There's been a plethora (love that word) of releases on the rock side of the genre ledger that has demanded by attention. You see, the rocksters listed here were all riding high back in the seventies, so naturally, I was curious to see if they still got "it." In each case, the answer is "yes," but for two of them, they did so by taking somewhat of a departure from their most-recognized style. The third one showed he still has the mojo by releasing for the first time tracks from his mojo period.
Levon Helm Dirt Farmer
Vocalist drummers are an amazing lot to me. Not because it's supposed to be particularly hard to drum and sing at the same time; I wouldn't know. But for the band to want that guy to lead sing he must be pretty good, anyway, because the drummer is typically the last dude anybody thinks of for a lead vocalist. Even Genesis went through an exhaustive audition of Peter Gabriel's replacement before it occurred to them that The Answer was right there sitting behind a Gretsch set. Few people even remember anymore that Don Henley is a drummer.
Levon Helm is another of those guys. To me, his earthy, Arkansas drawl epitomized the roots-minded rock combo The Band just as much as Robbie Robertson's evocative compositions on American folklore. And now he's back with a rare studio album that makes The Band sound like a sleek, electronica dance music. There's not a trace of a plugged-in instrument anywhere and amongst songs by Steve Earle and J.B. Lenoir are songs that aren't even copyrighted anymore. But Helm's steady drumming and blessedly rural warble remains. That should be plenty good enough for any fan of The Band.
Herbie Hancock The Herbie Hancock Trio (1977)
I haven't listened to The Joni Letters yet, but I did come across this hidden gem of his from three decades ago. And why, pray tell, is it hidden? Because Columbia Records didn't see a market for acoustic Herbie back then when his electric funk-jazz Headhunters albums were selling more records than many rock stars. That's still no excuse to make this available only as an import even today, though.