SLEAZE ROXX READERS’ TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2017
Welcome to the 12th edition of Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums!
Thank you to all the Sleaze Roxx readers for voting and making 2017’s year-end poll a success.
For the people who enjoy statistics:
• There were 169 different albums from 168 bands that were voted for.
• 71% of the albums that were voted for were for bands previously covered by Sleaze Roxx.
• L.A. Guns figured on 34% of the ballots.
• The top 35 album vote getters are from bands previously featured on Sleaze Roxx.
• Half of the albums featured on Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2017 appear on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2017.
• Greta Van Fleet released two albums — Black Smoke Rising and From The Fires — in 2017, which both received votes. If you combine the votes for those two albums, Greta Van Fleet would have finished at #14 on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2017.
Without further ado, here is the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2017!
Was there any doubt? Not only did L.A. Guns take the Sleaze Roxx readers’ #1 spot, they more than doubled the amount of votes of the nearest challenger with a total of 790 points. Never in the history of the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums yearly polls has a band dominated so much to take the top spot. To put things into perspective, in 2016, Metallica grabbed the top spot with 430 points while in 2015, Def Leppard took the honours with 455 points. Only Ratt‘s Infestation in 2010 has ever obtained more points (817) than L.A. Guns‘ total for 2017. Funny enough, most of the criticism that I received this year for the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2017 stemmed from L.A. Guns‘ exclusion from that year-end list. I can only conclude that the Sleaze Roxx readers have responded in a strong way [laughs]! In any case, it’s no surprise to see L.A. Guns‘ The Missing Peace as the Sleaze Roxx readers’ choice for the top album of 2017. The chemistry between singer Phil Lewis and guitarist Tracii Guns is undeniable. Add arguably the “best” parts of each musician’s previous band — the solid rhythm section of bassist Johnny Martin and drummer Shane Fitzgibbon from Tracii Guns‘ band and ace guitarist Michael Grant from Lewis‘ previous L.A. Guns incarnation — and you have arguably the best L.A. Guns studio album since Cocked & Loaded and the sleaze rockers’ best finish by far on a Sleaze Roxx year end list.
Eclipse seemingly keep getting better one record after another, or perhaps simply their fan base is growing each time that they release a new album. It took a while for Sleaze Roxx readers to catch on as Eclipse‘s Are You Ready To Rock (2008) and Bleed & Scream (2012) didn’t make the readers’ top 20 albums of the year but Armageddonize finished an impressive #5 in 2015 and two years later, Monumentum is at #2. Perhaps what’s the most impressive about Eclipse‘s finish is that you can’t really consider them “sleaze rockers” and they weren’t around during heavy metal’s glory days of the ’80s yet their new melodic brand of hard rock is able to transcend many musical genres. As I stated in one of my reviews, when a melodic rock group such as H.E.A.T or Eclipse can add some grit and attitude to their songs, the results can be out of this world. Considering that Eclipse‘s mastermind Erik Mårtensson grew up listening to thrash metal, perhaps that is the reason why Eclipse are able to incorporate the necessary grit and attitude to seemingly stand head above shoulders over their melodic rock counterparts when it comes to resonating with Sleaze Roxx readers time and time again.
Jani Lane‘s shadow continues to follow Warrant everywhere they go even though it’s been more than ten years since he’s been in the band and six and a half years since he sadly passed away. Warrant‘s future musical outputs will likely always be compared to their classic line-up era albums with Lane. That’s not surprising given that although four of the classic line-up era members are still in the band, Lane was the chief songwriter during his time in the band. The likely reason why Warrant have been able to survive, continue and even strive during their last 10 years without Lane is that their replacement lead vocalist happens to be none other than Robert Mason (Lynch Mob, Cry Of Love, Big Cock) who possesses a simply incredible voice. Warrant continue to reinvent themselves in their post-Lane life and in 2017, they have come up with a very solid effort in Louder Harder Faster, which clearly resonated with Sleaze Roxx readers given that the album was only five first place votes from tying for second on this year’s readers’ poll. The band’s #3 finish in 2017 is also a big improvement over its #9 finish in 2011 with Rockaholic.
