2020 has been a horrendous year for live music, silenced by the coronavirus pandemic. With live music off the agenda, there has been no shortage of album/EP releases, so this year our reviewers have concentrated on selecting their Top Albums, Breakthrough Acts and Top Reissues. Let’s hope normal service is resumed in 2021.
Says Reviews Editor Jason Ritchie: “2020 has been a strange year for music. Our Best of lists as always reflect the great judgment and hard work of our reviewers. They don’t always mention the most obvious.
However, this year there was a consensus for AC/DC’s brilliant comeback, closely followed by Blue Oyster Cult. Both give examples of older, classic rock bands producing something that still sounds fresh, authentic and exciting. And the same applies to our third “best of” album, the latest from Deep Purple.”
From Friday 11 December you can vote in our Popular Poll and suggest any albums and artists you like that we’ve missed.
On Sunday 20 December, Get Ready to ROCK! Radio presented the Popular Poll results and a selection of reader, listener and reviewer favourites in a two-hour special.
Throughout December Get Ready to ROCK! Radio will be featuring Best of 2020 selections throuhout the playlists including featured albums in the melodic rock and singer songwriter genres and this year’s “power plays”.
Top Albums of 2020
1. AC/DC Power Up
“Power Up is exactly what we needed in 2020.” (Darren Johnson)
2. BLUE OYSTER CULT The Symbol Remains
“…announces the band as born again survivors” (Brian McGowan)
3. DEEP PURPLE Whoosh!
“The British legends have released a storming album here, the whole band gel together perfectly” (Joe Geesin)
4. WALTER TROUT Ordinary Madness
“a gritty, yet beautifully balanced album that should appeal way beyond his core fanbase” (Alan Jones)
5. SNAKE OIL & HARMONY Hurricane Riders
“…one of this year’s mellower offerings and songs that stand the test of tim”
“…of the “nu-breed” of classic rock and fully road tested – worthy of your support”
1. RUSH – Permanent Waves (40th Anniversary Edition)
“…plenty of live tracks from the album tour to provide a great value for money package’ (David Wilson)
Listen whilst you linger. In this ‘New to GRTR!’ special on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio David Randall plays show highlights from April-June 2020. The weekly show features new music (singles/albums) with the emphasis on independent artists and labels.
First broadcast 6 December. Further shows will cover April-December in the run up to Christmas (Sunday, 21:00 GMT)
JASON RITCHIE (News & Reviews Editor)
1. BLUE OYSTER CULT The Symbol Remains (Frontiers)
Stunning return from a band who I’d all but given up hope of releasing new music. Classic BOC sound with dark menace and humour in equal measures. My only five star album of the year.
UK tour dates 2-8 October 2021
2. SNAKE OIL & HARMONY Hurricane Riders (Zero One Entertainment)
Teaming up two top singer songwriters, namely Dan Reed and Danny Vaughn, provided one of this year’s mellower offerings and songs that stand the test of time.
3. LITTLE RED KINGS The Magic Show Part One (indie)
Worth getting for the excellent ‘Harry’s Town’, however, the rest of the album is of a high standard. No second album woes for this band who are one of the few bands out there to truly have their own unique sound.
4. BAD TOUCH Kiss The Sky (Marshall)
Their best album to date. Good time rock ‘n’ roll and now all we need is live gigs back so we can go and enjoy these songs played live.
UK tour dates 7-23 April 2021
5= OUTLAWS Dixie Highway (Frontiers)
Another band back after a long break from the studio. Classy southern rock with plenty of triple guitar action.
5= PATTERN SEEKING ANIMALS Prehensile Tales (InsideOut)
Second album from this group with Spock’s Beard connections. Listen to the epic ‘Lifeboat’ on headphones, one of the musical highlights of 2020.
5= BLUE OCTOBER This Is What I Live For (Up/Down)
Melodies abound as Blue October continue creating music with hope and meaning.
1. JESSICA LYNN
Rising star of the country/pop scene and with a UK tour planned for May next year, expect her to become more well known over here.
2. THE RISING
I seem to be tipping a lot of country/pop artists but to be honest these have great crossover appeal. This duo released a series of singles this year and gained favourable reviews. Despite many artists’ dislike of Spotify, The Rising have tried to use it to their advantage,
3. DANDELION CHARM
An intriguing mix of folk, rock and prog, they are ideal for the summer festival circuit. Hopefully more new music from them next year too.
NAZARETH The Ultimate Collection (BMG)
A three CD set that covers (nearly!) all the band’s albums. Excellent value at a fiver and a perfect introduction to the band or for that long car journey.
JOSH TAERK and his brothers live streaming shows. A real pick me up and tonic during this pandemic year. Each show is a great mix of originals and a few well chosen covers.
1. BLUE OYSTER CULT The Symbol Remains (Frontiers)
‘The Symbol Remains’, announces the band as born again survivors. And indeed survivors who, thank god, haven’t neglected entertainment for the sake of their rock’n’roll art.
2. DYNAZTY The Dark Delight (AFM Records)
‘The Dark Delight’ has emerged so fully formed musically, so majestic, so confident, that it sounds very much like a band truly at ease with itself, at last.
