In this two hour special, first broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on Sunday 22 December, David Randall plays ‘The Best of 2019′ and announces the results of the popular poll.
The Get Ready to ROCK! end of year ‘Best of’ fully reflects the reviewers’ and the website’s eclectic tastes. Their reviews are amongst the most highly visible and authoritative on the web.
The Best of… has been a feature on the website since 2003 and forms a definitive and critical guide to any particular year. You can view previous years by following links here.
From Monday 9 December, in the run-up to Christmas, we open up a popular vote when you can indicate your own favourites in each category.
On Sunday 22 December, on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, the results of the popular vote are announced with a selection of the voters and reviewers’ favourites in 2019.
Throughout December, Get Ready to ROCK! Radio will feature ‘Best of’ selections throughout their playlists.
It’s difficult with such an eclectic selection to pick out overall “top” positions and achieve any consensus. We’ve taken into consideration more than one reviewer making the same selection, and the relative rankings allocating 5 points to a No.1 position and so on. The top albums listed in genre categories are taken from those reviewer specialists on the GRTR! team.
(Photos by John Ball (Rockrpix), Paul Clampin, Andy Nathan, David Randall, Jason Ritchie, Dave Wilson)
1.THE NEW ROSES Nothing But Wild
2.REBECCA DOWNES More Sinner Than Saint
3.CHASING THE MONSOON No Ordinary World
4.BUCK AND EVANS Write A Better Day
5.MICHAEL THOMPSON BAND Love And Beyond
6.THE WILDHEARTS Renaissance Men
Top Live Acts
2. MARTIN BARRE BAND
3. ZAL CLEMINSON’S SIN’DOGS
RORY GALLAGHER Blues
The GRTR! Reviewer selections
JASON RITCHIE (News and Reviews Editor):
1. THE DIVINE COMEDY Office Politics
A real tour de force on this double album. It has everyting from the pop classic ‘Norma and Norman’ through to the avant garde pop of ‘Phillip and Steve’s Furniture Removal Company’. Quirky pop perfection.
2. PHIL LANZON 48 Seconds
Phil Lanzon has come up trumps again, no mean feat considering the quality of last year’s album and he shows no sign of lacking musical ideas or memorable tunes. Not quite making the number one spot for the second year running, he still produced an album of memorable songs and will there be another album next year? We can but hope!
3. JAMIE FREEMAN Dreams About Falling
A fantastic mix of country, Americana and pop from a talented singer songwriter. A new name to this reviewer and one of the most played albums this year for me.
4. STEELEYE SPAN Est’d 1969
The band celebrate their 50th anniversary with one of their best studio albums to date. Steeleye Span are sailing with confidence into their fiftieth anniversary, backed by this very enjoyable album and the band’s seemingly endless love of getting out and performing live in order to keep their songs and traditional music alive.
5. = BIG BIG TRAIN Grand Tour
Their sound moves on from the pastoral themes of the past couple of albums into a wider scope, a world tour of the arts and discovery. They keep their high musical standards and in ‘Alive’ have produced one of the feel good anthems of the year.
5. = JIM PETERIK & WORLD STAGE Winds Of Change
In a year when there were plenty of new melodic rock/AOR releases, few really stood out and warranted repeated plays. This album is one of the few and with guests including Don Barnes, Kevin Cronin and Dennis de Young plus the writing skills of Jim Peterik, you know you are in for a treat and some melodic rock gold.
DAVE WILSON (Live Editor):
This was the bands first album in 10 years and it proved to be well worth the wait. From the full on industrial rock of ‘Deutschland’ and ‘Radio’ to the quiet and reflective ‘Diamant’ the band covered all bases.
BLACK STAR RIDERS Another State Of Grace
This was another top release from the guys and the first without Damon Johnson on guitar. The fact that the song writing and musicianship didn’t falter was testament to the quality of all the band and new guitarist Christian Martucci.
THE WILDHEARTS Renaissance Men
Ginger and the guys returned with a cracker of a record that rocked hard and heavy. It contained all the usual multi layered harmonies that the Wildhearts are famous for and hooks big enough to knock out a heavy weight boxer!
The Wildhearts play UK dates 28 January – 4 February.
THE NEW ROSES Nothing But Wild
I turned up late to the party on this one as this is album number 4 from the guys, but what an introduction! The music on offer was superb melodic heavy rock with great vocals and the album contained one of my tracks of the year in the shape of the radio friendly ‘Down By The River’.
STATUS QUO Backbone
Possibly one of the surprises of the year, this album was the sound of a band revitalised. An album under the Quo name without Rick Parfitt was always going to split opinion but the quality and new found energy throughout the album won a lot of well-deserved critical acclaim.
The Quo play UK dates 27 November – 6 December.
DAVID RANDALL (Managing Editor):
1. MICHAEL THOMPSON BAND Love & Beyond
West Coast/AOR at its best. Great musicianship, memorable songs.
2. REBECCA DOWNES More Sinner Than Saint
Rebecca goes rock, or at least rockier than previously. Great voice and craftsmanship. (See also Pete Whalley’s comments)
3. CHASING THE MONSOON No Ordinary World
A decade or more in the making but certainly worth the toil. Whilst freely referencing known progsters in parts (Yes, Floyd etc) still a convincing whole, and beautifully produced.
