Just like that, it’s that time again, where the holiday season is upon us and the mad scrambles down store aisles to find just the right gifts for friends and loved ones commences. It’s a yearly ritual that always seems to come sooner than later. It’s also a sign that the year is coming to a close, and of course there’s no question that 2016 will remain in memory and history as one of the most turbulent, challenging, and painful times ever seen. It is for that reason that the holiday time should hold even extra special positive emotional weight, as community and solidarity run high among people during this time, acting as sort of metaphoric concrete that fills in the gaps that division among many created. And music too, is an eternal, external, and ultimately internal healing agent for the soul, regardless if times are happy or sad, joyous or maudlin. Music also reflects those aforementioned emotions and more. Here’s some of the best released this past year that will for sure excite even the most hardened by the whirlwind of the times and warm someone’s soul like kindling a hearth on the coldest December nights.
Check out our 2016 Holiday Geek Gift Guide for Music…
It’s that annual time again for either Cause Celebre or teeth-gritting derision depending on one’s taste, as the latest roster of inductees into Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been announced. And as par for its course, the list spans the semantics and even transcends it, of the rock and roll idiom. For 2015, the inductees include Joan Jett, Green Day, Lou Reed, and Ringo Starr, amongst others.
The true backbeat to The Beatles, with his nasal-inflected voice, puckish charm, and one of the most underrated drummers of all time, Ringo Starr leads the pack of the Class of 2015 with the Award For Musical Excellence. Having drummed on the entire Beatles catalog (save for a few tracks where Paul McCartney took the drum seat) and sporting a solo career that was varied at best, but chock full of top ten and even number one hits during the early 1970s (“Photograph,” “You’re Sixteen,” “It Don’t Come Easy,” etc.), Starr, who still feverishly tours and keeps active well into his 70s, rounds out the last of the solo Beatles to be inducted, and while some may cry default that he got in as a solo artist just because of his prior pedigree, there’s no way one Richard Starkey (his real name) could have been left out, standing near the cold harbor outside the hall. Favoritism seems to be the order of the day in terms of the Hall’s voting committee and their strangely stringent tenets of what garners inclusion to its walls of fame, Ringo Starr notwithstanding.
Dick Wagner, a guitarist who was a key figure in the early pre-punk and American glam movements, utilizing his talents for such luminaries in the music world as Alice Cooper, Lou Reed and KISS, has died at the age of 71 of respiratory failure. Wagner had been battling ill health for many years prior to his death.
Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Wagner rubbed elbows later on after the first wave of hard rock music that came from that state’s seminal city Detroit, when Wagner was recruited to play on Alice Cooper’s seminal solo release, Welcome to My Nightmare, a record in which Wagner was heavily involved (with producer Ezrin) with Cooper, eventually sharing songwriting credits. (A highlight is the ambiguous and haunting “Only Women Bleed.”) The 1975 release became a benchmark in Cooper’s career and also showed the embryonic strains of a solo career that would stretch currently into its fourth decade. The muscle and confidence of Wagner’s playing (he had huge shoes to follow after Cooper had been in a band with Glen Buxton earlier, whose playing was signature up and down all over the band) put him as one of the mid-70s post Detroit-rock/pre-first wave of punk music’s heavyweights. In fact, for the next few decades following his successful debut foray with Cooper on record, Wagner became involved heavily with the shock rock singer thereafter, appearing on various subsequent albums and tours.
Transformer, one of the most popular and adventurous records by Lou Reed the oft-titled “Godfather of Punk,” is now available on MP3 format from Amazon this month for only $5. (The CD is currently $5.99 and is an AutoRip, which means with the CD purchase you’ll also get a FREE MP3 download of the entire album.)
Released in November 1972, Transformer surprised everyone by actually bringing Lou Reed into the mainstream of sorts. The album hit the Top 40 and almost made the sounds and styles on this record, homosexuality, androgyny, fucked up relationships, decadence and early gothy art, household words. Produced by David Bowie and the late, great Mick Ronson, who sizzles on guitar on Transformer, Reed takes his best playbook from his Velvet Underground days and spills a wild musical ride all over his canvas here. From the catty “Vicious” to the waxing about Andy Warhol on “Andy’s Chest,” the sneering and sarcastically droning yet dripped in a kind of Christopher Isherwood Berlin style “New York Telephone Conversation,” to the well known and powerful dare one say ballad “Satellite of Love” and of course, the top 20 hit road map for the aforementioned styles and lifestyles, “Walk on the Wild Side,” Transformer is a fun ride of many musical sounds and sonic metaphors for that early glam/punk/attitudinal styles that were such a part of living in a certain kind of Max’s Kansas City-esque New York City in the early 1970s.
Browse all 100 albums on sale this month for only $5 each.
Lou Reed, the so-called godfather of punk, whose embryonic sounds of that genre and combinations of avant-garde dirty rock and roll helped propel him to become a legendary artist by way of The Velvet Underground and his own solo projects, has died at the age of 71, according to Rolling Stone. The cause of death is unknown at this time, but Reed had undergone a liver transplant back in May [see Update below].
For the Brooklyn-born Reed, it ends a life that was labyrinthine, filled with color and mayhem, sadness, poetry, tender regret, and razor sharp aggression. Reed took early rock and roll and doo wop, and mixed it with the sounds and styles of the mid 1960s, the Andy Warhol New York City which was crystallized by way of illicit drugs, adventurous sexuality and exploring themes, and going to places unknown; not even The Beatles tread to some of the naked, raw narratives that Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground went to in their songwriting.