Editor Ken’s Top 10 of 2020
EDITOR’S KEN’S TOP 10 of 2020
2020 will be an unforgettable year for us all – certainly not because of the album releases but how many of us were able to enjoy music with a worldwide pandemic raging on changing the way we all experience our lives. Concerts may have been cancelled, but there was more music than ever available over the entire year dominated by the battle against COVID-19. Musicians found time to be creative and audiences had time to discover new bands and artists as well as revisit favorites from the past. How much longer live events and show venues are closed remains to be seen, but music is always there ready and willing to comfort us in even the most tragic of times. Here are some of the Albums and EP’s that brightened up the dark days of 2020 in the eyes of Editor Ken. Read on…
EDITOR KEN’S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2020
SONGS FROM THE PLAYROOM BY ALI THOMSON (THOMSON MUSIC AND MEDIA)
Ali Thomson had a hit single with Take A Little Rhythm in the summer of 1980. And after the release of two albums and writing for scores of other musicians, Thomson returns with Songs From The Playroom 40 years after a song of his was all over the radio airwaves. Selections such as Aqua Blue, Through The Storm, and Black Comedy kick start the next chapter of Thomson’s absolutely brilliant career, featuring AOR/yacht rock style melodies and wondrous lyrics that capture the imagination. Songs From The Playroom presents a warm and wonderful testament of an artist rediscovering his voice after years of writing hit songs for others, and this joyful recording is nothing short of a triumphant.
Ali Thomson Official Home Page
FISTFUL OF FIRE BY BONFIRE (AFM RECORDS)
Bonfire from Germany has been rocking the world since 1985 with their vast and epic catalog of melodic rock and heavy metal anthems. Fistful Of Fire is their latest and greatest endeavor on AFM Records, featuring standout selections such as Rock N’ Roll Survivors, The Devil Made Me Do It, Ride The Blade, and When An Old Man Cries. Founding guitarist Hans Ziller and the absolutely amazing Bonfire lineup is at the height of their creativity, performing with a power and enthusiasm that is inspiring to behold. Here’s hoping we finally see Bonfire on an American tour at long last after the worldwide pandemic comes to an end.
Bonfire on Facebook
OUR TIME ON EARTH BY COMPASS (ESCAPE MUSIC)
Steve Newman is best known for his work in the long running melodic rock project Newman. With a desire to expand his musical universe, Newman created Compass – a dynamic progressive rock project whose debut album Our Time On Earth is nothing short of mesmerizing. As grand and as epic as you would expect an album with such a poignant and expansive title, Our Time On Earth is an infinite auditory masterpiece. The heart and emotion of Ben Green’s vocals combined with the stunning musicianship of Steve Newman and company render Our Time On Earth by Compass a vast and liberating work of art that all music fanatics will want to revisit time and again.
Compass on Facebook
DAMON’S RAGE BY JESSE DAMON (AOR HEAVEN)
In the beginnings of what would be the vast and varied career of Jesse Damon, his band Silent Rage worked with the one and only Gene Simmons of KISS and would find themselves on a North American Tour supporting the likes of Black Sabbath! With an equally impressive solo output, Jesse Damon has amassed a rather impressive collection of material. Damon’s Rage is the latest and greatest from Jesse Damon, released at the onset of 2020 and still one of the very best AOR albums of the year. Also featuring the participation of highly acclaimed AOR artist Paul Sabu, Damon’s Rage is a massively fully realized effort that will dazzle the senses of melodic rock fanatics!
Jesse Damon on Facebook
MASTER OF ILLUSIONS BY KHYMERA (FRONTIERS MUSIC SRL)
Master Of Illusions by Khymera is the masterwork of Dennis Ward from Pink Cream 69, and it’s a stunning AOR endeavor well worth seeking out. With soaring melodies and impassioned vocals, the songs found within Master Of Illusions are classic melodic rock in its finest hour, with magical highlights being Walk Away, The First Time, Paradise, The Sun Goes Down, and the exhilarating title track. All this, and some very imaginative work from keyboardist Eric Ragno, weaving his artistry throughout the entire album. A superb collection of tunes brought to you by Frontiers Music Srl – a label whose releases span the very best in classic melodic rock.
