Every year we ask the GRTR! Team to list their favourite albums and gigs of the year.
Typically, it’s a diverse selection that may not list the most obvious, or even the “best sellers”.
Most of all it reflects the very broad and all-embracing tastes of our reviewers and the website in general.
And in this year’s selection, not a whiff of Rival Sons…
How have we arrived at the reviewers’ Top 10? We’ve taken the most popular albums and live acts (those listed by more than one reviewer) and then also included one top album and live act from each of the remaining reviewers not represented in the initial selection.
Photos by Steve Goudie, Simon Dunkerley, Darran Scott, Thanira Rates, Jamie Wagg, David Randall
Between 8-21 December we invited readers and listeners to vote for their own favourite (below).
TOP ALBUMS (Popular Vote)
TOP LIVE ACTS (Popular Vote)
Top Albums (Reviewer selections)
1. H.E.A.T. – Tearing Down The Walls
2. VIRGIL & THE ACCELERATORS – Army Of Three
3. BERNIE MARSDEN – Shine
WILKO JOHNSON/ROGER DALTREY – Going Back Home
MAGNUM – Escape From The Shadow Garden
DRAGONFORCE – Maximum Overload
NATALIE MERCHANT – Natalie Merchant
OPETH – Pale Communion
BROTHER FIRETRIBE – Diamond In The Firepit
BLACKBERRY SMOKE – Leave A Scar (live)
Top Live Acts (Reviewer selections)
2. STEVE HACKETT
Watch Out 2015…here we come!
1. BLUES PILLS
THE TEXAS FLOOD
NIGHT BY NIGHT
DESERT MOUNTAIN TRIBE
JASON RITCHIE (News & Reviews Editor)
The band’s second album has been worth the wait as they have produced a monster! Big sound, big production and big songs, the best melodic metal album released this year.
THE TEA PARTY The Ocean At The End
It’s been ten years since their last studio outing but it has been worth the wait. Epic soundscapes, hints of the Doors and Led Zeppelin, glorious stuff.
Willie Dowling and Jon Poole combine talents for one of the best pop rock albums you’ll hear this, or indeed any, year.
Since they returned Night Ranger keep on producing good quality music and one of the few big 80′s melodic rock bands who actually produce new music on a regular basis.
H.E.A.T. really are on the up and deservedly so. This is their best album to date, not one filler. A ‘must have’ for any lover of hard rock/melodic rock.
BELLOWHEAD – Revival
The band’s first for their new label and although not as instant, it is a ‘grower’ and the better for it. They set such high standards you do wonder how they keep bettering themselves but they do.
THE RADIO SUN - Wrong Things Right
Formed from the ashes of Aussie modern pop rockers Supersonic, I defy anyone not to sing-a-long to the immense choruses contained on this album.
Second album from the prog rock supergroup sees them going a little more prog on this album, although they still pen damn fine short songs that appeal to those with more pop/alt rock tastes.
JEFF LYNNE’s ELO - Hyde Park (September 2014)
Only waited 28 years to see ELO live, okay it was just Jeff Lynne but he is ELO and long-time ELO band member Richard Tandy was playing to. The gig of the year by a country mile and Jeff Lynne and co. far exceeded my high expectations, made even more special as my son joined me and loved every minute to.
KANSAS - Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London (July 2014)
A sad, but fond farewell to vocalist Steve Walsh and lets’ hope the band are back sooner rather than later.
PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING - Guilfest (July 2014)
A new discovery to me and they put on a memorable show, both musically and visually.
Mr B THE GENTLEMAN RHYMER - Guilfest (July 2014)
In an ideal world Mr B and his brand of chap hop would be on the music GCSE syllabus. Jolly good show for (nearly) all ages.
FOREIGNER (acoustic) – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London (April 2014)
Even in acoustic mode Foreigner are one of the best live rock bands around today.
Watch Out 2015!
So many good, new bands appearing and long may this continue. Three to watch are Neonfly, surely destined to move up the popularity levels based on their latest album and regular touring; Smash Fashion highly impressed by their debut and UK dates next spring; MT (Many Things) insanely catchy quirky pop rock and their relentless live shows should see success come their way.
DAVID RANDALL (Managing Editor)
One-time Nightwish singer’s first solo album: some great songwriting and singing of course and a move away from symphonic metal to a more pop-rock but still highly melodic approach. I must be getting old, but ‘Hear Me’ is just wonderful.
A band that are as frustrating as they are exhilarating. Again, based very much around the splendid vocals of Anne-Marie Helder but – live – with new guitarist Adam ‘Adzo’ O’Sullivan there was a spark missing. Get this sorted and this band will motor, although maybe compromised now by Helder and Jon Edwards’ alternative interest, Luna Rossa.
Easy to have dismissed the Swedes as glam rockers but the latest album wraps everything up with a sonic sheen and nods to their compatriots Europe in terms of anthemic choruses and heavy riffing and, moreover, points a way forward. Opener ‘Point Of No Return’ sets the gold standard maintained throughout.
The one-time Whitesnake guitar-slinger emerged with a highly consistent album, peppered with various big name cameos including Coverdale and the omnipresent Bonamassa.
