Yes, there was a time that an artist would push retirement age when reaching thirty. To all the young artists out there: relax – rock’n’roll is for life. Many of the artists in my list today prove the point to such a degree that young artists should rather worry about the competition from the retirement home today than worry about an imminent end of their own career. (But they don’t all have to worry, which the second part of my blog today proves. )
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Roger Daltrey – As Long As I Have This – Soul/Rock
74-year old Roger Daltrey opens the ball with As Long As I Have This, a collection of covers with some original tracks thrown in for good measure. The Who it ain’t, but for someone who wasn’t their biggest fan, this is a highly enjoyable album. Yes, he is pushing his voice to the limit, but didn’t he always do that? Foot thumping good.
Paul McCartney – Egypt Station – Pop
Paul McCartney is in the room next door to Daltrey at the home, and there is a lot of beautiful noise coming from there as well. Egypt Station is a great album and would have been even greater with some pruning before release. But Paul’s ability to create a great tune with some whimsical lyrics without a hint of subtext is still unsurpassed. It is 50 years since the release of Beatles’ White album, and to hear that this man is still churning out music like this, well, I am lost for words….!
Paul Simon – In the Blue Light – Pop
Paul Simon is out with a compilation album, In the Blue Light, as he is retiring from touring. On it he introduces some of his best songs from previous albums, but with a more sombre orchestration. If you are unfamiliar with the songs on the album, quit immediately and go back to his previous catalogue, for I would say the originals mostly are better. For seasoned Paul Simon fans, you will most likely enjoy another take on these songs, but you will most likely, like me, dig out the originals afterwards.
Willie Nelson – Last Man Standing – Country/Pop
At the end of the corridor you’ll find Willie Nelson’s room, and you will be unable to pass without entering, because in there Mr Nelson will belches out some of the best songs of his career, Last Man Standing. Make note that Willie Nelson is 85. Yes, 85. More than any other artist, he has managed to drag reluctant pop and rock fans over to the country side, widening our musical scope. This album is his greatest attempt yet to do just that. (Next time I plan to review his other release of 2018….this man just doesn’t stop until it is full stop)
Chas & Dave – A Little Bit of Us – Pop/Honky Tonk
But let’s face it, there are deaths at the retirement home, and Chas Hodges of Chas & Dave fame died a few weeks ago. Before he died the two chums released a new album, their first in 31 years, and sadly their last. This is intimate rock’n’roll as you would hear it in small pubs in the 60s and 70s, with a lot a wackiness and overblown orhestrations, honky tonk piano and a singalong feel to songs you have never heard before.
Misc. Artists – Johnny Cash Forever Words – Country/Pop/Folk
Johnny Cash is sadly dead as well, but his family and friends have made a tribute album, with a surprise choice of songs, considering what they had to choose from. But the result is a collection of very personal songs from widely different artists, but with a common thread tying it all together, Johnny Cash’s wonderful world of music. I have picked renditions from Ruston Kelley, Kacey Musgraves, Brad Paisley, Chris Cornell, T-Bone Burnett, Roseanne Cash, Jewel, Elvis Costello, Carlene Carter and Jamey Johnson.
Joan Armatrading – Not Too Far Away – Folk/Pop
Joan Armatrading from Saint Kitts and Nevis at 67 is a bit too young to get a room at the rock’n’roll retirement home, but we haven’t heard from her for quite a long time. Her new album, Not Too Far Away, is vintage Armatrating, folk-pop at its best, perhaps even more hummable than back when her records were on everyone’s turntable. She plays all the instruments on the album, rarely a good idea, but she is pulling that off as well, so no complaints from me.
Francoise Hardy – Personne d’Autre – Folk/Chanson
France’s Francoise Hardy is 74 and is back after severe illness a few years ago. This is a quiet and beautiful collection of songs, with lyrics (I am told) dealing with regret and getting older. Her voice is as insistent as ever, and she is still the Queen of the Chanson, particularly now when the Kings, Charles Aznavour and John Haillyday, both died this year.
