Best Of 2020 - Dave T (dtabachn)

dtabachndtabachn Buenos Aires, Argentina

Does anybody care about Rock music in a year marked by the global pandemic, COVID-19's 2020 - I do, life goes on and music is life, kudos to the musicians who created and read on.

Best Of 2020
ARTICLE: Best Of 2020 - Dave T (dtabachn)
YEAR: 2020
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

Background

Strange year for us human beings. Save for the swine flu pandemic around 2009 that went seemingly unnoticed (or poorly reported) for many countries, we had not had a crucial instance like the Covid-19 pandemic since the so-called 'Spanish flu' circa 1918, one whose impact was also realized after the fact and named after the only country that publicly released data on the issue back in the day.

With so much time on my hands at home, I could feel a stronger perception about all the good and the bad things human beings bring to the world, which clearly stand out during hard times.

The behaviors that make us grow and those who bring us a step back in our evolution are crystal clear in these circumstances.

How we value and stand for freedom in all its meanings, human greed, egos, power clashes on the one hand; but also love, affection, care, our true purpose on this Earth and sense of belonging as well on the other hand.

For some of us it was also an opportunity for self-discovery. That's the redeeming feature in my case, and I know I'm not alone on this.

Specifically speaking of music, the lack of new releases (a trend that has been the norm at least since the 2010's decade), and let alone quality ones, had deepened due the issues caused by the pandemic during the first half of the year.

Namely, obstacles to rehearse and record together for the bands, logistic and physical distribution issues and last but foremost live gigs as arguably one of the most affected activities of all in the world; all resulting in a virtual, massive halt.

Fortunately, new album releases took off for the last semester of the year.

Moreover, the paralysis of mail services around the world and especially on peripheral markets resulted in a virtual lack of availability for physical products like CDs and vinyl.

Digital downloads, streaming and digital promo releases fed the vast majority of my 2020's releases listens, which often times made it harder to determine the true quality of a recording concerning sound and production.

As a result, my consumer activity mostly gravitated towards purchasing used CD copies of old goodies, in some cases to fill voids in my collection, in other cases to reacquaint myself with treasured albums I had lost in the way.

As examples: Trapeze, Peter Criss, Benny Mardones,Blackjack, Santana, Keel, Megadeth, Gary Moore, Racer X, Peter Frampton and (ring the bells) Village People! Did you know Fergie Frederiksen sang two tracks ('Samantha' and 'The Sound Of The City') on the soundtrack to the 1980 movie 'Can't Stop The Music' under the David London pseudonym?

On a personal level, the now legendary (at least for us) video chats we frequently held with my good friend Explorer and having been able to release my own Podcast 'AOR Melodic Rock' in both Spanish and English are the highlights of the year.

That being said, there was a healthy bunch of quality albums released during 2020. Kudos to the artists for their efforts and achievements in such difficult times.

I have slightly changed my mind on some releases, so a few ones I did not initially rate so high have grown on me over time and consequently, they obtain a higher place in the ranking,


The Albums

Ten Best Albums Of 2020




1

Kansas - 2020 The Absence Of Presence

Kansas

'The Absence of Presence'
(Inside Out Music)

Progressive Rock. Hard Rock. AOR.
Kansas rivals their 1970's output with this stupendous album, driven by the young blood in the band.
'Often times, I actually wished the songs didn't end (if that's possible)...Proggy without being pretentious, Pomp-oriented without being wimpy, heavy by way of huge instrumentation and finally vintage with one foot firmly in the present.'


2

Boys From Heaven - 2020 The Great Discovery

Boys From Heaven

'The Great Discovery'
(Target Records)


Melodic Rock. Classic Rock. AOR.
Coming from Denmark, this is not only the most refreshing release but also the best surprise of the year.
'It's Westcoast, it's AOR, it has its Jazzy moments and clearly, it is ROCK with capital letters fused with Soul-like moments.'


3

Robert Hart - 2020 Pure

Robert Hart

'Pure'
(Escape Music Ltd.)

