Doc Krieger’s Music Page
Doc Krieger’s 2017 Top 20 Albums
Yearly disclaimer: As a 60+ year old white male, I tend to like 60s type pop/rock music, 70s progressive and guitar blues/rock which isn’t the hot trend anymore – but there is still some good stuff out there if you look for it. Most of these albums & songs can be found on youtube if you want to sample any of the following – so here goes (the track included on the CD is underlined unless it is the title track):
1.Alan Doyle – A Week At The Warehouse – well I guess it says something when my favorite album of the year is a Canadian import. Doyle was in the fine band Great Big Sea who for many years did rocked up versions of sea shanties and Newfoundland folk songs. Doyle still has a devoted following in the Celtic community as a solo artist (and author) doing energetic Americana music and ballads. The fiddle and accordion intermix on “Come Out With Me” and “Summer Summer Night” is energetic fun. The stately “Fall” and the country rock of “Ready To Go” are also of note.
2.Liam Gallagher – As You Were – the Oasis lead singer’s first solo album sounds much the same as that group plus his last band Beady Eye – Lennonish vocals on guitar based mid-tempo rock (“Wall Of Glass”) or strummed acoustic ballads that tend to build to the finish (“Bold”). Actually a much gentler album than you would expect and shows that he doesn’t need brother Noel to write a good song.
3.Lonely Robot – The Big Dream – this is the second album by the side project of prog guitarist John Mitchell (It Bites, Arena). The title track is a classically bombastic prog rock instrumental. “Awakenings” and many of the other tracks feel like Fish era Marillion.
4.Dan Baird & Homemade Sin – Rollercoaster – in an odd bit of marketing, Baird in just a short period of time put out this cool rock and roll album plus another fine solo album (both imports only). The band includes his former drummer in the Georgia Satellites (Mauro Magellan) with the music sounding a bit similar to that band. Baird’s voice sounds like it could open tincans while the guitar is straight chunk-a chunk-a monkey beat classic rock and roll. “Shake It Till It’s Sore” could be Tom Petty while “Roll On Chattahoochee” is a John Fogerty clone. “Love Gone Wrong” is straight three chord rock.
5.J D McPherson – Undivided Heart & Soul – if his third album was an Elvis song it would be more “Good Luck Charm” than “Hound Dog” – good rock and roll but more tuneful than straight oldies rock. Frankly the best way to enjoy him is live. Bassist Jimmy Sutton is rock royalty adding a tough bottom to growlers like “Lucky Penny” and “Crying’s Just A Thing That You Do”. On these sorts of albums I usually skip the ballads, but these guys always throw in a great slow song and “Hunting For Sugar” could be a Flamingos doowop – goosebump beautiful. “Let’s Get Out Of Here While We’re Young” almost has a Paul Revere & the Raiders garagy feel with cheesy organ and a great riff.
6.Blackfield – V – Aviv Geffen and Steven Wilson continue to put out fine progressive music that can be catchy and accessible while still being prog in feel. Alan Parsons produced three songs on the record which lends some old-school cred. The gauzy “Family Man” and especially “Lately” are favorites.
7.Nick Heyward – Woodland Echoes – pastoral pop that spans the gentle “Love Is The Key By The Sea” to the more guitar-driven and very catchy “Baby Blue Sky”. This import has a southern downhome feeling song in “Mountaintop” and a rocker like “Perfect Sunday Sun” but is mostly more gently pop.
8.Kim Wilson – Blues & Boogie Vol. 1 – well this is more like what we want from Fabulous Thunderbirds harmonica player and singer Wilson. His band’s last few albums have not been up to their legacy of hot jumpin’ blues and boogie, but this fine monaural solo record gets back to his roots. “Searched All Over” is great Elmore James and “Ninety Nine” is a tail-shakin’ groove. Fine instros too like “Bonus Boogie”.
9.Strawbs – The Ferryman’s Curse – it is amazing that something like 50 years into their career, Strawbs can still put out an album as good at this. The packaging is great and while Dave Cousins’ voice has always been an acquired taste, it fits their version of prog rock well. Newcomer Dave Bainbridge on keyboards wields a mighty mellotron which is always a fave of mine. “When The Spirit Moves” is suitably bombastic while “We Have The Power” is a classic Strawbs tune that sounds like a great encore.
10.The Biters – The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be – this seems like a futile effort – trying to make great stoopid guitar rock and roll when the charts are nothing but hip-hop. These guys channel 70s rock icons like T Rex (“Stone Cold Love”) and Sweet (“Let It Roll”). My fave is the ACDC similar Vulture City”.
11.Dan Auerbach – Waiting On A Song – this is way poppier and more understated than his usual material in the Black Keys but I guess that is what a solo album is supposed to be – different. It’s fun to see Duane Eddy playing guitar on songs like the title track while “Malibu Man” could be an Al Green soul work-out. Mark Knopfler lends his guitar to the instantly familiar “Shine On Me”.
12.Dirty Thrills – Heavy Living – these guys are clones for the Rival Sons who have brought back Led Zep/Free heavy 70s rock. There isn’t a whole lot of variety in the riffage of “The Brave” or “Law Man”.
13.Ayreon – The Source – talk about a classy package – hard cover like a book, great graphics in the booklet plus 2 CDs and a DVD. That has been the norm for Arjen Lucassen’s long-running prog-metal project Ayreon which is up to album nine of sci-fi bombast. Dutchman Lucassen plays great shredding guitar which can be a bit too heavy for me at times, but generally fits the albums well. Each project features a bevy of well-known instrumentalists (i.e. Paul Gilbert of Mr. Big and Mark Kelly of Marillion) and singers (i.e. Floor Jansen of Nightwish and James LaBrie from Dream Theater). The story of the Alphans and their journey to the waterplanet “Y” is the excuse for almost operatic guitar rock. The story is basically in four long songs broken up into many tracks that run together. “All That Was”.
14.Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie – a Fleetwood Mac album without Stevie Nicks (alright by me since I can’t stand her) so you know going in what it will sound like. Buckingham’s quirky almost muted sound undercuts what would have been a great album with better production. They certainly still can write pop hooks, however. “In My World”, “Feel About You”
15.Big Big Train – Grimspound – this quick follow-up to the excellent Folklore is tasteful progressive rock that is less electrical bombast than many groups of their ilk. “Brave Captain” is 12 ½ minutes of classic prog while the 15 ½ minute “A Mead Hall In Winter” has an early Yes feel (if not vocally). Judy Dyble (Fairport Convention) guests on “The Ivy Gate”. “Meadowland” has an early acoustic Genesis feel.