Pete Feenstra’s chat with Bernie Marsden about the album and his career is now available at Mixcloud
The keyboard player by-appointment-to-the-stars came up with an engaging new solo album. Once again featuring guest spots from the likes of Bonamassa and even his long-time sparring partner Gary Moore in one of the last recordings before his untimely death. ‘Claire D’Loon’ is the standout and a marvellous blend of bluesy Hammond and guitar.
David Randall’s chat with Don Airey about the album and his career is replayed on Christmas Day as part of our Best of The Year sequence. More…
Recent Magnum albums haven’t been earth shattering but they are always consistent, solid offerings that appeal directly to their fanbase. The albums, like the band itself, have staying power.
A welcome return for the one-time ‘Snake guitarist (‘Slip Of The Tongue’-era). Enough of a throwback to appeal to lapsed hair-metallers, but with a consistency in the songwriting department.
1. FOREIGNER – Manchester Apollo (June 2014)
Nothing remotely cheesy, a catalogue deftly tweaked for modern ears, a band with momentum and a rather appealing heaviness. No wonder all that came before (Europe and FM) was somewhat shaded.
2. STEVE HACKETT – The Lowry, Salford (October 2014)
An immaculate rendition of classic Genesis from a likeable and renascent progmeister.
David Randall’s chat with Steve about Genesis and the Revisited/Extended tour is replayed on Christmas Day as part of our Best Of The Year sequence. More…
3. JEFF SCOTT SOTO – The Tivoli, Buckley (June 2014)
In front of a small but enthusiastic crowd in a “club” venue, demonstrating the strength of the singer’s catalogue including time with Talisman and more recently W.E.T.
4. DREAM THEATER – Manchester Apollo (February 2014)
An excellent setlist and a near-three hour stiffy for the fans (most of whom are male) – definitive prog metal.
5. SAXON – The Tivoli, Buckley (February 2014)
Saxon honoured a commitment to play this small club gig and it was a chance to turn the clocks back to the glorious heyday of NWOBHM. Once again demonstrating the strength of a superb riff-laden songbook.
5. MARTIN BARRE BAND – Lomax , Liverpool (September 2014)
Out on his own, deft reinventions of classic Tull, infusions of new stuff and covers, a resounding triumph for this engaging guitarist.
Watch Out 2015!
KARINA – we’ve already had a single from this Norwegian vocalist “weaned on a diet of rock music that her fisherman father loved’. The debut album ‘Rebellion’ is scheduled for March and will be a showcase for her blend of soulful rock.
Top Blues/Rock Albums
1. VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS – Army Of Three
2. BERNIE MARSDEN – Shine
3. THORBJORN RISAGER & THE BLACK TORNADO – Too Many Roads
PETE FEENSTRA (Features & Blues/Rock Editor)
1. THORBJORN RISAGER & THE BLACK TORNADO – Too Many Roads (Ruf)
This album really rocks and is the real deal! It’s a celebration of Risager’s brusque baritone voice, which is a cross between Tom Waits, David Clayton-Thomas, Ray Charles and John Campbell.
It’s also an album shot through with an undeniable retro feel, but cleverly mixes rock, blues, r&b, soul and rock & roll in a unique way that marks Thorbjørn as a major new talent in the roots rock field.
2. BERNIE MARSDEN – Shine (Provogue)
The album you always suspected he might have in him, but which he has now unexpectedly delivered.
’Shine’ may be stockpiled material spanning blues, slick AOR, kick-ass boogie, riff driven and twin guitar rock, but there’s no denying the song-driven focus, the exemplary vocals and tough guitar playing. Check out the Cream meets Purple title track and the beautifully reworked ‘Dragon Fly’ by Danny Kirwan, to hear a master at work.
Pete Feenstra’s chat with Bernie Marsden about the album and his career is now available at Mixcloud
3. DANA FUCHS – Songs From The Road (Ruf)
Among the many contenders there only one heir apparent to Janis Joplin and that is Dana Fuchs. That said, she’s shaping her own career with self penned material and a vivacious performances that are captured on this live CD/DVD.
She’s brash, vibrant, hits her audience hard and brooks no compromise. She’s confident in her vocal ability, puts across her songs swell and smoulders with wild cat sensuality. It all makes for an essential live album in front of a sophisticated Manhattan audience who are won over by the soulful queen of rock & roll and the blues!
4. HAT FITZ & CARA ROBINSON – Do Tell (Manhaton)
’Do Tell’ is an album of well crafted songs brought to life by a passionate, well suited duet of Cara Robinson on vocal and drums and Hat Fitz on vocals and guitar.
Cara sings the lead track on 10 songs embedded in traditional roots, but given a contemporary edge by an unobtrusive co-production by Jeff Lang, who doubles on bass and knows when to emphasize a feel or lyric.
Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson are minimalists who repudiate clutter. The songs have a simplicity of expression and are imbued with a musical depth explored on a folk based album, full of feel and spontaneous interplay that has the ability to shift from the deep roots of ‘Long Dark Cloud’ to the explosive jump blues of ‘Excuse Me’.
5. DODSON & FOGG – After The Fall (wisdontwins)
Despite sounding like a dodgy estate agent Dodson And Fogg is actually the ambient, musical brain child of singer-song writer Chris Wade.