Hi Tech AOR.
Astonishing recreation of a subgenre that had its glory days in the mid-to-late 1980s.
'A tasteful and elegant mix of AOR, Rock and Pop...Somewhere during the 1980's, Rock/Pop production and sound quality reached a peak that this album clearly aims at reproducing.'


4

At The Movies - 2020 The Movie Hits Of The 80

At The Movies

'The Movie Hits Of The 80's (The Soundtrack Of Your Life - Vol. 1)'
(Self Released)

Hard AOR.
A covers collection that gathers the best of the eighties soundtracks with a contemporary sound.
'These covers are fun after fun, with beefed up versions of...eleven movie soundtracks from the 1980’s...a sound that recalls Brother Firetribe.'


5

Vandenberg - 2020 2020

Vandenberg

'2020'
(Mascot Records)

Hard Rock.
Because of the songs and sound, this is the Hard Rock album of the year, with hints to Whitesnake and Dio. Adrian Vandenberg's guitar chops remain intact.
'Vandenberg 2020' has lots of good tracks...and Adrian Vandenberg still delivers some of the most memorable and melodic guitar solos in the industry.'


6

Tony Mitchell - 2020 Church Of A Restless Soul

Tony Mitchell

'Church Of A Restless Soul'
(AOR Heaven)

Modern Melodic Hard Rock.
Quality, variety, superb songwriting and performances in an album that hooks the listener at all times.
'I cannot help but thinking that if Bon Jovi were still doing quality Hard/Melodic Rock in this 2020, they would sound like Tony Mitchell does on this album.'


7

Platinum Overdose - 2020 Back For The Thrill

Platinum Overdose

'Back For The Thrill'
(DDR Music Group / Tragedy Academy Records)

Glam Metal.
For the second time around, Platinum Overdose delivers an LA Hard Rock classic. Essential for fans of the subgenre.
'Platinum Overdose are not only a revival; but this is true, original and contemporary Glam Metal in the 2020's decade.'


8

Willie Nile ‎– 2020 New York At Night

Willie Nile

'New York At Night'
(River House Records)

Classic Rock.
For those who love the Big Apple, NY rocks indeed with Willie Nile.
'Born in Nile's mind as he was walking around Times Square to catch a subway...'New York At Night' is a fantastic Americana-style classic rock album dedicated to the Big Apple.'


9

Torch - 2020 Reignited

Torch

'Reignited'
(Metalville)

Heavy Metal.
Old School Traditional Metal doesn't get better than this in 2020.
'With renewed energy and a superb sound, Torch has released what arguably is their best album ever, 36 years after their previous one. Amazing.'


10

Stan Bush - 2020 Dare To Dream & Cats In Space - 2020 Atlantis

[Tie] Stan Bush / Cats In Space

[Tie] 'Dare To Dream' / 'Atlantis'
(L.A. Records) / (Harmony Factory)

AOR / Vintage seventies Pomp-tinged Hard Rock.
The purist AOR album of the year with a strong 1980's soundtrack vibe to it and the perfect vintage 1970's pomp/glam-laden hard rock album released in 2020 for the contemporary audiences. Would you leave any of them off this year's top ten? I won't.
'Look no further than Dare To Dream to keep your spirits high in this 2020, for it delivers a much-needed message of hope surrounded by the kind of music we all love: classic AOR with capital letters.' / '...vintage seventies space synths, ringing acoustic and soaring electric guitar lines, bombast and hooks.'


Honorable Mentions

11
Palace Sweden - 2020 Rock And Roll RadioPalace (Sweden)    'Rock And Roll Radio'    (Frontiers)

12
Chris Rosander - 2020 King Of HeartsChris Rosander   'King Of Hearts'    (AOR Heaven)

13
Rich Kid Express - 2020 Bubblegum Radio EP PsychodelicRich Kid Express   [Tie] 'Bubblegum Radio EP' / 'Psychodelic'    (Squib Kick Records)

