And so ends yet another year. For this writer, a lot of music came into my life. I ended up listening to and reviewing more music than any previous year. The amount of music made it both a lot easier to choose the best albums and harder to choose those albums. It was easier than any previous year to put together the list because of the sheer amount of music to pick through. But because of the amount to pick through, there were several albums that had to be left out of the list. While I had to pass some of the best releases I had heard by, I am rather pleased with the resulting albums and singles that made their way onto this list. I hope you will take the time to read the condensed reviews that follow and then will click on the link to finish reading the entire review. Enjoy.
1. Bryan Banks “Sound of Urgency”
Bryan Banks is one of those musicians who took it upon himself to create his music on his own. When you have a musician who does everything on his own, the results could either be good or bad, depending on the talent of the individual. There is definite talent within the music of Bryan Banks as he seems to take many different flavors of Rock and Roll when creating his music. His music takes some Rock and Roll, Funk, and Grunge with a large hint of Heavy Metal thrown in and mixes all those styles together in the sound that makes up his music. And with the fact that everything on the album was created by Banks himself, the multi-talented musician has created an album of music that ends up being rather well-rounded. His debut album is entitled The Sound of Urgency. The Sound of Urgency from Bryan Banks was put together by Banks one song at a time over the course of several years. And while that time period created a rather long wait between the first single release and the final album packing, Bryan Banks has proved that sometimes it is worth the wait if you’re looking for quality. The Sound of Urgency turns out to be a very solid album of Rock and Roll that any fan of the music style will enjoy.
2 Micah Olsan “Open Space”
Milwaukee-based singer-songwriter Micah Olsan has gone through several stages in his musical career. And with those stages came different musical influences that helped flavor his music. Throughout his career, Olsan has performed with a band called The Many and he has performed on his own as a solo artist. But with each stage comes a different style and sound to Olsan’s music. And currently, Micah Olsan is in the middle of promoting a new EP of music that features a solo sound and style largely influenced by Folk music. The new 4-song EP from Micah Olsan is entitled Open Space. During his time as a singer-songwriter, Micah Olsan keeps evolving and changing his style. With his latest folk-based EP, Olsan takes his music in a much different direction than it’s ever been in before. And the softer, gentler side of Olsan shows off a very different side of the artist. The five tracks on the album are nicely varied while keeping that lighter approach on the music.
3 The James Emmett Band “Bet Against Me”
Ever since the band The Outsiders had their first taste of celebrity status when they released the song “Time Won’t Let Me,” the last name of Geraci has meant something in the city of Cleveland as Emmett Peter “Sonny” Geraci was part of that band. And although Sonny Geraci passed away back in early February of 2017, the name is still being mentioned in association with music in Greater Cleveland. But this time, it’s the next generation of the family that is making the noise, so to speak.
Sonny Geraci’s sons Justin James and Mathew Emmett have picked up the music bug and are currently making music just like their father used to do. In fact, they have been creating their own music for years. However, it’s just recently that the two brothers have been doing so together. And together, the brothers have created their own band; a band that features their middle names to form the band’s moniker. The group is called The James Emmett Band. As sons of Rock and Roller Sonny Geraci, Justin James Geraci and Mathew Emmett Geraci have created a band that proves that they have, indeed, inherited the music gene from their father. Bet Against Me from their band The James Emmett Band is a solid effort that comes complete with five songs that show off their various musical influences. The release features plenty of tracks that are just screaming to be played on the radio. If a five-song release is this good, then a full-length is surely welcomed.
4 Falling Stars “Stranded in the Future”
In Cleveland, there are many artists and bands that have been making names for themselves for years. One band that just recently came into being has a history in the Greater Cleveland area that reaches back years before it came into being. Together, two separate songwriters based in Cleveland named Chris Allen and Tim Parnin’s musical histories combine for more than 40 years of experience. That experience was put to good use when the two musicians decided to create a new band together. The resulting musical outfit featuring Chris Allen and Tim Parnin is called Falling Stars. Throughout the tracks that make up the album Stranded in the Future from Falling Stars, Chris Allen and Tim Parnin create songs that feature different Rock and Roll styles. Together, those various styles of Rock and Roll combine to create one release that feels ultimately timeless. The resulting release of Stranded in the Future from Falling Stars is one album that any love of Rock and Roll should search out and add to their music collection.
5 Stone Diamond “Don’t Believe What You Think”
It was back in 2013 that Stone Diamond released their debut album entitled We Stole the Stars from the Black Night. That particular album was so strong and was such a breath of fresh air as far as Rock and Roll was concerned that it made quite an impression on those who were lucky enough to have been exposed to it. They would then go on to add the album Phoenix to their discography. Now, five years after the release of the original album, the ensemble (now a little larger than before) returns with their third album. That album is entitled Don’t Believe What You Think. The Don’t Believe What You Think release from Stone Diamond is a solid release from beginning to end. And with the inclusion of many different elements and influences, the Classic Rock from the band changes from one track to the next. For those music lovers who enjoy Classic Rock, Stone Diamond creates a release that will surely be something you’d want to experience first and then add to your own music library.
