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Top 10 Albums by Seasoned Veteran Acts

Those who've been doing "this thing" for 20 years or longer

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    screen shot 2013 11 04 at 10 38 50 pm Top 10 Albums by Seasoned Veteran Acts

    This feature was originally published in November 2013.

    During a meeting with Ryan Bray and Matt Melis to discuss and review Pearl Jam’s latest album, Lightning Bolt, I said: “if [Pearl Jam] can still put out a good album, and tour behind that album, and I can see them live without having to worry about the new tracks, that’s all I’m asking for from Pearl Jam at this point. I don’t want to sound like I’m belittling the band, but if I can get a good record out of a band that has now had 10 releases, I’m satisfied with that.” After the review was published, Matt had an idea for a feature, and here we are today.

    The task was to find bands and artists who had/have been around for 20 years, yet managed to deliver a record that was much more than simply “good” and/or “satisfying.” Myself, Zach Schonfeld, and the aforementioned Mr. Melis combed through our respective iTunes catalogues to find those special acts that aged gracefully and brought forth very good (in some cases great) records well into their careers. We discovered a good number along the way, and decided to feature the following 10. Here’s to back aches, bad knees, and terrific tunes! Don’t forget to chime in below with your own selections.

    –Justin Gerber
    Senior Staff Writer

    Artwork by Cap Blackard & Steven Fiche. Purchase via Society6.

    10. Kate Bush – 50 Words for Snow

    kate bush 50 words for snow

    Career Began: 1975
    Album Release Date: November 21, 2011
    See Also: Aerial (2005)

    A confession: 50 Words for Snow rivals Hounds of Love as my favorite Kate Bush record, and yet I haven’t listened to it in eight or so months — it simply doesn’t work in the warmer months. As much a tone poem as it is a concept album, 50 Words is an eerie paean to winter, to snow, to icy beauty, to elusive cryptids and full-bodied piano tones and an Elton John duet that will sneak up on you if you aren’t duly prepared. It is a quiet, ghostly triumph that first bowled me over on a late-night drive to upstate New York just before Thanksgiving 2011; when I arrived in Saratoga Springs, gleaming snow lit up the streets. Come next month, this record will again serve me well. –Zach Schonfeld

    09. Aerosmith – Get a Grip

    aerosmith   get a trip Top 10 Albums by Seasoned Veteran Acts

    Band Formed: 1970
    Album Release Date: April 19, 1993
    See Also: N/A

    Nobody could’ve predicted that Aerosmith’s 11th studio album would be their best since 1975’s Toys in the Attic. Yet, Get a Grip grabbed listeners from the get-go with songs that packed all the subtlety and wholesomeness of the pierced cow utter on the album’s cover: a cannibalistic precursor to the Occupy movement (“Eat the Rich”), a mantra for modern-day living (“Livin’ on the Edge”), and a crass take on the virtues of silence (“Shut Up and Dance”). Even more memorable, though, is the record’s ballad-heavy back half. The trio of “Cryin’”, “Crazy”, and “Amazing” catapulted the blues rock ballad into the forefront of early ‘90s rock radio consciousness, and MTV’s heavy airplay of the schoolgirl, Thelma & Louise-style escapades of Alicia Silverstone and Liv Tyler made a whole generation of teenage boys “dream on.” The album captured the Boston rockers at their best: rude, lewd, and occasionally capable of tugging on heartstrings (even without Ben Affleck saving the world from a giant asteroid). –Matt Melis

    08. Tom Waits – Bad as Me

    tom waits bad as me

    Career Began: 1972
    Album Release Date: 2011
    See Also: Bone Machine (1992), Mule Variations (1999)

    Talk about being spoiled for choice. Bone MachineMule Variations, or the patched together Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards all could’ve landed on this list. What makes Tom Waits unique, though, is that there’s little, if any, resemblance between the artist responsible for Bad as Me and the Waits of the early ‘70s. The once inebriated lounge singer has long since been replaced by a beatboxing junkman, the gravelly croon by guttural excavations that recall unearthing more than singing. But whether it’s the chugging hard-times exodus “Chicago”, the Spanish Tinge lover’s plea “Back in the Crowd”, or the psychotic wartime march “Hell Broke Luce”, one thing’s for certain: after 40 years, the old rain dog still has plenty of bark left in him. –Matt Melis

    07. Bruce Springsteen – The Rising

    Bruce_Springsteen-The_Rising

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    Career Began: 1969
    Album Release Date: 2002
    See Also: Magic (2007)

    The Rising was a big deal for two reasons upon its release: 1) it found Springsteen back in the arms of the E-Street Band for their first official studio album since Born in the U.S.A., 2) it became a stark but ultimately uplifting commentary on our world post-9/11. The anthems were bountiful and poignant, spearheaded by the triumphant title track, the album opener (“Lonesome Day”) and closer (“My City of Ruins”). The ballads were classic Boss, particularly “Nothing Man” and “You’re Missing”, the latter performed solo by Bruce with only a piano on a gut-wrenching SNL (Here’s the rehearsal). Since then, Springsteen has released three E-Street albums, a solo record, and a tribute to Pete Seeger. The Rising carried Springsteen into the 21st century, and a continued passion that puts poseurs to shame. —Justin Gerber

    06. Sonic Youth – Murray Street

    sonic youth murray Top 10 Albums by Seasoned Veteran Acts

    Band Formed: 1981
    Album Release Date: June 25, 2002
    See Also: Sonic Nurse (2004), Rather Ripped (2006)

