Since, by definition, those of us who embrace classic rock are attracted to music that was first written, recorded and performed 40-50 years ago, it seems fitting that virtually all of the classic rock releases coming in March are remixed and/or remastered and/or digitally restored versions of that old classic rock we love so well. That's what makes it okay that remasters, reissues, and expanded editions far outnumber new releases in March.
The Who turn 50 in 2014 (Photo by King Collection/Photoshot/Getty Images)
There has been considerable ballyhoo (and rightfully so) about this month's 50th anniversary of The Beatles' first appearance on American network TV. But Beatlemania wasn't the only next-big-thing going on in music in 1964.
Some of classic rock's best known and most highly regarded bands were founded in 1964. A surprising number are still active 50 years later. To them and all the others, a hearty Happy Anniversary!
Jefferson Airplane on stage at Woodstock, August 1969. Photo by Getty Images
It might seem like I'm jumping the gun here a little bit, talking about outdoor music festivals with February not even over yet, but I'm really not. The music portion of SXSW in Austin is just a couple of weeks away (3/11-16) followed shortly by Coachella and Jazzfest. I don't know about you, but I am definitely ready for some rock in the warm sun!
Music festivals have come a long way since the days of Woodstock, Monterey, and the original Isle of Wight festival. Imagine if there had been live streams, dedicated YouTube channels, and real-time coverage back then. Thanks to websites and social media, you can now have a virtual festival experience. It may not be as good as actually being there, but it sure beats just sitting at home pouting because you can't be there.
I think you may find a few things in February's new releases that can help chase away the winter blahs. There are new studio releases from Paul Rodgers and Benmont Tench (The Heartbreakers). There are new live albums from Heart and Steve Miller Band. There are box sets from Johnny Winter and Rainbow. And, of course, that's not all.
Photo by Pryke/Express/Getty Images
1969. The first manned lunar landing. The first flight of a Boeing 747. Woodstock.
What was happening in the world and what was happening in rock music converged 45 years ago. A young generation's strong anti war, pro peace-and-love sentiments were frequent lyrical subjects, on stages from Woodstock to the Fillmores (East and West) and in recording studios all over the world.
For classic rock fans, the month of February 1969 is remembered for one band's debut studio album, another's first live album, a turning point in more than one career. All of you Rocky and Bullwinkle fans may now proceed to set Mr. Peabody's WABAC machine to February 1969, for a ride down the classic rock history timeline.
Usually, new studio albums contain new music, but for the first time in his long and distinguished career, Bruce Springsteen is coming out with an album consisting of covers, new arrangements of songs he's previously recorded, and songs that were recorded for, but not included on earlier albums. In the parlance of record label PR folks, High Hopes is an album made up entirely of "bonus tracks".
Springsteen turns 65 this year, a fact which has some significance in the context of next week's (1/14/14) release of his 18th studio album. It's an album in which the artist does something he's never done before: rest on past laurels.
Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark was released 40 years ago, in January 1974.
Photo by Jack Robinson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
January 1974. The speed limit on the nation's highways was lowered to 55 MPH and Daylight Saving Time started four months early, in response to an ongoing energy crisis. The Senate Watergate Committee was sparring with President Nixon over his refusal to release tape recordings the committee had subpoenaed. And somebody finally snapped a photo of the Loch Ness monster.
That was the backdrop for the rock music that was released 40 years ago in January. The list included one popular artist's first solo album, and another one's 14th. There was a release from a band who had turned from acoustic to hard rock, and there was a soundtrack for a movie that was never made.
We lost several (too many) classic rock artists, songwriters, sidemen and producers in 2013. Well, we really didn't lose them entirely, because they live on through their music. Mourning their deaths is normal, but celebrating their lives is a much better way of honoring them. As we prepare to celebrate the new year, we say "thanks" to those to whom we said goodbye this year, for all that they've given us.
You do remember, don't you, that January is historically a pretty slow month for new releases? Good. Then you won't be surprised that next month's choices, although interesting, are pretty scarce. We may not have a long list, but I can drop some pretty big names to entice you to take a look at the few releases from classic rock artists next month. Springsteen. The Doors. The Beatles. David Crosby. Small Faces. Interested yet?
Album cover image courtesy Columbia Records
Okay, listen up. This is big news, so pay attention.
Led Zeppelin, one of the last holdouts among classic rock artists in allowing their music to be streamed on the Interwebs, can now be heard via the digital music service, Spotify. The catalog started being released two at a time on Tuesday (12/11) with the remainder coming today, tomorrow and Sunday. The list of classic rock streaming holdouts is now down to two: AC/DC and The Beatles.
The LZ streaming news came fast on the heels of the announcement that their entire catalog is in the process of being remastered, and will be reissued in 2014. Over the course of 13 years (1969-1982) Led Zeppelin recorded 13 albums (nine in the studio, four live) but that's only part of their musical legacy.
The vast majority of those albums went to #1 on the charts, but that's still not the whole story. They've sold something north of 300-million albums throughout the world, but that, too, is only part of a larger picture. What has really set Led Zeppelin apart is the creative freedom they were granted even at the beginning of their career, and the way that used that freedom to indulge in a broad variety of music styles, most notably, the one that was uniquely their own.
Led Zeppelin in 1973 (l-r: Plant, Page, Bonham, Jones)
Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images