2016 was the year of the comebacks – some of them great, some of them not so great, but if we look at the big picture, this year definitely rocked pretty hard. Right from the very beginning, David Bowie’s “Blackstar” signaled the arrival of a strong rock&roll year. We lost David just a couple of days later, but we are beyond grateful for his last gift to us. January awarded us with Megadeth’s “Dystopia” and Dream Theater’s “The Astonishing”. After that, all hell broke loose – Elton John released “Wonderful Crazy Night”, Last In Line debuted with “Heavy Crown” and Iggy Pop came back with a new studio album – “Post Pop Depression”. The spring brought a lot of color and joy with the much anticipated releases of Cheap Trick with “Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello”, Sixx:A.M.‘s “Prayers for the Damned: Vol. 1”, Cyndi Lauper’s “Detour”, Eric Clapton’s “I Still Do” and many more. The summer of 2016 was hotter than ever thanks to Paul Simon, Roxette, Neil Young, Jeff Beck, Steve Vai, Heart and Steven Tyler. The last four months of 2016 were, in my opinion, the strongest in terms of rock releases. After 16 years, Kansas came back on the horizon with “The Prelude Implicit”. Along with them, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Barry Gibb, Leonard Cohen, Glenn Hughes, Bon Jovi, Sting, Simple Minds and of course, Metallica with “Hardwired…To Self-Destruct”, left quite the impression with their new albums. December gave us The Rolling Stone’s “Blue & Lonesome” –they surely know how to wrap things up with style.
Coming up with a “Top 10 Rock Albums of 2016” can be quite the formidable task. So many interesting things happened on the music scene this year and I think all of the above mentioned artists deserve a round of applause and our deep appreciation. Of course, the beauty of music is that it has something for everyone and this year there were plenty of releases with which I managed to establish a deep connection. The following 10 albums stood out to me for one reason or another and I truly believe they are among the greatest rock jewels 2016 spawned. I would like to say that this is a personal selection, driven by my taste in music. In case you haven’t listened to those albums yet, I strongly recommend you to do so! Here we go!
1. Kansas – The Prelude Implicit
The album that tops my list of favorite 2016 releases is Kansas’ long awaited comeback – “The Prelude Implicit”. Even before the album was officially out in September, I somehow sensed that I will fall in love with it. The elevating, colorful mixture of progressive and hard rock, along with the refreshing vocals of new singer Ronnie Platt created the perfect rock experience for me. David Ragsdale’s heated violin playing was the final element that sealed the deal. “The Prelude Implicit” is absolutely stunning – from the charming opening rocker “With this Heart” to the spectacular instrumental “Section 60”, the whole album just keeps on throwing one strong punch after another. “Camouflage” became my absolute favorite song from “The Prelude Implicit” and I am still waiting for a music video, actually. “Camouflage”, along with “Crowded Isolation” and the exciting hard rocker “Rhythm in the Spirit” are some of the highlights of the album. I can’t recommend this enough.
Read My Full Review Here : Kansas – “The Prelude Implicit” Album Review
My Copy of “The Prelude Implicit”
2. Glenn Hughes – Resonate
Number 2 on my list is Glenn Hughes’ powerful hard rock dynamite, titled “Resonate”. No words can describe the dangerous, electrifying and absolutely mind-blowing aura of the record. Glenn is one of a kind legend and this jaw-dropping album only solidifies his position as one of the best rockers out there. “Resonate” is no joke, it’s the ultimate galvanizing rock experience of 2016! Glenn hits hard right from the beginning with the aggressive “Heavy” and moves on to “My Town”, “Let It Shine” and “God of Money” – all explosive, guitar-driven tornadoes. “When I Fall” demonstrates the gentle side of the rock monster. Overall, if you want to get drunk on pure hard rock, this is the album for you. Glenn is still here, still relevant and still releasing incredible material. The youngsters need to take notes – “Resonate” is a great example of how real hard rock should sound like.
Read My Full Review Here : Glenn Hughes – “Resonate” Album Review
3. Eric Clapton – I Still Do
Legendary guitar hero Eric Clapton released his twenty-third solo album in May 2016 and as a long-time fan of him I just couldn’t be happier! For “I Still Do”, the king of blues recorded original songs, as well as cover versions of classics by artists such as Robert Johnson and Bob Dylan. Positively laidback, the album definitely grabs your attention with its bluesy easy-going and breezy aura that creates the perfect mood. The songs are rather homogeneous and once again perfectly aligned with Eric Clapton’s standards and practices of reviving and exploring old ways and meanings of music. The original composition “Spiral” is one of the highlights of the record, on which Clapton demonstrates how well he can improvise with a guitar and how effortlessly he can create something so fanciful and memorable. Robert Johnson’s “Stones in My Passway” and JJ Cale’s “Somebody’s Knocking” showcase Clapton’s confidence when it comes to the blues. The genuine “I Still Do” reflects Eric’s current self-assured spirit – he wants to do music his own way and he couldn’t care less what everyone things about it. The album just goes beyond class – it’s everything I dreamed of.
