Quite recently, I asked my Twitter followers what I assume is a very hard question to answer – “Which is your favorite release by a solo rock artist?” I thought it was a great question to ask because so far I think I have mainly emphasized on rock bands and their respectable careers and albums, putting aside important solo accomplishments who are equally deserving. Many people shared their answers and became part of this interesting online discussion (which of course was the basic idea behind this tweet). Artists like Bryan Adams, Phil Collins, Roger Waters and Dio were just a few of the names, mentioned by my fellow rock buddies. You told me who are yours…now it’s time for me to tell you mine! I do hope you enjoy the following list and get inspired! Please note that these albums aren’t really put in any special order, except maybe the first one. Listing them is difficult…can you imagine ranking them? I just can’t …
It must be something quite special if I’m placing this album at the number 1 spot, don’t you think? Well, yes it is! Everyone who knows me is aware of how much I love Dokken so it was only natural for me to fall that hard for Don’s 1990 solo debut. In addition to brilliant and personal favorite songs like the ballad “When Love Finds a Fool” or the catchy rocker “Mirror Mirror”, this album features a winning team of extraordinary musicians, led by Don, of course – John Norum (Europe), Billy White (Watchtower), Peter Baltes (Accept) and Mikkey Dee (King Diamond and pre-Motörhead)! How can you not craft something special with so much talent gathered together to support you? Don is a splendid vocalist and songwriter and I will forever thank him for the great job he did. It took him 18 years to release his second solo album, which wasn’t available for everyone, unfortunately.
Lou Gramm – Long Hard Look (1989)
It took me some time to decide which one of Lou’s solo albums I want to put in this list and eventually, my favorite Lou track, “Just Between You and Me”, turned out to be the deciding factor. “Long Hard Look” is his sophomore album, released at a time when Foreigner was no more (let’s not forget that he did come back in 1994). I love “Ready or Not” immensely, but “Long Hard Look” is where I think he truly embraced his strong qualities as a solo artist. Also, he took in one of the most splendid guitarists of all time – Vivan Campbell, along with Dann Huff (Giant), Bruce Turgon (Foreigner) and many more great artists, all completing each other in the name of this beautiful AOR release. Later on, Lou did assemble Shadow King and The Lou Gramm band with some of those well-known members.
Steve freakin Perry! Do I have to say more? Are you actually surprised to see this album here? Well, you shouldn’t be. “Street Talk” is a classic AOR masterpiece with songs that will live longer than the world itself. “Oh Sherrie”, “She’s Mine”, “Foolish Heart”… – all mesmerizing melodic rock pieces who introduced Steve as a solo artist who just knows how to do things on his own. Obviously, Steve had a lot of fun writing, recording and producing this album. I could feel how important it was for him to do and try “his own thing”, separately from Journey. He literally put his heart and soul into the making of this album. We all know he can definitely hit a note or two, however with this album he also proved that The Voice himself can write timeless songs and produce quite respectably. Cheers to that!
Terry Brock – Diamond Blue (2010)
I became a die-hard fan of Strangeways last year; didn’t even realize how quickly I was hooked and how albums like “Native Sons” and “Walk In The Fire” just stole my heart and never gave it back. One of the main reasons why I fell for Strageways was of course, the vocalist – Terry Brock. He eventually left the band and joined Giant which *SURPRISE* is another one of my all time favorite bands! His first solo album was out in 2001 (“Back to Eden”) but for this list, I chose “Diamond Blue”, released in 2010 via Frontiers Records. I am a true fan and hold a sentimental connection to Terry Brock so to me, this album is perfect. The touching ballad “The Rain” became the first reason why I fell for this album…the rest was history; If you are not a devoted fan you might not be interested but in any case, this lesser-known album is worth checking out!
But of course one of the most powerful voices of rock music and one of my favorite rockstars of all time, Jimi Jamison, was going to be on this list. Many of you know how much I love Survivor and yes, Jimi is the primary reason why. I have established a very strong connection with his music and it kept on going strong with his solo releases as well.
