On the 20th anniversary of Santana’s Supernatural — released on June 15, 1999 — we look back at some other comeback albums that brought legendary artists back to the limelight and the pop charts.
Scroll through the gallery below to learn more about some of music’s best comeback albums!
By 1999, Santana's days on the pop charts were way back in the rear view mirror. Their last top 20 hits were 1981's "Winning" and 1982's "Hold On." The idea of Carlos Santana being at the epicenter of pop culture, thirty years after his band exploded onto the rock scene at Woodstock, seemed crazy. But 1999's collaboration-heavy Supernatural did just that. And as important as some of guests on the record were -- the list included Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty, Dave Matthews, Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill of the Fugees, Everlast and Eric Clapton -- the most important collaborator was Executive Producer Clive Davis, who had signed Santana to his first deal at Columbia Records, and now signed him to Arista. It was Davis who orchestrated the collaborations, and with them, Santana's return to the pop charts. Supernatural topped the pop charts, sold over 30 million copies worldwide, and won eight Grammys.
Aerosmith's big comeback album was supposed to be 1985's Done With Mirrors... which was probably one of the least successful comeback albums ever. So it was unlikely that the followup would do much either, but that's exactly what happened. 1987's Permanent Vacation saw the band teaming up with producer Bruce Fairburn, and outside songwriters. A few singles later, they were bona fide MTV stars, and found a new, younger audience that they built upon for more than ten years after that.
The Allman Brothers Band reunited -- for the second time -- in 1989, to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Even the band members probably didn't expect that the reunion would last a quarter of a century (their final show was in 2014). They were a constant draw on the summer amphitheater circuit and played an annual residency at New York's Beacon Theater for the rest of their career. 1990's reunion album, Seven Turns, was a big part of returning them to their former glory. It had at least one classic that held up to their incredible catalog with the Dickey Betts-written and sung title track. But it also introduced a brand new member - guitarist/singer/songwriter Warren Haynes, one of the driving forces of the band in their later days.
"Whatever happened to John Fogerty?" That's what Creedence Clearwater Revival fans were asking by the early '80s. Following CCR's 1972 breakup, he released a covers album under the name "The Blue Ridge Rangers," and then released a 1975 self-titled solo album, which yielded two Creedence-like hits, "Rockin' All Over The World" and "Almost Saturday Night." He tried to record a followup, the label rejected it, and Fogerty apparently agreed that it wasn't up to his standards. And then he kind of disappeared. But in 1985, he returned with Centerfield; the title track became as ubiquitous as any CCR jam (and is still played at baseball stadiums today), and "The Old Man Down The Road" and "Rock and Roll Girls" were surprise hits. The album topped the Billboard charts and introduced him to the MTV generation.
When Dave Navarro quit the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1998, it looked like the band's days were numbered. Navarro was the band's eighth guitar player, it appeared that they were cursed. Worse, times were changing and their late '80s/early '90s were breaking up, or losing relevance as a new breed of nu-metal bands overtook the rock airwaves. But then, shockingly, they reunited with their Blood Sugar Sex Magik-era guitarist John Frusciante and the resulting album, Californication was as popular as BSSM, selling over 15 million copies worldwide, and yielding a number of hits, including "Scar Tissue," "Otherside," "Californication," "Around The World" and "Road Trippin'."
Every comeback is dramatic in its own way, more none are more dramatic than Tina Turner's. By the mid-'70s, she was washed up, for all intents and purposes. Having split from her abusive husband and partner, Ike Turner, he was doing little-noticed solo albums and playing a cabaret act. But in the early '80s, she hooked up with new management and released 1983's Private Dancer, which yielded a number of hits, including "Better Be Good To Me," "What's Love Got To Do With It" and "Private Dancer." She was one of the first African-American artists to get significant airplay on the then-new MTV and that made a huge difference in those days. Private Dancer was the most successful album of her career, and launched her to pop superstardom.
More often than not, the loss of an iconic singer marks the beginning of the end for rock bands. The opposite ended up being true for AC/DC. Following the 1980 death of their original frontman Bon Scott, the band rallied and hooked up with Brian Johnson. Their first album, Back In Black -- released later in 1980 -- became their most successful album by far, expanding far past hard rock fans into the mainstream. (Celine Dion has even covered "You Shook Me All Night Long!") It's one of the best selling albums of all time, selling somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 million copies worldwide.
Johnny Cash had spent decades on the nostalgia circuit and by the '90s, he wasn't generally thought of as an artist with anything new to say. Happily, some pretty influential people did think of him that way: in 1993, U2 invited Cash to sing lead vocals on "The Wanderer," the song that closed their Zooropa album. That was surprising, but even more surprising was the fact that Rick Rubin - most well known for working with Slayer, LL Cool J, the Geto Boys, Andrew Dice Clay, Danzig and the Red Hot Chili Peppers - signed him to American Recordings and decided to produce his next record. That record, also called American Recordings, featured just Cash's vocals and guitar, nothing else. It resonated and led to a huge career renaissance for the man.
When a band returns after a 15-year break, it's usually all about a tour; if they put out an album, it mostly serves as a souvenir of the reunion. Not so with Blondie's No Exit, which yielded "Maria," a top ten hit all over the world, and which hit #1 in England. The album also nodded to their girl-group influences with a great cover of the Shangri-Las' 1965 hit "Out In the Streets."
By 1989, the B-52s seemed far past their expiration date; the new wave scene that they had been closely associated with had died out and seemed passe. More importantly, their leader, guitarist Ricky Wilson had died. It was hard to imagine their new album making an impact and it would have been impossible to predict that it would make them mainstream pop stars. But Cosmic Thing -- which used two of the hottest producers of the day, Don Was on half of the songs and Nile Rodgers on the other half -- defied the odds with "Love Shack" and "Roam," both of which hit number three on the pop charts. That was quite an achievement for a band who had never had a hit before (1978's "Rock Lobster" only peaked at #56).
In the early '80s, prog rock was a relic of a past era. But Genesis figured out a way to combine their progressive leanings with tighter rock and pop songs, and their peers in Yes were clearly paying attention. After splitting in 1980 following an unsuccessful album with new singer Trevor Horn (formerly of the Buggles), they reunited with Jon Anderson. Just as importantly, they added a new member to the mix: singer/songwriter/guitarist Trevor Rabin, who penned the band's only #1 hit single, "Owner Of A Lonely Heart." 1983's 90125 also had pop hits "Leave It" and "It Can Happen," as well as harder rockers "Changes" and "Hold On," and turned them on to a younger crowd who didn't care about their multi-part epics like "Close To The Edge" and "And You And I."