The 5 Worst Albums of 2008

2008 was another banner year for new albums, bands from all different genres of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal released good albums this year and I was on the frontlines buying them up as they came out. There were definitely some bad ones too and I picked up a few of them over the course of the year also. Some releases were just plain bad, some were huge disappointments, some I just couldn’t stand…..so here is my list of The 5 Worst Albums of 2008:

#1

engelabsolutedesignEngel – Absolute Design

An easy choice for 2008’s worst album. This was supposed to be a combination of Industrial and Melodic Death Metal and all that came out of it was a Nu-Metal sound. Once I heard the trendy down-tuned guitars, the synth and the samples I knew I wouldn’t like it. Think Ozzfest bands like Linkin Park, Papa Roach & Korn minus the raps…..plain awful!

#2

bretmichaelsrockmyworldBret Michaels – Rock My World

This is not a “real” new album. Of the 12 tracks, only three were brand new songs, the rest came from previous Bret solo records. So why does it get inclusion here if it’s not a “real” album? That’s how it was advertised to the fans: a brand new album of new material! I’ll go officially on record saying that I like Poison, and I like Bret Michaels as a frontman, but to fleece the fans with false advertising can’t be forgiven. At least Gene Simmons tells us that he’s fleecing us! Musically, I can only take so much sad sack ‘Something To Believe In’ and ‘Unskinny Bop’ rehashing. If Bret went straight up Country he would be more credible.

#3

Don Dokken - Solitary (2008)Don Dokken – Solitary

The last time Don Dokken released a solo album we got the very good UP FROM THE ASHES (1990). On the eve of a new album by his main band, Dokken, Don decided to release this new solo record at his live solo shows and through his personal website. When you see the name Don Dokken on a CD, you know to expect melodic Hard Rock, this time around a nine song acoustic album that follows the “lost love” and “personal pain” themes. In all honesty, it’s a decent acoustic album. I placed it here for the sheer disappointment with the entire project, definitely not Don Dokken’s best work.

#4

Asia - Phoenix (2008)Asia – Phoenix

The Asia of the early ’80s had big hits with ‘Heat Of The Moment’, ‘Don’t Cry’ and ‘Only Time Will Tell’ because of their uptempo melodic hooks that made each song infectious. The opening track ‘Never Enough’ follows the same path but the band must have thought that was enough because every other song is either a ballad, mid-tempo, or a lengthy progressive number. The musicianship is great but there is no guitar…..well, it’s there somewhere. What could have been a huge Melodic Rock record ended up being a bore.

#5

queen_the_cosmos_rocks_album_coverQueen + Paul Rodgers – The Cosmos Rocks 

This is the first Queen album WITHOUT Freddie Mercury (R.I.P.). That should say it all. I understand that musicians need to play live and stay creative but sometimes releasing an album of new material isn’t the way to go. I saw the Queen + Paul Rodgers tour, it was phenomenal! Rodgers did his best to interpret and celebrate the Queen catalog and it worked…..live. The music on THE COSMOS ROCKS sounds forced, as if Roger Taylor and Brian May tried too hard to create the Queen sound. Or maybe they don’t know any better! An album that shouldn’t have been released, leave the Queen legacy alone. The only winner here was John Deacon.

The Top 5 Music DVDs of 2008

2008 was another great year for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal DVDs but I didn’t buy nearly as many as I did last year. This year was all about the quality instead of the quantity as the global economy became the issue of the year. The good news is that bands are taking great care when producing these DVDs by adding extra content, bonus footage and CDs of live performances to the overall packages. Money has to be spent wisely and the following list of DVDs gave a lot of bang for my hard earned buck! Here’s my list of The Top 5 Music DVDs of 2008:

#1

Iron Maiden - Live After Death DVD (2008)Iron Maiden – Live After Death

There was no competing with Iron Maiden when it came to DVD of the Year. Live After Death was released in early February and it led wire to wire as the best DVD released this year. The original Live After Death concert footage was in dire need of a proper DVD release and the band answered the call with a remastered DVD of the full performance from the old VHS. In addition to the main feature, the band exceeded expectations and went the extra mile with the second DVD including the History of Iron Maiden, Behind The Iron Curtain, Rock In Rio ’85, ‘Ello Texas, and promotional videos. With over 5+ hours of content and landmark performances Iron Maiden’s latest DVD was the best value of the year, I paid $14 on sale and it was money well spent.

