Doc Krieger’s 2018 Top 20 Albums
Yearly disclaimer: As a 60+ year old white male, I tend to like 60s type pop/rock music, 70s progressive and guitar blues/rock which is pretty passe in this hiphop/techno/emo/whatever is trendy era – but there is still some good stuff for a conventional old guy if you look for it. Most of these albums & songs can be found on youtube so I will try to supply a link if possible – so here goes (my top track is underlined):
1.Phideaux – Infidel – like so many classic albums, this one took several spins to reveal its brilliance (frankly the 2 CD set needs to be heard in one sitting to appreciate it). Phideaux Xavier is a daytime soap opera director who moonlights as a progressive rock auteur (he is the male singer here plus plays keys and guitar). This album is apparently the third installment of a trilogy with the theme Big Brother. Gabe Moffatt supplies nice Steve Hackett-esque guitar work while the outstanding drumming is by Rich Hutchins. This is a hard album to sample due to the many tempo and dynamics changes plus many of the songs are long (i.e. the nearly 14 minute “From Hydrogen To Love”). Mellotron is my favorite instrument and there are good bits on songs like “Cast Out And Cold” and “Inquisitor”). While it is in no way representative of the rest of the album, the most accessible song is “We Only Have Eyes For You”.
2.Rick Parfitt – Over & Out – the Status Quo were never the chart force in the U.S. that they were in the U.K. where they were superstars. Founding guitarist Parfitt died on Xmas Eve in 2016 after having lived through a series of heart attacks. In that year after his forth episode, he recorded his vocals and guitar parts but never finished the rest. That left it to his son and folks like Brian May of Queen and Chris Wolstenholme of Muse to complete it. Never the primary Quo vocalist, he sings sort of like Steve Miller here. “Lonesome Road” is a standard chugging Quo boogie while “Fight For Every Heartbeat” is a good rocker. The title song is a poignant ballad while the ‘50s style rocker “Lock Myself Away” gets my nod.
3.The Dead Daisies – Burn It Down – the 16 year old hard rock fan within the old guy rears its head pushing this Australian-American collective to #3. Aussie pilot and investment guru David Lowy started them in 2013 with different metal musicians coming on board for each release. John Corabi has been vocalist in many fringe bands over the years, but seems to have found a home here (a plus is he is not prone to shrieking like so many of these singers). They do a nasty version of the Rolling Stones’ “Bitch”, but most of the tracks are originals like “Resurrected” and “Judgement Day”.
4.Billy F Gibbons – The Big Bad Blues – there is a second guitarist and harmonica, but otherwise this sounds like classic Z Z Top. This won’t change the world, but it is straight up natchl shufflin’ blooze. If a razor-blade could sing it would be Gibbons. There are some hot originals like the rockin’ “Hollywood 151” and some classic covers like “Rollin’ & Tumblin’”. “Missin’ Yo’ Kissin’ is a “La Grange” soundalike.
5.Skerryvore – Evo – this celtic rock band is named after a reef off the coast of Scotland. There are 8 musicians playing fiddle, pipes, whistles, accordion, etc. Some of the songs sound too conventionally country, but the instrumentals are great such as “Trip To Modera” and the raving closer “The Rise”. The heavier guitar/vocal track “Live Forever” gets my nod.
6.The Coral – Move Through The Dawn – a successful chart act since 2001 in the U.K., this pop band is unknown in America. These guys play guitars and write catchy songs – a novelty in 2018. “Eyes Like Pearls” and the happy “Reaching Out For A Friend” are memorable pop. The closer “After The Fair” could be an early Paul Simon acoustic ballad.
7.The Proclaimers – Angry Cyclist – we in the U.S. mostly know the Reid brothers from their #3 1993 belated hit “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” and their oddly precise vocal inflection. This their 11th album charted at #17 in the U.K. and is mostly up pop music. “A Way With Words” and “You Make Me Happy” are good catchy songs. The best tracks are the string-laden title song and the stirring ballad “Streets Of Edinburgh”. They are known for their support of Scottish independence.
