the Big Fantasize

Best of 2020 Part 5: Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Albums and More of 2020

2020 may have sucked, but the music didn’t.  This year I bought and reviewed more new releases than ever before, which I narrowed down to the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten studio albums of 2020 listed below.

I would like to dedicate this list to my good pal Uncle Meat who originated the concept of a “Nigen Tufnel Top Ten” earlier this year.  It has become our thing.

BEST ALBUMS OF 2020

11. Now or Never – III

10. Mr. Bungle – The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo

9. Sven Gali – 3 (EP)

8. Kim Mitchel – The Big Fantasize

7. Corey Taylor – CMFT

6. Stryper – Even the Devil Believes

5. Harem Scarem – Change the World

4. Dennis DeYoung – 26 East Vol 1

3. AC/DC – Power Up

2. Deep Purple – Whoosh!

1. Storm Force – Age of Fear

 

Storm Force’s debut album goes straight to #1 on their very first appearance!  No surprise here.  I’ve been raving about this disc since February and I owe it to Superdekes for putting these guys on my radar in the first place.  This is a well-deserved #1.  Age of Fear is an uplifting album with depth.  It’s a thoughtful, heart-pounding blast of classic hard rock.

Deep Purple’s Whoosh! and AC/DC’s PWRUP prove two things:  old dogs that both learn and don’t learn new tricks can all be champions.  (I call this theory “Schrödinger’s Dog”.) Deep Purple’s growth continues while AC/DC managed to tap into the vein of success that always worked for them.  Both records deserve their spots in the Top 3.

It was a thrill for me to learn that Dennis DeYoung both read and enjoyed my review of his newest album 26 East Vol 1.  It’s a terrific, Styx-like conceptual work that will please the old fans.  As will the new albums by Harem Scarem and Stryper, who didn’t stray far from their successful classic hard rock formulas.  Kim Mitchell and Sven Gali on the other hand dared to be different.  Kim went laid back and acoustic, while Sven Gali went with their heaviest uninhibited inclinations.  As for Mr. Bungle, it has been 21 years since their last album California.  All four Bungle studio albums are completely different from one another — four different genres.  For The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny, they teamed up with Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo to re-record their first thrash metal demo tape.  And it could be their best album since the self-titled debut in 1991.  Not bad for a bunch of songs they wrote in highschool.

Corey “Mother Fuckin'” Taylor makes his debut on any list of mine with his solo album CMFT.  It’s a surprising collection of commercial hard rockin’ tunes.  Also appearing for the first time is Now Or Never (NoN) with their third album called III, featuring singer Steph Honde.  It’s an excellent, dramatic metal album with light and shade.


BONUS LISTS

Most disappointing:  Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man

Song of the year:  LeBrain Train by T-Bone Erickson

Single of the Year:  Mammoth WVH – “Distance”

Ultimately whether or not you liked the new Ozzy, its success or failure falls at the feet of producer/guitarist Andrew Watt.  He is already working on the next Ozzy album, so….

Huge thanks to T-Bone Erickson for the “LeBrain Train” theme song, which amazingly and unexpectedly became the song of the year in 2020!  Weird how that happened.  No bias here I assure you.

Finally, Wolfgang Van Halen finally released his first solo music under the name Mammoth WVH.  The non-album single “Distance” is dedicated to his late father Eddie.  Though musically it’s a modern power ballad, the lyrics and especially the music video evoke serious emotion.  Well done Wolfgang.  Can’t wait to check out his album in 2021.


TOP FIVE LIVE OR COMPILATION ALBUMS IN 2020

5. Metallica – S&M2

4. Thin Lizzy – Rock Legends

3. Sloan – B Sides Win Vol. 1 1992-1997

2. Def Leppard – The Early Years 78-81

1. Iron Maiden – Nights of the Dead – Legacy of the Beast

There were a lot of cool rock releases in 2020, so we need more lists!  Of course the brilliant new live Maiden deserved some loving attention.  Meanwhile, Sloan, Def Leppard and Thin Lizzy have continued to put out quality collections of rarities & unreleased material, well worth the time and money you’ll spend on them.  The Sloan collection is a vinyl exclusive and the first in a series of LPs re-releasing some of their B-sides and non-album and bonus tracks.  Finally, Metallica delivered the goods even without Michael Kamen on S&M2, a very different live set than the first S&M.  That’s the way to do it!