#2

ironmaidenandnewwaveofbyw4Iron Maiden and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal

Just like KISS did last year, Iron Maiden has taken the first two slots in this year’s DVD awards…..technically. This DVD has a disclaimer on the back that states that “this film is not authorized by the current lineup of Iron Maiden nor by their management or record label”. So the band had nothing to do with the release but there is plenty of archival footage of the band as they spearheaded probably the most important movement in Heavy metal history: The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. There is a ton of music and footage, both studio and live recordings, of many of the major NWOBHM bands like Saxon, Samson, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Def Leppard, Praying Mantis and more. Bands members are interviewed as are industry experts like Malcolm Dome, Geoff Barton, and Garry Bushell along with perhaps THE most influential man in the NWOBHM movement, legendary Metal DJ Neil Kay. A DVD that has over 2 1/2 hours of NWOBHM history would have easily taken the top spot any other year but it came in a close second to Live After Death even though I bought it at the end of December. 

#3

gamma-ray-hell-yeah-the-awesome-foursome-live-in-montreal-dvdGamma Ray – Hell Yeah!!! The Awesome Foursome – Live In Montreal 

Gamma Ray of one of the best Power Metal bands of all-time and they released an excellent 2 DVD set this year. Disc 1 is a full 2 hour live performance in Montreal, Canada from May 2006. Right there that should be enough but the band adds a second DVD with 2 1/2 hours of bonus footage including a road movie from their 2006 North American tour, videos, Wacken Open Air performances from 2003 & 2006, and Historay. How can you beat over 4 1/2 hours of Gamma Ray for less than $20? The only thing that could have put this in the top spot was if the accompanying CD release of the Montreal concert was included. If that was included and not a separate release, this DVD set would have come very close to taking top honors this year.

#4

heavy-metal-in-baghdad-dvdHeavy Metal In Baghdad

I have always liked learning about the Heavy Metal scene in different countries and Heavy Metal In Baghdad helped me explore the Metal scene in war-torn Iraq. The film follows the Iraqi Metal band Acrassicauda from the beginning of the U.S./Iraq war to the band’s escape from the country and their survival in a new home. There is a lot of talk about “living for Heavy Metal” and “following your dreams” in the Metal scene but that is exactly what Acrassicauda do. Playing Heavy Metal in a country like Iraq is not something that the government and religious community embrace, this makes bands like Acrassicauda outcasts. With their lives in danger everyday with the threats of war, the band members follow their dreams and fight to survive. It shows you how lucky we are in the U.S. This DVD is just under3 hours and includes the main 90 minute film and an additional 90 mins of bonus footage.

#5

paul-stanley-one-live-kiss-dvdPaul Stanley – One Live KISS

KISS is my favorite band and last year they took the top two spots with KISSology Volumes 2 & 3. Here to represent the band is founder, frontman and guitarist Paul Stanley with a DVD chronicling his sold-out solo performance in Chicago on 11/6/2006. The 21 song setlist includes tracks from his 2006 solo album LIVE TO WIN as well as many KISS klassics that you never get to hear. It’s a very basic release in terms of content, there really isn’t much bonus material, but the footage shows off the one thing KISS fans have known for decades: Paul Stanley is the talent in KISS! Highlights for me were some of the tracks from Paul’s 1978 solo album like ‘Move On’, ‘Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me?’, & ‘Goodbye’.

Albums I Missed in 2007

There are so many albums released every year that it’s almost impossible to keep up. Usually I spend the first two months of the new year acquiring all the albums I didn’t buy the previous year before all the new releases start to flood the market. 2007 was no exception, I missed more than a few notable Hard Rock and Heavy Metal albums, but I made up for it in 2008. The following is a list of albums I missed in 2007 and picked up at some point in 2008. Some of these records might have cracked my Top 15 Albums of 2007 or at least extended it to a Top 20 or 25.

after-forever-2007After Forever – s/t (2007): I picked up this album January 2nd and it has remained in my playlist pile the entire year. I have always been a fan of female-fronted Gothic/Symphonic Metal bands and bands like The Gathering, Lacuna Coil, and Tristania have made me take a good look around the scene for bands I overlooked. What I like about After Forever is their use of beautiful operatic female vocals courtesy of Floor Jansen mixed with Death Metal growls while keeping everything heavy. This album would have easily made my Top Albums list if I had bought it last year.

