Tuesday marked the return of two singer/songwriters long missing from the Billboard charts: Van Morrison and Beth Orton both released new albums after years away from the studio. They join a growing number of other returning artists this fall — one of whom sings from beyond the grave, no less — who are finally delivering new work to fan-bases that have had to be patient. Very patient.
Here are five artists making a long overdue return to the spotlight, and to the fall 2012 charts:
Van Morrison "Born to Sing: No Plan B" is the first studio album in four years for the Belfast, Northern Ireland-born singer, now 67. "Singing is my profession – there is no plan B," Van Morrison told The Guardian by way of explanation of the album's title. His 35th studio album as a solo artist features 10 new tracks in his trademark easy-breezy tone and touches on topics such as human greed and the distractions of modern life. "Everything is distraction, selling clothes and cars and all that," he told The Guardian. "I think it's a way of keeping the population under control – keep them preoccupied all the time." "Born to Sing: No Plan B" is replete with smooth horns, jazzy piano riffs and saxophone solos from the master himself. (Released Oct. 2, Blue Note Records)
Beth Orton On "Sugaring Season," Beth Orton's first studio release in six years, the husky-voiced English singer/songwriter leaves behind many of the electronic flourishes that marked her early work. Initially gaining fame for her collaborations with William Orbit and the Chemical Brothers in the mid-1990s, Orton now turns her attentions to a more lyrical sound. "I stretched myself as a singer on this record and used voices I never have before as a writer," she said in a statement. "A lot of the writing on this record happened in the dead of night, when spiders mend their webs, with an infant asleep in the next room... as a result, my writing became a secret again: illicit and my own." Recorded in Portland, Ore., with producer Tucker Maritime, the jazz-folk stylings feature guitarist Mike Ribot and drummer Brian Blade. (Released Oct. 2, Anti- Records)
No Doubt "Push and Shove" marks No Doubt's return to the arena of ska-influenced power-pop for the first time since 2001. In between, lead singer Gwen Stefani led fans on a Harajuku-influenced, tartan mini-skirted adventure mixed together with cutesy rap and guest artist appearances. Now back together, with the 11 tracks on "Push and Shove" the band harks back to the playful rock sound it perfected on 1995's "Tragic Kingdom." The reason it took so long to get the album together? All the band members are now parents, with Stefani admitting on the "Ellen DeGeneres Show" recently that working around her sons' schedule "was challenging — we'd get together like three times a week, and I tried all versions — like 'oh today I'm gonna bring him with me,' and that didn't work. So then I was like, 'Today I'm not gonna see him, I'm gonna work all day, and then I'll be with him tomorrow.' It was just chaos, so that's one of the reasons it took as long as it did."(Released Sept. 25, Interscope Records)
Waylon Jennings It's been 10 years since country music singer/songwriter Waylon Jennings passed away from diabetic complications. His health was already failing when he recorded the tracks featured on "Goin' Down Rockin': The Last Recordings," the 12-track posthumous release completed by his bandmates as per his request. Jennings recorded the songs — originally featuring only his baritone and guitar — over three days in the garage studio of steel guitar player Robby Turner, who would go on to produce the album. "He was listening to what he’d done and went over and hit ‘stop’ on the tape machine," Turner told The Tennessean of Jennings' final recording sessions. "He said, 'I imagine you’ll put a little here, a little there, some more back there. ... Robby, I can almost hear the parts you’ll play when you decide to overdub ’em in, and they’re sounding great." When Turner asked the outlaw poet what the deadline was to finish the recordings that focus on love, death and dreams, Jennings replied, "There’s no deadline, just finish it one day." (Released Sept. 1, Saguaro Road Records)
Aerosmith Thanks to Steven Tyler's ever-present grin pervading screens while he judged "American Idol," it's surprising that "Music for Another Dimension" is Aerosmith's first studio output in eight years. But while Tyler may be a constant in the spotlight, the band was quietly toiling in the background on an album guitarist Joe Perry described as "closer to the bone and the skeleton of what Aerosmith is than any record we’ve done in a long time." Tyler has promised fans there will be lots of guitar riffs and his signature power rock ballads on the new album. "It’s kind of like taking antique dough, kneading it and putting in a little stuff to make it rise,” the singer added in one of three "Making of..." videos released to promote the record. (Release set for Nov. 6, Columbia Records)