The Best of 2017: top albums, top live acts – the reviewers’ choice

The Best of 2017

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.

How did we select the Top choices? We listed those albums/acts named by more than one reviewer and added those top albums/acts from reviewers not represented in the final listing in each category.

The Best of 2017: Popular Poll

Between 4-17 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.

To the lucky winner(s), drawn at random after 17 December, we’ll be giving the following 2017 albums:

SAXON – Decade Of The Eagle The Anthology 1979-1988 (1xCD – 2CD set/2xVinyl – 2 LP set)
YES – Topographic Drama Live Across America (2xCD/2xVinyl – 3 LP set)
GARY MOORE – Blues And Beyond (2x vinyl – 4 LP set)
STATUS QUO Blue For You/Just Supposin’/Never Too Late (CD Deluxe Editions)
PINK FLOYD Song By Song (Book)

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 all 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 2017′ accolade.

Best of 2017 (Top Album)
What do you consider to be the best album of the year?


Best of 2017 (Top Live Act)
Who do you consider to be the best live act of the year?


Best of 2017 (Breakthrough Act)
Who do you consider to be the best breakthrough act this year?


The results of the poll will be announced on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio in a special show on Sunday 17 December at 22:00 GMT. and published here on 18 December. (The show is repeated Monday 18 and Friday 22 December at 22:00 GMT)

And, throughout December, Get Ready to ROCK! Radio will feature ‘Best Of’ selections across their playlists.

The Best of 2017

The Best Of 2017: Reviewer Choice

Top Albums

CATS IN SPACE Scarecrow

1 CATS IN SPACE Scarecrow
2 JUDIE TZUKE Peace Has Broken Out
3 HAREM SCAREM United
4 COCO MONTOYA Hard Truth
5 BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION IV
6 KING KING Exile & Grace
7 BLACK STAR RIDERS Heavy Fire
8 GRAHAM BONNET BAND Live Here Comes The Night
9 THEA GILMORE The Counterweight
10 THE MAGPIE SALUTE S/T

Top Live Acts

Photo: David Wilson

1 BLACK STAR RIDERS
2 ALICE COOPER
3 MARILLION
4 PANIC ROOM
5 KISS
6 ELIZA NEALS  & THE NARCOTICS
7 BLACK SABBATH
8 THE MAGPIE SALUTE
9 FAIRPORT CONVENTION

Top Reissue

BLACK SABBATH Ten Year War Box Set

BLACK SABBATH The Ten Year War Box Set

Eliza Neals
Photo: John Bull (Rockrpix)

Breakthrough Act (Watch Out 2018!)

ELIZA NEALS

The Best of 2017

JASON RITCHIE News & Reviews Editor

Top Albums

CATS IN SPACE Scarecrow

CATS IN SPACE Scarecrow
Their debut was pretty damn fine, so high expectations and they delivered! A marvellous mix of 70s’ rock, pomp, pop and more melodies than you can shake a stick at.

THRESHOLD Legends of the Shires
Returning vocalist Glynn Morgan helps the band to make one of the finest albums to date. A real return to form.

LONELY ROBOT The Big Dream
Part two of the trilogy and another fine set of musical adventures. No name guests this time as John Mitchell does it all bar the drums and some backing vocals.

BOULEVARD IV
Finally we get a new album from Boulevard. Fantastic tunes and production, deserves a place in every melodic rock/AOR fans collection.

THE YOUNG ‘UNS Strangers
Folk acapella from this talented three piece. Each song is based on a true story and the songs are all positive and uplifting.

Bubbling under… THE BITERS, LIONHEART, SONS OF APOLLO, IT and PUGWASH

Top Live Acts

1 LED ZEPPELIN MASTERS – grand venue for a run through the Led Zep catalogue. Enjoyable show and great songs, what’s not to like?

2 THE BOOTLEG BEATLES – celebrating the 50th anniversary of the release of the ‘Sgt Pepper’ album the Bootleg Beatles played to a packed RAH and went down a storm. Bizarre though seeing a tribute band with none of its original members!

3 THE DARKER MY HORIZON – my first live gig after a long break through illness and TDMH are a perfect pick me up. They don’t take themselves too seriously, but they certainly do take their music seriously. Well worth seeing live.

4 LONELY ROBOT – album launch gig and another fine gig by John Mitchell and his assembled musical maestros.

5 JON BODEN – former Bellowhead front man playing a selection of solo songs from his recent ‘Afterglow’ album and a few Bellowhead classics. A thoroughly enjoyable evening of music.

Top Reissue

PICTUREHOUSE How Do I Explain How This Came To Be? - a set of perfect power pop gems.

Ones To Watch

1 BROKEN WITT REBELS – I tipped these guys last year and since then they have toured relentlessly, about to release their debut album and I think 2018 will be their year.

2 HUNTER & THE BEAR – their debut album ‘Paper Heart’ – full of catchy modern rock – just missed my top 5 albums of the year. No strangers to touring expecting them to make a bigger noise and name for themselves in 2018 and beyond.

3 BIGFOOT – their debut album is good ‘un and with a decent couple of support slots next year they will make a big impression.

The Best of 2017

DAVID RANDALL Managing Editor

Top Albums

Sons Of Apollo - Psychotic Symphony

SONS OF APOLLO Psychotic Symphony
Wonderful musicianship, great fusion stylings, and the voice of Jeff Scott Soto.  Watch out for gigs in 2018.

JUDIE TZUKE Peace Has Broken Out
Underrated singer songwriter, meticulously crafted and with some real standouts

MOLLIE MARRIOTT Truth Is A Wolf
A strong debut for the daughter of the late Steve. Whether she can sustain the consistency of this album, whilst further divesting the family heirloom image, will remain a challenge.

