The Best of 2016: Popular Poll
Between 5-16 December we invite readers and listeners to vote for their own favourites and also add their own personal choice.
Voters can also opt-in to a Prize Draw to win a selection of albums from the earMUSIC label.
To the lucky winner, drawn at random after 16 December, we’ll be giving the following 2016 albums:
Marillion – F E A R
Soto – Divak
Myrath – Legacy
Tarja Turunen – The Shadow Self
Thunder – All You Can Eat
Run Liberty Run – We Are
Congratulations to our winner – John Bowden!
Usual competition rules apply, Please note that email addresses are only used for the purposes of the prize draw and are not divulged to a third party.
Please note also that you have to enter each poll separately (i.e. you can’t complete the polls and then click one vote button to register your votes and competition entry). If voters complete all three polls they will be entered three times in the prize draw.
Have a look at the reviewer listing for your additional selections, or simply enter any album/artist not listed for each category and which you think is worthy of the ‘Best of 2016′ accolade.
The results of the poll will be announced on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio in a special show on Sunday 18 December at 22:00 GMT. and published here on 19 December. (The show is repeated Monday 19 and Friday 23 December at 22:00 GMT)
The Best Of 2016: Reviewer Choice
VEGA Who We Are
MARILLION F E A R
THE DEFIANTS The Defiants
BLACKBERRY SMOKE Like An Arrow
HEY HELLO! Hey! Hello! Too
KATATONIA The Fall Of Hearts
STEVIE NIMMO Sky Won’t Fall
THE DEAD DAISIES Make Some Noise
MASSIVE WAGONS Welcome To The World
Top Live Acts
BLACK STONE CHERRY
CHRIS ROBINSON BROTHERHOOD
Breakthrough Act (Watch Out 2017!)
BROKEN WITT REBELS
BEWARE OF DARKNESS
JARED JAMES NICHOLS
CATS IN SPACE
Every year we ask the GRTR! Team to list their favourite albums and live acts of the year.
As ever, reflecting the range of our coverage, it’s always a diverse selection that may not list the most obvious. The reviewers are never unanimous – reflecting their varied tastes and coverage – so this year we’ve taken each of their favourite selections to make up a voting list for the popular poll. In some cases, we’ve consolidated selections where more than one reviewer has selected the same album or live act.
The reviewers’ ‘Best Of’ also reflects our excellent festival coverage this year, including Hard Rock Hell, Download and Steelhouse.
‘The Best Of 2016′ is featured in a special show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sunday 18 December at 22:00 GMT. when the popular vote countdown/results will be announced.
And, throughout December, Get Ready to ROCK! Radio will feature ‘Best Of’ selections across their playlists.
Photos by Simon Dunkerley, Darren Griffiths, Mark Hughes, Andy Nathan, David Randall, Iain Scott
JASON RITCHIE News & Reviews Editor
I didn’t think they could top their last album, but they did, making another full of southern rock, country and damn fine music.
Blackberry Smoke play UK dates 27 March 27-8 April.
One of their finest albums to date, highlighting all that is great about this band. Heavy, melodic, epic, metal, atmospheric – they cover all these musical bases and more.
Orchestral pop is the band’s own description of their sound, which undersells a little the fantastic music contained on this album. One of the debuts of the year.
If like me you’ve become a little weary of most power metal bands Sabaton will restore your faith! Sheer musical enjoyment from start to finish.
Out of the blue came this little beauty… melding prog, alternative and melodic rock making for an album you will play again and again.
Prog rockers TILT have launched a Pledge Music campaign in order to get their album ‘Hinterland released on heavyweight double vinyl.
THE DOWLING POOLE: “The most fun you can have (legally) with your clothes on…”
Top Live Acts
1 BRYAN ADAMS – at over 2 1/2 hours Bryan Adams still puts on a value for money show, packed with the hits you’d expect and a sprinkling of songs from last year’s enjoyable ‘Get Up’ album.
2 THE DOWLING POOLE – Willie Dowling and Jon Poole proved that their pop rock can easily transfer off album to a live setting. The most fun you can have (legally) with your clothes on…
3 TERRY BROCK & THE DARKER MY HORIZON – two acoustic performances made for a perfect night of melodic rock. Terry Brock still has the wonderful vocals and is a natural on stage raconteur between songs.
4 LUKE ELLIOT – Luke Elliott’s voice is captivating and none more so in the intimate surroundings of a small venue. Go see him live and in the meantime grab a copy of his impressive ‘Dressed For The Occasion’ album.
5 BLUE OYSTER CULT – joined by former drummer Albert Bouchard and starting the set by playing all of their classic ‘Agents Of Fortune’ album you just knew this was going to be a once in a lifetime gig to cherish,and it was.
QUEEN ‘BBC Radio Years’ and also THE ANSWER ‘Rise’ 10th anniversary double CD.
Watch Out 2017!
BROKEN WITT REBELS. They have bagged some decent support slots and are rightly winning rave live reviews. BWR are one to watch as they have the potential to break big in 2017 based on their love of playing live and putting on a good show each time.
MYRATH: “For some bizarre reason, Zaher Zorgati’s powerful vocals remind me of Conchita and Myrath have all the Eurovision uplift without any of the cheesy back-draught.”
DAVID RANDALL Managing Editor
1. SINNERGOD Sinnergod
An incredible independent release, reviving the spectre of the eighties and nineties goth but fashioned for modern ears and with a metal twist.
2. DAN REED NETWORK Fight Another Day
A wonderful comeback album with a rude consistency that might even top their hair metal heyday.
3. THE RAPTOR TRAIL New World
Another engaging, independent release with a blend of quality material and musicianship. Demanding of a much wider audience.
4. MYRATH Legacy
This exotic Tunisian melodic metal outfit have had a busy year, starting out touring with Symphony X and their fourth album picked up ny earMUSIC. For some bizarre reason, Zaher Zorgati’s powerful vocals remind me of Conchita and Myrath have all the Eurovision uplift without any of the cheesy back-draught.
5. GLENN HUGHES Resonate
He’s a trooper, and Resonate is a lesson in resilience as much as resourcefulness. Back doing what he does best: heavy rock (bludgeoning at times), ballsy, melodic and memorable in equal measures.
Glenn Hughes plays UK dates with Stone Broken 20 January-2 February
Worthy of mention/attention
SANTANA IV turned the clock back to 1971 and produced a neatly updated version of their classic ‘III’ album …MAGNUM always turn in a solid offering and ‘Sacred Blood, Divine Lies’ once again highlighted the genius that is Tony Clarkin. And Jeff Scott Soto’s second SOTO album built on their 2015 debut and confirmed that they are no mere flash in the pan. Dates in February 2017 should also confirm that.
Top Live Acts
1. JOHNNY HATES JAZZ
The band never toured in the late-1980s at the height of their success but this short series of dates more than compensated. The band’s music transcends much of their contemporaries.
