Classic Rock

Albums Of 2018

2018 delivered plenty of new albums to get excited about, from both big names and newcomers. Here, then, is the Classic Rock critics’ choice of the best 50.

- Words: Tim Batcup, Paul Elliott, Dave Everley, Ian Fortnam, Polly Glass, Rob Hughes, Fraser Lewry, Dave Ling, Hannah May Kilroy, Henry Yates

The past 12 months delivered plenty of new albums to get excited about, from both big names and newcomers. We present the Classic Rock critics’ choice of the best 50.

50 Vega Only Human Frontiers

Born on a wave of falsely perceived boastfulne­ss, Vega have had to earn respect. Five albums later they’re still plugging away making slow but steady progress. The quintet’s best percolatio­n so far of familiar-sounding AOR building blocks and modern-pop sensibilit­ies, Only Human was said in these pages to sound “just like the 80s – only in the here and now”. DL

Killer track: Last Man Standing

49 Tax The Heat Change Your Position nuclear Blast

They caught our attention with debut Fed To The Lions, and built on those hard-grooving, razor-sharp foundation­s this year. Change Your Position was slick, stylish and packed with attitude – classic rock and rhythm ’n’ blues for the 21st century – without feeling overly polished or predictabl­e. PG

Killer track: All That Medicine

48 Monster Truck True Rockers Mascot

Hard-rocking Canadians Monster Truck have a reputation for hearty southern and 70s-infused rock’n’roll (with a name like that they were hardly going to be a folk band), and capitalise­d on a profile-raising few years with this head-banging hybrid of grit, testostero­ne and outlaw country spirit, with brooding notes of Load-era Metallica on Undone. PG

Killer track: Undone

47 Phil Campbell and The bastard sons The Age Of Absurdity nuclear Blast

Focusing his post Motörhead energies on this family-filled project, Campbell and co. delivered an album of tight, punchy, archetypal yet superior riffs. Bolstered by vocalist Neil Starr’s chutzpah and an air of bonhomie, it was a fizz-filled record with aplomb. TB Killer Track: Ringleader

46 black Stone cherry Family Tree Mascot

After years of writing muscular hard rock with radio-play in mind (at least to some degree), the Kentucky foursome went back to their roots for their sixth album, piling on rich layers of blues, classic rock, soul and southern rock’n’roll. And it worked fantastica­lly. PG

Killer track: New Kinda Feelin’

45 Vodun Ascend new Heavy sounds

London trio Vodun hit their full stride on the follow-up to 2016 debut Possession, fusing West African rhythms and pounding beats to psychedeli­c soul and raw metal. There were powerhouse performanc­es all round, from Zel Kaute’s tribal drumming and Linz Hamilton’s shuddering guitar grooves to the remarkable voice of frontwoman Chantal Brown. As a rallying cry in a dangerousl­y divisive era, Spirits Past was the real keeper. RH

Killer track: Spirits Past

44 corrosion of Conformity No Cross No Crown nuclear Blast

Corrosion Of Conformity’s second album since the return of rhythm guitarist/ vocalist frontman Pepper Keenan (from his extended stint with Down) was one of fearsome power, but characteri­stically tempered by moments of measured acoustic restraint. Even after 36 years you can still depend on COC to provide plenty of new skin, flayed ferociousl­y in fresh fashion, for the increasing­ly oldmetal ceremony. IF

Killer track: Cast The First Stone

43 Turbowolf The Free Life so recordings

If 2018 was the year in which Bristol emerged as the most rock’n’roll city in Britain, then Turbowolf were up there leading the charge. As the title track of this, their third album, put it, these spiral-eyed psychedeli­c garage-punk shamen brought together ‘science, magick all things in between’. Guest appearance­s from IDLES frontman Joe

Talbot and former Do Me Bad Things/ current Vodun singer Chantal Brown made it a home-town celebratio­n. DE Killer track: The Free Life

42 uriah Heep Living The Dream Frontiers

Heep’s 2014 album Outsider might have dipped slightly below the band’s exemplary post-millennial standards, but with Living The Dream – their 25th studio record in a topsy-turvy 49-year career – they rediscover­ed their mojo in spectacula­r fashion. Songs such as Falling Under Your Spell, Waters Flowin’ and Dreams Of Yesteryear sounded as fresh as the proverbial newly mown field, enhanced by a magnificen­t production from Jay Ruston. DL

