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Best Of 2012 - 2013 (englandashes)

ARTIST: Best Of 2012 (englandashes)
YEAR: 2013


2012 has come to a close, and being a Brit, (rather than just English!) it will always be remembered for the success of the London Olympics and the amazing Paralympics, which I seemed to enjoyed more, probably helped by the daily evening TV show 'The Last Leg' presented by Aussie, Adam Hills maybe it was just because the Paralympians who appeared on the show, especially Jody 'I've haven't wasted 5 years of' Cundy , Jonnie Peacock and Hannah Cockroft came across as 'genuine' nice and interesting people rather than the 'professional' athletes , however both sets of athletes managed to surpass themselves especially against overpaid footballers who seem to be less popular than the Liberals at the moment. Can't see that changing in 2013.

So music this year, well I have discovered lots of new acts, yes they appear to be pretty obscure, I'll roll some names for you to research, Springsteen, Petty, Rod Stewart, Bowie, Lennon and a combo called The Beatles. Yes seriously I have finally come to appreciate all these over 2012 and delved into their back catalogue, it's been fun. Greatness doesn't always have to be sealed in a piece of early 80's vinyl. With Springsteen a track appears on 'Greetings from Asbury Park' called 'Growin Up', does anyone know who covered this? because I am sure it's sitting somewhere in my collection, but I'll be damned if I know where. Also missing in action, is my Cheap Trick, 'One On One' album, where is it? I have reconnected with ELO again, probably explains the Petty obsessions, but also due to a great TV documentary on Jeff Lynne, and well done to Frontiers for issuing his solo album, although can't see me buying it. Also on the TV front, the Squeeze episode was excellent.

Rock Candy seemed to be pushing on and still receive far too many favourable reviews by Powerplay whatever they release, maybe the editor can stop the monopoly of one reviewer, who seems to be in charge of them for the past decade!, although LA Guns?, that will be interesting to defend, but more Streetheart please, I also forget how good the self-titled SPYS album was, but when is the Hard Rock Candy label going to pop up? Avenue of Allies seem to have a very strong end to the year, Escape plodding on, while Z issued a very good album by Escape, although I imagine when the reviewer in AOR Issue 7 mentions 'boasts a stellar production job' he wasn't talking about the opening track, 'Still Alive' because even to my untrained ear, parts of that song are all over the place, especially when listening on headphones, which is a shame. While Frontiers have continued releasing very good albums, I do get annoyed when they issue albums under the name of the likes of Hardline and the solo album by Jimi Jamison, when really I doubt both Jimi and Johnny Gioeli got anywhere near the spell checking option in writing these songs of being involved in the lyrics, yes Christopher it's called marketing and bleeding the well dry, but come on, some of us read the booklet, it's ingrained in us, it's what collectors do!

Disappointments for me, well Buckcherry in concert being one for sure, it had started so well with 'Rescue Me' but why no 'Don't Go Away', also the venue was pretty dire. Maybe it's that I'm just getting too old and don't appreciate or see it as fun, being sprayed by second hand lager which has been propelled not from a glass I'm afraid but by a more intimate method. Album wise, let's look at Wintersun whose 'Time 1' album seemed for some damn reason half finished, especially as I have been waiting 8 years for it to appear, maybe part 2 will crop up soon. I seem to be losing my patience with Kamelot, even with the introduction of Seventh Wonder favourite Tommy Karevik, while it was good just as Wintersun was they were not great, but with Kamelot I have been on a downhill spiral since the excellent 'The Fourth Legacy'.

Excitement was provided by The Zombies in concert, whose album 'Breathe Out, Breathe In' from 2011 will be my first completed review in 2013, in addition to the amazing Vintage Trouble which was my best live experience of the year, while learning and listening to Pretty Things. Near misses that just failed to reach my top 10 this year are the excellent Enslaved with RIITIIR which saw them, finally producing the goods, special mention to Primal Fear, Sinner, Mob Rules who have also displayed consistency to be the key to continued success. Add in Theocracy, listen to 'I AM' and 'Hide In The Fairytale' if you need convincing (opps sorry just realised it was actually released in 2011). Still in the starting gate (i.e. Still sitting in a pile in my room from Christmas) being Love.Might.Kill, Sturm Und Drang and the Shining (some might say, best left there!) there are just not enough hours in the day. Which just leaves the miracle machine, Joe Bonamassa 'Driving Towards The Daylight' which contains the best intro to a song with the 30 seconds on ' Who's Been Talking' provided by the original writer, Howlin' Wolf, classic.