It’s an album that washes over you like a psychedelic dream, but there’s a musical and lyrical depth that demands further exploration.
Imagine early Floyd mixed with Kevin Ayers, and The Incredible String Band, as Chris works his way through some impressively varied material, overseen by an intricate production. It’s an album that comes recommended for all lovers of prog/psyche and ambient music.
5. VIRGIL & THE ACCELERATORS – Army Of Three (Mystic)
Hard rock producer Chris Tsangarides transforms Virgil’s burning licks, Gabe’s explosive drumming and the trio’s collective energy into an enveloping wall of sound.
The album has real swagger, incendiary solos and an organic jam feel that sometimes bubbles up before the hooks.
Aside from a big sound, the dynamic emphasis is on a succession of drop-downs, pregnant pauses and additional exclamatory chants and the kind of hypnotic hooks and guitar led brio that is well suited to the rock market.
1. RICHIE KOTZEN O2 Islington, London (September 2014)
This was a groundbreaking show full of hard rock, soul, funk with occasional bluesy edges and fusion style virtuosity, all played with consummate feel.
Kotzen is a magnificent guitar player with a classic white boy soul voice, not unlike Johnny Lang. He used it sparingly paying meticulous attention to the arrangements. But on ‘Walk With Me’ he stepped out of his comfort zone to push his emotionally racked voice to the limit.
He nailed the grooves, soared on his solos and stretched out impressively with band. Sheer class.
On Christmas Day, we replay Pete Feenstra’s interview with Richie Kotzen. More…
2. MIKE ZITO & THE WHEEL & Samantha Fish – Boom Boom Club/Sutton Utd FC (November 2014)
It’s not often that a former super group band member breaks away from an outfit on the cusp of their biggest success to return to his solo career.
Mike Zito has the songs, the guitar playing ability and the charisma to take it all in his stride.
He’s was also smart enough to co-opt the sassy Samnatha Fish on to the tour, for a 3 hour review style show that included a duet with Sam on ‘I Never Knew a Hurricane’, a deep groove on ‘Pearl River’ and the climactic cover of John Fogerty’s swampy ‘Born on the Bayou’. Soulful magic!
Pete Feenstra’s interview with Mike Zito is now available at Mixcloud
2. IAN HUNTER & THE RANT BAND – Shepherds Bush Empire, London (November 2014)
An unexpected gem of a show from Ian Hunter. His American band may have been completely blind to the irony of his lyrics or the potency of his Dylan phrasing, but his material retains a timeless quality, from the anthemic ‘Now Is The Time’ to the new ‘When I’m President’. An appearance by Mick Ralphs on ‘Roll Away The Stone’, brought a whole new meaning to the phrase that rock has come of age.
3. AN EVENING FOR WALTER TROUT – Shepherds Bush Empire, London (May 2014)
With 65 musicians, no egos, 4 hours of music and a common cause – to help Walter Trout overcome a liver op – this was always going to be an emotional gig. And so it proved with stirring sets from the likes of Ian Parker, Danny Bryant and Otis Grand.
Marcus Malone added soulful chops, Roger Chapman dug deep for some earthy deep blues, Bernie Marsden added real presence and Walter’s son Jon Trout just about brought the house down in front of a peerless 9 piece Flamingo Allstars, who added to their reputation as the best blues house band in London
4. ROYAL SOUTHERN BROTHERHOOD – Hop Farm Festival, Kent (July 2014)
10pm and it just got dark outside a huge marquee in deepest Kent and RSB work hard to bring the people in. Mike Zito fires off a riff or two, Devon Allman adds some sparks, the rhythm section cooks and Cyrille Neville adds delicate percussion.
Cue 3 part harmonies as the band roar straight into Zito’s ‘World Blues’, in a celebration of the very best of southern roots music, soul, gospel blues and rock & roll damn it, on a killer gig
5. STEVIE NIMMO BAND/TROY REDFERN BAND – Beaverwood, Chislehurst, Kent (November 2014)
This double header was a complete revelation. On the evidence of this show alone, Stevie is the power behind the throne of The Nimmo Brothers, as his songs have real substance, resonance and depth.
His phrasing brings gravitas and emotion to self penned songs like ‘Eye of the Storm’ and a supreme cover of Storyville’s ‘Good Day For The Blues’ and Big George’s ‘The Storm’ – complete with Trower like tone and sustain.
Troy Redfern also evoked Johnny Winter with bristling slide runs and growled vocals, as he led his rampant power trio into a bulldozer of a set.
5. SON OF MAN – Boom Boom Club, Sutton (October 2014)
The late, great Man guitarist Micky Jones’s son George teamed up with the current AC/DC dep drummer Bob Richards and 3 former members of Sassafras.
Unlikely as it might sound, the combination worked perfectly with a jam friendly, west coast vibe on which the three part harmonies brought a fresh coat of paint to a Micky Jones friendly back catalogue. Man’s heritage is in safe hands.
Watch Out 2015!
BLUES PILLS: The Swedish/French/American rock/blues combo have that rare ability to transpose retro sounding riffs, at high volume into something new and essential. Vocalist Elin Larsson is the obvious focal point, but the band is the grand sum of its parts.
