Tag Archives: Joe Bonamassa

Live At Carnegie Hall – An Acoustic Evening

Joe Bonamassa

Back to the music today, and I’ve been listening recently to the latest live release from the ever-prolific bluesman Joe Bonamassa. “Live At Carnegie Hall – An Acoustic Evening” is Bonamassa’s second acoustic double live album, and fifteenth live album overall.

Joe Bonamassa – An Acoustic Evening At The Vienna Opera House

I guess to be able to churn out that much product – an there have been eleven live albums in the period covered by his last three studio efforts – then you need something different perhaps to keep the punters coming back for more? Well, this one is certainly different from the rest of his live albums, including the earlier “An Acoustic Evening At The Vienna Opera House” which to my mind was more in keeping with what I like to hear from an acoustic album.

Tina Guo

Whereas the frankly excellent “…Vienna…” saw Bonamassa and his array of acoustic guitars augmented by musicians playing instruments such as fiddle, banjo and harmonium – making for a pretty rootsy sound – “…Carnegie…” features backing from an international cast made up of cellist Tina Guo, percussionist Hossam Ramzy, pianist Reese Wynans, multi-instrumentalist Eric Bazilian, drummer Anton Fig and backing vocalists Mahalia Barnes, Juanita Tippins, and Gary Pinto and the resulting sound is somewhat more eclectic.

Reese Wynans

Kicking things off with Wynan’s picking out the piano introduction taken from Jethro Tull’s “Locomotive Breath” the ensemble are then thundering down the tracks with “This Train” – a song taken from Bonamassa’s “Blues Of Desperation” album which had not, at the time of this show’s recording, been released. Three more of the fifteen songs here also come from that album so it’s testament to the quality of the material that the audience responds so well to them.

Joe Bonamassa & Ensemble At Carnegie Hall

Fourth track “Dust Bowl” is one of just five that are repeated from the earlier acoustic release – the others being “Driving Towards The Daylight”, “Mountain Time”, “Black Lung Heartache” and “Woke Up Dreaming”. The rest of the set is made up from another couple of back catalogue numbers with a smattering of interesting covers. Of the latter, including tunes from Leon Russell and Bette Midler, I would have to say that I particularly enjoyed the version of “Song Of Yesterday”, the original of which comes from the self-titled debut album by Black Country Communion, the supergroup that features Bonamassa alongside Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian.

Tina Guo & Joe Bonamassa

“Woke Up Dreaming” features a kind of duel between Bonamassa and Guo and whilst impressive is undoubtedly one of those instances in which a live album recording is less successful than either witnessing the performance at the time or being able to see the visual side of things at the same time. It does however, just like the record as a whole, demonstrate just what good musicians these all are.

Joe Bonamassa Merchandise

I have fond memories of seeing Bonamassa in concert some years ago and would love to do so again. However, with tickets for next year’s British shows starting at £65.00 plus fees I’m afraid that isn’t going to happen. I gather that Bonamassa and his manager put together a structured business plan earlier in his career and – judging by the sheer number of vintage guitars, amps etc. that the man keeps adding to his collection – financially it looks to be working for him. No doubt the huge range of Bonamassa-branded merchandise that is on offer through his website helps with this too, so I do think that the pricing for his shows is honestly too high.

Joe Bonamassa – Live From Nowhere In Particular

It seems that in recent years Bonamassa has toured with a bigger band, often including backing singers and a brass section for example, so the costs of putting on the show are therefore going to be higher but I would personally rather see him stripped back to the blues rock format that worked so effectively on earlier live releases like “Live From Nowhere In Particular” where there were just four musicians on stage.