8.Jake Shears – Jake Shears – he was the Elton John sounding lead singer of the successful (in the U.K.) band the Scissor Sisters. Jason F. Sellards grew up gay in Washington state getting bullied, but found his voice in the U.K. in the 2000’s. His best songs can have a music hall feel (“Sad Song Backwards”) or a retro ‘70s sound such as the ballad “All For What”. The disco tracks like “Clothes Off” don’t do it for the Dentist, but the important sounding ballad “Palace In The Sky” and the catchy pop of “Mississippi Delta (I’m Your Man” are good tracks.
9.The Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling – The High Cost Of Low Living – mo’ nasty blooze from guitarist Moss and harmonica wiz Gruenling in a sorta Fabulous Thunderbirds vein. There isn’t much variety, but “Count On Me” rocks while the title track burns as does “Tight Grip On Your Leash”. Could only find a link to a live version, but this will show the style.
10.The Mavericks – Hey! Merry Christmas – these guys are such a fun band, you really need to see them in concert (and Raul Malo is one of the best singers going). This album of mostly original Yule songs is a classic made up of old-time rock, Tex-Mex and countryish balladry. “Christmas Time Is (Coming ‘Round Again)” is one cool original rocker while they do a great job on the Barry, Greenwich, Spector chestnut “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”. Check out the rockin’ title track “Hey! Merry Christmas”.
11.Stone Temple Pilots – Stone Temple Pilots – with the death of leader Scott Weiland you had to figure these guys were dead as well, but this album proves otherwise. New singer Jeff Gutt sings in a Billy Squier style on the single “Meadow” and “Never Enough” is a good chugging rocker. Gutt does his best work on the ballads such as “Thought She’s Be Mine” and “The Art Of Letting Go”.
12.J.D. McPherson – Socks-A Christmas Album By… – rather than feeling like a Christmas album, this seems more like a great raw rockin’ R&B album with a holiday theme. A song like “Twinkle (Little Christmas Lights)” feels more like a pre-rock black shouter such as Amos Milburn while “Santa’s Got A Mean Machine” is pre-Beatles rock and roll. The precision drumming of Jason Smay and the driving bass of Jimmy Sutton makes a song like “Holly, Carol, Candy & Joy” come alive. You gotta love “Hey Skinny Santa!” and the rockin’ “Bad Kid”.
13.Kim Wilde – Here Come The Aliens – this is the 14th studio album from the British pop star who was successful from ’81 – ’96. Her hits were mostly written by her dad Marty and her brother Ricky so it was a real family affair. Ricky is here on Kim’s comeback record producing and supplying songs and music. The title track was inspired by Kim allegedly seeing a UFO in 2009. The album drags a bit in the middle till coming back with closers “Rock The Paradiso” and “Rosetta”. The titles show the album’s pop leanings – “Kandy Krush” and “Pop Won’t Stop”.
14.Danielle Nicole – Cry No More – the voice screams big black woman, the package shows a small white lady who plays a bass bigger than she is. The album starts with the nasty blues of “Crawl” then moves to the slide work-out “I’m Going Home” which features Sonny Landreth. This isn’t the raw nasty blues of some of the men we have in this list, but the ‘don’t-mess-with-me’ kind of female blues. “Burnin’ For You” has some nice organ work from Mike Finnigan while Kenny Wayne Shepherd works the 6-string on “Save Me”. The nastiest blues here is “Pusher Man”.
15.Dan Baird & Homemade Sin – Screamer – this is Dan’s 3rd album in 2 years, but they have all been great slabs of old chunka-chunka monkey beat guitar driven rock and roll. These guys are half of the Georgia Satellites and the music is in that style. “You Broke It” and “Everlovin’ Mind” stand out.
