Top 10 Albums of 2012 – T-Mak World Style

Dec 17 2012 – All the hip websites this year will be producing their top 10 albums of 2012 lists and will all feature Frank Ocean, Japandroids, Mumford & Sons, Fiona Apple, Alt-J and maybe even Taylor Swift. 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. As a website that originated from a passionate respect of classic rock, our top 10 list will focus on music from bands that have clearly been influenced by the rock giants of the 70’s. We like our music booming with tons of guitar riffs, and not very interested in bands that consider themselves alt-anything. Any top 10 list is a matter of personal taste of the author and in reality the only desire we have is to let classic rock fans see if there were any really good albums out this year that they missed. With apologies to Jack Black fans, his album did nothing for me this year and I do acknowledge that many people will think it deserves to be on this list. Here’s hoping that you discover something new to listen to from T-MAK World‘s Top 10 Albums of 2012.

10. The Cult – Choice of Weapon

In our review of this album we said: “The Cult have delivered the goods regardless of whether you are into the band’s deep philosophies or not – this is one damn good heavy rock album that happens to also be blessed with lyrics that matter.” Ian Astbury is one of the best vocalists alive today with a thunderous voice and a stage presence bordering on genius insanity. Billy Duffy delivers riffs in spades on this album. Essential tracks are: For the Animals, Lucifer, and This Night in the City Forever. The Cult played Toronto on August 31 2012 and you can read our review of that show here.

9. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

Here is the one album that will be in most other publications year end lists (in fact it is the only album on our list that will intersect). Every year there is a rock band that is considered the next big thing based on a very solid album and this year that band are Alabama Shakes, If you haven’t heard “Hold On” go check it out immediately and see why the song was named #1 on Rolling Stone Magazine Top 50 Songs of 2012. Robert Plant even invited lead singer Brittany Howard to stay in his house during SXSW so you know that Alabama Shakes must be delivering the right blend of down south riff blues. The album has a very retro sound to it as if recorded in analog back in the 50’s era’s of drive-ins’ and pinball machines.

8. Slash – Apocalyptic Love

Slash has solidly shed his Guns N’ Roses baggage on this record which is essentially a showcase for his guitar wizardry. He brings in Myles Kennedy to sing and boy does he deliver. We saw Slash live on the tour to support the record and the conclusion stands for the album as well  Musically its hard to think of a guitarist/combo today that has a rock n roll punch like these 2 guys have in the tradition of Plant/Page, Daltrey/Townsend, Lennon/McCartney and Jagger/Richards.”  Essential songs are Anastasia and You’re A Lie. Give this one a listen if you like Guns N’ Roses and we promise you will forget about Axl very fast. Slash played Toronto on September 23 2012 and you can read our review of that show here.

7. Saga – 20/20

This album is one of Saga’s best (from a 35 year career with 8 million records sold) and will without a doubt satisfy the hunger of the bands’ very passionate fans. That much is a given. We hope that music fans that have never heard of Saga (or at least haven’t heard much of them since On The Loose and Wind Him Up) give this one a spin. This CD shows that Saga clearly understands how to give their existing fans exactly what they want while trying to attract new listeners at the same time. Any one of the standout tracks Anywhere You Wanna Go, Six Feet Under, Show and Tell or Till The Well Runs Dry will give not only a very good representation of the technical mastery of the individual members of Saga but of the tightness of the band overall.” – from T-Mak World review on July 16 2012. Progressive rock fronted by the massively powerful Michael Sadler. Saga played Toronto on July 20 2012 and you can read our review of that show here.

6. Soundgarden – King Animal

16 years between studio albums is quite a long time, but when you are as good as Soundgarden that fact is irrelevant. King Animal continues where the band left off and although there are not as many riffs as in past albums the catchy melodies compensate. Lead singer Chris Cornell is a powerhouse of a vocalist and his voice is as strong as ever. The lead off single “Been Away Too Long” is pure Soundgarden and one of our overall favorite songs of the year. The rest of the album satisfies hard rock and grunge fans.