DESERT MOUNTAIN TRIBE: The Anglo-German psychedelic stoner rock outfit thrillingly nailed their pace in a post-Paisley world of jammed out, guitar driven psychedelic rock meets Primal Scream and Oasis.
TROY REDFERN BAND: Johnny Winter might be dead – long live the king of the slide guitar – but standby for Hereford’s Troy Redfern band.
The gun slinging power trio features Troy on mesmerizing slide, with an array of dazzling tones, vicious technique and slight of hand speed to rock & roll you out!
DAVE WILSON (Live Editor)
Another power metal classic from the fastest fret burners in rock. The band’s cover version of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring Of Fire’ has to be heard, I’m sure the man in black would have had a chuckle.
Another album to bring a smile to your face. From the short, sharp delivery of ‘Wooden Leg’ to the epic ‘1741 (The Battle Of Cartagena)’ all song are well written, well played and will raise a smile, what’s not to like?
The third album from Panther and their heaviest outing yet. The fact that the guys still have the ability to shock should be celebrated in an era when rock has become mainstream and sanitised. Not an album to play to your grandmother.
Hailing from Baltimore, Shift are a band who are hard to pigeonhole as they cover a few different bases ranging from the fury of Five Finger Death Punch to the prog musings of Tool. The band have the talent and song writing ability to make it all work, one of the finds of the year.
Interesting prog metal from Atlanta. The opening track ‘Dreamers’ grabs your attention from the off with its chorus in 7/8 time, THE prog time signature!
THE QUIREBOYS Acoustic tour – Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh (February 2014)
A stripped back performance of the Quireboys’ greatest hits played to a packed hall. Add in a lot of between song banter and the odd drink or two and you have all the ingredients for a fantastic night!
STEEL PANTHER – 02 Academy, Glasgow (March 2014)
With sold out signs on the doors and spandex aplenty this was a polished show from start to finish. Many view Panther as a bit of a joke, but live they are seasoned pros who know how entertain. The stage show has grown as have the crowds as Panther continue their meteoric rise. Death To All But Metal indeed!
CLUTCH – ABC, Glasgow (May 2014)
Four guys on a fairly sparse stage really shouldn’t be this entertaining but Clutch have an uncanny knack off hitting the spot every time. A band who everyone should witness live at least once if only to set the bar of how a live show should be done.
STATUS QUO The Frantic Four – 02 Academy, Glasgow (April 2014)
Having missed the first Frantic Four reunion tour I made sure I didn’t miss the second outing. This was Quo as they should be, heavy and rocking. The energy on stage was matched by the energy in the crowd as the Frantic Four ripped through classic after classic. Nostalgia never sounded so good.
ALESTORM – The Arches, Glasgow (October 2014)
Alestorm may not take themselves too seriously but they are certainly serious when it comes to putting on a live show. The piratical soundtrack is so much fun you can’t help but dance and sing along, preferably with a flagon of ale in your hand. My timbers were well and truly shivered!
RAY JACKSON’S LINDISFARNE – City Hall, Newcastle (20 December 2013)
Falling in that awkward period between last years ‘best of’ list and the start of 2014, I felt I had to slip this one in. A magical night and a fulfilment of long held dream to attend a legendary Lindisfarne Christmas show. A night to remember and all I hoped it would be.
Watch Out 2015!
SCORPION CHILD – I caught the band live on the Lord Of The Riffs tour and they were incredible live. They certainly won a lot of friends in Glasgow on the night.
Yiannis Stefanis (Metal Editor)
Featuring material of outstanding quality and not a ‘filler’ in sight, the Thief’s tenth studio album is a strong musical statement made by a band at the very top of its game – an album that deserves the highest possible rating and which will definitely feature in my ‘album of the year’ list for 2014. A truly beautiful album!
This, my friends, is one of the most mature, emotionally inspiring and enjoyable Rock albums I have heard of late.
Some music journalists have already say that the Norwegian art Progsters have taken a gamble with ‘Demon’ as it is an album that the average Rock fan might find somewhat difficult to relate to.
I, on the other hand, believe that it is bands like Gazpacho and albums like ‘Demon’ which offer a glimmer of hope as far as the future of Rock music is concerned – several focused spins will prove the validity of my argument!
The Swedish masters of dark melodic metal are back with one of the best albums of their career!
Moving, challenging, surprising and rewarding in equal measure, Lunatic Soul’s fourth studio album is a stunning piece of work that should not be missing from any self-respecting music collection!
1. DREAM THEATER – Wembley Arena, London (February 2014)
Excellent performance by a band whose technical skills in a live setting are second to none.
2. TRANSATLANTIC – The Forum, London (March 2014)
This, my friends, was what I can only describe as an outstanding gig; one that you were hopefully there to enjoy as much as I did!
3. OVERKILL – O2 Islington Academy, London (March 2014)
You may find this hard to believe, especially following a show as impressive and powerful as this one, but bands like Overkill are not going to be around forever so next time they play at a place near you, do go and pay them your respects – you will certainly not regret it!
4. KATATONIA – Union Chapel, London (May 2014)
One one of the most unique venues London has to offer, Katatonia presented their UK fans with one of the most magical performances of their career!