anvil-this-is-thirteen-2007Anvil – This Is Thirteen (2007): I’m an old school Metal guy and it doesn’t get more old school than Anvil! Independently released and limited to 1000 copies through their website, Anvil created an album that is straight forward Heavy Metal. The band is like AC/DC in that they don’t stray too far from their original sound. Heavy riffs, solid drumming and gritty vocals…..that’s all that’s needed. Like I said in the review, THIS IS THIRTEEN is one of the most underrated albums of 2007!

Armory - The Dawn Of Enlightenment (2007)Armory – The Dawn Of Enlightenment (2007): I stumbled on Armory when I was looking up local New England Metal bands on MySpace. I heard the songs on their page and I was hooked! The guys in the band were kind enough to submit their album for review and I got one of the best Metal albums of 2007! I can even tell you that it would easily have made the best of list from last year at #7. Traditional/Power Metal blended with Progressive and Thrash Metal…..Armory is a band that has shot to the top of my list for a band to watch.

Gamma Ray - Land Of The Free II (2007)Gamma Ray – Land Of The Free II (2007): LAND OF THE FREE II was released in 2007 in Europe and Japan, we had to wait until January in the U.S. I picked up the European version in January from a CD sale at the local record store the same day the album was officially released here in the States. Is there really any difference? Nothing bothers me more than when a CD gets released eveywhere else and we have to wait a few weeks, or months, for a proper U.S. release. It’s either that or buy the import! It’s an excellent Power Metal record by one of the best in the genre but it seemed to get lost in my playlist with all the new albums coming out.

Helix - The Power Of Rock And Roll (2007)Helix – The Power Of Rock And Roll (2007): This album is a re-release of the GET UP! promotional disc with four more songs added in for good measure. Helix hasn’t changed their sound over the years, they still play the good time party Hard Rock that made them a success in the ’80s. Another album that would have made my Best of 2007 list.

King Diamond - Give Me Your Soul... Please (2007)King Diamond – Give Me Your Soul…Please (2007): Nothing can beat a new King Diamond album and I passed on this one too many times in 2007. Not sure why because it was on my list all year long and I just kept leaving it the racks. I bought this CD the same day I bought the Gamma Ray disc at a really good price and playing this regularly over the last year got me to fill some of the King Diamond/Mercyful Fate holes in my collection.

Lana Lane - Red Planet Boulevard artworkLana Lane – Red Planet Boulevard (2007): I passed on this album in 2007 because I was disappointed with the last few Lana Lane albums. There are so many live records and covers collections you can take before you need real songs and it had been 5 years since 2002’s PROJECT SHANGRI-LA. The conceptual LADY MACBETH was in there somewhere but I couldn’t get into it at all. This album is exactly what I was hoping for from Lana Lane and it’s another release that would have made my Best of 2007 list.

Nightwish - Dark Passion Play (2007)Nightwish – Dark Passion Play (2007): I have never been a big Nightwish fan because of the Opera style vocals of former vocalist Tarja Turunen but I had a couple of their CDs. Nightwish split with Tarja and the news wasn’t taken lightly by many of the band’s fans. When the band announced that former Alyson Avenue vocalist Anette Olzen would replace Tarja, I knew that it was a great move. I liked Alyson Avenue a lot and Olzen’s style is more to my liking. This is another one of those albums that had an international release in 2007 but a U.S. release in 2008. I ended up grabbing the last sale copy of the collector’s edition that included an expanded booklet and a 2nd CD of orchestral versions of the album.

U.D.O. - Mastercutor (2007)U.D.O. – Mastercutor (2007): I missed the release date on MASTERCUTOR and I was trying to hold out until I could find the European limited edition with the bonus tracks. Unfortunately, that search continues but I picked up a U.S. copy used for $7 and it was one of the best purchases all year. I’ve been an Accept/U.D.O. fan all along and I usually pick up anything these bands put out but I missed out on one of the best releases of the 2007.

