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John The Rock Doctor

The Best of 2016
Music Reviews by the Rock Doctor

The Best Music of 2016 is a collection of many hours and days throughout the year where The Rock Doctor focuses on all aspects of the music. If you are interested in having your release reviewed and possibly considered for “The Best Of” list, please send your requests to rockdoc@gonzookanagan.com. Thank you! Keep on keepin’ on with our incredible talents of creating music!

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#20:  MAKE SOME NOISE – The Dead Daisies (SPV)

This is DD’s 3rd album since exploding onto the scene in 2013, and proof that Gene Simmons is full of shit- rock is most certainly not dead.  If classic guitar driven rock gets your motor runnin’, you’ll want this.   This much swagger and attitude on a single album should be illegal.

ESSENTIALS:  Last Time I Saw The Sun, Join Together (the Who song), Long Way To Go


#19:  BETTER THE DEVIL YOU KNOW – Big Dave McLean (Black Hen)

Weaving country gospel, pure Delta blues and more, Better The Devil You Know digs deep and comes up with a true blues experience- Big Dave’s new disc is as real as it gets.

ESSENTIALS:  You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had, Deep Down In Florida, Pet Rabbit


#18:  PURE & SIMPLE – Dolly Parton (RCA) 

Dolly Parton’s 43rd solo album is a stripped down set of songs and it’s irresistible.

There’s more to her than wigs and big boobs and, at age 70,  Parton is still making music that stands up to her best, most well known stuff- it’s that pure and simple.

ESSENTIALS: Never Not Love You, Can’t Be That Wrong, Outside Your Door


#17:  THE CHICAGO WAY – Toronzo Cannon (Alligator)

Toronzo’s first album for Alligator, holds everything that is exciting about the blues- the playing, the storytelling, it’s like a force of nature.  I’ve thought about quitting album reviews to go back to being just a music fan- but then an album like this comes along, and I get a chance to tell you about it.

ESSENTIALS: Midlife Crisis, Walk It Off, When Will You Tell Him About Me


#16:  1000 Arms – Blue Rodeo (Warner Music Canada)

I’ve been a Blue Rodeo fan since the 80’s, but haven’t thoroughly enjoyed an album of theirs this much since Lost Together in 1992.  It’s not a term I usually use, but I’d call 1000 Arms vivacious. Producer Vesely pushes the band while reminding them what’s great about Blue Rodeo. It also rocks a little more than usual, and that’s a bonus.

ESSENTIALS:  Hard To Remember, 1000 Arms, Superstar


#15:  IN THE NOW – Barry Gibb (Columbia) 

One of pop music’s best and most influential writers and performers is back, with an album that I wasn’t sure he had the heart to make.  Produced by Gibb and John Merchant, In The Now is a pop gemstone.  In The Now is everything I’d hoped it would be- maybe it’s knowing something of Barry’s circumstances, but this is a record that I can feel.

ESSENTIALS:  Grand Illusion, Blowin’ A Fuse, Soldier’s Son (one of three bonus tracks on the deluxe edition)


#14:  BEAUTIFUL BROKEN – Heart (Concord)

Heart has been on a tear of late, new records every couple of years with Beautiful Broken being the newest chapter.  This is their most varied and exciting record yet, combining new material alongside re-recorded classics that got glossed over the first time around.

History will show Beautiful Broken to be a creative milestone.  Quite frankly this album is PERFECT and has been in my CD player for moths now.

ESSENTIALS:  Beautiful Broken (with some vocals from James Hetfield), Down On Me, Sweet Darlin’, I Jump


#13:  BREAKING FREE – Layla Zoe (Ruf)

This is one of the most soulful, gut-wrenching albums you’ll ever hear.  It’s her 10th album, and frankly I’m shocked that I’ve not heard of her before this. A major talent is on display in her natural habitat here, and she’s just KILLING it.

ESSENTIALS:  Highway Of Tears, Backstage Queen, Wild Horses (yes, the Stones tune)


#12:  GOOD, GOOD LOVIN’ – Bill Durst (Durstwerks)

It’s the 5th solo album by former Thundermug guitarist Bill Durst and it’s one of the most exciting records I have heard in a very long time. Good, Good Lovin’ is a rockin’ blues record, with muscle, soul and vitality to spare.  Some albums are good, some even great- this is SPECTACULAR.