A three-way outing with Evergrey and Kobra And The Lotus confirmed the Dutch band’s ascendancy in the world of symphonic/melodic metal.
3. BAD COMPANY
An all-too-economical set but reasserting the band’s claim to have purveyed some of the best radio-friendly classic rock. Sadly, maybe a last outing for Mick Ralphs who suffered a stroke shortly after the tour end. Get well soon.
4. LEVEL 42
Another blast from the eighties but underlining the band’s great musicality and consistency, now punctuated by a wonderful brass section and underwritten as ever by Mark King’s pumping bass figures.
5. PANIC ROOM
One of our best, if underrated, rock bands who demonstrated in a wide-ranging two-hour set that – in different times – they would be major label fodder and playing to much bigger audiences.
Panic Room ran a successful Pledge Music campaign to fund their first DVD. Recorded in October 2016 it will be released in 2017.
Esoteric’s series of ANTHONY PHILLIPS reissues, curated by the man himself, brings some order to a frighteningly prolific catalogue. This year saw the release of Private Parts & Pieces, Sides, and 1984.
Watch Out 2017!
RED BUTLER might make a breakthrough in 2017 following the release of their excellent debut album ‘Nothing To Lose’. Great vocals, riffs and raunch.
SIMON DUNKERLEY Chief Photographer
1. MASSIVE WAGONS Welcome To The World
Brilliant new album from the northern rockers who stay true to the basic hard rock sound.
2. WOLFMOTHER Victorious
Whilst nothing can really touch their debut self-titled album this album shows the Aussie rockers still in great writing form and still with that distinctive retro sound.
3. RED SPEKTOR Red Spektor
Debut album by this tight three-piece psychedelic blues rock band and what a cracker it is. Not a bad track on it, ‘Elixir’ takes you down deep and then blows your mind with searing guitars, ‘Fields Of Fire’ keeps the doomy sound going whilst single ‘Cosmonaut’ ups the tempo and riffage. The actual mix of the album has been done very well and the separation of the instruments is great.
4. THE SONICS Live at Easy Street (Record Store Day Release)
If it wasn’t for these guys music today would have sounded so different. The Sonics were the original garage rock band and influenced so many. 40 years later they played and recorded this set for a record store day release and despite their age still kick out a great sound.
Top Live Acts
1. BAD COMPANY
With three original members including one of the finest voices in rock history this was always going to be a memorable show, Paul Rodgers can still do what many others can’t as he delivers his powerful and moving vocals.
2. THE DEAD DAISIES (Steelhouse Festival)
I saw this band in its first rendition a few years ago and didn’t really rate them but with quite a few changes to the lineup they seem to be now firing on all cylinders. The combination of Corabi, Mendoza and Aldrich up front just works, and the power of Tichy on drums brings it all together. This early evening set was possibly the set of the festival.
3. THE ENID (HRH Prog)
A joy to watch Robert John Godfrey in one of his last ever live performances at the head of The Enid.
It was maybe not the classic set that everyone wanted but rather showcasing the new songs and allowing the rest of the young band to shone and show the path that The Enid will be following. His legacy is certainly in safe hands with Joe Payne taking the lead role with his exquisite vocals and performance.
4. JOHN SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION
JSBX don’t tour that often so when they do it’s an event not to be missed.
5. ELIZA CARTHY AND THE WAYWARD BAND (Cambridge Folk Festival)
Eliza’s roots are set in folk as her parents are basically folk royalty and growing up she has been taught and watched and played with the best. Her latest venture sees her taking her classic folk roots and adding a youthful mix of energy and vibrancy and showing that folk is not all about elbow patches and fingers in ears.
Watch Out 2017!
STONE BROKEN – It’s definitely a when not if for these guys. They are already playing the big songs and over the past year have really made huge inroads. With a sound akin to Black Stone Cherry they are set for stardom.
DIRTY THRILLS – Blues rock with a great retro swagger about it, they are not only stylish but have the skills and attitude to make them stand out.
RED SPEKTOR – Psychedelic blues rock from this tight 3 piece. Riding high after the release of their debut album, hints of early Sabbath and Hendrix wah and riffs.
DARREN GRIFFITHS Photographer
1. VEGA Who We Are
With the progression of this band in their albums, this one had to define the band and Vega stepped up to the plate and delivered a monster, not one filler and the production by Harry Hess is sublime and a masterclass in AOR.
Vega play UK dates 30 Nov.- 11 Dec 2016. The band tour with Dan Reed Network in March 2017.
2. DARE Sacred Ground
Far too long a break between albums but they can be forgiven when they come out as good as this, all the hallmarks of a classic Dare but with the added inclusion of Vinny Burns’ wondrous playing stitching Darren Wharton’s most personal lyrics to date.
3. MASSIVE WAGONS Welcome to The World
Wagons roll!! I didn’t expect it to be as good as it is. Classic honest to good rock n roll done only the way the Wagons can do, and they kill it live also, How the single ‘Ratio’ didn’t chart is a travesty.
4. THE DEAD DAISIES Make Some Noise
Supergroup? Super musicians!! Superb album!! Not a big fan of the earlier stuff but having Doug Aldrich in the line up has propelled this band onto the next level, standout tracks obviously being ‘Fortunate Son’ and ‘Long Way To Go’, but the album was definitely a grower and it will be interesting to see what comes next.
5. BLOOD RED SAINTS Speedway
Actually released in December 2015 so missed last year’s poll, so I am including it in this years. While not rewriting the history books in AOR, Speedway is a solid and effort and with gems like ‘Mercy’ and ‘Best Of ME’ , Blood Red Saints have a solid foundation to build on.
STATUS QUO: “All the hits and a whole lot more for 2 hours, infectious and enjoyable. Who will be the next band to replace them when they finally hang their guitars up? Not easy to answer that.”
Top Live Acts
1. HARD ROCK HELL AOR
While never going to TOP the bill from 2015, this year we still had some absolute beauties. Tyketto and Dan Reed Network stole the weekend with the most explosive sets I have seen, followed up by a return to my first ever gig with Quiet Riot and a long awaited return of Joe Lynn Turner had to top the list this year.
Joe Lynn Turner discusses live shows and plans, March 2016. A three-part special was broadcast in 2016 by Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, available now via Mixcloud.
2. DOWNLOAD 2016
Pushing HRH close was Download ( or Drownload as it became known). Finally taking the plunge to go back after 28 years, while the headline bands offered nothing really new, it was down to the lower bill bands to provide the excitement, Monster Truck, Halestorm, Disturbed and Inglorious gave us all something to get our teeth into.
But for me, Sixx AM were the must see live band in 2017, Nicki Sixx has amassed a strong visually energetic band with a kick ass sound…everything that Crue was in the early days but so much better.