Technically speaking, High Water is the first studio album from Junkyard of new material in 25 years. Yes, Junkyard have released a number of albums since 1991’s Sixes, Sevens and Nines but they have mostly reworked or released some of their older material. 2003’s Tried And True was a six song EP, which had some new but also some old material. 2008’s Put It On Ten And Pull The Knobs Off! was based on a collection of 1987 demos. The group’s unreleased album from 1992 was subsequently released as The Joker and XXX. So how would Junkyard fare 25 years later? Apparently, very well as Sleaze Roxx readers voted their new studio album High Water as the #4 album for 2017. Junkyard really didn’t hold back delivering a solid album chock full of punk, hard rock and country type tunes. While such description may surprise many on a sleaze rock type website, the reality is that Junkyard have always been a little bit more punk than sleaze given that the band members’ musical beginnings have more to do with the punk scene than the ’80s hard rock scene. Whatever the case, Junkyard have proved that they still have a lot of great songs in them based with High Water and its #4 finish this year.
Probably the most consistently loved band to be featured on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums year end list has to be Crazy Lixx. Ruff Justice represents the group’s fifth studio album and the fifth to land in the Sleaze Roxx readers’ year-end top six after Loud Minority (#3 in 2007), New Religion (#6 in 2010), Riot Avenue (#4 in 2012) and Crazy Lixx (#4 in 2014). Quite simply, no other band has achieved so much consistency among Sleaze Roxx readers. One almost wonders what will it take to get Crazy Lixx to snatch that #1 spot? Given that Sleaze Roxx is based in Canada with a large percentage of its readers in North America, perhaps having Crazy Lixx come to North America to play some shows would do the trick. On May 5th, this will become a reality as Crazy Lixx will be playing their first North American gig when they play Day Two of the MelodicRockFest USA. While it’s definitely better late than never — and you can’t blame the band for deciding not to play shows in North America when it didn’t make financial sense — I have to think that had Crazy Lixx toured the USA like their Swedish counterparts Crashdïet have previously done, one of their five studio albums would have likely landed the #1 spot on a Sleaze Roxx readers’ year-end list. Now that Crazy Lixx are finally playing a show in the USA, perhaps this will be the catalyst for more North American tour dates and the push they need to finish #1 with their next studio album.
6. PRETTY BOY FLOYD – Public Enemies – Total points: 240
CD Review – Band Website
How long has it been since we’ve had a full-length studio album from Pretty Boy Floyd? Well, the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums year end list is in its 12th edition and with this year’s Public Enemies album, American glam rockers Pretty Boy Floyd have released their first full-length studio album of original material since 2004’s Size Really Does Matter. It seems from Pretty Boy Floyd‘s #6 finish on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2017 that they still have a big fan base that is pining for new material from the band. That and the fact that Pretty Boy Floyd have come up with a solid album in Public Enemies. Yes, Sleaze Roxx has just reviewed Public Enemies but at the same time, the album was only released in December 2017. One wonders if the album would have finished even higher in this year’s readers poll if it had been released even just a little earlier in 2017. Public Enemies boasts the undeniable chemistry of the tandem of frontman Steve Summers and guitarist Kristy “Krash” Majors who last played together on a Pretty Boy Floyd studio album on 2008’s EP A Tale Of Sex, Designer Drugs And The Death Of Rock N Roll.
It’s great to see all these bands from back in the glory days (late ’80s / early ’90s) coming up with new material. One of these bands is Babylon A.D. who have unearthed some older material as well as come up with some brand new songs that make up Revelation Highway. While Babylon A.D. will likely mainly be known for their sublime debut self-titled album (1989) as well as their solid follow up Nothing Sacred (1992), Revelation Highway proves that these guys still have a lot of game. Then again, when your original frontman Derek Davis shows absolutely no signs of slowing down singing wise compared to many of his peers who have lost a step or ten when it comes to their voices, the band likely knows that it’s got the key element needed to rival its prior albums. The one difference this time around is that guitarist Danny La Rosa has been replaced by original band member John Matthews. Given that four of the ten songs on the album originate from the Persuaders / Babylon A.D. demos, it will be interesting to see whether Babylon A.D. will be able to successfully follow up Revelation Highway when and if they have to rely only on new material.
