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The Metal Excess Awards: 2011 Edition

Last year I said 2010 was a better year for music than 2009 was. I went on to wonder how 2011 could even begin to top it. Well, guess what… 2011 did indeed top 2010! I’m looking back at my Top 25 list for 2010 and while those albums are all still good, this year’s Top 25 list is much stronger top to bottom.

2011 was a great year that saw classic rock/metal acts like Whitesnake, Warrant, Riot, Alice Cooper, Journey, Black N’ Blue and King Kobra deliver some of the best albums of their career while younger acts like Steel Panther, Reckless Love, Savage Messiah, Evile (who missed the list by this much) and Black Veil Brides have shown that they are more than capable of carrying rock & metal into the future.

Top 25 Albums of 2011

1. Whitesnake – Forevermore
2. Sixx:A.M. – This Is Gonna Hurt
3. Riot – Immortal Soul
4. Warrant – Rockaholic
5. Alice Cooper – Welcome 2 My Nightmare
6. Steel Panther – Balls Out
7. Megadeth – Thirteen
8. Anthrax – Worship Music
9. Sebastian Bach – Kicking & Screaming
10. Reckless Love – Animal Attraction
11. Edguy – Age of the Joker
12. Hurtsmile – s/t
13. Journey – Eclipse
14. Chickenfoot – III
15. Mike Tramp & The Rock ‘N’ Roll Circuz – Stand Your Ground
16. Black Country Communion – 2
17. The Poodles – Performocracy
18. House of Lords – Big Money
19. King Kobra – s/t
20. Saliva – Under Your Skin
21. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
22. Black N’ Blue – Hell Yeah!
22. Savage Messiah – Plague of Conscience
24. George Lynch – Kill All Control
25. Joe Bonamassa – Dust Bowl

Best E.P./Single
In light of a few non-album singles being released this year, I’ve decided to make this a hybrid category.

1. Sixx:A.M. – 7
2. Black Veil Brides – Rebels
3. Who Cares – Out of My Mind / Holy Water
4. Wildstreet – II …Faster …Louder!
5. The Last Vegas – The Other Side E.P.

Best Compilation/Cover/Live/Reissue Albums
Kind of a catch-all category this year. Instead of listing each category individually, I decided to lump them all into one list and rank them that way.

1. Black Sabbath – Born Again [Deluxe Edition]
2. Stryper – The Covering
3. Vains of Jenna – Reverse Tripped
4. Whitesnake – Live at Donington 1990
5. Slash featuring Myles Kennedy – Live: Made In Stoke 24/7/11
6. Hell – Human Remains
7. Scorpions – Comeblack
8. Def Leppard – Mirrorball: Live & More
9. Eric Carr – Unfinished Business
10. Black Sabbath – Dehumanizer [Deluxe Edition]

Want to read more about the year in music? Check out some of the fine sites & blogs listed below! And be sure to keep checking back for more Year-End posts here at Metal Excess!

All Metal Resource — http://allmetalresource.com/

Bring Back Glam — http://bringbackglam.squarespace.com/

The Crash Pad of Ray Van Horn, Jr. – http://www.rayvanhornjr2.blogspot.com/

Hair Metal Mansion — http://hairbangersradio.ning.com/

Hard Rock Hideout — http://hardrockhideout.com/

Hard Rock Nights — http://hardrocknights.com

Heavy Metal Addiction — http://heavymetaladdiction.com/

Heavy Metal Time Machine — http://metalmark.blogspot.com/

Imagine Echoes — http://www.imagineechoes.com/

Layla’s Classic Rock — http://laylasclassicrock.blogspot.com/

Metal Odyssey — http://metalodyssey.wordpress.com/

The Ripple Effect — http://www.ripplemusic.blogspot.com/

Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa – Don’t Explain

Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa – Don’t Explain (2011, J&R Adventures)

1. Sinner’s Prayer … 4:27
2. Chocolate Jesus … 2:39
3. Your Heart Is as Black as Night … 5:00
4. For My Friends… 4:11
5. Don’t Explain … 4:34
6. I’d Rather Go Blind … 8:06
7. Something’s Got a Hold on Me … 6:05
8. I’ll Take Care of You … 5:13
9. Well, Well … 3:42
10. Ain’t No Way … 6:47

Musicians:
Beth Hart – Vocals, Piano
Joe Bonamassa – Guitar, Vocals
Blondie Chaplin – Guitar
Carmine Rojas – Bass
Anton Fig – Drums, Percussion
Arlan Scheirbaum – Keyboards

Producer: Kevin Shirley

Joey Bones has had quite a busy year! In 2011, not only did he released the excellent Dust Bowl solo album but there was also a second helping from super-group Black Country Communion with 2 and now he’s partnered up with Beth Hart for a collection of blues, soul and jazz covers.