BEST LOCKDOWN SINGLE

5. Queen + Adam Lambert – “You Are the Champions”

4. Scorpions – “Sign of Hope”

3. Marillion – “Made Again 2020”

2. Marillion – “Easter 2020”

1. Alice Cooper – “Don’t Give Up”


 

A LOOK AHEAD AT 2021

It’s naive to assume that major touring and concerts will return in 2021.  This appears highly optimistic at present, with Covid still ravaging the landscape and vaccinations only just beginning.  Instead of looking ahead at things like the resuming Kiss tour, or the Motley Crue reunion, we should continue to put our faith in new music.

Accept have a new album due January 15 intriguingly titled Too Mean to Die.  It is their first without bassist Peter Baltes.  Steven Wilson has a new record out at the end of that month.  In February we get new Foo Fighters, The Pretty Reckless, Willie Nelson and Alice Cooper.  Greta Van Fleet, Weezer, Rob Zombie, Ringo Starr, and Thunder will be back soon too.  Many other bands are writing and recording without an announced due date.  Ghost, Marillion, Scorpions, Megadeth and even Ratt are hard at work to make next year suck a little less.  Support the bands by buying the music.

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Kim Mitchell – The Big Fantasize (2020)

KIM MITCHELL – The Big Fantasize (2020 El Mocambo Records)

13 years ago Kim Mitchell released Ain’t Life Amazing, his last studio album.  He wasn’t exactly quiet in that time — there was his radio show on Q107 in Toronto, but then he had a heart attack!  You can’t keep Kim Mitchell down, and his new one The Big Fantasize is a quieter collection of contemplative music.  Some of it is rock, some of it is clearly not.  And that’s OK.  Whether or not he’s rocking, Kim’s songwriting yielded some pretty great material.  There are nine new tunes, plus a bonus four live tracks for those who bought the physical product (CD or LP).

The gentle call of a clarinet is the first sound to be heard on the new Kim, a surprise to be sure.  “Red Horizon” is a sparse acoustic ballad with clarinet accompaniment, and melody that tugs at the heart.  It’s a brave way to open the album but also an honest one.  “This is what I do now, so don’t expect ‘Rock and Roll Duty Part 2′” is what this track says as an opener.

That said, “2up2Bdown” has that guitar playing you love Kim for.  It rocks but in a new slick way.  It would have fit comfortably on an album like 1992’s Aural Fixations, but better than that.  It’s a celebration, and if it’s the only track that sounds like “old Kim” then at least it does it well.

“Summer Lovers Autumn Wine” presents quiet electric guitars and pianos dancing in the twilight.  Like much of Kim’s music, it paints an audio picture with his guitar.  The mood turns bright on the delightful acoustic “Wishes”.  Kim’s mastery of melody and expression is apparent.  He gets the beat hopping again on “Georgian Bay”, a piano rocker with no guitar, maybe a little bit like the Guess Who?  Or maybe that’s just a lazy comparison.  It doesn’t matter, it’ll be perfect for your next summer deck party (whenever that is).

“Best I Never Had” might be laid back, but it has a strong dusky blues vibe.  Soulful backup singing lends the right feel.  “Montgomery” is a highlight song, mixing some skillful acoustic guitar pickin with the most memorable of melodies.  Upbeat, but quiet and gentle with trademark Mitchell hooks.  The acoustic solo is masterful.  More masterful melody takes center stage on “Old Marriage Waltz”, the closer “Time to Stay” really overshadows it.  A strong beat behind him, Kim picks away with intent.  Great light rocker to end a terrific album, on an upbeat note.

CD and vinyl buyers get the four live bonus tracks:  “Lager and Ale”, “Rocklandwonderland”, “Paradise Skies” (Max Webster tune), and “All We Are”.  If you needed more rock, here you go.  Firey live performances, captured in the studio in front of an audience.  “Rocklandwonderland” stands out with a new piano intro and a passionate performance.  However nothing can overshadow an epic “All We Are”, 8:13 of awesome.

After such a long wait, and an eventful one at that, it is a good thing to see that Kim Mitchell still has the creative spark to write a great song.  These songs are different but just as unforgettable as “Patio Lanterns”.

4.5/5 stars