Killer track: Falling Under Your Spell

41 Brothers osborne Port Saint Joe Snake farm

The Nashville-based sibling duo headed to a remote coastal town in Florida to record this mature, diverse second album, and the peaceful setting seemed to leave a mark; Port Saint Joe came laden with beautifull­y mournful roots and country tones. But the best track was upbeat single Shoot Me Straight, which showcased TJ’s velvety baritone vocals and John’s sensationa­l arsenal of blues, rock and countrifie­d guitar chops to majestic effect. PG

Killer track: Shoot Me Straight

40 reef Revelation ear Music

With Revelation an all grown-up Reef returned with their first album in 18 years, and guitarist Jesse ‘son of Ron’ Wood now in the band. From its hard-hitting title track to the Caribbean-kissed Provide and even a slice of gospel in How I Got Over, the album laid out a broad and tasty menu, with side order of Sheryl Crow guesting on My Sweet Love. DL

Killer track: Revelation

39 ace frehley Spaceman eone/ SPV

Of the four Kiss men’s solo albums released in 1978, Ace Frehley’s rocked the hardest, and as he says now that Spaceman “has the same vibe”. A collection of street-tough rock tracks, sung in Frehley’s wonderfull­y blasé manner, it included two co-starring Gene Simmons. On a cover of I Wanna Go Back

(a hit for Eddie Money in the 80s), crazy old Ace got emotional. PE

Killer track: I Wanna Go Back

38 MASSIVE wagons Full Nelson earache

Massive Wagons in the Top 20? The real one? It was a happy moment when Baz Mills and co. kicked down the album chart door; no tricks or commercial backing, just an organicall­y grown fan base and an album full of lovable, no-bullshit rock’n’roll. The kind that Status Quo might have made if they’d found the fourth chord and jammed with Motörhead and Slade’s Noddy Holder. PG

Killer track: Under No Illusion

37 howlin rain The Alligator Bride silver current

Few people explore America’s mystical underbelly with as much panache as Howlin Rain’s Ethan Miller. His band’s fifth album came on like 19th-century poet Walt Whitman jamming with prime Neil Young, the Oakland visionarie­s’ psychedeli­a-tinged backwoods rock’n’roll providing the frame for an array of weird and wonderful characters. The result was as colourful and unique as one of Miller’s vintage thrift-store suits. DE

Killer track: The Alligator Bride

36 The record Company All Of This Life snake Farm

With their second album the LA-based power trio built on the raw, dynamic mesh of early blues, Stooges-era punk and Stonesy rock’n’roll that served them so well on 2016’s Give It Back To You. This time, however, the songs were bigger and better, the production was tighter (without losing warmth), and all three of them delivered stand-out performanc­es. PG

Killer track: Make This Happen


Crosby’s latest solo foray is with his acoustic Lighthouse band. It’s a collaborat­ive effort, and also revisits some of his old demos. Here If You Listen is brimming with enchanting melodies and gorgeous multi-part vocal harmonies, Crosby’s instantly recognisab­le voice still sounding amazing more than 50 years into his career. Michelle Wills’s Janet, a sultry yet subtle slice of blusey jazz, shows that she is a star in the making. HMK

Killer track: Janet

34 Manics street Preachers Resistance Is Futile Columbia

The Manics’ promise of the “naïve energy of Generation Terrorists and the orchestral sweep of Everything Must Go” was right on the money. Internatio­nal Blue had a momentum that outran the Welshmen’s middle age, Distant Colours was a soaring smasher, and they’ve never sounded more open-hearted than on Dylan & Caitlin. Nicky Wire spoke of songs “that make your life feel a little bit better” – mission accomplish­ed. HY

Killer Track: Internatio­nal Blue


The Atlanta longhairs’ sixth album is one of extremes. “The heavy songs are even heavier,” said frontman Charlie Starr, “and the laid-back songs are even more laid-back”. Both sides of the coin were equally compelling, from the morose stomp of Flesh And Bone to the blissful jangle of Best Seat In The House, a love letter to Tom Petty, tracked the same night the rock legend fell into a coma. HY

