Famous Swan Songs: 5 of the Best Last Albums
By: Ben Schwind
We often don’t know someone’s final album is there last until we view their career retrospectively. They either come out of some tragedy or just the ending of an era. While many of these artists had success prior to their final release, these records became defining moments in their careers.
American IV: The Man Comes Around – Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash enjoyed a career that lasted nearly half a century but was not without its ups and downs. After being dropped by Columbia Records in 1986, Cash struggled to gain any interest from a major label. However, in the early 90s, the “Man in Black” teamed up with producer Rick Ruben to create the American Recordings
. The 4th
installment, The Man Comes Around
, is one of the best records in Johnny Cash’s extensive catalogue of 55 studio albums. Hauntingly beautiful covers of some of the 20th
century’s best songwriters accompany originals that show the depth of Cash’s own prowess to create an album that is the perfect final chapter for the country legend.
Hurt, The Man Comes Around, Sam Hall, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, We’ll Meet Again
Life After Death
Life After Death – Notorious B.I.G.
is a feature-packed double album that ironically came out two weeks following the
death of Notorious B.I.G. The album features a mix of upbeat radio friendly hits next to dark and introspective tracks. Even with these drastic transitions it never feels disconnected. Vignettes before and after tracks set the scene for songs and let Biggie do what he does best – tell stories. Life After Death
accomplishes the near impossible, a double album with no filler.
Hypnotize, Mo Money Mo Problems, I Got A Story To Tell, Sky’s The Limit, You’re Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You)
Abbey Road – The Beatles
The last Beatles album is up for debate among music fans. While Let it Be
is the final “release” from the group, Abbey Road
is actually the last album they recorded. Following the infamous Let it Be
sessions, Paul McCartney proposed The Beatles return to the studio and try to make an album without the constant tension that had surrounded their previous attempt. John Lennon and McCartney actually began to write together cohesively again and George Harrison contributed some of his best Beatles work in “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something”. While the group had not officially disbanded yet, the writing was on the wall, making the final track of the album, “The End,” especially poignant. While critically panned at the time, the B-Side Medley has since become an iconic part of The Beatles’ catalogue.
Something, Come Together, I Want You (She’s So Heavy), B-Side Medley
MTV Unplugged in New York – Nirvana
Officially, In Utero
is the final studio album from Nirvana and is deserving of its share of acclaim.
However, the true “swan song” for Nirvana is MTV Unplugged in New York
. Recorded six months before the death of Kurt Cobain, the performance strips Nirvana of feedback and distortion and allows you to fully appreciate the songwriting of Cobain. MTV Unplugged in New York
shows that Kurt Cobain is not reliant on the loud energetic delivery that made him famous and can be just at home in an intimate setting. Covers of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” and Lead Belly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” have become synonymous with Nirvana following this album. In hindsight, surrounded by lilies, black candles, and giant chandelier, MTV Unplugged in New York
is a sendoff for the voice of a generation.
The Man Who Sold the World, Pennyroyal Tea, All Apologies, Where Did You Sleep Last Night
L.A. Woman – The Doors
is not as much a finale for The Doors as it is Jim Morrison – although even The Doors ignore their last two albums. While probably better known for their earlier psychedelic California rock, L.A. Woman
finds the band exploring more outside their comfort zone with down and dirty blues tracks and floaty jazz-influenced songs. The album even includes a traditional delta blues song, “Crawling King Snake”. Morrison shows promise as a blues frontman on a number of songs while still indulging in poetic based lyrics on a few others. L.A. Woman
proves that The Doors were a band continuing to grow and evolve – at the time of its release, many reviews hailed it as their best album. The final track, “Riders on the Storm,” would also be Jim Morrison’s final recording and is the perfect ghostly goodbye for the Lizard King.
The Changeling, Been Down So Long, L.A. Woman, Hyacinth House, Rider’s on the Storm
| 6/29/2017 3:59:59 PM
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