Wasp - Dominator (2007)W.A.S.P. – Dominator (2007): I passed on DOMINATOR for the same reasons I passed on Lana Lane’s RED PLANET BOULEVARD, I wasn’t thrilled with W.A.S.P.’s last few albums and I wasn’t going to waste my time with an album that wasn’t good enough to get U.S. distribution. It just had to be bad. W.A.S.P. had released two stinkers with the NEON GOD records and I just figured that this one would follow suit. This album blew me away and ended up becoming one of my 2007 favorites, just like the U.D.O. album.

Heavy Metal Addiction 2008 Awards Week

Christmas week is finally here, and it’s also the last full week of December 2008, that means it’s time for my year end awards. It’s been another great year for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal and I have listened to more new releases by many different bands in many different genres. I have a huge pile of albums released in 2008 that I have been re-listening to over the last few weeks so I can post my picks for the best and the worst of 2008. I will post those picks along with my top DVD picks, albums I missed in 2007 that could have made my best of 2007 list, and the last CD Scavenger Hunt of the year. I’ve got my eye on 2009 and I already have some new releases to get to, my 3 year Blog-versary, and catching up with 2008.

Here is this week’s schedule:

SundayThe final CD Scavenger Hunt of 2008

MondayAlbums I Missed in 2007

TuesdayThe Top 5 Music DVDs of 2008

WednesdayThe 5 Worst Albums of 2008

ThursdayMerry Christmas!

FridayThe Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#16-#30)

SaturdayThe Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#1-#15)

The Top 15 Albums of 2007

It’s been another solid year for new releases, hundreds of bands released new albums in 2007 and it’s been very hard to keep up. I missed out on many new releases in many different genres because I spend my hard earned money. That money I put aside for my music fix has to be spent wisely and some bands/albums just fall through the cracks. I’ve started to get the attention of some labels and distributors so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to review more new releases in 2008.

Another factor is availability. Today anything can be bought online but the prices can be too high, sometimes it’s better to save a few dollars by holding off on a European or Japanese import and waiting for the U.S. release. In a few of those cases, some albums released around the world in 2007 won’t be released properly in the U.S. until early 2008 (Night Ranger, Airbourne, Primal Fear).

Looking back on 2007, I noticed that some bands got more of my attention than others and I picked up a lot of new releases from 2006 that I had missed. I only expect more of the same as my Want List grows and my musical tastes expand. The only criteria I followed for my Top 15 was that the album had to be a studio album, not a live record, best of, or covers collection. So here it is, my Top 15 Albums of 2007:

#1

Scorpions - Humanity Hour 1 (2007)Scorpions – Humanity Hour 1

The surprise of the year! The Scorpions experimented enough over the last few years but they planted the seeds with 2004’s UNBREAKABLE for a major comeback, not that they ever went away. I admit that I was apprehensive when I found out Pop Rock guru Desmond Child was aboard but the relationship produced a solid Hard Rock album full of melody, emotion, and attitude. This album has remained in my playlist rotation since it’s release and I haven’t tired of it yet, that’s the mark of a great album. I missed the band when they came to Boston this past Fall but their is a rumored tour with Judas Priest in 2008, that will make HUMANITY HOUR 1 even better. Another surprise was the advertised price ($7.99 at Best Buy) and the exclusive bonus track ‘Cold’. A great album AND value!

#2

Joe Lynn Turner - Second Hand Life (2007)Joe Lynn Turner – Second Hand Life

Very close to being my #1 album of 2007. So close in fact that I’ve had to listen to this and the Scorpions more in the last week to make the final decision. All the songs are strong and the music is a pure blend of classic AOR and Melodic Hard Rock. The songwriting is intelligent and emotional and the vocals are the best I’ve heard in 2007, JLT is in fine voice, probably the strongest of his career…..he just sounds so smooth, so effortless in his delivery. There were also a couple of Rainbow influences that gave the album a classic sound without sounding dated. Like the Scorpions album, there was a lot of value: the U.S. release on Friday Music was $12.99 and included an exclusive track (‘Freedom’s Wings’) and all the European and Japanese bonus tracks.

