Gibbons’ New Solo LP Is 2018’s “Baddest” Rock Album

Courtesy: Concord Records

This year was a very productive span for the rock realm.  New offerings from well-known acts, such as Joe Satriani, Billy Gibbons and Stone Temple Pilots were joined by some enjoyable offerings from some lesser-known acts, such as The Magpie Salute, The Marcus King Band and Black Coffee to make for quite the selection of new offerings.

Simply put, the mainstream and the independent offerings turned out this year gave audiences plenty to appreciate. Many of those offerings made their way into Phil’s Picks list of the year’s top new rock albums, including and not limited to the offerings from the acts already noted here.

Topping off this critic’s list this year is Billy Gibbons’ new album The Big Bad Blues.  The ZZ Top star’s latest solo offering features some impressive covers of classic blues and blues rock tunes, while also offering some equally entertaining originals to round out the record’s body.  The whole is a record that is a solid listen from start to finish.

Taking second spot in this year’s list of the year’s top new rock albums is legendary guitarist Joe Satriani’s latest offering What Happens Next.  The full-on instrumental offering is everything that fans have come to expect from Satch, with touches of his past and present.

Third spot in this year’s list goes to Slash, Alter bridge front man Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators.  The group’s new offering Living The Dream is a well-produced and engineered album with plenty of radio ready singles that go a long way toward displaying the group’s collective talents.  The lyrical themes are just as easily accessible as the record’s arrangements.  While not a perfect record, it is still enjoyable in its own right.

The remainder of this year’s list is noted below.  Also featured in this year’s list are new efforts from Black Coffee, Pop Evil and P.O.D.  As always, the list’s top 10 titles are the best while the five that follow are all honorable mention titles.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks 2018 Top 10 New Rock Albums.


  1. Billy Gibbons — The Big Bad Blues
  2. Joe Satriani — What Happens Next
  3. Slash ft. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators — Living The Dream
  4. Clutch — The Book of Bad Ideas
  5. Michael Schenker Fest — Resurrection
  6. Black Coffee — Take One
  7. Black Stone Cherry — Family Tree
  8. Pompeii — The Secret Sessions
  9. P.O.D. — Circles
  10. The Marcus King Band — Carolina Confessions
  11. The Zealots — Only Rocks Live Forever
  12. Roine Stolt’s Flower King — Manifesto of an Alchemist
  13. The Magpie Salute — Highwater I
  14. Royal Tusk — Tusk II
  15. Stone Temple Pilots — Stone Temple Pilots

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The Zealots’ Debut LP Is A Hard “Rock”-ing Album

Courtesy: High Road Publicity

Early this past June, independent rock band The Zealots released its debut full-length studio recording Only Rocks Live Forever.  Self-produced by the Iowa-based quintet, this 10-song record is a good fit for any fans of Nothing More, Adelitas Way and Highly Suspect. From start to finish, it offers plenty of interest for said audiences both musically and lyrically.  This is evidenced right from the album’s outset in the record’s first full track, ‘Tangerine Dream.’  ‘Sweet Mississippi,’ the record’s closer is another song that supports that statement.  It will be discussed a little later.  ‘Medicine Man,’ which serves as the album’s midway point, is even more support to that statement.  It will also be discussed later.  Between the songs noted here and the others not directly discussed, the whole of Only Rocks Live Forever proves to be a record that shows The Zealots could have a very long life given the right and enough support.

The Zealots’ debut album Only Rocks Live Forever is a promising first effort from the independent rock band.  It is a record that with the right support and enough support, could help the band have a very long life.  This is evidenced early on in the album’s first full song, ‘Tangerine Dream.’  Musically speaking, the song is a solid hard rock piece that is just as radio ready as anything turned out by the bands already noted in this review.  Lyrically, it’s just as certain to garner just as much interest and attention.  As front man Micah Martin noted in an interview, the song’s lyrical concept centers on a familiar topic of relationships.