Read My Full Review Here : Eric Clapton – “I Still Do” Album Review
Me With My Copy of “I Still Do”
4. Last In Line – Heavy Crown
Former members of DIO – drummer Vinny Appice, bassist Jimmy Bain, guitarist Vivian Campbell, and keyboardist Claude Schnell, along with vocalist Andrew Freeman formed Last In Line in 2012, with their name, of course, coming from DIO’s 1984 album. Kicking off things as a mere tribute band, reminding fans of the glory days of DIO and explicitly focusing on the classic albums “Holy Diver”, “The Last in Line”, and “Sacred Heart”, the guys quickly stirred things up the excitement among the fans. It wasn’t long before they decided that it’s time they pave their own way with original compositions. “Heavy Crown” was released in February 2016 and it instantly captivated the audience, including myself. I am a huge fan of Vivian (because of Def Leppard, of course), so I was impatiently waiting to see how he will lead Last In Line into triumph, which he absolutely did with this unbelievably good old-school hard rock blast, titled “Heavy Crown”. “Starmaker” and “Devil In Me” are the instant attention-grabbers with their fiery tempos and of course, the soaring chants of Andrew, who is absolutely killing it on this record. “Burn This House Down”, “I Am Revolution” and “Blame It On Me” are a couple of others energizing metal explosions, completely overpowering every one of our senses. “Heavy Crown” follows the strong spirit of DIO but at the same time, goes beyond that, quite successfully if I may say. Moreover, this album gives us one more chance to experience the talents of Jimmy Bain, which in itself is a reason enough to put the record in my top 5.
5. The Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome
Since I love the blues so much, including The Rolling Stones’ “Blue & Lonesome” on my list would come as no surprise. The rock&roll Gods came back with a phenomenal collection of spirited covers, bringing us back to the golden days of blues. “Blue & Lonesome” is Rolling Stones’ first album to feature exclusively cover songs. Among the twelve blues jewels, we get to listen to interpretations of forgotten but classic tracks by Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Buddy Johnson, Memphis Slim and other legendary bluesmen. Recorded within just a few days, with no preparation whatsoever, “Blue & Lonesome” is the perfect example of how The Rolling Stones can effortlessly craft some serious magic out of nowhere and still sound as confident as ever. Mick Jagger is absolutely killing it on songs like “Just Your Fool” (Buddy Johnson), “Little Rain” (Ewart G. Abner Jr. and Jimmy Reed), “All of Your Love” (Magic Sam) and the atmospheric title track “Blue & Lonesome” (Memphis Slim) – raw, brave and soulful, his vocal delivery is obviously reflecting his high level of satisfaction with this album. I am mind blown by the terrific guitar work of Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood and the drum beats of Charlie Watts. Also, my idol – Eric Clapton also appears on “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby”. “Blue & Lonesome” offers a galvanizing blues experience and I definitely recommend it.
Read My Full Review Here: The Rolling Stones – “Blue & Lonesome” Album Review
6. Cheap Trick – Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello
In 2016, Cheap Trick were inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, but that definitely didn’t mean they were done with rocking and rolling – on the contrary, their golden days are far from over. Their “Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello” simply proved that those guys have a lot more energy, talent and joy to spread to the world. Uplifting, spirited, charming and highly entertaining – the record was the perfect spring rock sonata. Cheap Trick are still rocking pretty hard and we can clearly see it in songs like “Heart on the Line”, “When I Wake Up Tomorrow”, “Blood Red Lips” and “Do You Believe Me?”. The band’s first release for the country giants Big Machine Records is also the first album without the presence of long-time drummer Bun E. Carlos. Nevertheless, this modern-day rock extravaganza is everything but boring. Guitarist Rick Nielsen is doing a superb job; I am absolutely in love with the catchy riffs on “Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello”. A well-deserving comeback by Cheap Trick, I recommend you guys to take a listen or two!