Santa Cruz score the highest finish on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2017 of any “newer” bands out there. However, can Santa Cruz really be considered a “new band” when Bad Blood Rising is their third full-length studio album and the sleaze rockers’ debut full-length album Screaming For Adrenaline landed the #1 spot on the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2013? Whatever the case, Santa Cruz have not been around for a decade (or a few decades) compared to the bands that garnered more votes than them via the readers’ poll this year. Bad Blood Rising sees Santa Cruz continue their modern sleaze rock take but with quite a bit of variety. It’s also the highest charting album from any band this year that has yet to be reviewed by Sleaze Roxx. After the shock of the modern sounds on Santa Cruz‘s second self-titled album, it appears that Sleaze Roxx readers have warmed up to the group’s change in sound given that Santa Cruz finished a rather low #20 on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2015 while 2017’s Bad Blood Rising was close to cracking the readers’ year end top five albums.
Ratt (with Stephen Pearcy and Warren DeMartini at the helm) continue to be one of the most popular bands to grace Sleaze Roxx‘s website. Then again, when you have so many great albums like Out Of The Cellar (1984), Invasion Of Your Privacy (1985), Dancing Undercover (1986) and even 2010’s Infestation (which landed the #2 album on the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2010 and the #1 record on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2010), it’s no surprise for a band to still have such a strong following decades after first bursting onto the scene. While Ratt seemingly take one hiatus after another, their frontman Stephen Pearcy continues to make music and his fourth solo album Smash turned out to be one of the great surprises of the year. Pearcy‘s voice sounds really good on the album and he provides a lot of variety for his fans from Ratt like tunes such as “Ten Miles Wide” and “Jamie” to Arcade era like songs such as “Want Too Much.” Pearcy seemingly covers it all. With Pearcy having recently announced that he will start recording his fifth solo album, it will be interesting to see what we get first — a new Ratt album or a new Pearcy solo album. Whatever the case, Pearcy rarely disappoints and Smash continues his trend of solid album material.
The Lynch Mob Brotherhood turned out to be short lived as less than six months after the release of the album The Brotherhood, half of the line-up that recorded the record was gone! Singer Oni Logan announced his departure from Lynch Mob for the umpteenth time while drummer Jimmy D’Anda was seemingly silently replaced by former Lynch Mob drummer Scot Coogan. Logan was quickly replaced by another Lynch Mob alumni — current Warrant frontman Robert Mason. The sad part about half of The Brotherhood going up in flames is that the songs on Lynch Mob‘s latest studio album will likely not be played live anymore and particularly with Mason handling the lead vocals. That’s a shame because The Brotherhood is arguably a return to form for Lynch Mob. It’s certainly not at the Wicked Sensation level but it’s still a good effort from the band and has certainly fared better on the Sleaze Roxx readers’ year end poll than Rebel, which didn’t even crack the top 20 on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2015.
Steel Panther‘s latest studio album Lower The Bar is the fourth studio album in a row for the band to land in the Sleaze Roxx readers’ top 20 albums of the year. While a #11 finish on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2017 is nothing to scoff about, it is Steel Panther‘s lowest finish by far compared to its previous album finishes. Feel The Steel landed the #3 spot in 2009, Balls Out finished at #2 in 2011 and All You Can Eat ranked at #7 in 2014. Is the band’s schtick getting old? Are people getting tired of them? Sure, Steel Panther have their share of naysayers but they continue to put on fantastic live shows and all of their studio albums including Lower The Bar are worth revisiting time and time again. It is worth noting that Lower The Bar sees Steel Panther experimenting a little bit more than on past albums. Tracks like “Now The Fun Starts” and “Walk Of Shame” see Steel Panther departing a little bit from their usual amazing combination of great melodies, infectious guitar riffs and easy to sing to lyrics. It doesn’t really matter because at the end of the day, Steel Panther are the only band with Airbourne to have all of their studio albums make both Sleaze Roxx‘s and the Sleaze Roxx readers’ year end polls. That in itself is very impressive.