Joe Bonamassa

I would have liked to have seen a release of a recording from last year’s tour, “A Salute To The British Blues Explosion!”, which featured renditions of tracks by Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Led Zeppelin rather than this “…Carnegie…” one, to be honest – again that’s just my personal feeling. This one is very good for what it is, but is unlikely to be among the more frequently played of Bonamassa’s live releases around these parts, not when the aforementioned “…Nowhere In Particular” and the four volume “Tour De Force” set are in my collection anyway. Despite that fact this is still a very good recording and once again demonstrates that this is an artist who is head and shoulders above many out there today. Now if he could just reign in his money-making inner Gene Simmons!…“Live At Carnegie Hall – An Acoustic Evening” tracklist:

1. This Train / 2. Drive / 3. The Valley Runs Low / 4. Dust Bowl / 5. Driving Towards The Daylight / 6. Black Lung Heartache / 7. Blue And Evil / 8. Livin’ Easy / 9. Get Back My Tomorrow / 10. Mountain Time / 11. How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live? / 12. Song Of Yesterday / 13. Woke Up Dreaming / 14. Hummingbird / 15. The Rose

1, 2, 3 and 8 originally from “Blues Of Desperation” (2016) / 4 and 6 originally from “Dust Bowl” (2011) / 5 originally from “Driving Towards The Daylight” (2012) / 7 originally from “Black Rock” (2010) / 9 originally from “Different Shades Of Blue” (2014) / 10 originally from “So, It’s Like That” (2002) /11 cover of Blind Alfred Reed song (1929) / 12 cover of Black Country Communion song from “Black Country Communion” (2010) / 13 originally from “Blues Deluxe” (2003) / 14 cover of Leon Russell song from “Leon Russell” album (1970) / 15 cover of Bette Midler single (1980)

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2016 – My Top Ten Albums Of The Year

Entries on my blog have been rather sporadic thus far in 2017 and I have realised that there have so far been only two music-related posts – a look at a psychedelic compilation and a gig review. I’m not sure why I’ve not written much on the music front. It’s certainly not because there isn’t any good new (and old) music being discovered and listened to with over two hundred new releases already having been digested since January.

There will be a more gig posts coming up soon as I have shows by Iron Maiden and Hawkwind in my diary during the next week or so, and a few more over the coming months too, but for now I thought I’d return to my rather occasional series on “top ten albums of the year” and look back at my personal favourite ten releases of 2016.

These weren’t easy to choose – with over six hundred new albums passing across my desk to shift through – and the list will likely change as time goes by but here are my current favourite ten albums of 2016, some of which got an individual review last year…

1. Alter Bridge “The Last Hero”

Alter Bridge – The Last Hero

It’s not the first time that Alter Bridge have made my top ten, having achieved that with “AB III” for 2010’s list. I wouldn’t bet against them making the lists for the years that their other three albums hit the shelves either once I get around to looking back at those particular years. Back to 2016, however, and the band’s excellent fifth studio album “The Last Hero”.

A natural progression from previous record “Fortress”, the album is a little over an hour of top quality hard rock music. Kicking things off is lead single “Show Me A Leader”, which really tells you everything you need to know. Huge guitar riffs, thunderous bass and drums, face-melting soloing from guitar hero Mark Tremonti all topped off with majestic vocals from Myles Kennedy as he sings lyrics demonstrating discontent with today’s political leaders. If you like that you’ll love this record. Alter Bridge are a band that keep getting better and better.

2. David Bowie “Blackstar”

David Bowie – Black Star

“…the latest (and presumably last, unless there’s stuff in the vaults for future releases) album is, of course, the brand new “Blackstar”. So how does it stack up against his back catalogue? Well, to be honest, to begin with I found it hard going, especially after the fairly straight-forward sounds of “The Next Day”. Having given it repeated plays however, especially in the last twenty-four hours I have to say that it has really grown on me and I now think it’s fabulous!

Kicking off with the near-ten-minute title track, a fusion of drum ‘n’ bass percussion, jazz parts, ethereal vocals, progressive rock style changes and a fairly impenetrable lyric! It takes a few listens to get a handle on, but boy is it a great track… In the end this is a wonderful piece of music by a man who has for decades reinvented himself and his art, so makes for a fitting epitaph…”

3. Epica “The Holographic Principle”

Epica – The Holographic Principle

I’ve been an admirer of Dutch band Epica since hearing their debut album “The Phantom Agony” in 2003 and was fortunate enough to be able to witness the band performing live in Bristol in late 2015 when they were touring sixth studio record “The Quantum Enigma”.

