It’s been a while, but welcome to the third in my occasional series of posts on the subject of my favourite top ten albums from a particular year. This time I’m not looking back quite so far, only five years.
2010 was easier to choose a top ten from than for my previous posts, 1995 and 1987, perhaps because it’s that much more recent so there is less nostalgia for, or emotional attachment to, certain records? In any event, here we go – my top ten albums of 2010, in alphabetical order…
1. Alter Bridge “AB III”
The third album from the American hard rock band Alter Bridge, formed by singer Myles Kennedy (also known for his work with Slash) and three former members of Creed. This record has a loose lyrical concept dealing with struggles with faith and, to quote Kennedy, “touches on the thoughts and emotions of someone who has come to question everything that was once regarded as an absolute truth”.
Both Kennedy and Mark Tremonti provide some stunning guitar playing, and Tremonti also provides some quality vocals to support Kennedy’s as always superb delivery, sharing lead vocals on “Words Darker Than Their Wings”.
Standout tracks include lead single “Isolation”, “Ghost Of Days Gone By”, “Slip To The Void” and the wonderful, emotional “Wonderful Life”, a song that truly shows what a brilliant singer Kennedy is.
2. Black Country Communion “Black Country Communion”
The debut album from a short-lived bluesy hard rock supergroup which included former Deep Purple singer/bassist Glenn Hughes, blues guitar superstar Joe Bonamassa, former Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian and drummer Jason Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, and a really good drummer in his own right.
A 1970s style hard rock record, with similarities to the likes of Deep Purple, this is a great showcase for the individual talents in the band, with some really good material too. Bonamassa’s playing is heavier than normal heard on his solo material, and the vocal performance from Hughes is also far noticeably more hard rock than is often the case.
The best tracks are “Black Country”, “Song Of Yesterday” (with Bonamassa taking lead vocals), “Stand (At The Burning Tree)” and the epic eleven minute closing track”Too Late For The Sun”. They may not have lasted long, partly due to Bonamassa’s decision not to tour as his solo career remains his priority, but all three Black Country Communion albums are certainly worthwhile investments.
3. The Black Crowes “Croweology”
Released just before the band went onto their second hiatus (with a third break to follow earlier this year), this 20 track double album featured mainly acoustic re-workings of tunes from the Black Crowes’ back catalogue.
There is more space on this record than to be found on the original source albums, and some of the numbers such as “Ballad In Urgency”, “Wiser Time” and “Thorn In My Pride” are several minutes longer than their original versions, and definitely benefit from the extra room to breathe. Even if you have the original versions of these songs, this collection of re-recordings is a valuable addition, showing once more just how good Chris Robinson and Rich Robinson can be when they are able to work together!
4. Cathedral “The Guessing Game”
Arguably the heaviest album on this list, “The Guessing Game” is British doom metal band Cathedral at their best. Coming five years after their previous album, the brilliant “The Garden Of Unearthly Delights”, this release was the band’s only double studio album.
Amongst the doomy guitar motifs there are numerous musical styles to be found, including progressive rock, folk and psychedelia, and sounds like it could well have originated in the 1970s, whilst still being recognisably a Cathedral album.
“Funeral Of Dreams”, “Cats, Incense, Candles & Wine” and “Requiem For The Voiceless” are amongst the inventive highlights of this album, and the quality only really dips a little for closing track “Journeys Into Jade” which lyrically is a look back over the band’s history and a bit pedestrian musically. Still, up to that point this is a near flawless progressive doomy folky psychedelic trip…
5. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals “Grace Potter & The Nocturnals”
Grace Potter and her Nocturnals first introduced themselves to my conciousness via their cover version of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” which was featured on the soundtrack album “Almost Alice” in 2010.
This was followed by the sassy “Paris (Ooh La La)”, the video for which demonstrated that not only does Grace possess a great voice and instrumental ability (keyboards and guitars) but also a great pair of legs.