3. CATS IN SPACE Atlantis (Harmony Factory)
Greg Hart again shows the dazzling range of musical moves that illuminated previous recordings (his) peerlessly smart pop catches a welcome wave of nostalgia, full of beautifully descending bass line harmonies, satisfying chord progressions and memorably melodic hooks.
UK tour dates 13 Feb – 19 March 2021
4. STRYPER Even The Devil Believes (Frontiers)
Stryper’s most significant album, one where they’ve felt free to express their beliefs without restraint. At the same time marrying bruising metal meditations to the echoes and residues of a softer rock past.
5. TOMI MALM Coming Home (indie)
Malm’s songs make date-stamps redundant. It’s timeless material, showcasing the kind of casually ornate songwriting and urbanity of tone which is growing his international profile.
1. BIG COUNTRY Out Beyond The River, The Compulsion Years Anthology (Cherry Red)
The late great Stuart Adamson and his band, Big Country, made an indelible musical mark on UK popular culture. His death in 2001 confirmed that the meaning, message and musicality of his work would perhaps no longer reach as many people. Hopefully this Anthology will help to put that right.
2. GREG LAKE The Anthology (BMG)
This anthology takes us on a thrill packed time-shift through four decades, charting Lake’s path as an innovative artist, through his tenure with King Crimson and ELP, and on into his less publicised but equally impressive solo work.
3. FOGHAT Fool For The City & Foghat Live (2019 Remasters) (Rock Candy)
They’d truly hit their stride. The title track and ‘Slow Ride’ were career peaks, high energy, head bobbing rock, each displaying as much a foot stomping stamp of authenticity as genre giants, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Canned Heat. The album went platinum. No surprise.
1. AC/DC Power Up (Columbia)
Across the album we have twelve tracks of classic AC/DC – hard riffing, catchy choruses, bouncy rhythms and a lead singer screaming his lungs out as he has for the last forty years. Welcome back Brian. Welcome back AC/DC. Brilliantly, expertly, joyously predictable, Power Up is exactly what we needed in 2020.
2. ROSSALL The Last Glam In Town (Tiny Global Productions)
There have definitely been some great albums from glam rock artists who subsequently managed to reinvent themselves once the allure of sequins and silver platforms began to wane. But, really, has there been anything approaching a great glam rock album since the 1970s? Look no further Glitter Band alumni, John Rossall, has released this.
3. DEEP PURPLE Whoosh! (earMUSIC)
Gillan’s voice may be lower, the screams may have disappeared and the line-up considerably altered – but this is the sound of classic Deep Purple. A band under no pressure to take any notice of any prevailing musical trends in rock but rather just to do what they do best: Hammond-heavy, riff-heavy classic hard rock.
UK tour dates 2-8 October 2021
4. PETER KNIGHT’S GIGSPANNER BIG BAND Natural Invention (Gigspanner)
Initially starting out as a side project from his work with Steeleye Span, Peter Knight’s Gigspanner rapidly began establishing itself and Steeleye Span were left to find a new fiddle player. Not only has Gigspanner’s reputation grown but so, too, has the size of band with the addition of Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin and former Bellowhead legend John Spiers. If you only buy one folk/folk-rock album this year make sure it’s this one.
5. OZZY OSBOURNE Ordinary Man (BMG)
The Prince of Darkness’s first new solo album in a decade, it certainly provided a very welcome soundtrack to the early weeks of lockdown. With a vast array of collaborators, guests include everyone from Slash to daughter Kelly to Elton John.
1. BUZZARD BUZZARD BUZZARD
I caught this Cardiff-based foursome at the Glastonbury Introducing Stage last year. All T.Rex-style riffs and glam-influenced bombast, frontman Tom Rees channels the spirit of every rock n roll original from Bowie to Iggy Pop to Jarvis Cocker. Their debut EP came out in the summer and the band currently have a new single out ‘30,000 Megabucks’.
2. ANCHOR LANE
This was one of the bands that really impressed me on the Introducing stage at Butlins’ Giants of Rock back in January. They managed to sneak their well-received debut album out at the start of the year, too, just before Covid put an end to live gigs.
3. TINY BIT OF GIANT’S BLOOD
Released this year is the debut full-length album from these US-based self-styled glam punks. A gloriously eccentric bunch, the likes of Queen, Bowie and Van Halen are hailed as influences but there’s also plenty of Ramones-style attitude and a sprinkling of over the top Tubes-style outlandishness and some Mott-style craziness that gives the album that punk edge.
1. SLADE Cum On Feel The Hitz (BMG)
Compiling 43 tracks across two discs Slade’s Cum On Feel The Hitz saw Wolverhampton’s glam rock megaliths enter the UK’s Top Ten album charts for the first time since 1974. I have all these songs many times over, of course, but it made the perfect gift for a dear friend.
2. CLANNAD In A Lifetime (BMG)
This double-disc compilation marks fifty years of Clannad and charts the band’s rise from its very early days as acoustic Irish folkies through to the lush, new-agey Celtic-themed masterpieces that became synonymous with the band’s name. Includes two brand new tracks.