5. ACCEPT – The Forum, London (November 2014)
As things stand, Accept look fairly invincible and at the top of their game – may this state of affairs continue for the years to come!
PETE WHALLEY (Senior Reviewer)
1. NATALIE MERCHANT – Natalie Merchant
After House Carpenter’s Daughter and In Your Sleep, I feared we’d never hear the likes of Tigerlily, Ophelia, and Motherland again. How wrong. A triumphant return to form.
2. CHRISSIE HYNDE – Stockholm
Who needs The Pretenders? Chrissie Hynde’s best album in 20 years.
Indie acoustic pop versions of hard rock classics shouldn’t work. But this is inspired.
4. RYAN ADAMS – Ryan Adams
An enigmatic talent, but this is a nailed on classic. His best since Gold.
Perfect for sitting quietly with the lights turned down, a strong ale (or three) and contemplating the meaning of life, and death.
1. STEVE HACKETT The Lowry, Manchester (November 2014)
When it comes to revisiting Genesis, Steve Hackett proves there’s no need for Messrs Banks, Rutherford, Collins and Gabriel.
2. THE EAGLES Liverpool Echo Arena (June 2014)
Worth it for the acapella encore of Desperado alone. If only arenas had better acoustics.
3. JUDIE TZUKE – The Lowry, Salford (June 2014)
A national treasure and one of the most ‘honest’ artists out there.
Watch Out 2015!
BLUES PILLS – a cross between Peter Green-era Mac, Cream and Janis Joplin, and they’re only ‘kids’. The right ingredients, they just need to come up with a few new recipes.
SIMON DUNKERLEY (Chief Photographer at Large)
1. WILKO JOHNSON & ROGER DALTREY – Going Back Home
An album not many people through would come out but it’s simply a masterpiece.
2. THE BLACK KEYS – Turn Blue
I have followed these guys since thay began and have seen the music style grow and change over the years. This album is the next step in that growth and whilst not at raw and dirty as the earlier stuff it shows them growing and developing as songwriters.
The latest instalment from this power blues trio. Produced by Chris Tsangarides who puts
that heavier sound to their awesome writing and has produced the most awesome second album to follow the awesome Radium.
4. RADIO MOSCOW – Magical Dirt
Forget Slipknot, these guys are the best thing to come out of Iowa and this new album is a huge slab of stoner phychedelic rock. Put it on, turn it up and freak out.
5. BAD FOR LAZARUS – Life’s A Carnival
Debut album for this alt rock punk indie car crash sounding of a band from Brighton. With a show thats sucks you in and spits you out all confused these guys are well worth seeing and the album gives you about 50 percent of what they are all about. Live shows are a must to fully engage with them.
1. SINEAD O’CONNOR - Cambridge Folk Festival (August 2014)
Sinead had been through the wars with her political views and her music and perfomance has suffered because of this but now she has sorted out her demons or at least learned to keep them in control. She is back on form and this showed in her performance at Cambridge where she put on a simply stunning show.
2. WILLIE AND THE BANDITS – Off The Tracks Festival
Energy soaked groove-laden blues rock, an absolutely superb set and possibly the best of the year for me.
3. CARTER THE UNSTOPPABLE SEX MACHINE – Bearded Theory Festival (May 2014)
This was the penultimate show by Jimbob and Fruitbat and was highly anticipated by the few thousand people that had gathered. Another stunning show and what a way to end their career, the unstoppable had stopped.
4. THE GRAVELTONES – Roadhouse, Manchester (February 2014)
This show in Manchester was special as the venue has a long narrow room and when standing near the back the low stage was engulfed in red light and the sound wafted over the crowd like some demonic incantation.
5. WILKO JOHNSON - Giants of Rock Festival, Minehead (February 2014)
I thought I would not get to see Wlico again after his diagnosis but thankfully he was still able to play this show. It was a packed room and it was just amazing to witness the man in full flow. He hadn’t lost his signature 1000 yard stare/striding manner on stage.
Watch Out 2015!
THE TEXAS FLOOD – HRH Highway To Hell winners. They produce a great vintage rock sound but with young energy behind it.
Top Prog Albums
1. OPETH – Pale Communion
2. PINK FLOYD – The Endless River
3. MOSTLY AUTUMN – Dressed In Voices
ALAN JONES (Progmeister)
Once you cut through the hype that constantly surrounds anything that Mikael Akerfeldt and, ergo, Opeth produce, and listen to the music on its merits, what comes through here is an absolute classic of an album.
Now that the dreaded death growling and mind-numbing industrial rifferama have been (hopefully) consigned to the dustbin of history, Akerfeldt’s ear for a good melody has come to the fore and produced in ‘Pale Communion’ my vote for Album Of The Year.
Its sublime blend of progressive/metal/folk/rock (often within the confines of one track) is, at times, staggering and only goes to show, I suppose, that sometimes the hype is richly deserved.
I went to see Walter at the end of 2013 and was shocked at how ill he looked – even having to sit down at times as liver disease drained him of energy. But, what a guy, he absolutely gave it his all and rocked the place to the ground. And he’s done the same with this album.
