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OLD FOLKS' BOOGIE

Plenty of old dogs demonstrated they’re open to new tricks in 2018. This Top 10 isn’t limited to specific albums or tours; it’s focused on veteran artists who came with impressive one-two punches, creating new revenue streams and testing new media while plying their trade in traditional ways.

Bob Dylan: A year of 84 concerts wrapped in early December with a six-night stand at New York’s Beacon and the reopening of The Met Philadelphia. While he modified his strong and wide-ranging 2018 set list only slightly from show to show, opening night of the Beacon run was as good a Dylan performance as I’ve seen in 20 years. Sony Legacy released a Bootleg Series box devoted to one of his vault’s holy grails, the unused recordings from Blood on the Tracks. The revealing More Blood, More Tracks presents his stellar work from 1975 unvarnished, the 12-track version as much a gem of a record as the original release. To top it off, he went into the whiskey business.

The Beatles and Paul McCartney: A glimpse into how the Fab Four forged a new working operation in 1968 is a gift unto itself. That Capitol/UMe/Apple enveloped a remix of the “White Album” with amazing demos, session outtakes and one of the best boxed-set books ever makes the Deluxe Edition of The Beatles one of the most significant packages of the year. Meanwhile, McCartney returned to Capitol Records with the impressive Egypt Station and embarked on a tour that will run deep into 2019. His Carpool Karaoke with James Corden is certainly the most elaborate episode The Late Late Show host has done—and arguably its best.

Nile Rodgers: Talk about coming at you from every angle: The Chic co-founder was elected chairman of The Songwriters Hall of Fame and named the first-ever Chief Creative Advisor for Abbey Road Studios. Rodgers and Chic released their first album in 26 years, It’s About Time, and Atlantic/Rhino put out the comprehensive The Chic Organization 1977-1979. A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee in 2017, Rodgers was honored this year during the Music Biz conference, and The Library of Congress added "Le Freak" to the National Recording Registry. Chic toured Europe and Australia, and a U.S. run starts in January, but his oddest gig came at the London Stock Exchange, when his manager, Merck Mercuriadis, floated his Hipgnosis Songs Fund.

Aretha Franklin: Sad as the Queen of Soul’s death in August was, the testimonials and, of course, respect shown to her re-established her greatness in the minds of so many listeners. Compilations rocketed up the iTunes chart, SiriusXM created an Aretha channel, the AMAs staged an impressive tribute and Ariana Grande wowed the world at Franklin’s funeral. Franklin’s estate struck a deal to finally release Amazing Grace, the spectacular film of her 1972 gospel concert in an L.A. church. Might the long-discussed Aretha biopic take flight soon?

Elton John: Elton staged an elaborate announcement for his final world tour, performing in New York and beaming his press conference to London and L.A., treating attendees to a 3D piece of AI that chronicled career highlights. It was much like the John Lewis Christmas advert that’s reminding folks in the U.K. about the genius of “Your Song.” The biopic he produced on himself will open theatrically in May.

Paul Simon: At 77, Simon ended his concert career with a well-reviewed May-September tour of the U.S. and Europe, during which time Sony Legacy released his new interpretations of lesser-known songs, In the Blue Light, while Simon & Schuster published Robert Hilburn’s illuminating Paul Simon: The Life.

Dolly Parton: Big film and TV year for Dolly, who closed out 2018 with the release of the Netflix film Dumplin’; she stars in and recorded 12 songs for the project. Since this summer, she’s been working on an eight-episode series for Netflix based on eight of her songs.

John Coltrane: One of the best jazz recordings released in 2018 was put on tape in 1963 and not heard for 55 years. UMG’s Impulse released Coltrane’s Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album and the five-LP set 1963: New Directions. Publisher Big Deal Music Group expanded its relationship with the Coltrane-created Jowcol Music and the official designation of the John and Alice Coltrane home on Long Island as a National Treasure opens the door to becoming a museum and cultural center.

Fleetwood Mac:  The new Mac with Mike Campbell and Neil Finn received raves as it crossed the country, and Rhino issued the compilation 50 Years—Don’t Stop. The new set and the tour reminded many of the rich FM catalog that goes a lot further back than 1975. 

Joan Jett: Maybe it took being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to get Jett and her manager/label chief Kenny Laguna to enter the 21st century and start streaming her music. They made the online move via a new deal with Sony Legacy timed to coincide with the release of one this year’s finest music docs, Bad Reputation. Is it any surprise that her newest song is titled “Fresh Start”?

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