Hard to believe we are close to the end of 2013 already. So as usual I am posting my top 10 personal albums of the year almost passed. I hope you check out some of the stuff below if you missed it and share similar taste. I wouldn’t say 2013 was a great year for new music, but there were some solid albums for sure. I feature a ton of new music every week in both radio shows. It is SO important to get the word out on this stuff since so little gets mainstream airplay and sales are so minimal these days. In a couple weeks I’ll be doing my Year In Review special to end 2013 spotlighting my favorites and many more that were released in the past year all in one show. So here are my top 10 for 2013 and as usual hope I didn’t forget anything!
1: The Winery Dogs
Easily my favorite of the year, and NOT because they are friends and I had something to do with their formation! Stands to reason as a fan of all three members I would like the album, but even I couldn’t have anticipated an album of songs this strong when I suggested Richie Kotzen to Portnoy and Sheehan when their attempted band with John Sykes fell apart. I knew what Kotzen was capable of for sure as a massive fan of his solo work the last 10 years, but even I had no idea this could gel so well and so quickly. The playing is of course all top notch with three virtuosos in the band, but that can also turn an album into a wank off fest and lose songs. This album creates the perfect balance of amazing playing but never at the expense of great SONGS. Production top notch and mixed by brilliantly by Jay Ruston, one of my favorites in that end of the business. I have always known Kotzen was an amazing singer and player, many only knew his as a player. So it was great to see so many let in on the secret of his vocal ability through this album. Richie was the least known guy in this band but that all changed with this albums release and he became somewhat of a 25 year overnight sensation. Just had lunch with him last week and he told me how his solo albums have increased in sales which is great to hear as people finally find out more about this incredible all around talent. By no means do I want to overshadow the amazing contributions from Portnoy and Sheehan. This would not be the masterpiece it is without all three of these guys singing, playing and writing! It’s just that Kotzen as singer, guitarist and writer was the wildcard in this whole thing and he delivered Ace’s all the way in every way. Not a bad song on the album. I’d also suggest if you have the US version to seek out a bonus track from the Japanese edition called “Criminal”. Great song and it was criminal it was left off the US version. Many skeptics wonder if this band has legs. All indications are they do, with more tour dates on sale now next year. After that it’s anyone’s guess and I hope for many more albums. But whatever happens in the future they made an amazing debut that was easily my favorite release of 2013. And that would still be the case if they weren’t friends and if I had nothing to do with it!
2: Alter Bridge: Fortress
Band gets better and heavier with every album. Mark Tremonti’s solo debut was one of my top 10 of 2012. This album has those same amazing riffs and playing coupled with equally amazing playing and singing by Myles Kennedy. The rhythm section of Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips driving everything perfectly. Great production as well from Elvis Baskette that is crushing but not at the expense of dynamics. An epic incredible 4th album from Alter Bridge who I can not wait to see live and let’s hope America embraces them like Europe has already where they can headline arenas.
3: Black Star Riders: All Hell Breaks Loose
What was Thin Lizzy wisely changed their name to BSR when they decided to make new music. New music that channels the greatness of Lizzy with a fresh coat of paint. Ricky Warwick shows his love and influence of Lynott while still very much bringing his own approach to the band. Damon Johnson and classic era Lizzy member Scott Gorham deliver those classic dual solos all over the album. Reagrdless if you are a classic Lizzy fan or just a fan of great well played hard rock that channels all that was great about Thin Lizzy while still being fresh and new, this album was a very impressive debut for sure.
4: Buckcherry: Confessions
An ambitious concept album and one very personal to singer Josh Todd. Also turned out to be the best Buckcherry album since the comeback 15. If you missed this revisit, really impressive piece of work from a band more known for party hard rock anthems going a bit deeper.
5: Queensryche: Queensryche
The first “Tate-less” release from Ryche and they delivered a solid album that merges elements of their early days with Empire era period sounding stuff as well. To lose such a key member and voice like Tate and still make an album this strong is pretty amazing. By the way, I also thought Tate’s Frequency Unknown was solid, but to me it was more of a Tate and friends record while this album retained more of a classic Queensryche band vibe featuring 3/5 of the original members.
5.5: Black Sabbath: 13
Their 3/4 reunion record was way better than anyone thought it would be. Led by the all time riff master Tony Iommi (NEVER ending supply of amazing riffs!). The founding fathers of metal able to come up with an album that channels their history but still sounds fresh and most important like Black Sabbath!
6: Scorpion Child
New band from Austin Texas that sounds like they could have come from the 70’s. Killer guitar riff based hard rock that at times reminds me of Fastway. “Liquor” my favorite track on it. Promising new band and hope to see them live.
7: Stryper: No More Hell To Pay
Michael Sweet wrote the bulk of the album and produced it as well. The best new music from this band in a while with great guitar sounds and those incredible lead and harmony vocals all over the place. Regardless of your religious beliefs, if you believe in well played hard rock with amazing vocals listen and enjoy.
8: Motorhead: Aftershock
With recent health scares surrounding Lemmy and various ailments catching up to the iconic front man you would expect maybe a tired sounding album after all these years? To the contrary it’s the best album from the band in several years. Motorhead is always going to sound like Motorhead, but by their standards there is a bit more variety here which makes it stand out a bit more.
9: Michael Monroe: Horns & Halos
His album last year Sensory Overdrive was also a top 10 for me. This album isn’t quite as good as that one but it’s close. The former leader of Hanoi Rocks is on a roll. Only hope the American audience takes notice. “The Ballad Of The Lower E Side” my favorite track. Killer snotty hard rock!
10: Megadeth: Supercollider
Many thought this was Risk all over again when the title track was released as a single, but that wasn’t a sign of the direction of the rest of the album (plus I like the song!). Lot’s of classic Megadeth metal on this and a great cover of Thin Lizzy’s Cold Sweat to end the album. Can’t argue with that!
Other stuff to check out that I liked:
Anthrax: Anthems (covers EP otherwise would have been in the top 10 easily. But they always do great covers.
Skid Row: United World Rebellion (again only an EP, but direction wise back to where Skids should be.
Avenged Sevenfold: Hail To The King
More groove and song oriented than other stuff I heard from them.
Tom Keifer: The Way Life Goes
Lot’s of directions but great to finally have new music from the leader of Cinderella.
One of British metal’s best but still slightly under the radar bands.
Kill Devil Hill: Revolution Rise
Album 2 and a great continuation of what they started on debut.
Hear all of the above and many more on my Year In Review radio special debuting on Q104.3 NYC 11P ET 12/27/13.