The Year in Rock 2022 – The Best Album Releases

The Year in Rock 2022 has been punctuated by a bit of everything. There’s been some tragedy (the passing of Meat Loaf, Taylor Hawkins, and Christine McVie, among others), some truly memorable events (can anyone forget Wolfgang Van Halen ripping his dad’s “Hot for Teacher” licks at the London Hawkins tribute show?) and some great comebacks (Rage Against the Machine FTW!). But the one constant over the course of the last twelve months has been great rock and roll, from the independents to the newcomers to the venerable monoliths of rock history.

Over the next few paragraphs, we’re going to look back at the CDs that were released in 2022. Whether they were the “old guard” of the rock world or the brashest of newcomers, they all have added to the great tunes that we all love. Perhaps you’ll find a few of your favorites from the past year here – and, if you don’t, let me know what you think! (Hover on the album title for each artist to get a link to purchase, should you desire – I do NOT receive anything for this!)

Without further ado, let’s get started (and in no particular order)!

After last year’s Ordinary Man, there isn’t a soul on Planet Earth that would have denied the opportunity for Ozzy Osbourne to stride off into the sunset. Instead, Osbourne came out with arguably one of the great albums of his solo career. Patient Number 9 was a tour de force from a true legend in rock history and he used that legend status to bring in a wealth of talent to work with him.

The reunion of Osbourne with his Black Sabbath mate Tommy Iommi on “Degradation Rules” was utterly outstanding, and even The Prince of Darkness’ turn with “Slowhand,” Eric Clapton (who had his own nuttery in 2022), on “One of Those Days” turned out excellent. Add in work from another Osbourne alum, Zakk Wylde, and the late Taylor Hawkins, and Patient Number 9 turned out to be one of the best albums of 2022. With 74 candles on his last cake, we must learn how to appreciate these efforts from Osbourne; there might not be many left.

I wrote about it in an issue of Rock at Night magazine and have often railed about it elsewhere. Rolling Stone hit on it recently, too. What is the subject? How “legacy” bands – bands that have been around since the Seventies (or even earlier) – continue to perform and just how many original members of a band constitute “the original band.” There was a tour this year that touched on this issue.

The massive summer stadium tour by Mötley Crüe, Poison, Def Leppard, and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts showed why these older acts continue to go out on the road – there’s still money out there! Only one of these groups, however, released new music in 2022, and it turned out to be a strong part of the legacy of the band. Def Leppard’s Diamond Star Halos would compare easily to any of their late Eighties work – think the Hysteria era – and served to remember why these bands are so beloved.

Diamond Star Halos was from front to back an exercise in excellence from the boys from Sheffield. The lead track from the album, “Kick,” would have plunked you back down in the late Eighties if you closed your eyes long enough. My personal favorite from the album was “SOS Emergency,” which was a driving piece of rock and roll that echoed their NWOBHM heyday. Get your spandex out, get the Aquanet, and take a trip back in time with Def Leppard on what was a big surprise in 2022.

Coming out of the indie world (indie meaning not a part of the major label system), the Texas band Tough on Fridays has been plying their trade for some time. It has paid off in spades with the release of their new CD The Encore You Didn’t Ask For. An effort that was entirely crowdfunded, the CD release allowed the band to reach a new audience and set them up well for 2023.

The big tunes from the band were “Overboard!” and a “reimaging” of one of the band’s older songs in “Lush,” but the rest of the CD cannot be overlooked. It is these types of bands that are going to carry rock music – be it alternative or otherwise – into the future. Without them, rock and roll withers on the vine and they need our support, even more so than the established artists and bands do.

After the leader of the Heartbreakers, the eternal Tom Petty, passed away in 2017 (yes, it has been five long years), guitarist Mike Campbell could have been forgiven if he had just ridden off into the sunset. Instead, Campbell picked up with Fleetwood Mac after the dismissal of Lindsey Buckingham and advanced his pet project, Dirty Knobs, which carried a bit harder edge than his Heartbreaker or Mac days. That paid off in 2022 with the sophomore effort from Dirty Knobs, External Combustion.

Campbell and the Knobs came up with a jewel of an album, most notable by the track “Wicked Mind.” It is a tune that you could have easily seen fit into the Heartbreakers catalog without a great deal of imagination. The rest of the CD, however, delivers the goods with tracks like “Brigitte Bardot” and “Dirty Job” (featuring an assist from Ian Hunter). Rather than retiring, Campbell is going stronger than ever.

The genre of surf rock has a long legacy, back to the days of Dick Dale, Duane Eddy, and Link Wray, but there are few excellent practitioners around today (Southern Culture on the Skids comes to mind). Tampa’s Black Valley Moon enters the conversation here with an amalgam of genres on Songs from the Black Valley. You just don’t hear this type of rock anymore – is it surf rock? Is it punk? Is it goth?

It is all of that and more. If you want to gravitate to the more traditional “rock” sound, you can go for “Blackest Night.” If you do that, you’d be missing out on some entrancing overtures elsewhere. My personal favorite was “Don’t Lie, My Succubi,” and the band even opens up their Christmas spirit with a holiday tune – although it has their own twist on “Christmas Time in the Castle of Blood!”