4. DANNY BEARDSLEY Blood From A Stone
One time with a metal combo and a prog metal trio Beardsley upped the ante for his solo debut. Robust hard rock and great playing.
5. BUCK AND EVANS Write A Better Day
A fine album with some real standout tracks, and great vocals from Sally Ann Evans.
Top Blues Rock Album
PETE FEENSTRA (Blues/Rock Editor and Features Editor):
1) BUCK AND EVANS Write A Better Day
This album has just been re-issued after an abortive release earlier in the year on Pledge and it’s a killer album full of real song craft and great playing.
Somewhere between the twin imperatives of rock and soul, there’s enough energy to spark their blues and funk antecedents, as well as the west coast feel and the hints of psychedelia to be found in Buck’s guitar playing. In Sally Ann Evans they have a vocalist who lives and breathes the lyrics she sings.
2) PAUL GILBERT Behold The Electric Guitar
‘Behold The Electric Guitar’ is a delightful, passionate, adventurous and imaginative album.
Paul Gilbert always looks forward to new possibilities with solos that have a freshness and spirit so often lacking in contemporary shredders, but then again he has so much more to his armoury than simply speed and a relentless barrage of notes.
3) CHANTEL McGREGOR Bury’d Alive
What you hear is what went down on the night. Chantel McGregor champions new music with an intensity that transforms her own songs into something different from what they were originally.
‘Bury’d Alive’ is a visceral journey through her Gothic lyrical imagery within a rock framework, think grunge, metal, alt. rock, prog, melodic rock and rock-blues influences.
4) 4th LABYRINTH Better
‘Better’ is their best album by some distance and takes us on a wide ranging musical journey rooted in the twin imperatives of classic and prog rock, offset by keyboard-led new wave elements and contrasting grungy riffs.
‘Better’ is an album that makes good use of dynamics and the band’s intricately woven interplay. It’s all topped by a magnificent performance by the keyboard playing, vocalist, songwriter and producer Marcel Kunkel who also wrote the material.
5= ALBERT CASTIGLIA Masterpiece
A perfectly balanced slice of everything that’s good about the South. ‘Masterpiece’ broadens Castiglia’s musical scope from Chicago blues into a more stripped down Americana and song driven direction. He forges his own roots rocking blues style, as his producer Mike Zito strips things down to focus on Castiglia’s heartfelt lyrics. The result is contemporary blues at its finest, as part of a rough-hewn ‘Masterpiece’
5= CLIMAX BLUES BAND Hand of Time
It’s an aptly titled album that that reflects both the passing of the band’s former leader Colin Cooper, while offering a key to a mellow song-driven set on which vocalist Graham Dee and sax player Chris Aldridge make the most of the grooves. It’s the sound of a mature band drawing on historic roots to explore polished songcraft blues, funk and soul with catchy hooks.
Too good to overlook
KYLA BROX Pain & Glory
A very cool, but soulful blues album. The challenge for this album is to find material good enough to showcase Kyla Brox’s superb voice and ‘Pain & Glory’ does so with plenty of variety.
There a handful of outstanding tracks on a consistently good album that perfectly matches her voice and fulfills the band’s potential.
Top Melodic Rock Album
1 THE DEFIANTS Zokusho
Danger Danger members raise the bar even further on their second album with huge hooks and swaggering choruses delivered with a modern freshness.
2 THE NEW ROSES Nothing But Wild
The Germans confirm the promise of their last album with a series of memorably catchy e songs blending AC/DC like riffing with Petty and Mellancamp inspired storytelling skills.
3 MICHAEL THOMPSON BAND Love And Beyond
A lovingly crafted album of the very best in West Coast-inspired AOR with thoughtful arrangements.
4 BUCK AND EVANS Write A Better Day
Long awaited first album from the Welsh outfit blends rock, soul and blues in an original and stunning way.
5 FIRST SIGNAL Line Of Fire
A rare example of a melodic rock studio collaboration that works perfect mix of keys and guitars topped off by Harry Hess’ vocals.
Too good to overlook
Black Star Riders – Another State of Grace; Burning Rain – Face the Music; Fortune- II; Work of Art – Exhibits
Top Singer Songwriter Album
REBECCA DOWNES More Sinner Than Saint
An early pace setter and one that’s held the chasing pack at bay all year. After a couple of run of the mill blues/rock albums, More Sinner Than Saint saw Downes drop a shoulder, and shimmy into the mainstream. And how. Brilliant songs, brilliant playing, brilliant singing, and brilliantly produced. A game changer, and a worthy album of the year.
CHASING THE MONSOON No Ordinary World
Wearing its influences unashamedly, this highly melodic/mildly ambient rock album masterminded by Karnataka’s Ian Jones, spiced with just a soupçon of World elements and Lisa Fury’s sublime vocals, is a brilliantly produced record of tantalising beauty. Stunning.
Packed to the brim with New Wave synth beats, fabulous melodies, sumptuous hooks, and Terri Nunn’s sexually charged vocals, Transcendance is one of those rare beasts a perfectly crafted pop/rock album. And one that finally lays to rest the ghost of Take Your Breath Away. Remarkable.