ESSENTIAL: King Snake Prowl, 21st Century Blues, Northern Electric


#11:  TIME TO ROLL – Monkeyjunk (Stony Plain)

Monkeyjunk’s new album is a step up in a number of ways. Combining elements of the 4 previous releases and even a step up in songwriting help make Time To Roll their best album yet.  It’s a record of deep grooves and long influences that should share the same shelf as your John Lee Hooker and Meters albums.  This one of the most satisfying discs I’ve heard all year.

ESSENTIALS:  Time To Roll, Undertaker Blues, Fuzzy Poodle


#10:  BE THE MEDIA – Annabelle Chvostek (MQGV) 

This Toronto-based, Juno-nominated artist is navigating the boundaries between folk rock, post punk and the Canadian singer/ songwriter tradition. Is it a comfortable, pretty record?  No. Is it worth your attention?  ABSOLUTELY.  It’s one of those records that will stay with you long after the final song has come to an end.

ESSENTIALS:  Black Hole, Carnal Delights, Jerusalem


#09:  MAXWELL STREET – Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters (Stony Plain)

When I need some blues to open up my soul, it’s gotta be Ronnie Earl. Billed on the back cover as “an album of traditional, healing and soulful blues rooted in gratitude”, Maxwell Street is the most gorgeous blues record I’ve ever heard.  Maxwell Street is easily one of the best blues records of 2016.

ESSENTIALS:  In Memory Of T-Bone, Mother Angel, Blues For David Maxwell, Kismet


#08:  STRANGER TO STRANGER – Paul Simon (Concord Records)

Paul Simon’s 13th solo studio record, following 2011’s So Beautiful Or So What.  In a career full of gorgeous work going all the way back to Simon & Garfunkel in the 60’s, he’s just bowled me over. As much as I’ve enjoyed them all, I haven’t been this excited by a Paul Simon album since Graceland in 1986.  Stranger To Stranger is one of those  albums that sounds fresh every time you put it on- a neat trick, if you can pull it off.

ESSENTIALS: Werewolf, Wristband, Cool Papa Bell, New York Is My Home


#07:  HONEST MAN – Matt Andersen (True North)

There are some performers that make you feel like you’ve been invited to participate in a warm, intimate conversation- Matt Andersen is one of those guys, and Honest Man is one of those albums. What sets this apart from many other discs is the emotional truth at the heart of it, much like Matt’s other albums. Honest Man is a great record.

ESSENTIALS: Let’s Get Back, One Good Song, Honest Man


#06:  TRAVELIN’ WITH THE BLUES – Harpdog Brown (independent)

If there is truth in advertising, perhaps Harpdog Brown’s new record would be called Time Travelin’ With The Blues.  This joyous set sounds like it came straight from the early 50’s, and it’s beautiful!  If somebody asks you “what do the blues sound like?” this is the disc you need to play for them.

ESSENTIALS:  What’s Your Real Name, Moose On The Loose, Bring It On Home


#05:  BLUE HIGHWAYS – Colin James (True North)

I knew this would be good but even so, Blue Highways caught me by surprise. As Colin James pays tribute to his blues heroes, he sets a new standard for tasty guitar playing.

This is laid back in a latter day Clapton sort of way, and the playing is exquisite.  Co-production by Colin and Dave Meszaros suits the material- this disc is nearly unbeatable.

ESSENTIALS:  Boogie Funk, Gypsy Woman, Goin’ Down


#04:  YOU WANT IT DARKER – Leonard Cohen (Columbia)

Cohen’s final album, released weeks before his death, caps off a spectacular late career run.  You Want It Darker is his goodbye, so it seems fitting that it has been critically well received, and that Leonard himself felt it one of his best records.  As his final word on mortality and letting go, You Want It Darker is as deep as it gets.

ESSENTIALS:  You Want It Darker, Leaving The Table, Traveling Light


#03:  MOVING FORWARD – Adam Karch (Bros)

Every once in awhile a record comes along that quietly grabs you by the heart and takes your breath away.  I could listen to Moving Forward for the guitar playing alone and be thoroughly absorbed but thanks to the lyrics, this is the kind of disc to throw on when you’re in a mood to think about stuff.