16.Steven Wilson – To The Bone – not as good as his Blackfield project this year, but still a good progressive feel album. He claims this is his attempt to sound more like the pop bands he liked such as ELO. Well maybe “Permanating” and “Nowhere Now” are catchy but by no means pop. It is perverse that by far the best song on the album (“A Door Marked Summer”) is only available on the horribly pricy boxset version along with several other more progressive tracks and demos.
17.Brother Firetribe – Sunbound – a Finnish band with a vocalist that sounds like Ian Gillan (Deep Purple) fronting a band that could be Survivor from the 80s. “Give Me Tonight” is a hit if it’s the 80s.
18.New Politics – Lost In Translation – the 4th album of catchy modern sounding music by this Dutch band. Rivers Cuomo is featured on “Tell Your Dad” while “Lifeboat” has the thumpy dance sound the kids seem to like (“One Of Us” also catchy). I prefer the keyboard pop of “Clouds”.
19.Dave Kerzner – Static – his last album New World deluxe edition was my fave album two years ago so this is a bit of a letdown but still decent Pink Floydian progressive rock. I hope his band with Phil Collins’ son (Sound Of Contact) will release more music eventually but in the meantime this is pretty good. The title track and “Chain Reaction” have all the usual prog moves. Steve Hackett guests on “Dirty Soap Box”.
20.5 Billion In Diamonds – a UK super-collective from Butch Vig (Garbage). Ebbott Lundberg of Soundtrack Of Our Lives and David Schelzel of Ocean Blue sing. “I’m Becoming You” is fine neo-psych.
Doc Krieger’s Best Orphan Songs 2017 – these are downloads, singles, EPs, isolated top tracks on LPs.
1.The Mavericks – Brand New Day – the album of the same title is decent if standard Mavericks Cubano/
Country music featuring the outstanding voice of Raul Malo, however this song (from the minute I played the CD) simply leapt out of the speakers. The sound is very different for them with a 60s Phil Spector wall-of-sound production that demands you turn up the volume (weird video, though).
2.Train – You Better Believe – well I didn’t like their 10th album A Girl, A Bottle, A Boat much as it sounded like they were trying to have a modern hit so it was a real surprise to get to a wonderfully introspective ballad at the end. The song is a piano song about the relationship of a father and a son.
3,Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Holy Mountain – ex-Oasis songwriter/guitarist Noel’s new album (Who Built The Moon?) is a bit of a sludgy mess with awful production. On this seeming homage to pounding early 70s glitter rock it works however.
4.Chris Hillman – Here She Comes Again – former Byrd bassman Hillman revisits a lot of music from the old days on Bidin’ My Time. Frankly, the new versions don’t hold a candle to the originals (do we need “Walk Right Back” when the Everly Brothers own the song?). This previously unrecorded 70s Hillman and Roger McGuinn song is so much better than the rest it makes you wish for more in that vein. These ex-Byrds get some help from Tom Petty and Herb Petersen (from Hillman’s Desert Rose Band).
5.Dan Baird – Naughty Marie – as mentioned earlier, ex-Georgia Satellite Baird put out a band album plus this album titled SoLow. It is a pretty decent album but not as good as the full band record. This track was by far the best and is once again buttshakin’ monkey beat rock and roll with a fine riff.
6.The New Pornographers – High Ticket Attractions – Whiteout Conditions is decent if not up the their last album. Good catchy guitar pop/rock that has a nice male/female vocal back and forth.
7.Cheap Trick – Blackberry Way – I think they should have waited a bit since this feels like a rush job LP (We’re All Alright!) after last year’s excellent Bang, Boom, Crazy…Hello. This Roy Wood (The Move) composition is only on the deluxe version and is so much better than the rest of the record it makes you wish they would do a whole album of some of their favorite obscure oldies tracks.
8.Big Big Train – Haymaking – their third album in something like a year and a half (The Second Brightest Star) has some fine moments but violinist Rachel Hall’s instrumental contribution is by far the best thing on the record.
9.Fastball – Behind The Sun – Austin trio Fastball have never reached the commercial heights of “The Way” now six albums into their career, but they continue to make tuneful guitar based pop. Their new album Step Into Light isn’t bad but this fingerpicked gentle McCartney-esque ballad is what grabbed me.
10.Los Straitjackets – Shake & Pop – What’s So Funny About Peace Love & Los Straitjackets isn’t one of their best, but you can always count on them to come up with at least one excellent Ventures-like guitar rocker. This CD is a tribute to the music of Nick Lowe which isn’t bad, but it could be way better.
11.Greg Kihn Band – The Life I Got – this doesn’t sound very different than his early 80s new wave hits – catchy guitar rock and roll. He continues to use his name in his album titles as well (ReKihndled).
12.The Church – Another Century – the Church are a long-running Aussie band that occupies the territory between prog and psych on this track from Man Woman Life Death Infinity.
13.Fairport Convention – Summer By The Cherwell – their 50:50@50 album is a mix of live and studio tracks celebrating their 50th year of creating fine British traditional music. This song is a stately amble.
14.Humming House – Make It Through – they are a Nashville band that started as a folky string band. This song from Companion recognizes the need to persevere. They sound like the Decemberists at times.
15.Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – The Punishment Of Luxury – this is the title track to their newest album which is a tribute to the sound of the “Autobahn” synth pioneer band Kraftwerk.
16.Operus – La Catedral – a black metal band with a cello player from Toronto. The prog metal riffage is decent though the theatrical singer can be annoying – probably why I prefer this nylon guitar instro.
17.Scarborough – Right About You – weirdly, MSNBC host (Morning Joe) and political muckraker Joe Scarborough (who looks totally GQ) actually has some talent doing 80s sounding rock. Apparently his plan is to put out an EP of new music each month for four years. This is from Freaks Love Freaks.
18.Walk The Moon – One Foot – well it’s not “Shut Up And Dance” but it grows on you (though I can do without the singer’s hairstyle in the video).