3. STEELHOUSE FESTIVAL
A bit of a theme starting here. Having been to every one and watching it grow, this year the Steelhouse family pulled out all the stops and bagged their biggest band in Thunder. In beautiful weather, itself a shock for the Steelhouse, Thunder shook the mountain abley backed by The Dead Daisies who clinched the Sunday’s best response. Also Vega, Hand Of Dimes and Terrorvision ramping up the heat.
I couldn’t mention Steelhouse without mentioning the best opening slot to a festival I have had the fortune to witness in Bigfoot, five young guys from up north who hit the crowd like a wrecking ball, watch these guys go next year.
Saxon will be headlining at the 2017 event. Inglorious and Broken Witt Rebels are amongst the early bands announced.
4. BLACK STONE CHERRY
A charity fundraiser put together with Planet Rock for The Teenage Cancer Trust. With tickets sold out in minutes from going on sale BSC, laid back and totally off the cuff, played a blistering gig that didn’t really include a setlist. My first time seeing them live and they had the crowd eating out the palm of their hand. One of those gigs that more people will say they were there than the club actually holds, a la GnR in the old Marquee.
5. STATUS QUO
Quo in West Wales, yes please. A remarkable gig, even without Rick Parfitt who was ill. Quo showing everyone why they have so many loyal fans and have endeared themselves to every rock fan since their inception all those years ago. All the hits and a whole lot more for 2 hours, infectious and enjoyable. Who will be the next band to replace them when they finally hang their guitars up? Not easy to answer that.
Status Quo play UK dates 8-23 December.
FM Indiscreet 30
30 years is a long time in the music business, though judging by how good FM are sounding these days, I think they have found the Elixir of Life. Re-recording this classic could have gone disastrously wrong, however, upon hearing the refreshed versions , it was like feeling 17 all over again minus the acne.
The songs have a new energy about them, with a more modern production at their disposal, they didn’t overdo things, just tweaked here and there and given them a fuller sound with Steve Overland’s voice sounding as golden as it did back in 1986. Still the flag bearers for British AOR .
FM play Hard Rock Hell AOR, 10 March 2017.
Watch Out 2017!
Catching BIGFOOT at a small indoor festival in wales in March with a total crowd barely making double figures, you don’t hold out much hope, but like their appearance at steelhouse, they just nailed it from the off. The age of the members of this band will surprise you when you hear the songs these guys are putting out. with two eps released to date and an album being released by Frontiers next year, I believe 2017 is the year of the Foot.
A special mention has to go to Scotland’s THE KING LOT. A rather unique sound definitely built on the foundations of rock, but with that great guitar sound reminiscent of U2 / Big Country. Again, I caught them at a venue with very few people to witness something special. The album is first class and with some great support slots for Dan Reed ,FM and Inglorious this year, expect them to be seen a lot more in 2017.
VOLBEAT: “…have finally cemented their place in the upper reaches of the rock world and this album is another classic from the best Danish export since Lego!”
DAVE WILSON Live Editor
HEY HELLO! Too!! - Pop rock at it’s very best from Ginger Wildheart and co. This is the perfect antidote to the ills of the world, well for 40 minutes anyway.
VOLBEAT Seal The Deal And Lets Boogie – Volbeat have finally cemented their place in the upper reaches of the rock world and this album is another classic from the best Danish export since Lego!
RICKY WARWICK When Patsy Cline Was Crazy An Guy Mitchell Sang The Blues – Ricky is never one to rest for too long. So whilst Black Star Riders were taking a break he recorded and released this double album package. One electric album and one acoustic, but whether plugged or unplugged all songs were top quality from one of rock’s best frontmen.
RUNRIG The Story – This album was the band’s first album for many years and it was also announced as being their last studio release so it was received with mixed emotions. The quality of the music was never in question though and it proved to be a fitting finale to a glittering career.
STATUS QUO Aquostic II – That’s A Fact! – Nothing has split opinion more in rock circles in recent years than Quo’s move into the acoustic realm. Love it or loathe it, it has proved to be a successful move for the band and this second album again shows that there is more to Status Quo than heads down, twelve bar boogie.
Top Live Acts
MICHAEL SCHENKER’S TEMPLE OF ROCK – Another fantastic night in the company of Mr Schenker and co., a band which just keeps getting better and better. These dates were in support of ‘Spirit On A Mission’ which was top of my 2015 album list and all songs old and new were played with a passion by the ever smiling guitar virtuoso.
GINGER WILDHEART – An incredibly hot night in the company of Ginger and co. The fact he nearly passed out on stage at one point didn’t stop him and the band turning in a highly entertaining set. Add in a top support slot from Massive Wagons and you have all the ingredients for a great night
RUNRIG – The return of Runrig to both studio and stage during 2016 was a highlight for many. This gig was the first Runrig show I had attended for many years and a great reminder of why the band are so revered in Scotland and across the world.
QUIREBOYS – No ‘best of’ list is complete without the inclusion of a night with Newcastle’s finest. The Bungalow in Paisley was a new venue to me but the intimate surroundings were perfectly suited to the dirty blues cranked out by Spike and the guys. It was literally a red hot night as the heat in the hall was unbearable. Hot in Paisley, now that is a new one!
TRUCKER DIABLO – This was a long awaited gig for me . I had nearly seen TD twice before but on those occasions luck was not on my side and I missed out. Tonight however I finally managed to catch the ‘big truck’ in full flow and I wasn’t disappointed. Tom Harte and the guys delivered the goods and then some and with a new album due in 2017 hopefully they will be rolling back into town soon.
Watch out 2017!
MASSIVE WAGONS – The band have had a good year in 2016 with many tours around the UK and a new album entitled ‘Welcome To The World’. The band’s live shows are a must see and hopefully Massive Wagons will roll on to bigger things during 2017.
PROGRESSIVE ROCK ALBUM of 2016:
KATATONIA The Fall Of Hearts
1. KATATONIA The Fall Of Hearts
Ever since they did away with the face-melting metal of their past, Katatonia have refined their moody, atmospheric, progressive rock template with every album since 2009′s ‘Night Is The New Day’.
This refinement has reached its zenith on ‘The Fall Of Hearts’ where, despite the occasional recurrence of a bit of thrash, the overall impression is one of a melancholia masterclass delivered by a band at the peak of their powers.
I whispered “wow” quietly to myself on first listen – each subsequent listen has merely confirmed its status as one of the finest albums I’ve heard in a long time.
2. KIAMA Sign Of Four
Yet another belter from one of the busiest men in rock, Rob Reed.
Reed assembled a top-notch coterie of musicians to realise his vision of extracting the progressive heart from the musical blueprint laid down by the classic rock bands of the 70s.
With the likes of Dylan Thompson (The Reasoning – vocals) and particularly Luke Machin (The Tangent, Maschine – guitar) on board, it was back to the heady days of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and even Queen – only with a contemporary twist.
And with ‘Cold Black Heart’ includes a contender for ‘Track Of The Year’.
3. RICHARD SHINDELL Careless
I have yet to hear a bad album from Richard Shindell.