3. SUPERGRASS The Strange Ones 1994-2008 (The Echo Label)
If you didn’t want to fork out £150 for the lavish 6-LP, 13-CD box set with all the original albums, live discs, B sides and rarities, Oxford’s own britpop heroes marked their reunion this year with a handy 22-track career-spanning compilation.
David Randall (Managing Editor)
1. LEGACY PILOTS Aviation (indie)
The best general description is “pop prog/AOR” of the sort purveyed by Alan Parsons Project. In other words, well constructed songs, highly accessible, and great musicianship … A truly wonderful album, one to restore your faith during these covid-constrained times.
2. MARK VICKNESS Interconnected (indie)
Perfect for Lockdown, a fine ensemble piece but also highlighting Vickness’ guitar playing and compositional skills.
3. LETTUCE Resonate (Round Hill Records)
In a normal year, an album to provide a soundtrack to happy gatherings and warm summer nights. Funky as hell.
4. BLUE OYSTER CULT The Symbol Remains (Frontiers)
50 years on…we have no right to expect an album of this consistency and quality.
5.= L.A. GUNS Renegades (Golden Robot)
OK, not the Phil Lewis/Traci Gunns version but a great statement nevertheless.
5.= ROBIN TROWER, MAXI PRIEST, LIVINGSTONE BROWN United State Of Mind (Manhaton Records)
Trower regains his mojo and produces something consistently gritty and funky – both traits lacking from his recent solo outings. Vocalist Maxi Priest and bass player Livingstone Brown help move things up a notch.
It’s a shame that, as with all aspiring artists, 2020 was such a damp squib in terms of live promotion but this band will be back in the fray soon, and – of the “nu-breed” of classic rock and fully road tested – worthy of your support.
2. BAD TOUCH
Consolidated this year with their third album and will flourish when Lockdown restrictions are lifted. And, they’ve just released a Xmas single. (Pictured)
3. MARISA & THE MOTHS
An excellent debut in late-2019, some super stripped back versions in Lockdown. Hopefully recent line-up changes won’t affect their onward progress.
And not forgetting:
HUNTED BY ELEPHANTS
Excellent second album from seventies rock revivalists.
WHEN RIVERS MEET
Husband/wife duo with a bluesy groove and with an excellent debut album ‘We Fly Free’. They plug into a topical musical vibe as discharged by the likes of Larkin Poe or the Swedish band Lykantropi.
1. BLACK SABBATH Paranoid (BMG)
A worthy celebration of 50 years with a nice blended package of facsimilie memorabilia and an informative large format book.
Canadian singer songwriter JOSH TAERK and brothers Ryan and Matt have raised our spirits during Lockdown. A real highlight in live music starved times.
It’s a chilling thought that a trip to Minehead this year (GIANTS OF ROCK, 24-27 January) would be our last major live outing. It would be wrong to single out this one event amidst Live Music Meltdown but it is still worthy of mention.
SINGER SONGWRITER Album of 2020
SHANNON LABRIE Building
It’s been a strange old year, and sadly lacking in much by way of ‘new kids on the block’ with old hands landing most of the year’s heavy punches.
1. MOON HALO Chroma (indie)
This outstanding collaboration between Marc Atkinson of Riversea and Iain Jennings of Mostly Autumn just edges Magenta out of top spot on the basis of the sheer diversity of riches on offer. Packed with sublime vocals and cultured melodies it covers rock, blues, soul, electronic, pop and much, much more.
2. MAGENTA Masters Of Illusion (Tigermoth)
Masters Of Illusion finds Messrs Reed, Booth and Fry in sparkling form. Based on the private lives of six actors who featured in the classic Hammer and Universal horror films, it’s easily Magenta’s best album since Home.
3. DORIS BRENDEL & LEE DUNHAM Mass Hysteria (Sky Rocket Records)
All too often Doris Brendel’s past releases have been hit and miss affairs. But Mass Hysteria is her most focused, consistent, and powerful offering in a decade. A seriously impressive album.
4. CHIMPAN A The Empathy Machine (Tigermoth)
Yes, it’s that man Rob Reed again with the second instalment of his trip-hop, electronica, chill-out collaboration with Steve Balsamo. Sublime.
5. SHANNON LABRIE Building (Moraine Records)
LaBrie’s third album bridges the genres with her own brand of soulful, smoky, easy listening Americana – retro pop, a splash of modern day gospel, sparse piano balladry, soulful jazz-lite and breathy acoustic numbers mark her out as effortlessly cool, and a potential superstar.
1. SANANDA MAITREYA Fallen Angel Tour 2019 Live From The Ruins (Tree House Publishing)
The artist formerly known as Terence Trent D’Arby catches listeners up on what he’s been doing for the last twenty years, with a raw, genre-hopping, live collection recorded on his summer 2019 tour. While the recent material might be unfamiliar, Maitreya’s earthy and soulful vocal anchors everything revealing much to like.