Though there are a number of uptempo moments like “Chocolate Jesus”, “For My Friends” and “Well, Well”, it’s the slower numbers and tender moments that I found myself enjoying most. “Your Heart Is As Black As The Night”, “Don’t Explain”, “I’d Rather Go Blind” and “I’ll Take Care of You” are fantastic soulful and sultry jazz numbers with Beth Hart putting in a great performance on these songs. I know of Beth Hart but I’m not familiar with any of her work but it’s easy to say from this album alone that she’s a great vocalist who can handle either bluesy rockers or soulful ballads.

Then, of course, there’s Joe Bonamassa who is proving himself to be one of the greatest guitarists of his generation whether he’s playing blues or straight up hard rock. There’s a lot of great solos and emotional lead work on this disc.

An album such as this is not something I would normally try but with the October 2011 issue of Classic Rock giving it a good review (and knowing I enjoyed Joe’s Dust Bowl and BCC works), I decided to give it a shot. A collection of blues, soul and jazz is something I’d have to really be in the mood to listen to but on a cold, dreary Autumn afternoon, it fit my mood and I found myself enjoying it a lot.

Don’t Explain may not be the album of the year for me and outside of my usual brain-dead listening circle of rock & metal but I found it to be a good listen and fans of both Joe & Beth should check it out.

Highlights: “Your Heart Is as Black as Night”, “Don’t Explain”, “I’d Rather Go Blind”, “I’ll Take Care of You”, “Ain’t No Way”

http://hartandbonamassa.com
http://www.facebook.com/officialbethhart
http://www.facebook.com/JoeBonamassa

Amazon.com

Joe Bonamassa – Dust Bowl

Joe Bonamassa – Dust Bowl (2011, J&R Adventures)

1. “Slow Train” … 6:49
2. “Dust Bowl “… 4:33
3. “Tennessee Plates” … 4:18
4. “The Meaning of the Blues” … 5:44
5. “Black Lung Heartache” … 4:14
6. “You Better Watch Yourself” … 3:30
7. “The Last Matador of Bayonne” … 5:23
8. “Heartbreaker” … 5:49
9. “No Love on the Street” … 6:32
10. “The Whale That Swallowed Jonah” … 4:46
11. “Sweet Rowena” … 4:34
12. “Prisoner” … 6:48

Musicians:
Joe Bonamassa – Vocals, Guitar, Slide Guitar
Glenn Hughes – Vocals (“Heartbreaker”)
Beth Hart – Vocals (“No Love On The Street”)
John Hiatt – Vocals (“Tennessee Plates”)
Vince Gill – Guitar (“Tennessee Plates”, “Sweet Rowena”), Vocals (“Sweet Rowena”)
Blondie Chaplin – Guitar
Carmine Rojas, Michael Rhodes – Bass
Anton Fig, Chad Cromwell – Drums
Rick Melick – Organ, Synthesizer
Steve Nathan – Organ, Piano

Producer: Kevin Shirley

I have been curious about the “new” blues scene for quite some time. UK’s Classic Rock magazine often does features on new and old blues musicians so it got me interested and I figured I might as well start with the scene’s current modern marvel Joey Bones (or JoBo, if you prefer).

While I don’t know how this compares to Bonamassa’s previous efforts, Dust Bowl is all that a current blues-guitarist’s album should sound like. While it’s fairly standard for blues artists to cover old blues songs (only half the album features original material), I think I would get very bored if this album was just a repeat of songs from decades and decades ago. Luckily, Joe isn’t content to merely dig up the past.

Fans of Stevie Ray Vaughan will enjoy this album a lot as that is who I am reminded on songs like “Slow Train” and “You Better Watch Yourself”. Still, Joe’s own style shines through with “Dust Bowl” (my favorite track and the most accessible), the ballad “The Last Matador of Bayonne” (which sounds like it could’ve been on one of Black Country Communion’s albums), the excellent “Black Lung Heartache” (which start off sounding like bluegrass then turns into hard rock) and “The Whale That Swallowed Jonah”. Another high point on the album is “The Meaning of the Blues”. A lot of passion behind that song and it is the epitome of a great blues song, IMO.