Berlin’s European tour is postponed to May 2020.
IZZ Don’t Panic
‘Accessible’ and ‘hard core prog’ aren’t words normally found together. But Don’t Panic boasts some marvellous melodies, some of the most accomplished playing, and one of finest productions of 2019. Like vocalist Laura Meade’s solo album last year, an infinitely listenable album that keeps on giving.
And lastly, but not least, two albums from 2018 that hadn’t surfaced on my radar when the shutters came down on last year’s nominations:
Too good to overlook:
ZAL CLEMINSON’S SIN’DOGS Vol. 1
Ten of the heaviest, uncompromising, hardest hitting numbers you’ll hear in a lifetime, as Zal came out of retirement to rediscover his youth. Perhaps the most underrated guitarist of his generation, here with his amps turned up to 11, and his Sin Dogs unleashed. Iconic.
Another monster, this time, a Dutch/ Norwegian hard rock, cross border collaboration between Nightwish vocalist Floor Jansen, and Pagan’s Mind guitarist Jørn Viggo Lofstad. A veritable melodic powerfest of screaming guitar and vocals 100% guaranteed to remove even the most stubborn of ear wax. Exquisite.
Exploring love and aging, and with her spasmodic dysphonia enforced semi spoken vocals lending a unique fragility to proceedings, River Of Light sees Kristina Stykos spinning tales of hardships, hope and redemption in the solitude of the Vermont Green Mountains. Underpinned by some sublime guitar work, River Of Light is a heady brew of alt country / folk meriting wider appreciation.
Top Progressive Rock Album
IAMTHEMORNING The Bell
1. IAMTHEMORNING The Bell
The other-worldly piano playing of Gleb Kolyadin and ethereal vocals of Marjana Semkina combine to produce a contemporary masterpiece.
In lesser hands this could easily have just become a mournful melancholia masterclass, but such is the mastery of the songwriting and the sheer brilliance of the musicianship that the album is awe-inspiring, hopeful and uplifting in equal measure.
Kolyadin’s piano work is staggering paradoxically in both its complexity and simplicity and Semkina’s sublime, delicate vocals both complement and enhance the instrumentation in a way that will leave you open-mouthed.
In what has been an excellent year for music, this takes the prize for its sheer, understated brilliance.
2. RPWL Tales From Outer Space
German progressive/art rock behemoths RPWL have been at the forefront of the European prog scene for many years now and this album shows why.
There’s not a duff track to be seen and in Yogi Lang and Kalle Wallner they have one of both the best vocalists and guitar players around.
I said in my review that it is only every so often an album as fine as this comes around and in the swirling mass of bugger all that passes for much of music these days, the opportunity to absorb its brilliance should not, and must not, be missed.
3. STEVE HACKETT At The Edge Of Light
Yet another gem from the redoubtable Mr. Hackett. With his ongoing ‘Genesis Revisited’ shows – which have been brilliant – it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that he’s still creating music of sublime quality.
With its world music flavours and staggering virtuosity from all the musicians, it’s right up there with his finest work and with the solo on ‘Those Golden Wings’ I think he’s eclipsed ‘that’ solo on ‘Firth Of Fifth’.
Steve Hackett has announced a new UK tour for November 2020 playing ‘Seconds Out’ in its entirety.
4. THEA GILMORE Small World Turning
Thea came in for a bit of stick for her previous outing ‘The Counterweight’ – its beats, clicks and contemporary sheen not being to everyone’s taste, although I thought it was excellent and produced one of her finest songs in ‘The War’.
‘Small World Turning’ returns to her “contemporary folk” roots with another wonderful collection of pithy, insightful and intelligent songs, underlining that she is one of, if not the finest, female singer/songwriters this country has produced.
5. CHASING THE MONSOON No Ordinary World
Something like sixteen years in gestation, Karnataka’s main man Ian Jones has finally released ‘No Ordinary World’.
Has it been worth the wait? Most definitely – it’s forays into world music cut with Karnataka’s brand of Celtic folk/rock is a heady brew, and in Lisa Fury they have found the perfect voice to deliver a captivating album.
1. THE KRIS BARRAS BAND Light It Up
A sumptuous collection from Mr Barras who is hitting his stride nicely with quality blues rock songs that are elevated by beautiful production, assured playing, lush backing vocals and a fine lead voice.
2. THE WILDHEARTS Renaissance Men
Good to have The Wildhearts back at full tilt with energy and punky heaviness, mixing with Ginger’s lyrics that are by turns humorous and scathing. Their first album in 10 years and best album for even longer.
3. IAN MCNABB Our Future in Space
I’m grateful to Jason Ritchie for his review of this album which otherwise might have slipped under my radar. This continues McNabb’s excellent recent series of albums with heavy emphasis on electric guitar and this outing is full of distorted riffs and solos that echo the grungy feel of Neil Young at his best. The tunes are equally good.
4. THE NEW ROSES Nothing But Wild
A four-piece from Wiesbaden, Germany who stir up furious hard rock/classic rock stadium-ready anthems on their unrestrained and full-throttle fourth album. ‘Down By The River’ is bone fide classic.