2. BAI KAMARA JR & THE VOODOO SNIFFERS Salone (Moosicus/M.I.G. Music)
Kamara’s latest record with newly formed band, The Voodoo Sniffers, finds him exploring his African identity through music. Underlying the whole record, are themes of questioning and powerlessness to the forces around us. ‘Salone’s’ great strength is how it draws on blues history but doesn’t feel beholden to any particular approach or homage.
3. ROACHFORD Twice In A Lifetime (BMG)
An organic in-studio feel with opulent horns and a general timeless quality, Roachford’s return is pure soul and class all the way. ‘What We Had’, an understated duet with guest star Beverley Knight, is a standout moment.
4. ERIC ROBERSON Erro Live: Vol. UK (Blue Erro Soul)
Given away as a “Lockdown Surprise”, this intimate set from one of R&B’s finest live performers (captured last year at Islington Assembly Hall) is a welcome souvenir for fans of grown up soul.
A tonic during this time where we can’t attend gigs and still available for free here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/slefsd64kr7bivt/AAD4XF_V2PWOyHVPg6l8sW61a?dl=0
5. DAVID BOWIE Ouvrez le Chien (Live Dallas 95) (Parlophone)
A hitherto underrepresented era in the posthumous Bowie library, this recording finds the man in vital form, mostly performing songs from the then newly-released ’1. Outside’ album. Top drawer David Bowie weirdness; for those that want more than just the greatest hits.
The 22 year old north Londoner’s sound draws on the Eritrean singers of her childhood, as well as noughties R&B. Her debut EP ‘Heaven on Earth’ is equally reverent and modern, perfectly evidenced on her conversational new single ’7AM’.
2. JOEL ROSS
Hailing from the South-Side of Chicago, the vibraphonist released his album ‘Who Are You?’ on the Blue Note Label this year. Mellow, yet amusingly idiosyncratic jazz – with a surprising amount of structure to each piece.
3. BABY ROSE
An Atlanta-based soul singer with a completely unique voice – literally unique – Baby Rose’s haunting vocal style defies categorisation but one thing is for certain, you will be moved.
1. PRINCE Sign ‘O’ The Times Super Deluxe Edition (Rhino)
For once the legend proves to be true; Prince’s legendary vault is cracked open for 6 CDs of extra material and a concert DVD. The music on offer here is staggeringly broad in genre and could easily have made the 1987 album, which incidentally sounds better than it ever has outside the original vinyl.
2. PAUL MCCARTNEY Flaming Pie – Archive Collection, Deluxe Edition (UMC)
This 1997 album marked a return to first principles for Macca, recharged after working on the Beatles Anthology with Jeff Lynne. ‘Beautiful Night’ and ‘Great Day’ are simple yet perfectly crafted songs that easily shape up next to Paul’s lofty catalogue. The bonus material consists mainly of home demos, worth your time just to hear Linda’s amazing harmonies.
3. EN VOGUE Born to Sing – 30th Anniversary Expanded Edition (Rhino)
The 90s R&B vocal group celebrate their first album’s anniversary with an expanded reissue. Sonically it still sounds just as fresh, with the skill and swagger still in evidence. It’s likely that British acts like All Saints and Sugababes wouldn’t have emerged without the template laid out by Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron, Dawn Robinson and Maxine Jones and it’s great to be reminded of that.
PROGRESSIVE ROCK Album of 2020
CAMEL Moonmadness: Live At The Albert Hall
1. CAMEL Moonmadness: Live At The Albert Hall (Camel Productions)
Was due to be released in 2019, but kept getting frustratingly pushed back until May – but boy was it worth the wait.
A live recording of probably Camel’s finest album played in its entirety and supplemented with a selection of the band’s finest tracks.
With Andy Latimer’s sublime fretwork an absolute joy and the addition of Peter Jones from Tiger Moth Tales giving a much-needed boost to the vocals alongside his multi-instrumental skills, this was an absolute triumph.
2. WALTER TROUT Ordinary Madness (Provogue)
Despite a (thankfully) small scattering of the cloying, sentimental ballads that Walter feels the need to put on his albums, Ordinary Madness is the best WT album for many a year.
He’s turned down the volume a little, he’s slowed up the guitar flurries a little and has really upped the song-writing to include Americana and even a bit of folkishness alongside his trademark blues-rock.
The result is a gritty, yet beautifully balanced album that should appeal way beyond his core fanbase.
3. DREAMING MADMEN Ashes Of A Diary (indie)
Hard to find, but well worth searching out, Lebanese-American brothers Mathew & Christopher Aboujaoude aka Dreaming Madmen have delivered the best album Pink Floyd never released.
The Gilmouresque guitar work and soaring keyboards transport you to the halcyon days of Meddle, DSOM, Wish You Were Here and Animals – and seeing as Hell is likely to freeze over before we get any new ‘Floyd, this will effortlessly fill the void.
4. KATATONIA – City Burials (Peaceville)
Ever since Katatonia left behind their dystopian black metal roots for the sunlit uplands of progressive rock with the exceptional ‘Night Is The New Day’, they have gone from strength to strength with every successive album – and City Burials continues this upward trend.
Despite the reappearance of the aforementioned black metal from time to time, this is an album of studied melancholy and uplifting music despite its somewhat grisly title.
