[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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

[Album Review] John Fogerty | Fogerty’s Factory

There is a lot not to like about 2020 as we struggle through this global pandemic and the state of civil unrest.  It hasn’t been easy for anyone.  One of the highlights of the year is seeing people come together to make the best out of a crappy situation.  John Fogerty is one of them.   

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, named after one of CCR’s best know albums, Cosmos Factory.   Rather than me describe it, here is what they have been up to:

As the popularity of the YouTube videos grew, so did the quality of the recordings:

Fogerty’s Factory is a collection of most of what they did for YouTube this past year.

When I first listened to the album, I was instantaneously taken back through the year that was.  I can image someone coming to this album in the decades to come, wondering why these recordings sound somewhere between high and low fi (All mistakes and background noises are left in).  Why tunes like Bill Wither’s Lean on Me and Steve Goodman’s City of New Orleans (heavily influenced by Arlo Guthrie’s version) are chosen as covers.  A couple of John’s shorter intros where he makes a statement that should NOT be seen as political (Hopefully in the future they will not be) further establish the time line.

Fogerty's Facotry - Cover inside

Even though all of these tunes were originally recorded at least 23 years prior to 2020, I was listening to the year being archived through music.  How they are recorded is the time stamp.

This album is not about the setlist (Although the fact that Blue Moon Swamp from 1997 is heavily represented with 4 tunes warms my heart to no end) or how well the band performed.  Honestly, John’s kids are competent but they’re not going to wow you with their musical prowess.  None of these cuts are going to replace the originals on the radio or show up John’s past performances with professionals on stage.

For me, this is a time capsule.  It reminded me of what we had to do and the sacrifices we made. Of course, most had to do A LOT more than simply stay at home and play music with their kids in front of an iphone, but this album isn’t for cynics. 

4.5/5

Fogerty's Facotry - back cover

Fun bonus. A side by side comparison of Cosmos Factory and Fogerty’s Factory. I adore how John’s never changes his cloths:

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

[Book Review] Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music | John Fogerty

Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music by John Fogerty was published in 2012 and I finally got around reading it this month.  I was able to snag an ebook copy from my local library and put it onto my Kobo Reader without having to leave the couch.  What an age we live in!

What attracted me to Fogerty’s story (besides being a huge Creedence Clearwater Revival fan since I was a teen) was all that in fighting!  I knew CCR had a ton of hits in its short period of time, (3 albums loaded with top 40 hits in 1969 alone!) and then they were done as quickly as they started.  John was CCR’s singer, song writer, and lead guitarist, who no longer acquainted himself with any of his former band members.  And I’ve always wondered what went on there.

Well dang, I found out!  I mean, the story is all from John’s perspective so take it with a grain of salt.  But there is no denying how after CCR, John went on to have an amazing professional career, winning Grammys and performing with professional classic rock royalty like Bruce Springsteen, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, etc.  Meanwhile, the rest of the band pops up on the “old fart” circuit performing at casinos and smaller venues as Creedence Clearwater Revisited. So, it is clear to me where the talent lies.

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From left: Doug Clifford, Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook, John Fogerty

Not only does John throw all of his former band mates under the bus, he then takes the bus to the local gas station, fills ‘er up, checks the tire pressure, and heads back for more.  And after reading his story, I can see why.  Between the years of 1968 to 1970 CCR was the #2 best-selling rock band in the world with The Beatles holding the #1 slot.  You would think this amount of success would have Fogerty financially set for life.  But early in their career the band signed a recording contract slanted heavily towards the label, Fantasy.  This contract would see the first 180 songs CCR would produce committed to the label.  This poor business decision would not only eroded John’ relationship with his band members including his brother/rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty, it would also see him lose control of CCR’s music.

The band made a pact to put all decisions on licencing their music to covering artists, commercials, TV Shows, or films, etc. to a vote.  Shortly after the band breaks up in 1971, Fantasy purchases Tom Fogerty’s vote and frees him from his part of the 180 song debt.  Bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford follow shortly after.  This means that not only is the remainder of the 180 song debt placed solely on John’s shoulders, but he will be out voted on any licencing decision by Fantasy 3 to 1.

The CCR tune you heard in “Forrest Gump”?  Fantasy’s decision.  ‘Fortunate Son’ used to hock denim in a Wrangler TV spot?  John had no say in the matter and he hated the ad.

John confronts Tom one day and asks him how he could sell out his music like that.  Tom replies with “I just wanted the money.”

John begins whittling down now his 180 song debt with his first solo project in 1973, Blue Ridge Rangers.  The album is a compilation of 12 traditional and country covers with every instrument played by John; and with just a hint of passive aggression John decides to leave his name off of the cover sleeve (This was changed on the vinyl re-issues and the CD).   It was a commercial flop with a majority of the public led to believe that is was a new country album by a group called “Blue Ridge Rangers”.  John doesn’t mind as his purpose is to be free of the 180 song debt and get back to writing for himself.  Fantasy has the last laugh, however, by informing him that the album will not count.  His debt is not simply any 180 songs, but 180 “rock songs”.

John also had to regularly fight for his cut of the royalty money he was owed as Fantasy would hold onto it for various reasons.  In an early 80’s he filed a lawsuit for a portion of the money owed to him, and he allowed his band mates to join him since each of their lawsuits were filed too late and the statute of limitations had run out.  Not only did He and his band mates win the money owed to them, but John was also awarded freedom from the ridiculous 180 song debt.  John was finally able to write for himself again, but Fantasy wasn’t done yet.

In the mid-80’s John puts out his first “debt-free” solo album, Centerfield, and it is a smash hit.  Fantasy then sues John for plagiarizing CCR.  Da faq you say?  Yep.  Despite John being the sole author of both tunes they claim the album’s first single ‘The Old Man Down the Road’ is a ripoff of CCR’s ‘Born on the Bayou’.  They were suing John for plagiarizing himself!  During the trial it is reviled how Fantasy was put up to this ridiculous claim by his former band members.  They are the ones who convinced the label that John was restructuring old CCR songs.  This was AFTER John had allowed them in on the previous lawsuit against Fantasy.  They only want that money, man.

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John Fogerty performing in 2005-ish.  Rare is the photo of him not wearing plaid.

Besides spending way too much time in court and money on lawyers, Fortunate Son does offer John’s insight into many of the tunes he famously wrote.  He also gives shout outs to the songs that he grew up listening too which helped shape his music and guitar tone.  I was making notes throughout my read and now have a killer song list on Spotify titled “John’s Recommendations and Influences”.

I loved getting John’ perspective on not only his music, but life and how he (when he was able too) chose to live it.  The book goes off on tangents once in a while as John talks about his relationship with his current wife, and it even switches to her perspective at times.  It’s fine… but I was here for the dirt!  So, I mostly skipped it.

You won’t find much of the debauchery and drug abuse that follow most rock ‘n roll bands here.  According to John, one CCR member would pour shaving foam into the backs of hotel television sets to watch them blow up, and that is about as mischievous as the book gets.  But if you are into vendettas and lawsuits, you’ll get plenty of that here.  John is an interesting guy and I only gave you a taste here of what the book has to offer.  Highly recommended.