Khymera on Facebook
THE REALITY OF MIRACLES BY LIONHEART (METALVILLE RECORDS)
Featuring current and ex-members of Iron Maiden, UFO, Michael Schenker Group and Shy, one can only expect a colossal epic from so much dazzling talent. And Lionheart presents nothing short of an all-out revelation with The Reality Of Miracles, their latest magnum opus on Metalville Records. The Reality Of Miracles is inspiring and thought provoking, with glorious melodic rock entreaties for all as we confront the grim realities an entire world faced in 2020. The all-star lineup features Dennis Stratton (ex-Iron Maiden), Steve Mann (Michael Schenker Group), Rocky Newton (ex-McAuley Schenker Group), Clive Edwards (ex-UFO) and Lee Small (Signal Red, ex-Shy).
Lionheart on Facebook
IGNITION by NEWMAN (AOR Heaven)
Steve Newman has been releasing albums under his moniker Newman since 1997, always presenting superbly catchy melodies and memorable lyrics. The latest Newman adventure is entitled Ignition, and it’s jam-packed with melodic rocking AOR that should be all over the worldwide radio airwaves. Tracks such as Chasing Midnight, End Of The Road, and Worth Dying For are instant genre classics! All this, and Newman has also unveiled the progressive Compass which is also on our Top Ten List. In this year of the great pandemic, Newman has certainly been at his most creative and prolific. Another glorious release from the almighty AOR Heaven.
Newman on Facebook
A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO DROWN BY SILVERSTEIN (UNFD)
Silverstein is celebrating their 20th big anniversary as a band, and what better way to do so than with the release of their 10th studio album! A Beautiful Place To Drown is their most fully realized, ambitious effort to date, unfortunately their best work released at the dawning of a worldwide pandemic when all media would be focused on Covid-19 and all live shows would be cancelled or rescheduled. Opening with the super infectious refrains of Bad Habits, A Beautiful Place To Drown is the perfect auditory journey for post hardcore / pop punks to visit all across the planet. Here’s hoping Silverstein are finally able to present these amazing songs on tour in 2021!
Silverstein on Facebook
MACH II by STEELCITY (PERRIS RECORDS)
SteelCity is a hard rocking collective ready to rock your world with their dynamic anthems. Initially conceived as a solo project by guitarist Mike Floros, SteelCity evolved into the band that it is today. Included within the SteelCity membership is Roy Cathey, lead vocalist extraordinaire best known for his mesmerizing vocals within the ranks of Cold Sweat. The dynamic rhythm section consists of Jason Cornwell from The Eric Martin Band and West Bound on bass and BJ Zampa from House Of Lords and Obsession on the almighty drums. Rounding out the group is Tony Stahl of Dead Risen, whose keyboards bring texture and depth to SteelCity’s songs. SteelCity recently unleashed Mach II through Perris Records, and it’s sure to thrill the senses all of hard rock fanatics.
SteelCity on Facebook
ELEVEN WOMEN BY STEVE KILBEY (FOGHORN RECORDS AUS)
The great pandemic may have placed all touring and recording activities regarding legendary alternative rockers The Church on hold, but founding member Steve Kilbey has maintained quite a busy schedule. When Kilbey hasn’t been entertaining fans with live solo shows on Instagram covering a wealth of material, the artist has also unveiled Eleven Women, his latest solo endeavor. Haunting and evocative, songs such as Poppy Byron, Sheba Chiba, and the ominous Doris McAllister present an artist at the very height of his creative energies. Eleven Women by Steve Kilbey is a masterpiece that will haunt and tantalize your senses long after the final chords of Think Of You (For Jessie Bellette) spins to its nostalgic conclusion.