Hailey Tuck – Junk – Jazz/Pop
Hailey Tuck is barely old enough to get a job at the retirement home, but she carries the legacy of much older, even deceased, performers on her shoulders. There is a lot of Billie Holiday, Melody Gardot and Madeleine Peyroux in both her voice and her choice of songs, and this amazing debut album proves that she can carry that weight. I think I have added nearly the whole album to the list, just couldn’t choose among these gems.
Jennifer Warnes – Another Time, Another Place – Pop/Folk
Jennifer Warnes just moved in, 71 years old. Most of us associates her with the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, but she has collaborated with Leonard Cohen for many years, and is an astute artist in her own right, which Another Time, Another Place really accentuates. Still, there is a lot of Cohen in her songs, warm and genuine.
Well, it is time to move on the younger generation, because there is a lot of great contemporary music made out there, and here is a pick of the crop:
First, let me clarify. I don’t particularly feel artists from Norway are any better or more interesting than artists from other countries, but living here gives me access to more locally produced music, which is why my international readers possibly perceive I have a Norwegian bias.
Emilie Nicolas – Tranquille Emile – R&B/Pop
That being said, here are three Norwegian artists in a row. Emilie Nicolas is truly local for me, she used to live down the road from me and went to school with my daughter. And has become a great artist of international stature. Her new album Tranquille Emile, is more proof if any was needed. The creativity in her compositions, the earnest lyrics, and the fact that every track has new nuances to be discovered with every replay, is all the proof I need.
Vårin – If I Started Seeing Rainbows – Folk
Vårin’s debut release, If I Started Seeing Rainbows, has been one of the loveliest new releases of 2018. She is only 21, but there is a depth both to her lyrics, her melodies and to her voice that signals a musical intelligence beyond her years. The music radiates soreness and beauty in perfect combination.
Adam Douglas – The Beauty and the Brawn – Soul/Blues/Pop
The third Norwegian artist we have adopted. Adam Douglas in American born, but found love in the fjords of Norway. Last year he won “Stjernekamp” – The Ultimate Entertainer, and has since become a household name here. This is his first solo album after he won the contest, and it proves what a great singer, guitarist and song writer he is. There is blues and folk and pop and soul all mixed together, but his unique soul voice ties it all together in a perfect knot. My only regret is that he doesn’t do any covers, but I’ll guess we have to wait until he is ready to move into the retirement home for that.
Gruff Rhys – Babelsberg – Pop
Gruff Rhys was lead singer in Super Furry Animals, a truly inventive band. His solo LP, Babelsberg, supposedly recorded in one go, stand out as well because this symphony rock at its purest, Rhys’ basic tracks have been overdubbed with a full symphony orchestra, but the songs are still standing out through the carpet of instruments.
Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer – Pop/Rock
Father John Misty is again out with a new album, and again he delivers. Readers of my blog know full well how much I have appreciated all his previous albums, and nothing much have changed in my appreciation – nor in the Father’s approach to music. He is as witty as before, every song is like a small symphony, melodic and at times even hummable. How does he keep this up? This is his fourth release in a short while, and as unique and outstanding as the other three.
Family of the Year – Goodbye Sunshine, Farewell Nighttime – Pop
Family of the Year became an overnight success in 2012 with their single, Hero. Now they’re out with a new album, and as with John Misty, not much has changed, still the same full and lovely harmonies, warm and summery melodies, albeit not as easily remembered songs. Still with repeat listening, the smoothness and the melodiousness become more apparent.
Caroline Rose – LONER – Pop/Rock
I’ll end the month’s blog with a new and inspired young artist, Caroline Rose. LONER is her second album, and I have really fallen in love with it. Caroline Rose gives the world the finger with her playful songs, modern and chic, whimsical and with a rare creativity in the use of instruments. There is a bit of Cindi Lauper in Rose, irreverent and rickety. The track Bikini, might be the most fun track of 2018.
We’re waving goodbye to Miley Cirus, Phoebe Bridgers, Chris Price, The National, Marc Almond, Van Morrison, Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer, Susanne Sundfør, Ine Hoem, Molecules and Erlend Skomsvoll, Ane Brun, Sparks, Jake Bugg, Silje Nergaard, Beth Hurt, Bugge Wesseltoft, The War on Drugs, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, and Robert Plant. They’ll be invited back.