Best Of Rock: 10 Comeback Albums
By Ralph Greco, Jr.
An episode of VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show had Eddie Trunk and the boys attempting to cobble together a Top 5 list of best heavy metal comeback albums. And while I agreed with lots of their choices, I wanted to expand a list to include artists that fall into the Vintage Rock category. So here’s my Top 10 comeback albums.
Ozzy Osbourne ~ Blizzard Of Ozz
Counted out as an alcoholic and drug addict, no one could have foreseen that former Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne would begin an amazing solo run, starting with this 1980 album. Featuring a then-relatively unknown guitarist Randy Rhoads, Blizzard Of Ozz went platinum and spawned now legendary Ozzy Osbourne hits like “Crazy Train”and “Mr. Crowley.” To this day, it and its follow-up, Diary Of A Madman, remain high-water marks in the singer’s storied solo catalog.
Yes ~ 90125
The band’s eleventh album featured a re-configured group with guitarist Trevor Rabin and the return of singer Jon Anderson and original keyboardist Tony Kaye. 90125 yielded the progressive British group their first and only Number One single, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” along with other heavy rotated FM staples “Changes” and “Leave It.” More than anything, 90125 greatly expanded the band’s popularity in the 80s.
Tina Turner ~ Private Dancer
For Tina Turner, her fifth time was a charm as this 1984 album, yielded seven hit singles, including What’s Love Got to Do With It” and “Private Dancer.” Filled out with songs by Lennon & McCartney, David Bowie and Mark Knopfler and supported by players like Jeff Beck and Mel Collins, Private Dancer made sure the lady with the fabulous gams that don’t quit became universally loved and revered.
David Bowie ~ Let’s Dance
This is the 1983 album that featured a relatively unknown Steve Ray Vaughn, included the hits “China Girl” and the title track, and saw Bowie embark on the Serious Moonlight Tour, the biggest of his career at the time. But as the Thin White Duke opined: “There I was looking out over these waves of people (who were coming to hear this record played live) and thinking ‘I wonder how many Velvet Underground albums these people have in their record collections? I suddenly felt very apart from my audience.” So success, as we have often seen, even in the face of a softer comeback in the usual sense, can be an extra prickly Spider from Mars. That might explain why he isn’t touring behind his 2013 comeback album, The Next Day.
Aerosmith ~ Pump
Yes, the bad boys From Boston had reformed the original band two albums previously — I agree with Eddie Trunk, Done With Mirrors is a seriously over-looked Aerosmith album; and they enjoyed hits with “Rag Doll” and “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” from Permanent Vacation — MTV had come calling and the Toxic Twins Steven Tyler and Joe Perry were then clean and sober and touring for packed houses. Lots of fans and critics alike claim Pump, the band’s 1989 album, truly put Aerosmith back in the saddle with hits like “Love in an Elevator” and “Janie’s Got A Gun.”
Van Halen ~ 5150
This list does not always reflect a specific comeback where a group or artist was necessarily down for the count, broken up and then reformed but certainly these releases throw the band into new superstar territory or see a complete rise in their popularity and fortune. In some cases, it takes a new member coming in such as when Sammy Hagar stepped in to man the mike after David Lee Roth’s sudden departure. This 1986 album rocketed the band to their first Number One with hits like “Why Can’t This Be Love,” “Dreams” and “Love Walks In.” It gave the band a life without Roth, who’s now back in the band and featured on another big comeback album deserving of honorable mention, 2012’s A Different Kind Of Truth.
Meatloaf ~ Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell
Out of all albums on this list, this is the one that truly warms my heart and did indeed lift the artist out of club dates and the where-did-he-go status to be thrust back into superstardom. Somehow the stars aligned, hell froze over and Meatloaf and with his mercurial co-writer Jim Steinman (the man the original Bat Out of Hell monster record), Meatloaf managed to record another brilliant unique opus —15 years later! This 1993 release sold over 15 million copies, won a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance and saw the single “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That),” at the top of the charts in nearly 30 countries.
Elvis Presley ~ From Elvis In Memphis
No rock ‘n roll list is ever complete without a mention of the King. For many, 1969’s From Elvis In Memphis is considered one of his best, yielding hits like “In the Ghetto,” “Kentucky Rain” and “Suspicious Minds.” Coming after Elvis’ 68 Comeback Special, From Elvis In Memphis put the man back on track after his movie career ended, bridging a gap that would see Presley morph into a major Las Vegas attraction.
AC/DC ~ Back In Black
When AC/DC lead singer Bon Scott died in 1980, most people figured the hard rockin’ Australian band was done. In fact, the band themselves were thinking of disbanding; however, best wishes and actual pushing from Scott’s parents kept them soldiering on with this 1980 release. This seventh album from the band saw Brian Johnson hired to man the mike (and pen lyrics) and lend his gravel stained pipes to such hits as “Hell’s Bells” and “Back In Black.” Today, Back In Black is one of the biggest selling albums of all time.
Santana ~ Supernatural
The brainchild of Arista Records president Clive Davis, guitarist Carlos Santana worked with hot artists of the end of the 90s to produce this album that went platinum in the US 15 times over and won nine Grammys. There’s too many guest stars on Supernatural to name, and many a critic has noted that is exactly what as much gives the album is star cache as it does its inconsistent voice, but with hits like “Smooth” featuring Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas and “Maria Maria” with The Product G&B, there is no denying Carlos Santana was back in a big way.