Thursday, December 13, 2012

Twelve for '12 - My Top Albums Of The Year

My favorite albums of 2012 - one is six years old, another is a re-recording of songs that are almost four decades old, four are by new groups, not a one is on a major label, and my number one album of the year is by a band which may, or may not ever play another note. In a year of re-entrenchment and re-evaluation in the recording industry, I've decided that this was a good year, and one that seems to promise much for the future. A year of transition and growth. You can find the links to each record's full review below my comments - thanks for reading!

12)  Nothin But Love - Robert Cray Band: Robert Cray and his
       band got together with super producer Kevin Shirley and
       created an album that sounds like a greatest hits record filled
       with tunes you've never heard. Cray's writing, singing, and
       guitar playing have never sounded better, and Shirley pulled
       an incredibly simpatico performance out of the band. If you've
       always loved Cray, but haven't known where to begin, this is  
       the perfect place.

11)  Spectrum Road: This self titled debut is the result of Jack
       Bruce, Cindy Blackman-Santana, Vernon Reid, and John
       Medeski putting together a tribute band to honor jazz great
       Tony Williams, and this disc of covers mixed with a few
       select originals is a brilliant return to a time when the term
       fusion wasn't a dirty word. All four players are at the top of
       their game, especially Vernon Reid, who seems more
       interested in melody than speed in this setting (Though there is
       no shortage of fiery fretwork). Spectacular instrumental
       interplay, and some truly inspired performances.

10)  Elemental Journey - Sonny Landreth: Offering a few firsts for
       Landreth, Elemental Journey is an all instrumental outing that
       may be the slide guitar genius's best record yet. Featuring the
       amazing string arrangements of Sam Broussard, this set of
       complex compositions allow Landreth to take his virtuosic
       guitar work to dizzying heights. Untethered from singing and
       blues structures, Landreth becomes more than just an ace six
       stringer - he blossoms into a great composer.

 9)  Carnaby Street - Michael Des Barres: Coming out of nowhere,
      Carnaby Street sees Des Barres and his crack band of veteran
      rockers (led by guitarist Eric Schermerhorn) tearing down the
      house - this is like hearing Rod & The Faces for the first
      time all over again. Straight up rockers mixed in with a softer
      song or two, and a bit of the blues, this one blew my mind, and
      you should let it blow yours.

 8)  Flying Colors: When Steve Morse told me this record was
      great, I took it with a grain of salt, especially as he said that it
      was done in just nine days. Dummy me - I should have known
      better. Morse, the unrelated Neil Morse, Mike Portnoy, and
      Casey McPherson uncorked on of the finest debut records I've
      heard in decades. What really got me was the songwriting - I
      knew the playing would be great, I didn't expect such a great
      set of songs.

 7)  Steamroller - Philip Sayce: Calling Philip Sayce a blues rock
      guitarist is to paint an unfinished picture. He's a great guitar
      player period, but he's also bloomed into an excellent
      songwriter, and he's a helluva singer to boot. Steamroller is an
      exceptional dose of big, bold arena rock, and should succeed in  
      turning in the veteran sideman into a headlining frontman.

 6)  The Last Of The Analogues - T. Wilson King: "Jimi would've
      dug it." That's what I said about this disc, and I'm sticking to it.
      This record is another one that defies easy description - I called
      it, 'Blade Runner Blues', and King agreed. It covers a
      tremendous amount of territory, with stops in the realms of Syd
      Barrett, later Floyd, the aforementioned Hendrix, and even a
      dose or two some later U2. Those are signposts, but don't be
      fooled - this is one hell of an original sounding record.

 5)  Scarlet - The Director's Cut - Dave Kilminster: This record is
      over six years old, but it's just seeing official release, and it is a
      thing of unexpurgated beauty. Kilminster's soul shines through
      in every played note, and every utterance. This is a record that
      you'll want to sit back and truly absorb - let it crash over you,
      and envelop you, it's a wonderful ride.

 4)  (Tied) Nomads - Mos Generator/Burning On The Wings Of
      Desire - Blood Of The Sun: These two records are both Tony
      Reed productions - the hard rock renaissance man is the
      creative visionary for Mos Generator, and Nomads, their first
      record in half a decade, and it's the finest slice of metal to cross
      my desk in 2012. Burning On The Wings Of Desire sees Reed
      producing, playing bass, and contributing much guitar work,        
      and a good deal of songwriting as well. Reed also leads Stone
      Axe - their Captured Live album is another stellar disc that
      easily could have made this list. In short, if you like hard rock
      and aren't hip to Tony Reed, you need to be - he's become a
      good housekeeping seal of approval for anything heavy.

 3)  Something Unto Nothing - S.U.N. : Sass Jordan finally got her
      a bad assed rock and roll band, and S.U.N. is the record she's
      always promised to make. This is an epic sized rock and roll
      record, and when you hear the depth and breadth of Brian
      Tichy's guitar work, you'll wonder how he stayed behind the  
      drum kit for so long. He's not just got a great set of hands, he's
      an excellent songwriter, and a very tasty soloist. I hope this
      bunch makes a go of it, they are too special to fall between the
      cracks, as can happen in these days of realignment.

 2)  Genesis Revisited II - Steve Hackett: I'd call thin nothing less
      than a grand achievement. I crept up on this one slowly, and it
      knocked me silly, still. This two disc set hasn't been off my
      turntable since it arrived several months ago. Of course, you
      can't replace Peter Gabriel, or Phil Collins, but that's not what
      this is about at all. Hackett celebrates the catalogue in a heroic
      manor. He's spared no expense to completely update the sonic
      qualities beyond what a struggling prog rock band could do in
      the early 1970s, and in many cases, he's has even transcended
      instrumental performances. This should be taken on its own
      merits - it requires no comparisons, and holds its own as a
      musical achievement. Perhaps the finest production I've heard
      in a decade. Forget that the songs are as much as four decades
      old. Hackett has created a masterpiece.

 1)  Afterglow - Black Country Communion: Halloween was truly
      the perfect time for Afterglow to be released. It's a little scary,
      to say the least. It is also a tremendous slab of rock and roll.
      Glenn Hughes knew he was on his own for the writing of this
      record, and he exceeded all expectations. This is classic hard
      rock at its finest - full of swagger, bluster, beauty, and pain.  
      Jason Bonham contributes several stellar tracks as a writer, and
      plays the drums as if his father was standing behind him
      watching. Kevin Shirley finally pulls keyboardist Derek
      Sherinian up in the mix, and we see why he's been the busiest
      ivory tinkler in rock for the last twenty years. Finally, Joe
      Bonamassa plays the role of brooding six string slasher so well,
      you'd have thought the ghost of the elder Bonham had been
      chauffeured to the sessions by Blackmore himself - this is the
      finest example of pissed off guitar wizardry I've heard in ages,
      and it fits perfectly. I'm not guessing we'll see this lot together
      again, but goddamn, I sure will miss and mourn them if that is
      the case. In any case, Glenn Hughes wrote and performed the
      record of a lifetime.

There you have it - it you agree with me on all twelve, I'd be awfully surprised. If I could make this list up again tomorrow, I'd be damned surprised, but as I sit here today, this is my top dozen for 2012. Following are links to full reviews of all twelve.

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