Albums of the Year 2014

Thought I would get in early and whittled the albums down from a shortlist of 24 to fifteen!

Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise (Inner Wound Recordings) The band’s second album has been worth the wait as they have produced a monster! Big sound, big production and big songs, the best melodic metal album released this year.

The Tea Party – The Ocean At The End (Inside Out) It’s been ten years since their last studio outing but it has been worth the wait. Epic soundscapes, hints of the Doors and Led Zeppelin, glorious stuff.

The Dowling Poole – Bleak Strategies (Indie) Willie Dowling and Jon Poole combine talents for one of the best pop rock albums you’ll hear this, or indeed any, year.

Night Ranger – High Road (Frontiers) Since they returned Night Ranger keep on producing good quality music and one of the few big 80’s melodic rock bands who actually produce new music on a regular basis.

Bellowhead – (Island) The band’s first for their new label and although not as instant, it is a ‘grower’ and the better for it. They set such high standards you do wonder how they keep bettering themselves but they do.

The Radio Sun – Wrong Things Right (Melodic Rock Records) Formed from the ashes of Aussie modern pop rockers Supersonic, I defy anyone not to sing-a-long to the immense choruses contained on this album.

H.E.A.T. – Tearing Down The Walls (earMusic) H.E.A.T. really are on the up and deservedly so. This is their best album to date, not one filler. A ‘must have’ for any lover of hard rock/melodic rock.

Flying Colors – Second Nature (Mascot) Second album from the prog rock supergroup sees them going a little more prog on this album, although they still pen damn fine short songs that appeal to those with more pop/alt rock tastes.

Evergrey – (AFM Records) The band nearly called it a day and thank goodness they didn’t. Quite possibly their best album to date.

The Trews – S/t (Indie) Surely this band deserve a break outside of their native Canada? They produce consistently high standards of alt/modern rock with songs made for constant playing and airplay.

Patsy Matheson – Domino Girls (Proper Records) One of the best female singer/songwriters out there and her most varied album to date.

Nightingale – Retribution (Inside Out) New band to me, although this is their seventh album. Dan Sawnko and his cohorts have produced an album with AOR/melodic rock leanings backed by prog metal riffing.

Brother Firetribe – S/t (Spinefarm Records) Good to have them back! OTT 80’s melodic rock/AOR as only they can do and more hooks than a fishing tackle shop!

Audrey Horne – Pure Heavy (Napalm Records) This time they really tap into their love of 80’s hard rock with plenty of wild guitar solos and big choruses.

Smash Fashion (Indie) From pop rock to glam rock stomp, this band’s debut is highly impressive and recommended listening.

Re-issues:

Queen – Live at the Rainbow ’74 (Universal) Essential for any Queen fan, simple as that.

Gigs:

Jeff Lynne’s ELO Hyde Park Only waited 28 years to see ELO live, okay it was just Jeff Lynne but he is ELO and long-time ELO band member Richard Tandy was playing to. The gig of the year by a country mile and Jeff Lynne and co. far exceeded my high expectations, made even more special as my son joined me and loved every minute to.

Kansas – Shepherd’s Bush Empire A sad, but fond farewell to vocalist Steve Walsh and lets’ hope the band are back sooner rather than later.

Public Service Broadcasting – Guilfest A new discovery to me and they put on a memorable show, both musically and visually.

Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer – Guilfest In an ideal world Mr B and his brand of chap hop would be on the music GCSE syllabus. Jolly good show for (nearly) all ages.

Foreigner acoustic – Shepherd’s Bush Empire Even in acoustic mode Foreigner are one of the best live rock bands around today.

Bellowhead – Royal Albert Hall Celebrating their 10th anniversary in style with a set list that covered all their output. A phenomenal live act and one well worth seeing regardless of you musical preferences.

Ones to watch… so many good, new bands appearing and long may this continue. Three to watch are Neonfly, surely destined to move up the popularity levels based on their latest album and regular touring; Smash Fashion highly impressed by their debut and UK dates next spring; MT (Many Things) insanely catchy quirky pop rock and their relentless live shows should see success come their way.

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