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Best Of 2016 - 2017 Jeffrey343

CATEGORY: Best Of 2016
AUTHOR: Jeffrey343
YEAR: 2016


We discussed throughout the year a few issues in the current scene of this genre. George touched on them in his best-of list too. It does seem that we have a glut of new music, with the scene becoming kind of saturated. While the number of great songs may be the same (or higher), it's taking more albums to get them. I don't think it's as pronounced as others do, as I bought and heard more albums this year than any other recent year. And I did like most of them, or at least several songs from most of them. I am finding it harder to commit to listening to an entire album though. A bit too much 'samey-ness' throughout plus a larger number of songs (twelve seems to be the new normal) and several songs that are close to or over five minutes can make it a challenge to keep my attention. In fact, you'll notice my top two albums have ten concise songs each.

I think the industry might be heading where it was about 30 years ago, where we got overwhelmed with new artists, each able to write some really catchy tunes but not a whole album's worth, and the talent got a bit watered down. I'm not quite as worried about the talent, though, as I believe artists are in it now for the love of music rather than for the money or the lifestyle. And they have decades of great songs to emulate.

Since this style of music can't be found on any U.S. radio station I can get, I have to do my own programming. YouTube has replaced MTV, and streaming has replaced radio as far as getting songs out early. And it is very easy to create in seconds what took hours with the 'mix tape' process (btw, my friends loved my mix tapes - they were kinda legendary). I'm doing a lot more listening in 'playlist' mode, or 'shuffle' mode, to simulate the ways of long ago. The closest thing I'm finding to radio or MTV is when videos show up on places like this or other music sites or on Facebook.

I still buy most of my music digitally. One trend that has taken off the past couple of years is releasing songs ahead of the entire album. It's moved from one or maybe two to up to four. I personally like this - it's like hearing a new single on the radio. And it makes it a lot easier to 'learn' a new album when you already know a few songs.

It'll be interesting to see how my list evolves over time. Right now, it's just a snapshot. Some albums haven't gotten a lot of spins yet. Some I really liked early in the year have kinda faded. I reviewed six 2016 albums, giving all of them 9.0 or better, and only three cracked the top ten. So I did find some quality albums out there. There were a lot that didn't make my list that would have made it most years. I don't currently have any of these in my top 5 of the decade so far, although they're well-represented in the top 10 (hard to dislodge a few of the top albums of 2014 and a couple others).

01 - Jace Pawlak - Promise
I have many albums on my radar for months before they come out. And some just come from out of nowhere (even if they did get some press and I just didn't pay attention). This is one that showed up in a glowing review on another site, and it just blew me away. Ten songs that all sound like hit singles from our heroes of the past. And definitely an album that I can play start to finish and then all over again. Jason Jace Pawlak has a large following on Facebook and YouTube where he discusses his musical tastes in great detail, and it's no wonder he put out an album that sounds like this. Hope he has it in him to do it again, or (since he's primarily a songwriter) give songs like this to a band who can do them justice.

02 - White Widdow - Silhouette
This is one that was on my radar for months. And I almost feel like I'm apologizing for putting it this high. Is it as good as 'Crossfire'? No. And I can pick at this album more than I'd like. But if I can play the album over and over, learn the songs, memorize the lyrics, and have a hard time limiting myself to one song to put on a playlist with 12 - 15 songs, I must really like it. These guys don't have many tricks, but they perform those tricks very well.

03 - First Signal - One Step Over The Line
Lots of really good tunes on this one. It got a lot of play, and likely will continue to do so. It may suffer a bit in the variety department, but the songs and the overall flow are good enough to mostly overlook that.

04 - Treat - Ghost Of Graceland
It must be daunting to follow an album that was considered a classic. And they took six years to do so. They went in a tougher and harder direction on this one. I didn't play it overall nearly as much as I did Coup de Grace six years ago, but that was largely because this was a pretty solid year. It wasn't as strong lyrically or as catchy as Coup de Grace, but it's still an excellent album.

05 - Dante Fox - Breathless
This was my introduction to a band that's been around for quite a while. Great female vocals with introspective lyrics in a shiny AOR wrapper.

06 - Seven - Shattered
I mentioned in the comments on the review that I believe they took a step sideways here - stronger overall album that veered in the direction of sounding a bit like everyone else. But I do sense a trademark sound in there, and Mick Devine has one of the best voices in the genre.

07 - The Defiants - The Defiants
The first two songs that were released ahead of the album just blew me away. I was hoping the dropoff wouldn't be too steep. And really, it wasn't that bad. It's just tough when the first three songs on an album are clearly the best. Paul Laine sings as well as anyone.

08 - Rob Moratti - Transcendent
I really liked those four Final Frontier albums over a decade ago (that long?). I'd seen rumors that a fifth one was in the works. I suspect this contains the songs that would have been on that album. It's a different cast from his 2011 album, but it's a similar style of catchy and poppy AOR. I do prefer that he's not using his chipmunk voice like on the Final Frontier albums.

09 - King Company - One For The Road
This is one that kinda surprised me that I liked it so much. It has a lot of the Whitesnake vibe from their 1984 and 1987 albums, without the sappy ballads (which I did thoroughly enjoy, to be honest). Very promising debut.

10 - Bryan Cole - Sands Of Time
Lots of good energy on this one. The Jim Peterik influences are obvious, as three of these songs are from the first two Pride Of Lions album, and many others have a similar vibe.

Other Good Stuff
Ted Poley - Beyond The Fade - Would make the top 10 every year before this one.
Punky Meadows - Fallen Angel - Good guitar-oriented album.
Outlasted - Into The Night - Solid AOR effort.
Cornerstone - Reflections - Another solid AOR one, fairly poppy.
Rage Of Angels - The Devil's New Tricks - More Rob Moratti on a slightly harder effort.
FM - Indiscreet 30 - Wonder where this would have been if this was an album of new material - maybe #1.

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#1 | gdazegod on January 31 2017 00:52:14
You're right there Jeff, about streaming audio taking the place of radio, due to commercial mergers etc. I wish for radio to make a return, but honestly, people's listening habits and the modern day tools that they use makes radio a contender for going the way of the Dodo!
#2 | Cimozzen on January 31 2017 21:46:09
You always come up with great lists, Jeffrey. The big complaint I have with the 2016, I am really tired of all of the Daniel Flores albums...First Signal, Palace, Cry of Dawn, Jim Jidhed.....they all sound the same, they all use the same band it's all just.....I am not a fan of his. I'll pass on his upcoming Toby Hitchcock album.

Jace Pawlak is great. Met him in person too! Very nice guy, as is Bryan Cole.
#3 | gdazegod on January 31 2017 22:17:15
I will be giving Frontiers a wide berth this year. No review from me. Instead, i'll be going slightly off the beaten track.
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