
For a band like The Rolling Stones, which started out mostly playing blues covers, it’s actually quite remarkable that it took them more than 50 years to make an album like Blue & Lonesome. This collection of 12 vintage blues covers is the best music the Stones have released in many years. While the band knows these tunes in and out and reportedly has played them many times during warm-ups, it all sounds incredibly fresh. If I would have to name my most favorite release of the year, it would probably by this one. For more on this fantastic album, see my previous post.
57th & 9th (Sting)
After taking a 13-year break from pop music, Sting roared back with a new album. To me, 57th & 9th sounds like it’s 1991 all over again, when the ex-Police frontman released The Soul Cages. Of the ten tracks, I think my favorites are the three tunes that have been released as singles so far: The catchy I Can’t Stop Thinking About You, the thoughtful 50,000 and the rocker Petrol Head. Sting is going to support the album with a big tour in 2017, which is planned to kick off Feb 1 in Vancouver, Canada; include more than 20 dates in the U.S., and finish in Colmar, France on Jul 31. This is a show I’d love to see! For more on the album, see my previous post.
Broken People (Muddy Magnolias)
Muddy Magnolias are “my new discovery” for 2016 I’m most excited about. This dynamo band was founded in 2014 by Jessy Wilson, an African American singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, New York; and Kallie North, a white pianist from Beaumont, TX. According to their web site, Wilson’s influences include Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Lauren Hill, Mary J. Blige and The Notorious B.I.G., while North grew up listening to artists like The Carpenters, Alison Krauss, James Taylor and the Eagles. Putting these two ladies together not only resulted in one of the coolest band names, but also in a remarkable debut album. Broken People is an amazing mix of different music styles that cannot be put in a single category – blues, country, folk, rock, R&D, soul…it’s all in there! When I listened to the opener for the first time, the title song, I immediately got goose bumps and went on listening to the entire album. The ten remaining tunes are outstanding as well.
Dig In Deep (Bonnie Raitt)
You just cannot go wrong with Bonnie Raitt. This lady is the real deal – you get what you see! Plus, her slide guitar playing continues to amaze me. See this post about a show at NJPAC in Newark I saw back in August. Dig In Deep, Raitt’s 17th studio album, shines right from the get-go. The groove of the opener, Unintended Consequence of Love, reminds me a little bit of Love Letter, one of my favorite Raitt tunes from 1989’s Nick of Time. Need You Tonight is a pretty cool remake of the INXS Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single from 1987. Other stand-outs are Gypsy In Me and The Ones We Couldn’t Be, a beautiful piano ballad written by Raitt.
Santana IV (Santana)
When I listened to Anywhere You Want to Go for the first time on the radio, I really thought for a moment, ‘wow, that’s a cool early Santana song,’ wondering why I hadn’t heard it before. At the time, I had no idea that Carlos Santana had reunited with most of the original Santana band from the late 1960s/early 1970s and released a new album. Santana IV picks up right where Santana III left off 45 years ago, presenting an electrifying fusion of Afro-Cuban grooves, rock and jazz that made the band famous. In addition to the catchy Anywhere You Want to Go, another gem is Blues Magic – Gregg Rolie’s vocals and Hammond B3 organ, together’s with Carlos’s guitar truly make for a magical experience. Freedom in Your Mind, with Ronald Isley of the legendary Isley Brothers on lead vocals and its cool groove, is another standout. Fillmore East is reminiscent of the instrumentals that were also common for the classic Santana band. I had a chance to see the Santana IV line-up together with Journey in Allentown, Pa. in April, an amazing show that predates the start of the blog – hence no separate post with a review!