Sunday, December 20, 2015

10 Best Albums of 2015

Every writer likes to do year end lists and though I don't consider myself a real writer by any stretch of the imagination, I like to do them, too. As a primarily comic book related blog, I toyed around with a couple of comic related things to do a year end list about but my love of music spoke too strongly here.
2015 was a great year for melodic rock, seeing releases from such great classic bands as Def Leppard and Stryper. They were solid albums too and I enjoyed them very much. But there's a movement going overseas where bands are working hard to keep this great genre of music alive. Sweden, in particular is a hot bed for bands carrying the torch for the great genre that is melodic rock. A lot of my favorite albums of the last few years have been imports because all I hear on the radio is this bubblegum pop or rap. I'll pass. Anyway, here's the list....

10. Kelly Keeling - Mind Radio

Kelly has the distinction of being only one of few Americans on the list. Kelly  is from neighboring Louisiana and was the front man for a band called Baton Rouge. Kelly signed with my favorite label Frontiers Music and Mind Radio is the result. Solid catchy tunes with solid vocals and musicianship that I still break out and listen to occasionally. Repeat listening is a big factor going into this list. There were good albums out that rocked this year but, unfortunately didn't inspire repeat listening. Mind Radio is not one of them.

9. FM - Heroes & Villains

FM is a UK band that has been around for a few years. You can definitely hear a Def Leppard influence in their music, which is no problem for me. Heroes & Villains rocks from beginning to end.

8. Joel Hoekstra's 13 - Dying To Live

Joel first came on my radar when he joined Night Ranger a few years ago and recorded two great albums with them. He's since left that classic band and joined another, Whitesnake. In between he found the time to go in the studio and record his third solo album, Dying To Live. Another Frontiers release, Dying To Live sees Joel working with several guest musicians including different singers on the album. Jeff Scott Soto handles lead vocals on several tracks with Russel Allen taking the lead on the rest.
I really wanted to  rank Dying To Live higher because the songs I like on the album, I replay over and over quiet often. Unfortunately it's only 6 of the 12 tracks offered on the album. I know most people would think having 6 good songs on an album is better than most, but this year has produced some great stuff that I can listen to all the way through without skipping one song. I do a lot of skipping on Dying To Live.
That's not to say the other songs or bad. Joel has done some experimenting on this album and some of the songs are just harder and faster than the melodic side of things I prefer. But the 6 songs I do listen to are finely crafted pieces of melodic rock that do require repeat listens so you can enjoy them again and again.

7. Reach - Reach Out To Rock

Reach are part of the next generation of melodic rock coming out of Sweden. Young, full of energy and proudly carrying the melodic rock banner, Raised On Rock is their first album and it is AMAZING. Catchy choruses, great guitar riffs and you can feel the energy of this band coming through the speakers. Reach Out To Rock would be higher on the list but I just discovered this band and the album is still new to me. I can say there's not a bad song on the album and I haven't got tired of it yet. Right now it gets played more than any of my other new albums and I see no signs of getting burned out on it. Solid debut from this promising new band.

6. Peterik & Scherer - Risk Everything

Jim Peterik's name will be familiar to longtime rock fans as the guitarist of Survivor and one of the men responsibly for the Rocky theme "Eye Of The Tiger." Since leaving Survivor, Peterik has stayed busy with other bands as well as mentoring young and upcoming musicians. Peterik  joined with singer Masrc Scherer to release this melodic master piece.
The songs of course will be compared to and sound like Survivor. That's because the man who wrote the album also wrote all those classic hits. Peterik hasn't lost a step and has crafted a beautiful album full of great songs. Marc Scherer does sound a bit like the deceased Jimi Jamison but he has his own distinct vocal range, is a great singer and does the songs contained on this album proud. I love Risk Everything and it's great to hear one of the fathers of melodic rock/AOR is still out there writing great songs.

