2003 - Looking Back
2003 Awards
2004 - The Year Ahead
Vote / Polls!

Welcome to the annual end of year summary and awards page!
This is the final word on the best releases and recommended melodic listening for the year 2003.
Read on for a list of the best albums, best songs and other recommended listening for the past year.
Take a look ahead at 2004 - what to expect and what will and won't happen.
And if that isn't enough - post your own lists.....

UPDATED! Now & Then Records comments. Click to read.

The Best Music of 2003

(Ranked In Order)

  1. Pride Of Lions Pride Of Lions
    This was a line-ball decision. Harem scored the only perfect 100 this year, with POL next in line with a 99. But come the end of the year, I felt that overall, this album gave me and many fans the best enjoyment and value for money in 2003. It was a fan pleaser, and really showed that traditional AOR/melodic rock can be a force, if done well.
  2. Harem Scarem

    A perfect 100 score for a perfect album. Another classy effort, filled with songwriting brilliance, proving that melodic rock can still sound classic while moving in a forward direction. I found this album to be a cool alternative to the more traditional approach by Pride Of Lions. Chock full of anthems and big choruses, Harem can do no wrong in my book. Except maybe make an album that runs a bit longer!
  3. Waltham
    Permission To Build

    This year's best new band on the scene and also this year's best nu/modern rockers, even though the real vibe of the album is just an updated version of classic melodic rock a la Rick Springfield. A band that really believes in what they are doing and playing. Great melodies, great choruses, great fun - these boys will be huge!
  4. On The Rise
    On The Rise

    OTR are another new band that made a spectacular debut in 2003, but have recently split. That casts a bit of a cloud over their achievements, releasing one of the best AOR debut's in recent years, which is full to the brim with breezy, feel good pop/rock anthems.
  5. Bob Catley
    When Empires Burn

    Another veteran of the melodic scene made his best ever solo album this year. Bob's album was brilliant in every way - from the production, to the song style and delivery. The force behind the music was Paul Hodson, who deserves equal credit. The magic of the album is completed with a flawless performance by all.

  6. Nexx - Colours
  7. Vertigo - Vertigo
  8. Attraction 65 - Attraction 65
  9. Shugaazer - Shift
  10. Masterplan - Masterplan


  11. Johnny Lima - Made In California
  12. Jim Jidhed - Full Circle
  13. Radioactive - Yeah
  14. Glenn Hughes - Songs In the Key Of Rock
  15. Talisman - Cats & Dogs
  16. Cornerstone - Once Upon Our Yesterdays
  17. Cauterize - So Far From Real
  18. Thunder - Shooting At The Sun
  19. Styx - Cyclorama
  20. Firehouse - Prime Time

  21. Colin Blades - Colin Blades
  22. Eric Martin - Destroy All Monsters
  23. Mike Tramp - More To Life Than This
  24. Kee Marcello - Melon Demon Divine
  25. Brian McDonald - Voyage
  26. Ken Tamplin - Wake The Nations
  27. Once And Future King - Part 1 & 2
  28. Brazen Abbot - Guilty As Sin
  29. Perfect World - Perfect World
  30. Burns Blue - What If
Honorable Mentions: (in no particular order)
  • Khymera - Khymera
  • Skid Row - Thickskin
  • Newman - Sign Of The Modern Times
  • Mars Electric - Fame Among The Vulgar
  • Ramos - Living In The Light
  • Harry Hess - Just Another Day
  • Miles Above - Further
  • Hughes Turner Project - 2
  • Pride - Signs Of Purity
  • Urban Tale - Signs Of Times
  • Unruly Child - UCIII
  • Mike Tramp - Rock N Roll Alive
  • Skin & Bones - Speak Easy
  • Last Tribe - The Uncrowned
  • Toto - Live In Amsterdam
  • Damn Cheetah - Primal
  • Sun Caged - Sun Caged
  • Alice Cooper - The Eyes Of Alice Cooper
  • Petra - Jeckyl & Hyde
  • Zon - 2 CD Reissue
  • Vertical Horizon - Go
  • Rob Rock - Eyes Of Eternity
  • Billy Falcon - Songs About Girls
  • Kiss - Kiss Symphony (Alive IV)
  • Joe Lyn Turner - JLT
  • Crystal Blue - Detour
  • Cage - Darker Than Black
  • Circle II Circle - Watching In Silence
  • Royal Hunt - Eye Witness
  • 40ft Ringo - Funny Thing
  • Gotthard - Human Zoo
  • Hall & Oates - Do It For Love
  • Drive She Said - Real Life
  • Krokus - Rock The Block
  • Departure - Corporate Wheel
  • Phantom's Opera - Act IV
  • Frontline - Almost Unreleased
  • Ignition - Ignition
  • Mikael Erlandsson - The Gift
  • XYZ - Letter To God
  • TNT - Taste EP
  • Pride Of Lions - Sound Of Home EP
(Ranked In Order)

  1. Masterplan - Masterplan
  2. Cornerstone - Once Upon Our Yesterdays
  3. Once & Future King - Parts 1 & 2
  4. Brazen Abbot - Guilty As Sin
  5. Hughes Turner Project - 2
  6. Last Tribe - The Uncrowned
  7. Royal Hunt - Eye Witness
  8. Cage - Darker Than Black
  9. Rob Rock - Eyes Of Eternity
  10. Circle II Circle - Watching In Silence
(Ranked In Order)

  1. Pride Of Lions - Pride Of Lions
  2. On The Rise - On The Rise
  3. Nexx - Colours
  4. Vertigo - Vertigo
  5. Johnny Lima - Made In California
  6. Jim Jidhed - Full Circle
  7. Urban Tale - Signs Of Times
  8. Ramos - Living In The Light
  9. Newman - Sign Of The Modern Times
  10. Pride - Signs Of Purity
  11. Departure - Corporate Wheel
(Ranked In Order)

  1. Waltham - Permission To Build
  2. Shugaazer - Shift
  3. Attraction 65 - Attraction 65
  4. Cauterize - So Far From Real
  5. Harry Hess - Just Another Day
  6. Mars Electric - Fame Among The Vulgar
  7. Miles Above - Further
  8. 40ft Ringo - Funny Thing
  9. Vertical Horizon - Go
  10. Jamie Meyer - It's All About Me

(Ranked In Order)

  1. Pride Of Lions - Sound Of Home
  2. Harem Scarem - Waited
  3. Shugaazer - Something Worth Waiting For
  4. Waltham - So Lonely
  5. Pride Of Lions - It's Criminal
  6. Harem Scarem - Lost
  7. On The Rise - Lift You Up
  8. Jim Jidhed - Full Circle
  9. Nexx - Arches of Faith
  10. Bob Catley - I'll Be Your Fool

  11. TNT - Live Today
  12. Attraction 65 - In Another Life
  13. Shugaazer - Beautiful
  14. Vertigo - Not Enough Hours In The Night
  15. Skid Row - Born A Beggar
  16. Waltham - All I Want Is You
  17. Harem Scarem - Lies
  18. Once And Future King, Part 1 - Danny Vaughn - Avalon
  19. Vertigo - Straight To Your Heart
  20. On The Rise - Pride

  21. Waltham - Cheryl
  22. Cauterize - Something Beautiful
  23. Masterplan - Enlighten Me
  24. Johnny Lima - Best Night Of My Life
  25. Harry Hess - Miles Away
  26. Eric Martin - What's The Worst That Could Happen
  27. Cornerstone - Man Without A Reason
  28. Newman - Last Known Survivors
  29. Khymera - Living With A Memory
  30. Thunder - Loser