Steve Kilbey on Facebook
EDITOR KEN’S TOP 10 EP’S OF 2020
LOVE NOTES BY THE COLOR WILD (SELF-RELEASED EP)
The Color Wild released Clean on Artery Recordings in 2017 – and it was one of the most scandalously underrated pop rock EP’s of that year. Jammed packed with magical tunes such as Wild Things, Brighter Than The Sun and the inspiring title track, Clean was a vibrant work of pure pop rocking perfection. And now three years later, The Color Wild has unveiled a brand new EP entitled Love Notes upon the world at large. Three years has certainly matured The Color Wild, and Love Notes is sure to be greeted with appreciation and ardor by all types of music fans. Why this band isn’t signed and playing arenas is the greatest mystery of all, but The Color Wild persevere on – and what a tremendously fully realized and ultimately uplifting work of pop rock artistry Love Notes is!
The Color Wild on Facebook
COOTER BROWN EP by COOTER BROWN (MBM MUSIC LLC)
From the hard rocking church of all things Sabbath and Kyuss arrives the almighty Cooter Brown, darkening your doorstep and ready to rage! Spawned from the vast and varied Los Angeles music scene, Cooter Brown has just unleashed their Self-Titled debut EP via MBM Music LLC – and what a fiery slab of sludgy intensity this recording is! The EP contains five combustible anthems that will leave your ears ringing while craving a whole lot more of that Cooter Brown! Recorded at Clearlake Studios and mixed and mastered by the legendary Bill Metoyer (Armored Saint, Fates Warning, Flotsam and Jetsam), the Cooter Brown EP is one helluva kickass debut from a band we’ll be hearing more from above and beyond these pandemic days…
Cooter Brown on Facebook
WØNDERLVND BY DESPAIN (SELF-RELEASED EP)
Matt Skajem has truly experienced quite a life in music, with his past pop punk bands such as Out With The Old and Best Kept Secret, impressing fans at the Vans Warped Tour and beyond. In this strange year of 2020, Skajem presented Despain, the next compelling chapter of his auditory destiny. WØNDERLVND is the name of Despain’s debut endeavor, and what a stark and cathartic adventure this 6-song EP unveils. Skajem has always been fearless and open, and the lyrics and soundscapes found within the vast confines of WØNDERLVND show an artist grappling with his own personal demons and reinventing himself in the process. While there are no easy denouements to be found within this situation we all call life, Despain presents his own WØNDERLVND with absolutely gripping results. And while you are at it, be sure to check out the End of the World EP, a remarkable collaboration between Despain and the massively talented terrenceXcarter!
Despain on Facebook
DESPERATION BLVD BY DESPERATION BLVD (SELF-RELEASED EP)
Bringing the glory days of Sunset Strip sleaze and roll back with an almighty vengeance, Desperation Blvd and an all-star cast launch these six absolutely riveting anthems into the hydrasonic stratosphere. In addition to spirited musicians of the core trio of Desperation Blvd, guest appearances found throughout the streets of Desperation Blvd include David Reece of Bangalore Choir, Thomas Silver of Hardcore Superstar, Fabio D’Amore of Serenity, Alessia Scolletti of Temperance and more! And the impressive lineup even extends to the tech credits, with Michele Guaitoli, known from the bands Visions Of Atlantis, Overtures and Temperance, who co-produced and recorded this not to be missed epic! Be sure to catch their inspired cover of the Duran Duran classic Hold Back The Rain!
