It’s another year where the hits on the Hot 100 suck, but I still found plenty of great music
By David Scherer
It was another year where the hits on the Hot 100 sucked, but I still found plenty of great music. 2017 was much better than the extremely weak 2016.
Dear Evan Hansen – Original Cast Album
In a perfect world, this Tony-winning show cast album could be nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year (not just in Original Cast album category). “Waving Through A Window” should have been an AC hit. Wow – a Broadway tune on pop radio.
Best tracks: “Waving Through A Window,” “Requiem,” “You Will Be Found” (check out the You Tube video of the cast’s performance on The Today Show).
To The Bone – Steve Wilson
The current prog god with the genre’s fans with his membership in the group Porcupine Tree, and his solo work, Blackfield (duo – see below) along with his re-mastering of many of prog’s classic albums (Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Yes). Being a big prog fan, I haven’t had too many prog albums rock my world recently. Probably tough to hold up to the benchmark of legends Yes, Genesis and ELP, but a lot of dynamic music on this, Wilson’s fifth solo album.
Best Tracks: “To The Bone,” “Nowhere Now” and “Permanating.”
Slowdive – Slowdive
I only sampled this because they appeared on a list of shoegazer bands (Ride, My Bloody Valentine), so I checked out their new album and loved it on first listen. Best tracks: “Star Roving” (my favorite song of the year), “Sugar For the Pill.” “Slomo.”
Weather Diaries – Ride
Their first album in years and I enjoyed it right off the bat. Unlike Slowdive, I had previous Ride favorites from the early ‘90s when they were on 4AD/Warner Bros. Best Tracks: “Charm Assault” and “Lannoy Point.”
I loved her when I first saw her video for “Blow Your Mind (Mwah).” She’s huge in the UK and finally breaking in the U.S. with her current Top 10 single “New Rules.” She has a great, sexy cockiness to her. Best Tracks: “Blow Your Mind (Mwah),” “Be The One,” “New Rules” and “Hotter Than Hell.”
Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie
It’s a shame that a great pop/rock album by veteran artists gets mainly overlooked. Ageism. Yes there are scores of albums by oldsters that are only worth a few listens and then it’s back to their classic albums. But this album was strong through all 10 tracks. “In My World” deserved more than a few token plays on AAA radio with its infectious chorus that was the highlight of the album. Best Tracks: “In My World” and “Carnival Begin.”
Prisoner – Ryan Adams
One of the more consistent artists in the last 15 years. Liked by critics, he definitely flies under the radar. Best Tracks: “Prisoner,” “Shiver And Shake” and “Anything I Say To You Now.”
Pacific Daydream – Weezer
The surprise choice on this list. Never a fan of the group’s KROQ hits, I really only listened because their first radio track caught my ear immediately and was curious about the full album. Best Tracks: “Beach Boys” and “Weekend Woman.”
From The Fires – Greta Van Fleet
The discovery of the year. Blues-based rock is back with this band from Michigan made up of three brothers and a friend. Yes they sound like Zeppelin, but better them than say, Bon Jovi. Their YouTube videos are getting much praise from fans who are hoping (and praying) they stay clean and not go down any wrong roads. I saw them at the Troubadour and I was not disappointed. I’m hoping they can mature and become an important rock band that is not a generic sounding Active Rock band (where dozens all sound alike). “Highway Tune” went to #1 on the Mediabase Active Rock charts. Best Tracks: “Black Smoke Rising” and “Highway Tune.”
In no order for the rest…
Colors – Beck
Finally a follow-up to his Grammy-winning album “Morning Phase.” Fun pop with wonderful production. Only wished it was longer than 10 tracks. Best Tracks: “Colors” and “Dreams.”
V – Blackfield
Fifth album from Steve Wilson’s duo side project. Can be described as kind of prog-pop.
Best Tracks: “How Was Your Ride,” “October,” “We’ll Never Be Apart” and “Lately.”
As You Were – Liam Gallagher
Best “Oasis” album since (What’s the Story) Morning Glory. Consistent all the way through. And what most of my favorite albums share-little or no airplay in L.A. Of course he’s probably pissed off 90 percent of U.S. programmers with his attitude –but sometimes we need to overlook that. And the best song is the last one on the album. Always pays to listen all the way through. Best Tracks: “I’ve All I Need” and “Bold.”
A Deeper Understanding – The War On Drugs
Another great album from this Grammy-winning band. Finally getting some radio recognition. Best Tracks: “Up All Night” and “Pain.”
Somewhere Between – Alvarez Kings
Case where maybe their name confuses people. Not a Hispanic artist – but a UK band. I love Alternative Pop from the UK, so this album was really up my alley. Best Tracks: “Cold Conscience” and “Picking Up The Pieces.”
Kaleidoscope EP – Coldplay
How could I leave off my favorite band of the 2000’s (by a mile). Five nice tracks – only wish they had put a different version of “Something Just Like This” instead of this live version that includes a lot of audience sing-a-long. Best Track: “All I Can Think About Is You.”
Adios – Glen Campbell
Glen’s final studio album is a very pleasant surprise. Considering his health issues, far from being embarrassing. Best Tracks: “Everybody’s Talkin’” and “Adios.”
Tango In the Night – Fleetwood Mac
So wonderful that after all these years Rhino is reissuing this Mac classic with bonus and live tracks. I’ve always been partial to Tango even if it’s probably Stevie’s weakest Mac album. “Book of Miracles” instrumental, “Ricky” (old B-side) and a great remix of “Isn’t It Midnight” makes disc two a nice alternative listen to the regular album. Disc two is one of my most listened to discs all year.
Very, Elysium, Fundamental, Release and Nightlife – Pet Shop Boys
Three three-disc re-issues and two two-disc sets feature a treasure trove of wonderful music. I would need a week to fully appreciate everything on these reissues. Not only remixes, but dozens of demos, alternate versions, B-sides and unreleased tracks. Some songs that should have appeared on the original albums
Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 – George Michael
The big plus with this reissue is the MTV Unplugged show that is finally on CD. Great versions of his classics along with a beautiful version of “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Find the special edition that has an additional third disc of remixes and bonus tracks and DVD.
David Scherer is a longtime music collector and has worked in the recording industry for over 30 years.