  31. Harry Hess - Everybody
  32. Waltham - Hopeless
  33. Pride - Say Your Not Lonely
  34. Glenn Hughes - In My Blood
  35. Talisman - Sorry
  36. Jim Jidhed - I'll Be Ready Then
  37. Perfect World - Here With Me
  38. Cheap Trick - Scent Of A Woman
  39. Firehouse - Crash
  40. Brazen Abbot - Mr Earthman
Honorable Mentions: (in no particular order)
  • Colin Blades - Been Too Long
  • Clay Aiken - Invisible
  • Kee Marcello - Hey Romeo
  • Johnny Lima - Another Girl
  • Vertigo - Never Let You Go
  • Brazen Abbot - Bring The Colours Home
  • Crystal Blue - Back On Track
  • Radioactive - I Should Have Known Better
  • Bob Catley - Gonna Live Forever
  • Masterplan - Enlighten Me
  • Departure - Sacrifice
  • 40ft Ringo - Book Of Virtues
  • Cauterize - If You Go
  • Pride Of Lions - Interrupted Melody
  • Miles Above - Further
  • Hughes Turner Project - Revelation
  • Ken Tamplin - Falling Houses
  • Styx - Kiss Your Ass Goodbye
  • Styx - One With Everything
  • Shugaazer - Song 4 Lennon
  • Shugaazer - Enough
  • 40ft Ringo - Anyway
  • Drive She Said - Real Life
  • Radioactive - Don't Give Up
  • Delp & Goodreau - What You Leave Behind
  • On The Rise - Beat Of Your Heart
  • On The Rise - Memories of Forever
  • On The Rise - Leaps & Bounds
  • Skin & Bones - Mr. Downtown
  • Secret Smile - Into The Night
  • Last Tribe - Healer
  • Last Tribe - The Chosen One
  • Last Tribe - Sacrifice
  • Eric Martin - I Woke Up Too Late
  • Eric Martin - Janie Won't Open
  • Cornerstone - Welcome To Forever
  • Cornerstone - When The Hammer Falls
  • Cornerstone - Hour Of Doom
  • Johnny Lima - We've Got Tonight
  • Johnny Lima - Something About You
  • Johnny Lima - Where Are You Now?
  • Damn Cheetah - Without Your Love
  • Damn Cheetah - Forever And A Day
  • Pride Of Lions - Last Safe Place
  • Pride Of Lions - First Time Around The Sun
  • Pride Of Lions - Gone
  • Perfect World - Leaving Lonely
  • Perfect World - Just Like A Pill
  • The Darkness - Growing On Me
  • Colin Blades - All I Ever Ask
  • Colin Blades - Far Far Away
  • Colin Blades - Million Miles
  • Miles Above - Me & You
  • Miles Above - When You Hold My Hand
  • Dreamtide - Dream Real
  • Vertical Horizon - When You Cry
  • Vertical Horizon - I'm Still Here
  • Firehouse - Body Language
  • Firehouse - Perfect Lie
  • Once And Future King - Part 2 - DC Cooper - Kill The King
  • Once And Future King - Part 2 - Gary Hughes - There By The Grace Of God
  • Once And Future King - Part 2 - Doogie White - The Hard Way
  • Once And Future King - Part 1 - Gary Hughes & Lana Lane - At The End Of The Day
  • Hughes Turner Project - Alone I Breathe
  • Hughes Turner Project - Going My Way
  • Cauterize - My Everything
  • Cauterize - Killing Me
  • Harem Scarem - Run & Hide
  • Harem Scarem - Gone
  • Attraction 65 - Train
  • Attraction 65 - Rise Above
  • Attraction 65 - Swept Away
  • Rob Rock - Eyes Of Eternity
  • Rob Rock - Rock The Earth
  • Outland - One More Night
  • Outland - Love Alive
  • Outland - Valerie
  • Robin Black - Suburban Sci-Fi
  • Skid Row - Ghost
  • Skid Row - One Light
  • Newman - Save Me Tonight
  • Newman - Watching You
  • Richie Kotzen - Get A Life
  • Cheap Trick - Too Much
  • Kee Marcello - Enemies
  • Kee Marcello - EMD
  • Brazen Abbot - Eyes On The Horizon
  • Brazen Abbot - Slip Away
  • Waltham - Back To You
  • Ramos - Don't Go
  • Ramos - Living In The Light
  • Joe Lyn Turner - In Cold Blood
  • Joe Lyn Turner - Love Don't Live Here
  • Pride - Could You Believe
  • Mars Electric - Descend
  • Mars Electric - Bemused
  • Crystal Blue - Damage
  • Crystal Blue - Move On
  • Circle II Circle - Into The Wind
  • Royal Hunt - Can't Let Go
  • Royal Hunt - The Prayer
  • Glenn Hughes - Lost In the Zone
  • Glenn Hughes - Standing On The Rock
  • Glenn Hughes - Gasoline
  • Emerald Rain - Wanted To Believe
  • Burns Blue - Straight
  • Burns Blue - Don't Wanna Know
  • Burns Blue - Deadly Sin
  • Talisman - Break It Down
  • Talisman - Outta My Way
  • Brian McDonald - Where Are You Where Am I
  • Brian McDonald - In The Shadows Of Angels
  • Brian McDonald - The Night You Said Goodbye
  • TNT - Satellite
  • Nexx - Remember
  • Nexx - Wake Up
  • Bob Catley - Someday Utopia
  • Bob Catley - Every Beat Of Your Heart
  • Ken Tamplin - The Story Of Love
  • Ken Tamplin - We've Jihad Enough
  • Radioactive - 7 AM
  • XYZ - All I'm Asking
  • Harry Hess - Just Another Day
  • Khymera - Love Leads The Way
  • Khymera - Who's Gonna Love You Tonight
  • Mike Tramp - More To Life Than This
  • Mike Tramp - I Wont Let Go
  • Mike Tramp - The Good The Sad The Ugly
  • Gotthard - Human Zoo
  • Gotthard - What I Like
  • Gotthard - Top Of The World
  • Thunder - Shooting At The Sun
  • Thunder - Somebody Get Me A Spin Doctor
  • 40ft Ringo - Inside Your Head
  • Hall & Oates - Do It For Love
  • Hall & Oates - Someday We'll Know
  • Hall & Oates - Forever For You
  • Drive She Said - What's It Gonna Take
  • Gary Moon - Call Of The Wild
  • Gary Moon - State Of The Heart
  • Wild Frontier - Wild Wind Blows
  • Nuclear Valdez - Wonderland
  • Styx - Do It My Way
  • Styx - Fields Of The Brave
  • Jim Jidhed - Falling In Love
  • Jim Jidhed - I Will Never leave You Now
  • Jim Jidhed - Anyway You Want It
  • Departure - Listen Yo What I Say
  • Departure - Time
  • Masterplan - Spirit Never Die
  • Masterplan - Kind Hearted Light
  • Masterplan - Into The Light
  • Phantom's Opera - Etched
  • Frontline - My Innocence
  • Ignition - Tell Me You're Mine
  • Ignition - Goodbye To The Good Times
  • Ignition - Fire With Fire
  • Mikael Erlandsson - Out Of Champagne
  • Mikael Erlandsson - Stop (Following Me)
  • Mikael Erlandsson - Million Dollar Girl
  • Unruly Child - Tear Me Down
  • Unruly Child - Falling
  • Unruly Child - Bring Me Home
  • Urban Tale - Starship of Giants
  • Urban Tale - Still Strong
  • Urban Tale - Open Your Heart
  • Thunder - Someone Get Me A Spin Doctor
(Ranked In Order)

  1. Masterplan - Enlighten Me
  2. Brazen Abbot - Mr. Earthman
  3. Kee Marcello - Everyone Must Die
  4. Cornerstone - Welcome To Forever
  5. Masterplan - Spirit Never Die
  6. Royal Hunt - Can't Let Go
  7. Kee Marcello - Enemies
  8. Skid Row - Thick Is The Skin
  9. Dreamtide - Dream Real
  10. OAFK Part 1 - DC Cooper - Kill The King
(Ranked In Order)

  1. Shugaazer - Something Worth Waiting For
  2. Cornerstone - Man Without A Reason
  3. Jim Jidhed - I'll Be Ready Then
  4. Pride Of Lions - Last Safe Place
  5. Harry Hess - Miles Away
  6. Attraction 65 - Swept Away
  7. Urban Tale - Still Strong
  8. Mike Tramp - The Good The Band & The Ugly
  9. Johnny Lima - We've Got Tonight
  10. Brian McDonald - The Night You Said Goodbye
(Ranked In Order)

  1. Waltham - So Lonely
  2. Waltham - All I Want Is You
  3. Cauterize - Something Beautiful
  4. Shugaazer - Beautiful
  5. 40ft Ringo - Book Of Virtues
  6. Mars Electric - Bemused
  7. Waltham - Cheryl
  8. Miles Above - Further
  9. Shugaazer - Enough
  10. Harry Hess - My Way

Firstly - the RIP list: 2003 was one of the worst years for losing those valuable to the music world. Not only that, but nearly 100 fans died in the Station Club Fire in Rhode Island.
RIP 2003 - Each and every soul lost in the Station Fire on February 20, 2003 including Jeff Radar and Ty Longley.
And....Bruce Waibel (Firehouse), Graham Bonnet's Dad - Lou, Michael Kamen, Tony Thompson (Power Station, The Distance, Chic), Guy Speranza (Riot), Steve Hoffman, JD Kimball (Omen), Robert Palmer, Shawn lane, Johnny Cash, Warren Zevon, Ado Makita (Sony Japan A&R), Greg Guidry, Erik Brann (Iron Butterfly), Bobby Thompson (Ozzy Tour Manager), John Purdell (Producer, Lou Gramm, Rick Springfield, Session Musician), Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix), Maurice Gibb and Matt Moffitt.

