I sent an e-mail to myself a few days ago. It read, "Has there been any artist who has successfully created a record 20 years past their prime, that didn’t try to be current or relevant, but actually sounded exactly like their heyday?"
The difference between the sound of The Beatles debut and "Abbey Road" is drastic, and it took place in only seven years. The Fabs weren't together long enough to attempt staying relevant. We did not get the chance to hear them take a stab at disco like the Stones, or use more synths and drum machines like Bruce Springsteen (and countless others) in the 80's, or reinvent themselves as a pop trio from a progressive rock quintet, like Genesis. Or, abandon rock and roll altogether like Joe Jackson did with his string of records in the 80's.
But what if more artists did what Joe Jackson did in 2003? He made a rock and roll record with his original band, last found on 1980's "Beat Crazy." It was called "Volume 4," and it picked up where "Beat Crazy" left off, most of it a solid success.
As much as I enjoyed Paul McCartney's "Egypt Station," I think 99.9% of his fan base would have enjoyed it even more if it was a back to basics record with a smattering of Beatlesque harmonies and chord changes, and did away with trendy producers and weak forays into unfamiliar territory like trip-hop or electronica. The most disappointing of all would be my boy Todd Rundgren, whose output since the 90's has dabbled in rap, EDM and other genres he has no business exploring. Would the Stones output of the last 30 years be treated with more respect without the high gloss production and feeble attempts at sounding "current." I know many will defend "Blue & Lonesome," their "back to basics" blues record from a few years back. But in truth, there was nothing basic about it. It was brash and loud. A back to basics blues record shouldn't be glitzy. A for effort, but a D minus for finished product. I blame Mick. For everything.
I know there are artists, many artists, who have stayed true to their roots, dutifully releasing record after record, one interchangeable from the next. But I was fantasizing more about those that didn't. Many have since passed, so I couldn't hope for David Bowie, Mick Ronson and Spiders glam record. But what if Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Phil Collins and the classic version of Genesis did get back together and recorded three lengthy prog pieces like the old days, worrying little about reaching new fans, and simply catering to the old fans? How about McCartney and Denny Laine and Steve Holley making a Wings record? You get my point.
This is not about putting aside differences or not wanting to look back. It's just about dancing with the one that brought you, and maybe a little about having a little fun with what could still happen.
Who and what would you like to hear?