Killer Track: Flesh And Bone

32 andrew wk You’re Not Alone Red/sony

Like the cavalry riding over the hill in the final reel of a classic Hollywood movie, Andrew WK returned from a lengthy absence to save us from the morons and madmen running the world. His first album in 10 years was the most resolutely upbeat record of 2018, its message of joyous abandon encapsulat­ed in the title of Music Is Worth Living For. It was great to have him back. DE Killer track: Music Is Worth Living For

31 ash Islands Pias

Having mastered the art of the soaring indie-pop anthem with the ‘widescreen Buzzcocks’ brilliance of Ash’s run of era-defining millennium-hugging hits, Tim Wheeler has spent the past decade, face pressed against a commercial glass ceiling, wondering how to improve on perfection. Islands marked a quantum leap forward, revealing an epic sonic scope that may yet universali­se the band’s hitherto Brit-centred appeal. That lucrative American Foo market awaits. IF Killer track: Buzzkill

30 Joe Bonamassa Redemption Mascot

Redemption brings the virtuosic discipline Bonamassa is known for, while being one of the most dynamic things he’s done. Lyrically it’s the closest we’ve had to a heartbreak confession­al from this typically guarded bluesman, with songs like Self-Inflicted Wounds showing him at his most intimate and vulnerable. But it’s also a bold, brassy production, peppered with big gospel backing harmonies, actual brass and good-time licks, as heard in bouncy highlights such as King Bee Shakedown. PG Killer track: Molly O’

29 FM Atomic Generation Frontiers

In a strong year for melodic rock – with fine albums from the likes of Vega, W.E.T. and the guvnor, Steve Perry – FM delivered another AOR master class in Atomic Generation. Thirty two years since the classic debut Indiscreet, the big hair is no more, but the big tunes are still coming: the biggest of all, Killed By Love, a yeah-yeah-yeah anthem with what is surely the most AOR title of all time. PE

Killer track: Killed By Love

28 Dewolff Thrust Mascot

If you’d told us back in January that one of 2018’s best classic rock albums would come from three unknown Dutch kids in their twenties, we might have taken some convincing. But it happened: two brothers and their organist friend made this masterful fusion of 70s rock’n’roll and Southern sensibilit­ies. And where their previous albums leant rather more heavily on psychedeli­c atmosphere, Thrust was all about the king-sized choruses, tied together with youthful piss and vinegar. Superb. PG

Killer track: Tragedy? Not Today

27 A Perfect circle Eat The Elephant BMG

While the world continued to wait for a new Tool album, frontman Maynard James Keenan got busy with his other band, A Perfect Circle. Keenan was the marquee name on their first release in 14 years, but this was as much compadre Billy Howerdel’s record: the guitarist and musical director was responsibl­e for the perfect ebb and flow of the album, from the languid title track to the sparkling, Douglas Adams-referencin­g pop of So Long And Thanks For All The Fish. Who needs Tool anyway? DE

Killer track: So Long And Thanks For All

The Fish

26 Ginger Wildheart Ghost In The Tanglewood round

With mental health in the headlines, the Wildhearts frontman threw a lifeline to fellow sufferers with this joyous cri de coeur. The lyrical themes were often stark – opener The Daylight Hotel chronicled the singer’s stay at a mental hospital – but with its shanties, singalongs and glorious swells of countrifie­d steel guitar, it was an album to soothe the soul. HY

Killer Track: Minus You

25 nine inch nails Bad Witch the null corporatio­n/ capitol

It was just 30 minutes long, but Trent Reznor packed bright ideas into Bad Witch. On their ninth album, NIN’s industrial rock revolution continued apace with the ferocious clank of cuts like Shit Mirror. But the eye-opener was the spectre of Bowie looming over proceeding­s, with Reznor tipping a hat to his late mentor on the space-jazz and parping sax of God Break Down The Door. HY Killer Track: Shit Mirror

24 Nashville Pussy Pleased To Eat You ear Music

After two decades of refried, Tabasco sauce marinated hillbilly rock’n’roll, we know what to expect from America’s answer to Motörhead, and Pleased To Eat You ticks every box – salacious song titles, drug and booze references, high voltage riffs and energy levels to make AC/DC and Frantic Four-era Quo proud. DL

Killer track: Testify

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