2003 was a challenging year to say the least. A number of curve balls were thrown during the year and one can only hope 2004 is a smoother ride for all.
Musically speaking 2003 was an underachieving year. There were of course some great albums released - that list is reflected above. But most of the big-gun releases for 2003 failed to materialize, or were disappointing. Some of those big releases have vanished altogether, but the majority have been bumped to 2004, so if this year materializes as planned, then it will be the best year for melodic rock since I started this site. 2002 currently holds that title.
I'll get to all the music for 2003 and 2004 shortly. There's a lot to get through. First, let's take a look at some of the events of 2003 and how they affected the scene as a whole and this site.

2003 was the hardest year I have experienced in dealing with this site and everything that entails. Keeping the site alive was harder than ever. Several other factors caused difficulties through the year.
The most upsetting was the February Rhode Island, Station Fire disaster, where nearly 100 dedicated rock n rollers lost their lives.
The fire, at a Great White show, was something that affected everyone involved in this tight knit community of fans and is something that I still can't believe. To try and write about it nearly 1 year on is no easier than it was on the day of the tragedy, which saw hits to my site top an all time record, as fans worldwide tuned in for updates.
I've spent the year promoting the Station Family Fund, which continues to raise money for the families of those affected by the tragedy. Don't forget them and never forget the souls of those who perished.

That fire indirectly affected this site, as Great White's record label (Knight Records) were at the time a sponsor of the site. Naturally their attention was diverted elsewhere after the fire, but I thank them for their time with the site.

As far as other extraordinary occurrences go, the biggie for the year was the whole Z Records circus. I have never seen anything like the events that followed a number of artists coming out against their own label and doubt I ever will again.
In January, a group of Z Records artists put out a press release, raising their concerns over numerous questionable business practices and failed obligations. The artists were led by Tommy Denander and Marcel Jacob, but joined also by members of Humanimal, Great King Rat, Human Race, Eclipse, Southpaw, Damned Nation, Amaze Me, Snakes In Paradise, plus Pontus Norgren and Ricky Delin.
I initially tried to stay out of the argument. I thought it best that the situation was dealt with by the label and the artists themselves, but agreed to leave the Noticeboard free as a forum for debate.
My initial reservations about doing this were soon realized, as the forum quickly descended into mass chaos. Some of the debate was healthy and needed, but much of it wasn't any better than a playground fight. Some 1800 posts relating to the Z Records debate were posted, with the arguments continuing for some months!
But the Noticeboard debate did serve some purpose, as several other artists joined in with similar complaints. Several magazines such as Powerplay, Sweden Rock Magazine and Rock It! joined in to say none of them deal with Z any longer.
Over the course of the time that followed the initial burst of publicity, other artists voiced their concerns.
The list of above artists weren't the only ones to leave Z in 2003. Over the course of the year Danny Danzi, Phil Naro, Danny Vaughn, Shiva, Seven Wishes and Shy all left the label.

At the time Z Records were a sponsor of this site as they were over the last few years. I was really disappointed that the label chose the path of inaction. Following the release of the artists' statement, I thought the label should have made some effort to rectify the problems publically, through some sort of defense or explination. That didn't happen and with that and a few other factors in mind, I chose to cut my formal ties with the label.

What else happened in 2003? I released my first ever CD - Volume 1 "Revealed & Revisited".
It was another idea to keep the site alive and running! The work that went into putting that together gave me a new insight into another area of the industry I work in, not to mention being a huge learning curve. I made a few mistakes, plus there's a few typos in the booklet which was disappointing, but like I said - lessons learnt.
I'm still really proud of the end result and really hope I can keep it going as a series. But the amount of work needed to get it done and ready for release means it won't be a regular thing, that's for sure.
I must again thank the artists who said yes and followed that through to be included. There are many others that paid lip service to the idea, but never followed through. Hopefully you will see them on Volume 2 or 3!
For the record - I sold about 800 copies of the CD. Unlike most record labels, I am not scared to share those stats with you.

Moving on....Let's talk about the scene itself. Things continued in 2003 pretty much as they have been for the last couple of years.
CD Burning remains a problem, with MTM Music coming out with a statement asking fans not to. Good for them.
Frontiers Records have started adding extra content to that of the musical content on their major releases, with Vertigo an example of what they are trying to do - adding a video and interview footage to the CD release to encourage purchase of an original copy. Well done again, I hope it works. I think other labels may follow suit.
There remains the never ending question of how many releases = too many releases? That remains a hard question to answer. My belief has always been that market forces will dictate that. If the releases are good, they should theoretically sell and if they are not, they won't. Simple!
But there is always the question over whether some of the more deserving releases get the promotion they deserve. The labels concerned do their best, but hungry melodic rock fans seem content to devour what's on offer each month then move on to the next "in waiting" release. Music these days seems to have a short promotional lifespan.
One example I can think of - Harem Scarem's fabulous Higher didn't seem to create the buzz Weight Of The World did, despite being even more traditionally melodic in style.

The Gods 2003 was another awesome event, but the foot traffic didn't match that of the anniversary show the year before. That was expected and the show didn't disappoint, but fuck me people - an event of this type in any other genre of music would have sold out 2 days after it was announced. Where else would you find - anywhere in the world - an event that runs 2 days with 15 bands playing the greatest selection of music, all for the price of a slab of beer?
I'd love to see something like The Gods in the USA, but can't see how it will ever happen.

Classic Rock Magazine in the UK put together a horrid review of the Festival. The truth is that it was nothing short of an embarrassment to the magazine and the "writer" sent to attend. The review was full of inaccuracies and left out most of the bands that appeared over the weekend and was used as another tool for Classic Rock to take the piss out of the melodic music scene. But no amount of protesting or e-mail writing will change those guy's view of the scene, which is too bad, as there are readers out there that want such coverage and deserve to have it included without prejudice.

Talking of touring, on the way to The Gods, I saw the Journey, Styx & REO Speedwagon show in LA. That tour did great business and was attended by many classic rockers in the US. Pity these bands can't lower their requirements to do a European tour. Yes, they make great money in the USA, but a venture into Europe is long overdue and some of these bands (and others) would be wise to pay some respect to their European fans, as these are the guys that are still buying their records.

The LA show was at the huge Staples Center Arena and was chock full of fans of all three bands, singing along, waving hands and clapping for more. Sadly though, I think I was the only one standing while Journey played Higher Place and Styx played their couple of new tunes. Some asshole in front yelled out for Styx to play something he knew. What ignorance. But he was not alone. The band were selling copies of Cyclorama in the merch area, but the classic T's were what was being snapped up by all.
So here's an idea...with the cost of a concert ticket these days seemingly not stopping 30,000 LA area fans showing up for a show, why not increase (or incorporate) the price of the ticket to include a copy of the performing band's new CD?
With each ticket comes a copy of a new release, which fans can then take home and actually play and realize that new material has actually been recorded after 1985. What's more, get Soundscan to somehow accredit these sales and via them, a band could logically achieve a charting album, which in turn would place pressure on retailers to carry the title and programmers to play it! With such a concept in place, Styx's Cyclorama could have been a #1 record last summer. And it IS possible - check it out!

One of the biggest mail reactions I got in 2003 was from a story about an Asia gig in Minneapolis, with the Lec Zorn Project making their live debut as support act.
Only 40 odd people turned up to the gig and it seems most of them e-mailed, including the band, management, the gig organizer and more. Asia were in the midst of playing a series of low profile "lounge room" gigs, so they were unfazed and put on a professional show for those in attendance. Lec Zorn however, didn't have a good day, with his hired singer Casey Michaels half drunk and reading lyrics off cue sheets stuck to the floor. And Lec also stopped and re-started one song 3 separate times after the piped in intro was missed by Michaels. That didn't go down well with the crowd - at least not with those that e-mailed in. Oh well, everyone has their Spinal Tap moment, so I hope for Lec that his moment is now out of the way.

The other was The Darkness. I've got nothing against these guys, but the saddest things about them is that they attracted more passion (both for and against) during the year than any other melodic/AOR release. They are taking the piss - no matter what anyone says - and I don't think they will last any length in time. Now, I don't have anything against them, I think they are a lot of fun and good to get drunk to. But they won't save rock n roll. Not with a vocalist like that! It's a pity the best bands within this scene cannot get the same chance at the publicity The Darkness get.

There is something else I have to get off my chest. Press Releases. As a journalist, I have to deal with them on a daily basis. They get sent by labels, bands, PR people, fans, street team members, managers – you name it.
That's great – but seriously – they should all be required to pass through quality control procedures before continuing on to their destinations!
Some of these items that arrive in my in-box are simply unprintable! They either make no sense, or are written in pigeon English, are factually incorrect (with errors, overstatements or just flat out lies!) and then there are the ones that arrived without any punctuation!
Oh, and I can't forget the ones that mention the artist's name 25 times – as if you are going to forget who you are reading about!
I make reference to the fact some of the press releases are in pigeon English. I get many statements from non-English speaking countries. That's fine. But some of the worst offenders are from the USA! What's their excuse?! I spent far too long already correcting and re-writing press releases in order to make them good enough to be able to feature and be understood.
Basically, if companies want to look as professional as possible, then some form of improvement in what is currently being sent out to media worldwide! Ok, rant over….