ESSENTIAL:  On A Cold Grey Sky, Night Moves, Louis Collins


#02:  HARDWIRED… TO SELF DESTRUCT – Metallica (Blackened/ Warner)

Death Magnetic came out 8 years ago, and the new record is here.  Hard as steel and tough as nails, Hardwired is easily their best since the Black album.  I get the feeling they knew that “crushingly spectacular” was the goal, and that is EXACTLY what this is.

ESSENTIALS:  Now That We’re Dead, Atlas Rise, Halo On Fire


LOUD HAILER – Jeff Beck (Rhino/ Atco)

Loud Hailer is Jeff’s first album since 2010’s magnificent Emotion & Commotion, and there’s just no other way to say it- this is a great album, and I expect you’ll see it at the top of many critic’s and fan’s top ten lists at the end of 2016.  VERY powerful stuff.

ESSENTIALS:  The Revolution Will Be Televised, Thugs Club, Scared For The Children


And now for the other awards…

COMEBACK OF THE YEAR

FIRE AND GASOLINE – Lee Aaron (Big Sister)

This is Lee’s 10th album overall, and her first record after a couple of forays into jazz singing- and it’s one of the most enjoyable rock discs to come along in quite some time.

ESSENTIALS: Fire And Gasoline, Tom Boy, 50 Miles


COMPILATION OF THE YEAR

STONY PLAIN: 40 YEARS – Various Artists (Stony Plain)

They celebrate their colourful history every five years with such a compilation, but this may be the granddaddy of them all.  To be released June 3rd, Stony Plain celebrates 4 decades of making music with a comprehensive 3 disc set featuring cuts from across its history of albums, and a complete disc of rarities and previously unreleased tracks.

ESSENTIALS:

DISC ONE: I Wanna Be In The Cavalry (Corb Lund), Cottonwood Canyon (Ian Tyson), Rivers of Babylon (Steve Earle)
DISC TWO: It Takes Time (Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters), Candy Man (Rory Block), Atlanta Moan (Big Dave McLean
DISC THREE: Rehab (Duke Robillard), Uptown Jump (David Wilcox), Shakey’s Edmonton Blues (Walter ‘Shakey’ Horton with Hot Cottage)


SURPRISE OF THE YEAR

DOWN IN A HOLE – Kiefer Sutherland (Warner Music Canada)

When I found out Kiefer Sutherland had an album coming out, I thought “another Hollywood actor boy douche thinks he can play rock star?  Fuck off.”  I almost skipped this album, but gave it a listen on a whim.  Lo and behold it’s actually pretty good.

ESSENTIALS:  Going Home, Not Enough Whiskey, Down In A Hole


HISTORIC RELEASE OF THE YEAR

I’M GONNA TELL YOU SOMETHIN’ THAT I KNOW – David “Honeyboy” Edwards (Pro Sho Bidness) 

Living, breathing blues history is what this CD/DVD package is.  David “Honeyboy” Edwards was the last of the great Mississippi Delta bluesman and this, recorded and filmed in 2010 (the year before he died at age 96), is a treasure no blues fan can pass up.

I’m Gonna Tell You Something That I Know is a rare glimpse into the history of the blues- the songs we all know played by one of the masters and originators of this music, and the DVD mentioned in the paragraph before this one.  This should be considered essential for anyone that’s even thought about the blues.

ESSENTIALS:  The DVD Bonus Track, That’s Alright, Goin’ Down Slow, Catfish Blues


REISSUE OF THE YEAR

THE COMPLETE BBC SESSIONS – Led Zeppelin (Atlantic)

Scraping the bottom of the vault? Maybe- but this is still a hell of a set.  Originally released in ‘97 as BBC Sessions, this comes with a full disc of bonus tracks including a never before heard song. Sounds good to me, but those vaults gotta be empty now.

ESSENTIALS:

DISC ONE: Whole Lotta Love
DISC TWO: Since I’ve Been Loving You
DISC THREE: What Is & What Should Never Be

COOLEST SINGLE OF THE YEAR

MALTED MILK – Tim Bastmeyer (independent)

This digital single is a dynamite take on an old blues classic.  With permission from Robert Johnson’s family, Tim rebuilt this song as a duet with the late, great bluesman, and given it a real contemporary spin.  If you’d like to get your hands on this song (and I think you should), here’s the link;  http://www.timbastmeyer.com/store

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The Rock Doctor is in the Cyber House to tell you how it is! (or at least my own opinion). Want a music review? email: rockdoc@gonzookanagan.com. \m/

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