“Never Too Late” is the last solo album he released. It came out in November, 2012, via Frontiers Records (of course). No one knew that this was going to be his last release but I don’t think we could’ve gotten a more beautiful farewell than this one. The inspiring title, the touching words and and heart-melting songs are just a few of the reasons why I consider this album to be one of the purest, most angelic pieces of music I have ever heard. Thank you, Jimi for this…I will always love and miss you.
Eric Clapton – August (1986)
I may as well just list Eric Clapton’s entire solo discography and call it a day. Eric Clapton is my favorite solo artist of all time and there’s not even a single album of his I dislike. I wasn’t sure which one to put on my list but I ended up choosing “August” because it was one of the first albums of Eric Clapton I genuinely fell in love with back in the day and in my opinion, one of his strongest, most confident releases from his later years. On top of it all, it features that phenomenal duet with the queen of Rock&Roll, Tina Turner – “Tearing Us Apart”; “Miss You” is an important song for me as well. “August” was produced by Phil Collins who was responsible for its funky, radio-friendly sound.
I got introduced to Billy Squier through Def Leppard; he was the one who actually brought them to North America for the very first time on his “Emotions in Motion” tour back in the early ’80s! The rest is just history. I heard “Don’t Say No” and that was it! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this is one of the catchiest, most uplifting albums of all time! “Don’t Say No” spawned a long list of gratifying tunes that solidified its position on the Billboard album chart for over two years! This interesting fact should tell you enough about its colossal impact on the music market. Moreover, every single from “Don’t Say No”, including “In the Dark”, “Lonely Is the Night”, “My Kinda Lover” and “The Stroke” established itself as a major radio hit, playing on every station, all over the States for the entire first half of the ‘80s. Last but not least, the album sold over 3 million copies in the US alone, making it one of the most-desirable and beloved records of all time!
Mark Free fronted a couple of glam/hard rock bands such as King Cobra and Single but in 1993, he took off on a journey of his own with an AOR solo debut, titled “Long Way from Home”. The album is the ultimate catch for any melodic rock fan out there. It’s filled with gorgeous vocal performances, impressive hooks and superb keyboard details. “Long Way from Home” offers a great selection of rockers, among which striking tunes like “Someday You’ll Come Running to Me”, “Stranger Among Us”, “State of Love” and “The Last Time” are standing out with breathtaking melodies and lyrics. Overall, “Long Way from Home” is a bit softer and sweeter but definitely his best work as a performer and as a songwriter, that is in my opinion of course.
Alice Cooper – Trash (1989)
No surprises here! This album introduced me to Alice Cooper and it was the main reason why I became a fan. “Poison”, “Bed of Nails”, “House Of Fire” – all incredible classic rockers, defining an entire generation of fans. Not only that but my favorite Alice Cooper song of all time, “This Maniac’s in Love with You” comes from “Trash”, which makes it even more special.
“Trash” was a pivotal moment for Alice Cooper’s career; it came out at the right time and was crafted by the right people. Many guest performers and songwriters stepped in, including Joan Jett, Bon Jovi, Steven Tyler, Kip Winger and Richie Sambora. The results were stunning – “Trash” is the ultimate staple of the era and arguably, Alice’s finest moment.
David Coverdale – Into the Light (2000)
In September 2000, David Coverdale released his third solo album, titled “Into the Light”, after he took a break from Whitesnake. I am a fan of everything he did throughout the years with Deep Purple and Whitesnake but I also admire his solo work just as much. I thought about featuring “Restless Heart” but since it was released under the “David Coverdale & Whitesnake” moniker (though it was a solo album), I decided to go with “Into the Light”.
The thing I love so much about “Into the Light” is the fact that David didn’t exactly embraced the modern-day characteristics of rock music and didn’t follow the new century trends; Rather than that, he released a classic hard rock effort, full of enjoyable AOR tracks that sound as if they were released in the ’80s, including my favorites “Don’t You Cry”, “River Song” and “Love is Blind”.