14
Silvera - 2020 Edge Of The WorldSilvera   'Edge Of The World'    (Target Records)

15
The Ragged Saints - 2020 Sonic Playground RevisitedThe Ragged Saints   'Sonic Playground Revisited'    (AOR Heaven)


Other 2020 albums in my order of preference

Other 2020 albums collage Rocket Queen (Spain) - 'Back To The 80's' EP
Captain Black Beard - 'Sonic Forces'
Waiting For Monday - 'Waiting For Monday'
Edge Of The Blade - 'Feels Like Home'
H.E.A.T - 'II'
Brother Firetribe - 'Feel The Burn'
Blue Oyster Cult- 'The Symbol Remains'
Black Swan - 'Shake The World'
Arctic Rain - 'The One'
Perfect Plan - 'Time For A Miracle'

Return of the year

Torch and Blue Öyster Cult released their first studio albums of original new songs after 36 and 19 years, respectively.

Disappointments

Jorn - 'Heavy Rock Radio II - Executing The Classics'. I think he indeed executed or butchered, if you will, classic original songs by the likes of Bryan Adams, Russ Ballard, Foreigner, Deep Purple and even Eagles's 'Hotel California' as a bonus track. It's time to leave the cover versions and come back with something original and exciting.

Next is The Struts - 'Strange Days', I was expecting more rock and catchy songs from this fantastic band.

Last is AC/DC's 'Power Up'. I have heard and read everywhere the same old story about not expecting anything new from the legendary band, yet that's only true for the live environment. When it comes to new music, I want at least something engaging. That's not the case for this recycle of old ideas with no energy or good melodies, save for Brian Johnson's tidy performance and the track 'Through The Mists Of Time'.

2020 dream lineup

Do you remember those days when music magazines used to poll about the best singers and instrumentalists of the year? Here's my results:

LINEUP: Stan Bush - lead vocals * Adrian Vandenberg - lead guitar * Tommy Denander (Robert Hart) - rhythm guitar * Joey Vera (Armored Saint, Fates Warning) - bass * Tom Brislin (Kansas) - keyboards * Steve Streaker (Torch) - drums * Chris Catton (Boys From Heaven), Linnea Vikstrom Egg (At The Movies), Steve Philbrook (Platinum Overdose), Steve Overland (FM, Robert Hart) - backing vocals * Jacob Hansen (Silvera, Torch) & Bob Marlette (Vandenberg) - production.

Gone but not forgotten: the ones we lost in 2020

As years go by, the passing of more and more of our beloved artists is every day's news. It's the law of life.

The most touching for me was Eddie Van Halen's demise. I could endlessly ramble about his influence but I'll just bring up the fact that, contrary to most of the usually mean-looking, dark and clenched-teeth so-called Guitar Gods, he was always smiling. Did you notice it? Maybe a mirror of his soul.

Some other stars we lost in 2020: Neil Peart, Bob Kulick. Kenny Rogers, Ken Hensley, Tony Lewis, Frankie Banali, Paul Chapman, Pete Way, Benny Mardones, Peter Green, Little Richard, Steve Priest, Shmoulik Avigal, Phil Ashley, Brian Howe, Lou A. Kouvaris and producers Keith Olsen, Martin Birch & Rupert Hine.

Should you want to dig deeper on the subject, British artist Chris Barker has recently shared his annual Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band tribute artwork to those we’ve lost this year.

Chris Barker 2020 Sgt. Pepper’s tribute artwork
Click here for the visual guide to the collage with all the names included.

A blast from the past

My most played albums in 2020 from the past were:

Gino Vannelli - 1981 Nightwalker
Riff (Argentina) - 1985 Riff VII
Village People - 1980 Can't Stop The Music Original Soundtrack
Creedence Clearwater Revisited - 1998 Recollection
Tony MacAlpine - 1985 Edge Of Insanity
Makoto Matsushita - 1981 First Light
Exciter - 1985 Long Live The Loud
Blackjack - 2006 Anthology
Go West - 2001 The Best Of Go West
Crown Of Thorns - 1994 Crown Of Thorns
Santana - 1981 Zebop!
Al Di Meola - 1977 Elegant Gypsy
Ten - 1996 Ten

Some of them are intended to be reviewed or as part of future Essential Series eventually.