4 THE SPIRITUAL MACHINES Awake,  Alert, Alive, almost
An unusual, surprising, album that combines prog, pop and listener immersion in equal measure.

5= THE PRS BAND Time To Testify
Who would have thought that a legendary guitar maker (Paul Reed Smith) could put out a funky rock fusion with a high level of quality and consistency?

5= BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION IV
The return of this “superband” demonstrated that they have lost none of their songwriting or musical prowess.  All constituents suitably fired up, totally convincing.

Worthy of mention/attention

STRAWBS The Ferryman’s Curse
JAMES WARREN Innocent Bystander
DJABE & STEVE HACKETT Life Is A Journey – The Sardinia Tapes
KING KING Exile & Grace
TODD RUNDGREN White Knight
GORDON GILTRAP & PAUL WARD The Last Of England

FIREWIND - Manchester Academy, 16 February 2017Photo: David Randall

Top Live Acts

FIREWIND – Gus G is a likeable guy and he’s crazy about cats, always a good thing.  Their performance in Manchester promoting ‘Immortals’ was quite wonderful: great sound, playing and songs in front of a small but perfectly formed audience.

Firewind play UK dates from 22 January

GRAHAM BONNET BAND – 2017 has been a good year for the near-septuagenerian with the release of retrospectives, a new album, and UK touring. A national treasure.

MARILLION – The band failed to edge in to my 2016 listing due to their usual end of year scheduling but – combined with their Albert Hall triumph and last gig of the year in Manchester – reinforcing their place in the forefront of modern rock.

Marillion play UK dates 11-20 April.

4 PANIC ROOM – With this year’s release of their first DVD, an underrated band that have consistently produced excellent albums that demand wider acclaim.

ALICE COOPER – With the added bonus of a cameo set from the surviving original Alice Cooper band members, The Coop showed again his timelessness and durability.

Worthy of mention/attention

ELEANOR McEVOY – a great gig in an unusual location.
OLIVER DAWSON SAXON – at Giants of Rock one of the most entertaining performances of the weekend.
STEVE ROTHERY BAND – only the earlier Marillion material detracted from a wonderful trip through Rothery’s excellent debut solo album.

Top Reissues

SAXON Solid Book Of Rock Box Set – a great job of packaging, highlighting a less frenetic period of the band’s history.
GRAHAM BONNET Anthology – aiding the revival of the one-time Rainbow/Schenker frontman who has regained his mojo in 2017.
BLACK SABBATH The Ten Year War Box Set – a definitive collection of the Ozzy period for those with very deep pockets.

Watch Out 2018!

AUSTIN GOLD - from Peterborough, a talented band with a great debut album mixing rock, prog and blues.
SHADOWQUEEN - Aussie female-fronted in need of a damn good European/UK tour.


The Best of 2017

DAVE WILSON Live Editor

Top Albums

CATS IN SPACE Scarecrow

CATS IN SPACE Scarecrow
Album number 2 from the band and another mix of clever song writing, excellent musicianship and amazing harmonies. An essential listen.

BLACK STAR RIDERS Heavy Fire
This was the third release from the guys and found them in fine form. They even managed to get ‘Testify Or Say Goodbye’ on the Radio 2 playlist which was quite an achievement’

DRAGONFORCE Reaching Into Infinity
This album found Dragonforce taking a heavier path than of late with a few tracks heading into thrash metal territory. Good to see the Dragon’ baring it’s teeth.

GUN Favourite Pleasures
A real return to form for the guys with their best album in years ranging from the rocking ‘She Knows’ to the reflective ‘Boy Who Fooled The World’.

GRAHAM BONNET BAND Live Here Comes The Night
This album captured Graham and the guys live at the Frontiers Festival in Italy. Bonnet is on good form (mostly!) with a great set list including one of my favourite songs ‘God Blessed Video’.

Saxon - STEELHOUSE FESTIVAL, Ebbw Vale, 30 July 2017Photo: Darren Griffiths

Top Live Acts

SAXON (pictured) – I have seen Saxon many times over the last 30 odd years but their Ramblin’ Man fair show was something special. A combination of the band firing on all cylinders coupled with a set list which included a full run through of ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ live album adding up to the set of the weekend.

Saxon play UK dates 23-25 February following release of the new studio album ‘Thunderbolt’.  More dates will be announced early in 2018.

CATS IN SPACE - Having caught the guys supporting Thunder earlier in the year I was keen to catch a headline set and I wasn’t disappointed. Excellent melodic rock with the best harmonies in the business.

BLACK STAR RIDERS – Another great night from one of the most consistent bands on the circuit.

TREVOR HORN BAND – This set was the highlight of a very wet day of 80′s classics at Rewind Festival.  Horn had amassed a top band to recreate some of the biggest hits of the Eighties which he had either written or produced.  Highlights included ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’, ‘Waterfront’ and a pumping rendition of ‘Relax’.

KISS – They may be getting long in the tooth and a bit wayward in the vocal department but Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley still know how to put on a show. We even had a marriage proposal in front of us as the confetti cannons blasted off during ‘Rock n Roll All Nite’!

REO SPEEDWAGON – This show was too late to make last year’s list coming in December but needs a mention as it was my top gig of 2016. It had been 30 years since I last saw the band live and they didn’t disappoint. A fantastic show from a band who still know how to rock.

Top Reissue

RUSH Farewell To Kings
It’s 40 years since this album was released and this re-issue features a remixed version of the original album along with a live gig from Hammersmith Odeon from 1977 and a few alternative versions of the original tracks. This album was my first experience of Rush which led to me becoming a firm fan of the band.

Watch Out 2018!

