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)

Endeverafter – Kiss Or Kill (2007)

Endeverafter - Kiss Or Kill (2007)

Endeverafter – Kiss Or Kill (2007, Razor & Tie Records)

  1. I Wanna Be Your Man
  2. Baby Baby Baby
  3. Gotta Get Out
  4. Poison
  5. Next Best Thing
  6. Tip Of My Tongue
  7. Road To Destruction
  8. All Night
  9. Slave
  10. From The Ashes Of Sin
  11. Long Way Home

Endeverafter Endeverafter (pic 2)

Band Lineup:
Michael Grant – Vocals, Lead Guitar
Kristan Mallory – Rhythm Guitar
Tommi Andrews – Bass
Eric Humbert – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Butch Walker – guest vocals on ‘Next Best Thing’
Grace Sims – guest vocals on ‘Long Way Home’
Jessica Catron – Cello on ‘Next Best Thing’ & ‘Long Way Home’

Producer: Stacy Jones (American Hi-Fi)

Total Time – 48:00

Endeverafter @ MySpace
Razor & Tie Records

When Poison and Cinderella came around New England in the summer of 2006, the opening act was Endeverafter. I remember thinking at the time that I would only go to the show if they had a “proper”, or well-known, opener. To me, a band I had never heard of before didn’t warrant me buying a ticket to another Poison summer show. I missed out on something really good!

Endeverafter have been around for a few years, releasing an E.P. (BLOOD ON THE STAGE) in 2005, and touring with major Hard Rock acts like KISS, Poison, & Cinderella. The band has started to build a national following after taking the Sacremento and L.A. scenes by storm.  You can hear the influences of AC/DC, Skid Row, Guns’n’Roses, Aerosmith, and Motley Crue in the music but the band still retains their own identity.

Opening song, and first single and video, ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, gets the party started  with a machine gun guitar riff, kind of like a speeding Rolling Stones/GnR collaboration. Guitars everywhere, just how good Hard Rock should be. ‘Baby Baby Baby’ (second single and video) follows up with a mono opening and kicks into a gritty groove that Axl Rose should take note of. Guitars alive, hooks all over, you just can’t help raising your fist and singing along. Listen for the guitar solos, the band knows how to incorporate three guitarists into the overall sound, it makes it heavier and thicker. The end of the song is one ’80s style solo that makes you feel like the band is playing live in your face. Right off the bat you’ve got Hard Rock music that’s fun and exciting.

The party doesn’t stop after two songs, ‘Gotta Get Out’ is a single waiting to happen. The song is one big melodic hook with a big guitar sound and, what I like to call “AC/DC drums” – not overbearing but doing the job well. The chorus is simple but made for radio sing-a-longs. I’m surprised this isn’t a lead single because it’s very catchy. The opening guitars and main riff of ‘Poison’ just screams Motley Crue! That ain’t a bad thing at all for Hard Rock fans! The solo mid-way though sounds Malmsteen-esque but not wanking like the great Yngwie is prone to do. I really like this song too, it just drives you.

After four solid rockers, you need to slow it down a little. Ballad time ensues with ‘Next Best Thing’ and it sounds really good. I’m a sucker for a song with acoustic guitars supplementing the sound, Endeverafter making good use of all the guitars again along with another solid solo. Get the lighters out for this one. ‘Tip Of My Tongue’ kicks the album back into high gear with another speedy riff and catchy chorus and ‘Road To Destruction’ gives off a pounding drum sound and the underlying riffs just keep going and going.

Just like ‘Gotta Get Out’, how ‘All Night’ is not a Rock radio single is beyond me. I’m going to take a lot of criticism for this comparison but this sounds like a Hard Rock Rick Springfield! I could see Rick doing a lighter, early ’80s version of this song. ‘All Night’ grabs hold of the listener and gets them singing, maybe even dancing? It’s a radio friendly tune and it’s very good, one of my favorites on the record. I get a Green Day vibe with ‘Slave’ but, when the chorus kicks in, it goes away. I like the quick falsetto in the chorus for a couple of words, it adds dimension.

‘From The Ashes Of Sin’ is not speedy like the rest of the rockers on the album, it’s more mid-tempo but retains power. Again, the triple guitar attack really thickens the sound, kind of like Iron Maiden did on 2000’s BRAVE NEW WORLD. This isn’t Maiden of course but when each guitar joins in the main riff one at a time, you can’t help but think it. ‘Long Way Home’ is a complete about face/change of pace from the in your face Hard Rock the album delivers. Acoustic guitars abound and the cello! It’s almost country, maybe Eagles? It’s got that laid back California feel to it. Definitely Ballad #2 and definitely a winner.

Just one last thought….. I have listened to this CD for the better part of two weeks and I have been trying to figure out the vocals. Michael Grant has a sound and style I’ve heard before but I’ve been trying to figure out a comparison. I think I’ve finally found it! If you listen to the first two songs, tell me that Grant doesn’t sound similar to Jaime St. James from Black ‘n Blue! Back in the day, Jaime could belt it out and Michael proves he can too in a similar style.

Bottom Line:
I’ve listened to my fair share of new Hard Rock bands in the last few years and I have to say that Endeverafter delivers the goods. They take different influences from the last two decades, incorporate it with the three guitars, and add their own swagger. Favorite songs here: ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, ‘Baby Baby Baby’, ‘Gotta Get Out’, ‘All Night’, and ‘Long Way Home’. I like the whole album, not a bad song there but I really think the hidden gems are ‘Gotta Get Out’, ‘All night’, and ‘Long Way Home’. KISS OR KILL has become an instant favorite and a late entry for my Top 10 of 2007. If you’re a Hard Rock fan, go out and buy this album, it’s released today.