Well dear reader its that time of year again. I appreciate the number of visits to this site that you made (well over half a million now). It’s much appreciated for a one man band of a site. It’s been a bit of a restricted year, with not many albums reviewed at all, so the Top 10 in this list are all albums I have purchased in 2023 and all come highly recommended.
1. Rival Sons - Darkfighter/Lightbringer
Darkfighter just shaded it for me out of the 2 offerings in 2023. Rival Sons has seen each album getting better than the last. I’m not 100% sure that Darkfighter is better than Feral Roots (yet), but I would have also preferred this to be a double album. To quote the Fuzzlord, Darkfighter is ‘cinematic’ which is a perfect description, and Lightbringer ‘watching the same film’. I have been watching these guys since 2011 and few bands can match them.
Hot Track - Nobody Wants To Die / Mosaic
2. Romeos Daughter - Slipstream
Romeos Daughters first release in 8 years since Spin makes Guns ’n' Roses look prolific in their output. But….give me time over prolific any day of the week. You see, RD have never made a duff album and with Craig Joiner pulling the strings together with Leigh Matty's sultry and velvety vocals enveloping you like a warm blanket - it (Slipstream) really is Heaven In the Back Seat
Hot Track - Over You
3. Dirty Honey - Cant Find The Brakes
Dirty Honey have been conquering the UK and Europe for the last two years. Similar to Rival Sons, Alter Bridge and now Dirty Honey, these bands are more appreciated on this side of the pond than their homeland. Their sophomore album carries on where the EP and debut album left off. In Mark LaBelle and John Notto they have one of the best rock pairings since Jon Bon and Ritchie
Hot Track - Won’t Take Me Alive
4. Steven Wilson - The Harmony Codex
Whilst SWs ‘The Future Bites’ didn’t light much of a fire for me personally, its what makes Steven Wilson one of music’s great artists. He doesn’t stand still. All albums sound different, he is always pushing the envelope and rightly so. Just when you think you have the measure of him, he releases something completely different. Impossible Tightrope sounds like it’s from a 70s soundtrack to a Dirty Harry movie and then just adds more sublime layers - a choir, true prog rhythms, and seagulls. Yes, seagulls. Its 10 mins of pure unadulterated joy. Its YYZ for the twenties.
Hot Track - Impossible Tightrope
5. Chris Stapleton - Higher
Higher is CS’s fifth album, and bugger me its a great one. He started off in a rock band and did what is now known as a Michael Bolton, switching sides and became a songwriter and then performer. His top 5 songs on Spotify have a total (as of time of writing) of 1.8 Billion listens. No wonder his UK tour next year sold out quicker than….well, Chris Stapleton tour tickets
Hot Track - White Horse
6. Crown Lands - Fearless
Got a Rush sized hole in your life? Look no further than fellow Canadians, Crown Lands. Only in this instance they are only two. Drummer Bowles has a range every bit as high as Geddy Lee, and in Comeau multi talented doesn’t do the guy enough justice. Starlifter:Fearless Pt.II has its roots firmly planted in Hemispheres and 2112.
Hot Track - Starlifter:Fearless Pt II
7. WVH - Mammoth II
As talented as Comeau is, Wolfgang Van Halen takes it up a notch. The Van Halen name means that he will always be compared to his dad. With Mammoth II WVH has levelled any such comparison. II is more accomplished than the debut and shows he isn’t a flash in the pan and living off the name. He has even inherited the knack of making a stand out video to accompany his songs in a time when bands aren’t doing this anymore. Check out the 8minute ‘Another Celebration At The End of The World’. If this doesn’t bring a smile to your face, nothing will.
Hot Track - Another Celebration At The End Of The World
8. Ayron Jones - Chronicles Of The Kid
Thanks to my mate in the US, Gene I might never have come across AJ. Only been a fan for 2 months and his 2020s output has blown me away. He really deserves to be massive, and not in an obese way. He is probably the best solo artist you have never heard of…yet after Steven Wilson. I think 2024 is going to change that. ’Chronicles….’ is peppered with great songs.
Hot Track - Blood In The Water
9. Those Damn Crows - Inhale/ Exhale
In late ’22 TDC supported Monster Truck. It was my first time seeing and hearing TDC and completely became a fan as they levelled The Ritz in Manchester. I/E is clearly their best album yet and are a band quickly going places. TDC dip into Alter Bridge territory with This Time Im ready, a song about the loss of Greenhalls father that resonates to everybody who has lost a loved one
Hot Track - Takedown
10. The Answer - Sundowners
I saw The Answer early on in their career supporting Alter Bridge and they blew me away. They petered away with a flicker, but returned seven years later with all guns blazing. Neeson is one rocks finest vocalists. They deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Rival Sons, just give it time and they will hopefully
Hot Track - California Rust
A few more lists....
Best Gig(s) - Overland Kirkpatrick, Romeos Daughter, The Sheepdogs, Marcus King, Larkin Poe, Dirty Honey
Best Support Band - Those Damn Crows, Ida Mae, The Sheepdogs, The Damn Truth
Best Reissue/Box Set - Thin Lizzy Live and Dangerous
Top 5 AOR
1.Romeos Daughter - Slipstream
2.Nitrate - Feel The Heat
3.Steve Overland - Six
4.Streetlight - Ignition
5.The Defiants - Drive