19.The Dark Element ft. Anette Alzon & Jani Liimatainen – Someone You Used To Know – a former Swedish Nightwish singer joins with a former Finnish Sonata Arctica guitarist to make an album of bombastic prog metal. The music almost feels like ABBA fronting a metal band which is decent but I prefer this ballad to anything else on the record.
20.The Woggles – Luminol Test – Little Steven has done a great job of trying to keep garagy 60s music alive with his Sirius XM show and his Wicked Cool record label. The album Tally Ho! came out on his label this year and features the usual cheesy organ and Kinks sneer. This song stands out from the rest.
Best Reissue Album (Music)
The Yardbirds – Yardbirds ’68 – the Jimmy Page era of the Yardbirds tends to get forgotten when compared to the hits of the Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck years. This fine (if overpriced) two CD set has one disc of unreleased tracks (“Avron Knows”) and another that finally presents their March 30, 1968 Anderson Theatre (NY) in excellent sound. I bought the first version of this record in 1971 and was horrified to hear all the awful overdubbing of crowd noise Epic did to ruin a pretty fair live concert (Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page). That record went out of print quickly due to a lawsuit so this is a welcome reissue. Without the overdubs you can hear a band that very clearly was heading to the Led Zeppelin sound (“Dazed & Confused”) while still offering slashing versions of older songs (“Heart Full Of Soul”).
Best Reissue Album (Packaging)
The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Boxset – musically I will always go back to the original even if the sound isn’t as good as on the remix here. The packaging is outstanding with six discs and a hardcover book worth the price of the set. Here’s hoping we see more of these Beatles sets
PREVIOUS YEAR REVIEWS:
Doc Krieger’s 2016 Top 20 Albums
Yearly disclaimer: As a 60+ year old white male, I tend to like 60s type pop/rock music, 70s progressive and guitar blues/rock which isn’t on Billboard’s radar anymore – but there is still some good stuff out there for old guys that isn’t boring MOR if you look for it. I am surprised how much great female vocal music hit my list this year by non-mainstream artists. Most of these albums & songs can be found on youtube if you want to sample any of the following – so here goes (my highlight track is in bold):
1.ABC – The Lexicon Of Love II – this screams desperation for a hit when Martin Fry does an update on his band’s classic 1982 debut – yet it’s great! The only thing missing is Trevor Horn producing and frankly the rest of the band. Fry might have received a boost from having bandmate Mark White, but I really don’t miss him or Horn because of Anne Dudley’s wonderful orchestrations. The retro synth disco of “Viva Love” was the obvious hit (at least 30 years ago). Introspective songs like “Brighter Than The Sun” had an Alan Parson Project feel to them.
2.Robbie Williams – The Heavy Entertainment Show – this is the sort of album Elton John would have put out in his classic 70s era – tuneful and well produced. I took off points for one of the tracks which uses the ‘f’ word far too liberally for me or else this might have been #1. “Bruce Lee” feels almost like ELO and I also like the ballad “David’s Song” with a fine lead guitar part. The over the top Freddie Mercury/Queen channeling on “Party Like A Russian” (with the Prokofiev references) is a video worth seeing. He’s huge in the U.K., so why is the U.S. not on board?
3.Cheap Trick – Bang, Boom, Crazy…Hello – some 40 years into a great career of smart power pop, this album is a real classic like the old days. Too bad drummer Bun E. Carlos got pushed out so Rick Nielsen’s son Daxx could join, but that being said the kid plays great drums on tracks like “The Sun Never Sets”. The single “No Direction Home” doesn’t show any age on Robin Zander’s rock pipes and it has a cool 60s phase-shifting bit late in the song to boot. Glad they finally got in the R&R Hall of Fame too.
4.The Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome – quite a surprise to have such a nasty hot blues album from these guys but frankly it is what they do best. It would have been perfect if original pianist Ian Stewart would have lived to play on it, but he seems there in spirit as they play great Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter rarities. “I Gotta Go” could have been on their first LP 52 years ago while “Ride ‘Em On Down” really buzzes. The opener “Just Your Fool” is one of those songs you have crank the volume up on your stereo for. A bit too much slow blues for me, but Eric Clapton helps out on 2 of them which helps.
5.Big Big Train – Folklore – an 8-piece progressive rock collective that released my favorite song of 2015 on an EP. That song (“Wassail”) is on this album along with 8 other gems that rely on organ/strings and flute rather than the usual synths/mellotrons and bombastic guitars. The vocal by David Longdon is a bit like Peter Gabriel and he also wrote the best songs including the fine title track “Folklore”.
6.Goo Goo Dolls – Boxes – John Rzeznik still puts out good loud guitar-based pop-rock, though long-time fans think it might be too pop and too introspective. I still like a good catchy song like the opening “Over & Over”. “So Alive” might have been a bit like an obvious grab for a hit, but so what?
7.Steeleye Span – Dodgy Bastards – having written them off some time ago, it comes as a surprise to like this new album of smart British traditional electric folk. As long as Maddy Prior can still sing, it appears there will still be a Steeleye Span though new female fiddler Jessie May Smart actually chips in a fine lead vocal on “Brown Robin’s Confession”. She also does nifty fiddling on the title track. There are 2 new guitarists in the band and unfortunately one of them (Julian Littman) does a horrid rap on “Boys Of Bedlam”. If you ignore that, it is an excellent record including “Gulliver Gentle & Rosemary”.
8.The Struts – Everybody Wants… – already released in the U.K. in 2014, this is the debut of a young Brit pop/rock band with 5 new songs (and a racier cover). “Dirty Sexy Money” has a good drum stomp while a couple of tracks feel like Slade in the glam era (“Where Did She Go” and “The Ol’ Switcheroo”). Singer Luke Spiller has the classic Freddie Mercury vocal style on the opener “Roll Up”.
9.Green Day – Revolution Radio – Billy Joe Armstrong seems to be worried about violence this time around. The lead single “Bang Bang” is about guns while the title track is a punk political rant.
10.She Is We – War – I’m not sure I totally grasp the history of this act who used to be called He Is We but seems to now be Rachel Taylor and different producer/collaborators like Adamm Mitchell. The sound is synth/dancy pop with explosively catchy choruses. While the lyrics are pretty much about romantic entanglements, they sound smart (“War” and “Blue”).