Ok, before my list is revealed, on a personal note, this year saw me pass the century mark (talking articles not my age), in a way that is more in common with a style reminiscent of a Geoff Boycott century rather than a flamboyant knock by say, Kevin Peterson, but I got there finally. Maybe celebrating a double century in 5 years' time, I hope so. I am in total agreement with George, when it comes to time spent, it gets harder each year, as work seems to take up more hours, whether that is actual time spent at work, or more time thinking about work, but one quote I have taken from numerous books I have read this year on ultra-marathons and the joy (yes joy) of running, comes from Scott Jurek, 'I ran because overcoming the difficulties of a ultra-marathon reminded me that I could overcome the difficulties of life, that overcoming difficulties was life'.

One more observation, isn't it just great when you play a record from your collection that you haven't played for, say 25 years, and guess what, it works just as the day you brought it, no fuss, what other physical item unused for a similar length of time would work the same?, motor car? Computer? would hasten to say, no way!, isn't the vinyl record one the best inventions ever!

Not sure if that has any relevance here, but it did make me think.

In Summary

10 - WIG WAM - Wall Street
The Wig Wammies from Norway just managed to sneak in and retain their position in my top 10, even with strong showing from Sonata Arctica (who in the past have never failed to make an appearance). With Wall Street I found an album that really seemed to be a mixture of good hustle and bustle of old Wig Wam with a healthy dose of styles adopted from singer's Age Sten Nilsen solo adventures (see articles 2009). I very much appreciated and enjoyed these changes in pace, to the excellent firepower of the title track to the wimpiness of 'Tides Will Turn', I'm not saying Nilsen is a wimp, even if he stills wear lipstick, I feel he is a very undervalue writer, plus he is a lot bigger than me. The money shot has to be 'Bleeding Daylights' together with 'Victory Is Sweet' and the Americanisms of 'Wrong Can Feel So Right'. Really the best album released on Frontiers this year is my opinion, a group writing and performing their own songs, on Frontiers? That makes a refreshing change.

9 - KREATOR - Phantom Antichrist
The last German to bolster a bunch of no-hopers (hang on, who supports Wolves?) was one Jurgen Klinsman, well along comes a group of Germans this time to shore up the thrash generation and they have done it without any posturing or diving, as each song rides a tackle with grace and ease. Never in my mind has Thrash sounded so melodic. In fact some of the tunes like the title track could be released as 45rpm singles, (45? Reminds me of a recent cricket score, was it a 20/20 match? must have been as this is far too low for a test match.anyway). Ignore Yoda jabbering on about The Phantom Menace, much more dangerous if the Phantom Antichrist. You see while Brits Iron Maiden are more interested in flogging dodgy live albums, flying planes, appearing on BBC documentaries, Kreator continue honing their craft, providing compositions that would grace any orchestra. We need a thrash in the park, rather than proms in the park, book them for the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, not sure how that would play Britannia rules the waves though? I've dabbled with Kreator in the past, right back to 1986, with 'Pleasure To Kill' on the Noise label, when really I didn't get it, and I'm also aware that this album didn't find favour, even in these pages (45.. was New Zealand wasn't it?), but maybe that's because I'm ignoring the real history to the group and are less knowledgeable about them, especially compared to my esteem colleague, DZ, but I like what I hear.

8 - JACK WHITE - Blunderbuss
I am really a musical tart sometimes as I fall for the latest musical fad, look at this year, Rival Sons, The Gaslight Anthem and with Howlin Rain on order, I will probably start ordering a subscription to Classic Rock Magazine if I continue to let others think for me. In saying that, sometimes I can present a stanch defence against particular artists, and probably for no real good reason, maybe cos I'm told to like them. So what crossed my mind to buy Jack White's first solo album I have no idea? Because The White Stripes were one big no no, and I didn't even know about The Raconteurs. So why?, after careful consideration it appears to be based on a number of factors, initially Jack seems to be a real record collector, even having his own record label, Third Man Records, which favours to release, good old vinyl, so he does seem to be putting his considerable wealth to a good use. Ok yes not charity but wouldn't this be one of your dreams if you had the cash? So after listening to a smattering of excerpts I purchased this. What I found was that it was an album totally different to anything I have listened to this year. Yes it's not an easy listen, damn uncomfortable in parts but quite refreshing, enlightening and rewarding. Of course it may give an image of trying to purvey a handmade rural music especially being displayed on 'Weep Themselves To Sleep', but in reality it's meticulous in the structure of the songs, the crashing of 'Sixteen Salteens', with the opening line of 'She's got stickers on her lockers' and I especially enjoy the piano strains of 'Hypocritical Kiss'. A daunting album, the wife hates it, so that's good enough for me, genius.

