So, boys, girls and others, I open my review of 2021 with the news that I have not been to a gig this year at all. My next gig, Covid-19 permitting, will be the final show of The Stranglers’ last UK tour at Cambridge Corn Exchange on 26 February 2022 – the day after my birthday, if anyone is interested.
2021 Review – Robert Adams
The last gig I attended was Devin Townsend at The Roundhouse on 19 December 2019, the same night that the UK thought it would be a good idea to put Boris Johnson in Number 10 Downing Street. The Devin gig was everything that Boris ISN’T – slick, professional, uplifting, emotional and extraordinary. If proof is required, just have a look at Townsend’s Order Of Magnitude DVD, which is a live recording of that very show.
When 26 February 2022 finally rolls around, it will have been two years, two months and one week exactly since I went to a gig. The longest barren gig streak I’ve ever had.
As 2021 inevitably coughs and sneezes to its demise, it’s a good job we have a thing called a calendar. It’s Groundhog Day, with December 2021 being exactly the same as December 2020. A new Covid-19 variant is amongst us. We are all being urged to get booster jabs, and football matches are being postponed because of Covid-19 breakouts, so far, so much the same.
2021 has not all been doom and gloom though, there have been some tremendous albums released this year and here are some of my personal favourites.
Liquid Tension Experiment 3
After a 22 year gap, this instrumental progressive Metal supergroup found the time to release a truly glorious follow up to Liquid Tension Experiment 2. Expect stunning virtuosity from all involved and an album that isn’t style over substance.
Frost* – Day And Age
Another band making use of lockdown by recording a new album, given that schedules were open, was Frost*. Day And Age is the best album they have produced to date, and, fingers crossed, I cannot wait to see them live in April 2022.
Transatlantic – The Absolute Universe
Yet another band to utilise the schedule freedom that lockdown gave them was progressive rock maestros Transatlantic. Not content with releasing one album, they released three different versions of the same album and not in an edited or remixed way. They recorded three unique versions of The Absolute Universe, and all of them were glorious.
Smith / Kotzen
This wonderful homage to ’70s classic rock is the result of what happens when two great friends, who also happen to be world-class guitarists, got together whilst on holiday. The most impressive part of this album isn’t what’s contained within it, but what is noticeably absent – ego. Both guitarists are having the time of their lives riffing off against each other and sharing vocal duties. This truly is an album of fun, and that shines throughout.
The Pineapple Thief – Nothing But The Truth
This is a live album / DVD taken from the band’s live stream gig in 2020 and is just beautiful in every possible way. Musically stunning and wonderfully staged, this is The Pineapple Thief at their glorious best.
Joe Bonamassa – Time Clocks
Bonamassa released the most accomplished album of his career with Time Clocks. Vocally magnificent, with his trio of female backing singers, Bonamassa has never sounded so good.
Carcass – Torn Arteries
Jeff Walker and his crew show no signs of slowing down or mellowing in their advancing years. Torn Arteries is a laser-sharp, brutal, no holds barred assault on the senses and is all the better for it.
The Stranglers – Dark Matters
Guilford’s favourite sons released a truly wonderful tribute to keyboard player Dave Greenfield who was sadly taken from us in May 2020 due to Covid-19. He features on eight of the album’s eleven tracks, and Dark Matters proves to be one of The Stranglers best albums of their illustrious career.
The Tea Party – Blood Moon Rising
Yet another band returning with a cracker of an album, Canada’s The Tea Party, released Blood Moon Rising to great critical acclaim, and I, for one, was one of many shouting its virtues from the rooftops.
Volbeat – Servant Of The Mind
Danish / American rockabilly Metallers Volbeat were in great danger of slipping into an ever decreasing circle of repetitive sounding albums. Their record store day release of Hocus Bonus proved just how good this band can be when they set their minds to it. Then came Servant Of The Mind, which is their finest album since Outlaw Gentlemen And Shady Ladies.
Ricky Warwick – When Life Was Fast And Hard
Black Star Riders and Thin Lizzy frontman Ricky Warwick released his finest solo album to date with When Life Was Fast And Hard. Covering all of Warwick’s styles, from slow acoustic songs to pedal to the floor rockers, this album has it all in spades.
Album Of The Year – Devin Townsend
Last, but by no means least, is my album, or should I say, albums of the year – Devin Townsend The Puzzle and Snuggles. Both of these albums are simply staggering, in my humble opinion. They are not your usual run-of-the-mill albums at all.
They are Devin’s thoughts and fears through lockdown presented in an ambient and avant garde musical form. With a cast of 60 singers and musicians, this is by far Townsend’s most complex achievement to date.
So there we have it, boys, girls and others – a wee run through some of the albums that have kept the wheels of Bobby’s Rock Bus turning round and round during 2021. I am very optimistic for what 2022 has in store, and I can’t wait to go to some gigs.
From myself and all of us at MetalTalk, thank you so much for your continued support, and I wish every single one of you a Rocking Christmas and a Rolling New Year.