MASON HILL – The finest new band to emerge from Glasgow for years. The guys have being playing up and down the country and gaining great reviews in the process. With the top team from Shock City Productions behind them 2018 should see Mason Hill hit the big time.


Blues Rock Album of 2017

Marcus Malone - A Better Man

MARCUS MALONE A Better Man


The Best of 2017

PETE FEENSTRA Blues/Rock & Features Editor

Top Albums

Marcus Malone - A Better Man

1. MARCUS MALONE A Better Man

In his journey from being a West Coast Metal star, via Motown, to becoming a 5 star soulful blues-rocker, Marcus Malone has stepped up his game with 12 beautifully crafted songs that are given their full expression by an A-team of players who share their band leader’s musical vision.

‘A Better Man’ is a career best. It’s a classy song-led, blues-rock album with a soulful heart.Malone is a peerless vocalist and a hugely impressive songwriter and also has the Midas touch as a producer. ‘A Better Man’ is an essential purchase for all rock-blues fans.

KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD Lay It On Down

‘Lay It On Down’ is an instantly accessible album -  from the catchy hook of the opening ‘Baby Got Gone’ and the intricately worked title track ballad (reprised with a great vocal as a book-end to the album), through to the booming shuffle of ‘Ride Of Your Life’.

‘Lay It On Down’ is very much a contemporary blues-rock album that draws on blues, rock, country, soul, funk, R&B and contrasting narratives.

There’s no room for complacency, cliché or recycled riffs as the essential meeting of polished songs and a seasoned road band pushes Kenny to new artistic heights.

3 COCO MONTOYA Hard Truth

It’s rare for an artist in the middle of his career to push himself up to another level, but ‘Hard Truth’  is a career highlight for Coco Montoya.

It’s an object lesson in old school values.  You can feel Montoya’s life time experiences bubbling up in the tracks, almost as if he’s been waiting for this moment to lay down a defining solo performance. hold dynamics and an album glued together by an essential flow.

4 WALTER TROUT  We’re All In This Together

‘We’re All In This Together’ is a star studded album that celebrates Walter Trout’s blues related musical diversity.

It also finds him at the peak of his creativity, as he comes up with new ways to accommodate his special guests, as his band does him proud.

His guests act as catalyst for a broad based blues-rock album that flows from beginning to end. It burns with commitment, passion and sparkles with real quality that mirrors the triumph of the whole over the minutiae of its making.

5=  ELIZA NEALS  10.000 Feet Below

Eliza Neals’ brand of rock-blues shifts from hard edged noir filled narratives to emotive,  heartfelt and spontaneous moments that you might call blues expressionism.  It’s an album full of hard hitting colourful lyrics, unique phrasing and musical ebullience, never too far removed from her Detroit base.

She attacks each song with total commitment, passionate phrasing and draws on raw gut emotion from deep within her soul. Bold, innovative, passionate and smoking, simply one of the best blues-rock albums of the year!

5=  SPARKS Hippopotamus

‘Hippopotamus’ is a cross genre album bursting with creativity, humour and stylistic diversity. The lyrical word plays, eclectic themes and nuanced melodies are shaped by Russell Mael’s edgy falsetto and brother Ron’s stuttering rhythms, which gives the band its unique artistic style.

‘Hippopotamus’ is Sparks’s most complete work. It continues their apparent quest to tear up the rock manual and take their brand of music to new exciting places

Worthy of mention/attention

DAVID CROSBY Sky Trails Who would have thought that after a 20 year gap, septuagenarian David Crosby would return to cut his best album for years. A well crafted album, bursting with lyrical and musical ideas that gives him the perfect context for his undiminished talent.

MIKE ZITO Make Blues Not War  plus special guests reminds us of the power and poise of blue collar rocking blues.

THUNDER Rip It Up is arguably their best album for years. It’s a classic rock that plays to their strengths, as they rock hard, explore melodic depth, lyrical substance and enveloping hooks.

POPA CHUBBY crossed over with the indie blues album ‘The Catfish’,  while Kentucky band OTIS and their southern rock opus, ‘Eyes of The Sun’ on Purple Pyramid refreshed an often clichéd genre.

Then there was the larger than life MR. SIPP (‘The Mississippi Blues Child’ aka Castro Coleman)  who cut a great soul driven rock-blues album ‘Knock A Whole In It’ on Malaco & backed it up with a great show at the Edinburgh Blues Fest.  Not to forget DOYLE BRAMHALL II and ‘Rich Man’ on Concord a cross between by mysticism and the blues and he played some magical guitar at Under the Bridge in London

Finally a shout out to 2 Americana related albums with a broad appeal.

Firstly, ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO and ‘Burn Something Beautiful’ – which is a lovingly crafted rock/punk/blues Americana album, which he backed up with a stellar show at Bush hall in Shepherds Bush.  Then there was the Nashville based Texas troubadour JARROD DICKENSON and ‘Ready The Horses’ notable for its intimacy and pure song craft.

Top Live Acts

1 ELIZA NEALS  & THE NARCOTICS - The Detroit diva wrung every last drop of emotion from half a dozen different shows each night. Her booming voice towered over a core trio featuring the veteran Detroit  guitar legend Howard Gazer.

She rocked hard, got low-down with some ‘down in the alley’ blues and then got all soulful of some superbly self-penned material from her superb ’10,000 Feet Below’ album.

An absolutely unforgettable live performance.

2 KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD - He was on fire at the Ramblin’ Man festival, but his opening slot at the London Blues Fest took him to new levels of intensity.

He connected with the early evening crowd with an avalanche of power riffs, shuffle driven bombast and everything that is good in contemporary blues. Above all, he’s singing a lot more and provided the perfect foil for Noah Hunt’s earthy baritone.