6A The Whiskey Hollow “Greenhouse”
Back in 2016, singer-songwriter Madeline Finn took songs she had been writing, and after putting together a band, started performing under the moniker of The Whiskey Hollow. With that loosely-bound group of musicians, she took seven of her songs and created a very strong debut release under The Whiskey Hollow moniker. That release was called X Waters. X Waters was a very solid release that found the group blending together a few different genres of music to create a unique sound that put Finn and her band far apart from the rest of the Cleveland, Ohio music scene. Today’s version of The Whiskey Hollow has recently put out a new EP of material. While the previous release contained a total of seven tracks, this new EP is a six-track EP. The new EP from Cleveland’s band The Whiskey Hollow is entitled Greenhouse. Greenhouse from The Whiskey Hollow is a solid release from the first track. While it does not truly feel like the band’s previous release of X Waters, the new EP from the band shows the creative process at work as Madeline Finn and the rest of the band show how they have gelled as a unit. The new sound for the band may be different than the previous direction, but the group is still solid and the Greenhouse EP proves that with the six tracks of Rock and Roll.
6B Madeline Finn “Colerain Mansion”
From the first time when I was in the audience for a three-song performance of Cleveland-based singer-songwriter Madeline Finn, I knew that the singer/guitarist had talent. She would release her first CD entitled X Waters not that long after that performance. X Waters and the follow-up entitled Greenhouse show off not only her musical abilities, but also the abilities of those musicians who helped to create the band The Whiskey Hollow. It was The Whiskey Hollow that was responsible for creating the music found on the two EPs of music. And with X Waters and Greenhouse, the Greater Cleveland area would come to know the true talent of the musical artist known as Madeline Finn. The Colerain Mansion EP from Madeline Finn continues the singer-songwriter’s string of releases that show off her musical abilities and her talent as a singer-songwriter, as well. While the previous releases of X Waters and Greenhouse gave the listener a good idea of what Finn could do with a band, the six tracks that make up the release show what she can do on her own. But as those of us who have seen her perform within a group and by herself can tell you, that’s not a surprise. The Colerain Mansion EP from Madeline Finn may be the most laidback of the three releases she has created, but the music contained within it will easily leave you stunned by the beauty it contains.
7 Joal Rush “Kaleidoscope Emotions”
It was back in 2004 that singer-songwriter Joal Rush released his first EP. That EP, entitled Delightful Things, introduced the world to a musician whose straight-out Rock and Roll sound was very reminiscent to that of Jack Johnson. And given that the two artists create their songs using several different genres of music as influences such as Folk, Pop, Rock and Soul, it is a safe comparison to be made when describing the sound of Joal Rush. Almost fifteen years later, Joal Rush has been through a lot, including moving from Charleston, South Carolina to Music City, Nashville, Tennessee where he currently lives. And within that city, Rush created his latest album of music. The current release from Joal Rush is a twelve-song release entitled Kaleidoscope Emotions. While there are many people in the music industry being played on the radio today who deserved to be signed to a major label, there are just as many out there right now who are not signed to a major label and deserve to be. One such artist who deserves to be on a major label is Joal Rush. And his newest album entitled Kaleidoscope Emotions proves that point rather well.
8 Sister Speak “The Stand”
Sherri Anne was born in Canada but currently splits her time between The United States and Canada in Los Angeles and British Columbia. The singer-songwriter has a voice and a style to her songs that bring to mind artists like Tori Amos and most obviously, Sarah McLachlin because of the style of both artists’ vocal sound. Given the piano or acoustic guitar nature to her songs, Sherri Anne’s music has a Folk flavor to it with a slight Alternative Rock flavor. Recently, Sherri Anne created a new six-song release under the moniker of Sister Speak. That release is called The Stand. To bring the EP to life, she was joined by Sarven Manguiat (Electric Guitar) and Avli Avliav (keys, moog bass and programming) along with several others who added touches to several tunes on the release. Starting from the very beginning track, Sister Speak’s The Stand EP hits the listener with Pop-rock music that is sure to satisfy. The five “album tracks” and the bonus track that completes the release combine to create a pop-rock release that feels so solid that each of the songs contained within should be allowed to find their way onto radio on their own merits. As it is though, the lead-off single of the title track of the release is a great place to begin. Hopefully, more tracks will be featured. Through it all, Sherri Anne and the rest of the musicians who helped to create the release under the Sister Speak moniker combined their efforts to make a solid debut that should be only the beginning of something special.