5. DIAMOND HEAD The Coffin Train
The enigma that is Diamond Head and all that NWOBHM back story. However, here is a band in 2019 at the top of their game. With enough nods to their roots, this is a fine, well crafted and powerful album. Massive respect to Tatler for sticking to his values and finding a contemporary sound to alloy with his metallic instincts.
IAN GILLAN & The Don Airey Band Contractual Obligation #2 Live In Warsaw
One of 3 live sets from the Deep Purple vocalist, each on a different format, showcasing work by Deep Purple, solo and more. A fine collection and combination with an eclectic set list showing that the REAL voice of rock still has it.
Don Airey plays UK dates with his band 22-28 February.
SAXON The Eagle Has Landed 40
40 live tracks over 40 years, from the band who’s eponymous debut helped kickstart the NWoBHM. A 5 LP box, the package is as wonderful as the music, with the classic rock legends still at the top of their game.
Saxon play rearranged dates in the UK, 27-28 March.
RHAPSODY OF FIRE The Eighth Mountain
Cementing the new line-up, this operatic melodic power-metal band who verge on symphonic continue to rock with this concept album and another great mix of guitars, keyboards and choir
ELOY The Vision, the Sword and the Pyre (Part II)
Completion of a prog rock epic concept with plenty of riffs and soundscapes a return to form from these German legends.
THE NEW ROSES Nothing But Wild
The fourth album from German band and from the start this is from the heart, honest country/southern tinged rock n roll.
ROXY BLUE Roxy Blue
With a more updated sound, this is a fine return.
This album should take the band to the next level.
BLACK STAR RIDERS Another State of Grace
This could be their best album to date.
BACKYARD BABIES Sliver and Gold
Another band that consistently deliver and this album is no exception.
MICHAEL MONROE One Man Gang
Having never released a bad album, Michael Monroe has struck gold again.
ROLLING STONES Bridges to Buenos Aires
Quite possibly my favourite Stones live recording of the last few years.
BURNT OUT WRECK This is Hell
A second album from the ex-Heavy Pettin’ drummer turned frontman Gary Moat and his bandmates channels the spirit of Bon-era AC/DC and in Gary Moat’s own words when I interviewed him for GRTR! recently: “we just love it!”.
STEELEYE SPAN Est.d 1969
As Jason Ritchie concludes in his review a Steeleye Span mark their fiftieth anniversary with confidence and release this enjoyable album proving that the folk-rock pioneers still “have it”.
ELLES BAILEY Road I Call Home
An incredible voice, some great songwriting and some seriously good musicianship, with Road I Call Home Elles Bailey and her friends in Nashville have given us an impressive album.
SPIRITS OF FIRE Spirits Of Fire
A supergroup of sorts the project brings together Owens (ex-Judas Priest, Iced Earth), guitarist Chris Caffery (Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra), bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Testament, Death) and drummer Mark Zonder (ex-Fates Warning, Warlord).
Eleven tracks of classic, polished heavy metal this debut from Spirits Of Fire is well worth checking out.
THE FERRYMEN A New Evil
Fans of classic-era Dio et al will really warm to A New Evil right down to the cover art and won’t be at all disappointed by what’s inside.
1. THE SOUL REBELS Poetry In Motion
The first release in seven years from the New Orleans brass ensemble finds them expertly fusing jazzy horn lines with Hip-Hop verses and beats.
From the opening of notes of the opening track, The Soul Rebels exude swagger and confidence, promising to “shake the world up like an earthquake”. Fortunately they make good on their word and deliver an album by skilled musicians that are damn near the top of their game.
2. MISS VELVET & THE BLUE WOLF Feat. GEORGE CLINTON Feed The Wolf
Miss Velvet & The Blue Wolf’s second album feels dirty and raw; little wonder after cultivating their live act on the road supporting Parliament Funkadelic in over 100 shows.
Lead singer, Miss Velvet is a New York native and brings a swagger and sass that immediately encourages the listener to imagine they’re getting hot and heavy at a concert. The horns are tight while the bass work by Jimi Beamon brings heft, all contributing to a glorious cacophony. What’s lacking in lyrical subtlety is made up for in sheer fun.
3. INCOGNITO Tomorrow’s New Dream
Celebrating their fortieth anniversary, new album ‘Tomorrow’s New Dream’ finds Incognito looking backwards and referencing their own past and that of the British soul scene in general.
Bluey Maunick’s production is diverse and expansive, the kind of feel-good tunes that could grace any coffee shop and find customers tapping their feet and smiling while sipping their lattés. “Sunshine” feels like an appropriate adjective to describe this record, the very definition of feel good.
4. EMMA KING The Sun and The Blues (EP)
Hull-born blues singer Emma King stands proudly alongside her forbearers while still feeling original. The album has been recorded in full live takes, to analogue tape and there is real warmth to the recording.
This stripped back, old school approach really allows for clear sound and the ability to pick out individual instruments. The effort to stay analogue is always appreciated, especially if there are some cracking songs and musicianship to back it up.
5. THEA HJELMELAND Kulla
The third album by Thea Hjelmeland, KULLA, is the definition of artistic freedom. Hailing from Norway, Hjelmeland is a singer, writer and a multi-instrumentalist and demonstrates a genre-hopping confidence that suggests an artist completely at ease with her identity. KULLA finds an artist that can be discussed alongside the Kate Bush’s and the Björk’s, the upper echelons of artists who are completely free.