Despite Joe being known primarily as a blues rock guitarist, country/folk music and classic rock have their places on this album. John Hiatt’s “Tennessee Plates”, Vince Gill’s “Sweet Rowena” and Free’s “Heartbreaker” are all covered. Hiatt and Gill both pitch in on their respective songs while “The Voice of Rock” Glenn Hughes lends his voice to “Heartbreaker” and again this is a song that could’ve ended up in BCC. Heck, Joe even covers Tim Curry’s “No Love On The Street” with Beth Hart lending vocals. I never even knew Cardinal Richelieu had an album… much less three! I always thought his musical experiences were tied only to the theater and Rocky Horror Picture Show.

In the liner notes (where he comes across as very likable, down-to-earth and funny), Bonamassa states this is his best album yet. Hey, aren’t the latest releases always the “best yet”? While he kinda has to say that and I’m still a novice when it comes to Joe, he may be right. This is a very good collection of original material and some choice covers. I’d love for his next album to feature and even higher percentage of original numbers with maybe just one or two covers thrown in.

Blues rockers will really enjoy this one and it makes me wanna pick up Joe’s earlier albums.

Highlights: “Slow Train”, “Dust Bowl”, “The Meaning of the Blues”, “Black Lung Heartache”, “No Love On The Street”

http://www.facebook.com/JoeBonamassa
http://www.jbonamassa.com

Buy ‘Dust Bowl’ from Amazon.com!

Black Country Communion – 2

Black Country Communion – 2 (2011, J&R Adventures)

1. “The Outsider” … 4:23
2. “Man In The Middle” … 4:35
3. “The Battle for Hadrian’s Wall” … 5:11
4. “Save Me” … 7:43
5. “Smokestack Woman” … 5:10
6. “Faithless” … 5:12
7. “An Ordinary Son” … 7:59
8. “I Can See Your Spirit” … 4:12
9. “Little Secret” … 6:59
10. “Crossfire” … 6:03
11. “Cold” … 6:55

Band:
Glenn Hughes – Lead Vocals, Bass, Backing Vocals
Joe Bonamassa – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Lead Vocals (“The Battle for Hadrian’s Wall”, “An Ordinary Son”)
Jason Bonham – Drums, Percussion
Derek Sherinian – Keyboards

Producer: Kevin Shirley

Now this is how you do it! Black Country Communion is a band that is cranking out albums with old school pacing — only nine months have passed since they released their debut! How long will we have to wait until the third album?

In comparison to the self-titled debut, 2 is “more of the same” and that’s not a bad thing at all. The band continues with the same classic hard rock style from last year that makes use of blues-rock and a Led Zeppelin influence. Speaking of Led Zeppelin, the influence is even more apparent on 2 — Jason Bonham is pounding away just as his dad did and there are Middle Eastern influences sprinkled throughout thanks to the keyboards. If “I Can See Your Spirit” and “Save Me” aren’t worthy of being a Zeppelin songs I don’t know what is. In the case of “Save Me”,  it just so happens it’s the only song on the album that all four members of the band wrote together.

The Middle Eastern touches also remind me of early Rainbow and alternately there are times when Sherinian does a fine job of making you think you were listening to Deep Purple. But obviously these are all top notch musicians. Joe isn’t just a great blues guitarist, he’s a great ROCK guitarist, Jason is too good to have spent most of his life as a journeyman drummer, Derek shines on this album more so than on the debut and Glenn Hughes still hasn’t lost his touch. I know that Glenn can be an acquired taste but when the guy is singing no-frills hard rock such as this, I can’t see how you can’t be impressed. Definitely one of the best vocalists alive today.

Of course, it isn’t ALL classic rock. Joe Bonamassa has almost been on equal ground with Hughes when it comes to the songwriting in this band. On the songs that Joe actually sings, it really sounds a lot similar to his solo material. “The Battle for Hadrian’s Wall” and “An Ordinary Son” would’ve easily fit on his latest album Dust Bowl.

It’s being said that this album is a “grower” but I felt the original was that way too. It took me about 2-3 spins before I really got into this album but once I did I knew it was great. The album clocks in at sixty-four minutes with the songs averaging about six minutes a piece but it’s well worth the investment to take the time and listen.

Hughes was crowing about how much better this album was than the debut and that BCC now truly feels like a real band. Well, I agree BCC does feel like a real band now but I think the debut is slightly better. Still, this album receives a definite thumbs up from me and here’s hoping BCC continues on after this album/tour.

Highlights: “Man In The Middle”, “Save Me”, “Smokestack Woman”, “Faithless”, “I Can See Your Spirit”, “Cold”

http://www.bccommunion.com/
http://www.facebook.com/bccommunion

Order ‘2’ at Amazon.com!

Black Country Communion – Black Country Communion

Black Country Communion [CD/DVD Edition] (2010, J&R Adventures)

1. “Black Country” … 3:15
2. “One Last Soul” … 3:52
3. “The Great Divide” … 4:45
4. “Down Again” … 5:46
5. “Beggarman” … 4:52
6. “Song of Yesterday” … 8:33
7. “No Time” … 4:19
8. “Medusa” … 6:57
9. “The Revolution in Me” … 4:59
10. “Stand (At the Burning Tree)” … 7:02
11. “Sista Jane” … 6:55
12. “Too Late for the Sun” …. 11:21

Band:
Glenn Hughes – Lead Vocals, Bass, Backing Vocals
Joe Bonamassa – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Lead Vocals
Jason Bonham – Drums, Percussion
Derek Sherinian – Keyboards

Producer: Kevin Shirley

BCC is one of the year’s best surprises for me. I like Hughes, I like Bonham but even when I heard about this band getting together and it wasn’t anything for me to get excited over. I love Glenn Hughes’ voice but other than Deep Purple and the one Black Sabbath album he did, the music he’s been a part of has never really impressed me. Nothing terrible just nothing that stood out and with him fronting the band and seemingly the leader of the group as well, I was afraid BCC would venture into the “unremarkable” category.

Not so! As Hughes himself has said this album is a “traditional classic rock record with a modern twist”. I definitely agree. Many of these songs would sound right at home on your local classic rock radio station, other than the production, some of these songs you wouldn’t even be able to tell they were new! That’s a huge compliment in my opinion. BCC is a complete throwback to the hard working British bluesy hard rock bands of the ’70s, which isn’t a surprise considering the members. The only oddball seems to be Sherinian, who I am only familiar with through Dream Theater and the various session/touring work he has done. Didn’t realize a band like this would be his kind of thing.

Hughes sounds just as powerful as ever. His performance on “The Great Divide” is my favorite on this album. The production is great and gives off a nice meaty sound and the funk/blues influences you would expect from a Hughes/Bonamassa collaboration is all there. Despite Classic Rock magazine’s constant hype for Bonamassa, I’ve never listened to him. He’s primarily a blues artist but this guy can really rock out, he does a fantastic job all throughout the album and even handles lead vocals on “Song of Yesterday” (a classic rock epic if there ever was one) and “The Revolution In Me” while sharing vocals with Glenn on “Sista Jan” and “Too Late for the Sun”.

There’s no reason for anyone who is a classic rock fan to NOT own this album. The album is worth picking up for “One Last Soul” and “The Great Divide” alone. Unfortunately, at least as far as the mainstream and commercial outlets are concerned, this album has gone unnoticed in the States but has done pretty well in the UK. Easily another one of the year’s best albums and I’m glad Hughes has already stated he is working on album Number Two right now. Forget Chickenfoot, this is a “supergroup” that can actually turn in a great album!

I’m not sure if this is a “limited” edition or not but my copy from Amazon came with a DVD that features a music video, photos and interviews. It runs about 40 minutes, that’s a pretty good deal. Sometimes these DVDs that get thrown in are only 15-20 minutes of material. Truth be told, I haven’t watched it yet but because I like this album so much, I’ll probably pop in it in the DVD player soon.

Highlights: “Black Country”, “One Last Soul”, “The Great Divide”, “Down Again”, “Song of Yesterday”, “Sista Jane”, “Too Late for the Sun”

http://www.bccommunion.com/
http://www.facebook.com/bccommunion
http://www.myspace.com/bccommunion

Buy Black Country Communion (CD/DVD) at Amazon.com

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