Sleaze Roxx Crew Members’ Top Five Albums of 2021
Welcome to the seventh edition of the Sleaze Roxx Crew Members’ Top Five Albums of the Year!
Just like in past years, I invited the most prolific Sleaze Roxx contributors to participate. And just like in 2020, the ongoing Covid pandemic had a very negative impact on the music concert industry, which dramatically impacted the number of concert reviews published on Sleaze Roxx. In prior years, I had asked each Sleaze Roxx crew member to name their favorite concert of the year but given that many Sleaze Roxx crew members, including myself, didn’t even attend a concert in 2021, that part is not happening for this edition of the Sleaze Roxx Crew Members’ Top Five Albums of the Year!
I must note that not all Sleaze Roxx crew members participated in the Sleaze Roxx Crew Members’ Top Five Albums of 2021. This is mainly because many of them only listen to the great bands from the ’80s and have not (yet) discovered all of the great newer but lesser known bands that are putting out amazing new music these days. So coming up with five really good new albums can be challenging when the bands you listen to only release one new studio album every five years or so, and in some cases, once a decade or so (for example, Mötley Crüe, Ratt and Dokken). Given that I was in the same boat about 15 years ago, I can’t fault any of them for that but hope that they will take the time to discover some of the newer bands featured on Sleaze Roxx because as our musical heroes from the ’70s and ’80s reach their sixties and seventies in age, it will be the newer bands that keep the greatest genre of music alive and hopefully well.
Favorite contribution of 2021: I got the opportunity to interview WildSide drummer Jim Darby in March 2021. The interview happened rather spontaneously when Jim reached out to me via e-mail one afternoon and later that evening, the interview took place where Jim ended up breaking his silence about many facets of the band’s history. It’s always fun to interview people that usually do not grant interviews and I really enjoyed interviewing Jim. The interview ended up being a two-part interview with the first part posted in mid-March and the second part in early April.
Jeff Onorato’s Top Five Albums of 2021
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2019
Contributions: Photos, CD Reviews, Concert Reviews, Interviews
Number one choice: Quality over quantity. There’s something to be said for that adage, which seems to have been the mantra for Kickin Valentina as they were writing and recording the nine tracks that comprise what has become my favorite album of 2021. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the music blasting out of your speakers. Live shows and image mean nothing if the songs don’t have an intangible connection with the listener. The tracks on The Revenge of Rock are heavy, infectious and catchy without sacrificing that all-important melody that bridges everything together. The songs on The Revenge of Rock are anthemic, melodic and right to the point — perfect for packed houses to sing along to. From the opening riff and sinister vocals of “Freakshow”, The Revenge of Rock is laced with sleaze, debauchery and mayhem that have resonated with me from that very first spin. The album’s first single “Somebody New” has a big chorus that will get stuck in your head for days. It’s just perfect to crank up in your car. The title track pays tribute to good times and great bands of the past. It opens to a punishing guitar riff and is also a favorite of mine. After I listened to the disc a few times, I was thinking it would a great song to hear live and I was correct in that estimation. I saw Kickin Valentina in concert twice in 2021, and the live version of “The Revenge of Rock” was a pinnacle moment in the set on both occasions. The same can be said of the nasty, rousing, double-entendre of “War” which boasts a rampaging gang vocal. These are both classics in Kickin Valentina’s catalog and should remain staples in their live show. The ballad “Heart Tattoo” is an ode to that special person in your life and lasting love. To my ears, the song sounds like a bona fide hit. It’s sentimental without being sappy or contrived. How this track wasn’t all over the radio in 2021 still has me scratching my head.
Number two choice: L.A. Guns’ 2019 effort The Devil You Know certainly had stellar moments, but ultimately it left me a bit disappointed in hindsight. When I heard that their latest effort Checkered Past would be released in November, the first few singles gave me high hopes that Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis would rebound with a stellar effort. And they have certainly done just that. The unrelenting groove of “Cannonball” screams “game on” and immediately render it a prime contender for the band to open their set with this summer. From there, the record twists and turns into an array of territories without losing any steam along the way. “Bad Luck Charm” almost sounds like a blues scale as it shimmies and shakes behind a more subdued but befitting vocal style. Assuming Johnny Martin contributed bass tracks to the album, he delivers an outstanding performance on “Living Right Now” which has a sleazy, snaking bass line. “Better Than You” is another one that just burns and would pummel the crowd if they play it live. That trippy middle-section in the song will give everyone in the audience a moment to catch their breath if they do throw that one into the show. The ominous black cloud emanating from “Let You Down” has a tremendous vibe and it’s one of my favorite songs that the band have recorded in years. It leans more toward the ballad side and, with “Get Along” and “If It’s Over Now”, brings variety to what is a very well-rounded and highly memorable LP in the Guns’ catalog.