5. RIVERSIDE – Lost And Found: Live In Tilburg (InsideOut)
Superb live recording of one of the finest bands to come out of Poland – although tinged with sadness with the death of exemplary guitarist and co-founder Piotr Grudzinski just four months later.
I saw them on this tour and their blend of atmospheric progressive rock shot through with stabs of metal was a compulsive performance – brilliantly recorded here and with the added bonus of a DVD of the gig with the ‘digibook’ edition.
RORY GALLAGHER The Best Of (Universal)
Not strictly a re-issue per-se but a great collection of Rory’s finest work – both solo and with Taste.
If you’re not really cognisant with Rory Gallagher’s remarkable abilities as a guitarist, songwriter and masterly interpreter of classic delta blues – this double CD is a great place to start.
BLUES ROCK Album of 2020
MALONE SIBUN Come Together (Redline Records)
PETE FEENSTRA (Features and Blues Rock Editor)
1. MALONE SIBUN Come Together (Redline Records)
From the colourful psychedelic album art work, to the call to arms of the title track and through the burgeoning power of the music as a whole, ‘Come Together’ radiates positivity.
The band rocks hard, grooves eloquently and gets soulful by turns, to make the most of tight arrangements with memorable hooks that linger long after the album finishes.
‘Come Together’ stretches both Marcus Malone and Innes Sibun’s artistic endeavours to forge a new broad-based musical canvas that plays to their respective strengths.
2. WALTER TROUT Ordinary Madness (Provogue)
‘Ordinary Madness’ is superbly crafted rock-blues which explores the human condition through subjective eyes and lyrical honesty.
It’s a lyrical introspective album forged by the musical ebullience of his road band, who play exquisitely throughout.
Trout revels in all the possibilities his working environment gives him and rises to the occasion with one of his very best albums.
3. MUDDY MANNINEN River Flows (Running Moose)
Muddy Manninen’s ‘River Flows’ is an aptly titled album that has a sense of time, space and just like the name of his label, presence.
It’s an album that drips with feel, experience and at times explores a retrospective feel.
It’s the work of an independent musical spirit who obviously has much to impart outside of the somewhat more restrictive musical straitjacket of his former band Wishbone Ash.
4. KEVIN BROWN Six Strings & A Dream (Doodah Records)
Kevin Brown’s ‘Strings and A Dream’ is a reminder that somewhere in between the avalanche of PR led American blues bands, there is still room for a major home-grown blues into Americana talent and a quality album that hold its own against most current releases.
Kevin Brown is real bluesman who is equally good when he broadens his scope into Americana on songs full of substance and delivered with the perfect balance of emotion and polish.
5= ROBIN TROWER, MAXI PRIEST, LIVINGSTONE BROWN United State Of Mind (Manhaton Records)
‘United State Of Mind’ drips with retro cool, sophisticated funk and deep soul. And while Maxi Priest’s vocals seemingly occupy a pivotal role, it might be argued that you can trace the origins of this project back to Robin Trower’s restless search for musical fulfilment.
In recent years he has explored a much more soulful direction outside of earlier career Rock/blues power trio template. This is the splendid result.
Robin Trower plays UK dates 21-24 April 2021.
5= STORM WARNING Different Horizons (Lightnin’ Fingers)
Different Horizons is that rare thing, a finely honed mature album by a heritage rock- band, full of spark, creativity and inspired playing.
It’s an adventurous rock album with an enveloping wall of sound, salient prog influences, jazzy edges and a bluesy soul, which overall represents a significant departure for a band better known for its tasteful post Robert Cray stylings.
5 = KAT RIGGINS Cry Out (Gulf Coast Records)
‘Cry Out’ is a high energy album full of heartfelt lyrics, stylistic diversity and booming arrangements that gives Kat Riggins the best possible context for her gritty and soulful vocals.
The album’s artwork almost suggest she is having an outer worldly experience, a visual metaphor perhaps for the way she moves us with her blues.
In fact, ‘Cry Out’ explores rock, blues, boogie, soul, gospel and R&B with hints of southern rock, which all perfectly complement her passionate vocal style and meaningful narratives.
1. RONAN FURLONG
If honesty, integrity and aspiration don’t in themselves make Rona Furlong’s essential, then his three-pronged attack – the arresting vocal, his deep lyrics and cross genre musicianship – certainly does, as he invites us into the kind of aesthetic in which art is the key to understanding the world.
If his last album Minerva’s Meddling was eclectically inspiring, his brand-new King Of Leaves is another major step up. 2021 promises great things from a unique talent.
2. JAMES OLIVER
The undisputed young King of Twang, James Oliver is an incredible guitarist.
He takes his influences from the 50′s 60′s and 70′s on an album that evokes Dick Dale’s surf and Link Wray distortion.
He is also influenced by Albert Lee’s hot picking, Mick Green’s high-octane rhythm-into- lead R&B, Wilko Johnson and Dr Feelgood’s minimalist British R&B and Elmore James’s slide guitar, while he brings things up to date with some Brian Setzer rockabilly twang for good measure.
He cleverly fuses the different eras together with his own updated material laced with stunning guitar playing that is a match for anyone out there today. Catch him live and hold your breath!
