10. Sweet And Lynch – Unified
What’s not to like about the second collaboration from one of the eighties’ greatest axe-slingers, George Lynch of Dokken, and most ball-bleeding singers, Michael Sweet of Stryper?
While some of these “projects” seem intent on reaching the individual fans of the conspirators by highlighting their chops, Sweet and Lynch is about the songs and there is an air of experimentation. This is a hard rock album, nominally, but it’s not really a metal offering. It starts off line one, via “Promised Land” but by track five we’re in blues lament-come-love hymn “Tried & True”. A good sign of consistent quality is the strength of the closers and “Better Man” and “Live To Die” are right up there.
9. Babylon AD – Revelation Highway
The comeback albums made a comeback in 2017 with San Francisco rockers Babylon AD putting out their first record in 17 years.
Unless you are specifically a fan of Derek Davis’ crew, that might not have got you too excited. But this platter of taunt, serious-but-melodic commercial metal picks right up where their 1989 debut – which spawned material for movie soundtracks – left off. The writing is still about girls, crime and huge nights out in songs that remain credible while somehow balancing stuff that would make hardcore metal heads grit their teeth and now-middled-aged Def Leppard fan girls sing along unselfconsciously.
8. LA Guns – The Missing Peace
Everyone is raving about this reunion between Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns and there are indeed some great moments, ballsy playing and fantastic vocals.
Check out “Speed” and “Christine”. But for mine, the pure Sunset Strip sleaze is a little light-on. There are punk songs, acoustic ditties and seventies-style rockers but where’s the “One More Reason” or “Over The Edge”? I don’t quite get the same vibe as the old LA Guns that was bigger than the sum of its parts. This album is exactly the sum of its parts, no more or less. The epic “Sticky Fingers” is a case in point – it’s good but a big name 1980s producer would have tidied it up and made it great. Comfortably inside our top 10 but not the album of the year.
7.The Darkness – Pinewood Smile
One of the recurring ills of this era where musicians released six times as much music as they used to is that the albums fade towards the end – in some cases badly.
That’s not going to happen with The Darkness, who stick more or less to the traditional timetable of an album every 18 months or so and who dabble in so many styles that running out of ideas isn’t really a danger. Sure, the rockiest song on here is about “shitting out solid gold” and “the sacred promise of fellatio” and that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. And even the most beautiful or aggressive music is soon joined by ridiculous – if ineffably witty – lyrics. But the Darkness remain on the clever side of funny and are never uninteresting.
6. Stephen Pearcy – Smash
At the beginning of a year in which two versions of Ratt toured amid legal wrangling, singer Stephen Pearcy released an album with about as much fanfare as he could muster – which wasn’t enough to trouble the mainstream.
But you know what? It was fantastic – easily his best solo outing. “Ten Miles Wide” was an anthem worthy of the glory days while “I Can’t Take It” was around for months before the album came out but loses nothing. No curve balls – exactly what you’d expect from the singer of Ratt. Should this have been a Ratt album? We probably expect a little bit more from them – even though the playing here is often exceptional. Weird how rock fans think, right?
5. Accept – The Rise Of Chaos
The German titans are enjoying an undoubted renaissance and The Rise Of Chaos carries on from Blind Rage, also rated highly in these parts, almost perfectly.
The key is songs that aren’t just catchy and crushing but also have some novelty value. “Hole In The Head” and “Koolaid” – about the Jonestown massacre – managed to jump out of the crowd of torrential releases over the course of the year by virtue of their subject matter and lyrics. Andy Sneap has done another mighty job here – it’s cinematic in its scope. And if “Analog Man” isn’t an anthem for our age, I don’t know what is. Perhaps not quite as good as its predecessor – but damn close.
4. Vain – Rolling With The Punches
Drop the needle – or the cursor – anywhere on this comeback album from the heavy-but-trippy San Francisco glamsters and it will be apparent within a millisecond that they are a cut above just about every mid-league late-eighties wearers of leather duds.
As this site has mentioned previously, Junkyard and Vain are the two halves of the glorious GN’R gumbo – obnoxious punk and resonant, emotional glam. Rolling With The Punches is everything great you remember about the greatest era of music. Check out the way “Dark City” careers along on the back of a gangling gee-tar and an unforgettable chorus. What a record. Listen to those echoey vocals above and tell me the last 25 years weren’t just a dream.
3. Black Star Riders – Heavy FireIT’S the songs, man. On sites like this you’ll have read critics saying ‘there’d have been three hit singles off this in 1989’ but in the case of Black Star Riders’ third album, there really would have been.
We’ll even name them: “Dancing With The Wrong Girl”, “Cold War Love” and “When The Night Comes In”. Dare we say that this is a better album than many of those released by BSR’s predecessor band, Thin Lizzy? What the Hell, we’ll say it!. There is still a tendency over the three records for the weaker tracks to be grouped at the end but the weakest by Ricky Warwick’s men are better than most of their contemporaries’ best. Read that again. You’ll get what I mean.
2. Mr Big – Defying Gravity
An album with enormous heart as drummer Pat Torpey battles on with Parkinsons – battle that he seems to be actually winning.
“Open Your Eyes” is about appreciating the small things in live, the title track preaches that passing years don’t necessarily have to slow you down, “Damn I’m In Love Again” is a delicious ballad, “Forever and Back” is the sort of mid-tempo radio rock gem that will give you goose bumps. For a bonafide anthem, check “1979”. The last two tracks are a little more generic – bass-driven rifferama and smoky nightclub blues – but they only serve to underscore this depth of this tremendous record.
1.Junkyard – High Water
Quite simply one of the greatest comeback albums in decades.
The punk’n’roll street urchins of 1989 released their first real new studio album in a quarter-century in 2017 and it was – in equal parts – beautiful and brutal. There’s plenty of introspection and self-loathing in a blisteringly emotional and aggressive platter. How can middle aged men be as angry as Guns N’Roses were in 1986? By being no richer or more famous than Guns N’Roses were in 1986. “I’ve glad we didn’t end up like Axl Rose,” singer David Roach told us, fresh off a plane from California to England midway through the year, “because we might not have been able to put out the record we did”. Who need millions of dollars when you can have Hot Metal’s album of the year, right? Bravo! Take a bow!