Number three choice: Buckcherry’s latest album has a lot going on. The band worked with veteran producer Marti Frederikesen, who also shares songwriting credits with frontman Josh Todd and guitarist Stevie D on the record. His partnership with the band proved to be both a winning formula and shot in the arm for the band. Hellbound is their best collective effort in years. With varying styles incorporated into the overall sound, I can’t really say that it’s a return to form since the band has undergone something of a sonic metamorphosis since their inception in the late ’90s. Hellbound sees the band at a creative stride though. The songs are energized, full of attitude and have me reaching for the repeat button on my stereo after each listen. That energy also translates very well into their live show, which I can attest to firsthand. I caught the band over the summer as part of their Hellbound tour, and songs like “So Hott” (the album’s lead single) and “Gun” simply smoked. Tracks such as “54321” and “Here I Come” have an urgency to them that venture into punk rock territory, and it works well for this band. Buckcherry recently announced that they will be serving as direct support for Alice Cooper in 2022, so hopefully their continued support will garner this album the recognition that is deserves.
Number four choice: Prior to seeing Wolfgang Van Halen’s band open for Guns N’ Roses on their summer stadium tour, I had not heard any of the music from his (then) just released debut album. I was so impressed by the confidence, conviction and emotion of his performance that I went out and picked up a physical copy of the record to give a proper listen to the recorded versions of what I had just experienced. My conclusion is that while Mammoth WVH doesn’t have the most unique sound, the songs sound phenomenal nonetheless. Lyrically and sonically, the music is modern, heartfelt and (at times) edgy. I can’t really say it fits into the “sleaze rock” genre (it doesn’t) but given Wolf’s lineage, I felt that including it on this list was acceptable. Most of the tracks stand on their own two feet, without being repetitious or warranting a reach for the “skip” button. I was also astounded to learn that Wolf reportedly played all of the instruments on his debut release. Covering lead vocals, guitar, drums, bass and keyboards. Not an easy feet by any means — particularly when the results are of this caliber.
Number five choice: Queensrÿche frontman Todd La Torre unleashed his debut solo album in 2021, proving that while he is perfectly capable of singing a more melodic style of hard rock, he can also belt out piercing vocals over a much heavier brand of metal as displayed on this effort. Those expecting a continuation of what he contributes in Queensrÿche won’t be disappointed, but perhaps surprised, by this broadened sonic attack. The songs have a wide variety of influences, running the gamut from traditional metal to the extremities of black metal. La Torre wisely adapts his vocal approach on each song to what works best for the respective track and the results are astounding. Standouts include “Vexed”, “Rejoice In The Suffering”, and “Vanguards of The Dawn Wall” (which reminds me of early Testament). The pinnacle moment of the record might just be “Darkened Majesty”, which features a machine-like guitar riff and snarling vocals that deliver foreboding lyrical content. It should be noted that La Torre also contributed all of the drum tracks on the LP, as he occasionally does in his full-time gig.
Favorite contribution of 2021: In spite of the scrutiny and debates that reviews of larger festivals can stir up, I enjoyed covering the 2021 M3 festival (see my Day One, Day Two and Day Three concert reviews). Like many others, I had serious doubts at the start of the year that we’d see any festival or stadium shows. When I did finally make it back to Columbia, Maryland in July, it was a bit surreal to be there for another year. There were so many stellar performances from the artists that appeared this year and with many of my all-time favorites in the line-up, it was an absolute blast. There were only a few acts on the bill that I’m not really into and several of the bands that performed (Pretty Boy Floyd, BulletBoys, Slaughter, Warrant, Queensrÿche and Faster Pussycat) have been favorites for most of my life so it was cool to see so many of them in one weekend. I also saw and caught up with a lot of friends that I hadn’t seen in the previous year due to the pandemic.
