Category Archives: Home

The Cassette Chronicles – Rush’s ‘Moving Pictures’

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

RUSH – MOVING PICTURES (1981)

It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday our friend, soul brother and band mate of over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incredibly brave three and a half year battle with brain cancer (Glioblastoma). We ask that friends, fans, and media alike understandably respect the family’s need for privacy and peace at this extremely painful and difficult time. Those wishing to express their condolences can choose a cancer research group or charity of their choice and make a donation in Neil Peart’s name.

Rest in peace brother.

Neil Peart September 12, 1952 – January 7, 2020

The above statement was released on Friday January 10th, 2020 and it sent shock waves through the music world as fellow musicians and fans worldwide were stunned by the death of Neil Peart. Of course, it wasn’t just that the husband, father and drummer for the band Rush had passed away, but that so very few people even knew that he’d been sick with brain cancer. But I guess that was by design and intent, summed up by a song on the very album I’m writing about in this article.

I wasn’t originally going to be writing about a Rush album this week, but I kind of felt compelled to do so because of Peart’s passing.

There has always seemed to me a schism in how music fans have felt about Rush. You have the diehards who can’t get enough of the band. To them, Rush is the be all, end all of music. Then you have those who for a myriad of reasons, just don’t like them at all.

I suppose that I can understand each side. But I’m somewhere in the middle. For me, in the most general of terms, Rush has always been a “radio band” to me. That’s the phrase I use for bands that I love hearing on the radio but don’t really feel overly compelled to buy their albums. Or if I do buy their music, it is on a very limited basis. I hear Rush all the time on 94 HJY out of Providence, Rhode Island. And whenever they play a song, I love to hear it. The band’s “hits” are damn good and invite repeated listening.

But for whatever reason, I’ve never been a diehard. I didn’t see them in concert and I’d only bought a couple of their albums (on cassette). When I first discovered the idea of concept albums, it was releases by Queensryche and Iron Maiden that fueled my fire for that style. When I found out Rush had done one with 2112, I bought it. Of course, maybe I’m just not smart enough to appreciate what they did on that album but sadly, I found it impenetrable for me. I also had the Presto album which was purchased because I really liked the song “Show Don’t Tell”. Unfortunately, neither album still has a home in my music collection.

So it was off to the record shop where I knew I could pick up a Rush cassette to be the focus of today’s piece. I’ll admit that I kind of took the easy way out by picking Moving Pictures because it was stocked with three huge hits for the band.

(Let me add that I fully realize that whatever I write from this point forward, I know it is a case of most people thinking “No Shit, Sherlock” regarding my impressions)

The seven track album runs just over 40 minutes but there’s a whole lot of musicality packed into every second of its run time.

Side One is top heavy with three killer classics, but before I talk about those I want to mention the other song on this side first. “YYZ” is an instrumental and I think it will shock no one that I haven’t heard it before. Like I said, I’m a hits on the radio fan for the most part. I think that my lack of musical ability tends to affect my ability to appreciate most instrumental works as well. But I have to say that I came away pretty invigorated by “YYZ”. There’s plenty of spotlight moments for guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist Geddy Lee as well as Neil Peart. Of course, it doesn’t surprise me that when they are all melding into one sound that the song is at its best. It was a nice discovery to make.

As for the hits, what can I say that is new to anyone regarding “Tom Sawyer”? That’s right…nothing. It is just a flat out great song and has definitely earned its place in any best of Rush list.

“Red Barchetta” did provide me a bit of a surprise believe it or not. I’ve heard the song an ungodly amount of times but that familiarity kind of blurred the lyrics for me. As I listened to it for this article, it dawned on me that it was all about a wild drive in a car. I looked up the story behind the song and it was pretty fascinating. I think that I’ll be listening to the song with a different appreciation from now on.

Before I talk about what I consider my favorite song on the album (and probably my favorite Rush song period), let’s skip to Side Two first. Let me just say that I just didn’t really find “The Camera Eye” or “Witch Hunt” to be my cup of tea. But I was pretty happy to find myself enjoying “Vital Signs” a whole bunch.

Okay, back to the album centerpiece (my opinion) song. “Limelight” is the closing track on Side One and it is a musical and lyrical showcase. Peart’s thoughts and feelings about the band’s increasing fame set to music ironically only served to increase the band’s fame because this song is such an all-time classic. It also helps that Geddy Lee’s vocal for the song was particularly inspired. Neil wrote it, Lee “sold” it and Lifeson plays a hell of a solo on it.

I don’t know if this is an overreaction to Neil Peart’s death or not but I like that I gained an appreciation for one of the band’s albums regardless of the initial prompt to do so. Whether it will further key me up to do a deeper dive into the band’s music, I don’t know. But I’d like to think that it would. It is sad that it would take the death of one of the band members to do that but having a fuller appreciation of the depth of loss felt by those who have worshipped the band’s music for decades can’t be a bad thing.

In “Limelight”, Peart wrote the following:

” Living in a fisheye lens

Caught in the camera eye

I have no heart to lie

I can’t pretend a stranger

Is a long awaited friend”

I get what he was saying with that line, but I think that I can say that by discovering a love of the Moving Pictures album, I can see why Rush fans would reverse those last two lines on him at this time. Their shared love of the music Peart was involved in creating with Lee and Lifeson made him seem more friend than stranger. So I can see why those diehard fans like Limelight Magazine’s own Jay Kenney would have, upon hearing that Peart had died, “felt a shadow cross their heart.”

NOTES OF INTEREST: KNAC.COM aired a three hour block of Rush music on Sunday January 12th during The Vault radio program hosted by DJ Will as a tribute to Neil Peart.

In a bit of odd timing, a friend of mine in Wisconsin named Cindy got back in touch with me after I hadn’t heard from her in a long time. She’s a huge fan of Rush, but lost everything including her Rush music collection in a recent apartment fire. During that trip to the record shop to get the Moving Pictures cassette, I picked up a CD editions of the first Rush album and the Rush in Rio live album to send her as she begins to re-assemble her collection.

Filming Location Spotlight – “House” (1985)

On the second and fourth Friday of every month in 2020, Limelight Magazine will spotlight the filming location site(s) we visited for some of our favorite (and not so favorite) films. Today we spotlight the filming location for the 1985 movie House which was directed by Steve Miner. The top photo is a screen shot taken from the movie while the photo underneath is what the location looks like today.

The house from this movie is located at 329 Melrose Avenue in Monrovia, CA. When we visited this location, the street was under construction. We attempted to move the recycling bin in front of the house for the photo but the police officer directing traffic would not let us do so. He did allow us to take the photo from our rental car.

 

The Cassette Chronicles – David Lee Roth’s ‘A Little Ain’t Enough’

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

DAVID LEE ROTH – A LITTLE AIN’T ENOUGH (1991)

It’s funny how things turn out sometimes. I picked this album out of The Big Box of Cassettes and even though I hadn’t listened to it yet, I kind of started writing a potential opening to this article in my head.

However, I really had to throw that out once I listened to the album. The reason for that is because most of what I was going to say by way of introduction had to be eliminated or at least changed up a bit.

While I have listened to David Lee Roth sing as part of Van Halen for years, I have to say that I was never a member of the Cult of Dave. He was a great frontman, that’s not in question. But I just never thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread like so many other fans would likely say. And as he aged, the stuff that made him a legend became more cartoonish and sad to me.

As for his solo music, I’d heard the various songs that got played on the radio, but the only album I ever bought was the Skyscraper release. That had the big “Just Like Paradise” hit on it and I liked that album well enough. But I’d never bothered with any of his other albums, so listening to A Little Ain’t Enough for this article was also the first time I’d heard anything besides the title track.

Let’s just say I didn’t have high expectations.

And wow did I get a wildly rude awakening! Seriously, this is a such a freaking fantastic album that if I was a Looney Tunes cartoon character my eyes would be bugging out of my head and my jaw would’ve hit the ground like an anvil.

The title song opens up the 12-track album and it is still rather exciting to hear. I think I heard it recently on the Dee Snider radio show “The House of Hair” so that might be why I remember it so keenly now. Either way, it is a really rocking number that sets the stage for the rest of the album.

The thing that I had somehow forgotten is that this album featured Jason Becker on lead guitar. I remember that he had been in the band but not what period that was in Roth’s solo career. Looking at the songwriting credits, I did find it odd that he only had just two co-writing credits though (More on Becker in the Notes of Interest section).

Truth be told, the credited band lineup for the album was pretty intriguing. Steve Hunter (from The Alice Cooper Band), Brett Tuggle and both Matt and Gregg Bissonette. They all had songwriting credits in various combinations as well.

Still, that couldn’t have really prepared me for what was to follow the album’s title cut. Let me just get it out of the way now, there is not a bad track on here! With six songs on each side of the cassette, Roth has what would likely be thought of in the 1980’s as a perfect album to put on at a party.

The majority of the music is of the fast paced and crackling with electricity rockers but on a couple of songs (“Tell The Truth” and “Sensible Shoes”), Roth and Co. get impressively bluesy.

As I said, I like every song on this album. I bounced from one cut to the next with a very charged feeling to hear what was next. I suppose I was also waiting for a song to come on that I didn’t like so that I could say, “Ah! This Sucks!”, but I gave up on that by the time Side One finished.

I loved the Side One song “Hammerhead Shark” a lot, but I was really blown away by the Side Two track “It’s Showtime!” which was one of the two tracks that Jason Becker co-wrote. It’s is so relentlessly paced that I wondered how Roth kept up the rapid fire pace with his vocals to keep up with the music.

And that’s just a couple of tracks that I decided to spotlight in particular. But you can’t go wrong with any of the songs. You’ll find something to love with “Lady Luck”, “Shoot It”, “Last Call” and “40 Below” as well.

Normally, I might be mad to have been so thoroughly proven wrong about an artist and/or album but with the case of David Lee Roth, this album’s title proves musically prophetic because I find myself unable to get enough of this album. It’s really impressive to me and I think that once I finish writing this article, I’m going to go back and play it again!

NOTES OF INTEREST: Guitarist Jason Becker was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) a week after joining the band. While he did finish recording this album, he was unable to tour for it as his illness had progressed enough to rob him of the strength in his hands.

Guitarist Steve Hunter not only played on nine Alice Cooper albums (including the most recent one Paranormal) but he’s played with Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman and others. He’s also released seven solo albums. According to Wikipedia, he’s legally blind.

While A Little Ain’t Enough sold enough copies to achieve gold certification, it was considered the downfall of Roth’s run of success. The tour was a failure and the album went out of print in 1996 before a remastered edition was released in 2007. The title track was co-written by singer/producer Robbie Nevil, best known for the 1986 smash hit single “C’est la Vie”.

The biggest surprise to me, other than loving the album, was discovering that longtime Dio guitarist Craig Goldy co-wrote the song “Lady Luck” for the album.

 

Howard Jones to perform his ’80s hits & more at Narrows Center in Fall River, MA

Howard Jones, who is most famous for his songs “Things Can Only Get Better,” “No One Is To Blame,” “What is Love?,” and “Like To Get To Know You Well,” will make his debut performance at the Narrows Center in Fall River, MA, on March 17th. Joining him on stage will be Nick Beggs (Kajagoogoo, Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett, John Paul Jones) on chapman stick and Robin Boult (Roger Daltry, Dave Stewart, Fish) on guitar. They will perform Howard’s best-known hits, fan favorites and more. Purchase tickets HERE.

Jones has been a constant presence on the international touring scene for the past three decades, playing live in a number of different configurations including intimate solo shows and dates with his full high-tech band set-up. His new show will also provide the opportunity for the audience to hear first-hand about the inspiration behind Howard’s beloved material as well as stories from his touring career.

Jones first burst upon the contemporary music scene in 1983, with his very English songwriting and pioneering synthesizers. His first two albums HUMAN’S LIB and DREAM INTO ACTION were worldwide hits. HUMAN’S LIB reached #1 in 1984 in the UK and featured the hits “New Song,” and “What Is Love?” In 1985, Jones released the follow-up, DREAM INTO ACTION, which quickly became a Top Ten platinum album in the United States and featured the smashes: “Things Can Only Get Better,” “Life In One Day,” “No One Is To Blame,” and “Like To Get To Know You Well.” Howard Jones has sold over eight million albums worldwide and continues to make new music and tour the world.

His most recent album is TRANSFORM, his first new studio album in nearly a decade. Released in 2019 to critical acclaim, TRANSFORM features several collaborations with electronica luminary BT. Of the album, Paste avowed, “TRANSFORM is remarkably consistent to Jones’ lush brand of synthpop…a balance of what is familiar and what is innovative, new magic from old spells” while Pop Matters declared the album to contain “dazzling synth sounds, catchy melodies and introspective and life-affirming lyrics – but with a contemporary feel.”

Jones recently performed on NBC’s top-rated morning and nighttime shows respectively, Today and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. He’s excited to take his trio on the road to perform his hits, fan favorite sand new songs from TRANSFORM.

The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street. Tickets can be purchase online at narrowscenter.org or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. For those wanting to purchase tickets in person, box office hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.

The Cassette Chronicles – Queensryche’s ‘Queensryche’

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

QUEENSRYCHE – QUEENSRYCHE (E.P., 1983)

2019 was a pretty big year for Queensryche and their now ex-lead singer Geoff Tate. The band had pretty big success with their new album The Verdict, which not only got great reviews but it was named on a number of best of lists including my own personal list as well as Limelight Magazine’s Top 10 of 2019 rankings. Their tour for the album got great notices, which I agreed with when I saw their performance in Worcester, MA, early in 2019.

As for Geoff Tate, he spent the year touring behind the 30th anniversary celebration of the band’s Operation:mindcrime album. He played a two night stop in New Bedford, MA, and when I saw the first night’s show, the reports I’d heard that he sounded better than he had in years was confirmed. When I read that he was coming back to the area in 2020 to perform the albums Rage For Order and Empire, it was the first concert ticket I bought.

So when I decided to ease into this year’s Cassette Chronicles articles by featuring an EP, the original Queensryche EP was the only real choice I could make.

As I mentioned in my article on the Operation:mindcrime album last year, the EP was my first brush with the band’s music but it came at a time when I had yet to become a metal fan, so I didn’t really think much of it when I first listened to it.

Of course, that changed once I got into the band. And as I listened to this release for the article, I was kind of taken aback by just how fantastic the band sounded right out of the gate. There’s just four songs on the EP but each one gives a clue at the band’s greatness to come.

“Queen of the Reich” is one of the band’s signature songs no matter how much time passes. Besides the obvious tie with the band’s name, the racing intensity gives the track an anthemic quality while simultaneously making your pulse pound.

The next two songs are “Nightrider” and “Blinded”. I don’t think they get nearly the recognition they probably deserve. However, you’d be remiss to simply forget about them. “Nightrider” is a fast paced metallic romp that features a kind of science fiction bent to the lyrics. This is something that would later echo on the some of the material on the Rage For Order album. As for “Blinded”, the rhythmic pounding behind the kit by drummer Scott Rockenfield gave the song the heavy sound conveyed along with the attacking guitar sound. His drum work is superb throughout but it is this song which he elevates the most.

Of course, the band’s best work is saved for the closing track “The Lady Wore Black”. As the title readily implies, this is an epic track that is the band’s first brush with telling a story with both a dramatic and theatrical sense of style. It sets the stage for all the other epics they would write over the next few albums including the entirety of the Operation:mindcrime release. It’s also the song where the legend of Geoff Tate starts to form. His vocals are superb on this track in particular as he embodies the lyrics, conveying the song’s emotional heft to the listener as if this was something that he had actually experienced himself.

Truth be told, once I had begun my Queensryche fandom and had obtained all their back material, it amazed me to realize just how fully formed the band felt right from the start. Every band has a starting point and you’d be hard pressed to deny that the Queensryche EP is just about as note perfect as a band could hope to be on their first release.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The original release of the album lasts less than 18 minutes. It was first released in 1983 by 206 Records but when the band signed with EMI-America it was reissued via that later again that same year. The tour behind this release saw Queensryche open for Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister.

When the album was first issued on CD, the song “Prophecy” was included as a bonus cut. The song was recorded during the Rage For Order period. A 2003 reissue saw the audio tracks from the Queensryche VHS release Live In Tokyo added to the album. The VHS is out of print (but I have a copy of it).

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE’S TOP 10 FILMS OF 2019

Limelight Magazine viewed 77 films theatrically in 2019.  Of these films, 67 were first run, while the rest were retro screenings of horror classics such as Jaws and Halloween 2. While this decade contained some of the best films in cinematic history, 2019 had the most films that were consistently solid.  As with any list, we have not screened every film released in 2019, including Stars Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Pain and Glory and 1917. We plan to see those films at the start of the new year.

In reflecting back on the highlights of 2019, these were our top 10 favorites followed by an honorable mention list. Rather than go into detail about each film, we’re only going to list them so you can discover these movies for yourself. (Disclaimer: This list is based on films I’ve seen as of Dec. 31, 2019. It could be adjusted in the future as I view other films from 2019 in early 2020).

  1. The Joker

2. Parasite

3. The Nightingale

4. Us

5. Doctor Sleep

6. The Nighshifter

7. Midsommar

8. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood

9. Uncut Gems

10. Happy Death Day 2U

Honorable Mentions (11-20)

11. Freaks
12. Glass
13. Richard Jewell
14. Little Women
15. Yesterday
16. Luce
17. Climax
18. Rust Creek
19. Knives Out
20. Bombshell

 

 

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE’S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2019

It’s that time of year where Limelight Magazine ranks its top 10 albums of the year.  We listened to over 250 studio albums that were released in 2019 and these records left the biggest impact on us. We highly recommend checking them out.

1. Korn – The Nothing

If you told me that Korn would release one of the best albums of their career in 2019, I would have likely rolled my eyes. After recording a series of hit or miss albums with The Path of Totality, The Paradigm Shift and The Serenity of Suffering, I had little excitement to buy The Nothing. However, in keeping with a tradition that goes back to 2002 with their Untouchables album, I purchased The Nothing at Newbury Comics on its release day and it’s been playing on repeat ever since. This album fires on all cylinders with every song delivering the goods. This is one of the darkest and heaviest albums of Korn’s 25 year career and it’s my favorite to date. The songs deal with grief, suffering and loss and Jonathan Davis sings them with pure raw emotion, showing some of his best vocal skills on a Korn album. Furthermore, the guitar work of “Head” and “Munky” is top notch and the rhythm section of “Fieldy” on bass and Ray Luzier on drums is some of their most intricate work. It should be noted that while I own every album in Korn’s discography, they are not one of my favorite bands nor would they even rank in my top 25 artists so for this album to top our annual list should tell our readers just how good it is. (Standout Tracks: “Idiosyncrasy” and “H@rd3r”).

  1. Dream Theater – Distance Over Time

After Dream Theater’s last studio album, The Astonishing, polarized many of its fans, I was curious what direction the band would take on their next release. When I heard the band had decided to record this record in a “farmhouse” studio converted from a barn in upstate New York, my interest piqued even more. The result is the best album Dream Theater recorded since Mike Portnoy left the band. In fact, you could call Distance Over Time a return to form after The Astonishing. The nine songs are more organic and straight forward than anything they’ve recorded in quite some time, allowing the band to showcase their jaw dropping technical skills. To quote one reviewer on Amazon who echoed our sentiments perfectly, Distance Over Time is “heavy, melodic, emotional and goes surprising places musically.” This is a must for any Dream Theater but may appeal to those who want to check out their music for the first time. (Standout Tracks: “Paralyzed” and “Fall Into The Light”).

 3. Collective Soul – Blood

If there is one word that can be used to describe Collective Soul, it’s reliable. Over the past 25 years, the Atlanta-based band has consistently released solid albums, pleasing their fanbase in the process. I don’t think Collective Soul knows how to put out a mediocre album. Given that, Blood is arguably the band’s strongest record to date and finest since Youth (2004). All 10 songs are melody driven and contain catchy hooks and nice arrangements. Rather than rest on their laurels, the band also experiments on some tracks. The piano on “Them Blues” is a nice touch, making it one the most unique songs on the entire album. Yet, it works perfectly for them. In this age of social media, you know when a band releases a good album by the fan reaction. The day Blood came out there was near unanimous approval on the band’s Facebook page without the typical snide comments. Congratulations to Collective Soul on their 25th anniversary and for always releasing great music. This is one of the few bands that have never disappointed me. (Standout Tracks: “Crushed” and “Changed”).

  1. Tool – Fear Inoculum

After 13 years, Tool finally released a new studio album in 2019 and it’s everything I had hoped it would be. While the physical CD only contains seven songs, all of them are over 10 minutes long, with the exception of the short instrumental “Chocolate Chip Trip” that reminded me of something Goblin would have recorded in the 70s. The band, which consists of vocalist Maynard James Keenan., guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor and drummer Danny Carey, are in fine form, creating some of their most complex, multilayered music to date. Of the four band members, Carey’s drumming truly stands out, showing why many drum and music magazines cite him as one of the greatest modern drummers in progressive rock. Fear Inocolum may not win over any new fans but it is a solid addition to Tool’s discography. I just hope they don’t take so long to record their next album. (Standout Tracks: “Invincible” and “Pneuma”).

  1. Berlin – Transcendance

Earlier this year, Limelight Magazine counted down its favorite non-metal/hair/progressive rock bands of the ‘80s and Berlin ranked No. 2. The band has released seven studio albums since their debut, Information, in 1980. However, most fans consider the two albums featuring Terri Nunn, John Crawford and David Diamond (Pleasure Victim and Love Life) to be their finest. While I liked their 2013 release Animal very much, I was excited when I heard the core lineup of Nunn, Crawford and Diamond were reuniting to record and release a new album this year. Entitled Transcendance, this marks the first record with the core members in 35 years and it was well worth the wait. The new songs range in style from new wave to electronic pop with some modern twists thrown in. The lyrics are very introspective on Transcendance and Nunn’s vocals are better than ever. Surprisingly, there was a re-recording of their classic “Sex (I’m A…)” and I enjoyed the industrial edge that distinguished it from the original. My only hope is the band stays together and keeps recording in the studio. (Standout Tracks: “Show Me Tonight” and “I Want You”).

6. Queensryche – The Verdict

When The Verdict was released earlier this year, I had no idea what I would think of it. If you had told me that the album would make me review it by saying it was a “razor sharp blend of musicianship and vocal prowess that shows the band at its finest” or that Queensryche was rather “boldly taking a turn for the heavier and darker aspects of their sound and songwriting,” I might’ve thought you were putting me on a little.

As the band has released new material through the years with singer Todd La Torre on vocals, they have steadily gotten better and better. I say this because I have found my own personal fandom had faded more than a little before the epic split of the band. Little by little, that fandom has come back to the point where I was not only eagerly anticipating the release of this album, but wanted to see them in concert again (something I also got to do this year).

When all is said and done with this album, the final judgement will be that The Verdict is an insanely great album that showcases a renewed and refurbished Queensryche that has shaken off their collective demons and put out an album that earns its place as one of their career-defining releases. (Standout Tracks: “Man The Machine” and “Dark Reverie”) – Jay Roberts

  1. Tesla – Shock

While Tesla’s eighth studio album, Shock, has polarized some fans because it’s much different than what they have done in the past, we actually applaud the band for taking this approach. The 12 songs on Shock were produced and co-written by Phil Collen (of Del Leppard). And yes, many songs have a Def Leppard sound to them, but it is still a Tesla album. Songs such as “The Mission” and “Tied to the Tracks” are gritty and stand alongside anything the band has recorded in the past. The rest of the album is slick and well crafted and would be getting tons of airplay if it were the late 80s or early 90s. Although Shock isn’t as strong as their last release, Simplicity (which was our top album of 2014), it’s still a solid entry in their discography. (Standout Tracks: “The Mission” and “We Can Rule the World”).

  1. Flower Kings – Waiting for Miracles

Although The Flower Kings formed in 1994, they have kept the spirit of 70s progressive rock music alive for the past 25 years. On this year’s double album, Waiting for Miracles, the band returns with a revamped lineup (Zach Kamins replaces Tomas Bodin on keyboards and Mirko DeMaio replaces Felix Lehrmann on drums) and doesn’t miss a beat. Interestingly, the songs are more concise than in the past with none exceeding 10-minutes. However, the 15 tracks that make up Waiting for Miracles are stellar and remind me of classic Yes material during their peak period in the 70s. While it’s been six year’s since their last release, the time off enabled the band to recharged their creative juices with another epic release that should please their loyal fan base and prog rock listeners. (Standout Tracks: “Miracles for America” and “Ascending to the Stars”).

  1. Jeff Lynne’s ELO – From Out Of Nowhere

The mastermind behind Electric Light Orchestra returns with his second studio album since resurrecting the ELO moniker. Like the last album, Across the Universe (2015), the insanely talented Lynne plays every instrument on From Out Of Nowhere except piano on the song “One More Time.” Richard Tandy, who is featured on every ELO album except No Answer, handles his duties perfectly on that song. The rest of nine songs are well-crafted and have Lynne’s signature production stamp on them. Although the album is short, clocking in at less than 33 minutes, there is no filler and Lynne shows he hasn’t lost his touch at 71 years old. (Standout Tracks: “From Out Of Nowhere” and “Time Of Our Life”).

10 [tie]. 7 Miles to Pittsburgh – Revolution on Hold

When 7 Miles to Pittsburgh announced they were recording their second studio album, I was wondering how it would compare to their stellar debut in 2017. While I was worried this Dutch-based band would face the so-called “sophomore slump,” Revolution on Hold eased my fears immediately after the first listen. Whereas their debut album was a straight-forward rocker, this album contains hints of progressive rock that would make fans of early Deep Purple proud. Certainly, the band’s expansion from a trio to a quintet impacted their sound on this release, but it helped take 7 Miles to Pittsburgh to soaring new heights on Revolution on Hold’s nine tracks. (Standout Tracks: “Olympus” & “Think”).

10 [tie]. Hammerfall – Dominion

There are two artists on this year’s top 10 list that never disappoint and power metal band Hammerfall is one of them. For over two decades, Hammerfall have consistently recorded solid metal albums from start to finish. Their eleventh studio album, Dominion, is no different. Consisting of 12 tracks, the songs range in style from the hard and heavy (“Bloodline”) to even a power ballad (“And Yet I Smile”). Joacim Cams singing is once again top notch and the guitar solos by Oscar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren are as catchy as ever. In short, there’s something on this album for just about every metal fan. And if you’ve never seen the band in concert, be sure to check them out at The Palladium in Worcester, Mass., on October 16, 2020. (Standout Tracks: “Dominion” & “Testify”).