Fortunately, there sounds more than hold their own without the visuals, and this is a great album from start to finish. My favourite tracks include the aforementioned “Paris (Ooh La La)”, “Medicine”, “Tiny Light” and “Hot Summer Night”
6. Imelda May “Mayhem”
“Mayhem” is the third album from Dublin-born rockabilly singer Imelda May. Reputedly recorded in just two weeks, the album features Imelda with her usual band – Imelda’s guitarist husband Darrel Higham, bassist Al Gare, drummer Steve Rushton and Dave Prismeman on trumpet, flugelhorn and percussion.
The album produced five singles, “Psycho”, “Mayhem”, “Kentish Town Waltz”, “Sneaky Freak” and a remixed version of “Inside Out”, in addition to which this album features live favourite “Proud And Humble”, “Eternity” (a track written by Darrel that channels the Everly Brothers), the slinky and sensuous “All For You” and a spirited cover of the classic “Tainted Love”. A simply excellent album.
7. Iron Maiden “The Final Frontier”
Coming four years after “A Matter Of Life And Death”, this is, to date, the longest Iron Maiden album, clocking in at a little over 76 minutes, and became the band’s fourth UK number 1 album.
The record also continued Maiden’s run of strong album releases since vocalist Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith had returned to the line-up in 1999.
Containing mainly lengthy, somewhat progressive, tracks, the highlights of the album for me are “Satellite 15… The Final Frontier”, “El Dorado”, “Coming Home”, “The Talisman” and “When The Wild Wind Blows”.
8. Joe Bonamassa “Black Rock”
“Black Rock” was Bonamassa’s 8th studio album, his 12th release (including live albums) in just ten years. Despite the regularity with which he tours and releases music, there is no drop in standards to be found here. In fact, both his singing and guitar playing seem to keep on improving.
As is often the case, this album is a mixture of Bonamassa originals and tastefully done cover versions. Of the former, my favourites are “Blue And Evil”, “Quarryman’s Lament” and the acoustic piece “Athens To Athens”.
Of the covers, “Steal Your Heart Away”, “Spanish Boots”, “Three Times A Fool”, “Night Life” (featuring the legendary B.B. King) and the atmospheric “Bird On A Wire” are standouts.
9. Mostly Autumn “Go Well Diamond Heart”
The ninth studio album from British progressive rock band Mostly Autumn, “Go Well Diamond Heart” was the first album released since original vocalist Heather Findlay had left the band in early 2010 and backing vocalist Olivia Sparnenn had taken over lead vocal duties.
The album was released in two versions – initially a double album version only available from the band’s website, which was followed by a single disc version available through retailers.
Although Heather had been an integral part of the Mostly Autumn sound, Olivia’s pure, yet sensual vocals helped the band develop their sound still further, and although this could be considered a transitional album it is nonetheless a very solid record with some great material from the band’s founder, guitarist/vocalist Bryan Josh.
The strongest of the tracks are “For All We Shared”, “Go Well Diamond Heart”, “Back To Life”, “Hold The Sun” ,”And When The War Is Over…” and “Ice”.
10. Saint Jude “Diary Of A Soul Fiend”
“Diary Of A Soul Fiend” is the debut, and to date only, album by British rock band Saint Jude. Since the release of the record, guitarist Adam Green has died, and the bassist and keyboard player featured on it have left the band. This may go some way to explaining why, although all three were replaced, there seems to be little in the way of activity from the band.
The album, though, is a corker. Soulful vocals from Lynne Jackaman over the top of some great bluesy instrumentation from drummer Lee Cook and the aforementioned trio make a potent combination.
“Down And Out” is the absolute highlight of the record without a doubt, but “Soul On Fire”, “Rivers And Streams”, “Parallel Life” and “Southern Belles” all keep up the high quality of this album
So, there you have it – my top ten albums of 2010. The year in which the David Cameron was became British Prime Minister in a coalition between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, Chelsea replaced Manchester United as Premier League champions, Matt Smith made his debut as the 11th Dr, Who, and top film releases included “Toy Story 3”, “Inception”, “Despicable Me” and “Iron Man 2″…