OpThis is a list I’ve been contemplating for some time – a list of not only bands i enjoy, but classic bands that are still active, as well as bands that [in many cases] don’t regularly tour or release albums in North America or elsewhere. I tried to stick to bands that have recorded a number of albums over the past few decades and tour regularly [wherever], and not bands that just tour the greatest hits stuff or just did one reunion album then disappeared. When I people ask me what I listen to – then ask ‘who’? Or ‘are they still around’? well here ya go.
I am certain I’ve omitted a number of great bands, so feel free to drop me some feedback, debate, or add any recommended classic bands I may have missed!
British band Magnum is often lumped in the metal category, perhaps due to some of those scary and fantasy album covers, usually from artist Rodney Matthews. In fact, Magnum is somewherez between hard rock, prog, and pop – along the lines of Asia, Saga, Uriah Heep… But few bands deliver great albums as regularly as these guys have since their comeback in the early 2000s. Still fronted by Bob Catley, with guitarist and songwriter Tony Clarkin. I didn’t get in to this band until 2009’s Into The Valley Of The Moon King, and i’ve enjoyed every album since then! Even going back to the early stuff, i still prefer the band’s latest releases Escape From The Shadow Garden and Sacred Blood, Divine Lies. Legendary underrated British band, who are pretty unheard on this side of the Atlantic – because they never come over. +while writing this longtime keyboard player Mark Stanway left the band; a shame, but the band has a new album of ballads for release coming up this month.
*Also recommended: Evolution, Princess Alice & The Broken Arrow
From Sweden, Europe started out as a killer hard-rock band, then 1985’s hit “The Final Countdown” saw the band take a turn with more keyboards and an album of further hits. Subsequent albums continued in a keyboard-pop-metal style, until they took a break. when the band resumed a decade later with the same line-up as The Final Countdown they steered away from the pop-metal sound of their hugely successful album, which pigeon-holed them. The band’s latest few albums have been their best, definitely striving to be in the same class as their major influences such as Thin Lizzy, UFO, and Whitesnake. These guys just began returning to North America in 2015, playing small theaters and clubs, whilst they’re still a major draw overseas. After 2014’s War Of Kings, and the previous Bag of Bones I, for one am very interested to hear further new music from Europe in the near future.
*Also recommended: Live At Shepherd’s Bush
British metal legends Saxon never went away, but when i got into them via albums like Metalhead, Killing Ground, Into The Labrynth, and 2015’s Battering Ram, I discovered a great old band that consistently delivers thundering hard rock to their fans. Fronted by the legendary Biff Byford. Their most recent release is the 3LP live set – Let Me Feel Your Power, which i am presently digging. Coming to North America with UFO in early 2017.
*Also recommended: Lionheart, Live at Wacken
British rock band Uriah Heep has been going since 1970, save for a few brief breaks and numerous line-up changes, the band has been lead by guitarist Mick Box. Since 1986 the band has been fronted by Canadian Bernie Shaw and with Phil Lanzon on keyboards, also added another writer for future albums. Since 2007 the band has been on a roll releasing 4 studio albums [albeit one being largely re-records of classics], as well as a string of impressive live albums. 2014’s Outsider was another solid album that both fans and reviewers enjoyed. Heep’s recorded output doesnt show any ageing, but a classic band with loads of energy and songs still to offer.
*Also recommended: Into The Wild, Live In Armenia
Legendary British hard rockers UFO haven’t had too many huge gaps in their history. The band has been fronted and kept alive by original frontman Phil Mogg, and has featured a long list of great guitar players, most notably Michael Schenker [the Schenker years are pretty untouchable to me], Paul Chapman, and for the past 20 years – Vinnie Moore. The band has put out some solid albums, and record fairly regularly and are still a big draw on both sides of the Atlantic. Their last album – A Conspiracy Of Stars was their best [IMO] in years. Coming to North America [w/ Saxon] in 2017!
*Also recommended: The Visitor, You Are Here
British rockers Wishbone Ash may have splintered over the years and gone through numerous line-up changes, but the official band has put out a few decent albums, lead by founding guitarist Andy Powell. 2014’s Blue Horizon being an outstanding release of classic sounding Ash. They also tour regularly, even hitting the US not so long ago. Andy Powell also released his autobiography last year [i’ve yet to read it, sorry]. If it ain’t too much, original bass player Martin Turner also tours performing WA material, and has released a number of live albums, as well as a studio album in 2015.
Also recommended: Elegant Stealth, 40th Anniversary Concert- Live In London
Once part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, i think Praying Mantis became a melodic heavy band, with keyboards and plenty of harmonies; again – in that group of classic British bands like Magnum, Heep, Asia….Founded and still lead by the Troy brothers, and including a number of legendary names in the band’s history. There’s not a steady flow of Mantis releases, but numerous line-up changes and 4 strong studio albums in 15 years isn’t that bad by today’s recording pace! 2015’s Legacy album was a fantastic album, and the band’s record covers are always classic! These guys are big in Japan, but sadly don’t tour over here either.
*Also recommended: The Journey Goes On featuring Doogie White and John Sloman
Though less busy in the studio, having recorded 3 albums since 2003, and a Live II set, Foghat remains a very good live draw in the North America. Lead by founding member / drummer Roger Earl, and is fronted by Charlie Huhn. The band’s latest album – Under The Influence includes a number of covers, as well as a new version of their biggest hit “Slow Ride”, celebrating 40 years of that record. Highly recommended!
*Also recommended: Last Train Home
A far way from the shock-rock 80s band that threw meat in the audiences and put out songs based drinking, rebelling, and sex…. Today Wasp is really Blackie Lawless and his latest incarnation – featuring Doug Blair [g] and Mike Duda [b] have put out a string of excellent albums . I loved 2015’s Golgotha, as well as predecessor Babylon. In fact, everything from 2002’s Dying For The World has been great by me. Still heavy, and not too many can deliver with the passion Blackie does. Very underrated writer and singer.
Canadian band Helix have never really gone away; just through a lot of bandmembers over the past few decades. Still lead by singer Brian Vollmer [who wrote one of the best rock bios out there], and including Daryl Gray [b] and Greg ‘Fritz’ Hinz [who returned in recent years]. The band’s 2014 album Bastard Of The Blues was one of their best! These guys play in Canada, but probably get more respect overseas.
*also recommended: Vagabond Bones
One of the most influential heavy bands in the history of rock! Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep – Vanilla Fudge had an impact on. The band still plays a number of shows each year , with 3 original members, and tho not regular with the new albums – released the excellent Spirit Of ’67 in 2015. Classic band, one I hope to hear more from and see live some day.
*also recommended: Out Through The In Door