3. ADAM SWEET
Adam Sweet isn’t new on the circuit but his current album, ‘Sink Or Swim’ promise him a higher profile, as, it captures the energy, sonic quality and resonance of Sweet’s expressive vocals.
The end result is the perfect framework for a singer songwriter who has the chops, the phrasing and evocative songs to become a major breakthrough act on the contemporary roots rock scene.
1. NEIL YOUNG Homegrown (Reprise)
Some of the career best bits complies on one cool album.
2. STEVE MILLER BAND Live From The Fillmore West 1968 (Retroworld)
You could moan about the desk tape quality, but this is crucial snapshot of an era when Chicago blues and west coast psychedelia merged to great effect in the capable hands of the supercool Steve Miller.
3. DAVE EDMUNDS 5 Originals (Retroworld)
A great 3 CD compilation of 4 solid Edmunds albums (as long as you are hip to his retro journey on as A Flying Mallett), plus a live greatest hits set.
It’s welcome reprise of an unlikely hit maker, fine guitarist and intuitive producer. How ironic then, that by the time of the superb ‘Slippin’ Away’ from the ‘Information’ album, he is found working with an outside producer for the first time. Jeff Lynne!
DAVID WILSON (Live Editor)
1. FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH F8 (Better Noise Records)
Another stunning album by the band. As with previous releases the album contains a great blend of hard and heavy tracks coupled with more subtle and reflective numbers. It was also the first album for new drummer Charlie Engen and the last for guitarist Jason Hook.
Five Finger Death Punch also topped my very short list for gig of the year with their show at the Cardiff Arena just prior to lockdown, a superb set from the guys.
2. DEEP PURPLE Whoosh! (earMUSIC)
Old rockers never die, they just produce their best work in their later years maturing nicely like a fine wine. I didn’t listen to this album on release but with the rave reviews it received I thought I better give it a go and I wasn’t disappointed. The guitar and keyboard interplay between Steve Morse and Don Airey is a thing of joy.
3. DEE SNIDER For The Love Of Metal Live (Napalm Records)
Dee Snider was born to be on stage. A natural performer who commands a stage and controls an audience like few others. This live set manages to capture the man in full flow with a set comprised of his solo work and the best from the Twisted Sister back catalogue.
4. JIM KIRKPATRICK Ballad Of A Prodigal Son (US One Records)
As well as performing some of the best live sets online during lockdown, Jim also found time to deliver another cracking album. His guitar playing is first rate throughout and he has the vocals to match. A very talented man.
5. CHRIS BEVINGTON ORGANISATION Sand and Stone (indie)
The talents of Mr Kirkpatrick are on show on this release as well, he has kept himself busy! I discovered the Chris Bevington Organisation by chance at the Butlins Rock and Blues fest back in January and what a set they produced that night. This album contains 11 blues gems with a real swing to them, songs I look forward to hearing live once we can all gather to celebrate live music once more.
How do you improve on what is one of Rush’s best albums? You remix it for greater clarity and add in plenty of live tracks from the album tour to provide a great value for money package. It also contains the song ‘Natural Science’ which just happens to be my favourite Rush track!
Another act I caught at Butlins back in January who impressed. The guys were playing on the Introducing stage and put in a great set. The fact that they won the popular vote on the night to secure a place on the main stage at the next event came as no surprise as they have talent in spades.
This Danish outfit caught my attention a couple of months ago with their debut album release entitled ‘Edge Of The World’. It is well worth tracking down and contains some big rock anthems which would sound great in an arena setting.
MELODIC ROCK Album of 2020
PERFECT PLAN Time For A Miracle (Frontiers)
1. PERFECT PLAN Time For A Miracle (Frontiers)
These seasoned Swedes raise the bar on their second album. It draws on the glorious AOR influences of Survivor, Giant and others but is lifted to greatness by Kent Hill’s vocals.
2. H.E.A.T H.E.A.T. II (earMUSIC)
Very far from their second album, but a back to basics follow up to the ‘Into the Great Unknown’ experiment, with some banging anthems with huge choruses: a fitting close to the Erik Gronwall years.
A stunning blend (from California!) of southern rock, blues and soul, with a wonderfully warm, comforting vibe.
UK tour dates 2-12 May 2021
4. TOKYO MOTOR FIST Lions (Frontiers)
A second superb album of feel good melodic rock from Trixter’s Steve Brown and Danger Danger’s Ted Poley but with a little more polish and variety this time.
5. PRIDE OF LIONS Lion Heart (Frontiers)
Master songwriter Jim Peterik returns to a more eighties inspired sound as he and Toby Hitchcock deliver their strongest effort in over a decade.
Worthy of consideration:
KING KING Maverick
DENNIS DE YOUNG 26 East, Volume 1
REVOLUTION SAINTS Rise
THE OUTLAWS Dixie Highway
BAD TOUCH Kiss The Sky
British bands that were on the verge of a big breakthrough 12 months ago will hopefully make up for lost time – COLLATERAL, MASON HILL and the arena-worthy THOSE DAMN CROWS to name but three.