5. Rival Sons – Head Down

Rival Sons have a fan you may have heard of before – Jimmy Page. Not only has Page been preaching to Rolling Stone magazine about how great the band is, he was spotted at their gig in London this year. Just as Led Zeppelin took inspiration from old blues greats such as Willie Dixon and Sonny Boy Williamson – Rival Sons clearly took inspiration from Led Zeppelin. The LA band has come out strong with “Head Down” and honestly this record will please all fans of 70’s style rock. The album includes booming arena anthems as well as slowed down mellow blues. If there is a next big monster rock act in the vein of Led Zeppelin or U2 this is the band. I am certain that “Head Down” will be considered the album that ensured Rival Sons get really noticed. Keep on Swinging and Until The Sun Comes are essential songs but to get that Led Zeppelin feel spend some time listening to Manifest Destiny (Part 1) and (Part 2).

4. Led Zeppelin – Celebration Day

There is no chance that on a year where Led Zeppelin released a new CD they wont be on our top 10 list. Led Zeppelin is by far the single most important band in T-Mak World’s musical influence and the band is at the peak of our musical passions. This is Led Zeppelin’s (well at least 3/4 of Zeppelin) live album from their 2007 one off reunion at London. Our conclusion from the review of the DVD applies equally to the audio soundtrack: Verdict: 5 out of 5.  Led Zeppelin once again ascends to the stratosphere and re-claims their throne. This may or may not be their swan song, but their legacy will continue for a long time and the Deluxe Edition of Celebration Day proves why they are the world’s greatest rock and roll band for 2 hours for 16 glorious songs (all from 1969-1976 by the way).

3. Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth

Sammy Hagar or David Lee Roth? Van Halen has been privileged with having two of the finest hard rock singers of all time as their lead singer. A Different Kind of Truth brings David Lee Roth back to the front of the stage for the first time since 1984. Although Diamond Dave is annoying as can be when watching him live, he still has the hard rock voice needed for such a terrific album. Take a recently rehabilitated Eddie Van Halen who is back to his late 70’s guitar god form and you have the foundation of a terrific album. The synths have been put away as have the slow love ballads. Very similar to the early VH records (the word is that the songs were mostly outtakes and demos from the 70’s) this record is best enjoyed loud with a cold beer. The lead off single Tattoo is not the strongest song on the album (but it did grow on me) and the best songs are She’s The Woman and Big River. Van Halen played Toronto on March 17 2012 and you can read our review of that show here.

2. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill

Neil Young rocks period. Not only does he have the balls to release a double album in this day and age, he also packs it with two 16 minute songs and one 27 minute song. He turns up the distortion and electric guitars to the max on this record. For a guy that has 35 studio albums to his name this one may be one of his best for fans of his amped up hard rock sound. Ramada Inn and Walk Like a Giant are incredible songs and definite throwbacks to a time when electric guitars ruled the radio waves. Honourable mention goes to Born In Ontario – a song that all Ontario residents would feel proud listening to.  Neil Young played Toronto on November 19 2012 and you can read the review of that show here.

1. Rush – Clockwork Angels

Hometown heroes Rush keep on going strong – not only did they get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 they also released one of the best records of their career. Clockwork Angels is the band at its hard rocking best. The record is a concept album based on a steampunk world full of alchemy and magic. Society is ruled by the loving Watchmaker that dictates every move of his citizens. The Watchmaker has an opponent known as The Anarchist who likes to disrupt the perfect order of the world. In essence the album (and subsequent book) is based on a classic struggle of order and chaos and questions which one is better for humanity. Bassist/Vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart are widely regarded as the best in the world (or near the top of all “best of” lists) at their respective instruments but together they are so tight on this record its incredible. It’s hard to pick highlight songs on this album so just listen to it all end to end (many times). There was no doubt for me what my favourite record of the year was from the first moment I heard it and stands along Moving Pictures as exclamation points in Rush’s career. Rush played Toronto on October 14 and 16 2012 and you can read a review of that show here.

VERDICT: 2012 was a pivotal year for classic rock! Not only are the old timers living in the limelight there is a fresh new batch of musicians posed to continue bringing good old rock n roll to the masses. Whether you agree with my picks or not, I hope this list helps you find something new to try out that you might have overlooked otherwise.

PS. Fingers crossed for Jimmy Page to finally get something out or tour in 2013 as he announced. (same wish as last year at this time).

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