Classic Rock's 50 Albums Of The Year (so far)

Neil Young & Promise Of The Real - The Visitor

We said: "Diggin’ A Hole is scratchy blues; Almost Always could have graced Harvest Moon; Stand Tall and Children Of Destiny are earworms; but if you want beauty, you’ve got it on Carnival, once the cackling stops. Neil Young is reborn, yet again."

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Nine Inch Nails - Bad Witch

We said: "Metal rusts; technology corrodes. It consumes its source materials, poisons its environs, enslaves its creators. It’s the message of Ahead Of Ourselves, the distorted dubstep keystone of Nine Inch Nails’ ninth album, Bad Witch, which tackles humanity racing ahead into environmental and technological oblivion without a thought for the consequences. It’s also the crux of the album itself – a record of tech-rock rotted to the core."

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Orange Goblin - The Wolf Bites Back

We said: "Frontman Ben Ward has described an interesting range of influences behind The Wolf Bites Back. As well as the usual Black Sabbath and Motörhead worship, he namechecks The Stooges, Krautrockers Can, psych-proggers Captain Beyond and Brit rockers Wishbone Ash. Orange Goblin haven’t gone Krautrock or prog just yet, but you can hear that in taking on more diverse influences, they have managed to develop their sound in an exciting way." 

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Paul Rodgers - Free Spirit

We said: "From a sky-scraping Little Bit Of Love through an ever sprightly My Brother Jake, deliciously predatory The Stealer and triumphal crowd-pleasing All Right Now, to a spine-tingling Wishing Well and barnstorming Catch A Train closer, the man at centre stage remains the consummate classic rock vocalist."

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Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons - The Age Of Absurdity

We said: "Eschewing the grittier and scuzzier elements of Motörhead’s aesthetic for a far cleaner, punchier approach, the energy is high and there’s a rich seam of enjoyment. Think classic rock with a metal production (pinpoint-perfect guitar tones, a snare sound to die for) and a shitload of swagger and you’ve got a layman’s review that’s actually not too far off the mark."

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Reef - Revelation

We said: "If you want rock from Reef, they still do, slowing down for Just Feel Love, a heavy-duty blues with a fuzzy guitar solo and driving drums, and shuffle by on a snake-hipped riff that turns Ball And Chain into a 21st-century Hush. The album ends with shades of Traffic on Like A Ship (Without A Sail), with the gospel choir again and Stringer signing off with a joyous high note near the end."

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Rick Parfitt - Over And Out

We said: "We might therefore expect Over And Out, his first solo album, to be in the vein of the vintage Quo music he revelled in revisiting on the Frantic Four reunions of 2013 and ’14. But it’s not. Instead, this album reflects Parfitt’s acute pop sensibilities. Almost every one of the 10 tracks plays like a would-be single. Five of them sound like Quo, but the others most certainly don’t."

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Rick Springfield - The Snake King

We said: "Lyrically The Snake King is a mixed bag, flitting between tongue-in-cheek and extremely poignant; Suicide Manifesto displays graphic cynicism (‘It’s another black dog morning, I can’t take many more’), whereas Santa Is An Anagram is a rock n’roll depiction of Hell (‘Ghandi’s in the corner, beating up a flower child.’) The soliloquies of Blues For The Disillusioned and Orpheus In The Underworld have melancholy and melody in equal measure."

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Roger Daltrey - As Long As I Have You

We said: "Towering above it all, however, is Daltrey’s extraordinary voice, which has rarely been stronger, or better. His tougher-than-tough lungs get a proper workout on Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind, the Ivory Joe Hunter weepy almost unrecognisable from the 1956 US hit version by doo-wop mainstays the Five Keys. It’s a struggle to think of any of Daltrey’s similarly aged contemporaries (Steve Winwood, Van Morrison) having such a convincing stronghold on the nuances of blue-eyed soul, but Rog knocks it out of the park every time."

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RSO - Radio Free America

We said: "Anyone who feared Richie Sambora and Orianthi Panagaris’s debut would be a dead-eyed shred-fest will be pleasantly surprised by Radio Free America. Three years in the making, it’s an ambitious opening gambit where genres are gleefully mulched, virtuoso tendencies tastefully deployed and tunes prioritised over chops."

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Saxon - Thunderbolt

We said: "Saxon have long had their own sound, and this flows confidently throughout the album. However, there’s also an edge here born from a sense of purpose and desire within the band. You can sense the fires being stoked from the opening chords of this album right through to its chugging finale."

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Shinedown - Attention Attention

We said: "A loose concept album that charts the lows, highs and subsequent recovery of its protagonist, sonically it’s punchier, angrier even, than previous records. Take the furious strut of Devil, the feral, howling Black Soul and the half-spoken, self-loathing growl that is the title track. There’s a recklessness in almost every track; Pyro levels an angry eye on the failings of the main character’s parents: ’Set fire to the family tree,’ he hisses, watching it burn."

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Starcrawler - Starcrawler

We said: "With a high octane, blood-spewing live show and impeccable lineage – frontwoman Arrow de Wilde is the daughter of photographer Autumn – this fast-rising teenage quartet might just be the sonic defibrillator rock needs."

