The advent of user-friendly technology and reasonably-priced studio gear has made do-it-yourself recordings a relatively uncomplicated affair. That said, playing all the instruments and singing all the vocals on full-band arrangements over the course of an entire album involves a special set of skills. Interestingly enough, some of rock's greatest "one-man-band" albums were made decades ago, using vintage gear. Below are 10 of the very best.
Foo Fighters – Foo Fighters (1995)
Few knew, but during his stint with Nirvana, drummer Dave Grohl was making home recordings that would serve as the foundation for his first post-Nirvana album. Recorded in just one week, the cannily-titled Foo Fighters retooled the best of those songs into a pop-punk triumph. In a twist of irony, the disc was nominated for a Grammy in the "Best Alternative Music Album" category in 1996, but lost out to Nirvana's MTV Unplugged in New York.
Steve Winwood – Arc of a Diver (1980)
Hard to believe, but former teen sensation Steve Winwood was contemplating leaving show business when he crafted this masterpiece, recorded at his home studio at his farm north of London. Buttressed by the Top 10 hit "While You See a Chance," the album framed Winwood's blue-eyed soul in atmospheric arrangements and languid tempos. A heavy MTV presence later pushed Winwood's career to further heights.
Todd Rundgren – Something/Anything? (1972)
This double-album tour-de-force showcased all facets of Todd Rundgren's songwriting brilliance and studio wizardry. Playing all the instruments on three of the album's four sides, Rundgren crafted some of rock's most enduring pop songs. "I Saw the Light" and "Hello It's Me" mined territory similar to that of Carole King, while "Couldn't I Just Tell You" sounded like a great lost Badfinger track.
Prince – Dirty Mind (1980)
This one-man showcase gave new meaning to the phrase "shock rock." Exploring an array of taboo topics, Prince found the musical voice that would carry him through his next several albums. The dance-pop track "When You Were Mine" pulsated with sensuality, while "Uptown" weaved together brick house funk and synth-based melodies.
Grant Lee Phillips – Mobilize (2001)
Fans of Grant Lee Buffalo's cinematic, heartland-drenched arrangements were likely surprised by the approach Grant Lee Phillips took with this do-it-yourself solo debut. Although the golden pop grandeur remained intact, Phillips achieved it in minimalist fashion, nestling 12-string acoustic guitars, bass and horns in a bed of digital percussion and treated keyboards. Michael Stipe, who snapped the album's cover shot, was already an avid fan by this point.
John Fogerty – Centerfield (Warner Bros., 1985)
John Fogerty rediscovered his songwriting muse with this stunning effort, which earned the former CCR frontman his first Number One album since leaving his old band. Working from meticulously crafted demos, Fogerty recorded the disc for a mere $35,000. The title track remains a staple of classic-rock radio.
Roy Wood – Boulders (1973)
As co-leader and co-founder of both The Move and the Electric Light Orchestra, Roy Wood demonstrated a brilliant penchant for making commercially viable pop music. With this solo album, he also proved that great melodies could accommodate absurdist humor and an eccentric flair. Singer-songwriter Aimee Mann has cited this album as one of her favorites.
Tobin Sprout – Moonflower Plastic (Matador, 1997)
Robert Pollard gets all the attention, but former Guided By Voices guitarist Tobin Sprout deserves a special place among the pop-rock elite. A neglected masterpiece, this album boasts a trove of richly melodic songs rife with poignancy and yearning. The album's centerpiece, "Angels Hang Their Socks on the Moon," rivals anything in the post-Beatles McCartney catalog.
Paul Westerberg – Folker (2004)
Paul Westerberg's kicked off his post-Replacements' career in conventional, major-label fashion. Beginning in 2002, however, he hunkered down in his basement and started making beautifully messy slop-rock fitted with sharp hooks, Keith Richards-inspired riffs and the occasional heart-stopping ballad. All of Westerberg's DIY discs are winners, but this album is a notch above the rest.
