[MarsNews] Top Ten Albums for 2020 (A Definitive List)

It really did look like 2020 was going to be a complete bust for new music for a long while.  We had a few releases for the first couple of months, then Covid-19 derailed it all.  It seemed like sometime after the summer, labels and bands came to the realization that live shows were not coming back anytime soon.  So the fall was crammed with new releases.  2020 was saved!

There are a lot of Top Ten Lists on the blogs at this time of year, but what makes this the “Definitive” one is the wording in the title.  So enjoy and if you don’t agree with me, remember The Dude’s words…

 

#10. Armored Saint | Punching The Sky

20201226_164341

John Bush’s “other” band has certainly impressed me with Punching The Sky.  One of my goals for 2021 it to dive into their back catalog and discover more.  This really does put on display how much Bush added to Anthrax in the ’90s.

Full Review
Best Song: Never You Fret

#9. Testament | Titans of Creation

20201108_212506

Titans of Creation came out in April and remained to be my favourite thrash metal album of 2020.  It is another example of how Testament has come into their own as a band that delivers some hard thrash with a hint of rock ‘n roll swing.  It is really time to extend “The big 4” to “The big 5” to include them, isn’t it?

Full Review
Best Song: Dream Deceiver

#8. Neil Young | Homegrown

Neil Young homegrown front

A lost album from Neil that was originally recorded in 1974.  Many of its tunes have popped up elsewhere over the years, but they fit best right here. 

Full Review
Best Song: Star of Bethlehem

#7. The Strokes | The New Abnormal

The Strokes - The New Abnormal Cover

The Strokes made a comeback in 2020 with The New Abnormal.  It’s best tune is Bad Decisions, a mash up of Modern English’s I Melt With You and Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself with original vocals and arrangement.  Listen to it for yourself!  It completely works! 

Full Review
Best Song: Bad Decisions

#6. Ella Fitzgerald | The Lost Berlin Tapes

20201122_152824

Ella was best on stage and The Lost Berlin Tapes I believe captured her better than any other recording I have heard.  I normally would not include a live release in the top ten, but I can make an exception for Ella.  Her live performances are better than most who spent months in the studio.  Even if you don’t like jazz I think you should check it out. 

Full Review
Best Song: Mack The Knife

#5. John Fogerty | Fogerty’s Factory

john-fogerty-fogertys-factory

Throughout the past spring and summer, John gathered with his children to make YouTube videos covering some of his classic tunes.  The band was dubbed Fogerty’s Factory, and listening back to it is like a time capsule for 2020.  I will cherish this positive side effect of continuous lockdowns forever. 

Full Review
Best Song: City Of New Orleans

#4. Huey Lewis & The News | Weather

20201122_153429

Thank goodness the next two albums are short because that was the ONLY thing that made the rest of this list a wee bit easier to rank.  Weather is likely Huey Lewis’ final appearance in the recording studio.  It is a blessing how they recorded all 7 tracks before he was diagnosed with Ménière’s disease.  Every song is performed behind the idea that is was just “another album” instead of a final one.  Not a somber note is played making his last run a sweet one.

Full Review
Best Song: I Am There For You

#3. Freeways | True Bearings

Free ways True Bearing cover

Hard Rock done without shenanigans!  You can’t get more Canadian than that!   Freeways’ debut is short and left me wanting more.  These guys sound a bit like Thin Lizzy/’70s Judas Priest/Budgie while bringing their own into the mix.  Follow the links, listen to their tunes, then support them on Bandcamp.  I want to see this little ol’ band from Brampton performing live at some point!

Full Review
Best Song:
Dead Air

#2. Storm Force | Age of Fear

20201122_154115

Labeling Storm Force’s debut album as a throwback to the sound of ’80s hair bands does it injustice.  Their music really does transcend the genre.  Think Cinderella, Van Halen, or Guns ‘n Roses.  Bands that were part of the scene, yet above it at the same time.  That’s where Storm Force belongs!

Full Review
Best Song:
Breathe – Words

#1. AC/DC | PWR/UP

20201213_085425
Thank goodness my favourite band of ALL TIME took some time this year to spread their anti-noise pollution message!  Another stroke of luck for me as it made the decision for top spot a little easier.  I’ll admit, part of the reasons why I give PWR/UP the distinct honour of #1 are AC/DC’s legacy and timing of this release. 

As we began to enter the “2nd wave” in September, it cemented the notion I had for a while.  That one trip I took to the record store in August was really going to be it for a very long time.  The end of the year won’t be spent with friends and family.  We got the extended dance version of Covid-19 instead of the radio edit.  Forget 2020, I’ll be surprised if 2021 delivers “normal” at all.  That was a funk.