Music Musings of 2003:
There were far too many tribute records released again - none of them near classic, with the barrel well and truly bled dry for artists worthy of such tributes. Those not yet paid tribute to that deserve it include Rick Springfield, Night Ranger, Mr. Big (oh, wait - they did that themselves) and David Cassidy (ok, so that one wasn't serious).
Coming in 2004 - at least 2 maybe even 3 Journey tributes and God knows who else...

Disappointments - musically speaking - of 2003: The new Meatloaf album didn't live up to expectations. Just what was he thinking doing a rap song? And has Bon Jovi totally lost contact with reality? What the hell were they thinking while recording This Left Feels Right? That album has sunk quicker than the Great Kat comeback and is currently being flogged via late night TV in the States. In Australia there wasn't even any press done for it. A bad sign in a previously solid market for the band. The album has sold half of what Bounce did, which sold half that of Crush.
Styx had possibly the worst excuse for live album in a long time via the horrible Sanctuary Records cash-in compile 21st Century Live.
Bonfire went modern and underachieved. Now, after everything that so many bands have done before them, why would ANY classic melodic/hard rock band contemplate going modern in this day and age? Stick to what you are best at folks, it will work to your advantage in the long run. Take a listen to the new Jaded Heart soundbytes. This is what folks want.
Britny Fox released their long awaited album - again with an updated sound that didn't suit. What a horrible comeback. Too bad, as the live album before it showed real spark.
Same again for Metallica....when a producer (Bob Rock) has to come out and actually explain why a record sounds the way it does, it means the public didn't get it. Sales figures prove that point.
Diamond David Lee Roth released a record with character, but the vast majority didn't warm to it.
MSG released an album which continues their downward trend.
A few other disappointing albums - Pat Benatar, Queensryche, Ensign, Jani Lane, Wild Horses, Pain & Passion and Kenny Loggins.

Best Re-Issues of 2003: Awesome to see Virginia Wolf available on CD, but Wounded Bird really need to take a look at their packaging/quality control. Several booklet errors spoil the release. The label also released Streets, Airrace and Holland during the year.
Escape Music did the best job of re-issues in 2003 - some fine releases with packaging to match. Included in their output was Statetrooper, FM, Zon, Orphan and Body Electric.
Majestic Rock came up with Heavy Pettin and Black N Blue re-issues, but could use some better artwork transfers. Otherwise the releases were cool.
MTM Classix was born, so expect more competition to re-issues in 2004.

Nothing announced from Van Halen, but the year was still filled with enough rumors and strange happenings to keep most amused!
The most amusing was Eddie's bizarre appearance at NAMM in January. His late entry and dishelved appearance, as well as his behavior, had some really questioning his sanity!
Then there was the surprise interview by Dwyer & Michaels at the other end of the year - Ed was no clearer, but still entertaining. Don't forget the whole story surrounding Limp Dogshitz frontman Fred Durst explaining that Eddie had auditioned for his band some time back. Not so, Eddie just jammed and left his gear behind and later couldn't get it back. Legend has it that he apparently turned up with a gun to finally retrieve it!
And lastly, Eddie's only other public appearance was for a DVD shoot for Leslie West's Mountain. Sadly Ed vetoed his appearance making the final DVD cut.
I'm looking forward to more in 2004!

The Journey tour was a smash success (so it wasn't all bad), but Neal Schon's vision for Planet Us failed to materialize after Sammy Hagar decided Van Halen was his best meal ticket back to glory days.
Fans also patiently await a solo Best Of album, which John Kalodner wants to release, and his completed solo instrumental album Eye On You. I hope to catch up with Neal soon.

SR-71 dumped their line-up again. The band only features 1 original member, Mitch Allan, but at least their new single hinted at a return to their more melodic debut.

Icon's Danny Wexler returned to recording duty with the project Thieves In The Temple. I believe it's now defunct, but who knows... Getting information out of those involved was impossible, as was actually getting a copy of the album. Like many in the past, once the press release has been printed and album plugged, there is suddenly no reply to e-mails and no promo copy of the album ever arrives. Asses!

Pulse continued to confuse fans by swapping their new lead singer for their original singer and starting work on their second album again, which had been initially scrapped to start work on a new album with the new singer, but was scrapped when he was fired. And original singer Simon is also working on a solo album. Ok...

Krokus were the surprise packet of the year, with a thoroughly enjoyable classic hard rock album. Another example of giving the fans what they want. Bands take note! Play to the fans you still have - don't go looking for new fans in areas you won't find them. Play your best classic rock and new fans will come.

Stage Dolls and TNT both scored big hits in their native country with new best of compilations via Universal. Now only if their labels put the same effort into their new albums!

Mail order company Melody Boulevard announced a 20CD+ box set of Westcoast favourites, but the project has since vanished due to some issues regarding track inclusion and artist permissions etc. No surprise there!

FM decided they couldn't be called FM and will go under the name The Ladder. Watch for that release in 2004!

Speaking of ladders, Harlan Cage's Roger Scott Craig fell off his and landed himself in hospital for an extended stay.

It was a year of "signs". Urban Tale started the ball rolling with Signs Of Times. Newman modernized it with Signs Of The Modern Times, Pride wanted Signs Of Purity, while TNT we asking Give Me A Sign. Section A borrowed Van Halen's The Seventh Sign and don't forget Ensign! However, 2003 saw no sign of The Sign. They'll be back in 2004!

Gene Simmons re-launched Simmons Records, but is yet to announce a signing. Aside from his own solo album that is. He also pulled production of his Tongue Magazine, which really was only a 100 page advert for Kiss merchandise. But the band did hit Melbourne for a special Symphony show, which was a treat to see. Pity much of their released performance was recorded the night before without an audience present.

Queensryche welcomed back Chris DeGarmo, put out the usual "this is our best album in years hype", then said Degarmo really didn't do so much on the album and won't tour - then released another average album.

Aussie nu-breeders Invertigo lost their vocalist, but vowed to go on, before admitting defeat and splitting.

Michael Schenker finally gave away his involvement in UFO. He agreed to relinquish the rights to the name and continues on his merry way.

Def Leppard's potential #1 smash hit Long Long Way To Go was ignored by most and was only released as a single in the UK. The band's US label couldn't be assed and promotion of the great X album faded before it started.

Doug Aldrich issued a press release to state his commitment to Dio and how he can't wait to record a new studio album, before announcing he was quitting Dio to join Whitesnake. Warren DeMartini replaced Doug, only to be squeezed out in favor of Craig Goldy - who at last count was still the band's guitarist.

Meanwhile former Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell says Ronnie James Dio was a horrid human being in an interview for

Adriangale's Eddie Campbell quits the band to join another label as a solo artist. He hasn't been heard from since. But things in the AG camp may not be much better. Will there be a third album? Who knows. The band's in-the-can live album should appear sometime later this year.

One of the biggest laughs for the year occurred when the entire line-up of Circle II Circle quit, leaving frontman Zakk Stevens to make nicey nice and proudly boast it was business as usual. He toured with a new line-up in Europe, but met with some less than favorable reviews. It seems the band were not getting paid by management for their time or work on tour, forced to pay out of their own pocket to remain on the road.

Circle II Circle weren't the only band to suffer meltdowns. Nothing tops that of Stratovarius frontman Timo Tolkki, who posted a very moving message on his message board about internal band troubles and his many mental problems. The posts resulted in half the band leaving and Timo himself having to hire security to protect him from angry fans. Great stuff.

And Royal Hunt has lost Steen Mogensen and Jacob Kjaer from their line-up, leaving only John West and Andre Andersen in the band.

Also - The Angels have reformed - twice (two line-ups!) - how sad is that? Jon Stevens quits Inxs without making an album in over 3 years at the helm. Styx loses Glen Burtnik, but replaces him with Ricky Phillips and word has it that Jizzy is out of Ratt. Time will tell on that one.

Mike Tramp started putting White Lion back together, but apparently Vito wants nothing to do with it.

Sony Music lose their resident A&R legend John Kalodner to Sanctuary Music. I'm hoping 2004 sees some interesting projects emerge from that.

News of David Glenn Eisley's Dr. Dave's Maths CD got a great response when I posted it. The CD is the times table done musically for kids. Now that's a long way down from Giuffria and Dirty White Boy.

Maybe Sebastian Bach should get a copy of David's CD. His new band, the Bach Tight 5 features only 4 guys. None of which can play if live reviews are anything to go by.

Steve Lukather found a unique way of attracting worldwide attention to Toto, by announcing that David Paich was unavailable to tour because he was about to undergo a sex change. When media worldwide asked for interviews and the trans-gender lobby contacted the band to congratulate them, he knew things had gone too far!