Kickin Valentina‘s “Somebody New” video:
John “Stoney” Cannon of Dirty Rock Scars’ Top Five Albums of 2021
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2017
Contributions: CD Reviews, Concert Reviews, News Articles
Affiliation: Lokal Loudness Music
Number one choice: Despite the pandemic, 2020 was a pretty cool year for music especially the unexpected AC/DC release Power Up but 2021 wasn’t without its own cool moments. Yeah I would imagine that the popular pick this time is gonna be The Treatment’s Waiting For Good Luck and while I certainly have dug the English rockers’ latest, there were just other cool albums more my vibe to put it at the top. For me, L.A. band Dirty Honey’s self-titled full length fed that old school rock groove just a good bit more and for the more distorted side, I just had to give the nod to Uncle Alice Cooper’s Detroit Stories. Actually compiling a top five was tough as I sat and stared at nine records I really got into last year including the Mammoth WVH debut, Black Veil Brides’ The Phantom Tomorrow, and L.A. Guns’ latest Checkered Past.
I don’t know. Maybe having a more wide open palate than the average hard rocker makes it tough for me to just fall in line with what the popular picks might be. Who knows but as much as I might dig last year’s hot releases from Iron Maiden and so on, there were just a few I dug even more. Sure I was floored by the catchy brutality of the Doom Crew Inc. record thanks to Black Label Society and I am always grateful whenever Cheap Trick drops a new one, but it’s only every so often I get caught up in nostalgia over whatever vibes me at the moment.
So more than likely, I’ll never catch on to the whole Greta Van Fleet love fest mainly because the singer’s voice grates on my nerves but here’s the deal with my top five (and even so I still am totally unsure) but man, The Pretty Reckless fed into my 2021 frustrations, The Darkness helped me laugh at my 2021 frustrations, KK’s Priest gave me familiar comfort (more so than Maiden) during my 2021 frustrations, Uncle Alice took me to another place away from my 2021 frustrations and Dirty Honey? They just simply rocked the fuck outta my 2021 frustrations. A great groove to turn on while stuck at home alone with my heart of hearts. That place where we laugh, drink wine, dance, and all those other things you don’t kiss and tell about. Maybe on a different day my list might look a little different but hey, it’s just a list. If you don’t like it, there’s always the fun in making your own though once again let me warn you, making a list of just five ain’t always easy.
Favorite contribution of 2021: Probably my review of Thin Lizzy’s Johnny The Fox mainly because of the great memories it pushed up not to mention once I shared it on Facebook, the communication between old friends that it helped to create. One of the most emotionally personal records from my life and one that is just amazing. To top it off, my son gave me a brand spanking new vinyl copy of it for Christmas so, yeah… the holidays were Lynott loud!
Dirty Honey‘s “The Wire” video:
Lance Lumley’s Top Five Albums of 2021
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2017
Contributions: CD Reviews
Affiliation: Lances Writes (blog including book reviews)
01. The Pretty Reckless – Death By Rock And Roll
02. L.A. Guns – Checkered Past
03. Evanescence – The Bitter Truth
04. Buckcherry – Hellbound
05. Night Ranger — ATBPO
Number one choice: This is an album that is right down my alley. I have always respected the band but honestly haven’t listened to their full albums. This latest is a mix of hard rock and pop, adding a radio-friendly vibe to angry-driven intensity. The whole release is enjoyable to listen to, including the 1960s style “Got So High,” the catchy chorus of “Witches Burn” (preceded by “Broomsticks”) which should be added to any rock Halloween playlist, to the two solid ending tracks of “Rock And Roll Heaven” (an ode to music and acts like Jim Morrison, The Beatles, and Janis Joplin) and “Harley Darling,” an acoustic/country song. Taylor Momsen has proven her worth as a vocalist and songwriter than just being a former actor turned musician.
Sometimes “former actor turned singer” gets a negative connotation, where many may forget people like Rick Springfield and Ricky Nelson were actors first before musicians (who are two of my favorites). With guests like Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, and Tom Morello helping out, an extra layer is added to the album, although The Pretty Reckless don’t need them to make this a great album. From the opening “Death By Rock And Roll,” which should be a new rock anthem, to songs like “25” (which lyrically is a good use of using numerals in the song) and “Only Love Can Save Me Now,” this release has something for everyone, especially listeners like me who enjoy some hard rockers mixed with mellow and peaceful vocals with catchy choruses that journey into several genres.