3 ERIC GALES – His 2 London shows – particularly the Boom Boom Club Halloween show – were like a double cathartic release, as he cast away his demons with some monstrous guitar playing, a warm intimate vocal and some stellar band interplay with Jimi Hendrix into Blue Oyster Cult for good measure.

Eric Gales is a jaw dropping guitarist who sets the standards very few others can emulate.

4 SPARKS – 2 sell out nights at the Shepherds Bush Empire as part of a successful UK tour, not only points to the quirky duo’s durability, but also to their incredible creative resilience.

Buoyed by their #7 ‘Hippopotamus’ chart album, they rocked the Empire to it’s foundations with an unique show full of quirky humour, big dance beats, blistering rock (they have an incredible LA band in tow) and of course, timeless big hitters like ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us’,  Amateur Hour’ and the  new spellbinding classic ‘Edith Piaf Said It better Than Me.’

5 THE IMPERIAL CROWNS – The return of the Jimmie Wood/J.J. Holiday (Bob Dylan/Johnny Dep guitarist) combination, as part of one of these sublime, weird and wonderful gothic blues-rock bands that can only come from Southern California.

Now signed to Dixie Frog in France, The ‘Crowns played a handful of Euro festival dates including Bordeaux’s Relache Festival, where they stole the show with a mix of scintillating chops and Jimmie’s performance art, in tandem with his daughter Rachel C. Wood.  Stunning!

Top Reissues

THE PRETTY THINGS Greatest Hits
MIKE BLOOMFIELD  Live at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West
TAJ MAHAL Like Never Before/Dancing The Blues

Watch out 2018!  

BRENT HUTCHINSON BAND – Brighton’s finest, is an excellent guitar player and thoughtful songwriter with plenty of humour and bags of energy. He’s already made an impact with his debut ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ CD and will be part pf the 2018 ‘New Generation Blues ‘ tour.
ELLES BAILLEY – fine songwriter, impassioned singer and emotive performer on the up-escalator

ELIZA NEALS – THE most exciting performer and biggest voice I saw in 2017, with US chart album ’10,000 Feet Below’ as confirmation of her talent.

MARCUS FLYNN – Watch out for the forthcoming ‘Nothing But the Blues’ CD, as virtuoso session guitarist (The Guitar Legends), has allied his tone and shredding mastery to strong material in a rock/blues format.


Progressive Rock Album of 2017

MAGENTA - We Are Legend

MAGENTA We Are Legend


The Best of 2017

ALAN JONES

Top Albums

THEA GILMORE - The Counterweight

THEA GILMORE The Counterweight
This maybe a controversial choice as there has been a lot of talk about ‘commercial sell-out’ with this album from Thea – and it’s certainly true that there is a hint of the mainstream here.

But ‘sell-out’? Never in a million years.

Yes, the acoustic guitar has all but disappeared and yes, there are quite a few programmed beats and clicks – but rising above it all is Gilmore’s fabulous voice and her sheer brilliance as a songwriter.

Her acerbic wit and cynical world view are both intact and in full effect and with the song ‘The War’ she has surely hit a creative high.

THE CHURCH Man Woman Life Death Infinity
Ah, The Church. At one point in my life they were my all-time favourite band with their jangly pop/psyche searing its way into my soul with a run of fabulous albums in the ‘80s.

They went off the boil a bit with main man Steve Kilbey’s well documented substance abuse causing an ‘overdoing of the weird shit’.

But they are back with a bang with this, their 26th studio album – and it’s like they’ve never been away as all the guitar atmospherics and Kilbey’s ‘stream of consciousness’ lyrics have returned with a vengeance to deliver one of their finest albums.

MAGENTA We Are Legend
Yet another superb album from one of British progressive rock’s finest exponents.

Just the three tracks (how prog is that?) and yet the myriad of styles and mood-swings keep the listener enthralled throughout.  This is what Rob Reed does best and his understated keyboard work is a highlight here – as is Chris Fry’s stunning fretwork.

And has Christina Booth’s voice ever sounded better? I doubt it.

RICHARD THOMPSON  Acoustic Classics 2
Where Richard Thompson re-visits a set of classic songs from his prodigious back catalogue, some of which are heard for the first time in this stripped down acoustic format.

And what a set. The guitar work is absolutely sensational from beginning to end – so much so you question just how many people are playing at once. The answer is just the one.

Fabulous renditions of Fairport favourites such as Genesis Hall and Meet On The Ledge rub shoulders with solo gems such as Gethsemane, Bathsheba Smiles and She Twists The Knife Again to stunning effect.

LONDON GRAMMAR Truth Is A Beautiful Thing
I included London Grammar’s first album ‘If You Wait’ in my ‘Best Of’ for 2013 and said at the time that despite its hype in the musical press and it being more of a ‘pop’ record than GRTR!’s usual fare, the music was far too good to be wasted purely on the ‘download generation’.

If you have been spellbound by their take on Chris Isaac’s ‘Wicked Game’ trailing the BBC’s ‘Peaky Blinders’ series (not on this album, strangely), you will have some idea of what to expect here.

Skeletal guitar, keyboards, drums and click-beats are the order of the day – all wrapped up in Hannah Reid’s deliciously velvet tones.

And the whole thing works just beautifully.

Top Live Acts

Magenta - The Citadel, St.Helens, 13 May 2017
Photo: David Randall

MAGENTA – With the band celebrating fifteen years together and with the new, and superb album, ‘We Are Legend’ to promote, Rob Reed brought his Magenta family to St Helens and absolutely nailed it.

It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how good a band sound on record, the live experience is always a notch or two higher and Magenta were living proof of this.

