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Top 25 studio album releases in 2012

Classic rockers just can't stop recording

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11. Lita Ford - 'Living Like a Runaway'

Lita Ford - Living Like a Runaway
Steamhammer

Lita Ford's solo career since the band she joined at age 15, The Runaways disbanded in 1979 has had its ups and downs. Arguably, one of the "downs" was her 2009 release, Wicked Wonderland, produced by her then-husband, Jim Gillette (ex-Nitro vocalist.) How was her 2012 album, Living Like a Runaway different? "The last album was really out of my control, and [this one] is completely in my control," she told About.com Heavy Metal's Chad Bowar in a recent interview. "It's my songwriting, it's my playing, it's my vocals. It was really wonderful making this record." For her fans, the new album is a welcome return to her hard rock roots, containing a suite of songs that tell very personal parts of her life story. Whatever ground she lost with her last album, she has more than made up with her new one.

12. Joe Walsh - 'Analog Man'

Joe Walsh - Analog Man
Fantasy Records

Analog Man is Joe Walsh's 10th solo album. That's just one fewer than the number he has made with Eagles, James Gang and Barnstorm. And there's the one he did with REO Speedwagon, and the six he did with Ringo Starr (including one that Walsh also produced.) At last count, he has played at least one song on 26 more albums by other artists, not to mention writing five Eagles songs, including "Life In The Fast Lane" and "In The City." Walsh co-produced this album with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra and Traveling Wilburys fame.

13. Patti Smith - 'Banga'

Patti Smith - 'Banga'
Columbia

Banga is Patti Smith's 11th career release, and includes a tribute to the victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, a memorial to Amy Winehouse and a birthday greeting to Johnny Depp. The first single from the album, "April Fool" was released on (when else?) April 1. A 40-show tour of Europe followed the album's release.

14. Strawbs - 'Of a Time'

Strawbs - Of a Time
Witchwood Media

Strawbs co-founder Dave Cousins reconstructed an album that was rejected by A&M Records in the early '70s and never released. Of a Time was created from the original tapes, and the addition of some bonus tracks. Strawbs were the first British band to sign with A&M but, according to Cousins, the label wasn't expecting the orchestral rock that was prominent on the album.

15. KISS - 'Monster'

KISS - Monster
UMe

Monster is the 20th KISS studio album, and the second to be produced by guitarist-vocalist Paul Stanley. Co-founder Gene Simmons (bass/vocals) says band members collaborated closely on the album, adding "The best thing we did was to turn inwards to ourselves." The other members are longtime veterans Tommy Thayer (guitar) and drummer Eric Singer.

16. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - 'Psychedelic Pill'

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - 'Psychedelic Pill'
Reprise Records

Hmmm. I wonder (with apologies to Jeff Airplane) if this is the pill that makes you larger or the one that makes you small? Psychedelic Pill consists of "us jamming and having lots of fun," according to Crazy Horse guitarist Poncho Sampedro in a Rolling Stone interview. As you would expect from a jam, most of the tracks are long -- one runs more than 27 minutes -- requiring two CDs (or three LPs) to hold just nine tracks. This is the second Neil Young release of 2012. The other, Americana was, as the title suggests, something of a polar opposite to this one musically.

17. Bob Dylan - 'Tempest'

Bob Dylan - Tempest
Columbia Records

You can never be sure of exactly what Bob Dylan will do when he goes on stage to perform on any given night, or when he goes into the studio to produce a new album. The one thing you can be sure of is that he will do whatever he wants to do, without worrying much (if at all) at how it will be received. It isn't just since he became an elder statesman (he turned 71 this year) that Dylan has done his own thing. He's done it for the most of the 50 years since he released his first album. He did it again with his 35th, Tempest, which has a typically Dylanesque twist on life, but from a different perspective than when he was, well, not a senior citizen.

18. Alvin Lee - 'Still on the Road to Freedom'

Alvin Lee - Still on the Road to Freedom
Rainman

If you don't know who Alvin Lee is then you're probably not familiar with Ten Years After and thus might not be aware that the "freedom" Lee refers to is that which he found when TYA disbanded in 1974 after eight years on the rock merry-go-round. Lee was co-founder, lead guitarist and vocalist for one of the bands whose performance at Woodstock propelled them to fame and stardom. But Lee felt that commercial success came with a much higher price tag than creative freedom. So, he opted for the latter, with the results in evidence once again in his latest album.

19. Scorpions - 'Comeblack'

Scorpions - Comeblack
Sony Legacy

In 2010, German hard rockers Scorpions began what was said to have been a final tour, followed by retirement. It turned out that reports of their demise were premature. During a break between tour legs they released a new album in 2012. Comeblack features new arrangements of standards like "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and "Still Loving You" plus covers of some other artists' standards, like Small Faces' "Tin Soldier" and Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday." They plan to come out with another new album in 2013, consisting of previously unreleased tracks that were originally planned for inclusion on earlier albums.

20. Pat Travers - 'Blues on Fire'

Pat Travers - Blues on Fire
Pyramid Records

Blues rocker Pat Travers points to several blues legends among his strongest musical influences, artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Bessie Smith, Tampa Red. Travers pays tribute to these and more artists with his classic rock guitar-driven versions of blues standards like "Nobody's Fault But Mine," "Black Dog Blues" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out."

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