Best Music of 2001 Lists
1. Ice Age, Liberation (Magna Carta)
One of the least touted of the stable of Magna Carta artists, New York's progressive rock outfit, Ice Age, produced one of that label's most original, creative albums ever in their sophomore release Liberation. The album is propelled by the virtuosi keyboard flourishes of Josh Pincus, whose powerful, emotive, Dennis DeYoung-tinged vocals soar throughout the record, and guitarist extraordinaire Jimmy Pappas, whose tasteful phrases are infused with equal parts of power and melody. The rhythm section of drummer Hal Aponte and bassist Arron Dicesare (since replaced by Doug Odell) are a most formidable tandem, as well. The proof of the band's extraordinary talent is in the songs themselves. Songs like "When You're Ready", "Lhasa Road", The Blood of Ages" and "To Say Goodbye, Part III: Still Here" are rock masterpieces � musical excursions that transport the listener to another place. Liberation is truly an amazing record that deserves supreme recognition for the masterpiece that it is, and the timeless classic it will one day be.
2. Tait, Empty (Interscope)
Michael Tait, one-third of the Christian-rock sensation DC Talk, spreads his wings on this impressive debut. One listen to Empty and you get the gist of who the rock guy in DC Talk really is. "Alibi" is quite possibly the best song I've heard this year. By the same token, Tait's soulful vocals are gut-wrenching on songs like "All You Got", "Tell Me Why" and "Unglued", Tait's all-too-personal ode to loss. One of the best releases of 2001, be it Christian or any other.
3. Transatlantic, Bridge Across Forever (Metal Blade/Radiant)
Last year, prog-rock heavyweights, drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), keyboardist/vocalist Neal Morse (Spock's Beard), guitarist/vocalist Roine Stolt (Flower Kings) and bassist Pete Trewavas (Marillion) put their collective talents together, resulting in Transatlantic's excellent debut album, SMPTe. Their latest effort, Bridge Across Forever, treads the same water as its predecessor � wonderfully melodic compositions, complex, yet interesting arrangements and impeccable musicianship. A "must have" for even the most casual prog/rock fan.
4. Uli Jon Roth, Transcendental Sky Guitar (SPV)
Released in late 2000, German guitarist Uli Jon Roth's Transcendental Sky Guitar barely had an opportunity to be listened to let alone the chance of making a list of any kind. As it is, this album is deserving of the recognition it will get here in 2001. Roth's largely instrumental, live tour-de-force, Transcendental Sky Guitar is unlike any other classical-meets-rock album. The two-disc set features Roth's virtuosi interpretation of compositions from such classical masters as Mozart, Bach, Paganini, Vivaldi and Beethoven, as well as the music of his mentor Jimi Hendrix and his own original numbers. The listener will be completely blown away by Roth's command of the instrument, not to mention the warmth and range of the 7-string, 36-fret Sky Guitar that seemingly explores every color and texture that can be conjured out of an electric instrument.
5. King's X, Manic Moonlight (Metal Blade)
Simply one of the best bands that you'll ever hear, King's X continues to put out consistently great material. Their music possesses a unique blend of soaring rock riffs, driving prog/metal rhythms, Revolver-era psychedelia, and seamless Beatlesque harmonies. Last year's Please Come Home . . . Mr. Bulbous was perhaps a heavier, darker King's X than we were accustomed to, but was nonetheless brilliant. Manic Moonlight continues the trend of opening the doors of expanding musical direction. For the first time, King's X utilizes an array of loops and effects to enhance the music, and surprisingly it works. Guitarist Ty Tabor, bassist/vocalist Doug Pinnick and drummer Jerry Gaskill can add Manic Moonlight tracks like "Believe" and "False Alarm" to their growing arsenal of classic tunes.
6. Peter Frampton, Frampton Comes Alive: 25th Anniversary Edition (A&M)
Twenty-five years later, this monumental album not only still holds up, but it's better than 99 percent of the music released in 2001. The 25th Anniversary Edition features four previously unreleased tracks in "Just the Time of Year", "Nowhere's Too Far for My Baby", "White Sugar" and Day's Dawning" taken from the original San Francisco shows that spawned the historic Frampton Comes Alive. Need I say more?
7. Ours, Distorted Lullabies (DreamWorks)
Fans of Jeff Buckley and Radiohead will certainly be attracted to the dark, ethereal sound that permeates Distorted Lullabies. Jimmy Gnecco's vocals are a hybrid of Buckley, Yorke and Bono, but his music has one foot firmly in the Buckley camp, while the other treads on classic Radiohead (The Bends, OK Computer), before the latter got completely full of themselves (Kid A, Amnesiac).
8. Train, Drops of Jupiter (Sony/Columbia)
Train's self-titled debut and its quirky, forgettable single, "Meet Virginia", did nothing to impress me. On the other hand, the band's sophomore effort Drops of Jupiter was most impressive. By employing a variety of instrumentation from organ and mandolin to the powerful orchestration found on tracks like "Something More" and the epic title track, producer Brendan O'Brien added texture and color to Train's impressive compositions. The bulk of Drops of Jupiter feature equal parts of strong, radio-friendly rock and touching, melancholy compositions that serve as solid bookends to the aforementioned ambitiousness.
9. Creed, Weathered (Wind-Up)
Creed's much anticipated follow-up, Weathered, doesn't even come close to the magic that was Human Clay. What can be said of Weathered? Well, it's different � yet the same. "Signs" and "Bullets" are the closest to out-and-out metal that Creed has ever done. The band also goes over-the-top with their eight minute epic "Who Got My Back", with its eastern sounding scalular excursions, with loads of chanting, to boot. But Creed's bread and butter have always been their strong, uplifting anthemic numbers, and there are plenty here. "My Sacrifice", "Stand" and "One Last Breath" will find their way to radio before it's all said and done, and "Don't Stop Dancing" will pick up where "Arms Wide Open" left off. A great follow-up.
10. Lit, Atomic (BMG/RCA)
A slick, accessible post-punk effort that incorporates catchy pop melodies in its deluge of radio-friendly numbers.