It’s prog, but only to a certain degree – mostly it’s just superb rock music, masterfully played to an appreciative and knowledgeable crowd.

Reed himself is very self-deprecating, which is ridiculous given his songwriting and keyboard prowess, Chris Fry must be the most underrated guitarist in rock and Christina Booth’s vocals could bring tears to a glass eye.

A brilliant night. a brilliant band.

PANIC ROOM – Yet another fantastic gig in the intimate surroundings of St Helen’s Citadel Theatre.

Since the addition of Dave ‘The Dave’ Foster, the band have really upped their game, and if you’re aware of their back-catalogue, you’ll know what an achievement that is.

The venue was packed with ‘Roomies’ hanging on every note and the band did not disappoint, plundering said back-catalogue for gems that sound even better in the live environment.

They deserve to be much better known and if they keep up this level their time will surely come.

If you haven’t checked them out yet I would urge you to do so at the earliest opportunity – a band this good should be, and I choose my words carefully, for the many not the few…

Top Reissue

MARILLION  Misplaced Childhood
An absolutely sumptuous 5 disc ‘digibook’ reissue of Marillion’s classic ‘Misplaced Childhood’ which, alongside ‘Clutching At Straws’ was probably the band’s finest outing of the Fish era.

For a quite reasonable price you get the whole album remastered, a 1985 live gig in Utrecht featuring the MC album run through in its entirety, a disc of singles, B-sides, versions and demos and a blu

ray disc with the (almost inevitable) Steven Wilson 5.1 remixes – plus a 72 minute documentary and four promo videos.

The sound is fabulous throughout, the packaging superb (designed by long time collaborator Mark Wilkinson) and the music magical.

What more could anyone ask for?


Singer Songwriter Album of 2017

JUDIE TZUKE - Peace Has Broken Out

JUDIE TZUKE  Peace Has Broken Out


The Best of 2017

PETE WHALLEY

Top Albums

JUDIE TZUKE - Peace Has Broken Out

JUDIE TZUKE  Peace Has Broken Out
An exquisite album from one on the most overlooked songwriters of her generation.

SHERYL CROW  Be Myself
After detours into soul and country, Sheryl Crow back at her pop/rock best.

BLACK STAR RIDERS  Heavy Fire
Album number three, and Black Star Riders are finally emerging from the long shadow of Thin Lizzy.

AIMEE MANN  Mental Illness
Stripped back, and downbeat, one of her most consistent (and perhaps best) albums to date.

THUNDER Rip It Up
Bigger, better and harder, Thunder show they still have plenty left in the tank.

Marillion - Manchester Academy, 8 November 2017
Photo: David Randall

Top Live Acts

MARILLION (pictured) – The best live band on the planet?  The best frontman in the world?  Quite probably.

ALICE COOPER  – When it comes to ‘entertainment’, no one does it better.

ELEANOR McEVOY - Ireland’s best singer songwriter, studio quality sound, cask ale, and a hot supper at small venue.  Sensational.

Jethro Tull performed by IAN ANDERSON – In the low ceilinged, club atmosphere of ‘Reds’ (Giants Of Rock) this was like being time warped back to 1969.

Ian Anderson plays UK dates 3-17 April.

OLIVER/DAWSON SAXON – Fantastic songs, fantastic fun (Giants of Rock).  Rock with a smile on its face.

Top Reissue

STEVE HOGARTH  H Natural Cologne 8 January 2011
Perhaps not technically a re-issue but this mixing desk download (available from marillion.com) is one of the most engaging piano/vocal performances you’ll hear this year, or any year.

Watch Out 2018!

D2UR – Good, ‘old fashioned’, Whistle Test era, no-frills, female fronted, rock ‘n’ roll.  Tic Toc.

RICH HOPKINS AND LUMINARIOS – With the sad passing of Tom Petty, Rich Hopkins, with his free flowing southern rock, could be just the man to fill the void.

KISS THE GUN – Highly polished, 80′s style, melodic rock, with outstanding vocals from Nadin Zakharian and shared DNA with bands like Vixen and Saraya.


Melodic Rock Album of 2017

ECLIPSE Monumentum


The Best of 2017

ANDY NATHAN

Top albums

1 ECLIPSE Monumentum

The Swedes take their consistent recent excellence to a new level with a more direct approach of would be stadium-filling anthems

2 TOKYO MOTOR FIST

Awful band name, but joyous uptempo songs from Steve Brown and Ted Poley that fuse the best elements of their parent bands Trixter and Danger Danger

3 H.E.A.T. Into The Great Unknown

A comeback album that takes chances with new sounds and divided opinion, but will stand the test of time as the young Swedes most complete work yet

4 HAREM SCAREM United

The classy Canadians deliver their most directly melodic album since the early nineties.

5 KING KING Exile & Grace

Confirming their rich vein of form, Alan Nimmo steers the band further into the classic Bad Co/Thunder blues rock territory

King King play UK dates 17-27 January.

Harem Scarem
Photo: Andy Nathan

Top Live Acts

1 ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL – The new mecca for melodic rock fans pulled off a coup with the contrasting talents of Vince Neil and Loverboy, but it was sets by the likes of Dare and Harem Scarem (pictured) that most impressed.

2 SUMMERFEST – A memorable trip for my 50th to the world’s largest music festival, itself celebrating its half century. Toto, REO Speedwagon and Dennis De Young were AOR bliss, but in hindsight the most poignant highlight of this 11 day festival was seeing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on such vibrant form.

3 MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST – The German guitar maestro is playing better than ever and a special show with all three of MSG’s old singers was a memorable trip back to my youth

4 GLENN HUGHES – Singing as well as ever than ever, the Voice of Rock surrounded himself with talented Scandinavian players and delivered a definitive career spanning set.

