Jan 1 2017 – As another year comes to a close we reflect in the year of #RealRock. None of that commercialized hipster post-something-or other stuff here. This is where music deeply rooted in the traditions established by the masters continues to thrive. Rich guitar riffs that stir the emotion are the premise of what we are after and boy did 2016 deliver. What we are presenting here is only to inspire our readers to explore any overlooked gems that came our way.
The Top 10 Rock Albums of 2016 are a matter of personal taste but if you like Classic Rock and don’t think it stopped existing after 1978 – have a look at what was hot this year.
10. David Bowie – Blackstar
Quite simply we lost David Bowie this year, and this album was made as he knew it would be his last. To be fully honest if that was not the case, this album would not have been on our list as it would have been dismissed as a sub-par Bowie offering. The fact that he is gone led this album to be listened to more times than otherwise. This damn thing grows on you though. A hard listen that has elements of jazz, drum n bass, soft rock and none of the Ziggy Stardust flair or even the Let’s Dance pop factor. Try it out a few times and remember how much this legend has contributed to music and we are sure it will grow on you.
9. The Rolling Stones – Blue and Lonesome
Honestly, our favorite Stones albums since the 70’s. This is who Mick, Keith and the boys are. Hard classic rocking Blues with harmonicas and slow emotional guitar riffs. This album came out of nowhere and it is so damn good to see a band as pivotal to #RealRock as the Stones sticking to what they do best and not chasing some poppy trend sound so late in their careers. Out of all the albums on the “Top 10 Rock Albums of 2016” list this is the one that deserves to be owned on vinyl more than others. It’s a natural fit and to be honest we can’t wait to have a few clicks and pops on our vinyl to give it that vintage feel. Jagger sounds exactly like he did on Black and Blue 40 years ago and that is an amazing feat.
8. Steven Wilson – 4 1/2
The prog king had a huge year with Hand.Cannot.Erase last year – a prog masterpiece and a mind-blowing album. 4 1/2 is a follow-up in the sense it is a bunch of songs he had recorded over the years that he felt didn’t fit into any other album. Although classified as an EP it is only 5 minutes short of being considered a full LP . This is not as one might expect a concept album but a collection of killer tracks that establish Wilson as the clear king of progressive rock in the genre of the greats such as Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, King Crimson and Wilson’s band Porcupine Tree.
7. The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem
Can this truly be the last album of Canada’s band? Lead singer Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer and the band’s “final” tour across Canada this year sold out in seconds. You have to be Canadian to understand what The Tragically Hip mean to this country and how hard it is for us as a nation to deal that our orator Downie may be gone very soon. Unlike Bowie, Downie is still here with us so we hope he has more music left in his soul to feed us. Man Machine Poem features that trademark Downie voice accompanied by rich rock that somehow has a slighter sadder undertone than the traditional Hip party songs – but hey that was also true for Grace, Too and Wheat Kings. Enjoy Canada’s band for one more (hopefully not final) time!
6. Metallica – Hardwired … To Self Destruct
This band needs no introduction – the godfathers of thrash/metal rock are back at it again with their latest record which even charted #1 on Billboard – a very rare feat in today’s musical wasteland. They have everything you might expect – hard thrashy mosh pit anthems, slower metal ballads, hard rock bordering on prog rock epics, and of course good old #RealRock. Although they continue to deliver the goods, this album will not be considered topshelf as much as their earlier career offerings were, nonetheless crank it to 11 and rock out.
5. The Temperance Movement – White Bear
This powerhouse band from England continue their excellent output. Two years ago in 2014 they dazzled us with their debut full length album and their second offering does not disappoint. They moved away from the rawer Zeppelin style to a more mainstream slow tempo rock with even some ballad type tunes on the album but make no mistake the album is full of hard rockers as well. We love these guys and strongly recommend their live show at any chance and especially in the smaller venues.
4. Jim James – Eternally Even
Every year since we have been doing this list, any time there is a My Morning Jacket release it is pretty much guaranteed a spot in the top 3 albums of that particular year. For those not familiar with the band, get educated very fast – they rock. Frontman Jim James also creates his own records to not be confined to the My Morning Jacket presumed sound and to explore vast rich musical landscapes on his own. Eternally Even is his second such journey and he nails it. Best listened to end to end – this album features soul, acoustic passages, soul and of course bone tingling vocals from James. The album is supposed to be a search of a better future for humanity, and we are more than happy to listen and interpret over and over.
3 – Rival Sons – Hollow Bones
Often heralded as the saviours of rock – California rockers Rival Sons do not disappoint on their fifth album. Singer Jay Buchanan is up there in the pantheon of rock gods with Jim Morrison, Roger Daltrey and Robert Plant. Throw in Scott Holiday who if around in the 70’s would claim his seat alongside Page, Gilmour, May and Lifeson on the hard rock guitar mantle. Hollow Bones is exactly what Rival Sons does best – dirty bluesy rock with sweat dripping off the walls. Hollow Bones Part 2 and Black Coffee are the highlights and reminisce of Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones respectively. Hollow Bones is a complete record meaning there is no filler here. An essential must own for any lover of Classic Rock style of music.
2 – Rik Emmett & RESolution 9 – RES9
Damn right Rik Emmett (of Triumph fame) is back and delivering the goods (and has been doing so for many years if you weren’t aware). Who is this band RESolution 9 you may ask? Well its they guys that Emmett has been touring with lately and includes Dave Dunlop on guitar, Steve Skingley on bass, and Paul DeLong on drums. The album is a bit on the softer side so don’t be expecting another Allied Forces although Emmett is joined by Gil Moore and Mike Levine for a track – yes you read that right there was a mini-Triumph reunion but for some reason the significance of that was overlooked by mainstream rock media. Speaking of guests another fine Canadian guitarist stops by for a couple of tracks – a certain Alex from that other Canadian power trio. You can add on James LeBrie from Dream Theater (but I am not a fan of his vocals) as a guest and you get an album full of mega rock stars all delivering a fun album. Since my dreams of a Zeppelin or Floyd reunion album or tour are hopeless, I can only continue to hope that we get at least one more taste of Triumph and their majestic hard rock wizardry. Until then, this album will have to fill that dream.
1 – Monster Truck – Sittin’ Heavy
Man this is Canadian rock at its historical best. This Black Sabbath/Deep Purple hybrid throws it down heavy on their sophomore album. They are on an inevitable path to stadium headliner status, and we cant wait! I actually interviewed Jon Harvey and Jeremy Widerman early in the year and told them it would be very hard for any other album to knock them out of the number one spot on our year end chart. From headbangers (Don’t Tell Me How To Live), to bluesy depth (Another Man’s Shoes) and even singalongs (For The People), this album has it all. In all honesty I have listened to this album more times in 2016 than all of the other 9 albums on this chart combined – Don’t Fuck With The Truck!
Top 10 Rock Albums of 2016 Article by Terry Makedon