Tina Turner – Private Dancer (1984)
You all know how much I love the Queen of Rock & Roll, Tina Turner; Not only is she one of my most beloved and close-to-heart artists but she’s a woman and a role model I truly admire and respect.
This album marked an important point in Tina Turner’s life and career. The messy divorce and Ike Turner were all in the past – it was time for her to shine and tell the world that she’s a strong and independent woman who just knows how to make great music! “Private Dancer” sky-rocketed Tina’s career and hit the multi-platinum status all over the world. Classic rock staples like the title song, “I Can’t Stand the Rain”, “Better Be Good to Me” and of course, “What’s Love Got to do With It” are a pretty solid reason why this album turned out to be one of the best albums of the ’80s! Not only that but she worked with Jeff Beck, Gary Barnacle, Graham Broad and dozens of other talented musicians, to ensure “Private Dancer” will truly make history.
What a triumphant comeback! I can’t express how much this album and Tina mean to me…
Sammy Hagar – VOA (1984)
Before Sammy Hagar joined Van Halen and released 5150, he hit it big with his eight solo album, titled “VOA”. Playing this album might give you a clear idea of why exactly he was chosen to replace David Lee Roth. He is a superb vocalist – we all know and love that about him. “Two Sides of Love” was the first track I heard from this album back in the day and it was enough for me to realize that “VOA” is an album that shouldn’t be overlooked (even though it is). “I Can’t Drive 55” is the lead single and one of Sammy’s most memorable and noted songs that kept on being relevant, even when he became a member of Van Halen. “Rock is In My Blood” and “Two Sides of Love” are some of my favorites as well.
This would be my favorite David Gilmour solo album! “On an Island” was released 10 years ago but it’s still an inseparable part of my playlist. He took his sweet time (22 years) to record it but the results were brilliant. He wrote some of the tracks with his wife – Polly Samson, which makes it even more special! What can I say? – A gorgeous and delicate combination of instrumentals and soul-soothing tracks, proving that David is the real deal! Such a brilliant guitarist, knowing exactly how to both calm your soul and make it fly at the same time. The opening track, “Castellorizon”, is a haunting instrumental demonstrating his superb guitar skills, backed up by beautiful orchestral arrangements. Both of the singles, “On an Island” and “Smile” are dreamy and so easy to fall in love with. “Red Sky at Night” is my absolute favorite and the reason is, of course, the thrilling saxophone arrangements which are perfect for my tastes! If dreams can become music, this is what they would sound like! By the way, it’s David Gilmour himself who plays the saxophone on that one. Yes, he is as good with sax as he is with his guitar!
John Lennon – Imagine (1971)
There had to be a John Lennon album in my list and it took me some time before I decide which one of his solo works I love the most; I ended up choosing “Imagine” over the critically-acclaimed “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” because to me his sophomore album sounds more atmospheric, it’s much calmer and I absolutely adore songs like “Jealous Guy” and “How Do You Sleep?”. The title track is legendary, no need to even comment on it. I remember singing “Imagine” when I was in elementary, or was it middle school…I don’t remember but what I can say is that this song along with the album have been in my life for far too long, making them very personally-relevant and close to my heart.
George Harrison – Cloud Nine (1987)
I miss this sunshine so much.
When we talk about rock&roll comebacks, I always mention this album. George Harrison took some time away from his solo career and in 1987 had one of the most triumphant comebacks with the commercially-successful and critically-acclaimed “Cloud Nine.” George is known as the quiet Beatle but this album right here is everything but quiet! “Devil’s Radio,” “Cloud 9,” “Just for Today” and the smashing cover of “Got My Mind Set on You,” turned this into one of his best, most beloved releases of all time. This is the album that introduced him to the mainstream audience, making it a very crucial move for his career. Let’s also praise the input of Jeff Lynn who co-produced this beautiful piece of music.