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Stone Temple Pilots - Stone Temple Pilots

Wes said: "Elsewhere, the music impresses too. Middle Of Nowhere and Guilty put a modern twist on the muscular melo-rock and massive hooks of STP’s multi-textured, coming-of-age album Tiny Music… Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop. Meanwhile, Roll Me Over takes its cues from their grunge-indebted debut Core." 

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Tax The Heat - Change Your Position

We said: "With a nod of deference to the past grandmasters and a thoroughly modern outlook, Tax The Heat are perfectly placed to reintroduce unadulterated classic rock for the next generation. Goodness knows they have the unwavering confidence to give it their best shot."

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The Alarm - Equals

We said: "The Alarm are still at their best, however, when Peters belts out heart-swelling anthems, and Equals is full of ’em, most notably the infectious Beautiful, a dazzling ode to joy, slinky opener Twin Rivers, and Crowd Control, a loud-quiet-loud rabble-rouser that sounds like a modern millennial pop hit only, you know, good. Fans of the band’s salad days will also gobble up vintage-sounding burners like 13 Dead Reindeer and Hellfire. Overall it’s a very tasty mix of past and future."

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The Damned - Evil Spirits 

We said: "Evil Spirits is a whirl of Shadows twang, steampunk and wailing guitar that embraces the ghosts of the 60s more closely than any punk notions."

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The Darkness - Live At Hammersmith

We said: "So while the highlights from the splendid Pinewood Smile – notably Buccaneers Of Hispaniola and Solid Gold – are well received, it’s the glam-rock histrionics of Love Is Only A Feeling and a turbo-charged Growing On Me that really raise the roof. A mass singalong to fan favourite Friday Night, meanwhile, finds Justin Hawkins purring – literally – with delight."

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The Record Company - All Of This Life

We said: "There’s a go-getting confidence about All Of This Life, right from opener Life To Fix and I’m Getting Better (And I’m Feeling It Right Now) with their positive lyrical spin. No wallowing in the Trump of despair for these boys, just deal with it. And when the tempo drops on Goodbye To The Hard Life, the momentum never does. The varied arrangements with different instruments that was a feature of the first album helps drive All Of This Life too." 

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The Sheepdogs - Changing Colours

We said: "Opener Nobody could be a great lost West Coast session, all brown-sounding guitar chords and fuzz-headed organ. Just as irresistible is the uproarious I’ve Got A Hole Where My Heart Should Be, and Saturday Night with its roistering groove and clanking twin guitars (a recurring theme the band call “guitarmony”). Risks are taken, and pay off, such as the louche, Havana sway of The Big Nowhere and the soul bag of I Ain’t Cool,while you fully expect Phil Lynott to strike up on Kiss The Brass Ring."

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The Temperance Movement - A Deeper Cut

We said: "If there’s a better blue-eyed soul vocalist around right now, they’re keeping quiet. Campbell is alternately sandpaper-rough and honey-smooth, slipping effortlessly from the lung-busting testifyin’ of Love And Devotion to the restrained emoting of the plaintive title track. It’s an approach that Paul Rodgers perfected 50 years ago and few people have managed to pull off since. Campbell is a notable exception."

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Tremonti - A Dying Machine

We said: "Not only does A Dying Machine boast over an hour of music, but it’s also a narrative-driven, conceptual piece. And while that approach succeeds in evolving Tremonti’s diversity and lyricism, it does, however, also remove some of the impactful energy that made his past material excel." 

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Turbowolf - The Free Life

We said: "For the uninitiated, Turbowolf pick and mix from a range of influences that include Kyuss, Jane’s Addiction, occasionally, Sabbath, and a host of spangle-eyed, psych rock bands, but it’s their subtitles that elevate them above their Big Muff-playing contemporaries. There are moments here that are pure Beefheart or Zappa and his Mothers. The creeping synth lines and an unerring ear for rich melodies means that for all their aural gymnastic bombast, there are real songs at the heart of everything. It’s a rewarding, wild ride."

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Walking Papers - WP2

We said: "Instead, theirs is a heady and timeless cocktail of dusty blues, atmospheric grunge and classic rock’n’roll that has the history of their home town Seattle and decades of road-worn experience woven deep into its fibres."

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Welshly Arms - No Place Is Home

We said: "Right from the opening All The Way Up, which somehow combines spaghetti-western soundtrack music, indie, blues, pop and gospel, you can tell that Welshly Arms are something special. From the breezy, clap-along Indestructible to the shimmering beats of All For Us, the glorious and uplifting Sanctuary and the R&B-style grooves of Locked, Welshly Arms sound like mega-mainstream chart-toppers."

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Wilko Johnson - Blow Your Mind

We said: "This is classic Wilko – songs like It Don’t Have To Give You The Blues could have been recorded at any time in the last half-century. His style is as abrasive as ever, at once straight-ahead and splashing and chopping all over the shop, with shades of everyone from Chris Montez to Beefheart." 

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