A native New Yorker now living in Argentina, he is surely one of the very best singer/songwriters around and ‘Careless’ is yet another to add to his exceptional body of work.
The re-introduction of electric guitar has added another dimension to his already outstanding acoustic playing to deliver one of his most satisfying albums to date – and with the track ‘Your Guitar’ he really is spoiling us.
4. IAMTHEMORNING Lighthouse
A simply stunning and emotional album from St Petersburg ‘Chamber Prog’ duo Iamthemorning – featuring the virtuoso grand piano and keyboards of Gleb Kolyadin and the ethereal pastoral vocals of Mariana Semkina.
As you would expect from an album whose concept is the decline of the central character due to mental illness, the music is both beautiful and disturbing in equal measure – with Semkina’s swooping vocals intertwining with Kolyadin’s emotional piano figures to produce an affecting yet hugely satisfying work.
As I said in my review – not an easy listen, but great things seldom are.
5. JONAS LINDBERG Pathfinder
A bit of a surprise this one as it came completely out of the blue.
Lindberg’s previous album, 2014′s ‘The Other Side’ was good, but really a bit too ‘safe’ to ruffle any feathers – so expectation was low with ‘Pathfinder’.
But from the opening killer riff of ‘Square One’ to the soaring Gilmouresque guitar of final track ‘Closer To The Sun’, the album is simply awash with progressive rock of the very highest order.
Soaring keys, anthemic guitar and glorious vocals and harmonies combine to nail each and every track into the listener’s subconscious and prove (as if it really needs saying) that it’s possible to produce top notch prog without resorting to the metallic squalls of white noise favoured by so many of their contemporaries.
JOE BONAMASSA “…his double solo on John Mayall’s ‘Double Crossing Time’ the most otherworldly experience I can recall in nearly fifty years of watching live music.”
Photo: Christie Goodwin
Top Live Acts
1. JOE BONAMASSA
There are certain performances aren’t there, when you know that what you are watching will go down in folklore as one of those ‘I was there’ moments.
And this was one of them.
Performing in front of an invited audience of just 350 people at one of the most iconic music venues in the world – the Cavern Club in Liverpool – Joe Bonamassa and his superb band absolutely tore the place apart with two hours of the most emotionally charged blues rock it’s ever been my pleasure to witness.
It gave the audience an opportunity to see, close up and personal, probably the finest blues player on the planet, and an opportunity for us guitar wannabees to see how he does it.
I gave up after five bars and just comforted myself in the knowledge that here was someone who almost transcended belief – his double solo on John Mayall’s ‘Double Crossing Time’ the most otherworldly experience I can recall in nearly fifty years of watching live music.
Joe Bonamassa plays UK dates 18-24 April, including Royal Albert Hall on the 21st.
2. ERIC BIBB
Yet another fabulous gig from ‘The Man In The Hat’, Eric Bibb, one of those enduring musicians who just make you feel good.
Supported on this tour by his daughter Jana whose jazz-inflected smoky voice was a perfect foil for Eric’s down-home brand of acoustic blues, the gig was just a joy from beginning to end.
Accompanied by long-time collaborator Steffan Astner, whose fluid electric guitar lines took the event to another level, Eric’s laid-back songs, delivered with that ‘smooth as chocolate’ voice, made you feel wrapped up in the warmth of it all and that, just maybe, things aren’t as bad as you thought.
3. WALTER TROUT
A packed venue gathered to pay homage to the man whose near-death experience with liver disease has, thankfully, been resolved via a transplant – and whose almost miraculous recovery has injected an almost feverish intensity into his live performances.
I’ve seen Walter a number of times before and he’s always delivered shows of staggering guitar virtuosity, even when he was seriously ill and had to sit down for long periods on stage.
But this was something different – the virtuosity was undimmed and the band, as usual, were absolutely at the top of their game, but the sheer emotion in Walter’s singing as well as his playing was evidence of his thankfulness to still be here and doing it.
The crowd loved it, Walter loved it. A great night.
STEVE HACKETT Please Don’t Touch
Without doubt one of Hackett’s finest albums – here given the deluxe triple disc digipack treatment.
Inevitably these days, it has also been given the ubiquitous Steven Wilson new stereo mix and 5.1 surround sound treatment – but, say what you will, the guy knows what he’s doing and the sound he has teased out of the original masters is to die for.
Three unreleased tracks are a ‘Brucie Bonus’ – but just listening to this album again with all the new bells and whistles is a bonus in itself and an absolute joy.
Steve Hackett plays UK dates 26 April -19 May.
Watch Out 2017!
RED BUTLER – If their sophomore album ‘Nothing To Lose’ is anything to go by, then this exceptional blues/rock quartet from Brighton are going to kick the genre’s arse in 2017.
A combination of great guitar work from Alex Butler and smoking vocals from Jane Chloe Pearce are knitted together by a rock steady rhythm section to produce a steaming album that oozes class and the promise of great things ahead.
SINGER SONGWRITER ALBUM of 2016:
ELEANOR McEVOY Naked Music
MARILLION: “one of the few albums this year that not only demands repeated plays, but one that reveals new facets on each successive listen.”
This archive interview was first broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio in July 2014 to coincide with the publication of Steve Hogarth’s diaries. A recent interview with Steve Rothery is also available, via Mixcloud
MARILLION F E A R
My first impressions of Marillion’s latest release were the same as David Randall’s a rambling, Hogarth dominated hotchpotch of ideas, but FEAR is one of the few albums this year that not only demands repeated plays, but one that reveals new facets on each successive listen. It may be slow out of the blocks but the glorious 43 minute triumvirate centrepiece of The Leavers, The New Kings, and White Paper is unparalleled in 2016.
Marillion are on tour in the UK, 27 November-4 December.
THE PRETTY RECKLESS Who You Selling For
From Motorhead to Isaac Hayes, from to Guns ‘n’ Roses to Sheryl Crow, and from Pink Floyd to The Temptations, The Pretty Reckless wear their influences unashamedly on this guilty pleasure of an album. Ben Phillips delivers a guitar masterclass, and Taylor Momsen the most sexually charged vocals you’ll hear this year. A ‘good time’ record guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
ELEANOR McEVOY Naked Music
It may be a re-visiting of the formula she applied on Alone (2011) back catalogue numbers recorded live in the studio with just a microphone and a single instrument but, if anything, Naked Music finds McEvoy even more exposed. On what is surely the audiophile recording of the year you can hear every vocal nuance, every intake of breath, every subtlety. Records don’t come more ‘up close and personal’ than this.
PAVLOV’S DOG House Broken
A stunning revisiting of past glories or at least the brief blip the band registered on the prog radar in the mid 1970′s. Recorded in Nuremberg in October 2015, this DVD / CD set captures a wonderfully organic set that has a ‘period’ authenticity rarely encountered these days. Mesmeric.