5 KISS – Paul Stanley’s voice may be on its last legs, but no-one does a more spectacular arena show. We will not see their like again.

Watch Out 2018!

After prestige spots on the Deep Purple and Quo tours, I’d love to see the wonderful retro sounds of CATS IN SPACE break into the big time with headline shows.

Their recent high-energy London gig should lead to H.E.A.T. being pushed forward as an unmissable live act, and I live in hope that the next VEGA album will be the one to spark more mainstream success.


The Best of 2017

DAVE ATKINSON

Top Albums

Black Country Communion - BCCIV

1 BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION  BCCIV
When Bonamassa walked out of Black Country Communion in 2013, you could have taken long odds on a reunion with Hughes. And yet here we are, barely four years later, with a fourth studio outing that buries the hatchet deep and then stomps all over its resting place.

This album rattles with energy and hums with class. Kevin Shirley, the unofficial fifth member, has sprinkled his magic production dust to deliver a coherent, lush sound that still retains plenty of bite and edge.  This is cast iron classic hard rock. Beautifully conceived and expertly delivered.

Black Country Communion play Wolverhampton Civic Hall, 2 January and London Hammersmith Apollo, 4 January.

2 KING KING  Exile & Grace
 A crossover album from Alan Nimmo and the boys sees a chunkier, more mainstream sound welded to their established bluesrock roots. The result is a very fine album chock full of wellcrafted, splendidly played tracks drawing influences from the likes of Thunder (‘(She Don’t) Gimme No Loving’), Bad Company (‘Broken’) and all points in between. A band going places fast.

3 CHRIS REA  Road Songs For Lovers
Chris Rea’s first album of new material since 2011′s ‘Santo Spirito Blues’ represents a much more visceral come back than most. The legacy of the stroke that Rea suffered in 2016 means a voice even more husky than previously and a clutch of tunes as strong and grounded as any in his 26album career. Blues rockers and gritty ballads fit easily together in a sparse, classy production of very fine musicianship.

4 COCO MONTOYA   Hard Truth
 Montoya, a former protégé of Albert Collins and tenyear resident of the reformed Bluesbreakers, had passed me by until this cool, hot, insistent album hit the racks in the Spring. Montoya’s choice of songs on ‘Hard Truth’ mostly showcases his funky blues style and electrifying slide work not a million miles away from Collins himself or Stevie Ray Vaughan, underpinned by sincere vocals, and a great band with some beautiful Hammond.

5 CATS IN SPACE  Scarecrow
This list needs something to lighten the mood. Step forward Cats In Space. The second album from these pop rockers is a joyful thing, packed with fizzing ideas, ridiculously catchy harmonies, fat riffs, pompy keyboards, dazzling guitar solos and uplifting vocals. ‘Broken Wing’ has it all. Yes it’s all a bit 1970′s, but what more could you need, really?

Tough year though  honourable mentions and near misses include Black Star Riders, Threshold, Inglorious and UFO.

Top Live Acts

Black Sabbath - DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016
Photo: Andy Nathan

1 BLACK SABBATH
Gloomy, doomladen and portentous. And that was just the weather outside the O2. The mood was set fair for Sabbath’s last ever show in London. The inventors of Heavy Metal did not disappoint  it was their darker material that won through on this epic night. ‘After Forever’ was a relentless grind of shattering power; and ‘Into The Void’ was a highlight of unholy detuned guitar blackness. Credibility intact right to The End.

Check out our “The End” DVD Comp!

2 BLACKBERRY SMOKE
I was already a fan of Blackberry Smoke’s eclectic mix of blues, hard rock, boogie and country before seeing them live. Afterwards I was ready to confirm them one of the best live bands I’d seen this year. Their genius is to create an uplifting vibe through sheer force of musicality. Every set is different and it feels like they could chuck in any song and make it work. Soul affirming.

3 IRON MAIDEN
Rain or shine, peace or war, Iron Maiden always seem to rise above the prevailing circumstances (including their own dodgy material on some occasions) and deliver live shows packed with drama, escapism, humour and class entertainment out of the very top drawer. This show was no exception. National treasures, the lot of ‘em.

4. RAMBLIN’ MAN FAIR  (Sunday)
Lumping three fine performances together from one extraordinary afternoon at Mote Park. Blues Pills played a zesty 50 minutes, pulling off quite a trick by making the classic late ’60′s and early ’70′s music of Joplin, Led Zep and early Fleetwood Mac sound fresh and vital.

Then dear old Magnum played a wonderful, nostalgic set drawn from their 1980′s pomp and choreographed by Bob Catley’s jazz hands to an enthralled audience. Finally, UFO brought a classy, challenging show to Kent, inevitably steered to dizzying heights by a brilliant ‘Doctor Doctor’, prompting unbridled jigging from a field full of 50something girls and boys. There’s life in the old dogs yet.

5. PARADISE LOST
A stirring night of in north London of gothic bombast, dark riffs, brooding lyrics and rising musical tension. Paradise Lost, the architects of doom/gothic metal have been around for 30 years or so and this gig paid due respects to their full canon. Genre defining.

Top Reissue

BLACK SABBATH  The Ten Year War Boxed Set Black Sabbath’s Ozzyfronted albums have been given a monster remaster and the full luxury box set reissue treatment. It is quite a piece of work: eight albums on heavyweight splattervinyl encased in original artwork gatefold sleeves; a brochure; a poster and a crucistick USB of the albums. The music stands up absolutely, after all these years, and revisiting them in detail all for this review was an absolute pleasure.

Watch out 2018!