16.Ghost – Prequelle – hitting #3 in the U.S. this was a successful release for the Swedish metallic rockers. Leader Tobias Forge used to call himself Papa Emeritus, but now he goes by Cardinal Copia. He pretty much decided he was Ghost and dumped the old nameless ghouls which is too bad as the album thus isn’t as good as 2015’s Meliora. They are still a cartoonish satanic sounding band but are as dangerous as Alice Cooper (not very). There are 2 pretty good prog-metal instrumentals and the nice vocal in “Dance Macabre”. The closing track “Life Eternal” shows that they aren’t just a stupid metal band.
17.Rod Stewart – Blood Red Roses – this is the pop rocker Rod not the crooner or the “Hot Legs” rocker. He and collaborator Kevin Savigar have come up with some good songs in “Look In Her Eye” and “Hole In My Heart”. The return to disco on “Give Me Love” is pretty awful, but the rocker “Vegas Shuffle” makes up for it. The title track “Blood Red Roses” is extremely catchy with driving fiddle work.
18.The Damned – Evil Spirits – the reunion of singer Dave Vanian and guitarist Captain Sensible a few years back was a welcome event. 2008’s So Who’s Paranoid was a bit better, but there are still some good moments here. The title track has a sort of Byrds “8 Miles High” feel thanks to producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie) while the somber closer “I Don’t Care” has nice trumpet work. “Devil In Disguise” is closer to their punk roots but the opener “Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow” is progish pop.
19.The Gripweeds – Trip Around The Sun – the Dentist is a big fan of power pop and has been on board with this New Jersey band since 1988 (named after a John Lennon film role). Bright pop songs (“Mr. Nervous”) stand next to psychedelia (“All Things Bright”). Check out “I Like Her”.
20.Enuff Z’nuff – Diamond Boy – many power pop fans are up in arms that Chip Z’nuff is the singer on this new album instead of the departed Donnie Vie. Okay, he isn’t as good, but the album is still passable pop. Songs like “Fire & Ice” and “Faith, Hope & Luv” are good. The closer “Imaginary Man” borrows rather liberally from the Beatles (“For No One”).
Doc Krieger’s Best EP 2018 – It is not long enough to be a whole album, but more songs than the orphan songs list.
The Decemberists – Traveling On – frankly their newest album I’ll Be Your Girl was underwhelming save the track “Rusalka Rusalka…”. Listening to these 5 songs that didn’t fit on the album, it is hard to imagine why they were left off. Singer Colin Meloy has always had a bit of an odd voice so the harmony lead on the driving “Down On The Knuckle” is most welcome (as are the handclaps and cheesy organ). The full band version of “Tripping Along” is miles better than the album version and the jaunty “Midlist Author” is fun. The closer “Traveling On” would fit nicely on an REM album.
Doc Krieger’s Best Orphan Songs 2018 – These are downloads, singles, isolated top tracks on LPs.
1.Steven Wilson – How Big The Space – Wilson is the most talented progressive musician going today. He can also be oddly perverse. Last year the best song by far on the To The Bone album was “A Door Marked Summer” which was only available on the pricy limited edition box. This year he releases this, one of his best songs yet, only as a limited Record Store Day 12”. Sorta Pink Floydian and ethereal.
2.Lenny Kravitz – 5 More Days ‘Til Summer – his new album Raise Vibration is okay, but there is too much dance/disco type music for my taste. This bright pop song is totally different than anything else on the CD and is immensely catchy.
3.Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Lonesome Dave – the first trawling of the TP archive since his sad passing resulted in An American Treasure – 4 CDs of album tracks with a generous helping of unreleased goodies. There are live tracks, alternate versions and the odd new songs which includes this nasty 50s type rocker that makes you wonder why it didn’t get a release in 1983.
4.Lori McKenna – People Get Old – The Tree is this country/folk singer/songwriter’s 10th studio album with this song being about her dad. Having lost my parents within a year and a half it hit home.
5.Sister Sparrow – Ghost – Gold is the 4th album by this rock/soul band and is not bad, but this intelligent sounding pop confection really jumps out. It is driven by an insistent bass riff.
