Thursday, 5 December 2013

Music of the year

What can be better than going to steaming, sweaty gigs or being sent a bunch of albums and then being asked to review them?  As if I need any invitation to turn up the overblown verbosity to 11.

Every year the Get Ready To Rock! team lists our favourite albums and gigs of the year. As ever, it is a very eclectic mix and reflects broad, all-embracing tastes.

From Sunday 8th December, there is a popular vote over at GRTR! for the “Best of 2013″. My choices are below (with links to reviews where I've penned them). Check out the website for the others and a chance to win a selection of albums in a prize draw.

Top Albums

ALTER BRIDGE – Fortress (Roadrunner)
Relentless riffage, clean vocals, thunderous rhythms create epic tunes, complex arrangements and moments of calm and reflection. It’s all here, in polished spades. Alter Bridge’s trajectory remains as close to vertical as makes no difference.

KROKUS – Dirty Dynamite (The End Records)
Airbourne pushed out a decent album this year too, but in the battle of the accadacca clones, I bow before the altar Storace, Von Arb and Von Rohr. An unapologetic celebration of all that is right with blues hard rock, 40 years (count ‘em) in the making.

MARCUS BONFANTI – Shake The Walls
Young master Bonfanti comes of age on this powerful, Stones-Zep inspired blues album, marrying whisky drenched baritone with sweet dobro, thrilling slide and southern groove. The future is safe.

MOTORHEAD Aftershock (UDR)
How often do the words ‘Lemmy’ and ‘diversity’ appear in the same sentence, eh? Well it’s justified here. Sure there are fat, monstrous chugs and bile-laden lyrics to feed on hungrily. But the Big L, in his dotage, has found expansive room for acoustics, blues and melody. Well, well. More power to you, sir.

PEARL JAM – Lightning Bolt (Virgin EMI)
This eclectic grab-bag of moods and tones sees Eddie Vedder on top form and the band putting together an onion-layered grower that still surprises after a good few spins. Welcome back.

Top Gigs

WILKO JOHNSON – Koko, London
A deeply emotional gig. Only a month after he announced he had pancreatic cancer and was not taking any treatment, Wilko was strutting and agitating across the Koko stage, staring down the audience through the gun barrel of his Telecaster. He ripped out note-perfect barbs of life affirming rhythm and blues like there was no tomorrow. Uplifting.

MICHAEL SCHENKER – The Forum, London
I’d missed Schenker on his last tour and had previously seen too many moody shows. But he was in a good place on this night. Plundering a set list packed with UFO, Scorpions and MSG classics, Schenker played with fury, power and melody. He remains a genuine guitar genius, albeit shot through with genes of self-destruction.

MARCUS BONFANTI – Borderline, London
A hot, sweaty, joyous gig which stripped down much of the edgy blues material on ‘Shake The Walls’ into an intense and very confident delivery. This was Bonfanti’s first headline gig at the Borderline. He was enjoying it and it showed. Bigger things await.

RUSH – O2, London
A gig of two halves. Rush have so much good material tucked away in their lockers that they always throw up surprises. Kicking off with Subdivisions was one of many. One day they’ll play Jacob’s Ladder again. Just for me.

The second half moved the whole experience up to a giddy level. The excellent Clockwork Angels album was delivered meticulously and enthusiastically, backed by a string ensemble and in front of an audience that couldn’t get enough. Rush may even be getting better.

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS – The Forum, London
SLF gigs are always hallmarked by honest music, grainy humour and copper-bottomed credibility. On this night it was also a lean, confident full force Fingers that ripped through a strong back catalogue, alongside the beefiest new material heard in years. Life in the old dogs yet.

Watch Out 2014!  KILL FOR EDEN – a band that financed and self-released a highly accomplished debut this Spring, chock full of giant hooks, dynamic vocals and craftily insistent tunes. And in Lyla D’Souza they have a front woman who blends range, power and presence. November’s ‘Life On Mars’ EP showed healthy ambition, contrasting sharp grind with easy swagger in equal measure. Refreshing and dynamic. This lot have got plenty to look forward to.