01. Heat – II
Perfection and the swan song for Erik Gronwall and the band. If it was 1988 they’d be million selling superstars.
02. Harem Scarem – Change The World
The most reliable writing duo in the melodic rock sphere, another perfect example of how to do classic melodic rock with a modern touch.
03. One Desire – Midnight Empire
Upping the intensity and the quality all-round. A brilliantly impressive modern melodic hard rock album.
04. Perfect Plan – Time For A Miracle
These guys are already firmly at the head of the pack for the ‘new meets old’ wave of young kick ass bands modernising the old school sound. Foreigner meets Giant and Survivor, wrapped in big songs and even bigger vocals.
05. Brother Firetribe – Feel The Burn
Four of the 5 this year are from Scandi-acts. A little change up from these guys. Less in your face anthemic, but rather more mature and perfectly constructed. Another example of the Scandinavians doing it better than anyone.
06. Jeff Scott Soto – Wide Awake (In My Dreamland)
JSS teams with Alessandro Del Vecchio for the first time, which brings out the best in both guys. A time-capsule career spanning album of new songs that find inspiration from Jeff’s past.
07. Vanishing Point – Dead Elysium
Outstanding new progressive rock masterpiece from the Aussie band that delivers the progressive highlight of the year for me and my favourite prog album since Threshold.
08. Dennis DeYoung – 26 East Vol. 1
Dennis and Jim Peterik make magic together in the first of two volumes of classic pomp-AOR, exactly what you’d expect from the duo.
09. Arctic Rain – The One
Of course they are from Sweden. A simply outstanding debut album crammed with high energy melodic rockers in the vein of Winger, Danger Danger and HEAT. Would have to be my Debut Album Of The Year.
10. Vega – Grit Your Teeth
The British rockers just keep rolling and keep adding more great tunes to their impressive catalogue. Another great example of the ‘new meets old’.
11. Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Proving that the heavier direction suits them perfectly, the band delivers yet another high-octane melodic metal winner.
12. Revolution Saints – Rise
It seems to be the forgotten album of 2020 if fan Best Of lists are to be believed. It came out in January, so it has been a while and 2020 did last 27 months. But their third turns out to be their best so far!
13. Tokyo Motor Fist – Lions
A sensational sophomore release that is packed with heartfelt melodic rock anthems and a couple of ballads. I think the title track is in the wrong position though and kills mid-album momentum, but the material is unquestionably good. One of the few project ideas that works a treat.
14. Tony Mitchell – Church Of A Restless Soul
Following up the mighty Beggars Gold with more moody British melodic rock brilliance. Very personal record for Tony and brilliant at every turn.
15. Fee Waybill – Rides Again
Yes he sure does! And once again with Richard Marx in tow, the great Mr. Waybill delivers an energetic 9 song set that rocks more than expected with the trademark Fee sound.
16. Black Swan – Shake The World
A Frontiers project with a sound of it’s own! Yes indeed…it is possible! A really fine project lead by Jeff Pislon with Robin McAuley in fine voice.
17. Pride Of Lions – Lion Heart
Jim Peterik strikes again. Nothing we didn’t expect, but everything we hoped for. Not their best, not their worst (which is still a great record anyway). Just more consistently good and enjoyable melodic rock with a natural pomp flair.
18. Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall – We Are the Night
A true return to form this year, with 2 great albums from Magnus, but this is the winner – a sublime selection of high octane melodic metal with no shortage of killer hooks and choruses.
19. The Unity – Pride
Hard and (melodic) heavy, just a powerhouse of great songs, great production and killer delivery. For fans of Masterplan meets Eclipse (for one example). Huge record!
20. Magnum – The Serpent Rings
Continuing their return to form and consistent output, the veteran British melodic hard rock band turned up the keyboards and added more harmonies and the result is another memorable record.
21. House Of Lords – New World New Eyes
The production was well below average for the guys, but you can’t deny the songs were exceptionally good and recaptured some of the swagger missing from the last couple of records.
22. Rob Moratti – Paragon
One sweet anthemic AOR song after another. Maybe Rob’s best work yet and recommended to anyone that loves Journey, The Storm, Hugo and artists with a high vocal, but a rich melody.
23. Unruly Child – Our Glass House
The guys turned up the guitars but turned down the production quality. Would have been rated higher if it had the same production quality as earlier records. Great to see them still creating new music though.
24. Khymera – Master Of Illusions
Once again, a very familiar sound and style and nothing unexpected, which is probably a good thing for fans of these guys. Dennis Ward sounding a cool as ever on vocals.
25. Lionville – Magic Is Alive
Could easily have been higher in my rankings, but some good competition keeps them just out of the Top 20. More marvellous pink and fluffy AOR.