Top Live Acts
JASON RITCHIE (News and Reviews Editor):
THE DIVINE COMEDY Oxford
First time seeing the Divine Comedy live and they didn’t disappoint. Mixing in most of the excellent new album ‘Office Politics’ with classics such as ‘Billy Bird’ and ‘National Express’, easily made this the gig of the year for me.
CORNBURY FESTIVAL (pictured)
The best family friendly festival and this year highlights were the sets by the Beach Boys, Steeleye Span, Chris Difford, Trevor Horn Band and the Rainbreakers.
Cornbury takes place 10-12 July 2020.
LED ZEPPELIN MASTERS Birmingham
Vocalist Vince Contarino and guitarist Tzan Niko Led Zeppelin Masters put on a masterful show of Led Zep classics. The icing on the musical cake is adding the orchestra that gives songs like ‘Kashmir’ that extra bit of magic.
DAVE WILSON (Live Editor):
RAMMSTEIN Milton Keynes (pictured)
A Rammstein show is more than a mere live gig, it’s an event not to be missed. This show had everything, great music, huge flames and enough pyrotechnics to lay waste to most of Milton Keynes! The band will be back in the UK next year and I for one will be there to witness this spectacular once again.
A Wildhearts show is always a good night and this one was no exception. With an excellent new album to promote and Danny McCormack back on bass the show was a cut above. The guys had also brought along the unstoppable Massive Wagons as support who also went down a storm.
GREAT BRITISH ROCK & BLUES FESTIVAL, Skegness
This was my first experience of a Butlins music weekend and what a great three days it proved to be. Superb music, great accommodation and excellent food all added up to this being a top weekend and one I am looking to repeat in the coming year.
The 2020 Festival takes place 17-20 January.
PETE FEENSTRA (Blues/Rock Editor and Features Editor):
1 VINCENT FLATTS FINAL DRIVE/Ritchie Dave Porter London
Gig of the year with rip roaring boogie and southern rock from Birmingham England. Fronted by Stevie “Bertie” Burton – one of the few members of the rock fraternity really worthy of the legendary tag – Flatts take us on a musical journey that a capacity crowd will never forget.
Led by Burton – he of the killer growl, death rattle phrasing, wry humour and the art of performance – the band is fired by the steely licks of Gary Harper.
Highlights include a smoking blues ‘When The Blues Catch Up With You’, Katon’s ‘Road Tested’, the funky ‘Walk Without My Crutches Someday’, and the mirthful ‘Too Drunk to Get Drunk’.
A mention too for the for down-home blues and heartfelt songs of fellow Brummie Ritchie Dave Porter.
2 ROCKIN THE BLUES 2019 (JONNY LANG (pictured)/WALTER TROUT/KRIS BARRAS) London
Whatever Provogue records original vision was for their annual European Rockin’ The Blues’ tour, it could surely not have been much better than this.
Put simply, in terms of passion, energy and balance, tonight’s triple bill delivers different shades of rocking blues and enough individual excellence to satisfy all musical palettes.
Johnny Lang oozed white boy soul, Walter Trout poured his heart and soul into a rip- roaring set and Kris Barras announced himself as the new kid on the block in the Rock/Blues world.
3 VIVE LE ROCK AWARDS London
This poignantly turned out to be one of Eddie & The Hot Rods frontman Barry Masters’ last London shows.
An award ceremony is never the best showcase for the actual music, but tonight Glen Matlock is firing on all cylinders and Suzy Quatro burns for 15 minutes, Masters rips through Teenage Depression’, ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ and ‘Get Out of Denver’, and Matlock returns for a surprise appearance by The Rich Kids who are now a guitar driven a high octane rock band with three part harmonies including impromptu front man Midge Ure!
Eddie Tenpole reminds us of the vacuousness of the era, and his set if counter-balanced by the musical merit that has made The Stranglers so enduring. Punk in 2019 is a broad church, and everyone is represented tonight.
DAVID RANDALL (Managing Editor):
1. TREVOR HORN Manchester
Unashamed guilty pleasure, Horn-associated songs (and artists) given a new lease of life with orchestra. Marillion’s Steve Hogarth with more costume changes than Widow Twankey. The eighties lives!
2. THE KORGIS featuring James Warren Bristol
Good gigs are sometimes a combination of unexpected venue, great setlist and lack of schmaltz. Plumbing the Stackridge/Korgis and his own solo catalogue James Warren and his band delivered and then some. There go the eighties again!
3. MARTIN BARRE BAND New Brighton
Martin’s own celebration of Tull’s 50th anniversary was immaculate, enhanced by back projection and a sublime acoustic interlude.
Too good to overlook
ZAL CLEMINSON’S SIN’DOGS, Minehead
A wonderful and unexpected way to start the year. Topped of course with a sublime version of ‘Faith Healer’. Duh, Duh, Duuuh….
1 STYX London
I saw them on both sides of the pond this year but a second row seat at this great venue made for a very special night with two sets in which the evergreen pomp rockers mixed the usual hits with some lesser played classics and material from their new album, all with their customary energy.
