Dec 31 2011 – Be warned – unlike Rolling Stone magazine, there will be no Adele, Beyonce, Jay-Z and Kanye or Lady Gaga on this list. Here at T-MAK World we don’t exactly believe music peaked in 1977 but we certainly would not object if the charts were dominated by Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, and Rush once again. Unfortunately, for yet another year the “other” charts are in our humble opinion primary dominated by unmemorable and formulaic factory pop that involves singing, dancing and posturing and for the most part songs that have no real musical impact. Has the need for musicians to play instruments become as obsolete as the LP, the VHS and the soon to be extinct CD? We certainly hope not because a closer look at what was released this year reveals some real gems. (PS. We are of course joking about the virtue’s of today’s mainstream musical tastes and certainly enjoy some of it greatly, but lets just focus on classic type of rock for this list.) Here’s hoping that you discover something new to listen to from T-MAK World‘s Top 10 Albums of 2011.
10. Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn of Events
This album was the 11th by Dream Theater but first without epic drummer and co-founder Mike Portnoy. Highlight tracks include “On The Backs of Angels” and “Breaking All Illusions“. Even though the album contains three unspectacular ballads the heavy hitting rhythms remind us why Dream Theater continues to be just one hit single away from mega superstar status. Their live show continues to be incredible and the review can be read here. Progressive rock at its best (until Rush release Clockwork Angels in 2012). If you are unfamiliar with Dream Theaters‘ complex music give this one a spin and be amazed at their musical prowess.
9. Mastodon – The Hunter
Before this album was released, drummer Brann Dailor described it as “a real super-heavy Led Zeppelin“. Quite a statement to make, but sure enough the album was filled with great songs that after a few listens the statement did not sound ridiculous at all. Influential Kerrang! Magazine named this their number 1 album of 2011. From the first song Black Tongue you can sense the power of this album and it continues all the way through to the last track The Sparrow and its excellent guitar solo. Mastodon started off very much a thrash metal band on their first album, then went progressive in their previous album and now seem to have captured a good hard rock sound on this, their fifth album.
8. Rush – Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland
A live album of classic Rush material. Enough said right? Never mind that this album features The Spirit of Radio, Freewill, Closer To The Heart, and Subdivisions, never mind that it features 2 tracks (Caravan and BU2B) from Rush’s forthcoming 2012 album, never mind it features 7 minutes of 2112’s Overture/Temple Of Syrinx or 7 minutes of La Villa Strangiato, never mind all those goodies. This one features Rush’s best album Moving Pictures end to end in it’s entirety. If you aren’t sold yet you are probably on the wrong site – for those that get it here is a little live Freewill we captured during the Time Machine tour in Toronto.
7. The Black Keys – El Camino
The last album (Brothers) by The Black Keys was incredibly successful and a bit of a mystery to me. Here is some really good dirty down blues rock that would fit in the 70’s as well as it would fit in a Quentin Tarantino movie and yet Brothers was well received by pop media and sold tons of copies. It’s great to see 2 rocking guys making it huge. Their last amphitheater tour was sold out very fast when they came to Toronto and they will be back in a few months to play an arena gig. El Camino hopes to pick up exactly where Brothers left off. Not as much slow tempo blues as their last showing but a great album nonetheless.
6. Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon Immersion Set
This is the only re-issue on our list. Our full review of this gem is found here. “Clearly the album is a masterpiece not just because of its commercial success or critical acclaim, but also for it’s strong appeal to fans young and old around the world. The Immersion set takes that masterpiece and rips opens the vaults and gives us access to a larger view of the work than the original 42 minutes have given us for the last 38 years since it’s release. For me, the set’s highlight was the original footage used in the concerts in high bit-rate 5.1 surround as well as the remastered version of The Dark Side Of The Moon.” Although not a true album because this contains 6 discs including DVD and Blu-Ray there is no way that we can omit this timeless masterpiece from our year end list.
5. Lindsey Buckingham – Seeds We Sow
The two front line personalities in Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks are comfortable revisiting their fabled Rumours glory when The Mac go on tour every few years. In their down time they tune the dial back a notch and produce much more intimate solo albums that are worthy of a visit. In Seeds We Sow Buckingham puts the spotlight directly on his guitar and vocal skills. The album was produced and mixed by Buckingham himself and was self-released with no record label support or influence. Standout tracks include Illumination and the mind blowing acoustic guitar picking masterpiece Seeds We Sow. As Rumours and other Fleetwood Mac classics are best listened to with a cold beer, Seeds We Sow is better suited with a classy vintage wine.
4. Black Country Communion – Black Country Communion 2
A keyboardist (Derek Sherinian) from Dream Theater, a superstar Blues guitarist (Joe Bonamassa), a lead singer of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath (Glenn Hughes), and the son of Led Zeppelin‘s John Bonham (Jason Bonham). Can you say supergroup? This is classic rock at its best, and one can easily think it was made in the mid 70’s and held in a vault for 35 odd years. Man In the Middle sounds like a track that could have been on any of Zeppelin’s last few albums. In fact Save Me was born when Jason Bonham was jamming with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones for the failed Zeppelin reunion a few years ago. Bonham let Hughes listen to a riff from it, and Hughes created the version we hear on the album. This album was recorded in 10 days and with pedigree such as listed above, surely one not to miss.
3. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
Thank you Dave Grohl. Thank you for keeping rock and roll alive. Thank you for making fun music and being rock’s flag bearer. Thank you for Wasting Light. The Foos 7th album is produced by none other than Butch Vig who also produced Nirvana‘s Nevermind. Speaking of Nirvana, Grohl brings in former bandmade Krist Novoselic to throw down some bass on I Should Have Known. Songs like These Days, Rope, Walk and Arlandria are made for big sold out stadiums on summer nights with a wave of sweaty bodies bouncing to the thumping beats.
2. Chickenfoot – Chickenfoot III
Supergroup is not just an accurate description of our number 4 pick Black Country Communion but also for our number 2 pick of the year – Chickenfoot. Chickenfoot’s second album – humorously named Chickenfoot III features the all star cast of Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony (Van Halen‘s best singer and bassist), Joe Satriani (arguably one of the best 5 guitarists on the planet) and Red Hot Chili Pepper‘s drummer Chad Smith. The band’s website tells us that “the first single, “Big Foot,” debuted at #1 on the Mediabase Classic Rock Chart holding the position for 11 weeks!” The song is nominated for song of the year in Ultimate Classic Rock reader’s poll and in fact Chickenfoot III placed in at number 2 on that publications Top 10 Album Of 2011 list.
1. My Morning Jacket – Circuital
Here is one that Rolling Stone Magazine got right and is the highest ranked album that we have in common – they had it in the 11th spot but for us this is the highlight of 2011. My Morning Jacket is by far the best band you will ever see playing a small club. On this album you get power rock anthems, pop metal, ballads, and everything in between. The first two songs on the album (Victory Dance and Circuital) are a perfect introduction to the band. If you have never heard of My Morning Jacket head over to YouTube and give those songs a listen (our recording of Victory Dance is here). Taking it one level further, the infectious groove of Holding On To Black Metal makes you want to get up and funk dance while head banging. Baffling – but hey this album is pushing music forward into a better place and lead singer Jim James has earned a place on the legends list with stars such as Robert Plant and Roger Waters.
VERDICT: 2011 turned out to be a great year for classic style rock and we hear 2012 will be even better with new albums from Black Sabbath, Fleetwood Mac, Rush, Pearl Jam and Van Halen among others. Fingers crossed for Jimmy Page to finally get something out as well.