Then PWR/UP was officially announced.  Wait a minute… yes, things are garbage right now but good can still happen!

And AC/DC did deliver a fantastic album.  Many are saying it is their best since The Razors Edge.  I might even go back further.  Every spin of PWR/UP has me liking it more and more.  It is different while being their usual comfort food. 

Full Review
Best Song: Through The Mists Of Time

I’ll be handing out some awards tomorrow! Stay tuned!

November 2020 Music Collection Update, Part 1

Like last month, I’m splitting up the monthly pickups into two posts.  These are all of my online purchases for November 2020.  It is turning out to be a great year with a lot of excellent new releases and collections are up for grabs this holiday season!   

These are the ones I had pre-ordered on amazon:

Ella Fitzgerald, The Lost Berlin Tapes

20201122_152824

Ella was best on stage and The Lost Berlin Tapes I believe captured her better than any other recording I have heard.  Even if you don’t like jazz I think you should check it out.   Full Review

Pantera, Reinventing the Steel

20201122_152913

Reinventing the Steel The 20th Anniversary Edition is a no-brainer must-have for any Pantera fan even if you already own and prefer the original CD.  Full Review

Jimi Hendrix, Live In Maui

20201213_085717

Jimi performing in front of an active volcano two months prior to his death.  This collection includes the concert on two 2CDs and a Blu-ray of the show. 

AC/DC, Power Up

20201213_085425

What do you do when your favourite rock band ever releases new material for the first time in six years?  You double dip with the CD and the vinyl release.  Worth it. Full Review

I grabbed a couple of CDs off of amazon on Black Friday.  $10 each. 

The Strokes, The New Abnormal

20201213_085153

I haven’t bought a new release from The Strokes… ever!  I have been lucky finding their previous releases out in the wild for $2, but I gave this one a spin on Spotify and it is their best in years.  A full review is incoming for this one. 

John Fogerty, Fogerty’s Factory

20201213_085506

The global pandemic of 2020 has had a few highlights, and John Fogerty’s YouTube channel has been one of them.  Sequestered with his kids during the lockdown(s), he recreated a bunch of classic tunes with them.  Full review is incoming. 

And finally, I ordered from the band’s website a signed copy of:

Storm Force, Age of Fear

20201122_154115

Thanks to all of the write ups from fellow bloggers, Mike DeLano, Deke, and The Mad Metal Man, I was finally gave Storm Force’s Age of Fear my full attention.  It is truely a fantastic piece of ’80s hard rock that shouldn’t be missed! Full Review 

So, that is all.  Stay locked in right here for Part 2, coming up!  It will feature some Weezer, Aerosmith, and Bob Dylan!  All $2 grabs  You don’t want to miss it!

[Album Review] Ella Fitzgerald | The Lost Berlin Tapes

Many I know like to knock jazz for being a little self indigent at times.  Well, Ella don’t play that.  She sings the standards direct and to the point with a simple quartet.  Her accompaniment is Paul Smith on piano, Wilfred Middlebrooks on bass and Stan Levey on drums.  That’s it.

So, if you’re looking for a place to dive in, The Lost Berlin Tapes is a great place to start.

Ella’s popularity soared after she released Ella in Berlin: Mack The Knife in 1960.  On that album, she has a brain-fart during Mack The Knife and improvised some lyrics on the spot.  The performance eared her two Grammys for Best Female Vocal Performance (Single) and the Best Vocal Performance, Female (Album) that year.

The concert for The Lost Berlin Tapes was recorded in 1962 in the same town, and I think it outdoes the 1960 show for a couple reasons.

First, is the quality of the recording is superb.  The only reason why it took this long to get this show published is it really was lost.  The recordings were only recently found in her long time manager’s garage.  It must have been dry and clean one because the album does not sound like it was keep away for almost 60 years.  That, or the folks who restored the recording deserve a heap of praise.

The other is this really shows off Ella’s humble spirit between songs and her powerful persona during them.

Again, she has a gaff during Mack The Knife.  Instead fumbling the lyrics, this time she couldn’t remember where she was for the town’s shout out during the song.  Check it out right here at the 2:55 spot:

She recovers before the end, but she won’t start the next song before she apologizes to the audience.  But I can tell you, no one in that crowd took offense.  They just witnessed a genuine live moment.

The setlist also helps her shine better.  Songs like Cheek to Cheek or I Won’t Dance, are excellent showcases for her talent and personality.  Both are not on Ella In Berlin.

Ella was best on stage and The Lost Berlin Tapes I believe captured her better than any other recording I have heard.  Even if you don’t like jazz I think you should check it out.  I know I used this verb in my last review but it fits here too.  Ella transcends the genre.

5/5

20201122_152837