Tracks of 2014: Icons and Legends

Our look back at the best tracks of the year continues with the very best from those who’ve been around longest

The WhoBe Lucky The first new Who material in eight years showed their attitude isn’t dimming even if the joints are creaking. This pithy response to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky namechecked AC/DC and featured an electronic voice, but most importantly it retained the trademark portentous harmonies and sturm und drang of classic Who cuts.

Pink FloydLouder Than Words The one non-instrumental track on Floyd’s long-awaited Endless River, this sweetly drifting, somnambulant six-minute track immediately recalls the Wish You Were Here era, and Polly Samson’s lyrics (“we bitch and we fight, diss each other on sight, but this thing we do…”) seemed, like that previous album, to directly reference the band’s own history.

Robert PlantRainbow The lead single from Plant’s new solo outing Lullaby and… the Ceaseless Roar fell somewhere on the softer side of the quiet/loud spectrum that title suggests. But with a droning, slightly trippy quality to it and some fine falsetto to boot, it was once more testament to an artist ploughing a highly individual furrow.

**Bruce Springsteen – **American Skin (41 Shots) Although originally recorded in reaction to the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo by New York Police, this new studio version of the long-time live favourite was included on his High Hopes album partly as a reaction to the shooting of Trayvon Martin. And its sentiments are still all too relevant.

Tom PettyFault Lines This new single heralded a return to raw, rootsy rock’n’roll for the evergreen Heartbreakers, and this was one of the edgier numbers on the Hypnotic Eye album. “See those fault lines/Laid out like land mines/It’s hard to relax,” he sang. If it sounds this good, long may his discomfort continue.

David BowieSue (Or In A Season of Crime) A new song included on his hits retrospective Nothing Has Changed, this distinctly avant-garde seven-minute jazz odyssey is Bowie doing his changeling thing in extremis: You thought The Next Day was harking back to his glory days? Get your ears round this!

Leonard CohenAlmost Like The Blues Backed by a beguiling nightclub piano, old Len’s ever-deepening growl still sounded utterly captivating on this rare single. And even in a song bemoaning the horrors of the modern world, there’s still room for humour: “There’s torture and there’s killing… and there’s all my bad reviews.”

David CrosbyWhat’s Broken A full 20 years on since his previous solo album, the former Byrd was in fine voice on this sweet, softly jazz-tinged slice of MOR, replete with Mark Knopfler guitar patterns. “Who wants to see an abandoned soul?” he sings. Plenty of us, I reckon.

Stevie NicksBelle Fleur The Fleetwood Mac frontwoman didn’t exactly produce a new album, but_ 24 Karat Gold_, a collection of new recordings of old demos, still went down a storm with Nicks devotees. This track was a highlight, and the maturing of that inimitable voice only added poignancy to its rekindling of old glories.

Chrissie HyndeDark Sunglasses The Pretenders had always been fundamentally her band, so it didn’t seem necessary to release a solo record, but this debut lone outing was certainly worth waiting for. This lead single was reassuringly full of the purring cool and sassy power pop that made her an icon in the first place.

Johnny Sharp

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock