Answer: When the tree bears cones, they are usually only on the upper portion of the tree just as you described. So that at least sounds quite normal. An abnormally large crop of cones could indicate stress, as might an abnormally small crop. I do not think it is significant one way or the other in this instance.
The new growth at the branch tips does start out looking like a reddish cone of sorts, then that elongates and separates into needles. Based on your description it sounds as though there may possibly have been a problem with the new growth this past spring, but it is difficult to judge from a description alone. Here is a photo of normal new growth as it begins.
If the new growth never expanded, then there is possibly a pest or disease problem or they may have been underwatered. There is for instance a spruce gall that can cause the new growth tips to bundle up and turn pinkish. Unfortunately I am not able to make this sort of determination long distance.
Since you have so many of these, I would strongly suggest you consult on site with a professionally trained and certified arborist to make sure they are being watered correctly and that their growth and development are proceeding within the normal range and to check for pest and disease issues that may be causing problems with the new growth and could also contribute to excessive loss of needles as happened last fall. I'm sorry I can't be more specific for you.
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