#3

Saxon - The Inner SanctumSaxon – The Inner Sanctum

THE INNER SANCTUM was the album of the year for me until the Scorpions and JLT released their albums. Saxon are one of my favorite bands and they have consistently produced great albums since the late ’90s, this record is no exception. Saxon blends their current approach of blazing fast Power Metal with their NWOBHM roots and creates an album of ten really great songs. Saxon are elder statesmen in the realm of Heavy Metal but they do things better than many of the younger bands. The focus is on the songwriting and then translating it to the live show. Every one of these songs could be played alongside the classics, that’s how strong they are. Add the bonus DVD to the studio album and it turns into a great package, also one of my favorite album covers of the year.

#4

Great White - Back To The Rhythm (2007)Great White – Back To The Rhythm

A successful comeback by a band no one expected to do anything. After all that has happened, did anyone think that Great White would actually make an album? They did and they made a great Blues based Hard Rock record. Getting the classic lineup back together rejuvenated the writing and getting singer Jack Russell sober made all the difference as he put in probably the best vocal performance of his career.

#5

Icarus Witch - Songs For The Lost (2007)Icarus Witch – Songs For The Lost

One of the best new bands out there playing a cross between NWOBHM and Traditional Metal. This is their second album and it doesn’t suffer from the “sophomore jinx”, this is a solid slab of straight up Heavy Metal. I even like the cover of Def Leppard’s ‘Mirror Mirror’! A band worth watching for the future.

#6

Primal Fear - New Religion (2007)Primal Fear – New Religion

Primal Fear just make good Heavy Metal records…..period. NEW RELIGION has a bit more melody and harmony within the power of their Metal assault, making the album more accessible and diverse. Everytime I hear a new Primal Fear record, I always wonder how vocalist Ralf Scheepers lost the Judas Priest gig to Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens. Ralf has grown from being complete Halford clone to being one of the best Metal singers alive. Had to pick this up on import in September, the U.S. release is January 2008.

#7

Airbourne - Runnin’ Wild (2007)Airbourne – Runnin’ Wild

I bought into all the hype and rave reviews and I picked this up very late in the year. I was skeptical because I had heard only two songs and I wondered if AC/DC clones could produce a strong album. Everyone likes AC/DC, and with them out of the picture for now, Airbourne has picked up where Angus & company left off. It’s simple bluesy Hard Rock like AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, and The Angels but with a youthful energy built for party Rock. Had to get this one on import late in the year also because their U.S. distribution starts in January 2008.

#8

3 Inches Of Blood - Fire Up The Blades (2007)3 Inches Of Blood – Fire Up The Blades

A big thanks to a loyal reader, and devout Metalhead, Rene for pushing me to check out this band. Good thing I listened because 3 Inches Of Blood is a great young band that blends many different styles of Metal into their overall sound. Cam Pipes is one of the better Metal vocalists that can incorporate clean/traditional singing with growls. grunts, and groans. Another young band making their mark.

#9

Ted Nugent - Love Grenade (2007)Ted Nugent – Love Grenade

Terrible Ted came roaring from the woods to deliver his best album in years. Continuing with his gonzo attitude and hunter instinct, Ted took his love of the Blues, added his Hard Rock blend and tongue-in-cheek humor, and built the LOVE GRENADE. Jack Blades’ (Night Ranger/Damn Yankees) produces and co-writes here and does a spectacular job at getting the best from the Nuge. One listen to ‘Girl Scout Cookies’ and ‘Funk U’ and you’ll understand.

#10

Kamelot - Ghost Opera (2007)Kamelot – Ghost Opera

Another end of the year addition and it’s a shame I waited so long, it’s a good album. A little more Progressive and Symphonic than their past Power Metal style but still good. Kamelot proves that heavy music can be intricate and diverse while retaining the power…..I really dig the orchestration and strings and the lush backgrounds. Is Roy Khan one of the most underrated singers in Metal or what? Added value to this one is the bonus DVD on the limited edition.

#11

Megadeth - United Abominations (2007)Megadeth – United Abominations

At first, I wasn’t excited or impressed, Megadeth hadn’t regained my trust from 1999’s RISK debacle even though there had been two decent studio releases since. It wasn’t until mid-May when I saw Megadeth open for Heaven & Hell that I stood up and took notice. It’s having classic Megadeth back with Dave Mustaine more focused than ever.

