Dr. Dre finally did away with all the conjecture last week when he released Compton, a follow-up to 2001 that 16 years in the making (his last album, despite its title, was dropped in 1999). That span marks two years longer than the time it took Axl Rose and company to release the Guns N' Roses notorious Chinese Democracy. Unlike that album however, Dre's has found a fan base that was expecting it all along and isn't disappointed with the results. Although it may not top the Billboard 200, facing stiff competition from Luke Bryan's Kill The Lights, the release of Compton will serve as one of the bigger drops of 2015 when all's told. Still, 16 years is hardly anything when compared with the longest gaps between releases.
Now, understand that we ruled out bands that were technically broken up between releases. So, yeah, it was 34 years between Raw Power and The Weirdness for The Stooges, but it's not as if the band was truly together in between. We realize this gives an advantage to solo performers but it is what it is. Here are five streaks sans album even longer than Dr. Dre's:
Kraftwerk: 17 Years
Kraftwerk has long praised machines and aspired to using them to make music more efficiently, nay, not even requiring human interaction to do so. That may have been what happened after the group released Electric Café during 1986: sitting around and waiting for a prototype to create some new art. Maybe not but the slowing down of an entire band is interesting. The electronic music pioneers put out seven records during the '70s, before taking three years for Computer World and then another five years for Café. If Kraft fans thought that was an agonizing wait, they had no idea. The group would take another 17 years to put out the Tour de France Soundtracks during 2003. This gap is especially interesting because it wasn't due to a breakup, but simply...who knows? Dawdling? Doubtful. It's been 12 years since that last release so who knows when Ralf Hütter and co. will give us something else to ponder.
Jeff Lynne: 22 Years
There are two kinds of songwriters: Those who share their talents graciously with other musicians, and those who keep it all for themselves. If you want to know why Jeff Lynne took 22 years between solo albums, it's because he was devoting his time to countless other projects. Consider 1989 alone, the year before he finally recorded his debut solo album: Lynne helped buddy Tom Petty with the album Full Moon Fever (including co-writing hits such as "Free Fallin'" and "Runnin' Down A Dream"), and then he followed Petty to help out on the Traveling Wilburys supergroup, and then he wrote songs for Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys and Agnetha Faltskog of ABBA with their respective solo albums. He finally got around to releasing Long Wave, his second solo album, in 2012, 22 years later. Some don't even realize the guy with the aviator shades was the frontman of the Electric Light Orchestra as well.
Levon Helm: 25 years
Levon Helm is another cat less renowned for his solo work with his other band, The Band. That group kept him busy up unto the early '70s, both as its own act and as the supporting group for Bob Dylan. Yet all good things must end, leaving drummer Helm to do his own, solo thing. He, in one form or another, released four solo albums between 1977 and 1982. What killed his drive? Probably the reemergence of The Band. The group reformed and Helm couldn't say no to a sure thing. He toured with the group for more than two decades and when it finally came time to lay down a new solo record...he was stricken with throat cancer. Despite overcoming the disease, it left his vocal abilities in bad shape. By 2007 he had recovered "80 percent" of his ability and he responded by finally releasing Dirt Farmer after 25 years. he would release one more album in 2009 before passing away in 2012.
Vashti Bunyan: 35 years
Music is one of those industries where you can't give up after your first try. Vashti Bunyan, a folk performer who released her first album in 1970, basically gave up after the first try. Just Another Diamond Day went anywhere but diamond status, falling flat for label Philips. Although the imprint didn't give Bunyan the boot, she got self-conscious and left. She probably should have been encouraged by the heaps of positive reviews that were heaped upon the debut and given the ol' college try again...but she didn't. Over the years however, cult fascination with the release piled up, with some referring to it as the origin point of "freak folk." It received a rerelease in 2000, finally doing well enough to encourage the performer to release a sequel. She dropped Lookaftering in 2005 and then Heartleap in 2014.
John Lodge: 38 years
If you thought Lynne blended into the Electric Light Orchestra, try placing John Lodge off the top of your head. If you guessed "the bassist from The Moody Blues"...then you're probably a pretty big fan of that band. Although it's easy to write many a rock bassist, the progressive nature of the Blues' sound invited Lodge to be a tad more creative as well. Heck, even to release a solo album, and that's just what he did after the band went on hiatus during the mid-'70s, dropping Blue Jays and Natural Avenue under his own brand. After the three-year split however, the group patched things up and have been on tour ever since...which hardly gave Lodge the time to release the final chapter in his trifecta (it wasn't actually a series but with prog-rock bassists, some people make assumptions). He finally released 10,000 Light Years Ago (not a reference to the last time he released a solo effort) during 2015.