Kickin Valentina are a band that could have and maybe should have figured on a year end Sleaze Roxx list a lot sooner than now but better late than never. Prior to 2017’s Imaginary Creatures, Kickin Valentina released two excellent EPs — Kickin Valentina (2014) and Super Atomic (2015) — but both failed to make any Sleaze Roxx year end lists. While that is a bit of a shame, this time around, Kickin Valentina were recognized by the Sleaze Roxx readers with a very respectable #12 finish, which is a great start for a year end list newcomer. The Atlanta, Georgia, USA sleaze rockers are a little bit of an anomaly in that they are a “newer” band signed to Mighty Music and that has toured Europe a number of times. In addition, Kickin Valentina recently played the Monsters of Rock Cruise alongside many ’80s era heavyweights. I came very close to seeing them play live this summer in Florida so I am really looking to seeing them play live in a couple of months’ time.
Eighties cult rock veterans Vain are back with a new album Rolling With The Punches, which release date was delayed more times than the band probably cares to remember. Although Rolling With The Punches finished a very respectable #13 on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2017, it is a quite a drop from the #4 spot that Enough Rope took six years earlier in the Sleaze Roxx readers’ 2011 poll. The same thing occurred for Vain with the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2017 as Rolling With The Punches finished #10 while Enough Rope took the top spot in 2011. Accordingly, while it might be unfair to call Rolling With The Punches a “disappointment”, it either hasn’t quite measured up to its predecessor or there’s way too much competition this time around in 2017. I’ll let you be the judge in that regard. Whatever the case, Vain, or more like Davy Vain, continues to prove that he can put out one quality album after another. One can only hope that we will not have to wait another six years for the next Vain studio album to be released.
If there is one ageless rocker, it has to be Alice Cooper. The man is seemingly a machine constantly touring the world and even still releasing studio albums every couple of years despite having reached the golden age of 70. At the rate that the shock rocker extraordinaire is going, he might well be playing live into his ’90s. What is truly impressive about Alice Cooper is that he continues to release quality studio albums almost 50 years after the first Alice Cooper album Pretties For You. Granted, Alice had a dark period in the late ’70s / early ’80s where the quality of his songs definitely suffered but arguably since 1986’s Constrictor — with a few exceptions — Alice Cooper has proved that he can still come up with some real classics on each album. The Coop continues to be a model of consistency albeit on a bit of a downward slide as his last studio album Welcome 2 My Nightmare finished at #13 on the Sleaze Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2011 while its predecessor Along Came A Spider finished at #7 on the readers’ 2008 poll. It’s worth noting that Paranormal saw the reunion of the original Alice Cooper Band minus deceased guitarist Glen Buxton on a few songs making the album a truly special one.
The Wild! may well be Canada’s best kept secret. Their debut full-length album Wild At Heart is a phenomenal record that should likely have had the band finishing a lot higher than #15. Yes, Wild At Heart did finish #2 on the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2017. Finishing at #15 this year is only a slight improvement over their #16 finish with their debut EP GxDxWxB in the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2015. Nevertheless, it’s still a solid finish when you look at the “experienced” competition ahead of them in this year’s poll. In fact, The Wild! are the highest charting rockers with only two releases under their belt. Kickin Valentina who finished at #12 have three records under their belt while Santa Cruz who nabbed the #8 spot already have released five records. Given The Wild!‘s strong work ethic — the band keeps touring, touring and doing more touring — if I had to bet my money on a group breaking out eventually to stardom (I consider that Greta Van Fleet have already broken through) , I’d put my money on the Canadian rockers.
The Darkness continue to have a loyal and strong fanbase despite what I consider to be the band squandering its opportunity to reach superstardom. The group burst onto the scene in 2003 with its debut album Permission To Land, which went quadruple platinum in the UK. Fifteen years later, The Darkness only have five studio albums under their belt including 2017’s Pinewood Smile and they have not come anywhere close to the success that they first experienced with their debut record. This is truly a case where alcohol and drugs really derailed the band as frontman Justin Hawkins quit the group after the release of its first two albums following a stint in rehab. Will The Darkness ever achieve anywhere close to the success that they experienced with their debut? At #16, Pinewood Smile is the group’s highest charting album on the Sleaze Roxx readers’ year-end poll since the poll was started in 2006. The Darkness‘ Hot Cakes and Last Of Our Kind both finished at #18 in 2012 and 2015 respectively on the Sleaze Roxx readers’ year-end poll.