11.Paper Tigers – Head Over Heels – strangely the Scandinavians seem to have a good ear for pop (remember ABBA anyone?). These Danes come from a musical background (dad was a folk singer) and can write a catchy 70s pop/guitar song like “This Is Not Alright” and “Cave Man”. “Head Over Heels”
12.Blood Ceremony – Lord Of Misrule – these Canadians have an early 70s heavy rock sound with a good use of flute (“Half Moon Street” and the title track). With their female lead singer (Alia O’Brien) they remind me a lot of Purson. “Flower Phantoms” is driving later 60s psych-pop.
13.Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour – a group of Finns on Nuclear Blast records with their 9th album of prog-metal. The openers “Closer To An Animal” and “Life” show their style: driving metal guitar over synths. The highlight is the 10+ minute orchestral/metal opus “White Pearl, Black Oceans Part II…” which does get a bit modern metal at times, but is still good. “Candle Lawns” is a good power ballad.
14.The Monkees – Good Times! – thanks to some sympatico songwriters like River Cuomo (“She Makes Me Laugh”) and XTC’s Andy Partridge (“You Bring The Summer”) this ends up being a far more satisfying Monkees album than their last one (Justus from 1996). Micky Dolenz still sounds like the Micky we remember on a track like “Whatever’s Right” which is an old Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart number. They manage to include the late Davy Jones from an old discarded vocal on “Love To Love” by Neil Diamond. The only real misfire is that they used the weaker version of “Me & Magdalena” on the main CD so if you want the better version 2 you have to get the deluxe (download? – not sure). Needs more Mike, too.
15.Against The Current – In Our Bones – Chrissy Costanza is the lead singer of this 3-piece band from New York. This is their debut album of pop/punk rock. “Young & Relentless” and “Roses” are good but I prefer “Running With The Wild Things”.
16.Ancient Cities – Supermoon Blackout – this is sort of late 60s/early 70s psych rock from a North Carolina band lead by Stephen Warwick who wrote all the songs. They use a lot of fuzztone guitar on “Sunburn” and “Sorceress” especially. “Marmalade” actually kind of feels like a Doors song.
17.Wolfmother – Victorious – they have always done a good mix of Led Zeppelin and other classic rockers on their records and this one is no exception with the early Sabbath sounding “The Love That You Give”. They also do a decent Deep Purple organ on “Baroness”. There is some good percussion on “Best Of A Bad Situation” but I lean towards the surprising acoustic guitar pop of “Pretty Peggy”.
18.Rick Springfield – Rocket Science – he is getting flack for adding elements of country to his sound but I don’t think it sounds much different than what Mellencamp was doing on his classics. Yes he uses steel guitar on “Down” and dobro on the bluesy “Miss Mayhem” (no doubt he wants to move more albums and figures country is a good place to do it) but it is still good. I like the opener “Light This Party Up”
19.DMA’s – Hills End – an Australian Oasis which is good if you like snotty guitar rock. The vocals sound much like Liam Gallagher on songs like “Lay Down” but also they can channel REM like on “Melbourne”.
20.The Weeklings – Studio 2 – this is all about 1964/65 Beatley pop music on their second album. They are lead by Glen Burtnick from Styx and the Orchestra (who carry on ELO’s music). Aside from covering the Beatles track “Love Of The Loved, they are originals like “Little Elvis” and “Don’t Know, Don’t Care”.
Bonus – Best Reissue
The Beatles – Live At The Hollywood Bowl – the Capitol album came out nearly 40 years ago so one did not expect a CD reissue after all these years, but here it is – and it sounds great. The sound is likely better than either the audience or the band heard back in 1964/65 as modern technology (wielded by George Martin in 1977 and his son Giles today) has managed to pull the music through the layers of screaming girls that drowned out the primitive live equipment of the day. Boy do you get the sense that these 4 were one great/tight rock and roll band as there are no overdubs – and none needed! “Boys”
Doc Krieger’s Best Orphan Songs 2016 – these are downloads, singles, EPs & isolated top tracks on LPs.
1.Ghost – Square Hammer – after putting out my #4 best album of last year, they have since released an EP (Popestar named after the lead singer’s costume) with 4 cover songs and this excellent original. As with their album Meliora, the album art is outstanding and in keeping with their mysterious image (just who are Papa Emeritus III and his masked musicians?). This song is old school heavy and VERY catchy – they remind me of a less raw Alice Cooper band. Heck, they even won a Grammy.
2.Travis – Magnificent Time – are the Cowsills back? This is so darned catchy – wish I liked the CD more.
3.Infinite Spectrum – Federal Hill – the album just missed my top 20 (Haunter Of The Dark) and is taken from an H P Lovecraft short story. While the album has too many new-metal elements for me, this is straight progressive rock with an Ian Gillan (Deep Purple) type voice by Will Severin over excellent keys (mellotron, synth, piano) by Katie Pachnos trading off with loud guitars.
4.Fitz & The Tantrums – Handclap – a neo-soul band goes pop to get on the charts (if you believe the negative reviews) yet it did work if only at #63 on Billboard’s Hot 200 which is about as far as an actual rock band can get today. Maddeningly catchy and, yes, they can make your hands clap.
5.Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones – Never Knew You Loved Me Too – Teddy has never put out a bad record and this one is no exception. This time the son of Richard & Linda of Brit-folk fame has teamed with a female singer for an album of wonderfully tight harmony in an old country vein. Everlys like.
6.Opeth – Will O’ The Wisp – a band I like and gorgeous packaging on this CD (Sorceress) and I so much wanted to like it, but… Most of the album didn’t grab me, but this is pure old Jethro Tull from the Songs From The Wood mold from acoustic guitar flourishes to the flute.
7.Blondfire – Domino – there are a couple of good songs on this new EP (True Confessions). Erica Driscoll still hasn’t topped “Waves” from 2014, but this gauzy echoy trance-like song is great for late PM.
8.Purson – Unsure Overture – quite a letdown from their last excellent album The Circle & The Blue Door yet the cover art is so good you need to buy it (a 6-armed Rosalie Cunningham painted blue and nude save for strategic hair and a guitar in a vertigo swirl with psychedelic images surrounding it). The main album is so-so psych, but this bonus track on the deluxe version is an excellent pre-hit ELO (when it was Roy Wood/Jeff Lynne) sound-alike – heavy on the cellos.