#12

Helloween - Gambling With The Devil (2007)Helloween – Gambling With The Devil

Helloween were kind of put in the same category as Megadeth because I just couldn’t get into their last two albums: RABBIT DON’T COME EASY (2003) & KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS – THE LEGACY (2005). There was too much experimentation and enhancements on those records while the band tried to regain their signature sound and promised fans such. This album was more straight ahead Power Metal that Helloween is known for. Andi Deris puts in a spectacular performance and the band has shown that all the lineup changes of recent years hasn’t disrupted their core.

#13

Iced Earth - Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Pt.1) (2007)Iced Earth – Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Pt.1)

Hard to believe that this is only Iced Earth’s third album since 1998’s masterpiece SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. It’s also hard to believe that after releasing two very spotty concept records, the band would come roaring back to form with another concept album based on the SOMETHING WICKED theme. Unfortunately, recent lineup changes (Owens out, Barlow back in) and some late year additions to my collection have pushed this album down the list, I had it Top 10 easily up until the last couple of weeks.

#14

Endeverafter - Kiss Or Kill (2007)Endeverafter – Kiss Or Kill

Endeverafter came out of nowhere to deliver solid party time Hard Rock. A blend of classic L.A. Hard Rock with today’s edge, I couldn’t find a bad song. I’d like to hear how the do on their next record.

#15

Masterplan - MK II (2007)Masterplan – MK II

I’ve had this CD since early April and I’m still enjoying it. Unfortunately, it ranks a little lower due to my getting used to Mike DiMeo replacing Jorn Lande at the mic and the fact that many top bands released excellent albums later in the year. Really good Power/Progressive Metal here, hopefully the lineup stays stable.

In case my list wasn’t enough, or you simply don’t agree, some other great Music blogs have listed their Top Albums of 2007:

Axeman

Bring Back Glam

Hard Rock Hideout

Heavy Metal Time Machine

Imagine Echoes

Layla’s Classic Rock Faves

The Metal Minute

Raise Your Fists

Rock & Roll And Meandering Nonsense

Rock Of Ages (Dave’s Best of 2007)

Rock Of Ages (Bill’s Best of 2007)

The Top 5 Music DVDs of 2007

One of the things I decided at the end of 2006 was to buy more music DVDs in 2007. I bought somewhere between 25-30 DVDs this year and about half were from 2007. It didn’t matter if the DVD was a live concert, a documentary, or archival footage, I bought it and watched it! Some of these DVDs are multiple hours long so there were many late nights and many weeks spent watching a certain release critically. Unfortunately, I didn’t review as many DVDs as I did CDs but that’s something I’ll correct in 2008. Just like with new CDs, the money for new DVDs has to be spent wisely and the following list certainly gave a lot ov quality and value for the money spent. So here is my list of the Top 5 Music DVDs of 2007:

#1

KISSology 3 DVDKISSology Vol. 3 (1992-2000)

I know I’m a biased KISS fan but this release was by far my favorite of the year. Starting with a full concert from the Revenge Tour, to Unplugged, to the Reunion, and thru both the Psycho Circus and Farewell Tours…..KISS delivered a solid package for the second time this year. What makes this so special to me is the Reunion footage, it’s nice to re-live the era again and to feel the awe and excitement I did when I finally witnessed my dream of seeing the original KISS live. I watched 10.5 hours of solid concert footage over 5 DVDs (the bonus DVD was different depending on where you bought KISSology 3). If you add the other 2 copies I bought (from Wal-Mart & Best Buy) for the exclusive bonus DVDs, I spent another 2 hours in front of my TV watching my favorite band. Excellent value and decently priced ($25 at most retailers).

#2

KISSology 2 (2007)KISSology Vol.2 (1978-1991)

It may be a bit too much KISS for some people but KISSology Vol.2, released August 14th, is as solid as Vol.1 and Vol.3 with only one minor hiccup keeping it from the top spot: KISS in Attack Of The Phantoms movie. This is the Australian version that had better music but it could have been released separately giving way to more live concerts. Vol.2 has more clips than performances until Disc 3 but the clips are good to have for the KISS kollector that doesn’t frequent the trading circuit. This version could have a little more non-makeup/’80s era KISS for my taste but I think Gene & Paul are saving that for future volumes. Would have been nice to finally get the old VHS concert Animalize: Live Uncensored on U.S. DVD but I understand there are some legalities to straighten out. Nice to relive the Crazy Nights Tour ’88, that was my first KISS concert.

