2023 in Review: The Best New Albums by Classic Rock Stars

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In part one of our four-installment 2023 holiday gift guide, we looked at the best of the boxed sets, reissues and historical collections aimed at classic rock fans. Part two focused on the year’s best music books. Part three covered classic-rock Christmas music.

For this fourth and final segment, we’re focusing on newly recorded albums by classic rockers, including the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, Pretenders and many others—even Dolly Parton!

This list is arranged alphabetically by artist—no rankings here because they’re all worthy. All of these are available on CD, many also on vinyl LP and digitally. Many can be found via the handy ordering links at the bottom of this story. In some cases, there’s more information on the albums; click on the artist’s name, where applicable.

Happy listening!

Herb AlpertWish Upon a Star
On his 49th studio album, the trumpeter/bandleader explores songs written in different eras of pop music history, from venerable Great American Songbook standards to torch songs (a sultry “We’ve Only Just Begun”) to Beatles classics (“And I Love Her”).

Jimmy BuffettEqual Strain on All Parts
The album’s title is inspired by the recently departed Buffett’s grandfather’s description of a good nap. The record, co-produced by longtime Coral Reefers Michael Utley and Mac McAnally, features well-known friends, including Paul McCartney, Emmylou Harris, Angelique Kidjo and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Cat PowerCat Power Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert
The artist (whose real name is Chan Marshall) recreates Bob Dylan’s historic May 1966 Manchester Free Trade Hall concert song-for-song in front of a London audience. Surprisingly, no one shouts, “Judas!”

Allan ClarkeI’ll Never Forget
The former Hollies lead vocalist reunites with that band’s other well-known singer, Graham Nash, who guests on most of the newly co-written tracks—including a tribute to their favorite singer back in the day, Buddy Holly.

Micky DolenzSings R.E.M.
The last surviving Monkee paid tribute to his late bandmate Michael Nesmith in 2021. On this new EP, he gives a nod to one of his favorite bands, covering their songs “Shiny Happy People” and “Radio Free Europe,” and two more.

Bob DylanShadow Kingdom
Never one for predictability, Dylan here offers 21st century versions of songs from his storied back catalog, including fan favorites like “Forever Young” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” and deep catalog gems like “Queen Jane Approximately” and “The Wicked Messenger.”

Foo FightersBut Here We Are
Their 11th album, and first since the death of drummer Taylor Hawkins, received positive reviews across the board, with some critics describing the feel of the album as highly emotional, heartbreaking and hopeful—even “nothing short of miraculous.”

Peter Gabrieli/o
Of the album, his first collection of new material in more than two decades, Gabriel said, “It’s been around for a long time as a title for this project. I always knew I was going to write a song called i/o, but the title came first.”

Ian HunterDefiance Part 1
Jeff Beck and Taylor Hawkins, both now deceased, appear on the latest release from the former Mott the Hoople frontman. “There are a lot of reasons for calling this album Defiance,” said the 83-year-old Hunter. “It’s like, people my age shouldn’t be making records, blah, blah, blah. But we’ve still got a bit left.”

Joe JacksonWhat a Racket!
A concept album, the English singer-songwriter-musician’s latest is described in an announcement as “a vibrant revival of long-lost artist Max Champion and transports listeners to the lively world of Music Hall tradition.” Watch a documentary about the project below.

John MellencampOrpheus Descending
“This new record…is relatively dark and downbeat,” wrote our reviewer. “Don’t expect any exuberant and instantly lovable toe-tappers…[but] a few understated numbers will reward repeated listens.”

Metallica72 Seasons
The band’s James Hetfield explained the album’s title: “72 seasons. The first 18 years of our lives that form our true or false selves. The concept that we were told ‘who we are’ by our parents. A possible pigeonholing around what kind of personality we are.”

Joni MitchellAt Newport
The singer’s surprise appearance at the 2022 folk festival was captured for posterity. Wrote our reviewer, “Her voice deepened but its power undiminished—and her terrific accompanists delivering 10 originals from her large catalog plus a cover of ‘Summertime,’ the Gershwin classic.”

Van MorrisonMoving on Skiffle and Accentuate the Positive
He’s as prolific as ever, and continues to record whatever moves him at the time. Moving on Skiffle is his second tribute to the folk music style that was popular in Britain in the immediate pre-Beatles era, while Accentuate the Positive finds Van the Man covering songs by artists such as the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry and Bill Haley.

Graham NashNow
Nash has called Now “the most personal album I’ve recorded.” It’s his first new studio release since 2016’s This Path Tonight. “It’s me. Now. In this moment in my life. It’s no small thing getting to be my age. It’s not easy,” he said.

Willie NelsonBluegrass and Long Story Short: Willie Nelson 90 Live at the Hollywood Bowl
Turning 90 hasn’t slowed him down at all. Bluegrass—amazingly his 151st album!—is his first-ever in that style, which finds the singer rearranging some of his classic songs for standard bluegrass instrumentation, while the live album features Nelson joined onstage by such admirers as Keith Richards, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Norah Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Rosanne Cash and Tom Jones.

