Great Swan Songs: Five Bands Whose Last Album Was Their Best

The term Swan Song, a metaphor for a final gesture or effort, often gets used when the year comes to a close. It was actually quite a few months before the New Year back in October, when veteran Boston designated hitter David Ortiz enjoyed his swan song by playing out his final season with the Red Sox against the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series.

A more appropriate use of swan song occurs when it regards musicians, to whom it applies in a literal sense. For instance, David Bowie recorded his swan song this year, an album called Black Star, released just a few days before his death in January.

The record was well-received by critics as well as fans, and the track Dollar Days is one of the sweetest songs in his discography. Black Star, however, pales when compared to Bowie’s very best albums. The disc Scary Monsters and Super Creeps from 35 years ago remains the best, along with Hunky Dory from 1972.

Rarely is the swan song of a band or artist the best album of their career, but several groups have actually made last albums that excelled all of their previous releases. Here are five of those bands whose last album was the best in their catalogue.

The Hoople by Mott the Hoople

Guitarist and co-founder Mick Ralphs had left before this record, so vocalist Ian Hunter took sole control of the glitter rock quintet. Tunes like Alice, Marionette, and Roll Away the Stone made this last album the best in their impressive catalogue.

Look? Hear? by 10cc

Their biggest hits, like I’m Not In Love, Dreadlock Holiday and The Things We Do For Love, preceded this album. Nevertheless, all ten songs here could be pop hits as, unlike their other records, there are no duds on either side of this vinyl.

Dandy in the Underworld by T. Rex

The title track became an instant classic when, shortly after the record was released, front man Marc Bolan was killed in a car crash.

Lost Without Your Love by Bread

David Gates and his hit-making group had broken up in 1972, but thank goodness they reunited six years later. The title track became a huge hit, and Change of Heart might just be the best song about a guy in a love triangle.

Good Times by the Monkees

Mickey Dolenz, who had an excellent voice at the band’s sixties heyday, some how sounds even better now. The dozen songs here, written by an All-Star cast including the guys themselves, make this collection of new stuff better than any of the band’s previous albums. Those oldies like Headquarters were certainly goodies but, unlike this disc, they were all a bit flawed. Even Davy Jones appears posthumously to sing lead on Love Takes Love, a previously unreleased song from a session in the sixties.