2 KISS London
It may not exactly have proved to be the end of the road, but no-one could have been short changed by this spectacular show. Say what you like about Kiss but their mantra ‘You Wanted the Best You Got the Best’ certainly applies to their live performance.
3 EAGLES London
I was originally sceptical, but one of the best catalogues in rock was exquisitely delivered by a combination of the evergreen Don Henley and Joe Walsh, and the inspired new recruits in Vince Gill and Deacon Frey.
Best festival by a mile – Ramblin Man Fair – superbly organised and with a great mix of old and newer acts it sets a new standard for classic rock festivals.
Ramblin Man Fair takes place again 17-19 July 2020
ZAL CLEMINSON’S SIN’DOGS Minehead
One of the finest pieces of rock ‘n’ roll theatre I’ve seen since witnessing Bowie unleash Ziggy at the Top Rank Suite in Liverpool back in 1972. A jaw droppingly complete performance from a man who, at the time, was rapidly approaching his 70th birthday. And one that put all other artists I’ve seen this year firmly in the shade. Phenomenal.
The Last Orders tour will now rumble on States-side into 2020, marking the band’s 51st year. Back in April, I was invested heavily in UFO’s penultimate UK show which delivered an emotional night of the best classic hard rock, fronted by a 70-year old whose voice appears to be getting better with age.
The ‘Last Orders’ tour continues in February 2020 in the States.
RAMBLIN’ MAN FAIR 2019
This festival has quickly become a firm favourite of mine, with its chilled, friendly vibe and great range of established and emerging bands. 2019 set the bar very high and sets by Robert Jon & The Wreck, Jimmy Barnes, The Temperance Movement, Cheap Trick, Chantel McGregor, The Fallen State and Beth Hart will live long in the memory.
THE WATERBOYS Valencia, Spain
A band I hadn’t seen live for over 20 years, The Waterboys still have it. And in spades. This show, on the outskirts of Valencia on a steamy June evening, leant heavily on a canon of majestic, soaring rock ‘n’ roll, spliced with acoustic, country and Irish influences to deliver a vital, eclectic, vibrant and thrilling set.
STEVE HACKETT Liverpool
Yes, Steve Hackett again…This gig was Steve’s ‘Genesis Revisited’ but with a twist – an almost complete run through ‘Spectral Mornings’ on the occasion of its 40th anniversary and a complete ‘Selling England By The Pound’. Despite an over-enthusiastic smoke machine, this was just superb from start to finish – with musicianship of the highest order from a band at the very pinnacle of their powers. What. A. Night.
Steve Hackett will tour again in the UK November 2020 and featuring ‘Seconds Out’.
MARTIN BARRE BAND New Brighton
Martin Barre, guitarist of Jethro Tull for over 40 years, delivered a superb set of ‘Tull classics backed by a band of first-rate musicians which included ex-Tull stalwarts Clive Bunker and Dee Palmer.
A chronological run through ‘Tull’s history with a complementary back projection of events from the time – this was Martin’s chance to step out of the shadows and demonstrate what an integral part of Jethro Tull’s sound he was (is) – and he took it with both hands.
LINDISFARNE New Brighton
Although now down to one original member (Rod Clements) they gave the adoring crowd a rollicking good night packed with all the band’s classic tracks including ‘Fog On The Tyne’, ‘Lady Eleanor’, ‘January Song’ , ‘Meet Me On The Corner’ and ‘Clear White Light’.
If you get the chance to see them, don’t miss it – just brilliant.
THE CULT London (pictured)
Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of their “Sonic Temple” album, this was a gig that was head and shoulders above any other I have seen this year.
BLACK STAR RIDERS London
With a new album to promote and a new line-up, this was Black Star Riders at their very best.
Another band with it all to prove. The loss of guitarist Keith Nelson could have meant the end for the band but they have fought back with a new line up and a new album. They’ll be here for a while yet.
MICHAEL MONROE London
Another new album from Michael Monroe finds him and his long-term band showing everyone else exactly how it should be done
WARRIOR SOUL album launch
With just a handful of reviewers Warrior Soul let rip with an afternoon of loud rock n roll and free flowing beer. A good time was had by all.
MOTT THE HOOPLE ’74 London
If this tour is to be the final chapter in the ballad of Mott the Hoople it serves as a fitting end to the career of a wonderful, unique and utterly, utterly irreplaceable band. Mott the Hoople – thanks for a great trip….
GLENN HUGHES Bexhill
I grew up with most of the songs played tonight, from albums that were frequently pumping out of my dad’s stereo as a kid and I am very grateful to Glenn Hughes for giving these songs a new lease of life He has done the Purple legacy proud with this tour.
Yelling along to ‘Doctor Doctor; and ‘Shoot Shoot’ as the guys come back on stage for an encore seems a fitting way to say farewell to a band whose music I’ve been enjoying for almost forty of their fifty years. Cheers UFO!
1. GARY CLARK JR. Manchester (pictured)
The musicianship on display was mesmerising; against the stained glass trappings of Manchester’s Albert Hall, the audience undoubtedly felt the spirit move them.
2. THEON CROSS YES, Manchester
Bonkers freewheeling tuba-jazz, played by musicians that love every minute of what they do.
