I was going to do a Top 10 list but honestly even after two weeks of thinking about it, these CD’s are the only ones that stick with me. I feel these are the best rock releases in 2013 and what great releases they are! This won’t be a surprise to some of you as I have been posting about some of these since the day they came out. Yes, they are that good!
I am not going to gush over these as some of them I have done reviews for already and I want you to make your own judgements. Give them a listen and if you like, buy the music and spread the word. They all need your support.
The debut CD from Maragold is perhaps the freshest most original sound I have heard from a rock band and years if not the last decade. The band featuring world renown guitarist Greg Howe and company could be the scariest set of musicians this side of Dream Theater on one CD this year. Relative unknown singer Mehgan Krauss is the real deal and sings circles around just about everyone out there right now. She should be a household name and God willing, will be. Part of the reason this took the top spot is the absolute surprise at how good this CD was as a whole. Everything from songwriting, hooks, playing and production were top notch. I was not expecting this from a guitar hero as so many have not come out with strong band CD’s in their career with the exception of the gentleman in the number 2 spot.
The Winery Dogs CD is a masterpiece of blues rock featuring guitar virtuoso and underrated singer Richie Kotzen, former Mr. Big band mate and bass virtuoso Billy Sheehan and of course Mike Portnoy widely regarded as one the best drummers alive today. They only reason this wasn’t #1 on my list is because it is basically a Richie Kotzen solo album. It wasn’t different enough from I hear from his usual work. Not that that is a bad thing, it just wasn’t as suprising as our #1 placement. I won’t bore you with my thoughts twice as you can read them in this CD Review I did here: https://lowryagency.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/the-winery-dogs-cd-review-by-david-lowry/
Legendary studio guitarist and founding member of the band Toto, Steve Lukather released his 6th solo CD Transition in 2013 and it is brilliant. Well pretty much everything Steve touches is but this CD really hit home with solid songwriting, relevant topics and a more natural guitar sound. As always Steve’s playing was melodic and amazing and his ability to evoke many different moods with music is a rare thing from most bands these days. Here is my CD review for Transition: https://lowryagency.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/cd-review-transitions-by-steve-lukather/
After all the drama settled and the band Queensryche was able to get their music out, it was a treat to the ears and it felt like coming home! This is the Queensryche CD we have been waiting for since “Empire.” The band has returned with a strong singer, strong songs and a revived sound that takes us back to classic Queensryche and puts a smile on all our faces.
Prog rock legends return in 2013 with the self-title “Dream Theater” and a return to a more melodic feel with less heaviness which isn’t a bad thing. Dream Theater broke through with 1992’s “Images and Words” one of my Top 3 CD’s of all time and this new CD has a bit of that in it. Dream Theater has come full circle with this project and the addition of Mike Mangini has fueled the creativity machine to bring forth the best Dream Theater effort in years. Don’t get me wrong, they have never put out a bad CD. This is just a touch above the more recent efforts.
Stryper returns in full force on this CD! Their strongest effort since “To Hell With The Devil,” this is the CD we have been waiting for since the return of the band. Michael Sweet is in fine form vocally and the songs are hook laden and in your face at the same time. Stryper has always been a talented band and underrated musicians as well as excellent live performers. This CD just gives us reason to make sure and not the miss the tour!
This is the biggest surprise on this list as DeLana Stevens & The Beggar Saints are a local Nashville band that is trudging through this morass of a music business trying to make it. When they sent me this CD to listen to, I was blown away by how great the songs were. DeLana and her band learned what many do not, how to write a really, really good hook and rock song. It was so good, I did a review immediately. You can read that here: https://lowryagency.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/delana-stevens-and-the-beggar-saints-cd-review/. DeLana Stevens & company bring back a classic rock sound very much like Heart and Delana is one of the most powerful and accurate singers I have ever heard. Watch this band as I am hoping for big things to come for them.
Earlier I was looking at my numbers for this blog and was completely amazed at how well it was doing the last couple days based on one CD review for the band Maragold. Yesterday when I released it it was already doing double it’s average daily but then around 11:00pm CST the band posted it on Facebook and holy crap did it explode. It his had more views by 10 times the amount of any other CD review or musician spotlight I have written. Here is the key, each one posted it pretty much on their personal and band page on Facebook. Most bands don’t do this. They maybe post it once on their band page and not on their personal pages and they interacted with their fans about it. When I released it in the morning two of the band members and the band twitter account RT’d it once and that was it. For further reference on this please read my blog “Creating The “Buzz,” It’s Your Responsibility.”