Desperation Blvd on Facebook
THE GEORGIA THUNDERBOLTS by THE GEORGIA THUNDERBOLTS (MASCOT RECORDS)
In the long hot summer of 2020, The Georgia Thunderbolts arrived and they will rock your world! If you enjoy legendary groups such as Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Outlaws, expect to meet your next favorite band when encountering the spirited reveries of The Georgia Thunderbolts. Certainly the next generation of truly inspiring Southern Rock and Roll, The Georgia Thunderbolt released their debut Self-Titled EP via Mascot Records. Looking For An Old Friend, So You Wanna Change The World, and the epic Set Me Free will set the is the sonic lightning destined to set genre on fire! It will be exciting to hear what the future has in store for The Georgia Thunderbolts. Stay tuned…
The Georgia Thunderbolts on Facebook
VICE VERSA BY GIVE ME A REASON (PASTEL RECORDING COMPANY)
Meet Give Me A Reason, an up and coming pop punk collective from Switzerland ready to take on the world with their dynamic anthems. Their latest EP Vice Versa was recently issued, featuring memorable songs such as Sad, Color, and Funny. Fans of bands such as All Time Low and State Champs just may discover a new favorite when encountering what Give Me A Reason has to offer. Pop punk is very much alive and well thanks to the impassioned efforts of bands such as Give Me A Reason.
Give Me A Reason on Facebook
FINE BY ME BY INNERLOVE. (KNOW HOPE RECORDS)
Meet Innerlove., a collective from the legendary Long Island music scene ready to break out and make it happen in nothing short of an epic way. Their new EP Fine By Me has been released through Know Hope Records, featuring five vibrantly introspective songs that will linger with the listener long after the recording spins to its conclusion. Fans of acts such as Transit and The Weakerthans will definitely want to discover what Innerlove. has to offer on Fine By Me. Songs such as All The Weight, Enough, and the pensive title track go straight for the heart, and the results are tremendously striking.
Innerlove. on Facebook
HEART IN A CAGE BY LOVELY WORLD (BROOKSTONE PARTY MUSIC)
Lovely World from South Carolina present rock and roll with passion and ferocity, much in the same way as the almighty Guns N’ Roses and the modern Greta Van Fleet. It should come as no surprise that Lovely World is managed by none other than Vicky Hamilton of G N’R and Mötley Crüe infamy. Heart In A Cage is the name of their pandemic age EP, and Lovely World unleash four absolutely rapturous songs that music fans will place on endless repeat. Charismatic, supremely talented, and possessing the material to back it all up, with the commencement of Heart In A Cage, Lovely World is set to spread the love all across this great big planet in 2021.
Lovely World on Facebook
IMPERFECT EP BY SYDNEY ELLEN (SELF-RELEASED)
Sydney Ellen is a lead guitarist from Southern California whose inspiring musicianship has captivated audiences around the nation. With Jennifer Batten of Michael Jackson fame as a teacher/mentor and as well as being a graduate from the prestigious Berklee College Of Music, Ms. Ellen not only has the best in music education, but the massive talent and charisma to back it all up. And now with the unveiling of her debut 5 song Imperfect EP, Sydney Ellen’s dynamic guitar work is captured for the entire world to experience. This EP also features outstanding guest vocal performances from Moxy Anne from Moxy and the Influence, MOA from Dead Heroine and PRISS, and Adi Argelazi from White Witch.
Sydney Ellen on Facebook
ALONE IN THE DARK – ACOUSTIC EP BY VILLAIN OF THE STORY (VOTS)
Based out of the Minneapolis, MN music scene, Villain Of The Story has released two solid albums of passionate metalcore which included time spent on Stay Sick Recordings. And now with the unveiling of their Alone In The Dark – Acoustic EP, Villain Of The Story unveils an entirely different chapter to their sonic legacy. Featuring four fan favorites stripped down, Alone In The Dark presents a band at their most compelling and imaginative. The passionate lyrics and melodic reveries are clearly at the forefront, and what an exhilarating experience Villain of the Story has in store for their listeners. Their brand new third album Bloodshot is another stunning achievement for this truly independent and vibrantly impassioned collective.
Villain Of The Story on Facebook
A sampling from the very best releases of 2020. Now bring on the music classics of a hopefully pandemic free 2021!
(Compiled by Ken Morton for Highwire Daze Magazine)