Largely autobiographical, all the Trout trademarks are here – the frenzied fretwork, the passionate vocals, the ‘tight as a gnat’s chuff’ band – but there’s definitely an edge of vulnerability that brings you up sharp. Tracks such as ‘Wastin’ Away’, ‘The Bottom Of The River’ and the title track act as a reminder of his parlous state.
Happily, following a transplant, Walter is on his way back, but if things had gone the other way, at least he would have bowed out having given the world his finest album.
It’s been a while (this is Mostly Autumn’s eleventh studio album) but this is the album that will finally cement Bryan Josh and Co.’s place in the progressive rock firmament. Mostly Autumn have always released good, sometimes excellent, albums but you always felt there was something intangibly ‘missing’.
There is nothing missing here. Based around the concept of someone’s murder and the consequences that flow from that act, ‘Dressed In Voices’ is, by turns, emotionally draining yet spiritually uplifting and, above all, is musically breathtaking with the entire band playing their parts to dazzling effect.
I’ve been watching the progress of these German progsters for a few years now and with every release the quality of the music is ratcheted up a notch. And not just the music either, RPWL are one of the most philosophically articulate bands out there, leaving no stone unturned in their explorations of life’s deeper meaning.
This is contemporary progressive rock of the very highest order and, as I said in my review - if you are a fan of the genre and if you could have written your own album with all your favourite ingredients – this is how it would sound.
In this year of remembrance, an album dedicated to the heroes of the Great War is entirely appropriate and Freedom To Glide have delivered not only an intensely personal view of the conflict, but an album that will withstand any scrutiny as to its musical integrity.
F2G are essentially two guys – Andy Nixon and Pete Riley – who ply their trade as one of Pink Floyd’s foremost tribute bands – Dark Side Of The Wall. It is a tribute to them that despite, or even because of, the unavoidable Floydian crossover from their day job, ‘Rain’ is an exceptional melodic prog rock album that well and truly stands on its own two feet.
Top Melodic Rock/AOR Albums
1. H.E.A.T. – Tearing Down The Walls
2. BROTHER FIRETRIBE – Diamond In The Firepit
3. WORK OF ART – Framework
ANDY NATHAN (Melodic Rock/AOR Specialist)
AOR does not come classier than this, the Swedes third album and most satisfying yet with a slightly beefed up sound.
It took a few spins to compare with their previous album Address The Nation, but a stadium filling set from the energetic Swedes whose sound gets progressively tougher but the hooks are as massive as ever.
The FM frontman’s ever superb vocals grace an album which comes closer than anything he has done to replicate the vibe of FM’s 1986 debut Indiscreet.
A wonderful mix of groove-infused rockers and more melodic moments with Eric Martin to the fore – only a few late album fillers stopped it being my No 1.
Their formula of a more modern sound allied to massive anthems and choruses is well established, but this is their strongest collection of songs yet.
Fears that the legendary rockers were washed out were swept away by a back to form greatest hits set that proved they are charismatic performers who can deliver the perfect festival show
2. REO SPEEDWAGON - Moondance Jam
Showing an incredible sense of energy for men in their sixties, this was a memorable show in the Mid-West heartland where they excel , just eclipsing Foreigner’s performance at the same festival
3. FIREFEST – Nottingham Rock City (October 2014)
An emotional farewell to the best ever UK festival organised by melodic rock fans for fellow fans worldwide- HEAT and Autograph just shaded the day for me but the quality of bands was uniformly high
4. NIGHT RANGER – Frontiers Rock Festival, Italy (May 2014)
All weekend we had been treated to stunning displays from the likes of Tesla, Stryper and Winger but Night Ranger’s energy sense of fun and killer tunes raised the bar even further.
5. ASIA – Shepherds Bush Empire, London (November 2014)
A perfect set that focused on their originals from across their career and John Wetton can never have sounded better.
5. STATUS QUO – Frantic Four, Hammersmith Apollo (April), Download (June) and acoustic at the Roundhouse (October 2014)
At Download Quo were a reminder of a simpler, less angry time and it felt great for us rockers to reclaim one of our boyhood heroes from the cabaret circuit whilst the Roundhouse gig afforded an intriguing evening with one of rock’s best loved catalogues rearranged lovingly in a way no-one could have imagined possible.
Watch Out 2015!
JIM STAPLEY is a major talent waiting to be discovered and the successor to the likes of Frankie Miller and Paul Rodgers as a soulful blues rock vocalist. Expect H.E.A.T. to continue their slow but inexorable rise too with their incredible energy on stage.
For this 30th-year anniversary outing, Barnes re-records many of his career highlights and a few other favourites with a stellar supporting cast. The uncompromising Barnes attacks his vocal duties like a ravenous waif at a free buffet. Not for the feint-hearted, this full-blooded rock, blues, power ballad collection is both a tour de force and a personal statement.
JOE BONAMASSA – Different Shades of Blue
The remarkable and versatile Mr Bonamassa delivers another exceptional album. Even by his own high standards, this collection of almost entirely self-penned blues gems stands out. His trademark fluid and emotional playing is augmented by some great arrangements, lush production and strong vocals. Finally, the complete package.