In the melodic rock world, STARDUST (from the unlikely rock hotbed of Hungary) and PASSION released the best debut albums of 2020 and I look forward to hearing more from them.
CATS IN SPACE have been around for a while but judging by the great reviews of ‘Atlantis’ may be about to move into the big league.
DEF LEPPARD The Early Years 79-81 (UMC)
Box set of my favourite period (if not the band’s!) in Leppard history, with remasters of the first two albums, a full concert from 1980 and rarities.
Perfect for listening to on these days as Spring languidly makes its way to Summer, this is a record that will instantly transport you to sunnier climes, no matter the season or place and stands to be a classic, much loved by all who hear it.
2. THE LAST DINOSAUR Wholeness (indie)
There is something in here that captivates both heart and mind in a way that very few manage, the seven tracks on display each drawing you in and stripping back layers of emotion that go way beyond the norm.
3. ESOTERICA In Dreams (indie)
A perfectly formed album full of skyscraping melodies and passion that stands the right side of the line, never verging into the histrionic. It’s an exhilarating and fascinating journey, taking in many different turns from hard rock, prog and even throwing in elements of pop to the mix in their own delicious and individual brew.
UK tour dates 1-10 April 2021
4. FORNDOM Fapir (indie)
A new genre has been created: Viking Chill-out and Forndom is the King. Skillfully mixing the best of Icelandic bands like Sigur Ros along with traditional Scandinavian folk, this Swedish artist brings a stunning world of artic landscapes to life. The album’s seven tracks soar with incandescent beauty whilst interweaving ancient dark mystery amid the lush sounds.
5. AMY BIRKS All That I Am And All That I Was (Nordvis Produktion)
Made to be listened to whilst strolling through Spring woods alive with carpets of bluebells, ‘All That I Am And All That I Was’ is a soothing balm that doesn’t just wash over you but draws you into Birks’ world as it speaks to heart, mind and soul.
Worthy of consideration:
LITTLE RED KINGS The Magic Show Part One (indie)
One of the best and hottest bands on the circuit, this Norwicjh-based crew have managed to bring the charisma of their live shows into the studio and produced something that has no uncertain amount of class and elan but also a real spark.
1. CONSTANT STRANGER
2. SAM COE
3. WARD XVI
1. BLUE OYSTER CULT Agents Of Fortune, 40th Anniversary (Frontiers)
2. TOBY & THE WHOLE TRUTH Ignorance Is Bliss (indie)
3. BLACK SABBATH Paranoid (BMG)
1. DEEP PURPLE Whoosh! (earMUSIC)
The British legends have released a storming album here, the whole band gel together perfectly, Don’s keyboards sound fantastic and Gillan’s vocals on fine form. One of their best albums of late and a wonderful listen.
2. BIFF BYFORD School Of Hard Knocks (Silver Lining)
The Saxon frontman’s long anticipated solo album has been in the making for a few years and what an enjoyable listen it is too. A range of guests, a range of styles, and it’s still just Biff. Class.
3. ACE FREHLEY Origins Vol 2 (SPV/Steamhammer)
The original and still the best Kiss lead guitarist has issued another album of covers of tracks that influenced him and added his own touch, it’s heavy and ballsy and better than the concept sounds. Well worth a listen.
4. RAVEN Metal City (SPV/Steamhammer)
The Gallagher brothers Mark and John are back and as fast and heavy as ever. Back in 1980 the NWoBHM trio were influencing the forthcoming thrash and speed scenes – and that hasn’t changed.
5. THUNDERSTICK Live In Paris (indie)
The former Samson drummer is still rocking with a new line-up and what a cracker of a live show this is. Wonderful
The first and last word in blues guitar – this vintage live set proves it, class throughout
2. GRAHAM BONNET The Solo Albums 74-92 (Cherry Red)
A lovely 6CD Clamshell with some of rock’s finest vocals, the man’s had a fine output fitting in around Rainbow and Alcatrazz. Features the classic Line Up album, a star studded array, and all albums have bonus tracks.
1. FISH Weltschmerz (Fish Music)
If this is to be Fish’s final studio production, he leaves us with a masterpiece. This is a rich, accessible, profound album invested with heaps of integrity, passion and insight. ‘Weltschmerz’ is filled with tracks that build, ebb, flow, change direction and give room to breathe. Easily amongst the best of the year for my money.
2. BLACK SWAN Shake The World (Frontiers)
The ‘supergroup’ tag might be as hackneyed as it is over-rated,, but there’s no doubt that this collection of seasoned professionals know how to write a tune, sing a vocal and produce a no nonsense, pumping, old school rocker. Robin MacAuley and Reb Beach are superb throughout.
3. SNAKE OIL & HARMONY Hurricane Riders (Zero One Entertainment)
This is just lovely. I first noticed Danny Vaughn when he took up the vocals in Waysted way back in 1987. On this gorgeous acoustic outing he gels so well with Dan Reed. An album to help you kick back and drift on the ebb and flow of tracks like ‘Dance In The Heart of the Sun’ and the touching, folk-influenced ‘Aberfan’.