7 - TRAIN - California 37
In the UK at least every January sees a hike in train fares, usually above inflation (for all you statistics fanatics) while the motorist tax increases are usually put off at the last minute (to appear that the Government is chance.not going to be fooled again). What do I care, I'm a motorist, but actually the cheapest train ticket, was this album, that went for as little as a fiver, only weeks after it left the station. It's been the bargain of the year; look if a group can mention Journey in a song and rope in David Hasselhoff in a video then they are always going to appear in my top 10. The Journey link appears on 'Maybe It Will Be My Year' and The Hoff appeared on the surely the best lyrics of the year together with a fresh video '50 Ways to Say Goodbye'. So anything more would be a bonus and for once the bonuses you receive on this album even give those bankers a run for their money. Not sure why some of the songs grab me, because on the face of it they shouldn't, if you listen to the country tinged 'Bruises' I'm as confused as a Chelsea supporter whether to abuse or applaud Rafa Benitez as they hit 7 goals against Villa's youth team. Anyway it was a great accompaniment to my summer's entertainment along with the Paralympics and Olympics, but what now has this Brit got to look forward to in 2013? an Ashes win? I feel 2013 could be a turning point in Australia cricket, with the introduction of a new guard for those in the 'canary yellow shirts'. R.I.P Tony Grieg.

6 - CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX - (Mankind) The Crafty Ape
Maybe I don't regard this as high as 'I, Vigilante', which appeared at number 2 in my top 10 for 2010, but that's not to say it isn't any better is probably down to the fact I haven't given this one enough chance to breath, or that fact it was in 2010 that I discovered CBP for the first time. Actually it may be the fact that this album lacked a Journey cover.. I'm kidding, (although it would had been nice, something like 'Ask The Lonely' or 'La Raza Del Sol', would be perfect). One fact is, that this album needs playing, and I mean a lot, more than just the total playing minutes on the pitch by Michael Owen in the last 6 years) For months I have promised a review of this, it hasn't appeared? Why? maybe I'm not qualified enough to explain the complexities, able to visualise the correct words to say to extol the true beauty of this album and CBP in general, although I hope it will appear in one way of another. (I've been reading about ultra-marathon runners for the last 6 months, so I'm getting the right encouragement to persevere). CBP seem to accomplish with ease what the Storm Corrosion album tried to achieve, I'm not knocking Storm Corrosion because they don't come much better than Akerfeldt and Wilson, because like this one, it takes time to get to grips with. Still I am certain Storm Corrosion will be classed as a classic in years to come. CBP seem to top the fragrance of weirdness, a true obscurity, a genuine collection of artists that deserve more recognition as they are becoming one of the most imaginative, pulsating, creative groups of the last 10 years.

5 - SLASH featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators - Apocalyptic Love
While I acknowledge Slash is a great guitarist, I've never thought him as a God. However he is a clever fellow for picking out the great Myles Kennedy as the voice for this album, was the 'Slash' album from 2010 a public audition?, if so Myles was chosen to spin his fine vocals on all of this album along with the Conspirators. Myles here is immense, he's shown glimpses on Alter Bridge and The Mayfield Four (I've considered listed his original groups albums on eBay, to take advantage, but they are too good). It's a great album, full of guitars, just a dirty rock and roll album of a kind I grew up in the 80's. Rolling Stones? They ain't got a thing on this album. Take a listen to 'No More Heroes', and pick out the lyric and interesting statement 'when your heroes turn to your enemies, when your heroes only give apologies' sounds like the whole Wolverhampton team, managers and backroom stuff.. losers. So have I changed my mind about Slash, still not a God, but pretty close to Sainthood.

4 H.E.A.T - Address The Nation
How do you improve Stella Artois? Simply by putting it into a larger can, so how do you improve on Sweden's H.E.A.T, much like that famous Belgium beverage it already seems perfect. Well after the second album, they lost their vocalist and had to look at their recipe and potentially had to alter the ingredients, so could've been facing trouble. Especially if the thought of enlisting the talents of a guy best known for his appearance on the 2009 Swedish Idol, which he walked off as the winner. Yes this has happened before, Adam Lambert (wonderful 1st solo album, but not so sure of the follow up) enjoyed a number of Queen concerts, and probably a less successful or comfortable match was melodic Ari Koivunen with noise merchants Amoral, although they seem to be doing well in their native Finland, I seemed to have lost touch with how they are progressing. For all my misgivings the introduction of Erik Gronwall has improved H.E.A.T, in fact they are a lot bigger and hotter, the temperature was certainly turned up. These guys simply become welded together perfectly, the chasing rock anthems and the Bon Jovism of 'Downtown' has sent this album to the top of my AOR list for the year. Not even an avalanche at the end of the year from the likes of Lionville, Soleil Moon or Sapphire Eyes could undermine my decision, see not even a scratch. Will it continue for H.E.A.T? will Erik be satisfied with how his career is progressing; whatever happens the listener has come out pretty good.