LUDER – Adelphopagia
Previously unknown to me, this bunch of North Carolinian rockers produce an album of creative, convincing, eclectic compositions that draw, by turns, on waves of psychedelia and stoner, touches of doom and goth and dollops of grunge.
Strung together by high quality playing and harmonic arrangements, this is a very fine genre-hopping metal album.
This superb follow up to 2011′s debut brings a tougher, more muscular and better produced set of blues rock songs to the party. VATA maintain that irrepressible, infectious, live-in-the-studio feel, but have allied it to a buffed-up big, beefy classic rock vibe and at the same time broadened their repertoire. Great album from a band going places.
WILKO JOHNSON/ROGER DALTREY – Going Back Home
On this blissful album, Daltrey gives Wilko’s solo output the vocal power and scope that was previously lacking; and on the Feelgood classics, provides a rocky reinterpretation of which Brilleaux would have approved.
Johnson is sharp, focused and telecaster-eloquent throughout. The rest is just wonderful dressing: laser sharp production, Feltham’s glorious harmonica, Watt-Roy’s jazz bass, Howe’s immaculate drumming … Quality.
NEIL YOUNG AND CRAZY HORSE – Hyde Park, London (July 2014)
Trends ebb and flow, fashions swell and recede. Mr Young rides roughshod over such impermanence with dogged credibility and copper-bottomed authenticity. This gig with Crazy Horse showed off all the hallmarks of their canon: biting guitar, powerful bass and tender, personal narratives. Briliant.
ROBERT CRAY BAND – Barbican, London (May 2014)
Relaxed confidence exuded through every note, move, and utterance of this gig. From the low key way in which the band ambled on stage, to the informal banter with the audience, right through the mellow blues-jazz set to closing unusually with an instrumental. All craft and class.
ROBERT PLANT – The Roundhouse, London (September 2014)
Plant seems to have assumed an eloquent rock elder-statesman and this gig blended his recent explorations of West African rhythms with one of the most legendary back catologues in the business. Plant and his band were easily up to the mark. Uplifting, life affirming and diverse.
THE BERMONDSEY JOYRIDERS – Black Heart, London (April 2014)
In a tiny, sweaty Camden club, The Bermondsey Joyriders served up an assault on the senses. The trio pitched up like Slade on steroids and blasted out a punk, psychedelic, raw blues mash up to warm the cockles. Monster gig.
BUBBLEGUM SCREW – Black Heart, London
Supporting The Bermondsey Joyriders, and heavily influenced by The Stooges and New York Dolls, Bubblegum Screw delivered a fast, sleazy and glitzy slam through splintering riffs and wah-wah solos that we’ve known and loved for years. Maybe not desperately original, but totally riveting.
Watch Out 2015!
ADAM SWEET – Sweet’s debut album ‘Small Town Thinking’ was full of sublime, often laid back music, displaying confidence, genuine talent and enough of a whisky soaked twang to pass for a careworn Delta Bluesman. Still in his mid-twenties, there is promise of riches to come.
1. RORY GALLAGHER Irish Tour ’74…
2. BRYAN ADAMS Reckless (30th Anniversary Edition)
3. QUEEN – Live At The Rainbow ’74
NIKK GUNNS (Senior Reviewer)
Great album from a great band, good to see that they were getting some recognition on their recent UK jaunt with Skid Row.
This live album finds the band in fine form and showcases tracks from their vast back catalogue, can’t wait for the new album.
Oh yes, the boys are packing a punch and as good as their heyday.
One of my favourite albums and this super deluxe edition really goes above and beyond.
Celebrating their 30th anniversary, this stunning three disc set really does show why the band are so well loved
THE LAST VEGAS – Camden Underworld, London (May 2014)
There were not many people in and the band gave it 110%, they were awesome and took the time after the show to meet the fans there. One of the best live bands you will see in the next few tears
THUNDER – Brooklyn Bowl, London (November 2014)
A show recorded to be given away with Classic Rock magazine in the New Year. 800 of us were treated to old favourites, new tracks and some superb covers, the band are back on form
FOREIGNER/EUROPE - Hammersmith Odeon/Apollo (March 2014)
Two awesome bands and both were on fire at the Odeon, a gig that set the bar high for all other bands in 2014.
BLACKBERRY SMOKE – O2 Academy, Islington (March 2014)
The band have increased in popularity in the UK this year and this sold out gig showed exactly why
THE ELECTRIC BOYS - Camden Underworld, London (September 2014)
What an awesome gig – even if the sitar was missing from All Lips and Hips!
Watch Out 2015!
NIGHT BY NIGHT – Of all the bands I have championed over the years, these boys really deserve to be massive – and I have no doubt they will be.
NICK VAN DER MEULEN
Infectious melodic rock with glorious choruses. Pekka Heino’s voice is always a winner! Essential.
Awesome return from Adje Vandenberg after a long hiatus. Well worth the wait, as he has pieced a great band together to produce quality blues rock.
3. JUDAS PRIEST – Redeemer Of Souls
Judas Priest. Metal legends. Halford. What’s not to like?
Hats off to one of rock’s hardest workers, Chris Laney. Groovy, sleazy, melodic rock which one can imagine will sound brilliant live.