Other comments

In hindsight, how many of these albums would I have expected make it to my top ten? Only three: Kansas, Stan Bush and Cats In Space. Moreover, Platinum Overdose to a certain extent, though I did not think they would have been able to top their debut, which they actually did. Surprise, surprise, expect the unexpected!

The ladies in Rock 2020: Linnea Vikstrom Egg (Therion) does superb vocals for the At The Movies project included in the top ten. Lisa Mychols & Super 8, Patty Smyth, Fire Tiger and Jessica Wolff, whom released the nice self-titled, 'It's About Time', 'All The Time' and 'Para Dice' albums, respectively, are the highlights for me.

Lockdown sessions: we've had remarkable sessions to lift our spirits high by the likes of said Nordic project At The Movies, Sammy Hagar & The Circle (who are just about to release them on CD at the time of this post) and Danny Vaughn's Live From His Living Room in Spain. All are easily accessible on YouTube.

AOR and Melodic Rock: I was looking for albums that either bring a fresh point of view or look back at the glory days with class in this 2020. Many albums were ok, but could not stand out from the crowd of releases, even showing a certain degree of stagnation for the genre.

I would mention Tokyo Motor Fist, Sapphire Eyes, The Night Flight Orchestra, Lionville, Harem Scarem, Steve Overland/FM, House Of Lords, Vega, One Desire, Magic Dance, Decarlo, Revolution Saints and Rob Moratti as examples. Magnum, Pride Of Lions and Stardust are my exceptions, all three superior in quality to these ears.

In regard to Hard Rock and Metal there were enjoyable albums by Armored Saint, Fates Warning, Biff Byford, Stryper, Napalm Death, Delain, Testament and Hittman. Not that sold on Ozzy's 'Ordinary Man' or Diamond Head re-recording the debut. In addition to that, there's another Iron Maiden live album and counting.

As for Prog, British legends Pendragon released a new album while DGM, Vanden Plas, Pyramaze and Thoughts Factory also go recommended. Deep Purple and Kansas new albums have an interesting prog element to them as well.

Glam Rock and Power Pop: we've got our in-house expert Explorer so refer to his Best Of 2020 for meaningful information and reviews. I'll just bring up Rossall, The Lemon Twigs and the just-released Farrington albums as favorites of mine.

Synthwave: not an outstanding year in my book. I'd like to mention Ace Marino and his 'Digital Memories Analog Emotions' album.

West Coast & Southern Rock: there has not been much going on for these subgenres. Only The Outlaws with their 'Dixie Highway' for the latter. I'm expecting the debut album by Dutch west coast duo Martin & Garp, 'Sentimental Fools', to be released in January 2021. The 'Making Up' single available on YouTube sounds promising.


In Summary

Surprisingly, a good year for music taking into account the pandemic and all the struggles it meant for the artists and everybody around them, starting with the lack of live gigs. I cannot thank enough the creators for their music.

As usual, there's been heated discussions on sites and forums dedicated to our genres. While I am grateful for the opportunity of getting to know new bands or old ones I was not aware of, let's not cross the line of respect and keep ourselves broad-minded.

With GloryDazeMusic at over seven thousand reviews and still going strong, I expect 2021 to bring more classics reviews, more achievements like the completion of the full Beatles discography review this year (a big shout-out to Explorer here) and further Essential Series while keeping an eye on new releases.

Pandemics last around two years on average. Let's be patient, love our special ones, care for all others and hopefully by the end of next year it'll be over and past by means of vaccine, simply because it ended or any combination.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2021 for all GloryDazers and to the whole world. Rock on!


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Comments

  • Options
    This is a wonderful break down of 2020 David. I now just hope mine comes somewhere close to this comprehensive look back at what has been a year that in my 60 odd years on this planet I`ve not known the like..
  • Options
    Awesome construction of an article Dave. =)
  • Options
    edited December 2020
    Great run down - nice to see Go West turn up on a list :)
    For West Coast - one of my fave albums this year was Young Gun Silver Fox - Canyons - very cool, they just keep putting out smoooooth albums.
  • Options
    Yes, this was a really nice read! Well done.
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