Number two choice: I have always respected the work of Tracii Guns as a guitar player, although I admit I do not own much of L.A. Guns’ music, except for 2005’s ‘Tales From The Strip with Stacey Blades, which was a great record. In my opinion, “The Ballad of Jayne” is one of the most underrated ballads from the 1980s. With that said, the newest release with Guns and singer Phil Lewis is rock magic, filled with hard-driving guitars, from the opening track “Cannonball” to the Alice Cooper-like lyrics of “Living Right Now”, which could have been on Cooper’s early 2000 works. The acoustic “Get Along” features wonderful bass work from Johnny Martin and mixes several formats from rock, country, and pop. The talents of Lewis on this album make me wonder why he is not more recognized as a vocalist, along with Guns as a guitar player. The line-up of Guns, Lewis, Martin, Ace Von Johnson, and drummer Scot Coogan give a modern feel to the ’80s sleaze rock, while not compromising on the musicianship and lyrics. This is a solid album all the way through. The Frontiers label gets two top picks on my list this year, which is a credit to what they are putting out.
Number three choice: In the early 2000s, Evanescence was poised to be the next mega-group with the vocal talents of Amy Lee, thanks to “Bring Me To Life” and “My Immortal.” Even church groups embraced the song “My Immortal.” One can not dispute the vocal talents of Lee, and one wonders why the group isn’t more on the big stage in rock, which seems to be the case of my choices this year. Regardless, Lee and her group are back with different members from those who may have first discovered them in the 2000s (not that they went anywhere), but the latest has the anger and darkness that fans will remember from their second release. The band members, including guitarist Jen Majura and drummer Will Hunt, help drive the emotion in each song. The political statement of “Use My Voice” is one standout on the record, along with “Broken Pieces Shine.” Even though many acts used the time away from touring to record, and some fans (like me) may be tired of all the political rants that musicians, actors, and others throw out ,especially with Covid situations, the lyrics didn’t offend me. Politics in music have been around forever, but sometimes it can be too much for me, regardless of whether I agree with the artists or not. The anger and darkness here are fitting. Even though I was not a major fan of rock music in the 2000s (I’m still a pre-’90s fan, especially the 1980s), I can’t help but enjoy the artistic strengths of this album.
Number four choice: As someone who loved their album 15 and the song “Lit Up” from the 1999 self-titled release, I checked out of the band after the release of 2008’s Black Butterfly album. But when I heard about a new release this year, I decided to go back and see what Buckcherry had to offer, which was plenty. From the AC/DC format of the title track to the rocking, radio-friendly “Too Hott,” the band is clicking on this release with only one song I wasn’t a major fan titled “Junk,” and it wasn’t bad enough to hate the song. The whole release is pretty short in length, which means fewer fillers on the songs, and contains great vocals from Josh Todd, strong drumming, and great guitar riffs that make it a return to the format that I first enjoyed with the band years ago.
Number five choice: The title stands for “And The Band Played On” and man do they play! Jack Blades and the gang come out rocking on the opening “Coming For You,” and continue with a mix of ballads like “Can’t Afford A Hero,” the funky/chugging groove of “A Lucky Man,” and the radio-friendly “Bring It All Home To Me” (a reminder of the band’s 1980’s chart hits). As talented as the members of the band are, it is amazing how they get looked over by critics. The solid drumming of Kelly Keagy and the dual guitar work of Keri Kelly and Brad Gillis brings power to each of the tracks when needed without overdoing it. The song “Hard To Make It Easy” reminds me of something Alice Cooper has made the past several years (an influence by Keri who worked with Cooper in the past perhaps?). The album has a rock feel without being too heavy, which is my listening preference in general, and adding the keyboard work by Eric Levy to fill in the gaps, shows that Night Ranger are still a vastly under appreciated band in music that needs to get more love.
