Taylor’s Turntable: What’s age got to do with it?
Music Columnist Taylor Ysteboe on musicians who keep on rockin’ past their heyday.
When Paul McCartney recently released the song “Hope For The Future” for the video game “Destiny,” I was, well, disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong –– you really can’t go wrong with Macca. He’s a lyrical genius, a brilliant composer and an energetic performer, not to mention that he was part of a little band from Liverpool called The Beatles. “Hope For The Future” just doesn’t quite top McCartney’s list of timeless compositions.
But this made me think. Are aging rockers doomed to mediocrity after all their revolutionary works of modern day myth and legend? Looking over the past decade, it’s a mixed bag of excellent and third-rate albums, but I still can’t grapple with new releases by old rock stars.
I think one of the most consistent singers is Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin. Plant released his 10th solo album last year, “lullaby and … The Ceaseless Roar,” full of vast yet intimate soundscapes. Even at 66, Plant’s voice is as eerie yet alluring as ever. Tracks like “Rainbow” from his last album and “Angel Dance” from his 2010 album sound like they could have been recorded with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones in the ‘70s. Bravo, Plant, bravo.
More often than not, though, it seems like some singers still live in the past. I’m talking about you, Rod Stewart. Over eight years, Stewart here released not one, not two, not three or four, but five volumes of “The Great American Songbook” where he covers hits from the ‘30s and ‘40s by American music icons like Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. While these songs pay well-deserved homage to the early greats, five volumes of covers do not do Stewart proper justice.
Now, Bob Dylan may be releasing an album of Frank Sinatra covers next month, but he’s a guy who doesn’t care about what anyone thinks, so he does whatever he wants. More power to him. And that’s fine and dandy to me because whatever he wants is almost always golden. Though his voice is, to put it nicely, not the same as it was in 1964, Dylan knows how to craft an album. Even in 2012, Dylan released “Tempest,” proving that he will keep on truckin’ until he is dead and buried.
Regardless of the merit of any of these new albums, I still think nostalgia gets the best of me. I just want to preserve the image of my favorite artists as the creators of the best albums of all time. I don’t want these new songs and albums to taint the epic “Tommy” and the superb “Beggar’s Banquet.” Undoubtedly, The Who are not going to play 2006’s “Endless Wire” nor are the Rolling Stones going to touch ‘05’s “A Bigger Bang” in concert. They’re going to play their biggest hits, and for a good reason — they will always be amazing. These artists paved the Yellow Brick Road of rock music. They were around for the British Invasion, Woodstock and everything else that the ‘60s through the ‘80s brought. In those times, bands saw the revolutions all around them and reacted through their music. Their albums are not just compilations of songs. They’re representations of history.
Now, let’s go back to “Hope For The Future.” I stand by saying that its cliché lyrics make McCartney a bit of a sell-out. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We’ve heard some impeccable works that prove that the opposite is true. While nostalgia may get the best of me, perhaps something new is what we need sometimes. Besides, we shouldn’t criticize artists for seeking to perfect their lifelong craft. Just like any of us, they’re pursuing a dream. It may be difficult, but just let it be.