#3

AC/DC - Plug Me In front artworkAC/DC – Plug Me In

With AC/DC on the shelf about rleasing a long-awaited new studio album, the band decides to release an archive set of performances from both the Bon Scott & Brian Johnson eras. Brilliant! I bought the limited edition 3 DVD set and it was worth the extra $10. After watching over 7 hours of concert footage, I really want a new AC/DC record and tour. This set would have been #1 if KISS hadn’t released the KISSologys.

#4

Heaven & Hell - Live at Radio City DVD (2007)Heaven & Hell – Live At Radio City Music Hall 2007

The Dio-era of Black Sabbath is my favorite lineup and I was really into the reunion even if there had to be a name change. I caught the tour twice and was not disappointed, even the new songs came off well live. The best part of the concerts and DVD are the inclusion of songs from the DEHUMANIZER (1992) album: ‘I’, ‘Computer God’, ‘(After All) The Dead’. It’s an extremely underrated album and is usually forgotten around classics like HEAVEN & HELL and MOB RULES. Looking forward to the new album and tour planned for 2008.

#5

Saxon - To Hell And Back Again (2007) 2 DVD setSaxon – To Hell And Back Again

The bias is showing again because Saxon is in my Top 5 favorite bands. I enjoyed the documentary but I would have enjoyed a full show more. A small complaint because we don’t get to see Saxon here in the U.S. as much as the rest of the world does. It was cool to see Lemmy, Doro, Andi Deris, and Angry Anderson (Rose Tattoo) makes guest appearances in concert. Good to hear the LIONHEART album performed live and it’s nice to have the videos from the album on a proper release rather than just found on YouTube.

The 5 Worst Albums of 2007

It’s been another solid year for new releases, hundreds of bands have released new albums in 2007 and it’s been very hard to keep up. I can’t buy everything and the money I put aside for my music fix has to be spent wisely. Unfortunately, I’ve had the misfortune of spending my hard earned cash on some really bad albums. So here is my list of the 5 Worst Albums of 2007:

#1

Manowar - Gods Of War

Manowar – Gods Of War

Absolutely the worst album I bought this year! I am a big Manowar fan and I have been since the early ’80s but this tests my loyalty. One look at the deluxe packaging and everything looked promising, the band really put a solid visual package together for the fans. I wasn’t big into translating the whole booklet but it gave me something to do while I listened. Unfortunately, the music was long and boring. Concept albums are hit or miss, for every OPERATION: MINDCRIME there are many subpar efforts. Even though the concept falls in line with the Manowar line of thinking, it’s hard to follow. How many orchestral passages does one album need? How many sound effects? Half the albums was instrumentals and narratives, for an album over an hour long, that’s a complete waste of time! The other half of the album was proper songs but even then they were too over the top and that’s saying something because everything Manowar does is over the top. Even the accompanying DVD (available on the limited edition) didn’t help.

#2

Vixen - Live & Learn Vixen – Live & Learn

What could you really expect from Vixen in 2007 anyway? Somehow, the nostalgia of my youth and the $9.99 price tag got the better of me and I bought this the day it came out. My big problem with this was that it just didn’t sound like Vixen. All the members are different except for guitarist Jan Kuehnemund and the mix is awful. Maybe if Janet Gardner was still on vocals then LIVE & LEARN could have escaped this list but the record would still need better production and better songs. Oh well, you live and you learn (pun intended)!

#3

Peter Criss - One For All (2007) Peter Criss – One For All

At least I knew going in that this wouldn’t be a Rock ‘n’ Roll album, that takes some of the pain away! This album was a must for me because I am a KISS diehard but I didn’t get value for my dollar. Overall, the music isn’t bad but the vocals are…..he’s not Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett no matter how hard he wants to be. Knowing this album would be mellow and light with no Rock, I knew what I was getting.

#4

Ozzy Osbourne - Black Rain (2007) Ozzy Osbourne – Black Rain

This is not an Ozzy album. This is a Zakk Wylde/Black Label Society album. Don’t believe me? Spin this CD once and compare it to any BLS album…..you get the idea. It’s obvious that Ozzy is out of ideas and he needs as much help writing as he does from ProTools with his vocals. Obviously, Zakk Wylde is the driving force behind Ozzy’s music even though the writing credits say different. Ozzy’s vocals are enhanced by studio trickery more than ever and the overall packaging of the first pressing leaves a lot to be desired, even with the code for two free Ozzfest tickets. Ozzy had the opportunity to make a real kick ass record and he didn’t. As I wrote in the review: “…..it’s (the album) decent but it doesn’t blow me away. And I expect to be blown away by Ozzy.”