What happened to the proposed Blue Murder re-union? The band were set for a re-union, but as all things John Sykes, nothing has come of it and no news updates. My bet is don't count on anything in 2004...I hope I'm wrong, as I love that classic original album.

LRB decided to reform as BSG, but the current holder of the rights to the name LRB lodged a court paper protesting that BSG couldn't promote themselves as BSG, featuring the original members of LRB. The dispute continues!

Kiss claimed another Gold record for their Kiss Symphony record, but the fact is it shipped Gold, but has only sold a quarter of the number needed to be officially awarded that Gold status. Nice bit of PR boys!

While contemplating what to do with their finished record, Nelson start hocking various bits of odd memorabilia at impressive prices via E-Bay and then finished off the year by releasing a new 16 minute doco-DVD priced at a mere $25US! That's $1.56 per minute entertainment.

Motley Crue's Vince Neil and Nikki Sixx spent most of the year contradicting each other on possible details of a band reunion in 2004, 2005 or not at all. I'm hearing not at all. Stay tuned...

Quiet Riot split at the end of the year, bowing out with a new DVD release.

That's the news and events of 2003.
How about the actual music released and what was predicted for the year some 12 months back? Let's take a look at the music, releases and artists of 2003.
First to my favourite part of each year's summary - the predictions for the year ahead. Let's take a look at what I predicted for 2003 when I wrote up the 2002 awards last December/January.

- The Guns N Roses album will get postponed again and if released, won't be until late 2003 at the earliest. 2003 tour dates will be a similar disaster to 2002.
TRUE! It did get postponed and has yet to see the light of day and who knows if it will even in 2004 or ever!
- The Slash and fellow ex-Gunners album will get better reviews than Gunners themselves.
Well, it will come true, but as neither were released, we'll have to move this one to 2004's predictions!
- Skid Row won't find a label for their new album (unless Spitfire step in), will release it themselves (finally) and will re-unite with Sebastian Bach for the summer of 2004.
Partial credit for this one - The Skid's didn't find a label in the US (they licensed it to SPV for Europe) and eventually released the album themselves, but as yet, no sign of Sebastian returning to the fold. And to be honest, I now don't think he will anytime soon.
- Judas Priest will start talking with Rob Halford again.
TRUE!! Despite getting denials from management denying such plans on Jan 25, Jan 28, Feb 3, Feb 11 and March 11, the band finally got a grip on reality and announced the return of Rob on July 12!
- Eddie Van Halen will do a few more guest spots, but come no closer to talking about the band, or getting a new singer. No new VH in 2003
Another partial credit. There was certainly no VH in 2003 in any form, but Eddie did make a couple of appearances - on the Lukather Christmas album and a rather strange cameo at NAMM in January and that bizarre radio interview in November.
- Sony will release another Toto compilation.
TRUE! Ok, so that was an easy one....
- BMG will release another Rick Springfield compilation.
TRUE! Again, an obvious choice :)
- A new nu-breed band will break through for a US #1 album.
Sadly, no such luck. I really thought 2002 was a strong year for nu-breed acts, but 2003 hasn't been so kind. There remains a major opening for such a band to come from nowhere, maybe Waltham can do it in 2004?
- Boston will only play a few select dates - no big tour.
Bombed out on this one....while it wasn't the biggest tour event of the year by a long shot, it was bigger and longer than I thought it would be!
- Metallica's album will under-achieve.
TRUE! Yep, the sales dived, the critics and the fans mostly hated it and last I heard, Metallica were disappointed in this. One of the year's worst releases.
- The biggest melodic rock tours of 2003 will be the Meatloaf, Whitesnake and Styx tours.
Well, the Whitesnake tour did great business and the Styx tour with Journey and REO was huge, so credit for those...the Meatloaf tour was so big, but is still going on doing decent business.
- Biggest tour of all: Duran Duran
I wouldn't call it the biggest of the year as predicted, but what dates the guys have played have met with great reviews and an amazing response!
- Sammy Hagar will release some sort of new album / Van Halen won't.
TRUE! Sammy released his live album with Mikey guesting and Van Halen released zip!
- Bobby Kimball will release a new solo album / Toto won't.
No luck on this one...while there was no Toto album, Bobby's album also remains "in the works."
- Jim Peterik will release a new album / Survivor won't.
TRUE! Jim released the wonderful Pride Of Lions album while Survivor only managed a few live dates.
- House Of Lords will finally release their new album / Bourgeois Pigs won't.
Arrgh...who would be silly enough put money on the HOL album being released?! Well, it's finally coming out in March, so that's some good news. The BP album however will never happen. Just where is Michael Guy these days?
- Bobby Barth will release an album / Axe won't.
Bobby's still working on it - does that count?
- Kelly Keagy will release a new studio album / Night Ranger won't.
Correct for Night Ranger, but also nothing from Kelly. 2004 I hope!
- Dare: even money on whether the album will be released this year or next!
Glad I didn't bet the house on this sign of the album.
- Planet Us will not tour (just a hunch)
Correct and for all intents and purposes, the project is now dead.

So they were the predictions!

What about my additional general ramblings about what albums to look out for and expect good things from? We had better take a look at that too if I don't, you'll only look back and e-mail me about it!

On The Rise and Jim Jidhed impressed most as expected, both feature prominently in my own best of 2003 lists.
The Lec Zorn Project album failed to materialize. Several factors contributed to the delay. I think Lec has learnt a lot from the issues that have arisen during the preparation of this album. Hopefully fans of early 80's keyboard AOR will have something to enjoy later this year.
The Ramos album was very enjoyable, some of Josh Ramos' best work to date. More please...
The new Departure album surprised me and many others. It took a serious Journeyesque twist and featured some great 80's AOR.
Ambition and the new Mecca album were two of the year's most high-profile MIA's. Ambition will never happen - sorry folks. Why is not an issue I'm going to get into. I'm not that more confident for Mecca. The band's frontman and spokesperson Joe Vana has disappeared (again). He has been tied up dealing with personal and family problems, so I wish him the best. But I haven't heard a single word from Joe since his last announcement, which is a disappointment, considering that Joe was a good friend.
Jim Peterik followed-up his work on the debut Mecca album with his return to full time melodic rock writing and recording with Pride Of Lions. Classic fans of Jim and Survivor could not have asked for more. Singer Toby Hitchcock was a great find and with a little extra warmth to his voice (through getting out there and playing live), he will be hard to beat on future albums.
Harem Scarem released another perfect combination of AOR and melodic rock with a slight modern twist. I still get e-mails from people just discovering this classic band.
Mike Tramp's new album didn't blow me away as did his last. It just wasn't as intense or as well recorded, but remained enjoyable and did please fans.
As predicted, new albums from Styx, Mark Spiro, Bob Catley, Drive She Said, Khymera, Gotthard, Pride, Radioactive, Harem Scarem, Brian McDonald, Firehouse also pleased fans.
Michael Sembello's album wasn't so fortunate. Sadly the label were unable to have their vision of a Sembello rock album come to light and a European release of his own US released archive material album with a few bonus tracks was what eventuated. Michael then blew off all interviews including mine, so we will never know why this was the case.
He wasn't the only lad to blow off an interview with me....Khymera's Steve Walsh did the same. And I wasn't alone....the couple of interviews he did do were pretty cringe worthy - I don't expect to here Steve's name involved in any other projects anytime soon.
Rick Springfield's new album was not surprisingly pushed to 2004 and we are still waiting to hear the results. I fear for the sales results, as there has been zero promotion of the album outside the RS fan club/street team and no press interviews conducted!

40ft Ringo put out one of the year's catchiest records, but caught a little flack for not varying the album enough from the widely circulated demos.
Paul Laine's will be a nu-monster I said...true enough - Shugaazer's debut is a fine cross between melodic rock and modern rock.
Mars Electric and Harry Hess did well with their individual releases, Harry further adding to his tag as a genius songwriter.
Vertical Horizon released a solid effort, but failed to make any commercial ground in the US. Blame the label for that one...
Colin Blades released a wonderful pop/rock debut album, which gives his dad a run for his money. Not for fans of the rocking stuff.
The long awaited Kick album is yet to be released. In fact, it's yet to be signed, which is a fact I find hard to swallow. The EP was brilliant. Is a label finally about to snap these guys up?
Still coming out of Australia will be Red Circle and Square One - 2004 please guys.

The new Nelson album was a huge disappointment and it hasn't even been released!!! The guys announced a track listing and offered sound samples mid-year, but the advance in their sound isn't there and the album is unfortunately set to include re-recordings of several already released songs. Sorry guys, this is not the way to go. And fan feedback seemed to agree with that. The masterpiece Life deserves a proper sequel. What will they do in 2004 and will the album actually get released?
Duran Duran's reformed comeback album is another for 2004, as is new albums by Bob Segar, Bryan Adams, U2
Hall & Oates proved they are again the smoothest middle aged men in pop and Fleetwood Mac underachieved, but received some positive reviews.