5. JOHNNY LIMA – My Revolution
One of the good guys of rock ‘n roll releases a quality, bombastic, melodic rock album through fans’ pledges. The album deserves commercial attention.
1. EDGUY/Unisonic/Masterplan – Pratteln, Switzerland
Power metal heaven. Masterplan was excellent, Edguy brilliant, but Michael Kiske’s performance was out of this world.
2. JOE BONAMASSA - Zurich, Switzerland
JB proved that he’s one of the best guitarists in the world, period.
3. SAXON/Skid Row – Pratteln, Switzerland
Skid Row was solid – Saxon almost caused a riot. Brilliant performance from Biff and the boys.
4. MOTORHEAD – Wetzikon, Switzerland
Great to see Lemmy up and about and, while the show was only 80 minutes, the trio was relentless, rocking harder than many bands half their age.
5. THE POODLES - Pratteln, Switzerland
Small intimate show with great sound and performance from the band.
Watch Out 2015!
MAGGIE’S MADNESS – despite the fact that they’ve been in the game for 30 years. They produced a superb album in ‘Waking Up The Dead’, featuring archived and re-recorded songs. If they decide to continue and release some new tunes…
LINKIN PARK – The Hunting Party
Back with something a little heavier…always had a soft spot for Linkin Park…
ADELITAS WAY – Stuck
Commercial yes…do I care?…no, not when it is this good. Still unknown in the UK…
You just can’t keep a good band down…Magnum just seem to be getting better and better ever since they reformed.
Another ancient band still delivering the goods…another very commercial offering that unfortunately won’t really be heard outside their existing fan base.
Hydra sees Sharon and company bringing in some unusual guest vocalists such as Howard Jones, Dave Pirner and Xzibit…it works well…even the Xzibit one.
Watch Out 2015!
STARSET - excellent debut album Transmissions from this American band that sounds like a cross between a science fiction movie, Linkin Park, 30 Seconds To Mars and Ayreon…can’t fault at all.
The founder Kiss guitarist releases close to his best work yet, proving just how underrated and brilliant a guitarist he is.
BERNIE TORME Flowers And Dirt
Former Gillan guitarist Bernie’s new album is a double (a brave move) and storming throughout. Punky bluesy and blistering.
Can’t go wrong with a live set from one of Britain’s best and certainly most consistent live metal bands.
Melodic operatic power metal from Germany – Classic.
Midlands melodic pomp rock band have never released a dud. Nuff said.
A nod back to classic after two albums I personally found a little dry. And singer Dan McCafferty’s swansong.
FREEDOM CALL – Barfly, London
A venue far too small for this wonderful German melodic operatic power metal band. Every song an anthem.
NAZARETH – Metropolis Studios, London (November 2014)
A relaunch with new vocalist Linton Osborne, recorded for DVD and artist Rodney Matthews in attendance.
Recommended box/multi-disc sets
RORY GALLAGHER Irish Tour ’74 (5-CD/DVD)
‘Irish Tour ’74′ has always been regarded as a classic live album release, edging the earlier ‘Live In Europe’. Now, to celebrate the 40th anniversary Donal Gallagher and Sony have assembled the definitive statement. (David Randall)
BRYAN ADAMS Reckess (30th Anniversary) 2-CD/DVD/Bluray
30 years on, Reckless gets the ‘deluxe’ treatment, a format that stands or falls on the quality of the ‘bonus’ material. And in the case of Reckless they’ve done the album proud with all formats including seven top notch numbers that didn’t make the final running order, including the title track. None would have been out of place or diminished the album in any way. (Pete Whalley)
Queen fans will definitely want the March concert as it was pre-‘Sheer Heart Attack’ and includes the only known surviving live recording of ‘The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke’. Fans are spoilt for choice really on formats although you do need both discs as a minimum just as a lasting memento of how the band started out. Essential. (Jason Ritchie)
ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND – The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings (6-CD)
One of the best live albums ever and given the complete works, full shows, the dogs bollocks, and a lesson in packaging too. Reissues simply do not get better or more complete than this. The definition of a five star release. (Joe Geesin)
Fans will have most of these tracks already, but over the 19 singles there are plenty of 7” edits, non-album tracks and live B-sides. Never a dull moment. Beginning to end, the packaging and music are a sheer delight. Repetitions and duplications aside, this is definitely one for the collector, to relish. (Joe Geesin)
VARIOUS – Triple DVD sets
This series of special editions from Eagle Rock bring together a bundle of three DVDs by an artist and at a special price. A great way of catching up if you missed them first time round … Excellent gift ideas, with remastered audio and visuals, and well-priced too. (David Randall)
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Power Plays w/c 10 June (Mon-Fri)
TAKE TODAY Lifeline (indie)
CRAZY LIXX Silent Thunder (Frontiers)
HAZY DAYS New Beginnings (indie)
MYRATH Wicked Dice (earMUSIC)
HOLLIS BROWN Do Me Right (Cool Green Recordings/Mascot)
Featured Albums w/c 10 June (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 NITRATE Open Wide (AOR Heaven)
12:00-13:00 CRAZY LIXX Forever Wild (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 DANNY VAUGHN Myths, Legends & Lies (Townsend Music)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
VOODOO HILL Waterfall (2015)
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