3. MARCUS MILLER Manchester
Internationally renowned jazz bassist does his thing, in a way nobody else can.
JASON RITCHIE (News and Reviews Editor):
An impressive mix of blues, rock and soul this four piece from Shrewsbury look set to gain even more fans after impressive live shows this year.
Of the current crop of nu-breed of classic rockers this band look the best placed to make the leap from the smaller venues into the medium sized halls, maybe even the arenas if they land a couple of choice support slots to arena sized bands next year. They certainly have the tunes and live appeal to make it big.
Collateral release their debut album in February 2020 when they tour as special guests of Jared James Nichols.
Slipped under the radar for some but give these guys a listen at they have the tunes and just need a little bit of luck to see them get better known.
DAVE WILSON (Live Editor):
The young Scottish band have a new album coming out early in the New Year, I have and a sneak preview and it sounds excellent. Hopefully it will provide a springboard for the guys during 2020.
Anchor Lane’s debut album – ‘Casino’ – is released in January 2020.
DAVID RANDALL (Managing Editor):
MATT MITCHELL & THE COLD HEARTS
Excellent debut album from one-time frontman of AOR band Pride, Furyon and Colour Of Noise. Ramblin Man appearance in 2019 and an early 2020 gig at Giants Of Rock should widen their audiences.
Liverpool music hot-house LIPA alumni, a prog-rock trio who released their debut EP ‘The Thing With Feathers’ in November.
PETE FEENSTRA (Blues/Rock Editor, Features Editor)
1) BRAVE RIVAL
With their funky debut single ‘Magpie’ already denting the indie charts and hatful of gigs, including tour dates with the Billy Walton Band, the Hampshire-based harmony heavy band Brave Rival are already making a splash.
With glistening harmonies of Lindsey Bonnick and Chloe Josephine anchored by the former Albany Down rhythm section rhythm section they offer a fresh take on West coast influenced roots rock.
They have strong songs, a jam band feel (think Tedeschi Trucks) and a Grace Slick vocal influence. We wait with baited breath for their debut album. It can’t come too soon.
2) 4th LABYRINTH
2nd year running in this category for Cambridge’s finest. They made a big impression at the 2 Hard Rock Prog Festivals in London and Sheffield to match their high standing at the Cambridge Rock Fest. Together with their excellent 2nd album ‘Better’ they are in a handy position to move up the grid.
3) THE CINELLI BROTHERS
London based Italian brothers band with a welcome fresh take on the blues. That is they adhere to the classic Chicago style, but pen their own songs. They shuffle, boogie rock and jump and groove impressively, check out their self released album ‘Baby Please Set Your Alarm’.
Led by the charismatic Angelo Tristan, they have both the swagger and the songs to bring old school hair metal back to the forefront.
The talented, intense young Scots finally have their album out which should establish them as a home-grown competitor to the likes of Alter Bridge and Shinedown.
Those who are following King King in crossing out of the blues rock pigeonhole into the mainstream – Kris Barras Band, Rebecca Downes, Sari Schorr – will go far.
With both acts I named last year (The Kentish Spires and Riversea) effectively hitting the buffers in 2019, I’m hoping this isn’t the ‘kiss of death’ spot, but LAST FLIGHT TO PLUTO‘s debut A Drop In The Ocean, ELAINE SAMUELS & KINDRED SPIRIT BAND‘s Elemental, and KRISTINA STYKOS’ River Of Light were three excellent 2019 releases signposting promising futures.
Excellent folk-rock from James Walbourne and Kami Thompson (daughter of folk/rock royalty Richard Thompson). Their 2019 album ‘Cancel The Sun’ is the embodiment of exemplary musicianship and is one of those albums to which you just want to keep listening. Hope there’s more to come next year.
This four-piece hard rock crew are surely going places. Their debut album was a stand-out in 2019, only just missing my top 5. The band serve up a feast of meaty riffs and tasty vocals allied to mature compositions, with no little poise and class on the side. Some noteworthy support slots have kept their profile on the rise and surely there is more to come.
I saw this wiry, energetic band put in a chaotic, frenetic and sometimes troubled show at Camden Rocks back in the Summer and was immediately won over by their punky, alt rock racket that recalled the edgier memories of Dinosaur Jnr and Mudhoney from back in the day. Their twisted, well-received debut ‘Mass’ from September should be just the start.
Germany’s THE NEW ROSES are making waves with their latest album and could be about to become a lot better known. Do yourself a favour and visit their back catalogue
The band emerged as one of the stars of the introducing stage at Butlins Giants of Rock this year. Their brand of classy, melodic hard rock which immediately impressed me first time around.
Lead guitarist, Chris Jones, is an absolute live-wire on stage, injecting wave after wave of energy into the crowd with his soloing, while front-man, Doyle, has a great voice that’s just perfect for modern-day classic rock.
I also continue to retain very high hopes for RAINBREAKERS and HELL’S GAZELLES who I nominated last year.
Trance-jazz-fusion by a Congolese ensemble of musicians. Creating their own instruments out of day-to-day items, ‘KoKoKo!’ create unique soundscapes and bring breathless excitable energy to their gigs.