“Reckless” is a rocker full of enthusiasm, energy and that was the main reason why I fell for it back in the day. The multi-platinum release spawned some of ’80s most classic hits, including “Summer of 69”, “Run To You” and of course “Heaven”. Not only that but this pleasing work contains one of my most favorite duets of all time, “It’s Only Love”, featuring Tina Turner.
The greatness of the album lies in its simplicity – yes, I do agree that the lyrics are too ordinary and not at all meant to trigger a deep emotional response and yes – the melodies are not as complicated and refined, however this is a fun, rock n’ roll radio-perfect album that is meant to be entertaining, fun and enjoyable. Bryan Adams made history with this one, that’s for sure.
Gary Moore – Still Got the Blues (1990)
What can I say about Gary Moore and this album? Words are meaningless! “Still Got the Blues” has to be one of the most relevant blues-rock releases of all time. Emotional, sensational, passionate, soul-touching – all that and way more!
“Still Got the Blues” came to life once again thanks to a team of exceptional musicians, including George Harrison, Albert King and many more. No wonder this turned out to be his most commercially-successful release. What’s surprising, though is the fact that the title track – yes that superb, worldly-beloved blues songs, barely got a top100 position on the charts. Anyhow…
I was always touched by this brilliant blues-meets-hard rock album and there was no way I wouldn’t have added it.
Phil Collins – Face Value (1981)
I put a lot of thought into which Phil Collins album to pick for my list. Obviously, I ended up with “Face Value” for a few reasons and no, it’s not just because his most memorable song “In The Air Tonight” is the opening track – this album is so much more than that track.
I picked it because it was his first solo album and because it’s a classic staple of the ’80s music scene. Not only that, but I adore songs like “I Missed Again” and “Behind the Lines”. Phil Collins emerged as one of the strongest forces of rock/pop music scene of the decade and this album was just the beginning. What followed was a long line of exceptional solo releases and numerous collaboration, turning him into one of the most networked musicians of all time! Back to the album – it’s breezy, refreshing, atmospheric and definitely something you need to own in your collection just like I do.
Tom Keifer – The Way Life Goes (2013)
I’ve been a fan of Cinderella and Tom Keifer for a long time now; Honestly, I cannot even imagine having a day without listening to his unique voice. Tom is one of those artists I truly respect and admire not only because he’s a brilliant songwriter, but because he is an amazing human being, worthy of admiration.
In 2013, finally, after so many years of success, turbulence and hardships, he released his first solo album, suitably titled “The Way Life Goes”. It took about 10 years for this album to become a reality but it was worth it, believe me. Some critics claim that this is by far his greatest work. I cannot draw such conclusion but one thing is for sure – this rather intimate, highly impressive solo release is superb, from start to finish. I love “Thick and Thin”, “It’s Not Enough” and of course, the lead single, “The Flower Song”. This album represented Tom’s evolution as an artist and despite everything he went through, his vocals still sound better than ever!
This new release impressed me so much that no way in hell was I going to miss including it on my list! The special 10-track album (11 in Japan) hit the music market on the 26th of May, 2017 and let me tell you something – it hit it hard! I really missed that classic, Slaughter sound and Mark is just bringing it all back on this album – that and way way way more! “Halfway There” is a worthy progression and obvious artistic evolution for him but with a little bit of old-school hint. It was a pleasure for me to listen to it from start to finish. Rock anthems like “Hey You”, “Supernatural” and “Devoted” are just a few of the reasons why this album left me speechless and turned into a personal favorite. One of the most brilliant aspects of this album is that Mark was actually in charge of not only the vocals but he’s also the one playing the guitar, bass, keyboards and behind the orchestration as well. That should tell you something! This is clearly a very dear album to him and he put his soul, heart and every talent he has to make it sound as sincere as possible. Mark is a superb artist and taking full control over this entire record was definitely the right direction.
Hope you enjoyed my list! This is how things look in 2017… and who knows how my list will look like 5 or 10 years from now. One thing is for sure – the above 20 releases are very important and close to my heart!
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