Top 11 Vintage Rock
Studio Albums Of 2016

Love it or leave it, the studio ''album" lives on in an age of downloading, streaming and attention span deficiencies. 2016 had enough nuggets to keep the trend going, and this one goes to 11. That sort of makes up for the fact that we didn't do a list last year.

Blackstar

David Bowie

Released on David Bowie’s 69th birthday, a couple days before his death, Blackstar marks the 25th studio album from one of the most popular musicians of all time. There is no space in a review like this to even attempt to tickle the depth of Bowie’s influence in modern music, nor could I even speculate how much the man will be missed. I’ll keep to the singular purpose of reviewing Blackstar.

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This Path Tonight

Graham Nash

Fourteen years since his last solo album, 2002's Songs For Survivors, Graham Nash has released his 14th solo album, This Path Tonight. Whether it's a funny coincidence or a stroke of poetic serendipity, it's certainly long overdue. One can assume, because of the length of time between solo albums, Nash makes them in the wake of the various circumstances occurring in his life. Some may speculate Songs For Survivors, his first solo album in eight years previous, was put together in the wake of breaking both his legs in a freak boating accident in 1999. As for This Path Tonight, a divorce, turning 74 and what looks like to be the end of Crosby, Stills & Nash may be the impetus behind its making. Nash even said during a 2015 interview that events like these "feeds into songs."

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Santana IV

Santana

The original Santana band formed in 1967, were managed by Bill Graham and blasted into national prominence at Woodstock. Infusing a slew of musical styles filled with Latin flavors and percussion into a creative whole not heard in the rock idiom before, Santana in the early 70s became a major force in the rock and roll firmament.

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Good Times!

The Monkees

Who'd have thought we'd get a new Monkees album in 2016, 20 years since 1996's Justus. A full reunion of the four original members on record or stage, aside from a couple one-offs in the 1980s, never materialized — and with Davy Jones' passing in 2012, that idea is no longer on the table. However, on Good Times!, the group's upbeat 12th studio album produced by Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger, you get exactly what you'd expect from Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork.

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2

Mudcrutch

An upfront harmonica and acoustic guitar jangle pushes Randall Marsh's upbeat snare snap of the wry biographical "Trailer," the first tune of 2, the second album by Mudcrutch. With strong organ and precisely placed piano work from Benmont Tench, this opener is a hint of things to come.

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Stranger To Stranger

Paul Simon

It is apparent that Paul Simon is still exploring sound experimentation on Stranger To Stranger, his 13th solo album. And you have to give Art Garfunkel's on-again, off-again partner credit for continuing to push boundaries, even at the age of 74. still, the various clicks and scratches from the custom-made instruments created by Harry Patch, the wonderful backing vocals from the Golden Gate Quartet, Bobby McFerrin and Keith Montie, and a litany of wonderful musicians playing on these 11 tracks, doesn't necessarily mean the album is without flaws.

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Loud Hailer

Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck likes to throw curve balls. He did it in the 70s when he went the fusion route on Blow By Blow. Then, In the 80s, 90s and 00s, he jumped into big guitar instrumental records, pop-flavored trinkets with a beat, soundtracks, one-offs with Tina Turner and Rod Stewart, tributes to Gene Vincent and Les Paul, anything to keep his fingers flowing and the engine running (Beck fans will understand). For the guitarist, the idiosyncratic journey seemingly keeps the whole idea of making music a challenge, an ongoing experiment that cultivates new collaborations and sustains the passion, for both himself and his audience. His 2016 release Loud Hailer is proof positive of that.

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The Prelude Implicit

Kansas

The Prelude Implicit, the 15th studio album by Kansas, is a first in many ways. It is the first studio album from the band since vocalist and keyboardist Steve Walsh retired in 2014. This, in turn, makes it the first album to feature vocalist and keyboardist Ronnie Platt, keyboardist David Manion, and guitarist Zak Rizvi. Coming 16 years after Somewhere To Elsewhere, which reunited the classic 70s lineup, The Prelude Implicit marks a new chapter in the band’s storied career, yet retains many of the elements essential to the Kansas sound.

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Alone

The Pretenders

When it comes to the Pretenders, everyone can agree that the band, at least since the mid 80s, has been Chrissie Hynde with no-name players and the occasional reemergence of original drummer Martin Chambers. As its name implies, Alone, the first album that falls under the Pretenders moniker since 2008’s Break Up The Concrete, is all Hynde. Considering 2014’s Stockholm, Hynde’s debut solo album, could have just as easily been a Pretenders album, it may be difficult to nail down any real distinguishing factors that make Alone a Pretenders album. There are some clues here and there, but most importantly, no matter whose name is on it, is that it’s a strong effort showcasing Hynde’s legend as one of the great female provocateurs of rock.

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Invention Of Knowledge

Anderson & Stolt

Yes may be done with Jon Anderson, but he isn't done with Yes - or at least he isn't done making Yes-like music. Layered soundscapes of light and dark dynamics, lofty cosmic-tinged lyrical concepts centered around forgiveness and love, angelic vocals spiking above a layered brew of keys, bass, guitar and drums - this is what Anderson is most known for. It will certainly come light on the Fall 2016 tour he's doing with Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin, and it is most evident on Invention Of Knowledge, a collaboration of original music with Flower Kings and Transatlantic guitarist Roine Stolt.

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Bang Zoom Crazy...Hello

Cheap Trick

I've come to the conclusion that a Cheap Trick record is like a box of chocolate — hopelessly addictive, irresistible, and despite what Forrest Gump thinks, you generally know what you're going to get. There have been a few duds along the way, especially in the early to mid 80s, but their last three studio albums — 2006's Rockford, 2009's The Latest and for 2016, Bang Zoom Crazy...Hello — are overflowing with all the classic Cheap Trick trademark anthemic power-pop quirks that have come to define their sound and likely helped earned them a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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