THE ORWELLS
Spotted on the undercard at Green Day’s Hyde Park gig, The Orwells are quite a handful. There’s an infectious energy about this Chicago outfit’s loose punk, grunge, Pixies/ Smashing Pumpkins clatter. The real edge is provided by the unpredicatable vocalist Mario Cuomo whose onstage antics provide a riveting focus. Looking forward to catching them again soon.


The Best of 2017

MARK “Mad Dog” SHAW

Top Albums

THE MAGPIE SALUTE
On this evidence, there is plenty to come from The Magpie Salute  their limit is probably the entire history of recorded music plus the Crowes’ crowd-pleasers, obscure and otherwise, and I can only imagine what quality will flow when they get around to writing original songs.

A Tour de Force indeed, all driven by spiritual leader Rich Robinson  with total respect for all the members of the Magpie Salute, I never thought I’d see a repeat of the way Leon Russell orchestrated Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen but now I have….and I believe.”

2   CHRIS ROBINSON BAND  Barefoot In The Head
Feral, far-out, hippy, trippy and vocally honey-drippy”, the band that, for me, has it all and pleases its fans like few others, averaging at least a couple of releases per year and relentless touring. Total Music re-defined.

THE DAWN BROTHERS  s/t
Honestly, nothing has impacted me more since The Temperance Movement announced themselves on the scene a few years ago. The Dawn Brothers debut album, Stayin’ Out Late, is quite simply a brilliant record – I mean, crazy good.

GRTR! doesn’t give scores of ten but if we did…….after just two plays, this album got an instant five both times and that always made ten when I was at school.

REX BROWN Smoke On This
Judge a book by its cover at your peril, especially when that man is former Pantera/Down bass-slinger turned six-stringer, Rex Brown  who comes off an entire life of rocking the road with a firm vow to shake some shit up.

I love the excitement and anticipation of listening to an artist who, entirely without pretense, goes back to the roots of his creative flow to produce a record of what’s truly inside, unschackled by preconceptions and able to revel in musical freedom. The former Cowboy from Hell is back amongst us and on the strength of “Smoke On This…..”, Rex Brown can consider the shit honestly and faithfully shaken up  excellent stuff.”

DEVILFIRE  Dark Manoeuvres
This genre is not exactly untrodden and Devilfire aren’t re-inventing the wheel here but you can tell they know their way around the sciences of high octane riffology and big vocal choruses. And they have a drummer called Lars  just sayin’…. there’s enough quality here to suggest that Devilfire has arrived with a belting debut and will be putting the Brummy boot in for years to come


Photo: Paul Clampin

Top Live Acts

THE MAGPIE SALUTE – Lightning in a bottle spontaneity, an almost unlimited choice of songs, executed by a humble band who just know they’re brilliant. This was only their fifth ever gig together and now they’ve chalked up over 60 shows on a massive US tour in 2017  finely-tuned and fearsome by now.

MICHAEL KINAWUKA – Very classy show and band fronted by one of Britain’s foremost singer/songwriters today, Kiwanuka’s music is warm, from-the-heart, very accessible and cool. Thanks to my missus for bringing him to my attention.

UFO – What’s not to love about cynical, world-weary and wonderfully-sardonic Phil leading this great band through their decades-spanning legacy of classics. British rock royalty….Sir Phil, anyone?

MACY GRAY – Cooler than a pint of Clooney on ice, oozing sexy in floor length, sparkly gold skin-tight dress and black leather bikers gloves with fingers cut out, Grandma’s standard lamps with shades on stage, funking great band, potty-mouthed but in the cute way a five year old says fuck for the first time…..and all in a chapel, serving mugs of tea and cushions for numb-bum avoidance. Brilliant night.

THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT – Caught them on their “Small Rooms, New Tunes” tour at The Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes on 19 Nov but already had this listed as a gig of the year in advance…and I was right.

Up close, very personal and so, so good. The new tunes from the forthcoming “Deeper Cut” album came across like a comfy pair of slippers  a modern take on the rock niche…high energy, melodic, faithful to their roots  a damn fine band.

Watch out 2018!

ELIZA NEALS -  her latest album 10,000 Feet Below is a soulful, passionate bluesy affair. Nipping at the heels of “Beth Hart-ness”….she must rise to a wider audience in 2018
MAGPIE SALUTE -  double album of original material announced for 2018. Double album.old school, can’t wait.
GRETA VAN FLEET -  as long as their Zeppelin-ness doesn’t work against them (and why would it). Carrying the torch for classic Classic Rock in 2018…and thank goodness !!


The Best of 2017

NIKK GUNNS

Top Albums

LA GUNS - The Missing Peace

JUNKYARD High Water
The band’s first new album in 26 years, it certainly does not disappoint.

LA GUNS The Missing Peace
A great effort from the reunited Lewis/Guns incarnation of the band.

STEPHEN PEARCY Smash
Revitalised and sounding as good as ever, it was only a matter of time before Pearcy would re-join his old band mates (well, most of them).

MOTORHEAD Under Cover
Although nearly all have been previously released this fun collection of covers is a poignant farewell to the much loved Lemmy.

ALICE COOPER Paranormal
Featuring the surviving members of the original Cooper Band amongst the new material, this is one of Alice Cooper’s best albums in years.

BLACK STAR RIDERS Heavy Fire
With the band now pulling away from the Thin Lizzy legacy, their third album is their best to date.

VAIN Rolling With The Punches
I swear it is like time has stood still.

Junkyard
Photo: Andy Nathan

Top Live Acts

LA GUNS – a lesson in rolling back the decades.

MR BIG – simply flawless, good support from Faster Pussycat too.

JUNKYARD (pictured)/The Dead Boys – two great bands and on Sunset Strip too, would have been rude not to.