9.Foghat – Made Up My Mind – with their guitarists long dead, it seems like they should be a waste of time. Their last few albums, however, have had their moments including this cover of the old Savoy Brown song which features their guitarist Kim Simmonds guesting here coming full-circle (since Foghat was started by refugees from that band). The album Under The Influence is okay, but mostly just barely.
10.The Last Shadow Puppets – The Dream Synopsis – their 2nd album Everything You’ve Come To Expect was not up to their debut till you get to the last track which is pure solo years John Lennon. Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys and Miles Kane (here teamed in a side project) have shown a lot of Lennon love in the past. It is no accident that at the end of “Aviation” on their new EP (that features a different version of this song) you hear “how was that Yoko”.
11.American Authors – What We Live For – this is the title track from their new decent album but most of the songs sound alike (low key verses then bombastic choruses). This is pure modern rock.
12.School Of Seven Bells – Ablaze – SVIIB is likely their last release as the main music man in the band (Benjamin Curtis) passed in 2012. Singer Alejandra Deheza sings over Curtis’ echoy 90s retro pop synths and guitars in a dreamy style. The album is decent but this opener stands out.
13.The Head & The Heart – All We Ever Knew – much like the folk band Mumford & Sons have moved into a harder sound, so too have TH&H to gain hits – and it worked getting them to #1 on the Alternative charts. The album Signs Of Light is their 3rd. Sorta Fleetwood Mac at times. Chorus= lalalalala + cellos.
14.Barry Gibb – Star Crossed Lovers – oh that this was 1977 and Maurice & Robin were around to lend their harmonies – this would be a classic BeeGees ballad a la “How Deep Is Your Love”. In The Now CD.
15.Blackberry Smoke – Let It Burn – well Like An Arrow didn’t grab me like their last one, but this is pure Dave Edmunds 3 chord monkey beat rock and roll like the 70s. Southern country/rock.
16.The Explorers Club – Before I’m Gone – they have made a (minor) career out of sounding like the Beach Boys. This hits the 4 Freshman side of that band and reminds me of the great Brian song “Til I Die” from Surfs Up. Together is a decent CD without Wilson genius to write songs and produce them.
17.Dragonette – Detonate – Martina Sorbara leads this Canadian pop band with her cutesy vocals and Royal Blue is at times catchy, but this song is more dreamy with a “Sloop John B” jumpy guitar line.
18.OneRepublic – Heaven – Native was perhaps the best album ever by a Colorado artist (and this from an old guy!) but Oh My My isn’t up to it. There are a couple of good songs, but this is the best with Ryan Tedder’s soaring falsetto over modern synths and acoustic guitar.
19.Santana – Leave Me Alone – this is something I have been screaming for the Moody Blues to do for years before someone dies – reform the classic era band and try to put out just one more classic sounding album. At least Santana heard the call and Carlos pulled in Neil Schon, Michael Shrieve, Mike Carabello & Gregg Rolie to make an album that recalls the sound of Santana III (hence the name of this album IV). The tunes meander a bit, but this is good. If they do it again they need better songs, however.
20.Skyforest – The Swan – this one is a bit of a forced entry, but I do love mellotron and this album (Unity) is thick with it. Frankly, too thick with not enough thought to vocals and melodic differences. Every song sounds like the last, but I give credit to what is essentially a Russian 1 man band (B.M.). B.M.’s weird whispered vocals early in the song are a stretch, but Michael Rumple adds barely audible clean vocals that must be very deep lyrically (or in Russian – who can tell?).
PREVIOUS YEAR REVIEWS:
Doc Krieger’s 2015 Top 20 Albums
Yearly disclaimer: As a 60+ year old white male, I tend to like 60s type pop/rock music, 70s progressive and guitar blues/rock which isn’t the hot trend anymore – but there is still some good stuff out there if you look for it. Heck, this is one of the best years for progressive rock music in years – especially European prog/metal seems to be strong. Most of these albums & songs can be found on youtube if you want to sample any of the following – so here goes (LP trax on CD are underlined unless title track):
1.Dave Kerzner – New World Deluxe Edition (2 cd) – this is an amazing Pink Floyd nod from the keyboard player in Point Of Contact (Phil Collin’s son Simon’s band). While the single CD version came out at the tail-end of 2014, the 2 CD version from this year is the killer. Download it from itunes, but to get it on CD you must visit his website (davekerzner.com) – it’s worth it. There are 3 long suites (“Stranded” “Premonition Suite” “Redemption”) that benefit from guests like Steve Hackett, Frances Dunnery & Billy Sherwood. Kerzner proves he needs no help, however, on “Under Control” doing everything himself.
2.JD McPherson – Let The Good Times Roll – the 2nd album of great classic 50s type rock (think Little Richard in a white body vocally) – “Bossy”. The moody ballad “Bridgebuilder” kills me – you want the loud riff near the end to go on forever (great piano triplets!). Saw his crack band with ole pal and drummer Dan C in DC back in February – you must see this band live! “Shy Boy” “Mother Of Lies”.
3.Chris Isaak – First Comes The Night – by now you know what you are going to get from him, Roy Orbison sound-alike ballads (“Perfect Lover”), Elvis rock n’ roll (“Down In Flames”) or even Mavericks type country“Don’t Break My Heart” (he and Raul Malo are the best singers today for me). This song (“Keep Hanging On”) is the best extra track on the deluxe edition which has 5 more songs.
4.Ghost – Meliora – Swedish cartoonish prog metal band that wear masks & costumes to disguise their identity (singer is Papa Emeritus III). They have that ‘evil’ Alice Cooper thing going on tracks like “Cirice” but “He Is” is a straight old school progressive song. The booklet contains some great classic drawings.
5.Sylvan – Home – the 9th album from German progressive rockers Sylvan. The vocals remind me or either Demis Roussos (Aphrodites Child) or Fish (Marillion) while the music ranges from classic prog to elements of prog metal. This is a concept about a woman’s search for a sense of ‘home’. Minor key long songs like “The Sound Of Her World” & “Shine”.
6.Chaos Magic – Chaos Magic – it’s interesting how European prog metal bands seem to be sprouting up like mushrooms (or after smoking mushrooms). This bombastic project is helmed by Finn Timo Tolkki with vocals by Chilean singer Caterina Nix. “I’m Alive” “From The Stars” “Right Now”.