JASON RITCHIE (News and reviews editor):
PETE FEENSTRA (Blues/Rock Editor, Features Editor):
1 GONG Love From The Planet Gong: The Virgin Years 1973-1975
OK hands up who actually listens to all this stuff and if they do, do they have to plan their listening time?
Fans are buying into the aesthetic and they can dip in and out at their leisure.
There’s first 4 Virgin albums (there’s even a quad mix which will date a lot of listeners), 2 John Peel sessions and raft of live albums, a book, unseen Daevid Allen artwork and lots of info, all overseen by curator Steve Hillage.
Refreshingly all surviving band members welcomed the release.
It’s big, expensive beautifully and essential for completists. Xmas looms.
2 CLIMAX BLUES BAND The Albums 1969-1972
Released last June, this box set captures the early band at its best on a musical journey from Chicago blues to a more proggy approach as they moved from Parlaphone records to Harvest, plus 19 bonus tracks.
The band works a delicate balance between the equally talented guitarist/vocalist Pete Haycock (listen especially to ‘Reap What I’ve Sowed’) and the sax playing baritone vocalist Colin Cooper (check out his version of ‘Cut Her Loose’) and you are hearing a creative band at the heights of its considerable powers.
3 PROCOL HARUM Broken Barricades
Long time fans will love this, especially with this remastered album (Trower’s last with Procol) plus some splendid extras. There’s 9 bonus tracks with alternate tracks and two bonus CDs with live recordings.
The first bonus CD is an American live radio broadcast of the band on the original album. There’s also a post Trower BBC Radio session and Swedish live cut with guitarist Dave Ball and bassist Alan Cartwright.
DAVID RANDALL (Managing Editor):
CARAVAN The Decca/Deram Years (An Anthology) 1970-1975
An excellent box set if you are someone who hasn’t yet indulged in anything by the band. The multi-disc box set for Gentle Giant looks appetising for those who like their prog a tad more cerebral.
SHY Excess All Areas
Poignantly one of the best ever Brit AOR albums got its Rock Candy re-release (with its predecessor Brave the Storm) – around the time singer Tony Mills lost his fight with cancer.
RORY GALLAGHER – Blues
A triple CD of Rory doing what he loved. There’s three CDs here – two electric, one acoustic. Both the electric ones are brilliantly recorded and feature much unreleased material, but it’s the acoustic one that really does it – capturing Rory with just an acoustic guitar showing everyone why even Jimi Hendrix regarded him as the best guitar player in the world.
Rory died in 1995 and this album, lovingly compiled by his brother Donal, shows just how good he was and how we still miss him.
And just to mention:
MARILLION Clutching At Straws
It would have made last year’s ‘Best Of’ but was released on the day the reviewers’ selections were due in…
As with nearly everything associated with Marillion, this is an object lesson in how to do a re-issue.
5 discs:- The Original Album remixed and remastered, two discs of a gig in Fish’s hometown of Edinburgh from 1987 (remixed and remastered), a disc of demos (remastered) plus four previously unreleased demos and a BluRay with 5.1 mixes, a documentary, promo videos plus more bonus tracks.
Everything a fan could want combined with superb sound, sumptuous packaging great remixes – and all without the hand of Steven Wilson even touching a dial!
RORY GALLAGHER Blues
This three CD collection of rarities and unreleased material is organised across electric, acoustic and live discs. Tracks cover the full range of Gallagher’s career from ’71 up to ’92 and throw some new light on the mercurial genius of this truly great guitarist.
SAMSON Bright Lights (5CD box)
A 5CD set collecting the first few albums with plenty of bonus tracks, lots previously unreleased on CD. Samson were officially the first NWoBHM band, with 2 45s released in 1978 (both featuring Clive Burr), sadly neither included here, but these Bruce Dickinson- era albums are wonderful and Paul Samson such an underrated guitarist.
WHITESNAKE Slip of The Tongue
The box set marking the 30th anniversary of “Slip of The Tongue” certainly contains a wealth of material, and although most is already available they have done a good job here.
PAUL MCCARTNEY Amoeba Gig (UMC – Virgin International)
Previously only select tracks were available as an EP, or as a newspaper-freebie. Now this entire joyous 2007 set by McCartney is available in full. Capturing the atmosphere and karaoke fun of being in the room with the ever twinkling Beatle.
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In this two hour special David Randall plays a selection of the GRTR! reviewer choices for ‘Best of 2019′ and announces the results of the popular poll. First broadcast Sunday 22 December 2019.
Featured Albums w/c 20 January (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 AUTUMN’S CHILD Autumn’s Child (AOR Heaven)
12:00-13:00 THE RAGGED SAINTS Sonic Playground Revisited (AOR Heaven)
14:00-16:00 AMBERLY CHALBERG Hi-Line (indie)
Power Plays w/c 20 January (Mon-Fri)
THUNDERSTICK Go Sleep With The Enemy (Roulette Records)
BUFFALO SUMMER Everybody’s Out For No.1 (Silver Lining Music)
ANCHOR LANE Dead Run (R7 Records)
MOLLY KARLOFF She Said (indie)
H.E.A.T. Come Clean (Frontiers)
THE KENDALL COLLECTION Staring Back At Me (indie)
VOODOO RAMBLE Midnight Train (indie)
Tweets by Get Ready to ROCK!