Favorite contribution of 2021: My favorite contribution of the year for this site has to be my review of the book Nothin’ But A Good Time: The Uncensored History of the ’80s Hard Rock Explosion by Tom Beaujour and Richard Bienstock. When I was asked to review the book, as mentioned in my review, I am usually skeptical of books about 1980s music because they sometimes tend to bash the era more than not. However, this was a wonderful read full of stories from people who were involved with the bands during the time of getting signed, the recordings and touring, and sometimes the break ups. I was glad to be asked to review the book because I may not have given it the credit it deserves if it was just on a bookshelf at a store. It is a definite must-have for fans of that genre, and with my love of books and music, getting to review books for the site is always a treat.
The Pretty Reckless‘ “Make Me Wanna Die” video:
Marcelo Vieira’s Top Five Albums of 2021
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2021
Contributions: CD Reviews, Interviews
Affiliation: Marcelo Vieira Music (website)
Number one choice: Glenn Hughes joined The Dead Daisies as a two-in-one replacement for vocalist John Corabi and bassist Marco Mendoza. His input shaped the group according to his solo career. The necessary counterpoint comes in the sharp guitarwork of Doug Aldrich — which prevents songs like “Like No Other (Bassline)” from sticking their feet in soul music and funk more than in rock — and in the drums of Deen Castronovo, which goes from the discipline of the first part of the beautiful “Far Away” to the strong arm and unfriendly hand of the cover of Humble Pie’s “30 Days In The Hole”.
Number two choice: An alliance between the classic rock bastion within Iron Maiden and the man who went from shredding promise / latter-day glam metal idol to full-fledged artist in the business was not so far-fetched. “Smith/Kotzen” is the result of months of exchanging ideas in a pre-pandemic world and a statement that nothing beats talent. Full plate for fans of the instrument that is rock’s sexual organ, whether in the traditional “Running” or in the ultimate “‘Til Tomorrow,” whose solo refers to the final meters of a racetrack in which the winner is chosen in the instant replay.
Number three choice: Living up to Abraham Lincoln’s quote “If I had just an hour to cut a tree, I’d use the first forty-five minutes to sharpen my axe,” Wig Wam spent a year preparing the successor to the boring “Wall Street” (2012) and the result is 47 minutes of party-hard hard rock, complete with all the thematic and musical clichés capable of getting your feet off the ground. Highlights for the title track — which echoes the brilliant Wig Wamania (2006) — and “Kilimanjaro”, a country from the fjords with the potential to snatch anyone who turns up the nose at Poison but finds Steel Panther’s humor the biggest treat.
Number four choice: A corpse gives birth and begins to devour its offspring. Heavy, right? This is the description of the censored cover of the new Cannibal Corpse album. Recorded during the pandemic, the work marks the debut of producer Erik Rutan as an effective guitarist, replacing the gone-crazy Pat O’Brien, and has the most technical and brutal instrumental recorded by the band in three decades of existence. Not knowing that this was impossible, Cannibal went there and did it. Songs like the two-minute “Overtorture” are simply merciless — the fingers drop and the ears bleed.
Number five choice: Angelus Apatrida’s new album follows the very good Cabaret de la Guillotine (2018) and preserves both the inclination to explore historical themes — see the cover, a wealth of references for those who want to investigate — as well as the most complete lack of decorum when it’s time to raise the finger to point out the culprits for so many setbacks (“Empire of Shame”) and fake news (“The Age of Disinformation”). “Adore the self-proclaimed messiah / Beyond what’s right and wrong” rants Guillermo Izquierdo in “Bleed the Crown,” maybe referring to the electorate of a certain President in a certain South American country. Living up to his history as a headbanger aware of other people’s ailments, he probably is.
The Dead Daisies‘ “Holy Ground (Shake The World)” video:
Rockney Colin’s Top Five Albums of 2021
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2021
Contributions: CD Reviews
Affiliation: Rockney’s Roxbox (radio station)
Number one choice: The Treatment’s “Waiting For Good Luck” is my number one album simply because it is a fine rock record. Since Tom Rampton replaced Mitchell Emms on vocals, I thought they would struggle to better his debut with the band — 2019’s Power Crazy — but I was completely wrong and Waiting For Good Luck is a barnstorming album that has rarely left my playlist since its release. Coupled with catching the band as special guests on the Fozzy tour where they not only stole the show completely from the wrestler but showcased many of the songs from the album and rocked the roof of the Old Fire Station in Bournemouth. And that cemented it as my favourite album of 2021 without question.