DAVID FOSTER Dreamless
While his 2011 debut, Gravity, showcased a variety of styles, Dreamless is a far more cohesive offering from the Panic Room and Steve Rothery Band guitarist. With some great vocal performances by Natalie Poortman, and some terrific support from Panic Room bandmates and others, Dreamless is the album a younger David Gilmour might have made rather than the somewhat limp Rattle That Lock.
Top Live Acts
I might have seen her dozens of times, but – at Penylan Studios in mid-Wales – this was the finest sound quality I’ve ever heard at a gig. And with a faultless performance and real ale on draught, what’s not to like?
Bad Company’s Simon Kirke talks about the band’s UK tour in November. The full version of this interview is available now via Mixcloud.
While his contemporary’s vocal chords wilt, Rodgers’ is singing better than he ever did. A disappointingly short set, but classic rock at its very best.
Panic Room continue to go from strength to strength and with a settled line up including Steve Rothery Band guitarist Dave Foster, the future looks secured.
THE SLAMBOVIAN CIRCUS OF DREAMS A Box Of Everything
The New York indie outfit’s ‘best of’ re- released to support some 2016 UK dates. There’s some magnificent material here the infectious ‘Living With God’, the Barrett-era wig out ‘Talkin’ To The Budda’, the Southern rock of ‘Tink (I Know It’s You)’, and the gentle Bowie /Lou Reed influenced ‘Lost Highway’, to name but a few. A marvellous throwback.
Watch out 2017!
There’s a few contenders here, where lesser known acts have produced really top notch releases in 2016 – Albany Down, Eveline’s Dust, The Doug Wahlberg Band, SpaceCream, and The Raven Charter.
Any would be worthy winners of this category, but in terms of wider potential the award goes to …. RED BUTLER the Brighton quintet fronted by Jane Chloe Pearce (vocals) and Alex Butler (lead guitar) who have made real strides in 2016 with their excellent sophomore release Nothing To Lose.
1. ALTER BRIDGE The Last Hero
Maybe not as immediate or as consistent as ‘Fortress’, but this is a classy, heavy, sometimes bombastic (in a good way) album that mines the full range of the band’s influences. ‘Show Me A Leader’ and ‘My Champion’ are epic tracks amongst others. You’ll need stamina.
2. THE ANSWER Solas
Despite five previous albums, The Answer had not really ignited my enthusiasm. Then out of nowhere, Solas takes them a mighty step forward with a simpler, smoother approach, refined vocals and some gorgeous hooks. ‘Battle Cry is the track that sucked me in and after repeated listens, still stands tall.
3. METALLICA Hard Wired to Self Destruct
Maybe a touch of nostalgia in this choice. There was a time when ‘Ride The Lightning’ and ‘Master of Puppets’ were my world. Those albums provide the touchstones for this return to their definitive thrash sound. Never go back, they tell you. But this was a journey well worth making.
4. INGLORIOUS Inglorious
A bit obvious maybe, but it is hard to ignore this album’s swagger, pace and purpose. Classic hard rock sound, strong tunes and that voice that takes things to different level. ‘Holy Water’ encapsulates the approach perfectly.
5. TOSELAND Cradle The Rage
Everything is falling in to place for Toseland remarkably quickly. Longer-toiling bands would kill for the resources available to this lot. Like the production values on Cradle The Range. But they use the riches they have with such purpose and professionalism: hard rock with classic arrangements and nods to glam, thrash and blues rock. Good stuff.
Top Live Acts
1. THIN LIZZY
Whether or not Ricky Warwick and the lads were right to use the fabled Lizzy monicker for this Ramblin’ Man set, there is no question that they went down an absolute thunderstorm. The classics simply billowed from the stage in waves of melodic hard rock nectar. ‘Jailbreak’ was a great choice for set opener and it was onwards and upwards from there.
Who says nostalgia is not what is used to be? On an emotional night in Aylesbury, Fish played ‘Misplaced Childhood’ to an eager full house, exposing tenderness, passion and humour in a set of powerful songs, personal memories and local connections that meant a lot to both performer and audience.
3. RICHARD HAWLEY
A great night at Hammersmith. Hawley, once of the Longpigs and Pulp, was promoting his seventh solo album. Whether psychedelic and reverb-fuelled, or melancholic and reflective, the sheer scope, authenticity and quality of his music had the audience eating out of his hands.
4. WILKO JOHNSON
Yes. Again. The inimitable Wilko Johnson is still doing things his own way on his own (borrowed) time. Two years on from the cancer battle that looked like the final curtain, Wilko was back to full power. This gig with Joanne Shaw Taylor in support was savoured like a show of old. We thought there would be no more.
5. TAX THE HEAT
At Ramblin’ Man Day 1, this four-piece, attired in collared shirts, smart waistcoats and ties, threw up a scintillating, stripped back hard rock sound with shades of classic r’n'b whipped up by some dynamic arrangements and great layered harmonies.
Watch Out 2017!
This hard rock band from Walsall were impressive at Ramblin’ Man, commanding the Rsing Stars stage with confident presence and dealing out a chunky sound with huge drums. The half dozen tracks on show were built around heavy riffs some very doomy strong choruses and some great lead work with proper melodies and everything.
THE LAST VEGAS Eat Me
This latest offering from Chicago’s The Last Vegas perfectly sums the band up in one album
The band’s debut album featured on my best of 2015, here is hoping they are also on 2017’s list too
THE DEAD DAISIES Make Some Noise
The latest album is the best so far from this popular super-group
THE BLACK BULLETS Bombshell
Great EP from the Basingstoke five piece. Trust me, this one is well worth checking out
SPIKE & TYLA’S HOT KNIVES The Sinister Indecisions of Frankie Gray & Jimmy Pallas
When you pair up two of the country’s best musical storytellers, it can only ever be a good thing
Worthy of mention/attention
Blackberry Smoke – Like An Arrow, Steven Tyler – We’re All Somebody From Somewhere, Cheap Trick – Bangs, Zoom, Crazy…Hello, The Cult – Hidden City, The Quireboys – Twisted Love, ZZ Top – Live Greatest Hits From Around The World
Top Live Acts
THE LAST VEGAS – I have never seen a bad show from these boys, who always put everything they’ve got into a set that is tightly packed with great songs
THUNDER – Finally – at Wembley Arena – the band get to headline a place they have played on many an occasion and what a great night it was too.
STONE FREE FESTIVAL (Saturday) – the first Stone Free Festival at London’s O2 Arena, the highlights for me were headliner Alice Cooper, Michael Monroe in the Indigo and a shorter set on the main stage from Blackberry Smoke.
EUROPE/The Electric Boys – Great live set from both bands with Europe celebrating the 30th Anniversary of The Final Countdown album at the legendary Roundhouse.