Paul McCartney – McCartney (1970)
Paul McCartney opted for a low-key approach on his first post-Beatles album. Working mostly in his home studio, Sir Paul burnished a clutch of pop rockers and ballads with an organic brush, eschewing polish in favor of charm. Perhaps the ex-Beatle was trying to minimize expectations, but tracks like "Maybe I'm Amazed" continue to dazzle even after all these years.
AC/DC's Brian Johnson has shot down rumors the band was on the verge of retiring due to the ill health of one of its members.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Johnson said the band still intended to get together in Vancouver in May, as previously planned. "We're going to pick up some guitars, have a plonk, and see if anybody has got any tunes or ideas," he said. "If anything happens, we'll record it."
However, Johnson confirmed that a member of the band, who the Telegraph says is thought to be rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, was suffering a debilitating illness. "I wouldn't like to say anything either way about the future," Johnson told the Telegraph. "I'm not ruling anything out. One of the boys has a debilitating illness, but I don't want to say too much about it. He is very proud and private, a wonderful chap. We've been pals for 35 years and I look up to him very much."
Johnson said the band was a tight family and that he'd love for the band to mark its 40th anniversary with 40 shows this year. "That would be a wonderful way to say bye bye," he said. "We would love to do it. But it's all up in the air at the moment.
Lately there's been quite a bit of talk about a Kinks reunion. Kinks guitarist Dave Davies has said that he has met up and jammed with his brother Ray recently, adding fuel to the fire that perhaps the band will reunite in conjunction with their 50th anniversary as a band.
In a recent interview with Guitarist magazine, Dave Davies talked about the difficulties the band experienced when recording their classic 1964 song "You Really Got Me." The engineers couldn't quite figure out how to record Davies' distorted guitar sound, which was something new all together. Said Dave: "The problems we had trying to record 'You Really Got Me'! It was like they just didn't know how to record it. They didn't know how to record the bass or bass drum. They certainly didn't have a clue how to record my guitar sound. We had to record it twice; the first one sounded crap."
Dave Davies just played his first gig in the U.K. in 13 years this past Friday (April 11), at Barbican Hall in London.
Led Zeppelin are getting ready to release remastered versions of their entire catalog. The band's first three albums will be released on June 3. The albums, which were remastered by Jimmy Page himself, will each contain bonus material. Now the band has released an exclusive track from the upcoming release. It's a live recording of "Good Times Bad Times/Communication Breakdown" from a concert at the Olympia in Paris on October 10, 1969.
"This is how we started off the set at Olympia," said Jimmy Page in a statement. "And you can just feel the energy on this. It's wild, but it's contained." John Paul Jones added: "These were usually openers 'cause they made you sit up. Concise and hard-hitting."
"'Good Times Bad Times' is the nearest thing you'd ever come to a sort of rock ditty. I mean, how did I know about the 'days of my youth I was told what it means to be a man' and all that stuff? It's almost Tin Pan Alley, but played brilliantly. And Bonzo's bass drum work. They were just really vigorous, joyous, uncomplicated pieces of music, which were great fun," Robert Plant said.
Led Zeppelin have released a new trailer to promote the reissue of their debut album. Watch it below.
The previously unreleased clip features the band performing live at Paris's Olympia Theatre on October 10, 1969. The full performance appears on the companion disk that comes with the reissue of Led Zeppelin.
In 2014, Led Zeppelin will reissue their first three albums, with four previously unheard tracks set to accompany each release.
"New" song "La La" will appear on the second disc of the reissued Led Zeppelin II. The extra audio disc accompanying Led Zeppelin III will feature "Jennings Farm Blues," "Bathroom Sound" and "Keys To The Highway/Trouble In Mind." All of these songs have been previously available on bootlegs but the June 2014 reissue of the three albums will mark the first time the tracks have been made widely available and approved by Jimmy Page.
Page says, "The material on the companion discs presents a portal to the time of the recording of Led Zeppelin. It is a selection of work in progress with rough mixes, backing tracks, alternate versions and new material recorded at the time."