    In 2002 — a decade removed from their brief flirtation with Generation Grunge — Sonic Youth released a rare animal: a record that at once felt like a return to form and like nothing they had released so far. On Murray Street (so named after the street where their Manhattan studio was then based), Thurston Moore & co. recaptured the sweet equilibrium between their avant-garde inclinations and rockist tendencies that had eluded them since Daydream Nation, and they did so in part by poaching Jim O’Rourke (the MVP of 2002, as Wilco had already found) and discovering the joys of a squeaky-clean guitar tone. Between Moore’s quietly urgent “Disconnection Notice”, Ranaldo’s epic “Karen Revisited”, and Gordon’s oddly sweet “Sympathy for the Strawberry”, Murray Street finds each of SY’s core songwriters performing at their best — and it served as a rebirth of sorts for the group, setting off a fruitful trilogy in Sonic Nurse and Rather Ripped–Zach Schonfeld

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    05. Bob Dylan – Time Out of Mind

    bob dylan time out of mind Top 10 Albums by Seasoned Veteran Acts

    Career Began: 1961
    Album Release Date: September 30, 1997
    See Also: Love and Theft (2001), Modern Times (2006)

    I’ve always assumed the PSA that commences every Bob Dylan show and details, among other things, Dylan’s battles with substance abuse and subsequent finding of Jesus must have been penned by the songwriter himself with tongue firmly planted in cheek. About the only part of the intro that seems authentic is the line that says, “written off as a has-been… before releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late ‘90s.” Now, that seems pretty much spot on. You have to go back in Dylan’s catalog to the ‘60s triumvirate of Bringing It All Back HomeHighway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde to find a stronger three-album run than Time Out of MindLove and Theft, and Modern Times. Reunited with the swampy blues production of Daniel Lanois, Time Out of Mind finds Dylan teetering on the emotional brink (“Love Sick”), conjuring both tenderness and enmity for an ex-lover (“Standing in the Doorway”), and violently brooding on the outskirts of town (“Cold Irons Bound”). After more than a decade of forgettable, boring records, Time Out of Mind opened a floodgate of creativity that’s made it impossible to ignore Dylan’s work ever since. –Matt Melis

    04. My Bloody Valentine – m b v

    mbv high res

    Band Formed: 1983
    Album Release Date: February 2, 2013
    See Also: N/A

    My Bloody Valentine’s return to noise was a stunning success in early 2013. After years of waiting, Kevin Shields announced a record was coming shortly, then he did again, and again, until finally his words proved true. Websites crashed, downloads took eons, but Shields and company delivered much more than an adequate, acceptable follow-up: they unleashed a great record. With their third album, the semi-self-titled m b v, they pulled off a double whammy by triumphantly following up a classic (Loveless) and somehow making the 22 years in between albums worth the wait. From the vintage coo of “She Found Now” to “In Another Way” and its off-the-rails majesty, m b v showcases My Bloody Valentine connecting their past to the present, and hopefully their future. –Justin Gerber

    03. Paul Simon – Graceland

    Paul Simon - Graceland

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    Career Began: 1965 (solo debut)
    Album Release Date: August 12, 1986
    See Also: The Rhythm of the Saints (1990)

    When in a slump, steal from Los Lobos and jet to South Africa. That’s the proverb Paul Simon pioneered on 1986’s Graceland, and it proved to be a career-reviving one. For the record, Simon merged American pop forms with South African Mbaqanqa and a cappella flourishes, but his secret weapon was a set of songs that rivals any 1960s pop veteran’s eighties work, highlighted by the wistful title track and the ubiquitously hummable “You Can Call Me Al”. Nearly 30 years later, it’s no coincidence A-list rock artists are still looking to world music rhythms for mid-career inspiration and reinvention. –Zach Schonfeld

    02. Michael Jackson – Bad

    Michael Jackson BAD

    Career Began: 1963
    Album Release Date: August 31, 1987
    See Also: Dangerous (1991)

    The King of Pop began his quest for the throne at the age of five, fronting his brothers in The Jackson 5. Nothing could have prepared the public (nay Jackson himself) for what would follow in his adult life. After breaking free temporarily for Off the Wall and permanently as he moonwalked his way to immortal status with Thriller, Jackson released the praiseworthy Bad in 1987. The singles and accompanying videos left their impression on MTV and every child of the ’80s, particularly the Scorsese-directed title track and Jackson’s homage to gangster films of yesteryear with the brilliant “Smooth Criminal”. The image of Jackson as a tough guy was hard to swallow then and isn’t any easier now, but the songs still make the people dance and even cry (“Man in the Mirror” is one of the great songs. Let it be.). –Justin Gerber

    01. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew

    miles davis   bitches brew  Top 10 Albums by Seasoned Veteran Acts

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    Career Began: 1944
    Album Release Date: April 1970
    See Also: In a Silent Way (1969), On the Corner (1972)

    Bitches Brew is — can I be blunt? — the jazz record for anyone who’s Just Not That Into Jazz. (No shame — that was me once, too.) Think jazz is too unstructured and formless? Here’s something even freer. Think the track lengths are too long? Here, have two tracks over 20 minutes. Think genre distinctions are a waste of time? So does Miles. The trumpeter had already smashed the door to fusion on 1969’s In a Silent Way, but on Bitches Brew, aided by everyone from Joe Zawinul to John McLaughlin to Chick Corea, he dove fearlessly into rock improvisation and heady psychedelia in one immense, sprawling burst. –Zach Schonfeld

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