5. Kiske/Somerville - City Of Heroes

The owner of Frontiers likes putting together Supergroups. This year we've seen artists like Michael Sweet and George Lynch collaborate for some great albums (if you haven't heard Only To Rise yet, you are missing out) and Kiske/Somerville is one of those collaborations. Working with Magnus Karlsson, they released their first album in 2010. Flash Forward 5 years and it was time the follow up, City Of Heroes.
Micheal Kiske is a German singer best known for being the lead singer of Helloween and Amanda Somerville is an American who works all over the metal/rock scene. They joined together and created something really special with this album. I refer to it as symphonic rock. Somerville and Kiske are exceptional singers and their soaring vocals and the fantastic drums are the driving force of this great piece of rock and roll.

4. Serpentine - Circle Of Knives

Serpentine is another UK band that's been around for a few years. I'd never heard of them until 2015 and what initially caught my attention was Gary Hughes of the fantastic band Ten, was co-writing and producing Circle Of Knives. Then I saw the video for Season Of The Witch and was hooked. This is great album full of catchy hard rock songs. You can definitely hear the Hughes influence on Circle because it does sound a little bit like Ten. Trust me when I say that's a good thing, because while there is some similarities, Serpentine have their own voice and that voice soars on Circle Of Knives. Six months after its release, I still listen to it at least once a day. Fantastic.

3. Magnus Karklsson's Free Fall - Kingdom Of Rock

Remember those Super Group projects I said Frontiers is fond of? Magnus Karlsson's Free Fall is a compilation of some of the best singers in rock coming together to sing a song or two on the Free Fall project. Kingdom Of Rock came out a couple of months ago and automatically went to the top of my Most Played list on the trusty MP3 player. Full of great songs written by Magnus and sang by the likes of Jorn and Joe Lynn Turner, Kingdom Of rock is, in my opinion, the kind of album everyone in rock should aspire to achieve. I mean it is this genres of music's shining example of why melodic rock is still alive, vibrant and has a place right alongside anything other genre of music. Magnus should be proud of this one, because few musicians achieve the perfection he has reached with this album. Seriously, if you listen to "The Right Moment" and it doesn't give you goosebumps, then something is wrong. 
What's even more amazing is the fact that he crafted an album that flowed so smoothly from one song to the next while using different singers on each track and slightly altering the songwriting to accommodate the strengths of the person performing vocals. Amazing.

2. Ten - Isla De Muerta

After that glowing review I just gave Kingdom Of Rock, you would think it would be number 1 on this list. Let me just say that everything I said about Kingdom being a shining example of melodic rock at its best goes for the # 1 and 2 entries on this list. They really did achieve perfection with these albums and deserve a place in melodic rock history right alongside classics like Slippery When Wet and Hysteria.
Gary Hughes has been doing his thing in Ten for a long time now and every album he's released under the Ten banner has been highly enjoyable but the man hit his peak with Isla De Muerto. Beautifully written and performed to perfection by the musicians, Hughes has earned his status as one of the greats in rock with this album. I don't see how he can top Isla but I'm looking forward to him trying and if I know Ten, they are in the studio right now working on the follow up.

1. Room Experience

I had never heard of any of the guys in Room Experience until Andrew McNeice announced the Room Experience album on and previewed a couple of tracks on YouTube. I liked them well enough to give the album a try and I fell in love. The musicianship is topnotch, yes and David Readman is a great singer (I've become a fan of Pink Cream 69 because of this album) but it's the very apparent heart and soul that was poured into these songs that won me over right away. Everyone of them speaks to me and several of them give me goosebumps. There are also rockers on here that starts the old head to banging. The boys put everything they had into this one and it really shows. This is not only my favorite album of 2015 but it is in the top 5 of my favorites of all time, a list that hasn't really changed since the early 90's.
Just listen to the guitars on Tomorrow's Came that kind of roll right along with you throughout the song or on a later track how Readman laments that he just can't spend another day without his loved one. The hidden track at the end of Only Goodnight should have been one of the lead singles. That's right, a hidden track should be played on the radio all over the world instead of the factory made boy band rehash that dominates the airwaves today. The music on this album will speak to anyone with a heart and the harmonies, the choruses....This is what real music is all about ladies and gentleman. Room Experience and the other bands on this list are why I still buy an album that was made after 1989. Trust me when I tell you they are the best of the best.

Thanks for reading.

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