All nine of the band's studio albums are due to be reissued in the same style.
Metallica's Lars Ulrich is pleased that Nirvana and KISS are being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but he's troubled by the absence of another classic rock band. "I'm not gonna get into the politics or all that stuff, but I got two words to say: Deep Purple," he said yesterday, speaking to Rolling Stone. "That's all I have to say: Deep Purple. Seriously, people, 'Deep Purple,' two simple words in the English language. But definitely, Nirvana is a no-brainer for the first year and I'm glad that KISS is getting the long-overdue recognition that they deserved for everything that they pioneered, and then I got two words, 'Deep Purple!' Did I say that already?"
Deep Purple have been eligible for induction since 1993, and have been nominated twice—in 2013, and again in 2014. The much-lauded "Mach II" version of the group featured Ian Gillan, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Roger Glover and Ian Paice. Other members over the years have included Steve Morse, Tommy Bolin and Glenn Hughes.
An angry letter that John Lennon wrote to producer Phil Spector in the early seventies has sold for an astonishing £53,000 - or roughly $88,000. The winning bid was about ten times higher than what was estimated. The letter is a rant from Lennon where he is angry at Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson for behaving badly in Hollywood's Capitol Studios during a recording session.
The letter reads: "Phil – See ya around 12.30! Should you not yet know, it was Harry and Keith who pissed on the console! We left at 11.30… Jerry now wants us to evict us or that's what Capitol tells us, anyway. Tell him to bill Capitol for the damage if any?"
"I can't be expected to mind adult rock stars nor can May. Besides, she works for me, not A&M! I'm about to piss off to Record Plant because of this crap. John."
"PS Why does Leon's people not get shit?"
Louise Cooper, from the auction firm Cooper Owen Music Media Auctions commented on the sale: "This price reflects the fact that it has never been on the market before and refers to so many famous people of the time."
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have revealed some news on their upcoming new album Hypnotic Eye. The album is tentatively scheduled to be released this summer through Reprise Records. Some of the song titles include "American Dream Plan B," "Burn Out Town," and "Red River."
Fans of the band's early material really have something to look forward to, according to a Rolling Stone interview with Petty (via Classic Rock): "I knew I wanted to do a rock'n'roll record. We hadn't made a straight hard rocking record, from beginning to end, in a long time," said Petty. Writing and recording the album has been a long process, spanning nearly three years. Petty explains: "You must get the songs. It takes time to write 10 or 11 really good songs."
Petty also said it was guitarist Mike Campbell who first noticed the similarities with the band's early work: "You sing like you did on the first two albums." Sounds like the new material will set the stage for some really rocking shows in the near future!
Duff McKagan posted a message on his Twitter page yesterday, that seems to be hinting at a possible reunion with his former band Guns n' Roses. The message reads: "Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil! See y'all in the next few weeks, Si? GNR." So it would appear that McKagan will go on the road with the band during their South American tour. The tweet was also accompanied by a picture of two pieces of paper with Guns n' Roses song names on them, seemingly a setlist that Duff is rehearsing.
It seems very likely that the reunion is in fact taking place since current Guns bassist Tommy Stinson is sitting out the tour due to a reunion with his band The Replacements, who will be headlining this year's Coachella festival. Duff, who left GNR in 1997, briefly reunited with the band on stage in London back in 2010 after having run in to Axl Rose at his hotel where the two happened to be staying in the rooms next to one another.
Fleetwood Mac will return to the live stage in the USA later this year after their previous tour was cancelled so bass player John McVie could undergo cancer treatment. And this time the band is bringing along a dearly missed friend: singer, songwriter and keyboardist Christine McVie, who hasn't toured with the band since 1998's The Dance tour.
The band currently have 34 dates booked with McVie so far, and there are plans for a new recording as well.
"It's official. Christine will be re-joining bandmates Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks as they launch the On With The Show tour in Minneapolis on September 30," the band said in a joint statement.
