Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Band Reunions — Follow The Formula

It's really great that old musicians can set aside their differences and try to reunite with the intent of giving fans what they want and trying to squeeze a little more blood from the stone. However there is a formula that these artists should realize that they need to follow. 1) Reunite. 2) Put out an album of new material. 3) Go on tour. 4) Inevitably break up due to irreconcilable differences.

I understand that most artist revenue is generated through touring, and I understand that a lot of artists get creatively inspired by performing together on the road. However, when certain artists reunite after ten or twenty years, I expect more from them than a sloppy re-enactment of their greatest hits album that sounds no different than it did the last time they went on tour except that everyone involved looks old enough to be my grandfather and possesses only about half of their original prowess, especially when they're going to charge scandalous prices like $125 per person for nosebleed seats.

Look, we've heard your material from the Seventies. We've been hearing your material from the Seventies every single day since the Seventies. We're a little bored with it. If you want to reunite, for the love of all remaining pure and holy in the music industry, put out some new material. We know you're still creative. We know you all have songs written during your hiatus just in case you ever get back together again. Perform them, record them, release them, then go on tour to support something besides your own egos.

I don't mean put out another greatest hits album with two new songs either, Van Halen. They weren't even that great of new songs, and the greatest hits album was pretty much an expanded version of their already superb Best Of... Volume 1, and it didn't even contain any songs from Van Halen 3 featuring Gary Cherone who is more competent of a vocalist than David Lee Roth and more exciting of a vocalist than Sammy Hagar. I know the band, the label, the fans, and the critics be overjoyed if that album would just quietly slip into obscurity, but it is a damn fine album and one of the most creative in the entire Van Halen catalog.

Look at what happened with Van Halen, too, which dictates one of the biggest problems with this method of reunion. They got back together with Sammy Hagar, hurriedly slopped together two fairly borning songs and a less than stellar greatest hits album, then went on tour and destroyed all chances of ever hearing any more quality Van Halen material. Until David Lee Roth stepped up to the plate in a reunion attempt I can't even begin to describe except to break into fits of violent laughter. So the time that Van Halen could have spent giving us an album full of new songs to enjoy, they instead spent rehashing the same old songs on stage and pretty much not getting along at all, and thus they have deprived the world of hearing anything except the same old songs from the same old albums.

Black Sabbath is another prime example. In the mid-Nineties, the original line-up reunited with Ozzy Osbourne and they got along great, touring for many summers together and releasing two new songs which proved that, although not a full album's worth, Black Sabbath still had it. The Iommi solo project from their guitarist proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Sabbath isn't dead with an album strong enough to stand alongside the greatest albums in Black Sabbath's catalog. (Tony Iommi's second outing, Fused, might have been just as great; I can't tell because I can utterly not stand Glenn Hughes' fucking voice, of which his first album contained a distinct lack.) Now Black Sabbath has reunited with Ronnie James Dio to commemorate a collection of their best work together with a tour and just three new songs.

Why no new Black Sabbath records? Well, even in the height of their newfound popularity, Ozzy Osbourne refused to release a new album under the Black Sabbath name unless it was worthy of the title. Apparently half-hearted efforts like Down To Earth are okay for Ozzy's solo catalog, but despite overwhelming evidence that the band, together, still has what it takes to pull off a monumental album, nothing is going to measure up to their past masters in Ozzy's eyes.

Now Genesis has announced a reunion world tour with Phil Collins, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford. Whereas this might not have generated quite as much excitement as it would have if Peter Gabriel were back in the fold, (to hear him sing the Phil Collins material would probably be nothing short of orgasmic), it is still exciting news. Still, why no amazingcolossalbrilliant comeback album? You guys don't even not get along. You're all still friends. The world has been anticipating a new Genesis album with Phil Collins since 1991, to the point that his reluctance to rejoin the band in 1997 most greatly contributed to the commercial failure of ...Calling All Stations... which was another fairly good yet universally panned album. Why was it so heavily reviled? Most critics will tell you — in fact they've been documented as already having done so — that it was singularly because they wanted Phil Collins back on vocals. Otherewise most critics admitted it was a good, if not great, album, but the distinct lack of Phil Collins' nasal drone was simply not suitable for a proper modern Genesis album. (Yet I do enjoy hearing distinctively different singers cover others' songs, so I'm as curious to hear Phil Collins take on Ray Wilson's songs as I would be to hear Peter Gabriel take on Phil Collins'.)

So the world needs a new Genesis album from their most universally recognized, if not universally loved, line-up before you all die. Give us some new Genesis songs before putzing off on a world tour, dammit. Look at Deep Purple. They've been together in one incarnation or another for over forty years now, and they stick to the formula. They put out a new album, then go on tour to promote the album, then take a year or two off, then put out another album. That's the way it's done. That's the way you stay fresh and relevant to your fans and the critics. That's the way you avoid people reading the music news headlines and saying with a derisive snicker, "Hey, look who's regurgitating tired material to bilk a little more money out of the fans." You certainly don't want to become a tired old joke like certain other bands (Rolling Stones, KISS) who go on their "Without Question Final Tour Ever Tour" every single year. If you're so great, put out some new material or just fucking quit. Even Johnny Cash managed to write new songs up until the day he died. What's with your abundant lack of inspiration?

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