9 Jann Klose “In Tandem”
Jann Klose is an internationally known singer-songwriter. The German-born artist discovered the world at a young age when he came to the United States as a young child as part of a foreign exchange program. It was in the city of Cleveland, Ohio that he discovered what another part of the world was like. And while in Cleveland, he also discovered and nurtured the musical side of his personality. But after a while, that musical side needed more than what Cleveland could offered and he made his way to New York City where he resides today.During his time as a musician as well as singer-songwriter, Jann Klose has created and released several EPs and albums of music that feature his musical blend that incorporates jazz, pop, and other musical styles. That blended style creates a sound that has helped him gain an audience not only in Cleveland, New York and Germany as a whole, but also in other parts of the world. Because of that, his music is and has always been well-rounded as far as its sound and appeal. You can find that well-rounded sound on Jann Klose’s aforementioned releases, which includes his latest album. The newest album from Jann Klose is entitled In Tandem. The In Tandem album from Jann Klose is a strong release with many moments in its thirteen tracks that fans of pop-rock will find very enticing. If you are one who enjoys Rock and Roll with a strong Pop influence as well as and international flair to the songs, Jann Klose’s In Tandem is the album for you.
10 The Weight Band “World Gone Mad”
Having created a band around musicians that spent time within The Band and The Levon Helm Band as well as The Midnight Ramble Band, a musical outfit put together as a Tribute Band of sorts to Helm, it should come as no surprise that the resulting sound that is created by The Weight Band can be described as being “picking up where The Band left off”. That truly does describe the sound and feel of World Gone Mad, the first official album from the supergroup. After spending a few years on the road touring, The Weight Band released their first album. That album is entitled World Gone Mad. And “picking up where The Band left off” is quite possibly the best way of describing the feel of the album. On their new album entitled World Gone Mad, the individual members of The Weight Band each show off their individual influences. And since many of the players in the band can claim to have played with The Band’s Levon Helm in one band or another, it is easy to see why the influence from Helm has made such an impression on the music of The Weight Band. And with that being said, if you have ever been a fan of the music from The Band, this collection of songs from musicians who used to play with him in one manner or another help to expand upon what has come before. While this is not a tribute album in any way, the influence from Helm is more than apparent.
11 The Alarm “Equals”
Every so often there comes a band that should be a lot larger popularity-wise than they are. This is a band that has been around a long time but has not gained the popularity they truly deserve. One particular band out there right now that could be described this is the Welsh Rock and Roll band called The Alarm.In total, The Alarm has released in excess of fifteen albums. They have also released several versions of a Greatest Hits collection from the band that adds to the number of releases in the band’s discography. In fact, the band just recently added yet another album to their impressive discography of music. The newest album from The Alarm is entitled Equals. Mike Peters has really picked up a lot of different musical influences over the years. Those influences have helped to shape Equals from The Alarm. The ever-changing sound and feel of each of the tracks as well as the talents from the rest of the band have combined to create a release that features a musical sound that never really stays in one place. That ever-changing style on the album is sure to please any lover of Rock and Roll music.
12 Pale Hollow “Pilots”
When Michael Allen took his music, he looked for musicians who wanted to form a new band. What resulted was a musical outfit by the name of Black Amps, which would exist for a while before changing their name to Pale Hollow and in 2007; a self-titled album was released under the Pale Hollow moniker. That self-titled release from Pale Hollow saw the band create a sound that combined elements of The Kinks, The Verve and many other British influences as well as American bands such as The Byrds, The Verve Pipe, even The Raspberries into one sound. Because of the various different elements, what resulted was a sound that was very retro in nature. But that retro feel to the band’s Americana music ended up allowing the band to gain a rather large following within the Greater Cleveland area. Years would pass after the band’s first release. The band would change members during that time. And the band would change the feel of its music just a little because of the shifting of the band members. The current version of Pale Hollow includes: Michael Allen – Vocals/Rhythm Guitar, Kirk “Nemo” Nemerovsky – Drums, Jeff Ritchie – Bass, and Scott Steinbrick – Lead Guitar. It is this lineup that is featured on the newly-released second album from Pale Hollow. That second release is entitled Pilots. For those who enjoy a more relaxed feel to their Rock and Roll while also enjoy having some orchestral flavor to that music, the sound of Cleveland, Ohio’s Pale Hollow may just be what you are looking for. The band’s 2018 release of Pilots is one of the most commercial albums that are not available from a major label. It’s also one of the strongest albums of 2018. If you happen to be a fan over rather commercial Rock and Roll but are tired of the same bands on commercial radio, Pale Hollow and the band’s 2018 release of Pilots may just be what you are looking for.
TOP SINGLES OF 2018
1 Reina Mora “Passenger”
2 Sister Speak “New York Sunrise”
3 The Alarm “Beautiful”
4 Madeline Finn “Win the Girl”
5 Jann Klose “Love High”
Jaclyn Bradley Palmer “Winter Night”