7. David Bowie – Blackstar
David Bowie’s last album – “Blackstar” was released just a few days before we lost him. I still can’t believe this beautiful human being is not with us anymore, it was such a tragic loss for everyone. I am beyond grateful for “Blackstar” – the last chance to say goodbye and experience his magical voice and one of a kind musicianship. The value of the album lies in its aggressive experimentalism which for many people may be a bit difficult to absorb, but as a long-time fan of progressive/art rock, the anxiety of “Blackstar” perfectly matched my tastes. The twenty-fifth album of Bowie, produced by long-time collaborator and a friend, Tony Visconti, presents seven intriguing, devilish even compositions, each reminiscent of Bowie’s ‘70s glory days but still compiling tons of new and exciting elements. Songs like “Girl Loves Me”, “Lazarus” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away” are fuelled with pure drum’n’bas wickedness. David’s moody groans are the foundation of “Blackstar”. It’s so inspiring to hear him perform so bewitching given what his condition was at that time. Saxophonist Donny McCaslin is also bringing so much to the table. You will never ever hear anything like “Blackstar” again and for that it deserves to be listened and appreciated.
8. Heart – Beautiful Broken
“I Jump” was my absolute favorite song of summer 2016! I couldn’t have my day going without listening to this glorious tune by the Wilson sisters. As a matter of fact, this song itself is one big part of the reason why this album is even in my top 10.
On “Beautiful Broken”, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson are simply offering an intriguing selection of seven re-imagined and re-recorded cherry picks from their early career, along with a few new exciting additions to their catalogue. Ann Wilson will always be one of my favorite female vocalists of all time and this record definitely proves that she still got it! Some highly appealing things are happening on this record, including the guest appearance of Metallica’s James Hetfield, whose roaring vocals work quite well with Ann’s soulful and clear singing. The heavy orchestral “I Jump” possesses that Led Zeppelin vibe, which is not surprising at all – the girls are often crediting Led Zeppelin as their biggest musical influence. “Two” and “Heaven” are a couple of other high points from “Beautiful Broken”. Many of the fans out there, including myself, are quite sentimental and prefer the original classics, however “Beautiful Broken” definitely deserves a chance – if not for the old-new songs, than for the three gorgeous new additions to their music library. Also, Ann’s voice is a reason enough to have this record!
Read My Full Review Here: Heart – “Beautiful Broken” Album Review
9. Metallica – Hardwired To Self-Destruct
The mighty metal Gods survived through the long gap, after which the majority of rock acts would’ve been totally obliterated by the constantly changing music scene, and rose from the ashes with a smashing new heavy metal storm, titled “Hardwired…to Self-Destruct”. The expectations were high but they did deliver something quite satisfying so let’s give a round of applause to singer-guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich who co-wrote almost the entire set of throat-grabbing tunes.
“Hardwired…to Self-Destruct” is an epic double monster album, spitting 12 fiery tracks which run for almost 80 minutes! At first I thought that the record could be easy to inhale but once I heard the entire set, I realized that probably they should’ve just stopped after CD1 (which by the way is the reason why this album is in my top 10). “Dream No More” quickly became a personal favorite; I am enjoying this dark and highly-intense tune every time I play it. Some other memorable moments from “Hardwired…to Self-Destruct” include the opening track “Hardwired” and of course the surprisingly splendid tribute to Lemmy Kilmister, “Murder One”. Metallica build up quite the excitement among fans, including me, so it’s natural to completely lose your mind over this album.
Read My Full Review Here: Metallica – “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct” Album Review
10. Jeff Beck – Loud Hailer
This summer, Jeff Beck surprised us with a brilliant 11th album, which completely blew me away. I must say, I was sceptical at first, but the album just grew on me with every listen. “Loud Hailer” is not your typical Jeff Beck record – it’s a completely different kind of monster. Then again, it would be foolish to expect him to do the same thing over and over again, so I am applauding him for this revolutionary work on “Loud Hailer”. Two immensely talented female musicians – vocalist Rosie Bones and guitarist Carmen Vandenberg are the reason why there’s so much color and intrigue on this record. Bones sings about apathy, greed, politics, media and a number of other issues, destroying our society. That’s one of the reason why it appealed to me that much. “Live in The Dark” is the highlight of “Loud Hailer”, at least to me. I am falling in love with the thrilling vocals and time-stopping rhythms over and over again every time I play it. The haunting instrumental “Pull It” is feeding my soul with so much power. “Shrine” wraps things up with a similar folk-blues vibe, which sends you to another dimension. “Loud Hailer” melts me with ever listen. I can’t recommend it enough.