BLACK STAR RIDERS -  great line up and gig also including The Backyard Babies and Gun.

THUNDER – never fail when it comes to putting on a great gig.

Top Reissues

THE ROLLING STONES Totally Stripped
Stripped was a great album and the Totally Stripped set brings together the complete shows that were filmed, a new documentary and what you could describe as a new album as it is made up of different tracks from the original release

TOM KEIFER The Way Life Goes Deluxe Edition
A great album to start with, the new edition features extra tracks, deluxe packaging and a DVD

DEF LEPPARD Hysteria 30th Anniversary Edition
Nothing here that is previously unreleased but the super deluxe edition brings everything together rather nicely

WHITESNAKE 1987 30th Anniversary Edition
Remixes, demos, live tracks, a DVD. The super deluxe edition is essential

INXS Kick 30th Anniversary
Not dissimilar to the 25th anniversary edition but this is one of the best albums of the ’80′s when it comes to blurring the lines between rock and pop

Non-show: Guns n Roses Appetite for Destruction 30th Anniversary Edition- where is it? This would have been the ideal time to really thank the fans for sticking by the band

Watch Out 2018!

Two bands that have issued a handful of singles via iTunes are ANGELS IN VEIN and THE CRUEL INTENTIONS the latter of which are currently recording their debut album.

The third one to watch is the re-emerging STONE TEMPLE PILOTS who have just released their comeback single Meadow, the first to feature new singer Jeff Gutt


The Best of 2017

JOE GEESIN

Top Albums

DEEP PURPLE - inFinite

DEEP PURPLE inFinite (CD+DVD)

THUNDERSTICK Something Wicked Your Way Comes (CD)

GRAHAM BONNET BAND Live Here Comes The Night (CD+DVD)

ELOY Reincarnation On Stage (2CD)

MICHAEL SCHENKER Live In Tokyo (2CD + DVD)

Top Reissues

BLACK SABBATH The Ten Year War (8LP + 2*7″ + Crucistick)
SAXON Solid Book Of Rock (11CD+3DVD)
SAMSON The Polydor Years (3CD box)
COZY POWELL The Polydor Years (3CD box)
ALCATRAZZ The Ultimate Fortress (5CD+DVD)

The Best of 2017

DARREN JOHNSON

Top Albums

PETER KNIGHT'S GIGSPANNER - The Wife Of Urban Law

 1. CHUCK BERRY Chuck
A fitting parting gift from the original rock n roll hero.

2. PETER KNIGHT’S GIGSPANNER  The Wife Of Urban Law
Hypnotic, infectious, inventive and utterly, utterly unique, Peter Knight’s Gigspanner continue to shine and this is yet another superb album from the trio.

3. ROCK GODDESS It’s More Than Rock n Roll EP

A perfect slice of NWOBHM at its finest. Hoping for a full album soon!

4. THE YOUNG ‘UNS Strangers

It’s great to see north east singing trio The Young Uns finally getting the wider critical recognation they deserve.

5. LIV SIN Follow Me 

Good, hard-rockin, memorable metal tunes and a welcome start to a post-Sister Sin solo career.

Fairport Convention - Cropredy, 13-15 August 2015
Photo: Simon Dunkerley

Top Live Acts

1. FAIRPORT CONVENTION (pictured)  – Having seen Fairport Convention on stage some twenty-five times now and never once failing to enjoy them, for me this Cropredy performance has easily been the best. A stunning way to celebrate fifty years.

2. STONE ROSES – From the moment they first walk on stage to play ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ to the last climatic strains of “I Am The Resurrection’ the whole show is pretty much a celebration of that unforgettable and seemingly unrepeatable debut album.

3. RITCHIE BLACKMORE’S RAINBOW – At the age of 51, the teenage rock fan in me has finally got to see Ritchie Blackmore live on stage and has finally got to attend a Rainbow gig.  He is happy.

4. HOLY HOLY – Showing a way forward as to how we can continue to enjoy some of the greatest music of the twentieth century well into the twenty-first.  A genuinely and truly impressive gig.

5. ROCK GODDESS – Three decades on it is great to see them back  even if all-women metal bands appear to be almost as rare today as when Rock Goddess cut their first single.

Top Reissue

THE SWEET Boxed Set (Sensational Sweet  Chapter One The Wild Bunch)

Erm I haven’t actually listened to it yet but I just know it will be brilliant. On my Christmas present list!

Watch Out 2018!

1. KILLIT – (winner of the Introducing Stage at Giants Of Rock 2017 and back on the main stage in 2018)

2. SLAM CARTEL – A hard ‘n heavy yet infectiously melodic approach, a charismatic and energetic front-man and a superb set of songs.

3. DIGGETH -  Dutch heavy metal band Diggeth deliver some great classic-inspired hard rock and have a new album out in 2018


CHRIS MARTIN

Top Albums

1. HAREM SCAREM United
2. MIND MAZE Resolve
3. ROMEO RIOT Sing It Loud
4. JEFF SCOTT SOTO Retribution
5. DAYDREAM XI The Circus of the Tattered and Torn

Top Live Acts

1. PROGPOWER USA 2017
2. GORGUTS
3. Y&T
4. ALICE COOPER
5. DWEEZIL ZAPPA

Top Reissue

MILLENNIUM  Hourglass: The Complete Sessions

Watch out 2018!

ROMEO RIOT
MIDNITE CITY
VUUR


Albums of The Month 2017

The Best of 2016



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Power Plays w/c 27 November


We’re featuring tracks selected since January 2017.


Featured Albums w/c 27 November (Mon-Fri)

We’re including a selection of albums featured since January 2017.
09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock/AOR
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter



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