7.Ivan & Alyosha – It’s All Just Pretend – terrible name to remember (taken from Dostoevsky classic) but good band. Simple guitar based band with excellent production help from Grammy winner Joe Chiccarelli. Songs like “Bury Me Deep” “It’s All Just Pretend” and “Modern Man” make this a winner.
8.The Gentle Storm – The Diary – an interesting if maddening concept – do an album of the same songs in a ‘gentle’ manner (folky/celtic instruments) and then repeat in a heavier ‘storm’ style with prog metal leanings (hard to choose the best version, I fear). This is a Dutch project with female vocals about a 1600’s love story. Download is much cheaper, but the import packaging is fancy. “Endless Sea” (gentle) and “New Horizons” (storm) illustrate the idea well.
9.Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful – they keep replacing their female singer, but manage to stay consistent probably due to keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen symphonic style. Perhaps the top prog metal band, they come from Finland. “My Walden” and “Elan” stand out for me.
10.Imagine Dragons – Smoke + Mirrors Deluxe Edition – a more adult album than their debut (which means less hit potential but better songs). One wonders about the downer lyrics. “I’m So Sorry” “Shots” are fine songs. Odd that my fave track “Thief” happens to be a bonus track not on the standard CD.
11.Bryan Adams – Get Up – he and Jim Vallance have crafted some very catchy pop/rock songs – just not enough of them (9, so he repeats 4 of them in solo acoustic fashion – weak!). Too bad as with Jeff Lynne (ELO) producing and playing it sounds great. “You Belong To Me” “Brand New Day” rock convincingly.
12.Steve Hackett – Wolflight – since leaving Genesis (before they sold out to pop stardom), he has become one of the premier guitarists in the prog rock field and has put out a string of great albums. He’s only passable as a singer which pulls down the album a notch. “Black Thunder” “Heart Song”.
13.Blackberry Smoke – Holding All The Roses – classic 70s style southern rock leavened with some decent ballads (“No Way Back To Eden”). “Rock & Roll Again” reminds me of Dave Edmunds
14.The Decemberists – What A Terrible World What A Beautiful World – a fine group of songs though I wish the singer could sing a tad better (or at least would trade off with someone else occasionally). Interesting that the first song (“The Singer Addresses His Audience”) might be the first time I’ve heard a band apologize for changing their sound. “Philomena” catchy, but bawdy. “Easy Come, Easy Go”.
15.Lonely Robot – Please Come Home – a great side project of It Bites/Arena guitarist Paul Mitchell with help from people like Steve Hogarth (Marillion) and Nik Kershaw. “Airlock” and “Oubliette” stand out.
16.Mumford & Sons – Wilder Mind – they are more Coldplay than folk now – while it drags in the middle, the singles “Believe”, “The Wolf” and “Ditmas” are memorable. Daughter Hilary’s pick.
17.Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase. – the current savior of old-school prog rock is so prolific you wish he would pause a bit and put out 1 great album instead of 2 good albums. At any rate, I preferred his last one (Raven That Refused To Sing) but love the title track plus “Regret #9” has great synth.
18.Have Gun Will Travel – Science From An Easy Chair – an Americana album about the tragic 1914-1916 Antarctic expedition by the crew of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his ship the Endurance. Vocals okay (check out “Despair & Redemption On Elephant Island”) but my fave is the short instrumental “A Call To Arms”. Really needed liner notes to explain the whole concept, however.
19.Collective Soul – See What You Started By Continuing – good straight guitar rock from Ed Roland and company that would have been higher except for too many ballads. “Am I Getting Through” “This”.
20.Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday – former Oasis writer/guitarist’s 2nd album post-breakup. Good guitar pop/rock on “In The Heat Of The Moment” “You Know We Can’t Got Back”.
Doc Krieger’s Best Orphan Songs 2015 – these songs downloads, singles, EPs, isolated top tracks on LPs.
1.Big Big Train – Wassail – track from an ep release of the same name, I could hear Jethro Tull doing this (flute, Hammond organ) plus it also has touches of Celtic rock fiddles
2.Enya – Echoes In Rain Dark Sky Island – lovely album but really getting repetitious sounding (time to add a fiddle or flute or even a guitar). This track stands out and reminds of early hit “Orinoco Flow”.
3.Brian Wilson (+ Kacey Musgraves) – Guess You Had To Be There No Pier Pressure – the album is pleasant enough, but this duet really stands out with at least some energy compared to the rest of the album. A real waste to have Al Jardine singing on the album and not at least try to rock a little.
4.Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – S.O.B. – best song by a Colorado artist. He looks like a young Burl Ives while the song feels like a tent revival – stomps and claps. Yes, he says the real SOB words, kids.
5.New Politics – West End Kids Vikings – stooped rock raises it’s head in a new wave 80s sorta way. Lyrically the rest of the album is so horribly juvenile that I couldn’t include it in the album list.
6.Little Boots – Get Things Done Working Girl – sounds like a GREAT theme song for some ad company (“we get things done”) with a danceable beat.
7.Lenka – Blue Skies The Bright Side – Aussie singers’ poppy bright single from her 4th album.
8.Civil Twilight – Holy Dove Story Of An Immigrant – the Gary Glitter beat stomp chorus is what makes it. The rest of the album is up and down, but the good songs are Coldplay/U2-ish.
9.Jeff Lynne’s ELO – When I Was A Boy Alone In The Universe – a less rocky album (no “Don’t Bring Me Down” or “Hold On Tight”) with Lynne doing most everything trying to prove he was ELO – he is/was great, but I disagree – this needs the strings, Richard Tandy on keys, Bev Bevan on drums, etc. so for that reason I refused to put the album in my top list of the year.
10.Cheerleader – The Sunshine Of Your Youth – no instrumental pyro, just loud guitar based pop from the album of the same name.
11.Adele – Sweetest Devotion 25 – boy, I really don’t see what all the fuss is about this fairly dull album – at any rate, this is the only song that seemed to have any life. Where is “Rumor Has It” type dance?
12.Brandon Flowers – Lonely Town Desired Effect – surprisingly not as rock as his band the Killers though that’s why it’s a solo release, I suppose – driving synth and drums interplay.