Favorite contribution of 2021: My favourite contribution to Sleaze Roxx was my first published review in April 2021, simply because it was the realization of an ambition to be on the Sleaze Roxx reviewing team, and — even though I didn’t like the band or the album — it was a proud moment, personally.
The Treatment‘s “Rat Race” video:
Ruben Mosqueda’s Top Five Albums of 2021
01. Exodus – Persona Non Grata
02. Iron Maiden – Senjutsu
03. Carcass – Torn Arteries
04. Thunder – All The Right Noises
05. Grinder Blues — El Dos
Number one choice: What a wonderful blend of old school thrash, in the tradition of Bonded By Blood and Pleasures of The Flesh and more current Exodus like Tempo of The Damned and Blood In Blood Out. Now that Slayer has retired, Exodus is waving the flag for ‘true’ thrash metal.
Number two choice: Another double disc record by Maiden. It’s become a tradition as of late for Maiden to write and record these ‘epic’ albums. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This one really hit the spot for me. It’s long, but I can sit and listen to the entire thing, each and every time I put it on, which I don’t do often with double albums.
Number three choice: This is a band of my youth. Great melodic death metal with thrash metal roots. I rediscovered them a few years back when they toured with Slayer and caught a show with Carcass opening. Torn Arteries is fucking stellar!
Number four choice: Thunder are a no frills hard rock act that I liken to Bad Company. They got lumped in with the ’80s acts of the day. It was a disservice to them. I spoke with Luke Morley for Sleaze Roxx about it in 2021. All The Right Reasons is a solid effort from beginning to end. It’s so good that I bought it again when they issued the deluxe edition in the fall of 2021.
Number five choice: You know Dug Pinnick’s work with King’s X and KXM. This is far removed from what he’s done with those two acts. This is a blues based power trio that I liken to a cross between ZZ Top, Mountain and Cream. El Dos is Grinder Blues’ second album and it’s fucking incredible.
Favorite contribution of 2021: There’s two that were standouts. Chez Kane who released her self-titled debut album via Frontiers in 2021. I had discovered her via her YouTube channel. She had been posting covers of some her favorite hard rock and metal covers. Guitarist Dirk Sullivan [Love On Ice] who I had seen several times growing up in Columbia River Gorge. It’s a hop skip and a jump to Portland, Oregon where I witnessed Love On Ice either headlining a club or supporting a national act. They released their debut album, titled Nude in 1992 via Interscope Records. Check them both out again or for the first time if you’re so inclined…
Exodus‘ “Clickbait” video:
Terry Martinson’s Top Five Albums of 2021
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2007
Contributions: CD Reviews
01. FuZZrD — Near Life Experience
02. Crisix — The Pizza EP
03. Thy Row — Unchained
04. Big City — Testify X
05. Electric Guitars — Freewheeler
Number one choice: The reason this independent debut from the hardest working band in Minneapolis should be self-explanatory, but for those that have not been paying attention in 2021, I shall indulge you. FuZZrD’s debut long play is one of those rare albums that happens along every so often that captures not only the band members’ intensity and passion for their craft, but ticks those boxes for not only the casual listeners, but the aficionados as well. This is a 10-song master class in all things hard rock and I for one am immersed in FuZZrD’s theory. I highly encourage you to follow suit.
Number two choice: Thrash or be thrashed! This insanely infectious and absolutely perfect four-song EP dropped in September and is stupefyingly great! Do yourself the ultimate favor and watch the EP video, which is a little mini-movie of the entire EP in video form. The music, production and humor are all top shelf.
Number three choice: Oof, these lads from Finland and their debut long play are equally impressive from instant classic hard rock songs to impeccably played instrumentations and Metal De Facto and Everfrost vocalist Mikael Salo has such a distinctive and soulful voice. This album is a definite must (period) for fans of Dio, Scorpions and the like.
Number four choice: It is hardly a secret that I am a fanboy of guitarist Daniel Olaisen and not only his earlier Big City efforts, but the various projects he has helmed over the years, the man is a criminally underrated shredder, songwriter, and he is a chameleon of influences. Testify X is the third outing from Big City, along with some new players this album got the full Frontiers treatment and it is pure melodic gold.
