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Best Of 2011 - 2012 george the jack

ARTIST: Best Of 2011 (george the jack)


2011 has undoubtedly been a fantastic year for new melodic rock/AOR music. I can't recall a single year from the recent ones that offered us such great results, both in terms of quality and quantity. I nearly needed a whole week's time to finalize my top list as I had to pick the best from a list of not less than 50 albums, all of excellent to above average quality. Well, let's take things from the beginning.

In Summary

1. The Magnificent - The Magnificent
I remember the day when I got the promo of this and sat down to review it. It was the Scandi origin as well as the cover of the album that didn't do much for me but all where until the first opening notes of the album? To put it simply, this little record reminded me why I started to love AOR music in the faces of Joey Tempest and Kee Marcello almost 2 decades ago. Memorable stuff, methinks, and one we will be discussing for several years to come.

2. Work Of Art - In Progress
The guys did it again. This is an absolutely brilliant album that comes very close to the 1st place of my top list. 'In Progress' has proven to be much different than its predecessor, yet equally mind-blowing and a step beyond for Robert Sall and his co. OK, maybe the songs are not that immediate as they were in 'Artwork', but, at the end of the day, this ain't a bad thing. Paternalistically perfect production, exceptional musicianship, musical pluralism, mature and well-crafted lyrics is what the listener gets. Want more? This is melodic rock CLASS all the way.

3. Grand Illusion - Prince Of Paupers
What can I say about these musos? I feel that any words I could use would turn into an understatement. They deliver some great musical elements and within their rich arranging qualities, blend and present choral vocals in a unique way, while their approach in a detailed skilled musical signature is phenomenal. 'Prince Of Paupers' won't make an exception. This is where AOR, Westcoast, Progressive Rock, Melodic Metal, Classical and Choral music collide. Simple as that!

4. House Of Lords - Big Money
'Big Money' comes to be added in the great HOL legacy without any second thoughts on sight. Great songs as always and James Christian's voice is really a treat to the ears. A passionate, extensive, theatrical voice that can't be beaten by the passing of time. The overall great result of the new record is also being interlarded by a secret Giuffria breeze, flowing within its lines.. The HOL kingdom is set to shine for a lot more years!

5. Mecca - Undeniable
Mecca return after almost a decade, with a pretty solid effort. Classic AOR blends with inspiring Westcoast elements and the well crafted songs are destined to please even the most demanding listener. Production is maybe the best I've heard in the genre for a long time and the songs have a lot of depth and treasures to reveal to their musical explorers. Perhaps it is not the 'new' Toto's 'The Seventh One', as the label claimed but it's a stunning installment for sure.

6. Stargazery - Eye On The Sky
For those into the European style melodic hard rock / metal, they should do no better than checking these Finnish guys out as soon as possible. I couldn't believe my ears when I first heard this little GEM! Imagine an amalgam of early Rainbow, DIO's solo career, Black Sabbath (Tony Martin era) and pinches of Helloween of the 'Keeper' years. The sound is vintage and as original as the aforementioned bands and the whole result characterized by one word: Consistency! I could say that 'Eye On The Sky' bares some similarities with 'The Magnificent' record but in a strange, non identifiable background way. It's like 'The Magnificent' if being observed under a different aspect. Awesome.

7. Shy - Shy
A great surprise for the year that left us, and in the same time, a living proof of an unfortunate sequence of events that happen in this tough world we`re living in. 'Shy' was meant to release, maybe their best album in a 30-year career, just a few days before the passing of their mastermind, guitarist and main composer, Steve Harris, after a long battle with cancer. A solid album all the way with soulful guitars and skilled vocal performances. New singer Lee Small is certainly a rising star in the melodic rock genre and I dare to say, that I prefer his vocals much more than Tony Mills ones. He offers an amazing set of pipes with smoothness yet through an extended vocal range. 'Breathe' is one of the best songs I've heard in years.

8. Beggars & Thieves - We Are The Brokenhearted
Didn't know this band until 2010 Firefest, where they were one of the major surprises for me. The unbreakable duo of Louie Merlino and Ronnie Mancuso returned with a great record, and a very different one, when compared to the various 'AOR by numbers' outcomes we face these days. Classic rock crosses beautifully with modern melodic rock while production-wise, it is exactly how it should be presented to the listener. Crisp, dynamic, mind-blowing. After obtaining the remarkable Firefest Collector's EP 'Stone Alone', I knew what to expect from these talented guys and they didn't disappoint me.

9. White Widdow - Serenade
After their debut, with which they shook the waters in 2010, the Aussie rockers return with a new album that is equally brilliant as the first one. Any difference here has to do with the production which is a lot better now, making the final result way more 'professional' and immediate than it previously had been. WW are playing now in the big league of names of the new melodic rock scene and there's a bright future ahead of them. Hopefully, they won't have the luck that 'Roxus' had 2 decades back.

10. Wild Rose - Half Past Midnight
Fellow compatriots Wild Rose, finally signed with Retrospect and managed to release their debut album after a long time in the making, band changes and rebadging songs from the vaults. The result? Yes, it is very good and their musical signature lies somewhere between FM and Passion Street, rather re-inventing the British AOR trademark sound. Next time, if they put more attention and consequence to the production thing, they can do wonders!

Albums from places 11 to 20
11. Rob Moratti - Victory (Smooth AOR. Just missed my top-10)
12. Moritz - Undivided (Great record! I had a tough time not including it in my top 10)
13. Fergie Frederiksen - Happiness Is The Road. (A quality record by a great singer)
14. Miss Behaviour - Last Woman Standing (Great new band with not such great behavior towards their fans?)
15. Xorigin - State Of The Art (A pleasant surprise! Very similar to the new Work Of Art)
16. Bad Habit - Atmosphere (Very good album although I am not really keen on the production)
17. Robin Beck - The Great Escape (The Great return of Robin!)
18. Williams/Friestedt - st (Fantastic Westcoast stuff in the vein of Toto's 'Seventh One')
19. Chris Ousey - Rhyme & Reason (Anything linked to the golden voice of Chris can't be bad. However, this blessed guy should be much more AOR oriented in the future IMHO)
20. Mitch Malloy - II (Mitch is back with a good chance to revive his career)

Other honorable mentions are:
Airrace, Grand Design, Kayak, Bullet, John Pratt, Newman, Alfonzetti, Fate, Kimball / Jamison, Issa, Reckless Love, Human Zoo, Fiona, King Kobra, Serpentine, Reckless Love, The Cars, Lionville, Toby Hitchcock and?(let's say) Whitesnake.

Biggest Disappointment of 2011:
Journey - Eclipse: This one did not live to our expectations of a good result from these giants. A total 'eclipse' of our hopes that have fallen to pieces. A very forgettable album and an inferior one when compared to the very good 'Revelation'.

Songs stuck in my head:
1. Work Of Art - The Great Fall
2. The Magnificent - Memories
3. Shy - Breathe

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#1 | roadrunner158 on February 08 2012 09:55:54
Pretty close to my own 'best of' list. The major difference is the rating of Journey's 'Eclipse', which for me is a sure contender for my top 10. But of course it's all down to personal tastes, and opinions on this particular CD have been pretty varied...
#2 | gdazegod on February 08 2012 10:15:49
Nearly every writer has rated the Journey album pretty poorly. There's no accounting for taste I guess.. helpless
#3 | jeffrey343 on February 08 2012 17:45:15
I hope that Mecca album grows on me, as I had high expectations for it. If I didn't have about a dozen other albums vying for my attention at the time, I might have played it enough to really get into it. It does sound good, though.
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