There’s a lot of great vintage music from the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s being made available again on vinyl these days, or on CD for the first time, and the follow dozen selections aren’t necessarily the “best” of 2018 but rather those that were my favorite releases for the year, as well as another ten “honorable mention” discs that fell just short. Any of these albums would make a great addition to your music library. Check out the Rev’s lists of favorite rock ‘n’ roll and blues music albums from 2018 while you’re here!
Big Star – Live at Lafayette’s Music Room (Omnivore Recordings)
Sounding more like a pretty good audience bootleg than a sterile soundboard recording, Big Star’s Live At Lafayette’s Music Room still does an admirable job of capturing the band’s live dynamic and preserving it for modern ears. Representing an undeniable invaluable addition to the band’s canon, Live At Lafayette’s Music Room is an entertaining collection for those of us too young to have seen Big Star in the band’s prime. BUY!
The Damnation of Adam Blessing – The Damnation of Adam Blessing (Exit Stencil Records, vinyl reissue)
The heavy, psych-drenched guitar rock and molten sludge riffs of the self-titled 1969 debut album by Cleveland, Ohio’s The Damnation of Adam Blessing was easily five years ahead of its time. The band’s complex, textured, and highly-amplified hard rock sound reminds of Blue Cheer while beating Black Sabbath to the gates of doom with guitarists Bob Kalamasz’s blistering leads and Jim Quinn’s thick rhythmic designs. One of the great overlooked bands of the era finally gets the reissue treatment (Exit Stencil also reissued the band’s sophomore album, Second Damnation, this year). BUY!
Guadalcanal Diary – At Your Birthday Party (Omnivore Recordings)
Guadalcanal Diary was often overshadowed by upstarts like Pylon or R.E.M. but, truth is, they were a damn fine studio outfit and even better live rock band. Taken from a pair of January 1998 reunion shows in Atlanta, At Your Birthday Party was originally released independently by the band. Omnivore’s reissue puts the album back in print after almost 20 years, providing wider distribution for this entertaining disc. Like the college rock radio playlist of your misspent youth, At Your Birthday Party is a very fine present, indeed. BUY!
Moby Grape – 20 Granite Creek (WEA International)
Yeah, it’s a Japanese import and hard to find (check Amazon), but this long-overdue CD reissue of the legendary Moby Grape’s 1971 “reunion” album 20 Granite Creek is a throwback to the band’s critically-acclaimed self-titled debut of four years earlier and, by most estimations, second only to that 1967 debut album in terms of performance and song quality. With the enigmatic Skip Spence back in the fold, albeit temporarily, longtime Grape members Peter Lewis, Jerry Miller, James Mosley, and Don Stevenson, along with new guy Gordon Stevens, played like their career depended on it…and in many ways, it did, as it was the band’s final studio work for over a decade. BUY!
Permanent Green Light – Hallucinations (Omnivore Recordings)
At the end of his legendary “Paisley Underground” band the Three O’Clock, Michael Quercio went looking for new rock ‘n’ roll cheap thrills. He formed obscure psych-rockers Permanent Green Light, which released a handful of singles and a full-length album, building a loyal West Coast following before breaking up. Hallucinations compiles sixteen of the band’s best performances, including three previously-unreleased demos, all of which rocks with an urgency, creativity, and honesty directly in opposition to most ‘90s era bands. Hallucinations is an exceptional collection of guitar-rock from one of the best bands you never heard. BUY!
The Posies – Dear 23 (Omnivore Recordings)
One of the great overlooked bands of the ‘90s, avowed Big Star acolytes the Posies took Alex Chilton’s ‘60s-bred power-pop sensibilities and blew the sound up large for the grunge decade. This approach left the band woefully out-of-date at the time, but their music became timeless as a result. The album’s British Invasion influences and charming songwriting on Dear 23 – courtesy of the band’s Jonathan Auer and Ken Stringfellow – is ready-made for the tuneless 21st century, its original ten tracks wonderfully melodic, with the duo’s gorgeous vocal harmonies, and whip-smart, insightful lyrics. BUY!
Bob Seger & the Last Heard – Heavy Music (Abkco Records)
Bob Seger & the Last Heard were one of the legendary rock singer’s earliest bands. Signed to the Cameo-Parkway label, they released five singles, ten songs total circa 1966-67, all of which are collected on CD for the first time with Heavy Music. An artist in search of a sound (hint: he’d glimpse it a couple years later with “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”), Seger checks several then-contemporary cultural boxes with these long out-of-print 45s. There are only ten tracks on Heavy Music, but each one is a slab of raw, energetic, prime-grade rock ‘n’ roll from the early Motor City scene. BUY!
Phil Seymour – Prince of Power Pop (Big Beat Records)
Phil Seymour was an integral part of power-pop legends the Dwight Twilley Band, singing and co-writing with longtime friend Twilley. Breaking up after Shelter Records crashed and burned after just two albums, Seymour launched a modestly successful solo career mining much the same ‘60s-influenced pop-rock musical territory as his former band. Prince of Power Pop is a fine tho’ incomplete career retrospective, its main selling point the inclusion of eleven previously-unreleased tracks recorded in 1980 with Seymour’s touring band, all of ‘em red-hot and ready to rock, and all displaying the man’s enormous talents. BUY!
Various Artists – Rockers OST (MVD Audio, vinyl reissue)
Reissued on red, green, and yellow-splashed vinyl that looks simply glorious spinning on your turntable, this soundtrack to the 1978 semi-documentary film Rockers provides a brief but toothsome history of reggae music with songs by legends like Junior Murvin, Peter Tosh, the Maytones, Bunny Wailer, Gregory Isaacs, Burning Spear, and others. Featuring fourteen burning tracks, Rockers is “must have” LP for any serious reggae collection. BUY!
Various Artists – Ska Authentic (Studio One)
Released nearly 55 years ago, Studio One’s wonderful Ska Authentic provides a snapshot of Jamaica’s homegrown music scene in the early 1960s, preserving long-lost tracks by legends like the Skatalites, Toots & the Maytals, and Lee “Scratch” Perry. Echoing the American R&B heard on transistor radios in Jamaica circa 1955-65, these songs are dance-oriented with foot-shuffling rhythms with blasts of soulful horns. Studio One’s Ska Authentic captures the island’s sounds with all their fresh naiveté and energy, taking the listener back in time to a more innocent age. BUY!
Webb Wilder & the Beatnecks – Powerful Stuff! (Landslide Records)
If you don’t have a good time listening to a Webb Wilder album, then you’ve probably assumed room temperature. Sure, Powerful Stuff! is an “odds ‘n’ sods” collection culled from Wilder’s archives, but the material is delivered with every bit the same level of energy and commitment as anything that Webb has previously put on record. For those of us who became fans with Wilder’s It Came From Nashville LP, Powerful Stuff! is yet another welcome addition to the (slowly-growing) Webb Wilder canon. As the man says, “work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard, grow big, wear glasses if you need ‘em.” Amen... BUY!
Frank Zappa – Chunga’s Revenge (Zappa Records, vinyl reissue)
If the preceding Zappa/Mothers albums – Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh – served as an artistic catharsis necessary for Zappa to move on from his original vision for the Mothers and towards “phase two,” Chunga’s Revenge reveals his pure joy in playing with a new and, arguably, more highly-skilled cast of musicians. The addition of two talented vocalists in Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan to the band added a new dimension to the musical possibilities, freeing Zappa from the microphone and allowed him to develop the innovative and influential guitar style that is a large part of his enduring legacy. Chunga’s Revenge represented the dawn of a new era and the beginning of Zappa’s “solo career” in earnest. BUY!