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.
To call The Winery Dogs a supergroup would be a injustice in my mind. Sometimes supergroups are set up to sell CD’s not that is a bad thing and certainly not all did that with that intention in mind, but sometimes it just seems like a ploy and most don’t last very long. Even though The Winery Dogs consist of three of the most world renowned musicians especially in the rock world, this doesn’t feel anything like a super group. The three piece power trio of bass legend Billy Sheehan, world renown drummer Mike Portnoy, and guitar virtuoso Richie Kotzen who is also the ridiculously talented singer brings us the biggest wall of sound sings King’s X burst on the scene back in the 1980’s. If for some reason you are not familiar with these musicians, just click on their names to view their website and history. You won’t find a more accomplished 3 piece on the planet.
Anyone who knows me knows that these three musicians are probably my top three favorite in the world so when I heard they were coming together to put out a CD I was excited beyond belief to say the least. Anyone who knows me also knows that my favorite musician in the world is Richie Kotzen and it is about time the world finally hear him on a platform that show cases more than just his guitar playing which is what he has long been considered one of the best players in the world. Richie Kotzen’s vocalizations are reminiscent of the Philadelphia soul last really heard by Daryl Hall. If you ever go back through Richie’s solo catalog and listen, you will be amazed at how this guy has remained under the radar for so long. Having interviewed Richie twice on my radio show “Live From Music City,” I can tell you this guy is as humble as they come and more talented than just about everyone who thinks they are God’s gift to music. Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy are no stranger to the musical limelight as they are widely interviewed for their well known virtuosity and have transcended their instruments in the mainstream to become household names in the music world.
The Winery Dogs are a classic rock trio that brings back the art of songwriting, melodies and bursts of virtuosity at just the right moments in songs which of course is a sign of musical maturity in their songwriting. Musicians like this could easily blow are minds with their virtuosity as it is specifically what all three are know for, but The Winery Dogs aren’t about that. This is rock at it finest level and one of the most poignant examples of how to be incredibly creative, have a completely unique sound, using virtuoso talent and musical knowledge to showcase all of it and put out one of the best rock CD’s in years let alone 2013.
The first single and track “Elevate” is an up tempo rocker with an incredibly hooky chorus that captures you right away with it’s charm and attitude. Richie and Billy have doubled instrumental lines that add something that in today’s rock that you don’t really hear anymore as well a very cool break down section again another lost art in todays rock songwriting. The versus are a nice contrast to the chorus as they have a slow, bluesy, slightly darker feel before bursting into the chorus which brings the song up to another level. Great rock song and great feel with of course amazing playing and a smoking melodic guitar solo by Richie.
The second single and also track “Desire” is another smoking rocker that opens with Richie vamping chords and then settles into a sexy groove pushed by just the bass and drums. The chorus drives the song into a new gear and rings with a simple catchiness that keeps you singing the song all day long in your head. The bridge really separates the rest of the song like a bridge should followed by a break down that showcases Billy and Richie again and keeps the song very fresh. The solo is a simple statement by Richie that is melodic with a slow build to a frenzy finish.
The CD’s fourth track “I’m No Angel” is my personal favorite on the CD and starts with a very sexy bluesy guitar line and by Richie that sets a mood that really allows the lyrics to stand out. The broody feel of the verse is highlighted by an up lifting pre-chorus and chorus. The way that the band highlights the parts of their songs with their melodic lines and creativity really shine in this song. Richie’s voice brings a haunted quality to the lyrics that make this song so relatable to many of us I am sure. Richie’s solo’s are melodic, phrased beautifully and as always tell a story within the story itself.
The sleeper track is “We Are One” a blistering rocker that strikes out on its own and screams single! The CD closes out with two ballads “The Dying” and “Regret.” Both songs are beautiful, haunting and show incredible depth in the songwriting.
Bottom line: This CD is what every musician who is serious about songwriting and learning to play should aspire to. Being able to play your instrument only allows you be more creative, add colors, textures, melodies and lines to enhance each songs “experience” for the listeners. Being able to create soundscapes should be the goal of every musician. The songwriting is top notch and this CD should not only reinforce the musical abilities of these musicians but showcase their songwriting in a new way that garners respect from the public as a whole. The Winery Dogs allow Richie to stand out and radiate his immense talent and this should solidify him as one the best all around musicians in music today as he does all the lead vocals, guitars and keys on this CD. He singing is among the best in rock today and let this be a statement to the world at how incredibly talented this man is. Take note world, this is simply one of the top 3 rock CD’s of 2013 besides Steve Lukather‘s “Transition” and Maragold ‘s (featuring guitar virtuoso Greg Howe and new vocal powerhouse Meghan Krauss) sef-titled CD . No where on the planet will you find a more talented, musical and gifted band than this. Go buy this now or forever miss out on one the best CD to come out in years.