Number five choice: Electric Guitars and the dual threat of consummate musical genius’ in Mika Vandborg and Soren Anderson, who have been around many a block not only with their Electric Guitars band, but their past pedigre as well. As the band’s name implies and is cemented in the single “Dopamine”, this is a good time guitar driven rock n’ roll band. Strap in and enjoy the latest offering of Freewheeler, as there is no dissappointments herein. Electric Guitars is quite reminiscent to me of another fan favorite Magick Touch, who too is of the same melodic, vocally harmonic like.
Favorite contribution of 2021: Pavement Princess’ Second Skin. Writing up the blog post for Erwin and the sheer joy in hearing the efforts of this talented duo, Erwin and Rene, was a highlight of 2021, as is the entire long play. Unfortunately, the recollection that Rene is no longer with us hit hard. Kind of bittersweet, but fans of music should appreciate not only Pavement Princess’ musical contribution(s) but the exhaustive (mental and physical) effort put forth to make this tribute available. Thank you, Erwin and rest in peace Rene. Pavement Princess is a collaboration that will be sorely missed but surely appreciated for what they left us.
FuZZrD‘s “Pins & Needles” video:
Tyson Briden’s Top Five Albums of 2021
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2016
Contributions: CD Reviews, Concert Reviews, Interviews, Articles
Affiliation: Non-Stop Rock Talk with Tyson Briden (podcast)
Number one choice: In what I can only term as a very ‘lackluster’ year for new releases, it wasn’t hard to choose a Top 5. When I think back in retrospect to 2021, I am met with a lot of disappointment. Not only was the new music being put forward, few and far between, the pandemic was also still in full force. One would think that there would be so much new music coming forth from so many of the great ’80s artists that I know and love. Being one, that isn’t totally in awe of many of the new bands, I stick to what I know and love — the artists that molded the ’80s era. It is a fan like myself that keeps these artists going, so with my top pick, I went with Robin McAuley’s fantastic Standing On The Edge release.
When I first heard the lead off single, I was immediately taken back. Was George Lynch playing guitar on this track? As a huge Lynch fan, I could not help but make the comparison. In all this album, was different from the Black Swan album a year previously, but still had one defining characteristic and that was the vocal of Robin McAuley, who in my eyes is one of the premier singers in the rock world. I will also add that Robin McAuley was kind enough to join me on my show last year (Non-Stop Rock Talk with Tyson Briden). McAuley is a true gentleman with a great personality and a fantastic sense of humor. In all, this album possesses many different appealing sides musically. There are straight ahead rockers, the odd ballad and a few songs that really highlight McAuley’s songwriting capabilities. It can be said that McAuley is one of those artists that is always working hard and never disappoints.
Favorite contribution of 2021: I must admit that my contributions to the site have not been what they were in the past, but Olivier is still kind enough to include me in the Top 5 discussion. Unfortunately, my podcast has kept me so busy, that writing is sometimes put on the backburner, but that doesn’t mean I don’t look forward to the opportunity to get behind the keyboard from time to time. In terms of my favorite contribution to the site in 2021, my favorite was a great discussion and interview I did with Quiet Riot and Love/Hate singer Jizzy Pearl. This was actually from a different perspective. I was not talking to Pearl about his music, but about a very entertaining yet disturbing book that Pearl had written, entitled ‘Angst For The Memories’. We had a great conversation about his mindset in terms of each short story and how these may have pertained to things that occurred in his past. Now, some were just fictional stories and reading these, you knew there was no way that any of those things could had ever occurred. Overall, it was a great perspective for an interview and it was different from the same old run of the mill questions you may be inclined to ask.
Robin McAuley‘s “Standing On the Edge” video:
William Nesbitt’s Top Five Albums of 2021
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2014
Contributions: CD Reviews, Concert Reviews, Interviews
Number one choice: Helloween’s Helloween. First, I’m into this album from start to finish, and the entire album is strong. It’s the classic Helloween sound. Second, we get the all three of Helloween’s lead singers together for the first time. Third, this is the all-systems-go album and message of perseverance and unity we need right now in the midst of global uncertainty. Now the only question is — With so many cooks in the kitchen, can they keep the pot from boiling over again?
