By Steve Newton
30. Soundgarden King Animal (2012) The classic Soundgarden lineup of singer Chris Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil, bassist Ben Shepherd, and drummer Matt Cameron releases its first album in 16 years, and it sounds like it’s never been gone. The raging, three-minute “Attrition” might be the best damn rock tune of the year.
29. Black Sabbath 13 (2013) It was definitely a bummer that original drummer Bill Ward wasn’t on it, but Sabbath’s first studio album in 35 years was still a potent reminder of what the godfathers of metal stood for in the ’70s. Even Ozzy Osbourne’s vocals—notoriously painful in concert—sounded fine on the Rick Rubin–produced riff-fest.
28. Buddy Guy Living Proof (2010) On the opening track, “74 Years Young”, the Chicago blues legend shows he’s still a potent force of nature by unleashing a fierce barrage of blues-metal licks that would make Hendrix weep—or at least jam along. Nobody does it better, although B. B. King and Carlos Santana show up to offer some fancy fretwork as well.
27. Joe Satriani What Happens Next (2018) Bay Area guitar wizard hooks up once again with Langley producer Mike Fraser and—with the no-frills help of bassist Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple) and drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers)—concocts a dozen tracks of technically dazzling and beautifully melodic music.
26. The Black Keys Let’s Rock (2019) Who says rock is dead? Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney would beg to differ.
25. The Tedeschi Trucks Band Let Me Get By (2016) It takes a lot of love and determination to keep a 12-piece band going strong, but slide-guitar wizard Derek Trucks and his golden-voiced wife, Susan Tedeschi, have both in spades.
24. Jaco Pastorius JACO: Original Soundtrack (2015) I’m not the biggest jazz freak around, but there’s something about Jaco Pastorius’s bass guitar that’s just bloody magical. The soundtrack from the new documentary JACO includes gems from his solo career and his time with Weather Report, guest appearances with the likes of Ian Hunter and Joni Mitchell, and a smashing cover of his “Continuum” by Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela.
23. Metallica Hardwired… to Self-Destruct (2016) If you were wondering which metal band has been hoarding all the raunchiest riffs, catchiest hooks, and speediest lead-guitar freakouts of late, it was these guys.
22. Joe Satriani Unstoppable Momentum (2013) With a band composed of keyboardist Mike Keneally, bassist Chris Chaney, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, the Bay Area guitar hero unleashes 11 tracks of his typically adventurous instrumental hard rock. The disc was coproduced, recorded, and engineered by Satch’s long-time right-hand man, Langley’s own Mike Fraser.
21. Rush Clockwork Angels (2012) Like an unstoppable force of nature, the Canuck prog-rock trio of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart just keeps on bringin’ it. The band sounds as vibrant and adventurous as ever on its 19th studio album.
20. Joe Bonamassa Redemption (2018) I saw Joe Bonamassa play the first of three nights at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in 2018, and the sound was so bad that the show was ruined for me. Fortunately, the sound is great on Redemption, as is Bonamassa’s famously intense guitar-playing, especially on the soul-stirring “Self-Inflicted Wounds”.
19. The Rolling Stones Blue and Lonesome (2016) If this turns out to be the Stones’ final album—hey, nobody lives forever—it will go down as a precious love letter to the blues that spawned them. Mick, Keith, Ronnie, and Charlie sound juke-joint-ready on a primo batch of rollicking blues tunes by the likes of Magic Sam, Howlin’ Wolf, Memphis Slim, Little Walter, and Willie Dixon.
18. Gregg Allman Southern Blood (2017) One of the hardest-hitting musician deaths of 2017 was southern-rock legend Gregg Allman’s passing in May of complications from liver cancer. But he left his millions of fans with a poignant love letter in the posthumously released Southern Blood, which combines heartfelt originals with stirring numbers by Bob Dylan, Tim Buckley, Lowell George, and Jackson Browne.
17. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit The Nashville Sound (2017) Jason Isbell first garnered recognition as one of the three gifted singer-songwriter-guitarists in the Drive-By Truckers, penning such DBT classics as “Decoration Day”, “Outfit”, and “TVA”. But since going solo in 2007 he’s staked his claim as one of the finest Americana artists around, earning two Grammys for 2015’s Something More Than Free, with The Nashville Sound most likely to follow suit.