September 2016 saw the release of the follow-up album, “The Holographic Principle”. As is usual with a band whose music is as layered and complex as Epica, it took a while to get into the album. When you’re dealing with orchestral instrumentation and choral vocals on top of the six band members contributions there’s a lot to take in. Add in the concept of the record, which is looking at “…the near future, where virtual reality allows people to create their own worlds which can’t be distinguished from ‘reality as we know it’. This raises the question whether our current reality could be a virtual reality in itself – a hologram. The lyrics challenge you to reconsider everything you took for granted and to be open-minded towards recent revolutions in science. Nothing appears to be what it seems in our holographic universe…” So that’s straightforward enough eh?

Leaving aside the lyrical concept, one can enjoy the album simply for the songs themselves. A super mix of classical themes and driving heavy metal riffs and solos with Simone Simons’ fabulous vocal delivery on top, as illustrated perfectly by the singles “Universal Death Squad” and “Edge Of The Blade”. Perhaps not the most immediate record to appreciate but one that is worth taking the time to get into for sure.

4. Ihsahn “Arktis”

Ihsahn – Arktis

If the Epica record demands some listening to really appreciate, then that applies possibly even more to “Arktis”, the sixth solo album from Ihsahn, guitarist / vocalist from Norwegian black metal band Emperor. That’s not because it’s inaccessible, however, but because it is a diverse platter indeed. Progressive metal riffs and black metal vocals dominate tracks such as “Mass Darkness” but suddenly electronics rear their head on “South Winds”. “Until I Too Dissolve” is almost hair metal in a way, “Crooked Red Line” has acoustic and jazzy elements and closing nine-minute bonus track “Til Tor Ulven (Soppelsolen)” is an ambient spoken-word piece that gradually morphs into glacial black metal vocal styling.

There are echoes of Opeth’s mix of progressive metal and 1970s rock sounds to be heard too. You never know quite what to expect next and despite the variations in style and singing style throughout it is both easy to listen to and challenging too. A simply awesome album from start to finish…

5. Joanne Shaw Taylor “Wild”

Joanne Shaw Taylor – Wild

“Sometimes I hear a record and it instantly connects, others take a while to kind of sink in and improve with repeated listens. Then there are the albums that somehow manage to do both – they’re immediately gratifying and yet continue to get better with each listen. English blues singer / guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor‘s latest album “Wild” is definitely one of the latter.

I believe that with this simply superb record Joanne Shaw Taylor – an inspired and inspiring musician – deserves her place amongst the greats…”

6. Joe Bonamassa “Blues Of Desperation”

Joe Bonamassa – Blues Of Desperation

There are surely few modern musicians as prolific as blues singer / guitarist Joe Bonamassa. Since his 2000 debut album “A New Day Yesterday” he has released, to date, a further eleven studio albums, thirteen live albums, three albums with singer Beth Hart, four as a member of Black Country Communion and three a part of Rock Candy Funk Party – so I make that thirty-five albums in sixteen years?! Anyway, Bonamassa’s most recent solo studio release is “Blues Of Desperation”. This followed 2014’s “Different Shades Of Blue” which was strong without quite reaching the heights of some of his other work such as “Dust Bowl” or “The Ballad Of John Henry”.

From the moment opener “This Train” comes steaming out of the speakers the suggestion is that this album is a step up from the last, and each successive track goes to confirm that to be correct.

There are the heavy blues numbers like “Mountain Climbing” and the laid back late night tracks like “Drive”, the Led Zeppelin-tinged title track and of course a good extended guitar workout in “No Good Place For The Lonely”. A simply brilliant guitar player and still-improving singer, Joe Bonamassa remains an artist to be reckoned with.

7. Marillion “F.E.A.R. (Fuck Everyone And Run)”

Marillion – F.E.A.R. (Fuck Everyone And Run)

Although there will always be folk who think of Marillion as being the band headed by singer Fish (who held that role from 1981-88), the band’s many fans have continued to follow and enjoy their evolution since current vocalist Steve “H” Hogarth took on the mantle in 1989. “F.E.A.R…” is the band’s fourteenth album with Hogarth at the mic, and carries on their strong catalogue from where 2012’s “Sounds That Can’t Be Made” left off, with excellent musicianship, great songs and thought-provoking lyrics.