Tales From The Porn‘s H.M.M.V. album is the highest charting debut album on this year’s Sleaze Roxx readers’ poll, which is quite the impressive feat. Tuff singer Stevie Rachelle candidly admitted in an interview with Sleaze Roxx that he wasn’t the “complete” songwriter and that he, in essence, needed help from others. Well, how about hooking up with some young, hungry and skilled Brazilian musicians? That is exactly what Rachelle ended up doing as the Brazilian rockers liked guitarist Andy Sun‘s idea to have an American singer from back in the ’80s era sing the group’s songs. The result is absolutely stupendous. H.M.M.V. sees Tales From The Porn adopting just about every ’80s cliche — in a great way — to come up with Sleaze Roxx‘s top album for 2017. Unfortunately, distance is an issue with Rachelle based in the States and the rest of the group in Brazil so count your lucky stars if you get the opportunity to catch the group live as it will only be playing selected live dates and likely only in South America. The big question is whether Tales From The Porn will be able to successfully follow up their amazing debut album? I certainly hope so and hope as well that they stick to what they do so well. There’s no need to branch out to a different musical style when you have already mastered the ’80s heavy metal vibe.
With Danger Danger seemingly never releasing a new studio album, first it was bassist Bruno Ravel who hooked up with some Danger Danger alumni — singer Paul Laine and guitarist Rob Marcello (the latter is still listed as the guitarist in the band but does anyone really believe that is the case with Trixter guitarist Steve Brown or Ted Poley solo band axeman Steve “Man” Mazza handling the guitar duties ever since late 2016) — to form The Defiants. That group’s debut album fared very well given that it landed the #2 spot on the Sleaze Roxx Readers’ Top 20 Albums of 2016. Not to be undone, Poley formed a new semi “supergroup” with Brown, Greg Smith (Ted Nugent, Rainbow, Alice Cooper) and Chuck Burgi (Rainbow, Blue Oyster Cult, Joe Lynn Turner). The result is a much lower charting effort on the Sleaze Roxx‘s year-end poll so I am going to acknowledge that The Defiants have come up with a much stronger record than Tokyo Motor Fist. In any case, it’s nice to get two records instead of one in the form of two spin off records from a few current and/or former Danger Danger members rather than a Danger Danger studio album that may never actually materialize.
Mr. Big‘s Defying Gravity album has turned out to be a special one for the group since it’s the last one involving drummer Pat Torpey who sadly succumbed to complications with Parkinson’s Disease last month. To their credit, the rest of his long-time bandmates — singer Eric Martin, bassist Billy Sheehan and guitarist Paul Gilbert — kept the drummer participating in the band to whatever extent that he could, may it be playing a few drum parts or simply singing background vocals. The strong bond between the four original Mr. Big band members cannot be understated. Although there were rumours that Mr. Big would be folding if Torpey was no longer part of the experience, those may just have been based on some hasty words from Martin given that Mr. Big and Extreme will be playing some tour dates together down under in Australia in June 2018. Presumably, the group will continue with drummer Matt Starr now assuming all drumming duties, which is a great thing for Mr. Big fans. I have to think that Torpey would have wanted his Mr. Big bandmates to continue their legacy without him.
20. BITERS – The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be – Total pts: 130
The Biters get little coverage on Sleaze Roxx and perhaps that should change because clearly, many Sleaze Roxx readers like their brand of glam infused rock n’ roll. The Biters were once viewed as the next saviours for rock n’ roll but that hasn’t completely panned out for them. They continue however to be a hot ticket and have landed some great opening slots. Funny enough, The Biters have been around for a long time as their discography attests: Biters EP (2010), It’s Ok To Like Biters EP (2010), All Chewed Up EP (2011), Last Of A Dying Breed EP (2012), Electric Blood (2015) and The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be (2017). The Biters used a quote from Nico Constantine for their Facebook “Biography” which states in part: “If Tom Petty was assaulted by the Sex Pistols while Stiv Bator was pouring the drinks, that scene would approximate the sound of the Biters. Their music winks and nods at tradition but reveals glimmers of future. Biters will take a chunk out of your ass and heart leaving you wanting more.”