#5

Sebastian Bach - Angel Down (2007) Sebastian Bach – Angel Down

You wait 9 years and release this? I think the five songs on BRING’EM BACH ALIVE (1999) are much better than these songs and having Axl Rose as a guest star on three songs doesn’t make it any better. So why did I buy it? Simple…..hope. I had hope that Bach would make a good solo record, especially considering he had plenty of time to write good songs. I think my biggest disappointment here is the vocals, they are not good. Sebastian Bach has been considered to have one of the better voices from the ’80s and he just doesn’t show it. If the vocals were better, I would have kept it out of the Worst 5. I have yet to properly review this album but I’m definitely done listening to it.

Top 5 Albums of 2006

2006 is almost over and it is safe to say that, if you are a fan of AOR, Hard Rock, and Heavy Metal, then you had a fine year full of great releases. Every year seems to bring more new releases and reissues competing for the collector’s hard earned dollar.

This year I spent most of my money on catalog releases and reissues…..trying to fill some of those holes in the collection. I kept up on many new studio albums but there were so many that I had to be a smart shopper and buy the ones I absolutely had to have. It’s never an exact science but I got some great albums this year at very good prices.

Below is my Top 5 of 2006. Of all the albums I bought this year, these are the cream of the crop, the very best in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal this year. From bottom to top:
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Honorable Mentions: Krokus – Hellraiser, MSG – Tales Of Rock’n Roll, Lacuna Coil – Karmacode, Axel Rudi Pell – Mystica, Warrant – Born Again, and Toto – Falling In Between (who would have slid into #5).

5. Taz Taylor Band – Welcome To America
The surprise of the year! I bought this solely because of Graham Bonnet’s (ex-Rainbow, MSG, Alcatrazz) involvement on vocals but I got a fine Hard Rock album full of hooks and melody. Can’t go wrong there! Well written songs and good musicianship = a good album.

4. Paul Stanley – Live To Win
This exceeded my expectations and, as a KISS diehard, they were very high. I wasn’t looking for a new KISS album, I was looking for a good Hard Rock album (something KISS has forgotten about). A bit modern and Pop flavored but Paul writes good songs and his voice sounds in fine form.

3. Motorhead – Kiss Of Death
If it wasn’t for the next two bands releasing new albums in 2006, Motorhead would have taken the top spot. How many excellent albums does Lemmy and co. have to make before people outside the Metal community take notice? Basic “in your face” Heavy Metal that picks you up and smacks you across the head. Motorhead continues to churn out good albums year after year.

2. UFO – The Monkey Puzzle
Another member of the “old guard” that just makes good Hard Rock albums. The Monkey Puzzle is an album of superb quality of blues-based Hard Rock full of melody, hooks, and solos. Songwriting is top notch and the performances are dead on for a band pushing 35+ years on the scene. This release flirted with the top spot for most of the year and would have been the top album if it wasn’t for the next release.

<<insert drum roll>> “And the top album of 2006 is…..”

1. Iron Maiden – A Matter Of Life And Death
When Iron Maiden releases a new album, it is almost a given that it will be a classic release and one of the best of the year. Since reforming with Dickinson and Smith, Maiden had put out two excellent albums but A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH really stands out. The songs are longer, more progressive, but they are high quality. Seasoned veterans like this write great albums and this is a great album. I haven’t enjoyed a Maiden album this much since POWERSLAVE (1984).

Top 5 of 2005

1. Judas Priest – Angel Of Retribution

2. Bruce Dickinson – Tyranny Of Souls

3. Alice Cooper – Dirty Diamonds

4. Deep Purple – Rapture Of The Deep

5. Surrender – Better Later Than Never

All of these CDs were released in 2005. The Surrender album is a re-release of a promo CD from 1991 but now officially released by the band to prevent piracy. Use the links below to get all the info on each album.

Judas Priest
Bruce Dickinson
Alice Cooper
Deep Purple
Surrender