This time around the themes of the record are inspired by the state of the country and the world today. Hogarth stated “…the title is adopted and sung tenderly, in sadness and resignation inspired by an England, and a world, which increasingly functions on an “Every man for himself” philosophy. There’s a sense of foreboding that permeates much of this record. I have a feeling that we’re approaching some kind of sea-change in the world – an irreversible political, financial, humanitarian and environmental storm…”

With a duration of over an hour the record comprises just six tracks, and is one of those that rewards total immersion to fully appreciate both the music and the message – the latter including greed and corruption (“The New Kings”), war (“Living In FEAR”), lost youth (“White Paper”) and even life on the road (“The Leavers”). Perhaps the most potent of all, though, is the opener “El Dorado” with lines including “…we all know about the wars that are raging, all the millions who just cannot see, there’s so much more that binds us than divides us but our fear denies it while the papers stir it, the colours of the flag we wave were and will become blood red again…”. The band do not preach and give us answers but ask plenty of questions and get us to think about what the answers might be.

For a group approaching forty years of age one could be forgiven for expecting something formulaic and so-so but this is surely one of Marillion’s strongest albums yet and a real tour de force from the whole band.

8. Myrkur “Mausoleum”

Myrkur – Mausoleum

“…not an acoustic album in the usual sense, the songs are recognisable from the original versions and yet the treatment given here means that they do stand up in their own right. In fairness, I find it impossible to point to any particular highlights on this record as all nine tracks are uniformly excellent. Despite not having the extremes in sound of the studio work this beautiful recording still enchants the listener. Best listened to late at night in the dark, or perhaps out in the forest or on a hill without modern civilisation breaking the spell, this is twenty-seven minutes of pure atmosphere. Utterly compelling listening…”

9. Opeth “Sorceress”

Opeth – Sorceress

“Sorceress” is the twelfth studio album from Swedish progressive metal band Opeth, recorded not far from here at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth. It all starts peacefully enough with the delicate acoustic guitar and piano intro of “Persephone”. The jazzy groove of the title track then starts up before a massively heavy guitar riff kicks in at around a minute in, ushering in Mikael Åkerfeldt’s clean vocals. Death metal vocals are heard less and less with Opeth as the years go by but amongst the lighter moments that adorn their material these days there are still plenty of crushingly heavy passages.

Although only two of the album’s thirteen tracks made the setlist for the band’s Wembley show last year – the title track and “The Wilde Flowers” – the rest of the record is certainly strong enough to be included alongside their classic material, with my favourites including “Chrysalis”, “Era” and the brilliant “Strange Brew”.

10. Skuggsjá “A Piece For Mind & Mirror”

Skuggsjá – A Piece For Mind & Mirror

“…you would perhaps expect Skuggsjá’s music to sound like a cross between Enslaved and Wardruna, given who the creative forces behind the project are. Bjørnson contributes vocals, guitars, bass and keyboards whilst Selvik provides vocals, taglharpa, Kravik-lyre, goat-horn, birch-bark lure, bone-flute, percussion and electronics.

This is a unique sounding album, taking the best of the two composers’ day jobs and coming up with something distinctively different, even from one track to the next. The running order is beautifully balanced and the whole thing is evocative and uplifting, a superb album from start to finish…”

So there we have it. My favourite ten albums released in 2016. Honourable mentions should be made to records that nearly made the grade, which include All Saints “Red Flag”), Big Big Train (“Folklore”), Seth Lakeman (“Ballads Of The Broken Few), Megadeth (“Dystopia”), Merry Hell (“Bloodlines) and Winterfylleth (“The Dark Hereafter”). A less than honourable mention, however, must go to Meat Loaf for his “Braver Than We Are” album which recycles old Jim Steinman numbers (including lines later used for Bonnie Tyler’s hit “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” which just sound odd re-used in this context) as sung by a legendary performer who just doesn’t seem to be able to sing anymore. Not one that will get many repeat plays around here I’m afraid, and this review sadly sums it up very well.

OK, I’ll get back to individual album reviews shortly, with releases from Wolcensmen, Thunder, Snakecharmer, Quinn Sullivan, Fen, Mostly Autumn and the lovely Imelda May on rotation at the moment…

Wild

joanne-shaw-taylor-wild

Joanne Shaw Taylor
Joanne Shaw Taylor

Sometimes I hear a record and it instantly connects, others take a while to kind of sink in and improve with repeated listens. Then there are the albums that somehow manage to do both – they’re immediately gratifying and yet continue to get better with each listen. English blues singer / guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor‘s latest album “Wild” is definitely one of the latter.

Joanne Shaw Taylor - The Dirty Truth
Joanne Shaw Taylor – The Dirty Truth

I’ve enjoyed Taylor’s work from the off, with the release of her debut album “White Sugar” (2009) showcasing a natural smoky voice and some mean guitar riffs and solos. Each subsequent album has shown improvement from the one before, up to 2014’s “The Dirty Truth”.

Kevin Shirley
Kevin Shirley

The end of September saw “Wild” hit the shelves. The record was produced by Kevin Shirley, a man known for his excellent production work with artists such as Iron Maiden, Journey, Black Country Communion and (most relevantly) Joe Bonamassa. Shirley has worked hand-in-hand with Bonamassa on every album that the bluesman has recorded since 2006’s “You & Me”, a period of time that has seen the artist’s success and popularity grow massively. It makes sense, then, that a similar musician like Taylor would benefit from Shirley’s expertise.

Joanne Shaw Taylor
Joanne Shaw Taylor

The decision to use the producer for “Wild” has certainly been beneficial. Shirley stated that with regard to the album “…if you’re not blown away, I’ll give you your money back!…” Well, on the evidence of what I’ve heard there are no major worries of him having to put his hand into his pocket too many times, I’d say.

Joanne Shaw Taylor - Dyin' To Know
Joanne Shaw Taylor – Dyin’ To Know

The album kicks off with the short and sweet “Dyin’ To Know”, which builds from a simple guitar riff and vocal line (to my ears Taylor’s voice sounds more assured than on previous albums) into a full-blown band number and features quick bursts of stellar soloing too.

Greg Morrow
Greg Morrow

The backing musicians on the record are Nashville-based and, as with the Nashville studio in which they recorded, were picked by Shirley.

Michael Rhodes
Michael Rhodes

Greg Morrow provides some solid drumming, bass is from Michael Rhodes, keyboard textures as from the hands of Steve Nathan and additional guitars by Rob McNelley.

Steve Nathan
Steve Nathan

Morrow and Rhodes performed on Joe Bonamassa’s latest studio album, along with backing singers Mahalia Barnes, Juanita Tippins and Jade McRae (also all present on “Wild”).

Rob McNelley
Rob McNelley

McNelley’s fretwork can also be heard on, amongst others, “Cosmic Hallelujah” by Kenny Chesney (again with Morrow and Rhodes), whilst Nathan’s keyboards (and yet again Morrow’s drums) are featured on Cyndi Lauper’s “Detours” album. So, just a glimpse of the pedigree of the musicians involved in the making of Taylor’s fifth studio album.

Mahalia Barnes, Jade MacRae & Juanita Tippins
Mahalia Barnes, Jade MacRae & Juanita Tippins

The undoubted star of the show, though, is the one whose name adorns the cover. Whether it’s on the mid-paced strut of “Ready To Roll”, the fantastic cover of “Wild Is The Wind” (even better than David Bowie’s in my opinion), the up-tempo and funky “Wanna Be My Lover”, the delicate and heartfelt “I Wish I Could Wish You Back”, rocker “Nothin’ To Lose” or the closing gorgeous reading of the George Gershwin classic “Summertime” both her soulful voice and perfectly-judged guitar parts shine through.

Joanne Shaw Taylor
Joanne Shaw Taylor

Sure there are sonic and style comparisons that can be made to Bonamassa’s recent work but – 1. that’s no bad thing as his stuff is also excellent, 2. that’s was always the case as both are working within the blues genre and 3. there is more than enough of Taylor’s personality stamped all over this record to make it recognisably her work rather than some Bonamassa-lite or something.

Joanne Shaw Taylor
Joanne Shaw Taylor

Whilst I love various forms of metal and rock – black, progressive, doom, etc., as well as other genres such as pop, country and folk, I have always loved blues and blues rock. Early touchstones for me included the late great Gary Moore and Stevie Ray Vaughan and over time I have grown to enjoy the work of many great blues artists. Much as I think Joe Bonamassa is a modern-day blues great I believe that with this simply superb record Joanne Shaw Taylor – an inspired and inspiring musician – deserves her place amongst the greats. Fabulous stuff which, as I mentioned earlier, gets better each time I listen to it. Highly recommended…joanne-shaw-taylor-btm

“Wild” tracklist:

1. Dyin’ To Know / 2. Ready To Roll / 3. Get You Back / 4. No Reason To Stay / 5. Wild Is The Wind / 6. Wanna Be My Lover / 7. I’m In Chains / 8. I Wish I Could Wish You Back / 9. My Heart’s Got A Mind Of Its Own / 10. Nothin’ To Lose / 11. Summertime

My Guitar Lies Bleeding In My Arms

Back in December 2014 I declared that “The Drums Are Back!” and waxed lyrical about how I was looking forward to my journey back behind the kit.

Well, fast forward fifteen months or so and I have to hold my hands up and admit I made a mistake. As great as the electronic drum kit was – and it was a superb tool to play along to tracks from my music collection – I found that as time passed I became frustrated by the relative restrictions of being a drummer. Sure, you can play drum solos and ad-lib to pre-recorded music rather than following the recording, but not having any way of playing alongside other real life musicians meant that after a while it all began to get rather boring.

Roland TD-11K
Roland TD-11K

The simple truth is that although I am a far better drummer than I ever was as a guitarist I realised that I actually got more pleasure from playing the guitar, no matter how limited my skill may have been.

Son number two has a natural affinity for the guitar, and his progress has been superb to hear (even if I’d rather not hear it at times, such as when I can’t hear the TV over his playing!) and that, combined with the above and the usual mooch around the local music shop when my mate comes over meant that I knew what had to be done.

So, it was a case of goodbye electronic drums – sold to an enthusiastic returning player (after a decade away from drumming) from near London who wasn’t able to have an acoustic kit in his new home – and hello new guitar.

Much thought and research went into my chosen instrument. Having had a Strat copy, Epiphone Les Paul and, most recently, a Squier Telecaster what make and model should I go for?

20160317_161446
Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plus Top Pro

In the end the tones and simple good looks of the Les Paul won out, and this week I took delivery of my Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plus Top Pro, finished in cherry sunburst – and what a beautiful instrument it is! It came with a very nice hard case at no extra cost too.

Vox VXI
Vox VXI

Alongside the guitar I have invested in a nice little practice amp, the Vox VXI, which is a programmable modelling amp with eleven amp models and eight effects built-in. Some really good sounds come out of the fairly small package, that’s for sure.

This time around, though, I am determined to actually learn to play the thing to the best of my ability – whatever level that may be. I’m not expecting to hit the levels of some of my favourite Les Paul players, such as Joe Bonamassa, Gary Moore, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Page etc. etc., but want to be able to play bluesy rock to a reasonable standard, and be able to jam with other musicians too!

So, alongside my usual leisure diet of music listening, book reading and film watching (not to mention getting back into the saddle MTB-wise once I get my fitness levels back after a long lay-off through illness) will be a concerted effort to learn the guitar. The guitar may not bleed in my arms, but I suspect my fingertips will bleed before too long! Time to start building up those calluses…

2010 – My Top Ten Albums Of The Year

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”

Alter Bridge - AB III
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”

Black Country Communion - Black Country Communion
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”

The Black Crowes - Croweology
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”

Cathedral - The Guessing Game
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 & The Nocturnals - Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
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”

Imelda May - Mayhem
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”

Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
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”

Joe Bonamassa - Black Rock
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”

Mostly Autumn - Go Well Diamond Heart
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”

Saint Jude - Diary Of A Soul Fiend
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″…