16. Drive-By Truckers American Band (2016) The Truckers have never shied away from politics, but the urgency with which they tackle Trumped-up topics like immigration, Islamophobia, and racial injustice has never been more fierce. Main men Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley are both gifted singer-songwriters, and their guitar licks aren’t bad either.
15. Joe Satriani Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards (2010) Satch didn’t put out an album in 2009, but he’s more than made up for that with these 11 startling tracks of strange and beautiful guitar music, coproduced with Langley’s own Mike Fraser.
14. Foo Fighters Wasting Light (2011) The Foos went back to the garage on their seventh studio album, and lucky for us they took some killer hooks with them.
13. Ronnie Earl Spread the Love (2010) His name isn’t as familiar as Clapton, Beck, or Page, but Ronnie Earl is another blues-based guitarist who makes magic whenever his finger touches a fret, as proven by these 14 smouldering instrumentals.
12. Black Country Communion Black Country Communion (2010) Rock supergroups come and go, but this one—composed of bassist-vocalist Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath), guitar hero Joe Bonamassa, drummer Jason Bonham (son of Zeppelin’s John), and former Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian—has the tunes and talent to last.
11. The Markus King Band Carolina Confessions (2018) When I interviewed Warren Haynes in advance of a Gov’t Mule show in Vancouver in 2017, I asked him if there were any guitar players who’d blown him away recently, and he mentioned Markus King without skipping a beat. Carolina Confessions proves why.
10 Jeff Beck Loud Hailer (2016) The world’s greatest living rock guitarist isn’t resting on his laurels at the age of 72. With Loud Hailer—another term for “megaphone”—Beck delivers a fresh-sounding blast of intense, politically minded rock. His fretwork has never been more creative and mind-blowing.
9. Gov’t Mule Shout! (2013) Mule fans got a double dose of their favourite southern-flavoured blues/jam-rock outfit this time around, as all 11 tracks on Shout! were rerecorded on a second disc with a stellar cast of guest singers, including Ben Harper, Dr. John, Steve Winwood, Grace Potter, and West Van resident Elvis Costello.
8. Tedeschi Trucks Band Made Up Mind (2013) A hugely talented 11-piece groove band featuring a Duane Allman–style slide-guitar virtuoso and a singer with the voice of a bluesy angel. What’s not to like?
7. Bottle Rockets South Broadway Athletic Club (2015) One of the world’s most underrated bands comes up with a killer album of catchy guitar rock that rivals its stellar ’94 release, The Brooklyn Side. Singer and main songwriter Brian Henneman is an overlooked genius on par with Tom Petty, if you ask me. And even if you don’t.
6. Pink Floyd The Endless River (2014)The prog-rock legends’ first album in 20 years is as spellbinding as ever. Though based on leftover material from 1994’s Division Bell, it doesn’t sound that way, and is a beautiful swan song for keyboardist Richard Wright.
5. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Hypnotic Eye (2014) Tom Petty revisits the raucous sound of his early work and it pays off with the first Billboard No. 1 album of his career. As usual, Mike Campbell’s economical, tasty-as-hell guitar work is Petty’s ace in the hole.
4. Joe Satriani Shockwave Supernova (2015) With help from the Aristocrats’ rhythm section of bassist Bryan Beller and drummer Marco Minnemann—as well as former Zappa sideman Mike Keneally on keys—the Bay Area guitar hero leads yet another startling excursion to the outer reaches of instrumental rock.
3. Drive-By Truckers English Oceans (2014)The double whammy of singer-songwriter-guitarists Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood is still unbeatable on the rock scene. The stunning album was dedicated to much-loved Truckers merch man Craig Lieske.
2. David Bowie Blackstar (2016) Harrowing might be the best word to describe David Bowie’s eclectic and arty, sax-filled swan song, which was released just two days before the pop legend’s death from liver cancer shocked and saddened his multitudes of followers. According to coproducer Tony Visconti, Blackstar was Bowie’s intended “parting gift” to his fans.
1. Eric Clapton and Friends The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale (2014) Eric Clapton, who hit it big with covers of such JJ Cale tunes as “After Midnight” and “Cocaine”, pays tribute to the American songwriting great in the company of an array of guitarists that includes Derek Trucks, Albert Lee, David Lindley, and the particularly awesome Doyle Bramhall II.