6.Paul Collins – Go – Paul with the Beat put out 2 of the greatest new wave albums but never got the recognition he deserved. This is another slab of the same only too short! From Out Of My Head.
7.Neko Case – Bad Luck – Ms. Case has always done excellent work as a solo and as a member of the New Pornographers. The cover is so off-putting (her wearing a crown of cigarettes while her hair and shoulder are in flames) that I couldn’t warm up to the record. This song is by far the best thing on it.
8.Spiders – Shock & Awe – it is surprising how much pop music comes out of Sweden which makes me wonder if there is still a market there for music other than hiphop. This is a Joan Jett sorta guitar rocker from their album Killer Machine.
9.Buckets Rebel Heart – 20 Great Summers – Dave “Bucket” Colwell has been a second tier singer in bands like Bad Company and Humble Pie filling in for absent lead vocalists. This is the title track from a so-so album. This recalls groups like 38 Special and has nice cowbell.
10.Presto Ballet – Tip Of The Hat – the album Days Between sounds okay, but is dangerously too close to the group Kansas for my tastes. This song is the stand-out track in a Supertramp or Stories vein. Leslied guitar chords lead to loud organ on the chorus with a Keith Emerson style synth break in the middle.
11.The Fizz – Don’t Start Without Me – Bucks Fizz were a successful ABBA clone in the U.K. that for legal reasons has had to drop Bucks from their name. They came out with a holiday album Christmas With The Fizz that has this very catchy lead track. Sounds like a hit from a different era.
12.Clutch – Book Of Bad Decisions – there are a few decent hard guitar crunch songs on their new album, but the title track riff rocker really jumped out for your Dentist . It has a nasty dense sound over a bass riff.
13.Jukebox The Ghost – Diane – Off To The Races seems to try too hard at times to be important like Queen. This song is frothy acoustic guitar pop that reminds me of the British band The Feeling.
14.Palace Winter – Take Shelter – Nowadays only had this one standout song that was the single from the album (single? There is no chance of getting radio play today with stuff like this). Dreamy psych/prog music.
15.The Motels – Lucky Stars – Martha Davis and company had some great new wave hits in the ‘80s (“Take The L”, “Only The Lonely”) and this song sounds like it would have fit right in back in the day. She and Marty Jourard are the only members from the original band on The Last Few Beautiful Days.
16.Palace – Promised Land – Swedish musician Michael Palace plays all but the drums on Binary Music. This sounds like an ‘80s commercial band like Survivor or Toto.
17.Sloan – Right To Roam – these Canadians have continued to plug away since 1991 with this song coming from 12. Even a so-so album like this has 1 or 2 great guitar driven pop songs. Reminds me of the new wave band Squeeze.
18.Nick Lowe + Los Straitjackets – Tokyo Bay – Lowe put out some of the greatest pop records back in the day (“Cruel To Be Kind”, “Half A Boy & Half A Man”) before he decided to stop rocking and become a serious artiste (sadly). Since teaming up with my fave instrumental band, he has started to rock again though his voice is noticeably weaker. This was the lead track from a double 45 release.
19.Eric Clapton – Lonesome Christmas – one certainly would have never expected Mr. Clapton to jump on the holiday album trend, but now we have Happy Xmas which mostly wasn’t my cup o’tea. This stompin’ blues guitar work-out was the exception.
20.Blackberry Smoke – Best Seat In The House – their new album Find A Light didn’t move me like their other country/rockers. This slab of Pettyish Americana driven by bright guitar chords is the best song.
Doc’s Best Reissue Album
The Beatles – Super Deluxe 50th Anniversary Edition – this is just an all-around winner of a reissue. The White Album has never sounded better than with this Giles Martin remix plus the demos and session tracks such as “Glass Onion” are welcome additions to the Beatles canon. The amazing book with extras of the original photos is something a Beatle fan would buy even without the music. One can only hope they do the same work with Abbey Road and Let It Be.