Number two choice: Todd La Torre’s Rejoice In The Suffering. Solo albums often get overlooked, especially when they are from so-called “replacement” singers. That would be a mistake here. This album is fierce and unrelenting. Obviously, there are some similarities to Queensrÿche, but this sounds like its own album, not an attempt at making a separate Queensrÿche record or a hodgepodge of rejected demos. “Apology” is my choice for track of the year.
Number three choice: L.A. Guns’ Checkered Past. This is the album on my list that best embodies the concept of sleaze rock. Four albums into their reunion, one might worry Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis would either start disagreeing or regressing. Whatever they’ve figured out, it continues to work. Checkered Past captures the classic sound of L.A. Guns, but I don’t feel like I’m hearing inferior versions of songs from albums past. There’s a lot of range on this release. We get mid-tempo rock tracks with blues flavorings, fast songs with heavy riffs, and ballads that sound heartfelt instead of calculated and chart-oriented. No blanks here.
Number four choice: Greta Van Fleet’s The Battle At Garden’s Gate. Some people can’t stand this band. There’s a feeling that they just copy Led Zeppelin. What about Whitesnake? Great White? While the influence of Zeppelin is undeniable, it’s also not a bad thing. I love Led Zeppelin. It’s pretty doubtful we are getting any new studio Zeppelin, so I’ll take something that reminds me of Zeppelin. The new breed has to start somewhere. Let’s not forget Aerosmith were once labeled Rolling Stones clones. I still hold hope that Greta Van Fleet will do something that distinguishes them a little more from Zeppelin, and I do hear both progression and separation through the releases. In the meantime, I’m more than happy with these echoes. I’d call Greta Van Fleet a guilty pleasure except that if a band gives you pleasure, why should you feel guilty?
Number five choice: Iron Maiden’s Senjutsu. The first two singles from Senjutsu didn’t do much for me, so with that slow start, The Book of Souls feeling a little uneven, and a September release, I probably haven’t given this album as much time as it deserves. Despite being a double album, Senjutsu clocks in at just 82 minutes. There’s plenty of room left over, and including a few more punchier tracks like “Days of Future Past,” the album’s shortest song, might have made for a stronger overall album. Still, it’s the longest song, “The Parchment,” that is the album’s best track for me at the moment. There’s a lot to explore here, and I’m still figuring this one out. I gave strong consideration to Sermons of The Sinner by KK’s Priest and Too Mean To Die by Accept for this final spot.
Favorite contribution of 2021: My interview with Todd La Torre. He is a really cool guy to talk with, down-to-earth, and very funny. He gave me a lot of great and in-depth information about his solo album, didn’t deflect tougher questions, didn’t act like he was doing me a favor talking with me, and didn’t rush the conversation. Total pro.
Helloween‘s “Out For The Glory” video:
Wrestlingepicenter.com’s Top Five Albums of 2021
Year started with Sleaze Roxx: 2005
Contributions: CD Reviews, Concert Reviews
Affiliation: Wrestling Epicenter (website)
Number one choice: American piss and vinegar rock ‘n’ roll at its absolute best. Imagine Motörhead with a little bit of Southern rock influence and you’ve got this album. Though a slight departure from the traditional Kickin Valentina sound, this is a melodic masterpiece with enough venom that it should appeal to the younger rock and rollers if they only had a way to hear it.
Number two choice: An upbeat hard rock album with thoughtful lyrics throughout. You can’t claim to love the likes of Def Leppard and Bon Jovi and not find something to love on this Swedish born band’s 2021 album. It is truly something special.
Number three choice: Making Baltimore, Maryland, USA proud, the KIX frontman was back in the studio and while it wasn’t a KIX or Funny Money album, the result was a sleazy masterpiece by one of the genre’s best. I find it hard to believe any fan of the genre won’t say “Thank you” after hearing You’re Welcome. So, just a little backwards. But, polite!
Number four choice: Some American rock ‘n’ roll with an English-American singer! While I absolutely detested the last release by this band — and they are probably my favorite band of all time — I love this album. Great vocals, great guitar hooks that compliment the vocals. The only negative on the thing is a muddy production that takes away from the overall finished product.
Number five choice: A Swedish band with a very melodic sound. I heard their name a lot over the past few years but thought the band name of Temple Balls was dumb so I didn’t check it out. Thanks to a YouTube playlist, a song was able to sneak into my ear holes and I must admit, I’m hooked!
Kickin Valentina‘s “War” video: