Classic Rock Magazine's 50 Best Albums of 2017 so far
We're halfway through 2017 and it's been a bumper year for rock music. Here's the 50 albums that have thrilled our ears the most so far...
2017 has been another year of departure. Amongst those heading off to join the great gig in the ski have been Chris Cornell, Gregg Allman, J. Geils, the Trans Siberian Orchestra's Paul O'Neill, Chuck Berry, David Axelrod, John Wetton and Butch Trucks.
It's also been a year of rejuvenation. Roger Waters came back with his strongest work in years. So did Deep Purple. Former Replacement Tommy Stinson released the first album by Bash & Pop in a generation. And Rich Robinson breathed life back into the Black Crowes carcass with the launch of The Magpie Salute's first album.
And it's been a year in which Ray Davies showed that songwriting talent doesn't fade with age, Styx came up with their best album in decades, and Inglorious continued to mine rock's glorious past to preserve its future.
Here are our 50 best albums of 2017 so far, in alphabetical order...
Aaron Buchanan And The Cult Classics - The Man With Stars On His Knees
"The 26-year-old has been through the emotional wringer, but his response is to come back fighting. He’s helped by a new band playing lean, hard, melodic grunge, while incorporating glam’s brighter swagger. The title track’s guitar solo especially bows down to Brian May, with harmonies that let the sunlight into an otherwise thunderous record."
Aaron Keylock - Cut Against The Grain
"The maturity of the songwriting might be the most remarkable aspect of an album where slide-lick-stoked beauties (the title track and the optimism-packed incantatory release of Sun’s Gonna Shine) and properly rigorous dynamics (All The Right Moves) hold sway."
All Them Witches - Sleeping Through The War
"Stoner rock is crying out for an overhaul. Thankfully, All Them Witches are taking it apart and piecing it back together again. Not for them the slavish Iommi worship of your average bong-huffing longhairs. The Nashville band’s fourth album parties like it’s 1969 and 2019, looking forward to the future as much as it does backwards over a well-trodden past."
Anathema - The Optimist
"As with most of Anathema’s records, this is one that fans of Elbow and Radiohead would love every bit as much as fans of Opeth or Marillion. The trick now is to get people to listen to the fucking thing."
Bash & Pop - Anything Could Happen
"From the jubilant Unfuck You via the delightfully lackadaisical Can’t Be Bothered to the tiny snatch of Jingle Bells that enlightens the tail of the otherwise entirely grim Christmas blues Anytime Soon, Anything Can Happen is an absolute delight."
Benjamin Booker - Witness
"First single Right On You is a fatalistic grab at life, resembling some long-lost jam between T.Rex, Television and Neu!, while Off The Ground turns on a sixpence from a desolate piano folk ballad into a glam-fuzz teenage rampage."
Beth Blade & The Beautiful Disasters - Bad Habit
"Taking a leaf out of the Joan Jett/Lita Ford school of chick rock, Cardiffbased Beth Blade and her Beautiful Disasters have done their homework."
Big Big Train - Grimspound
"Sensitively scored with their usual deft mix of prog, folk and rock, BBT hit their sleevenotes’ conceptual sweet spot (where “Romanticism and Enlightenment” meet), while drawing from their customary emotional wellspring too."
Biters - The Future Ain't What It Used To Be
"Make no mistake, Biters are a great rock band. They look the part, they act the part, Tuk is a proper star, and they can toss off tunes as easily as Gordon Ramsay plates crab cakes: Back To Georgia and Hollywood are both masterful ballads."
Black Star Riders - Heavy Fire
"What makes this such a damn fine record is that the band never allow themselves to get bogged down in minutiae; it’s the big picture which counts. And with Heavy Fire Black Star Riders have the boldness to fire up the turbines and let nature take its course."
Cheap Trick - We're All Alright
"The energy levels are astounding too, with producer Julian Raymond extracting a sonic attack that makes Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander, Tom Petersson and Daxx Nielsen sound like they’ve been locked in an industrial hangar with a bunch of AK-47s."
Chuck Berry - Chuck
"On Chuck, dedicated to his longsuffering wife of 68 years, Themetta ‘Toddy’ Suggs, Berry tries to put things right in his old age, starting with lowslung opener Wonderful Woman, while reaffirming his position as rock’s original messenger. "
Deep Purple - InFinite
"InFinite definitely won’t disappoint fans of classic Purple. It’s a feast of wanton organ and quasi-classical keyboard curlicues, bolstering bass from Roger Glover and percussive surges courtesy of Paice. Gillan, meanwhile, is in grand over-the-top form, trying a little too hard, perhaps, to keep up with the heavy metal kids, effing and blinding throughout. "
Dragonforce - Reaching Into Infinity
"There are pop smarts amid the silliness – you’re never more than a minute or two away from an epic chorus, whether that’s the arms-aloft anthemic Judgement Day or the poker-faced power balladry of Silence.
faUSt - Fresh Air
"Recorded in various locations during a 28-day tour in March/April 2016, this album represents the finest work from the Jean Hervé- Péron/Zappi Diermaier version of Faust in years."
Goldray - Rising
"Woozy organ, burbling phaser and tape effects swim through the mix, and on the brown-acid mind-expander Calling Your Name, Goldray announce themselves as a band with big ideas."
Gov't Mule - Revolution Come... Revolution Go
"The deep soul that Haynes has been mining on some of his solo albums has been brought into the Mule paddock with The Man I Want To Be and Easy Times, along with the more sprightly Sarah Surrender, which has, dare one say it, a Hall & Oates feel."
Hawkwind - Into The Woods
"By the astral boogie of Magic Scenes and chugging insistence of Wood Nymph, you’ll be seduced, ‘silent tendrils of the mist’ and all. Magic Mushroom is the nine-minute blowout, a protean swirl of organ and guitars, where rock meets trance."
Hunter & The Bear - Paper Heart
"This British guitar-driven quartet’s stirring rock is the perfect tonic for jaded palates. Their controlled power and intensity hits all the right spots and is going to sound good in arenas if and when they get there."
Inglorious - II
"Nathan James’s vocals have a remarkable knack of sounding like Glenn Hughes, David Coverdale and, on occasion – Hell Or High Water – Graham Bonnet when he was fronting MSG. It’s quite the feat."
Jah Wobble & The Invaders Of The Heart - The Usual Suspects
"There’s jazz-level musicianship throughout, and yet, crowd pleaser that he is, Wobble never ceases to entertain. As a live date, they’re staggeringly good and The Usual Suspects effectively duplicates the dancehall experience for armchair skankers."
Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind - Super Natural
"Jim Jones’s speciality lies in providing soundtracks for end times, and with The Righteous Mind in tow, he’s fired up a funeral pyre of rare intensity."
Low Cut Connie - Dirty Pictures (Part 1)
"If Jerry Lee Lewis had been born four decades later and a thousand miles north-east, he might have produced the kind of gutsy piano boogie that this East Coast quintet specialise in."
Mark Lanegan Band - Gargoyle
"Blessed with a tar-thick and nicotine-stained baritone growl that oozes experience and a life fully lived, there’s a convincing argument to be made that Mark Lanegan could make even a kebab shop menu sound compelling."
Mastodon - Emperor Of Sand
"Each song is a protest song against the inevitable End. Andromeda, for example, sounds like each band member trying to pile down the same hole at once with full kit in tow."
Night Ranger - Don't Let Up
"Don’t Let Up offers few surprises, though that was never the intention. Consistency remains Night Ranger’s watchword, something that repeated spins enhances."
Paul Weller - A Kind Revolution
"At an age when most artists are keener to trudge up and down the nostalgia circuit, making albums that even they don’t want to listen to, Paul Weller is enjoying an enviable creative resurgence. Let’s hope it never stops."
Pond - The Weather
"Edge Of The World pt 1 contemplates migrating to more inviting corners of the universe, then again, opener 30000 Megatons, which suggests we deserve nuclear destruction over a slow-building Krautrock pulse, also notes, ‘If I was the man in the moon I wouldn’t let us in’.
Pride Of Lions - Fearless
"Post-Survivor – he left them in 1996 – Jim Peterik and vocal sidekick Toby Hitchcock have carved a 14-year career as Pride Of Lions. Their fifth studio set is crammed with songs that only Peterik could have written. In some ways he’s the Jim Steinman of melodic rock, his pompousness immediately recognisable."
Procul Harum - Novum
"What’s equally impressive is the might of Brooker’s voice, which has lost none of its vigour in the 50 years since he first skipped the light fandango."
Rainbow - Live in Birmingham 2016
"Blackmore has lost none of his mojo and any fears that he might be taking the piss, as is his wont, evaporate as soon he fires his opening salvo..."
Ray Davies - Americana
"The news is good though: Davies is in terrific, matchless voice, his storied career standing up to a sprawling treatment without too much drag."
Roger Waters - Is This The Life We Really Want?
"It’s almost like he’s got Disgust Tourette’s: there are ‘shits’ and ‘fucks’ liberally splattered over the lyrics, as though he can’t contain his contempt. But it’s artfully done."
Royal Blood - How Did We Get So Dark?
"This record pumps Royal Blood forward without diluting their strengths. They might have to tweak something next time around, but by then they could well be the biggest young rock band in the world."
Royal Thunder - Wick
"WICK is the peak of their career thus far – a rich, well-paced hybrid of heavy Led Zeppelin hoodoo, Fleetwood Mac romance (but harder and darker) and raw emotion."
Sepultura - Machine Messiah
"So while there’s enough thrash and power metal to satisfy bestial tastes, there’s also considerable progressive affectations, owing much to Iron Maiden, Rush and even Yes."
Sharks - Killers Of The Deep
"Time has wrought changes on Sharks’ sounds, and now their rock is more melodic, but it’s very effective. From the jittery Music Break Out to the very catchy Ya Ya Pop, this is a smart, shiny collection and a surprising return."
Sheryl Crow - Be Myself
"The record oozes confidence and spunky attitude – a far cry from her more recent country records "
Steel Panther - Lower The Bar
"Panther are essentially a stand‑up comedy spectacle. But at least Lower The Bar adds several more arena-shafting classics to their swollen arsenal of eye-watering filth."
Steve Hackett - The Night Siren
"The guitarist’s latest showpiece is a bold, eclectic mix of multicultural sounds fashioned into his preferred bombastic but rousing rock format, and it displays broad scope while hitting the bullet points his fans demand."
Styx - The Mission
"The Mission is right up there with the very best of Styx, a remarkable achievement considering it’s 45 years since they signed their first recording contract."
The Afghan Whigs - In Spades
"It should come as no surprise, that In Spades traverses evocative concepts such as mortality and the supernatural while, naturally, throwing in a bit of trademark sleaze."
The Black Angels - Death Song
"If anything, Death Song is their heaviest to date, a toxic draught of garage-rock and booming psychedelia that buzzes with echo and reverb."
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood - Betty's Blend's Volume 3: Self-Rising Southern Blends
"At times, it’s dazzling. Opener I Ain’t Hiding is a funky meditation on the rock’n’roll lifestyle which is almost unrecognisable from the jittery rendition on the Crowes’ final opus, Before The Frost… Until The Freeze."
The Flaming Lips - Oczy Mlody
"An immersive musical fairy tale involving wizards and dragons, Oczy Mlody could have been a retreat into childlike whimsy, but it’s mostly a thing of widescreen wonder and vivid beauty, sounding in places like Super Furry Animals with a Hollywood-sized special-effects budget."
The Magpie Salute - The Magpie Salute
"The Magpie Salute connect to his old band in more ways than its avian moniker, the nine-headed collective feeding from the same riffy traditions of blues, soul and gospel."
The Picturebooks - Home Is A Heartache
"For this second album, German duo Fynn Claus Grabke and Philipp Mirtschink recorded in a rural barn, strapped esoteric Native American percussion to their feet, wrote songs based on imaginary movies and swore off records “so we didn’t get influenced by our idols".
The Weeks - Easy
"Muted horns raise the irresistible Ike up; the down-at-heel Hands On The Radio laments over a lattice of electric organ, trumpets and Cyle Barnes’ lovely vocal; and the chiming Sevens could have appeared on a Paul Westerberg album. All in all, it’s almost magical."
Thunder - Rip It Up
"In the past, Thunder have drifted away from what they were best at by striving to repeat it. This album might not be as immediate as Wonder Days, but time could prove it’s stronger."
Todd Rundgren - White Knight
"Rundgren tricks abound in the sonics – he’s a master of the synth and the Beach Boys chorus, but the overall mood is on point. Checkmate, and don’t press the red button."