My top 20 albums of 2012 [10 –5].
Map of the Past is the latest release from hard-working British progressive rock outfit It Bites. Many of you will be familiar with the ‘concept’ albums regularly recorded within the prog rock genre – LPs that follow a linear path and story. Pink Floyd, Genesis and Rush have been releasing such albums for years. Map of the Past follows this well-worn path, yet ultimately stands out from the crowd. The entire album is inspired by the discovery of an old family photograph. Indeed, Map of the Past is a highly personal journey. It explores modern themes of love, passion, jealousy, anger, greed, remorse and loss as seen through the eyes of the previous generation. You might expect an album looking at current British events to be a miserable affair (much like Pink Floyds masterpiece The Wall), but in fact nothing could be further from the truth. It Bites have managed to make this an upbeat journey that looks forward to the future whatever it may bring. The band should be applauded for daring to be different. Standout track: The Big Machine.
The Light the Dead See is a moody beast. A Soulsavers collaboration with Depeche Mode frontman Dave Gahan was never going to be anything else. Dave has a history of drugs, depression and overcoming a tumor in 2009. This album is almost like Dave is admitting his troubles and sins in the Soulsavers confessional. That isn’t to say it isn’t a beautiful creative work. There are delicate strings, layers of electronica, horns and some of the most gorgeous and inspiring gospel vocals that you’re ever likely to hear – in fact the production is bears more than a passing resemblance to Depeche Modes Songs of Faith and Devotion. Daves vocal maturity is there for everyone to hear and songs like Just Try, Longest Day and In the Morning bring out the best in him. If the upcoming Depeche Mode LP is half as good as this I’ll be a happy man indeed. A truly inspiring piece of work! Standout track: Presence of God
Afterglow is the third album from Kevin Shirley’s hard rocking supergroup and to be honest, upon the first listen I wasn’t as impressed with it as the previous two. It’s what I always call a ‘grower’. This as it turns out is why this is such a good LP. Sure it borrows heavily from the hard rock back catalogue – the title track borrows heavily from Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir and Midnight Sun has a repeating guitar loop that isn’t unlike Pete Townsends keyboard on Baba O’Riley – but this gives it a warmth and charm. Glenn Hughes vocals are immense, especially on Afterglow’s longest track The Circle. Joe Bonamassa plays his guitar with a swagger and Jason Bonham plays so hard it’s a wonder the drums aren’t broken. It’s a shame that Derek Sherinian isn’t heard as much this time around but I guess you can’t have everything. I hope Black Country Communion can sort out their recent spat and manage to tour this LP next year as it really deserves to be heard live! Standout track: This is Your Time
Driving towards the Daylight is the 13th studio album from the always busy blues maestro Joe Bonamassa. Last year saw Joe release a BCC album, his own solo LP and a stunning blues collaboration with Beth Hart so just how did he fit in recording this cracker? If you’re not familiar with Joe then this would be a great jumping on point. His blues guitar playing is always impressive but it’s the longer tracks (Dislocated Boy/Lonely Town Lonely Street/A Place in My Heart) that really bring out the best in him. There are covers of such illustrious blues legends as Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, Bill Withers and Robert Johnson and to Joe’s credit he makes them his own. It’s his maturing, soulful voice that is the most impressive instrument on this album. After a decade playing some of the best modern blues, it seems as though he’s finally accepted his place in the world. A gorgeous album! Standout track: Heavenly Soul
Clock Angels signals (see what I did there) the return of Canada’s greatest rock trio Rush. All the Rush trademarks are here, Neil Peart’s bonkers lyrical concepts and dazzling drums, Alex Lifeson’s frenetic guitar playing and Geddy Lee’s rhythmic bass and unmistakeable vocals. It’s actually Rush’s first concept album for thirty years and borrows from the classic album 2112. There are regular rock tracks such as The Wreckers but the album really excels when telling the ‘man lost in a dystopian future’ narrative. Caravan, The Anarchist and Headlong Flight rock out without sounding dated and I challenge anyone not to moved by the lush orchestration on BU2B2. If you’re not already a Rush fan Clockwork Angels is a great jumping on point and if you are, well you’ll already own it and love it. Standout track: Clockwork Angels
I hope your enjoying my countdown? Tomorrow is the final countdown to my number one album of 2012. There’s a lot of rock, some prog and beautiful artwork. See you back here?