13.Mat Kearney – One Black Sheep Just Kids – yes, only 1 ‘t’ so don’t fret. Music hits the Christian charts but not truly religious in nature (just thoughtful/spiritual at times). Sorta dancey.
14.5 Seconds Of Summer – Hey Everybody Sounds Good Feels Good – young Aussie band proving there is hope for the new generation of rockers – pop/punk. This track stands out from the rest of the album to me, but the whole thing is a guilty pleasure of kid-rock.
15.The Zombies – Beyond The Borderline Still Got That Hunger – 60s British invaders with excellent Colin Blunstone vocal and Rod Argent backup (on his song). This up ballad is by far the best thing on the LP.
16.Coin – Run – self-titled album is pretty much faceless guitar/synth/pop – track has good stomp drum.
17.Pop Evil – Footsteps Up – falls between grunge and Metallica – the catchiest song on the album.
18.Clutch – X-Ray Visions Psychic Warfare – VERY metallic crunch – they look nothing like they sound. This and Pop Evil definitely for the 18 year old metal-head boy still hiding inside this old guy.
19.Nate Ruess – Great Big Storm Grand Romantic – the band fun. is on hiatus so their leader released an album including this bombastic in-you-face chorus song (sorta Muse-like).
20.Walk Off The Earth – Rule The World Sing It All Away – Canadian minor chart band with shouted anthemic feel – some ska band should cover this.
Best Song About Colorado
Denver – Damon Dotson – from his fine download album Tumblin’. Piano, acoustic guitar & steel guitar give this a nice mid-70s easy country-rock feel.
PREVIOUS YEAR REVIEWS:
Doc Krieger’s 2014 Top 20 Albums
This year includes some more current music styles (but no hip-hop) so I must be softening or getting senile. So many of the newer songs have the same exact overamped drum sound with quieter verses followed by shouted choruses – let’s see some variety next year! Most can be found on youtube if you want to sample any of the following – so here goes:
1.Robin Gibb – 50 St. Catherine’s Drive – non-disco BeeGees is some of my fave music, but as solo artists the brothers Gibb were never quite as good. This posthumous album is the exception – excellent autobiographical and tuneful songs. There is a bittersweet ache to some of the lyrics especially the final demo to “Sydney” where he sings about happier days with his brothers – this was meant for a future BeeGees album that never was. “The Days Of Wine & Roses” “Avalanche” “Sorry”
2.Nick Magnus – n’monix – classic 70s style progressive rock album from long-time Steve Hackett (Genesis) keysman and the best tracks certainly harken back to Genesis or ELP with mellotron and dynamic bombast mixed with gentleness. Re-Genesis vocalist Tony Petterson sings “Time”“Kombat Kid”
3.Bob Seger – Ride Out – a fun mix of styles with classic rockers like “Detroit Made” “Ride Out” and the Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute “Hey Gypsy” with old SRV sideman Reese Wynans on organ. Some fine Americana turns up too with “Adam & Eve” and the old Steve Earle rocker “The Devil’s Right Hand”.
4.Temples – Sun Structures – the growth of kids playing late 60s psychedelia has been nifty with these Brits head of class this year. Sorta Syd era Floyd leavened with early BeeGees harmonies + jangly guitars and whiny mellotron. Like an old Curt Boettcher Sagittarius album with a hint of the Zombies. Very hooky though can’t discern the lyrics. “A Question Isn’t Answered” “Keep In The Dark” “Shelter Song”
5.The Primitives – Spin-O-Rama – UK popsters best known for the 89 track “Crash” sung with the cute candy floss girly vocals of Tracy Tracy. Very catchy tunes include the title track and “Petals”.
6.Neil Diamond – Melody Road – loved his early stuff like “Cherry Cherry” then winced during his schlocky big hit era. Quite a surprise resurgence on his last few albums (and why isn’t he in the rock and roll hall of fame for songwriting if nothing else?). The title song describes things well as the songs are instantly memorable. “First Time” “In Better Days” “Something Blue” woulda been hits 45 years ago.
7.Rival Sons – Great Western Valyrie – the print is so small on the jacket who knew this was the title? Long Beach, CA band that combines the best of Led Zep, Bad Co, etc. and with the classic pipes of Jay Buchanan over a hard rockin’ band that growls (though some of the trax are oddly mellow). Needed a better album cover to sell the goods. “Open My Eyes” is a classic Zep clone. “Play The Fool” “Secret”
8.The Goast (The Ghost Of A Sabretooth Tiger) – Midnight Run – basically Sean Lennon & Charlotte Kemp Muhl. Very early Floyd psych with interesting lyrics and classic swirly headphones production. Lennon’s previous albums have been merely okay, but this is a big leap forward showing his artistic skills on the cover and musical prowess often as nearly a one-man band (“Animals” “Moth To A Flame”). One assumes it would have sold better with a mention of Lennon in the title. “Great Expectations”
9.Midge Ure – Fragile – the title describes his vocals to a tee while the music is a tad closer to progressive than the synth pop of his old band Ultravox. The title track could be a Barclay James Harvest mellotron burner while “Star Crossed” would be great at a laserium. “Become” closest to old Ultravox.
10.The Pierces – Creation – doesn’t rise to the level of You & I from 2012 but the vocal harmony blend of sisters Allison & Catherine is still amazingly haunting. This import is mostly gauzy bombastic pop. They are from the US but only have success in the UK which is a pity. “Believe In Me” “Kings” “Come Alive”
11.The Intersphere – Relations In The Unseen – German prog hard rock band though they sound more UK. Some songs have a more current guitar rock sound but tracks like “The Ones We Never Knew” or “Out Of Phase” have a more classic 70s progressive feel with great drumming and layers of sound.
12.Merrymouth – Wenlock Hill – indie import side project from Simon Fowler of Ocean Colour Scene (check out their albums too). More acoustic and baroque (“Blink Of An Eye”) than the jangly pop of OCS but still Beatley at times – mainly the title track and “That Man” which sound sorta like 67 era fabs.
13.Train – Bulletproof Picasso – not their best, but still good 2000 era guitar based pop that flies in the face of today’s charts heavy on Hip Hop dance beats. “Angel In Blue Jeans” “Son Of A Prison Guard”
14.Wunder Wunder – Everything Infinite – the best trax feel like the uncluttered lazy pop of classic Fleetwood Mac leavened with heavy echo. “Midnight Hours” “Coastline” “Wonderful Way” very retro.
