Best Of Rock: 10 Seasonal Albums

0
1130
By Ralph Greco, Jr.

Yes, we have had plenty of yule time ditties from our favorite vintage rockers, even some full albums for that special magical time of year. But how about the rest of the seasons? Below are 10 of the best seasonal albums (sans Christmas) we could find. Of course, they’re good no matter what time of the year it is.

Fall

1) Jethro Tull – Songs From The Wood

Not just because it has the word ‘Wood’ in its title, and the front cover shows an impish Ian Anderson squatting at a woodland fire, but the music from Songs From The Wood evokes quite the autumnal feeling. Songs like “Jack-in-the-Green,” “Fire at Midnight,” and “Pibroch (Cap In Hand)” surely puts one in mind of falling leaves and curling up around the old hearth. Yes, there is the excellent “Ring Out Solstice Bells” here, but I rather feel that tune brings the listener around to the season coming from the season this album is surely set in.

2) Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath

For us living in the states, it’s hard to think of the Fall and not think of Halloween. Surely getting one in the spookiest frame of mind, Black Sabbath’s debut of the same name still sends chills down the most ardent Sabbath fan’s spine. The title tune, “Black Sabbath,” and songs like the plodding “N.I.B.,” even the harmonica blues of “The Wizard,” for many as much make for a very dark listen as mark this album as the first to cleave the distinction between heavy metal and rock and roll. Whatever the case might be, this is one album that sets deep All Hallows mood like no other.

Winter

3) Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town

Coming off a three-year struggle with Mike Appel, his ex-manager, the lyrics and deep layered sound here reflects the Boss in a more than melancholy mood. So many of the character studies of the ten tunes here, “Adam Raised a Cain,” maybe the rockiest Bruuuuuce has ever gotten, “Candy’s Room,” the scene of desperation of “Racing in the Street,” and the title track border on dirge-like.  Even though this fourth studio album from Springsteen was released in June of 1978, not much of Darkness would prompt you to roll down your car windows and blast it from (at the time) your car’s 8-track stereo. Instead, Darkness On The Edge Of Town is perfect for recalling short days, cold nights, and abandoned vistas.

4) Joni Mitchell – Blue

OK, so here’s where I’ll cheat a bit, as Blue does contain the seminal tragic yet wonderful “River” on it, a song that will immediately make you feel all seasonal Christmas-y (if not completely rung-out sad). Like Springsteen above, this is Mitchell’s fourth studio album, and she pretty much kicks it out of the park by creating what many consider a classic. Reflecting on love affairs lost and those she was working hard to maintain, as well as just comments on her life in general, mainly accompanied by guitar, piano, or Appalachian dulcimer, the lady lays herself bare on Blue. The aforementioned “River,” the odd arpeggios of the title track, even what should be a sunny feel to landing on the west coast but is anything but “This Flight Tonight,” and the music alone on ender ”The Last Time I Saw Richard” — not to mention the lyric of hollow pleading — sets a true wintery, dare I say, blue mood. A perfect spin for cold winter nights.

5) Genesis – …And Then There Were Three

The ninth studio album by prog rock superstars Genesis was the first to feature only the trio of Tony Banks, Phil Collins, and Mike Rutherford, the team that would go on to steer the ship of the most successful, and some would say poppy, iteration of the band. …And Then There Were Three shows the three men in sync with their songwriting, playing and delivering an 11-song album that sets the listener in deep key-laden instrumentation. Although containing a rare ‘hit’ single for this band in the singalong love tune “Follow You, Follow Me,” its tunes like “Undertow,” “Burning Rope,” the epic “Deep in the Motherlode,” and certainly “Snowbound,” featuring one of the best of Phil Collins’ vocals, that speaks to the winter for me.

Spring

6) John Fogerty – Centerfield

After a long absence from the public eye, John Fogerty returned to form in 1985 with Centerfield. Prompting hits “The Old Man Down The Road,” “Rock and Roll Girls,” and the title tune, we were all thankfully brought ‘round to that snapping swamp economical song-smithing Fogerty does so well. It’s hard to listen to this simply constructed (but by no means simplistic) collection of eleven tunes and as much not get your feet tapping as feel a true rebirth of form for Fogerty’s career. This album smells like freshly mowed baseball fields to me.  

7) Yes – Close To The Edge

Considered a stone-cold classic of the prog rock genre and one of, if not the highwater mark of Yes’ output, their fifth studio album, Close To The Edge, indeed sounds like an un-budding of all the potential and force that has lain dormant over the winter (opening with a tape loop of keys, water, and birds chirping) blasting forth in this chewy, three-song opus. The title track puts the listener through changes and moods, leaving one as amazed as feeling that all things are possible by its end. Not that much can be rightly made from the lyrics of the rocking “Siberian Khatru” that begins side two, the finisher “And You and I” starts with a nice folksy guitar and promises lots of good vibes all around.

8) Caravan – In The Land Of Grey And Pink

Representing the 70s Canterbury aspect of prog rock, this (another fourth album) from Caravan would be the last to feature the band’s original lineup until their early 80’s studio release Back To Front. Opening with John Beecham’s laughing trombone into a jaunty, could be The Kinks, could be early Pink Floyd, could be Focus; “Golf Girl,” into the folksy “Winter Wine,” all wrapped in the wonderful voice of Richard Sinclair, it’s hard not to shake off the cold and consider opening the windows of your mind at the start of In The Land Of Grey And Pink. The cowbell-led “Love to Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly),” with Pye Hastings taking the lead vocal and further lilting harmony gives more promise of renewal as well for the first side. “Nine Feet Underground” flows around Traffic-like jazz pop instrumental sections, from heavy riffing to softer sweet sung vocal selections. Surely things might meander a bit, and there is a lot to “unpack,” as the kids say, but like “Close To The Edge,” this full-on 20-plus minute epic is well worth the journey, leaving one coming out the other side of this second side softly springing with spring, and Spring, in one’s step.

Summer

9) The Beach Boys – Surfin’ USA

One could really vote for lots of Beach Boys albums under this season, but why not go with their first release? Sure, the title track, first song, is a classic, and you can’t ignore the idea of summertime with “Noble Surfer” and the ballad “Lonely Sea,” but for me, lots of the instrumentals here make the summer…even sounding similar as they do. The flicky guitar buzz riffing of “Misirlou,” the ‘walking’ groovin’ “Stoked,” and “Surf Jam,” and Dick Dale’s “Let’s Go Trippin” surely get one in a beachy mood.

10) The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

This monster of an album, which many consider the greatest rock record of all time, as well as one of the first concept albums, heralded 1967’s “Summer Of Love.” Full of a wide range of musical styles, from English music hall, rock, vaudeville, and Indian classical music (to name but a few), sure innovations in songwriting and recording, one can’t rightly play this disc without thinking of the magical summer of promise it prompted. Even though John Lennon’s haunting ender “A Day In The Life” sounds so far from this planet to really lock into any Earth-bound season, the trumpeting opening of the title track, the music hall, rock, vaudeville, and Indian classical music heard over songs like “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” “Fixing A Hole,” the devastatingly poignant “She’s Leaving Home,” hypnotic, “Within You Without You,” and jaunty “Good Morning Good Morning,” is truly impossible to beat.

 

Bookmark and Share