26. Sons Of Apollo – MMXX
Heavy, intricate, powerful, grade A production and even better then the acclaimed debut. Plus Jeff Scott Soto in his natural habitat. Class all-round.
27. Jessica Wolff – Para Dice
A surprise just how good this record is – killer melodic hard rock with a big female lead vocal performance and some really catchy songs. Her best effort to date.
28. Stan Bush – Dare To Dream
This could be more Stan Bush if it was a Stan Bush record from 1988. Stan defies age with his earnest feel good anthems of never giving up and going for gold!
29. At The Movies – The Soundtrack Of Your Life Vol. 1
Almost flawless selection of 80s soundtrack songs, all rocked up nicely, mixed beautifully and performed in lockdown…and now released!
30. Deep Purple – Whoosh
Strongest album of the last few with some tasteful new licks and songs within the band’s M.O. and some sometime restrained vocals from, Gillan, but always classy.
31. Pinnacle Point – Symphony Of Mind
More Kansas than Kansas? Certainly, close… as these guys – formed around the partnership of Jerome Mazza: Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Keyboards Torben Enevoldsen: Guitars, Keyboards – deliver one of the year’s best (progressive) AOR records.
32. Landfall – The Turning Point
Another huge debut from Brazil featuring former Auras singer Gui Oliver. A heavier brand of melodic rock than Auras, it still has the melodic integrity of that band and a tougher hard rock edge that makes for a strong debut that should be investigated!
33. Newman – Ignition
The ever reliable and fabulous Mr. Steve Newman delivers yet again. You know what to expect and so it is delivered.
34. East Temple Avenue – Both Sides Of Midnight
Formed in various studios across the world featuring Aussie songwriter Darren Phillips; bass player Dennis Butabi Borg (Cruzh), lead guitarist Philip Lindstrand (Find Me, Arkado) and drummer Herman Furin (Work of Art) with knockout vocalist Robbie LaBlanc (Find Me, Blanc Faces).
What is delivered is exactly as hoped – a world class AOR album with some melodic rock touches.
35. Axel Rudi Pell – Sign Of The Times
Another return to form – nothing different here (no surprise there), but just genuinely good and likable songs.
36. Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromatic
Another retro-themed album in a modern package. Some truly talented musicians involved here.
37. Cats In Space – Atlantis
Epic! And would probably have gone higher if released earlier in the year, having the benefit of being able to grow over time, which all Cats albums do. 70s melodic pomp glory!
38. Toto – Old Is New
Not really a new album, but not entirely an old one either. But…some great songs and the usual Toto flair.
39. Wildness – Ultimate Demise
Just extra good Scandi-AOR goodness once again.
40. Stardust – Highway To Heartbreak
Classic 80s Euro-AOR with a distinct Kevin Chalfant style lead vocal. Very likable and very enjoyable, but whoever made the decision to run with the Pat Benatar cover of Heartbreaker at track two should be immediately removed from any further decision making.
41. Mike Tramp – Second Time Around
42. Storm Force – Age Of Fear
43. Dukes Of The Orient – Freakshow
44. Gathering Of Kings – Discovery
45. Champlin / Williams / Friestedt – 2
46. Gotthard – 13
47. Heartwind – Strangers
48. Palace – Rock N Roll Radio
49. Kansas – The Absence Of Presence
50. FM – Synchronized
Not quite (but very worthy of checking out):
– Grand Design – V – Patty Smyth – It’s About Time
– Overland – Scandalous
– Dreams Of Avalon – Beyond The Dreams
– Serious Black – Suite 226
– Shaft Of Steel – Steel Heartbeat
– Signal Red – Alien Nation
– Todd Sucherman – Last Flight Home
– Jorn – Heavy Rock Radio 2
– LA Guns – Renegades
– Collateral – Collateral
– Edge Of The Blade – Feels Like Home
– Compass – Our Time on Earth
– Allen/Olsen – World’s Apart
– Atlas – Parallel Love
– DeVicious – Phase Three
– Janet Gardner – Synergy
– Gathering of Kings – Discovery
– Magic Dance – Remnants
– The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
– David Reece – Cacophony of Souls
– AC/DC – PWR UP
– Andy Taylor – Nobody’s Business
– Robert Hart – Pure
– Silent Tiger – Ready For Attack
Not even close (avoid at all cost):
– Bon Jovi – 2020
– Jaded Heart – Stand Your Ground
– Orianthi – O
– Lynch Mob – Wicked Sensation Reimagined
– Decarlo – Lightning Strikes Twice
– Ramos – My Many Sides
– Goo Goo Dolls – It’s Christmas All Over