What of some other albums that didn't materialize?
No one would put money on a date for the new Guns N Roses album. 2003 passed without a sign.
Dare's Darren Wharton postponed the release of their new album and most recently wrote and recorded more songs for it. It's no secret the guy is a perfectionist, so one has high hopes for a release by Christmas this year!
Hugo has just finished his new album, with more work added to that too.
Diving For Pearls - well, it's just about to move to the mixing stage - I am assured that it will be out mid-year!
Raine's new album also failed to appear. I'm not sure where to start with these guys. They really have done themselves no favors and will basically have to start all over again when ready to release something. Their debut is long gone and the public is now well confused as to their intentions with style, their name and when something might actually be finished.
The guys made a gutsy decision to play this year's Gods, but the album that was finished at the time is yet to appear and I have now learnt it has been scrapped in favor of new material that is still modern, but heavier and a little more melodic. It's time to get it done guys!
The House Of Lords album was a challenge for all involved, but it's done, 100% ready and will be released in March. Will the 4 year wait be worth it? I'm not sure to be honest, that's a huge expectation to fulfill. But it will certainly be great to hear new material from the boys. I am disappointed Gregg Giuffria chose not to be involved at the last minute.
I am wondering where the Leif Johansen Life project is? It seems to have dropped off the Z Records release schedule.

That's enough of the re-capping and reminiscing....let's move to The Awards and to 2004...

Vocalist Of The Year: Harry Hess - Harem Scarem's frontman had a very good year one would have to say. There was his debut solo album Just Another Day, then the Harem retro release The Early Years and the fab new album Higher. Plus guest appearances on Eric Martin's album, plus a lead vocal on Once And Future King 2 and with Jack Frost. Not bad at all for one year!

The Best Producer Award: Tommy Denander. The man was everywhere in 2003 - his own Radioactive album sounded a million bucks, but there was also the great Jim Jidhed album and pal Sayit's album that he produced. And there was also Spin Gallery, which is done, but out soon. Not to mention several other guest spots. Well done Tommy.

The 'Kiss "I'm Going To Bang Bang You, I'll Shoot You Down With My Love Gun" Best Use of Sexual Lyrics' Award: Eric Martin for the lyric "I'll show you Mr Toad's Wild Ride" in What's The Worst That Could Happen.

The 'Somebody Get Me A Spin Doctor' Award For Best Piece Of Self-Serving BS PR: Fred Durst for trying to convince the public (via MTV) that Eddie Van Halen auditioned for that vacant guitarist's role in Limp Bizkit.

The 'Great Kat' Award For Best Escaping Of Reality in 2003: Stratovarius' Timo Tolkki who has taken a leave of absence and hasn't given any indication when he will be back!

The 'Kerrang Worshiping Current Trends Whilst Ignoring The Facts' Award: Rolling Stone Magazine for their horrendous Top 100 Guitarists Of All Time article.

The 'Dead, Jail or Rock N Roll (Jail Option) for Worst Change In Career Decision' Award: Michael Morales, who will spend the next couple of years wishing he didn't get into blackmail and politics.

The 'Guns N Roses Most Changes To The Scheduled Release Date' Award: Cheap Trick for their Special One album. I think there was only 9 or 10 changes in the planned date. At least it got released, which is more than GNR can boast!

The 'Announced But Never Seen Again Disappearing Albums' Award: *TIE* Chrissy Steele, Ambition, Leif Johansson, Raine and Bobby Barth.

The 'Wiggles Big Red Car - This Is Better Paying Than Doing Melodic Rock' Award: David Glenn Eisley for his move into the children's CD market!

The 'Jani Lane Drunk Best On Stage Antics' Award 2003: Jani Lane (of course), Vince Neil (several times) and Sebastian Bach. All were reported DOS during 2003 - shame on you folks!

The 'Marcie Free Welcome To The Club' Award: Toto's David Paich - if Steve Lukather was to be believed!

The 'Not Very Rock N Roll Way To Cause Grievous Bodily Harm To Oneself' Award: Ronnie James Dio for cutting off his thumb in a freak gardening accident.

The 'Worst Case Of Bad Timing' Award: Gregg Giuffria - the day before a press release announcing a new solo album was due, Gregg's studio burns down in a Las Vegas fire.

The 'Spinal Tap Drummer's Worst Case Of Spontaneous Combustion' Award: Poison's Tour Semi - it bursts into flames on route to a show! All their gear was lost.

The Welcome Back in 2003 Award: *TIE* Europe, Hugo, 220 Volt, Rhino Bucket, McQueen Street, 1927, Go West, Moxy, Daniel McMaster, The Hooters, Bulletboys, Lionsheart, The Romantics.

The Please Go Away Again Award: Kenny Loggins.

The Just Finish & Release The Bloody Thing Already Award: *TIE* Millenium - again! This year's the year Ralph! Guns N Roses - goes without saying and how about that Robin Beck album?

Due in 2006 Award: Bryan Adams - Where is he and what has he been doing with this record?

The Screw What The Readers Want Award: Classic Rock Magazine for their continued piss-take of all things AOR.

The 'Kiss' Award For Best Non-Involvement in Recording One's Own Album: Michael Schenker - for not even turning up to the studio to record some of his solos. The job then went to Night Ranger's Jeff Watson.

The 'Mutt Lange' Production Award For Slowest Album Recording Process: Inxs - 3 years, one single. Nice!

The 'Frankie Sullivan' Lawsuits-Are-Us Award: Boston's Tom Scholz for suing his own record label (again), unhappy with their promotion resulting in another underachieving album.

The 'Japanese Label' one last cash-in award:. Sanctuary - hands down winner for their awful Styx live release and several other cash-in compilations from the likes of Eddie Money and UFO.

The Most Likely To Release A Live Album in 2004 Award: Iron Maiden, Meatloaf, Thunder, Nelson, Dream Theater - Just some guesses!
Those nominated last year - Styx, Bruce Springsteen, Dio, Kiss, Goo Goo Dolls & Yngwie Malmsteen.
Styx sure did, so did Kiss, Bruce did a DVD, nothing from the Goo's and Yngwie held off until Feb 2004, so I wasn't far off!

The Best Noticeboard Username for 2003 Award: Justin Hawkins' One Good Tooth Runners up: HandsomeDick, Portnoys Tiny Tadger & Bighair_in_the_works.

The Beat The Bootleggers Award: Tony Carey for his updated website release of the unreleased Planet P material.

The Best Website Award: of again. Haven't found a site that comes close.

And last but not least!

Dickhead of the Year Award:
The Dickhead Of The Year Award is one of the most popular awards. The last couple of winners have been clear winners, but this year there were sadly more candidates than I would have hoped for!
Several people came under consideration for Dickhead of 2003. MSG singer Chris Logan was a candidate after delivering several e-mails detailing his displeasure with my MSG review. Sorry Chris.
Then there was Wild Horses singer John Levesque who was also unhappy with my review. But when I suggested I put his point of view on my newsdesk, he attempted a recovery, suggesting his son had sent the e-mail as a joke. Sure buddy....
Then there was the owner of a record label in the USA who was again most upset that I had killed off the sales of both the label's new titles because of bad reviews. But he wasn't alone in one likes a bad review. What can I say? Release a bad album, get a bad review. There's an easy fix for that problem.
Then there is the Noticeboard pain-in-the-ass of 2003 - definitely a strong contender for overall DH of The Year. This year it was the posts by Mister Sister and Tommy Gunn that gave me and most readers the shits.
Funny then that these two people are actually the same person. It beats me why someone would waste so much time posting away. The truth is they are just pushing their own agenda, whatever that may be, and don't have the balls to e-mail me about it. I should be used to it!
John Waite was another strong contender. He had his webgirl e-mail me a cease and desist message for the Jesse Harms track I was to feature on the CD. No balls to do it was Jesse's demo (co-written with John and featuring his vocal), but it didn't suit him to have the track featured, gain him some positive PR and also help out the site. Thanks John.
But to the announcement you have all been waiting for!
The Winner of Dickhead Of The Year 2003 is the individual that offered me a substantial amount of money to keep the message board offline during a period in which this individual was being discussed at length!

Ahh, 2004. Most of the high-impact releases of 2003 were bumped to 2004, which is going to make this year sweet, but add in a bunch of other albums due and I think this will truly be the best year out of the last 10.
So what's on offer for all? Let's take a look.