4. WALTER TROUT Ordinary Madness (Provogue)
Trout has been a leading light of fine rock-blues for decades. Since his brush with mortality a few years ago, his work seems to be more grounded, honest and grittier than ever. His soloing is what keeps bringing me back to his work, with emotional combinations and dramatic sequences that others can’t find.
5. PURUSA Amnesia (Prepaid Friends)
This is not an album that rips your throat out or has you slamming round your self-isolating living room with unbridled adrenalin. However, it is absolutely something that will outlast the fly-by-night-merchants and have you coming back to the well time and time again to lap up quality songs, beautiful singing, fine playing and a hefty draft of spiritual sustenance.
WHEN RIVERS MEET
Excellent shuffling blues and roots-rock grooves from husband and wife team Aaron and Grace Bond. When Rivers Meet released their first EPs in 2019 – ‘Free Man and ‘Tomorrow’ are worth checking out – and now with the launch of their debut album ‘We Fly Free’, big things are in prospect.
This is my favourite Rush album and marked the moment they added more accessible arrangements and radio-friendly material to their game. Everything here is class, set up perfectly by the landmark opening double salvo of ‘The Spirit of Radio’ and ‘Freewill’. The remaster doesn’t offer a lot to be fair, but the live album in this package culled from shows on the 1980 tour in support of Permanent Waves is excellent.
2. UFO – Strangers In The Night (Deluxe Edition) (Chrysalis)
One for the completists. The greatest live album ever recorded (imho!) was compiled from six shows during in October 1978 on the Obsession American tour, together with two tracks recorded ‘as live’ to make the album fit the limitations of vinyl at the time. This new 8CD box set includes all 6 complete original concerts (5 are previously unreleased) as well as a newly remastered version of the original album. Four of the shows have been newly mixed from the original tapes. There goes my Sunday.
1. AC/DC Power Up (Columbia)
2. VOLBEAT Rewind Replay Rebound (Live In Deutschland) (Vertigo)
3. THE PETAL FALLS Working All Night, Working All Day (Rock Avenue Records)
4. THE DARKER MY HORIZON No Super Hero (indie)
5. METALLICA S&M2 (Vertigo)
THE PETAL FALLS
EDDIE & THE HOT RODS New York Live (The Store For Music)
WHITESNAKE The Rock Album 2020 Remix (Rhino)
1. AC/DC- Power Up (Columbia)
To be fair this could have been from any year post 1980. A great album, a great return and is topping the charts all over the place.
2. L.A GUNS Renegades (Golden Robot)
One of two L.A Guns line-ups out there, this one featuring the rhythm section. A very good album, would do better if they released it under a different band name as this one is dividing the fans.
3. BLACK STONE CHERRY The Human Condition (Mascot)
Another great lockdown release, the band can literally do no wrong these days.
UK tour dates 9-28 September 2021
4. PHIL CAMPBELL & THE BASTARD SONS We’re The Bastards (Nuclear Blast)
Phil and his boys have produced another gem of an album, hope to see the band live in 2021
UK tour dates 5-21 November 2021
5. WARRIOR SOUL Cocaine and Other Good Stuff (Livewire/Cargo)
A great collection of covers all done in Warrior Soul’s own unique way. There are a couple of surprises in there too.
Country and rock are really mixing it up these days and this album is a great example of crossing the genres
1. ROLLING STONES Goats Head Soup (Deluxe Edition) (Polydor)
Tthe 1973 album has a remastered sound, some great revisits of old demos and the bonus live disc (the legendary “Brussels Affair”) was the clincher for me. Just brilliant.
2. KEITH RICHARDS & THE X-PENSIVE WINOS Live at The Hollywood Palladium (BMG)
Recorded at the time of Richards’ solo album “Talk IS Cheap”, this reissue reminds me what a great solo band the X-Pensiev Winos were. There are also 3 bonu stracks that are all very welcome
3. DEF LEPPARD The Early Years 79-81 (UMC)
This box set has it all. Covering the albums “On Through The NIght” and “High n’ Dry”, there are also demos, remixes, B-sides, BBC sessions and a heap of live recordings. Awesome.
The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk was streamed on Sunday 20 December., imbued with a festive flavour to raise the spirits
More about Josh: http://getreadytorock.me.uk/blog/?s=%22Josh+Taerk%22
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 December 2020 and announces the results of the Popular Poll for Best of 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 20 December 2020 and includes Pete’s best of the year selections
Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
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Featured Albums w/c 11 January 2021 (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 UNRULY CHILD Our Glass House (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 SERGEANT STEEL Truck Tales (Boyz Tyme Records)
14:00-16:00 DAN REED Liftoff (Zero Entertainment)
Power Plays w/c 11 January 2021 (Mon-Fri)
BLACK SPIDERS – Good Times (Dark Riders Records/Cargo Records)
GRAVITY MACHINE Standing Stones (Zyse Records)
EMPIIRES Love Or Hate (TLG Entertainment/INgrooves)
RAY FENWICK Tam Tam (Singsong Music)
DEAD REYNOLDS Voices (The Fort)
LAYLA ZOE Don’t Wanna Help Anyone (indie)
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