BUCKCHERRY – the band may have been opening for Steel Panther but their short set was nothing less than headline worthy
This was a difficult choice. First there was the Phil Collins reissue campaign and Hanoi Rocks Strange Boys box set to choose from; however, the clear winner is THE ROLLING STONES with ‘Totally Stripped’ as the reworked album, documentary and live show boxset is a stunning effort
Watch Out 2017!
This great young band from Brighton have an impressive collection of songs and a frontman that could comfortably front any major band you put him in front of.
BLUES ROCK ALBUM of 2016
STEVIE NIMMO Sky Won’t Fall
PETE FEENSTRA Rock & Blues Editor/Features Editor
1. STEVIE NIMMO Sky Won’t Fall
Always a song driven blues rocker with Americana leanings, Stevie forges his own style on an album that you will keep returning to.
‘Sky Won’t Fall’ is a mature, song driven album that rocks as hard as it uses restraint in its search for subtlety. He explores a contemporary musical vision that places the emphasis on songs, melodies and intuitive band interplay.
The album’s real achievement is to make a coherent fist of some wide ranging material, spanning rock/blues, soul, funk, country and Americana, which draws on his past and drops big hints about his future.
Stevie Nimmo plays UK dates in March 2017
2. ERIC JOHNSON EJ
A cleverly conceived, well played and totally beguiling album that draws you in with its sonic beauty.
‘EJ’ is a stripped down celebration of simplicity and feel, bolstered by Eric Johnson’s dazzling technical ability on original material and some imaginatively arranged covers.
Johnson pushes himself into new musical avenues by focusing on the importance of the song, while giving full expression to his abilities on acoustic guitar and piano.
A career milestone by a feel guitarist.
3 TORONZO CANNON The Chicago Way
TC updates the Chicago blues-rock template with passion, sizzling guitar and an expressive voice that nuances his observational lyrics. Oh yeah, and he rocks too!
From the opening sustained notes of ‘The Pain Around Me’, you know he’s got something to say both lyrically and musically.
He pours himself into emotive songs predicated on subtle dynamics, redolent hooks and vocal style that invite the listener to share his feelings.
From beginning to the end, this is essential contemporary blues-rock.
4 BETH HART – Fire On The Floor
Beth Hart’s ‘Fire On The Floor’ is a career defining album full of rich songcraft, heartfelt phrasing and exuberant playing, shot through with total conviction and emotion.
There are no half measures with a Beth Hart album. ‘Fire On The Floor’ is quasi-confessional, reflective and rocking by turns. The 12 tracks mirror her restless search for emotion, meaning and the truth, albeit with an occasional sense of mischief and humour.
‘Fire on the Floor’ is a contemporary album shot through with old school values and it’s delivered by one of the great singer-songwriters of our time. Unreservedly recommended.
Beth Hart chatted to Pete Feenstra about her album ‘Fire On The Floor’, available at Mixcloud
5. HONEY ISLAND SWAMP BAND Demolition Day
It’s rare in the rock/blues world to come across an album that brings together contrasting elements of vitality, energy and originality with subtle textures and familiar retro elements on a set of songs that linger after just one play.
It’s even rarer for a band on their fourth studio album and celebrating their tenth anniversary to come up with such a tightly focused piece of work.
‘Demolition Day’ jumps out the grooves with a melange of roots-rock, blues, funk, country, soul and Americana. The 11 tracks bristle with wide ranging roots music that draws together such diverse influences such as The Stones, The Meters, The Band, Little Feat and fleetingly The Grateful Dead, on the extended ‘Another Day’.
5 ALBERT CASTIGLIA – Big Dog
‘Big Dog’ is a bulldozer of an album. It’s a prime slice of blue collar blues-rock that brims with vitality and commitment. It’s the product of years of road work and songs crafted in the back of the tour bus.
It’s a fierce, red raw album on which Albert teams up with Mike Zito and his band for a live in the studio session. Both guitarists bring out the best in each other as Albert leans into the material with a primal aggression, while producer/guitarist Mike Zito is the perfect foil, smoothing out the raw edges without losing the spark.
‘Big Dog’, rocks hard and burns with real intensity and an impregnable spirit that will surely bring Albert Castiglia a new legion of new fans.
Worthy of mention/attention:
ROADHOUSE City Of Decay
Gothic rock-blues with a cinematic scope.
JAMES LEG: He is a whirl of primal thrash and punk blues as he bashes hell out of his Fender Rhodes and adds Tom Waits style guttural cries and a Lemmy growl, while in his more considered moments he’s closer to Jim Morrison.
Top Live Acts
1. THORBJORN RISAGER & THE BLACK TORNADO
Big band blues-rock might not sound very sexy, but in the hands of the gravel voiced Thorbjorn Risager (Ray Charles meets Tom Waits) and a killer horn section, TR and his Danish pals transform the genre into one of the most exciting live shows of the year.
It may have taken them 13 years to get to the UK, but every last minute was worth waiting for. The explosive combination rock/blues, soul and funk is moulded into hugely original songs and a non-stop show. The best of Danish!
2 EDDIE & THE HOT RODS
Half way through the set they stripped down to a power-trio fomat and briefly became the hi-energy Headline Maniac, with Dipster Dean taking over vocals, suggesiting the next step for The Hot Rods.
Yes Eddie & The Hot Rods, as they regale 3000 French fans with unreconstructed garage rock.
They didn’t so much tear the festival apart, as gently give it a poke in the ribs to remind a town schooled on garage rock, that the British pub equivalent will give any band a run for its money.
The Rods are not so much a punk band as a raw, loud, R&B influenced rock and roll band, fuelled by punk energy and buoyed by an anthem ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ that ignites tonight’s excited crowd and will probably continue to do so years after the band finally call it a day.
3 ERJA LYYTINEN BAND
Arguably the best gig of the year. There was a vibe in the air, as the Finnish band went for it. From her bubbly personality to her scintillating guitar playing, you won’t easily forget an Erja Lyytinen show.
She engages the crowd naturally and then draws them in with some steely licks, deep grooves and wide variety of contemporary blues related material.
Her set is punctuated by startling Elmore James style slide runs and contrasting intricate guitar parts in a sparkling show that flows perfectly from beginning to end.
Tonight Erja Lyytinen coverts another club full of admirers to her guitar driven show. She cleverly combines a deep commitment to the blues with the art of songwriting. Above all, she infuses her show with an essential sense of fun, ranging from call and response moments to a walkabout and slide solo with a whisky glass.
Pete chatted to Erja for a one-hour special on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, available at Mixcloud
4 ELIZA NEALS BAND
The former Detroit opera singer indulges herself with rock, boogie and blues as she belts out her vocals as if her life depends on it.
Together with guitarist Howard Glazer – he of the long mane and sizzling guitar parts – Eliza absolutely kicks ass on a bewildering broad based set that touches hard rock, grunge, blues and even soul.
She doesn’t so much engage the crowd as pulverise it with an emotional outpouring that redefines her blues-rock material.