3 - NEAL MORSE - Momentum
It's also difficult to continue to extol the virtues of this album that I only recently wrote about in 2012 articles. Can I add anything? Do I want to change anything? Was I raving too much? My conclusion, is no to at least two of the first couple of questions, so not surprisingly I am going to add and it might be a case of 'history repeats it's page' (Soleil Moon anyone?). I still stand firm in the belief that this is an excellent album, a great introduction and a reminder to all Mr Morse non-believers and granted by the end you may still be a non-believer but hopefully still appreciate a great selection of tunes and styles put together by a great songwriter and the output of these 3 quality musicians.

2 - FLYING COLORS - Flying Colors
Super groups, who needs them? Can Flying Colors be classed as one? Well unlike some members of these super collection of ego's which turn out to be individuals that are tangled together and never fulfil the promise that the advertising men spout, 2012 saw a slight change. These five guys really meshed together. Why? Because they wrote great songs, rather than relying on reputations. Over the months I found this to be one of the most vibrating and interesting albums of the year. Modern prog is here for sure, but it's the snippets of groups like Queen on 'Love Is What I'm Waiting For' while feeding off the power pop genre at the same time, while moving to Venice on the ballad 'Everything Changes', and a song for once that actually has a bearing on explaining relationships and life, being 'Better Than Walking Away', to the Muse-like influence of my favourite track of the year in 'Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda'. How on earth the reviewer in Fireworks states that this song 'don't have the same impact as the others' and ' the hooks aren't as strong as the rest of the album' is quite unbelievable. It's like saying Lionel Messi is a goal hanger.. nice to see I am bringing this argument down to a schoolboy level! This is a rock album of high regard, and the hero, is the relatively unknown vocalist Casey McPherson, watch out for those low flying colours they will put a musical stain on your memory that just won't disappear.

1 - ANATHEMA - Weather Systems
Well these guys (and ladies) have enough songs to keep a set of storm chasers enthralled for months. Who would had forecasted (!....don't worry I've got loads more) that a bunch of death metallers would ferment into a group producing the best music to come out of Britain (let alone Liverpool) since those guys from the 60's. Along with Crippled Black Phoenix they produce the most intelligent, bright and fascinating music to come from this septic isle. Their output could fill a whole series let alone one episode of those BBC cultural programmes that are presented by ex- Director Generals, talk about loss of confidence in this glorified old boys club. Some other famous citizen of Liverpool mentioned that Football 'isn't a matter of life and death, it's more important than that', delete football and replace it with Anathema. Music to challenge thoughts, from the eerily near death experience that concludes the album, in the shape of 'Internal Landscapes' to the opening pairing of 'Untouchable, part 1 and 2' which simply just piles on the melodies, layer upon layer of blue skies, the forecast has just got that bit brighter.

Sorry to go on but, I can't get enough of the opening pair, I least need to add that Part 1 is steeped in emotion, relationship frustration while part 2 is beautiful, fragile. Seriously if I was a musician and I had this I would think to myself, why bother, this can't be bettered. I'll just pack up, please Coldplay, One Direction, and Take That'.. listen to this and shut the door when you leave.

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#1 | Eric on January 20 2013 13:03:40
The Train and Flying Colors discs are nice although the prog press has thrown way too much love at the album which they seem to do with anything Portnoy's involved with. K-scope are one of my favorite labels but Anathema I still don't get. I 'spose with time...
#2 | englandashes on January 20 2013 19:33:19
Yep Eric, agreed that the press fall over anything Portnoy is involved in, but personally I can't remember the last time I brought an album because of a certain drummer....vocalist yes, guitarist yes!. Feel the last DT album was an improvement. Cheerio!
#3 | Eric on January 20 2013 20:30:13
Seeing the same thing now with Steve Wilson. Anything he touches seems to get an automatic half to full page review in some prog mags. Talented guy, puts out some great stuff as with Portnoy, but c'mon, there's plenty of other good things out there worthy of attention and even higher praise.

Nice list Chris, as eclectic as always.
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