The Warning is a band that has come up from their independent beginnings out of Mexico and become one of those banner carriers for the future of rock and roll. None other than Disturbed’s David Draiman has bestowed upon them the “future of rock” mantle, and the band has held their own with such powerhouse groups as Halestorm, Evanescence, and The Pretty Reckless. Halestorm’s leader, Lzzy Hale, even went as far as to bestow upon guitarist/vocalist Daniela Villareal one of her signature guitars – one of the utmost compliments that a musician can give to one of their own.

On their 2022 release ERROR, The Warning has come up with a pinnacle achievement of their career. The track “MONEY” is a foot-stomper that indicts the materialistic desires of people, but it was “CHOKE” (yes, the all-capitals titling is specific to the band) that put them on the map. If this is the future of rock and roll, then sign me up for the trip!

Last year Berk released a simply masterful CD, the reckless dreams of youth, that demonstrated there was a voice of maturity in the world of rock. Berk’s life experiences were visible through every thread of that disc, and she could have sat back and just enjoyed the ride in 2022. Instead, Berk emptied her emotional suitcase and came up with an equally (if not better) effort in 2022’s start at the end.

Berk’s emotional vulnerabilities are everywhere on the new CD – from her pleadings on “your permission” to her laments on times passed in “tragic endings.” Berk purges her soul of her worries, her confessions, and her intimate thoughts, and the journey is nothing but fascinating. If you are a fan of Liz Phair, this is another artist you should be checking out.

We’re going to go off the beaten track here – hey, how often do YOU think of Viking death metal? Amon Amarth has been a part of the metal scene for quite some time, but it wasn’t until this year that I found the Swedish band with their tune “Put Your Back into the Oar.” That led me to their latest release, the outstanding The Great Heathen Army.

To call them “Viking death metal” is perhaps a misnomer – they’re just a damn good rock band, a little bit of an edge, but not tremendously over the top. The song “Find a Way or Make One” is definitely a track that will get your workout moving, and their current release “Oden Owns You All” offers a punishing pace while maintaining its musicianship. Know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but Amon Amarth is good when you just need to get some aggression out.

Keeping our frame of reference on the European continent, I had to give some kudos to the Finnish band Stolen Organ. Holding up the legacy of the Eighties “hair metal” era, Stolen Organ doesn’t hesitate to do their homage to bands like Guns N’ Roses, but they also put their flourishes on the album Have You Seen Justice.

Tracks like “Booze Devil” could have come straight out of Central Casting if you said “hair metal band from the Eighties” but the group establishes themselves on some of their more bluesy work. “Land of Glory” is particularly notable in this regard. While many might have been honed on British or U. S. rock, it is obvious that Europeans are catching up – and quickly – to their brethren that had a massive head start.

Most notable for her own blues work and her collaborations with guitarist Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart has long been notable for her powerful vocal stylings. While many have lauded her solo work, it was a tribute album that Hart put together that finally drew her mainstream attention. That album, A Tribute to Led Zeppelin, simply knocked you on your ass with Hart’s interpretations of classic Zeppelin tunes.

Of note on the record were Hart’s takes on “Whole Lotta Love” and “Black Dog,” which Hart powered through with attitude and virtuosity. Yes, the ubiquitous “Stairway to Heaven” is here, but Hart’s interpretation of the work will give you a whole new appreciation for it. While it is great that Hart now has some eyes on her because of this CD, can we get some new tracks, please?

More in the traditional blues arena is Detroit vocalist Eliza Neals. Neals takes a blues style and melds it with a dash of Motown soul, opening new avenues for both sounds. On her album Badder to the Bone, Neals has reached new heights with her musical direction.

“Queen of the Nile” is the first track that grabs you off this CD, but Neals has a whole litany of tunes that can pull you in. “Fueling Me Up” is another outstanding track on the disc, with Neals blasting away with her tough yet tender soul/blues voice and a top-notch band backing her up. Keep an eye out for Neals if she comes into your area – her live performances are as good, if not better, than what you hear on the albums.

If your tastes run more toward box sets, there are two that were particularly noteworthy in 2022. First was the collection of bassist Suzi Quatro. The Rock Box encompassed the entirety of her Seventies works, including the groundbreaking “48 Crash” and her dubious Top 40 hit “Stumblin’ In.” Overlooking that, however, is the fact that it is a comprehensive collection of Quatro’s effects on Seventies rock – and a firm definition of why she should be considered for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The other notable box set from 2022 is the work of Blondie. On Against the Odds 1974-1982, the early career of Deborah Harry and Company is espoused in full detail. The first five albums from the group, including Parallel Lines, Eat to the Beat, and Autoamerican, are here in their entirety, but also included are fascinating outtakes and early working versions of many Blondie classics. If you enjoy the work of the New York City legends, then you need to have this box set in your rack.

There you have it! Your Christmas list is compiled (if you’re looking for books, you should check out Bono’s Surrender, Rob Halford’s Biblical, and Stevie Van Zandt’s Unrequited Infatuations) or, if you have a music aficionado in your life, you now know what to get them. But what was YOUR favorite album from 2022?

Renegades Radio Podcast – Biggest Snubs of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

PatBenatar

In the latest edition of the Renegades Radio Podcast, we’ll take a look at some of the artists and bands that have, in many cases, NEVER been nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That includes the lady you see above, Pat Benatar, and many others. Listen to find out who SHOULD be in the Hall!