15.The Strange Familiar – The Day The Light Went Out – Ohio indie with striking Adele-like smoky vocals – sound like perfect TV drama background music. “Gone” has that hooky drum stomp too. “Surrender”
16.Gramercy Arms – The Seasons Of Love – not really a band but a musical collective from other bands lead by Dave Derby. Can sound like Springsteen (“The Night Is Your Only Friend”) or Lennon (“Thin” “Yours Untruly”) but also feel good pop – “Winter Light”.
17.The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers – their best album of retro sounding power pop. Sorta feel like Blondie with retro synths at times but album still inconsistent. “Brill Bruisers” just hits you over the head with the great pop layers of vocals. “Champions Of Red Wine” “Dancehall Domine” “Fantasy Fools”
18.Bellowhead – Revival – Brit trad folk with less electricity than Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span (uses tuba instead of bass) and perhaps less variety (could use a second-vocalist). Nice sea shanties and folk. The best songs are on disc 1, but the deluxe version is worth it. “Gosport Nancy” ”Roll Alabama”
19.The Empty Hearts – The Empty Hearts – a power pop supergroup with lead voice Wally Palmar of the Romantics. Decent rockin’ stompers harkening back to 79. “Soul Deep” “Loud & Clear” “Perfect World”
20.Jukebox The Ghost – Jukebox The Ghost – at times reminds me of UK pop band the Feeling with the added big drum sound so common today. “When The Lights Get Long” “Girl” “Made For Ending”
Doc Krieger’s Best Orphan Songs 2014 – these songs downloads, singles, EPs, isolated tracks on hits LPs.
1.Paul McCartney – Hope For The Future – admittedly a bit of a sentimental choice, but still a great power ballad from an unconventional source – the videogame Destiny. Of late it has come out as a single download, but for such a classic Paul song it deserved to be on a proper album and not get lost.
2.Brian Setzer – Let’s Shake – by far the best song on his Rockabilly Riot! album which is made up of all originals that mostly don’t live up to the great rockabilly of his past. Shows great musical chops by recording backing live with Jerry Lee Lewis style piano and a shouted unison “let’s shake” chorus.
3.Sheppard – Geronimo – a worldwide hit from Australia (#1 there) that hasn’t really caught on here, but should have. Stomp tribal drums with shouted simple lyric “bombs away” and “say Geronimo”.
4.Blondfire – Waves – interesting song with the same pounding drums heard everywhere since Adele. Gentle female vocals and strummed acoustic guitar with synths and heavy echo. (Young Heart)
5.OneRepublic – Love Runs Out – Colorado Springs band takes their 2013 album Native and makes it better by adding songs including this great #15 hit made from piano, claps and drum pounds mostly.
6.The Vintage Caravan – Midnight Meditation – young Icelandic power trio taking Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” driving riff and morphing it a bit (Voyage) – and hey kids, there is even cowbell in the mix!
7.Jim Suhler – I Declare – his new Panther Burn album has a few good songs, but is not as good as his others with Monkey Beat. Great rockin’ blues song with nasty harp from Kim Wilson of the Fab Tbirds.
8.Walk The Moon – Shut Up & Dance – same m.o. as most chart pop/rock songs today – drum stomp, muted verses then shouted unison chorus. Catchy tune and clever lyrics. (Talking Is Hard)
9.Asia – Valkyrie – classic arena-ready power-prog rock-ballad in the same mold as songs like “Go”.
10.Dum Dum Girls – Little Minx – a female use of the same driving “Paranoid” riff but not as heavy.
11.Kongos – Come With Me Now – S. African brothers – the sons of John Kongos of 1971’s “He’s Gonna Step On You Again” -song with a stompin’ tribal beat and accordion riff – huge hit this year finally in US.
12.American Authors – Best Day Of My Life – a decent album but a better song (hit #11 US) with an Americana feel (banjo, mandolin) and the usual loud percussion with chanted chorus. (What A Life)
13.Thompson – Right – the talented family lead by Richard & Linda have their first family release titled appropriately Family. This countryish rocker features son Teddy.
14.Andy Burrows – All This I’ve Heard Before – Fall Together Again is the 2nd solo CD from the drummer with We Are Scientists. Song sounds like Klaatu singing a Beach Boys track from Pet Sounds.
15.Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness – Canyon Moon – same loud drums as current vogue but with powerpop chorus – from his self-titled album. He was originally with the group Something Corporate.
16.Bryan Adams – She Knows Me – the only original song (and bright spot) on his rather dreary covers album Tracks of My Years. This one reunites him with old writing partner Jim Vallance who did all his hits back in the day. Classic sounding arena midtempo rock track.
17.Lenny Kravitz – I’m A Believer – not the Monkees’ song, but a rockin 70s glammy track with claps and shouts of “HEY” to spice things up.
18.Billy J. Kramer – You’re Right, I’m Wrong – strong almost glitter rocker from Liverpool 60s Beatles contemporary’s new album I Won The Fight. Good to see him out on the road with other 60s Brits.
19.Joel Gion – Yes – another neo-psychedelic album (with a fun title for Yellow Submarine fans) – Apple Bonkers (even shows a chalk drawing of one on the album cover). Can’t decipher the lyrics unfortunately.
20.The Black Keys – Gotta Get Away – their new album (Turn Blue) didn’t do much for me, but tucked at the very end is an almost Rolling Stones-like rock track to make up for the dancey mishmash of the rest.
Best album by a family member (sister Cheryl):
CK Brown – Believe – very positive messages and very professional sounding thanks to Jim Ratts, Ernie Martinez, Freebo and Robert Tepper. Enjoy the Jim Messina cover “Follow Your Dreams”. Check out her website for more copies: ckbrown.com
Most overdue upgraded reissue:
The Kinks – Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround & Percy – the original cd of this album was awful sounding plus the numbers didn’t even match the tracks. Finally, this 1970 classic got the bonus upgrade with liner notes, bonus tracks and the addition of underrated film album Percy. “Apeman (alternate version)”
Doc Krieger‘s”Sports Wall” examining room
Doc Krieger, still rockin’