Many of the most popular bands from the 80’s have stuck around for the paycheck and we can see them at county fairs and summer revival shows. You know the bands. The ones that haven’t released anything new in 15 years but still seem to play 250 dates a year. The groups that filled arenas are seen with 200 of your closest friends at your local bar. It’s completely understandable. The rockstar retirement fund doesn’t pay very well and royalties aren’t what they were prior to the internet. (Remind me to tell you about seeing the original Foghat in a bar in Hudson, WI with around 300 people.) Then again, some have remained as relevant today as ever. Metallica released arguably the best metal album of the past 10 years with 2008’s Death Magnetic some 25 years after the their debut ‘Kill ‘Em All’. Add 2 more to the list.
This week, Ozzy Osbourne released his 10th solo CD, ‘Scream‘. If you’re not familiar with his work outside of reality TV, Ozzy is known as the Godfather of Metal. His antics are legendary from urinating on the Alamo to biting the head from a bat in a meeting with record executives, Ozzy became the poster child for the decadence of the decade. The need for subtitles despite speaking the Queen’s English led one to believe that his debauchery would lead to early earthly exit. But who’s laughing now. A sharp, sober and understandable Osbourne has emerged from the haze. The 100% drug and alcohol free overlord (including prescription medications) has brought back the monster of metal. The always stellar band featuring Black Label Society’s Zak Wilde brings a fresh wall of sound that includes tracks you’ll hear on Top 40 and Modern Rock radio stations in addition to his usual base. This is a more than solid effort from the 61 year old Prince of Darkness that really isn’t all that dark anymore. The brilliant crunching guitar work from Wilde combine with a strong, rejuvenated vocal performance and smart lyrics to bring us some of Osbourne’s best work. Period.
A complete change in direction is a dangerous proposition for an aging star. Rod Stewart should be singing ‘Maggie Mae” not some show tune. He’s proven over decades that he can pen relevant music. We forgave him for ‘Do You Think I’m Sexy?’ Maybe an easy payday when you don’t really feel like writing? Then there are artists that have experimented their entire career. Cyndie Lauper falls securely into that category. Lauper has been doing her own thing from day one. Her sense of style sometimes overshadowed her vocal talent. In the 80’s, she was compared to Madonna in the press like it was a competition. If they were keeping score, it’s Madonna by a landslide. They would stopped the game by the mercy rule a decade ago so imagine my surprise when the early reviews of Cyndie’s new CD, ‘Memphis Blues‘ were overwhelmingly positive. Lauper delivers a true masterpiece with her passionate renditions of blues masters Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Albert King among others. Guests BB King, Allen Toussaint and Jonny Lang lay a strong base for her to build on. And build she does. As one reviewer put it, “This is what she was born to do.” Rarely does an artist bring heart and soul into a project like this. If you like the blues, no frills traditional blues, performed by a master vocal artisan then this is a must listen.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the new release of Eminem’s Recovery. Another chapter in the life and times of Slim Shady. His story is public knowledge from a mother that sprinkled ground Vicodin on his evening dinner to his 2005 near death overdose of methadone, Em has always honestly laid his life out lyrically for the world to see. His macabre humor and visions are intermixed with stories of a twisted childhood and subsequent life that are always done with wit and intelligence. The angry profane lyrics come from the heart of a tortured soul. On ‘Recovery’, the collaborations lead the way. The chilling duet, ‘Love The Way You Lie’, with abuse victim Rhianna tells the story of an abuser and the excuses given by both. Elvis of rap brings it. Again.