This is music with without a safety net, rock and roll by any other name!
Pete chatted to Eliza for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio in April 2016, available again via Mixcloud
5= JAMES LEG
Hailing form the southern states and based half the year in France, James Leg (aka former Black Diamond Heavies hell raiser John Wesley Myers), brings a whole new meaning to the term feral.
He is a whirl of primal thrash and punk blues as he bashes hell out of his Fender Rhodes and adds Tom Waits style guttural cries and a Lemmy growl, while in his more considered moments he’s closer to Jim Morrison. His spontaneous performance is one step away from physical theatre, but he lives for the moment in true rock and roll style.
He’s the man dressed in black on a mild sunny evening. He wisely eschews his trilby before hitting the stage with such ferocity that his shades fly in the flower beds before the first number is finished. The true spirit of rock & roll.
5= LAURENCE JONES
Quite simply Laurence is the real deal. He’s got the chops, the looks(!!), the songs the stage presence and the passion. On top of that he’s got a killer band that equally contributes to making this power trio seem much bigger that the three people in front of you!
Catch up with Pete’s chat with Laurence, broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio in August 2016, now at Mixcloud
Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection
The Best of Gregg Allman on Floating World Records
Redbone by Redbone on Repertoire
Watch Out 2017!
SALVATION JAYNE: Fronted by the incredible vocalist Amy Benham (who at the time of writing has now just left!) the band also features Holly Kinnear on guitar as they lean into their own gothic blues-rock style with heavy elements of Humble Pie, and sundry 70′s influences.
Watch out for CATFISH – an excellent up and coming blues band featuring guitarist/vocalist Matt Long , the Scottish power trio LEWIS HAMILTON BAND, also the South West UK power trio THE BLUE HORIZON and watch out for the rise of slide guitarist TROY REDFERN and his band.
Also RED BUTLER (pictured above) with Jayne Chloe Pearce who have just cut a great album ‘Nothing To Lose’, to back up some great shows.
MELODIC ROCK ALBUM of 2016
VEGA Who We Are
1 VEGA Who We Are
The British modern melodic rockers excel themselves with a fourth album full of anthems where the choruses get bigger and bigger.
2 THE DEFIANTS The Defiants
A brilliant piece of feel good music with great songs from current and former Danger Danger members.
3 KEE MARCELLO Scaling Up
The revelation of the year – after a patchy solo career, former Europe guitarist comes good with a classic hard rock sound recalling his parent band.
4 TYKETTO Reach
A new line-up gives a sharper edge to the ever wonderful songwriting and expressive singing of Danny Vaughn.
Tyketto play UK dates, 21-30 January.
5 SUNSTORM Edge of Tomorrow
A harder edge for the latest of the studio projects featuring Joe Lynn Turner and one which suits the ex-Rainbow man perfectly.
Top Live Acts
1 BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE EAST STREET BAND
Choosing only to cherry pick ‘The River’ after all, this was still an incredible 3½ hour demonstration of the redemptive power of music with the Boss’s incredible energy.
2 BILLY JOEL
One to cross off the bucket list and as well as a back catalogue to die for, a great show which with the help of ex-Rainbow and Foreigner sideman was rockier than I’d dared imagine.
3 JEFF LYNNE’S ELO
Thoughts of guilty pleasures were put to side for one evening with an immaculate sound and light show and a series of classics that had the whole crowd dancing.
4 BAD COMPANY
For perhaps the last time, a chance to hear the best blues rock catalogue there is, delivered by the peerless voice of Paul Rodgers.
Another outstanding display of anthems and an arena-worthy stage show in this very special venue.
Melodic rock fans were salivating over the belated 25th anniversary reissue of the now mega rare TYKETTO debut classic ‘Don’t Come Easy’.
Watch Out 2017!
CATS IN SPACE were my favourite ‘new’ act of 2016 and their lovingly recreated seventies sounds and great stage show are set to enjoy wider exposure.
VOODOO VEGAS: In whatever way we do end up buggering off from Europe, the world will still come clamouring back to British shores for heavy rock, Voodoo Vegas-style. And they need go no further than Bournemouth.
CHRIS ROBINSON BROTHERHOOD Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel
Yet another masterful piece of work from the most chilled, cosmic rockers in the planet-sphere.Pure, laid-back Americana at its very best, the tunes run freer than a babbling brook from these hippy minstrels. No record company commitments also means they put out what they want when they want for about a buck 50. Doing it for the love of it and for the fans, super-cool and old-school.
FRANKIE MILLER Frankie Miller’s Double Takes
As a fifteen year-old, I used to have my Dad drop me off at Northamptonshire County Cricket Club to go see Frankie Miller in about 1977 – I loved him then and I love him now. Though still with us, Miller’s trajectory to becoming a certain musical legend took a cruel left turn following a brain aneurism in 1994 after seeing an Eagles gig in New York.
Glasgow’s own gravel-throated top-hatted wee hard man, fashioned in the glorious image of Joe Cocker, Miller is an intrinsic, though perhaps unsung, gem of the British country-rock-blues legacy and this is a brilliant and heart-warming project.
Working with a bunch of Frankie’s original demo tapes and keeping only his voice, producer Dave MacKay and a host of others built the songs around Miller’s demos and produced a fine album of duets featuring Frankie and the likes of Delbert McClinton, Bonnie Tyler, Elton John, Huey Lewis, Joe Walsh, Francis Rossi, Rod Stewart and others.
A true testament to not just one of a very small world population of blue-eyed soul singers the world has ever seen, but a remarkably talented song-writer. As the T-shirt said, “Frankie Who ? Frankie Fucking Miller, That’s Who”. Bless you Frankie.
In this special feature, Voodoo Vegas frontman Lawrence Case introduces several tracks from the album ‘Freak Show Candy Floss’. (First broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 30 October 2016 as part of ‘New to GRTR!’)
VOODOO VEGAS Freak Show Candy Floss
Where leather meets tattoo, there’s no better exemplification of the “Continuing Wave of British Heavy Metal” than the second helping from the best young hard rockers in Brexit-ridden Britain today.
The album from Bournemouth’s Voodoo Vegas, “Freak Show Candy Floss”, is a right, rockin’ romp, executed with maturity and intelligence, a proper steel cap to the gonads. In whatever way we do end up buggering off from Europe, the world will still come clamoring back to British shores for heavy rock, Voodoo Vegas-style. And they need go no further than Bournemouth.
RAY WILSON Song For A Friend
This is a wonderful collection of brilliant balladry. I don’t care if it’s Brittany, Sinatra or frickin’ Wham Boy Michael – a finely-constructed tune is a harder thing to do than vote Trump with a good conscience and Ex-Genesis, Rumplestiltskin front-man, Ray Wilson managed to come up with ten of the best on his album, Song for a Friend.