McVie told Rolling Stone the band would begin rehearsals in July. "The tour starts in Chicago and we head west and come back east again, finish at Christmas and pick up end of January and complete America and we can do the world, really," she said. "And there's a studio album somewhere in the mix too. We're playing around in studios now."
The Rolling Stones will resume their world tour in May in Norway, after the band's 14 On Fire tour was postponed following the death of Mick Jagger's girlfriend, fashion designed L'Wren Scott.
Scott took her own life while the band was in Australia preparing for the first of their run of shows there.
The band has expanded the European tour to 14 shows through May, June and July, beginning in Oslo Telenor Arena in Norway on May 26 and wrapping up at the Roskilde festival in Denmark on July 3. They have also promised to reschedule the Australian dates for October and November.
Former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley has confirmed the release of his first solo album in five years. Space Invader will be released via eOne Music on June 23. It also features bassist Chris Wyse (The Cult) and drummer Matt Starr (Burning Rain).
Frehley says: "Life on earth has been good to me. The body of work I've created over the years has withstood the test of time. Today I see no obstacles before me and my creativity has never been more fine-tuned.
"Growing up in an alien world has enhanced my senses and allowed me to success where others would have failed. The best is yet to come."
Space Invader follows Frehley's Anomaly album of 2009. It includes nine original tracks plus a cover of Steve Miller's "The Joker."
The Pretenders' frontwoman Chrissie Hynde is set to release her debut solo album, although she's reluctant to label it as such.
Titled Stockholm, the disc features contributions from Neil Young and guitar-playing tennis legend John McEnroe, among others. "It's the first album with my name on it," said Hynde, in a prepared statement. "But it's not a solo album. In fact, making this album was more of a collaboration than any Pretenders album ever was."
As its title implies, the album was recorded in Stockholm, Sweden, with Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn and John at the controls. Hynde describes the music as "ABBA meets John Lennon. "So much of rock 'n' roll has become what I would call Glory Rock, with family values," she said. "It's the irreverence in rock that was always the turn-on."
The album will be released June 10, with the 1st single, "Dark Sunglasses," slated for April 21.
Canadian power trio Rush are taking the year off after an extensive touring cycle behind their latest album Clockwork Angels. In doing so they are skipping out on what would have been their 40th anniversary since the release of their first album. But fans shouldn't be worried - the band has already started planning for 2015.
"The three of us just had a meeting," Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson told Rolling Stone. "We said, 'Let's not talk about anything band-wise for the next year. Let's separate ourselves and come back rejuvenated.' Unfortunately, the other people at that meeting didn't hear what we were talking about, so there are already plans being made for spring of 2015. It's going to be a 41st anniversary tour, or whatever they're going to call it."
Longtime fans of the band will also be happy to hear what Rush has in store for them regarding the setlist for the upcoming tour. "We haven't really talked seriously about what we want to do," said Lifeson. "But I think we're probably going to lean towards making it a real sort of fan event, and really try to put something together that's very pleasing for the fans across the board. That's always been difficult, for us to sort of balance things." Lifeson continued by saying: "We want to try and play different material this time. I've always wanted to do some rarer Rush material, and this should be a good opportunity to do that. I also think it's going to be a long tour. We just need to stay healthy until then."
John Mayall is one of the hardest working blues musicians out there. Right now he's in the middle of a European tour where he will be doing 59 shows in only 64 days (source: Music-News.com). That is pretty impressive by anyone's standard, but even more so when you consider the fact that Mayall just turned 80 years old.
To celebrate this milestone in his career, Mayall is getting ready to release his first studio album in five years. The aptly titled A Special Life will be released on May 19 through Forty Below Records. Mayall did the recording in Los Angeles with producer Eric Come.
Mayall's longtime band featuring guitarist Rocky Athas, bassist Greg Rzab, and drummer Jay Davenport, all play on the album, with Rzab and Athas even contributing an original song. Mayall himself wrote three new songs for the project, which also contains covers by the likes of Albert King and Jimmy Rogers.