“’Tangerine Dreams’ is about the duality of relationships,” Martin said.  “They can be amazing, but there are burdens and baggage that comes along with it.”  That statement is illustrated in an interesting fashion as Martin sings, “I got the roof on fire/But at least I’m burning up/I’m on the telephone wire/Calling to calm you down/I wrote this down/To remind myself/That I was on the coast/The post-it note will never show the goal.”  That duality is evident here as on one end, one person is “living the life” while also having to deal with the baggage of someone having to be calmed down.  He goes on to illustrate that message even more in the chorus as he sings, “I will never know (we’ll never know)/Looking high/Looking low/Searching for my own gold.”  Again, this is someone trying to live his own life.  It is right in tune with the album’s overall theme of chasing one’s dream.  When this lyrical element is coupled with the song’s easily accessible musical arrangement, the two elements together they make it a clear example of why this record could help The Zealots have a very long life.  It is only one of the songs that supports that statement.  ‘Sweet Mississippi,’ the record’s closer also supports that statement.

‘Sweet Mississippi’ closes The Zealots’ album just as solidly as ‘Tangerine Dreams’ opens the album, musically speaking.  Looking at the song’s musical arrangement, it’s a good, steady hard rock opus that boasts just enough blues rock influence with its hard rock element to make it a piece that is sure to be just as infectious as any of the album’s other songs.  In regards to its lyrical content, it offers just as much interest for listeners.  Martin sings here, “Sweet Mississippi/How’s your water now/You take another body/And bury it deep down/Deep down/Digging around you…”  He goes on to sing, “Lost and never found/here we are….”  There’s even a note of “say it doesn’t hurt.”  Now not having a lyrics sheet to reference, it’s difficult to precisely define the lyrics, but from what can be deciphered, this song lyrically is certain to generate plenty of discussion.  On the one hand, one could argue that this is a literal statement, maybe talking about something very serious like a crime.  On another hand, it could also be argued that the statement of “say it doesn’t hurt” maybe is another reference to a relationship.  Regardless of the theme presented here, it can be said that the discussions certain to rise from these lyrics couple with the entertainment offered through the song’s musical arrangement to make the song in whole another strong addition to the band’s debut.  It’s just another song supporting that noted statement that this record could help The Zealots have a long life.  ‘Medicine Man’ is one more song that serves to support that statement.

Musically speaking, ‘Medicine Man’ is yet another of those songs that is so radio ready and accessible for any mainstream rock fans.  Musically, there are touches of Breaking Benjamin coupled with elements of Theory of a Deadman and other similar acts.  The balance of the dual guitar approach from Colton Menke and Ryan Housenga with Jeff White’s bass line adds even more enjoyment to the song.  Lyrically, the song offers just as much interest as it does musically as Martin seems to present a theme of unity.  That seeming theme comes through as he sings in the chorus,” Ear to ear and heart to heart/We’re not that far apart now.”  He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “Don’t kick me while I’m down/I feel that victory is near/But I don’t want to be the one to say it/Everyone has lost someone that they can count on, but they can’t take it back now/You gotta look out for number one.”  He goes from there to reprise the song’s chorus, singing again, “the fires are fleeting…”  Overall this just seems to be a positive song in regards to its lyrical theme.  When this is considered with the song’s overall musical arrangement, it presents itself as another of the album’s most notable songs.  When it is considered along with the other songs noted here and the rest of the record’s songs, the album in whole proves to be a solid start for The Zealots and a record that could be the start of a long life for this band.

The Zealots’ debut album Only Rocks Live Forever is a strong, solid start for this Iowa-based quintet.  From start to end, it offers musical arrangements that are just as radio ready as anything churned out by the band’s more well-known mainstream counterparts.  Its lyrical themes are just as accessible and relatable to listeners as those musical arrangements.  That is proven clearly in the songs noted here.  When they are considered along with the album’s other entries, the album in whole proves to be an easy candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new independent albums list.  It is available now.  More information on Only Rocks Live Forever is available online now along with all of The Zealots’ latest new and more at

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