This is a thoroughly-enjoyable record of the most melodious, flowing, and honest songs I’ve heard in a long, long time. Spurned by heartache, adversity and life’s curveballs, Wilson has produced a fine body of work which I, and I’m sure many others, will never get tired of playing. Definitely one of the best albums of 2016, and maybe the decade – hell, did someone say millenium ?
Top Live Acts
CHRIS ROBINSON BROTHERHOOD The Paradiso, Amsterdam
When in Hell, hug the Devil – and when in Amsterdam, suck a lungful from a phat doobie of organic (obviously) Trainwreck and get down to the Paradiso for your Brotherhood fix. More jam than a cop’s crotch after a dropping a messy doughnut, the musicianship of this band is mesmerizing, meandering and very satisfying to behold.
The whole room becomes a Brotherhood, a cosmos where band and fan blend in unity, three hours (at least…..usually) of wondering what could possibly make you feel higher than a giraffe’s goolies – saw them three times on this tour, three hours each time, three different set-lists….spacey-rock-country-folk-cana nerds, gypsy-spirited and hippier than Oprah, the CRB are a must-see. And they play somewhere every night.
Watch Out 2017!
BEWARE OF DARKNESS
I didn’t notice these LA hipsters over in Europe in 2016 after tipping them heavily after their excellent 2015 debut cut, Orthodox – and that was a crying shame. I thought that was a stunning first album and newly-released follow-up, “Are You Real ?” is just as good and impressive for many reasons, not least for the variety of styles.
It’s always been the case that an AC/DC album sounded like AC/DC, a Stones album like the Stones but Queen albums, whilst sounding like Queen, were always comprised of truly different sounding songs. That’s what you get with BoD – operatic in parts, QOTSA-gutsy riffs, Rival Sons-muddy blues – juts incredible for a bunch of twenty-something’s. So, I’m backing my hunch from two years ago – Beware of Darkness in 2017 !
AVENGED SEVENFOLD The Stage
A7X’s surprise release takes time to appreciate but it is worth it…complex and highly progressive in nature…
KISSIN’ DYNAMITE Generation Goodbye – extremely catchy modern hard rock from Germany…this band keeps improving with every release.
MARILLION F.E.A.R – the best Steve Hogarth-era release…and that is saying something.
TARJA The Shadow Self - finally escaping the ‘shadow’ of Nightwish…complete with her own rebuttal to ‘Bye Bye Beautiful’ in the form of ‘Diva’…
Tarja plays Manchester Academy 2, 9 March and London Koko, 10 March.
STEVE N’ SEAGULLS Brothers in Farms – even better than the debut…more Finnish bluegrass covers of classic rock songs…’Symphony of Destruction’ has to be heard…
CARNIVAL OF MADNESS
Last night of UK tour shenanigans featuring Highly Suspect, Halestorm (pictured), Shinedown and Black Stone Cherry
5 SECONDS OF SUMMER
A treat for my daughter Zoe…more enjoyable than expected featuring 5SOS’s own brand of punk-pop
GHOST Meloria/Popestar…Ghost’s classic just got better with the addition of the superb ‘Square Hammer’ and a few covers…
Watch Out 2017!
DOROTHY. US band fronted by Dorothy Martin finally released their bluesy hard rock debut ‘ROCKISDEAD’ in 2016 and supported Halestorm in the US. Bigger things are expected.
NICK VAN DER MEULEN
1. AVANTASIA Ghostlights
A dramatic masterpiece from start to finish…when it comes to Avantasia, everything Tobias Sammet touches turns to gold! Fantastic contributions from Michael Kiske, Ronnie Atkins, Jorn, Eric Martin and Bob Catley make this work an ‘eargasm’.
2. THE DEFIANTS The Defiants
When Frontiers advertised this release, it was guaranteed to be a highlight of the year. The gentlemen from Danger Danger past and present (Paul Laine, Rob Marcello, Bruno Ravel) do not disappoint, providing a bombastic, melodic gem. Would love to see this show live…
3. TREAT Ghost of Graceland
Treat have been around for over 30 years and ‘Ghost of Graceland’ is a classy slice of melodic rock. I’m not sure it is as good as its predecessor ‘Coup de Grace’, but it is still brilliant and one of the best releases this year.
4. VEGA Who We Are
This English outfit is the surprise of the year for me I discovered them on a long-haul flight (thanks Swiss Air) and I played this album over and over. Happy to have this gem in my collection: uber-melodic rock anthems!
5. POPA CHUBBY The Catfish
The large blues man impresses with this diverse work, with many songs paying tribute to his influences, be it jazz or the mighty Motorhead. A fine, mature, effort.
Top Live Acts
1. BLACK SABBATH
Dirty blues at its finest…it all makes sense when you see Sabbath live. A monumental performance from the entire outfit, but Iommi stole the show: throwing out licks and solos that would make any guitar hero green with envy. He had Ozzy turning his back on the audience and admiring Iommi’s finesse with the rest of the fans! Unforgettable.
Black Sabbath bring ‘The End’ tour to the UK, 20 January-4 February.
Sammet, Kiske, Atkins, Martin, Jorn, Somerville, Hartmann: all sharing the stage in an epic performance that lasted no shorter than 3 hours and 40 minutes. It was a show that drained you with the emotion pouring from the performers and the feedback from the sellout crowd. Arguably one of the best shows I’ve ever been privileged to attend.
3. IRON MAIDEN
The crowd was doing backstroke in the rain and Bruce and the boys came out to ensure we got our money’s worth (Bruce called the Swiss crowd ‘f@cking crazy for staying out in so much water’). It was my first time seeing Maiden with Bruce at the helm (a long, long time coming) and I went home drenched, but satisfied.
Iron Maiden play UK dates, 4-28 May 2016.
4. ZAKK WYLDE
The big man was in fine fettle on his ‘Book Of Shadows II’ tour, this specific show at an intimate setting in Zurich. This was Zakk pouring out music from his soul without the bone-crunching riffs some electric guitar, but predominantly acoustic and piano.
Helloween went on tour to support ‘My God-given right’ and it was a brilliant show. The capacity crowd enjoyed a set that spanned their almost 30-year career…although Deris was overdoing it a bit with his mischievous tongue gestures.
Watch Out 2017!
JARED JAMES NICHOLS opened for Zakk Wylde with his ‘blues power’ and rocked the house. Bought his debut album ‘Old Glory And The Rock Revival’, which merits listening. Definitely one to watch in future.
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Power Plays w/c 13 February 2017
PAUL MENEL & THE ESSENTIALS Hey, Did You Hear About Paul? (indie)
PRIDE OF LIONS Freedom Of The Night (Frontiers)
ALIVE IN THEORY Unconditional (Ultraviolet Records)
RAINBREAKERS Living Free (indie)
Featured Albums w/c 13 February 2017 (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 PRIDE OF LIONS Fearless (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 THE MURDER OF MY SWEET Echoes Of The Aftermath (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 EZIO Daylight Moon (Jazzhaus Records
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