Melodic/Hard Rock:
Highest profile albums due for 2004: Jaded Heart, Shiva, Axxis, Pink Cream 69, Seventh Key, Shylock, Jack Blades, UFO, Axel Rudi Pell, Josh Todd, TNT, Danny Danzi, Brides Of Destruction, Tesla, House Of Lords, Kingdom Come, Velvet Revolver, Von Groove, AC/DC, Beautiful Creatures, Damned Nation, Seven Wishes, Daniel McMaster, Dokken, Europe, Gene Simmons, Hardline, Heart, Helix, Hodson, House Of Shakira, Northrup/Shortino, Jeff Scott Soto, Jack Blades/Eric Martin Project, Lionsheart, Scorpions, The Sign, Thunder, Voodoo Hill, Wicked Sensation, Kick Axe, Liberty & Justice, Liesegang/White, Statetrooper and more.
Firstly, what I have actually heard - The biggest contender for album of the year is already in my hands. The new TNT has already been mentioned on the frontpage, and every word of it is right - the band have nailed it this time around and have mixed past history (what the fans want) with something new and exciting (what the world needs), all wrapped up in a monster production. I can't wait to hear fan feedback on this release. For the record, the album is out Feb in Japan and March in Europe, but the European release through MTM has a far superior running order. The Japanese bonus track is for once not the strongest track, so definitely go for the Euro release, which seriously rocks.
Tesla has also been mentioned, so I won't add to that too much, but safe to say I think it will be another fan pleaser. Another solid hard rocking album.
Jaded Heart will blow away all fans with their return to a hard rocking, but melodic formula. This is what fans want folks...
Danny Danzi's album is a guitar shred fest for fans of classic melodic rock and Seventh Key's newie is another high-tech melodic rock gem from the hands of the infallible Mike Slamer.
And House Of Lords have delivered an album that updates their sound and add new elements of coolness, but will require a lot of listening to to get to know, as there aren't any real anthems as has always been the case on past records.
On to other titles due in 2004:
I get the vibe that expectation for the new Aerosmith is almost non-existent. I hope they really come up with the goods this time around. They have underachieved the last couple of times out, so it will be interesting to hear them change course a little.
Black N Blue make their comeback shortly - with 4 of the original 5 members involved. This is another one I am not confident with. I heard 3 demos that were being shopped to labels and none of the 3 tracks did anything for me. So one hopes thing improved during further writing/recording sessions.
House of Shakira have really been working long and hard and are toughening up their sound. Expect a monster. Preview tracks have really been excellent.
UFO's newie could be one of the hat, with a revitalized line-up. Damned Nation and Seven Wishes both need to impress and have been putting in the work to ensure that happens.
The two releases that will gain the most media attention are Brides Of Destruction and Velvet Revolver.
Both will have to be good to capture the imagination of the general public. VR should win the battle between these two and will certainly beat out Guns N Roses if their album is actually released.
What do Dokken (or Don and friends) have planned. I enjoyed the last album, but it could have rocked more. This one is said to be more classic styled. Hope so...
If the awesome Bob Catley release is anything to go by, Paul Hodson's debut (under the moniker Hodson) will be one to get excited about, but there's no sign of any release date? I hear it's to be released independently - what happened with their Now & Then deal? And sadly, I have heard Paul has declined to be involved in the next Catley solo record. A big disappointment there.
Hardline will be doing their best to re-capture the glory of their debut, after the last album got mixed reviews. Scorpions are another band looking to repair past errors. Their last album was a dog, but don't expect any flees on the new album, which should be a return to their best.
Heart have been working long and hard - depending on what you expect from it, should be a classic and looks set to rock. AC/DC will also be looking to do it all over again, hopefully with a small twist on the old formula. Watch for the new Europe release to blow away any competition. Just a vibe, but given the poor performance of Joey's solo album, I expect a classic return from them.
Predicted Best Melodic/Hard Rock Releases for 2004: Pink Cream 69, Seventh Key, Jaded Heart, UFO, Axel Rudi Pell, TNT, Danny Danzi, Tesla, Velvet Revolver, Von Groove, AC/DC, Beautiful Creatures, Europe, Hardline, Heart, Hodson, House Of Shakira, Northrup/Shortino, Dokken, Jeff Scott Soto, Scorpions, Seven Wishes, The Sign, Thunder, Liberty & Justice, Liesegang/White.

What? No mention of Harem Scarem or Def Leppard for 2004? Well folks...I am yet to hear Harem's plans for the year, but given the activity from the band in the last year or two, a release later in the year or early next might be their best bet.
As for Def Leppard - they are apparently at work now - but what on? There's not much info around, but I am not brave enough to predict the result of their work will actually be released this year!

Highest profile albums due for 2004: Glen Burtnik, Dare, James Christian, Tony Harnell (solo), Final Frontier, Hugo, Shadowman, Rick Springfield, Spin Gallery, Jean Beauvoir, Frontline, Danny Vaughn, Magnum, David Roberts, Over The Edge (Mickey Thomas), 1927, Asia, Crystal Blue, David Roberts, Diving For Pearls, Grand Illusion, Heartland, The Ladder, Gregg Giuffria, Lec Zorn Project, Lawrence Saltis, Martie Peters, Jean Beauvoir, Shy, Stage Dolls, Zion (Freddy Curci), Safe Haven.

A fine start to 2004 with Last Autumn's Dream - and the new Street Talk compilation. The 2 new songs included are two of the band's best ever, so one can only hope there will be a forth album later on down the track. The Best Of set shows off what a fine band they really are.
Final Frontier scored some fans with their debut, and their second album is an even better slice of commercial 80's AOR in the vein of Journey and Styx.
Still no exact ETA on the Hugo album, although it is now done! February/March might be the time. I predict another fan pleasure, but there will still be those comparisons to the debut to overcome.
Glen Burtnik's album will be one to wait for - a return to his rocking ways will please fans. Danny Vaughn, James Christian and Tony Harnell all have high profile solo plans to announce for 2004 - these three releases will no doubt rate very highly with fans and critics alike.
The Rick Springfield album is almost upon us - Rick got through 2003 without the predicted release of the new album, but it's due up next month, so there's no stopping it now! It will impress, but just how good will it be?! Wish I knew - wish anyone knew - sadly Rick has gone very quiet and hasn't done any advance press ahead of the album's release, nor has he sent any preview/review copies of the album out to press people.
Spin Gallery is another fine release from the stable of Tommy Denander. This one is more for Westcoast fans, but along with Crossfade will prove the smoother form of AOR is alive and well in 2004.
Mickey Thomas makes an overdue to return to duty with Over The Edge, a new project along the lines of Vertigo and Perfect World. I've heard one track and Mickey sounds in top form. Looking forward to this one.
Diving For Pearls might actually get released mid-year, but for whatever reason (and as much as I love the debut), I'm not sure what is delivered will be classic. I hope I'm wrong.
Martie Peters is getting close to wrapping up his first set of solo demos to shop around for his post-Push debut. Expect the album later this year.
Safe Haven is one of the more interesting releases planned for 2004. This sees metal master Mike Vesera ready to make an AOR album. Should prove interesting.
On The Rise are no more - what a shame. But from it comes a new solo project for one of the guys, which I'm told will rock harder. Interesting I'm sure.
Another long in the making album is Zion - the Freddy Curci project. Another highly anticipated project will have to deliver the goods to make up for the wait, but I'm confident it will!
The Gregg Giuffria project will be an interesting one. Really not sure what to make of this as the plans are to feature different vocalists throughout - which is not one of my favourite concepts. After missing the House Of Lords album, fans will want to hear the best from Gregg. He has always been a class act, so there's no reason to doubt him now.
A new Heartland is planned for later in the year. The only thing stopping these guys from recording a total classic is even stronger choruses. And Dare is finally due in the first (or second!) quarter of 2004. Rockier and moodier. One can only hope!
Tommy Denander and everyone involved is excited about the new David Roberts album, so I'm positive that will be a highlight.
Magnum's return to action in 2002 was a disappointment, so I'm interested to see if they can turn that around with their new release in 2004.
And watch for a new Kip Winger album soon - an acoustic driven affair that will eb his first album for a new deal with Universal! Go Kip...
What could be the biggest release of the year won't happen until next. A new Journey album might get started later in the year, but don't expect it released until into 2005.

Predicted Best AOR Releases for 2004: Rick Springfield, Glen Burtnik, Dare, James Christian, Tony Harnell, Hugo, Kip Winger, Danny Vaughn, Over The Edge, Lawrence Saltis, David Roberts, Stage Dolls, Zion, Heartland.

Albums due for 2004: Silvertide, Swirl 260, Butch Walker, Panic, Fluid Sol, Raine, Seven And The Sun, Plunge, Creighton Doane.
Wow, not much to talk about really. At least not yet....plans for a nu-breed assault on 2004 seem to be fairly vague right now, with no major releases yet announced as due. What do the Swedish have to offer us this year?
Of course there will be a new Butch Walker release, but can it possibly live up to expectations? Escape Music's new signing Panic looks interesting - watch for that one.
Glen Burtnik's newie will have modern touches, so some nu-fans will enjoy that as will the solo Larry Saltis record.
Mitch Malloy's new project Fluid Sol will get the singer/songwriter back on the map, but will his traditional fans go with him? I'm not sure to be honest.
And let's hope the Creighton Doane record finally gets released. It's due in May now I believe - I'm keen to hear what the Harem Scarem drummer has to offer.