Dolly PartonRockstar
When Dolly Parton was told she was being nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she famously declined the honor. But then she changed her mind, and decided it was as good a time as any to record her first rock album. And so she has, inviting friends like Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Stevie Nicks, Steve Perry, John Fogerty and Peter Frampton to help her out.

“There are no musical U-turns on Relentless,” wrote our reviewer. “As long as Chrissie Hynde remains in control, it seems, Pretenders albums will likely retain the same distinctive sound, which employs abundant hooks; strong melodies; muscular, garage-rock influenced instrumentation; and most importantly, Hynde’s authoritative, instantly recognizable vocals.”

Paul RodgersMidnight Rose
Although he suffered a stroke that left him unable to speak for some time, the Free/Bad Company singer managed to record this new album, which he described as “a tribute to and my way of thanking America for all the music and love through the years.”

The Rolling StonesHackney Diamonds
After years of promises, the Stones finally made good on their teases, releasing their first collection of new music in nearly two decades. Not only has it sold well and received critical plaudits, it has kickstarted the band into hitting the road again—they’ll be supporting the album in a series of concerts in 2024.

Brian SetzerThe Devil Always Collects
From the record label’s announcement: “Creative sparks and killer riffs are flying everywhere on The Devil Always Collects. The three-time Grammy award-winner’s guitar work is bracingly virtuosic and blazing, and his irresistible vocals thrillingly deliver the clever storylines of 11 catchy songs.”

Paul SimonSeven Psalms
At just over a half-hour, and offered as one uninterrupted seven-movement piece, Simon’s latest is described in an announcement as “a stunning, intricately layered work…a record which establishes an engaging and meditative, almost hymnal soundscape, with Simon’s lyrics providing the gravitational center for constellations of sound woven from guitar strings and other acoustic instrumentation.”

Cat StevensKing of a Land
More than a decade in the making, the artist’s 17th album features 12 new songs full of significant surprises. Stevens’ vocals sound beautiful right from the start, on the leadoff track, “Train on a Hill,” in which he’s joined by a large orchestra.

The Third Mind2
For its second trip, the occasionally assembling, neo-psychedelic collective including members of the Blasters, Camper Van Beethoven and Counting Crows rethinks songs from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the Electric Flag, Gene Clark and others from the ground up. For those who miss going to the Fillmores.

U2Songs of Surrender
The 40 tracks in this numbered, limited-edition, four-CD set, released in March, are all newly recorded renditions of songs from the group’s catalog. The lion’s share of these recordings sound relatively enervated compared with the frequently anthemic well-known versions, whose pulsating rhythms, high-octane guitar work and spirited vocals prove a good match for lyrics that invariably deal with intense subject matter.

Various ArtistsHeavenly Cream: An Acoustic Tribute Album, Featuring Ginger Baker
Exactly what its title suggests, this is a nod to the music of Cream, featuring Malcolm Bruce (Jack’s son), along with a number of contributors, performing songs like “White Room,” “Tales of Brave Ulysses” and “I Feel Free.” The late Cream drummer Ginger Baker is also represented.

Roger WatersThe Dark Side of the Moon Redux and The Lockdown Sessions
A busy year for the former Pink Floyd mastermind. The Dark Side of the Moon Redux “sees Waters transcend this half-century void to reinterpret and embellish his original creations with a new perspective gleaned from his own life experience, philosophy, and the wisdom of age, with added emphasis on the philosophical, social and political themes of the original.” And The Lockdown Sessions, said Waters, “were recorded and filmed at home during the Covid lockdown between 2020 and 2021.” It includes remakes of both Floyd classics and Waters solo material.

Lucinda WilliamsStories From a Rock ’n’ Roll Heart
The new set from the veteran Americana singer-songwriter is “at times nostalgic and melancholy and seems to make note of mortality,” said our reviewer, who added, “Clearly, she has no plan to hang up her rock and roll shoes anytime soon, which is good news indeed.”

YesMirror to the Sky
“We kept the continuity in the approach we established on The Quest,” said guitarist Steve Howe, “but we haven’t repeated ourselves. That was the main thing. As Yes did in the ’70s from one album to another, we’re growing and moving forward.”

The ZombiesDifferent Game
The British Invasion stalwarts, still including founding vocalist Colin Blunstone and keyboardist Rod Argent, continue to move forward musically. Said Argent, “Making this album has been a joy from start to finish. Post-lockdown, we were absolutely determined to come together and record in as ‘live’ a way as we could, to capture the magical, fleeting quality of energy and immediacy of performance.”

More 2023 New Releases…

Alice CooperRoad

Ann-MargretBorn to Be Wild

The Blues ProjectEvolution

Depeche ModeMemento Mori

FoghatSonic Mojo

Peter FramptonAt Royal Albert Hall

Jethro TullRökFlöte

Rickie Lee JonesPieces of Treasure

Nils LofgrenMountain

Taj MahalSavoy

The Dave Matthews BandWalk Around the Moon

Iggy PopEvery Loser

Suzi Quatro & KT TunstallFace to Face

The Smashing PumpkinsAtum

SparksThe Girl Is Crying In Her Latte

Ringo StarrRewind Forward

Uriah Heep—Chaos & Colour

Wolfgang Van Halen/Mammoth WVHMammoth II


Ann WilsonAnother Door

Neil YoungBefore & After

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