What does this mean? It means that Maragold has found a way to reach it’s audience like no other band I have reviewed for or spotlighted. It means “true” fans not Facebook likes are extremely excited about them. It means they have actually offered up something the public wants. They did this in spite of having never released a CD and the only member of the band with a real name is was co-founder Greg Howe who is a well known guitar instrumentalist. Well known being relative in the world of music. Yes most guitar players know who he is, but the world doesn’t. Please note that Maragold didn’t ask me for a review. I just did it because when I listened to the CD it was so good I really had no choice.
Everyday on Facebook I see bands complaining about how hard it is or how the industry keeps people down etc… That is complete bunk. Is it hard yes but most bands don’t work hard enough, give the public something they want to buy or shoot themselves in the foot with poor promotion and bad social media skills. Is it anyone else’s fault you can’t make it? No. For whatever reason, Maragold has touched an audience with no prior CD, no real history of gigging, nothing but the past success of guitar player Greg Howe and each other individuals past endeavors. They made it happen without anything other than hard work, determination, incredible talent and most importantly at this stage knowing how to build up a release. Now because of this, hopefully with continued hard work, the songs which are amazing, will be the deciding factor in their long term success.
This audience interaction is what every band should be striving for, for without it, you have nothing.
Maragold is a rock band founded by guitar virtuoso Greg Howe and bassist Kevin Vicchione. For those not in the guitar community, Greg is a world renown player and has played with such artist as Justin Timberlake, N’Sync, Christina Aguilara, Michael Jackson, Rihana, Lady Antebellum, P Diddy, T-Pain, Salt and Peppa not to mention jazz fusion legends like Victor Wooton, Dennis Chambers and other world reknown players like Richie Kotzen and Stu Hamm. Actually Greg’s song “Jump Start” is my favorite guitar instrumental of all time. So needless to say I had high expectations when I heard about this project and holy shit does it deliver. Greg has the very rare ability to be a virtuoso and still play for the song. His solo’s are so amazing and vintage Greg but sound completely original in a sea of completely unoriginal players who all sound the same in today’s scene. You will never hear a “typical” lick or sound from Greg but you will be amazed and wonder why more players don’t strive for a unique voice like his.
First let me tell you about the other musicians on the project. Singer and relative newcomer Meghan Krauss is the best female rock singer to come out since Sass Jordan. This lady can sing with the best of them and evokes that excitement from inside you that you so rarely hear from singers anymore, as they are all canned and predictable. Meghan will knock you on your ass and remind you why you listen to rock in the first place.
Bass Player Kevin Vecchione is a SOLID player. Kevin is obviously capable of so much more and that is the beauty of his playing here. He plays exactly what is needed for the song, never anymore and drives the buss with drummer Gianluca Palmieri so that the pocket is strong and every song leads you like it should. I have a feeling we will be hearing a lot more about Kevin in the years to come as opportunities arise to showcase his immense talent.
Drummer Gianluca Palmieri is the epitome of a “pocket” player on this CD. It’s so great to hear players that know how to play for the song no matter how good a musician they are. It can be very tempting to play too much or show off and while Gianluca plays some incredibly fresh grooves to allow you to see his true talent without showing off, it’s never over stated and is truly a part of the songwriting as opposed to just being a drum track. The rhythm section of Vecchione and Palmieri is as good as it gets and something all players should listen to and learn from.
The single “Evergreen Is Golder” is a straight out knock you on your ass “Hello world I am Meghan Krauss and I am going to kick your ass!” statement. A great rock song with a blistering solo and incredible hook. Written by Greg, Kevin and Greg’s brother Al Howe, this song is a hit single through and through. I hope to God someone gets behind this for radio. Hell I’ll push it myself.
“Saturday Sun” and “Lullaby” are other rockers that shine, no pun intended. Another high point for me was “Paradigm Tsunami.” This CD is not your typical rock record by any means. It has blues, jazz, rhythmic displacement and all kinds of cool elements that really bring out the color and flavor of the songs. Meghan takes advantage of every opportunity is now in the “best singer you have never heard” of category along with Richie Kotzen.
“Maragold” is a must buy CD and one of the top 2 CD releases of 2013 along with Steve Lukather’s new CD “Transition” and the best rock CD since “Forty Deuce” featuring Richie Kotzen. You can no longer say there aren’t any good rock bands anymore. Maragold may be just what the hurting rock genre needed, a good old shot of in your face, kicking your ass rock n’ roll. Thank God for Maragold.