2004 looks bleak for glam fans, but TB Records in the UK and Perris Records in the USA are doing their best to make sure there are some highlights to come.
With the big names like Poison skipping 2004, it could be left to emerging new bands to give fans what they are after.
A new Pretty Boy Floyd album is due shortly. But I hear it's more punky...too bad.
Something glam releases really need to address is production quality. Recent efforts have been spoilt due to poor sound quality.
Roxx Gang is Perris' biggest up and coming release, but I am confident more will be revealed as the year goes on. But don't count on 2004 as a milestone year.
Canada's Robin Black looks set to move his glam/attitude machine forward, his new album might be one to watch.

Highest profile albums due for 2004: Jorn, Magnitude 9, Mister Kite, Empty Tremor, Alteria, Genius, Anthrax, WASP, Power Quest, Warrior, Jon Oliva.
More releases to come obviously - but these are the ones lined up at this early stage.
Magnitude 9's new album will impress fans of European melodic metal as will the melodic, but heavy Power Quest album. Anything from Jon Oliva is going to be warmly welcomed and Alteria impressed last year, so they will be worth watching.
Empty Tremor's album will have strong appeal to Dream Theater / progressive fans.
Why have I left it until now to mention the new Jorn album? Well, I was tipped off that the album isn't as good as it should be or has good as Jorn hoped/wanted it to sound. There has apparently been trouble during the recording of the album and budget issues, leaving the album with a battle to beat it's awesome predecessor. I hope this is not the case, but keep an eye on this.

Highest profile albums due for 2004: U2, Bryan Adams, Richard Marx, Avril Lavigne, Bob Segar, Duran Duran, The Who, The Hooters.
I'm not putting any money on the Bryan Adams album getting released (just what is he doing?), but I will get very excited at the prospect of a new Hooters album. Will work be completed and a label set for a release in 2004? 50/50 I think.
Duran's comeback album will finally see the light of day. That's another album I hope will be fabulous, but have reservations about just how good it could be.
BMG will re-released the 80s' Hall & Oates catalogue, remastered and restored, plus a clips DVD and a new Ultimate compilation. Watch for those during the year.
Richard Marx is promising to return to his rock roots, but the amount of times I have heard that from other artists that haven't come through is far too high. But if true, Richard's album will be a popular pick for the fans of his much love style.
And can Avril Lavigne possibly top the catchiness and commercial success of her awesome debut? I think not...sadly. Again, I hope I'm wrong.

The Overall Best Of The Best for 2004 - if all are released!: Rick Springfield, Glen Burtnik, Dare, James Christian, Tony Harnell, Hugo, Danny Vaughn, Over The Edge, Stage Dolls, The Hooters, Seventh Key, TNT, Tesla, Velvet Revolver, Europe, Heart, Hodson, House Of Shakira, Northrup/Shortino, Jeff Scott Soto, Scorpions, Thunder, Harem Scarem & Def Leppard.

So what won't be released in 2004? What are line-ball releases?
Guns N Roses will be the biggest will they/won't they, but how about Von Groove? I'm not sure if the guys have even started that one, I'll have to do some investigating.
1927 are said to be working on a new album, but I'm not confident of that arriving pre-Christmas! And what of Liddle Rush Thrall? How many times was the release date of that album changed in 2003? Don't count on it in 2004. And where is the new Arabia album?
Survivor? New album? No way....forget it....
Nelson's new re-recorded album? 50/50 chance of finding a label and will no doubt be released at some point via their website only.
Mecca? Sadly I think not. I do not see a new album being recorded and/or released this year.
Will Meatloaf's Bat Out Of Hell 3 get released? No....not in 2004 at least. Jim Steinman will need longer than 12 months to get this baby ready!
Will Burning Rain return to active duty? No. Don't expect another album from these guys, as Doug is way to caught up in his far more lucrative Whitesnake role.
Riverdogs? Well, the guys are moving forward, but it could be as late as early 2005 when this anticipated release is finally ready and signed away.
Just a few random thoughts - let's see the results in 12 months time.


There will be at least 3 Steve Perry is returning to Journey rumors, but there will be no new music from the band. One of it's members will announce a new side project that will rock!

Neither Brides Of Destruction, nor Velvet Revolver will do much damage at retail. That's not slamming the albums - I haven't heard either yet - but I just don't see them selling a shitload.

Styx will this year, NOT release a live album!! (They couldn't could they???)

Sony will release a new Toto compilation (Ok, I'll try and make my predictions a little harder...)

Could there be a new USA released Survivor compilation later in 2004?

Vito Bratta will not re-join White Lion on the road.

Whitesnake will not record/release any new material. That live album is a maybe...

2004 will be the year of Jeff Scott Soto.

At least one classic hard rock band will reform. How about a new Rainbow album with Joe Lynn Turner? Not likely, but that's one of my "out there" predictions.

Stratovarius - now who would be stupid enough to predict anything for these guys in 2004. We already know there will be no new music until early 2005, but if Timo continues on his way, I predict at least 3 headline causing outbursts and I would place even odds on the band dissolving before the end of the year.

Impellitteri's new album will be a major flop (sadly), with old fans alienated and little interest shown from any new record buyers.

Van Halen will finally announce Hagar's return and will release their Best Of Volume 2.

A top American melodic rock act (now defunct) will release a lovely compilation of unreleased tunes.

Guns N Roses will head to Europe for some live dates, which could be cut short, but in any regard will end in more controversy.

The Bon Jovi box set will be another disappointment from the band. Not enough rare/unreleased tracks. Again I hope I am wrong. The guys have some work to do to impress fans after the lame live album and 2003's This Left Feels Right.

Paris Hilton will be hit by a meteor. Justin Tiberfake will be hit by another meteor. Britny Spears will be hit...ok, you get the idea...

Heart's new album will rock.

At least one melodic record label will cease business.

Europe will finally release a new studio album, Giant won't.

Just before I finish this wrap up - what about the labels themselves? What are they looking forward to in 2004? I thought I would find out!

Magnus @ Atenzia Records Sweden:
- What were your label's best selling titles in 2003?
The Rembrandts, ACT, 40 Ft Ringo, Mark Spiro and Jim Jidhed has all been doing good for us - also great early feedback and attention to our just released ones such as Attraction 65, Shugaazer and Melodine.
- What were your favourite releases of the year?
Every one of Atenzia´s releases is very special and dear to me/us - ACT making amazing progress and development, and main writer Jerry Sahlin is such a genius - Their next one will be absolutely stunning.
I am very found of 40 Ft Ringo´s catchy and fun power pop - good attitude combined with really strong songwriting - The Rush of Usher album is nothing less than brilliant and we hope that 2004 shall be a special year for the talents of Daniel O'Brien.
Shugaazer delivered a debut which is making waves in the industry and is a GEM of a album - Gregg Fulkerson showed with his Attraction 65 what a amazing talent he is - and Melodine is a must for anyone into clever modern power pop.
I'm happy about the result of Mark Spiro´s album and its a real pleasure having the opportunity to work with such a unique and strong profiled songwriter.
- Favourite releases from outside your label?
That's a tough one as there is so much amazing music around - But some albums which I love include the absolute monster debut from Revis - The incredible album from Spymob - Bleu is splendid - New Hoobastank which just came out sounds like it will be spinning a lot in my player - There's so much more.
- Any disappointments from 2003?
Well its obviously disappointing viewing the music industry in general - But lets hope for a more creative and strong comeback of a new model music industry to take shape in the years to come.
- What are you most excited about and looking forward to with your 2004 releases?
Our hopes and beliefs for Atenzia in 2004 is very positive - were hoping that some big pieces of the puzzle as to make this music company and successful one to fall into place during the first half of 2004.
Our expectations for our young Swedish signings looking real good - Watch out for the strength of Stereolith, WhiteSilver, Kid Down and Mantra.
The debut from Spin Gallery is really strong - In US we have Plunge who is working on their debut - and that will be superb! London Calling and Fluid Sol is other cool bands which we will have products out from - New Jersey based The Way is another one.
Swirl 360 will have their Atenzia debut out - and that will be a dynamic power pop cracker!
Its also exciting to be involved in the new Glen Burtnik album - and the long time in the making Diving For Pearls.
40 Ft Ringo is to cut their second album - And 40 Ft´s Stevo has also turned us on to a few other projects and bands which were looking at much likely to be involved in. ACT will be working on their new studio album - Were hoping to be working some more with Jacob Bunton of Mars Electric.
There is also a bunch of other "hot prospects" which is under development and in negotiation.
- If it was at all possible, what artist would you like the opportunity to work with for a brand new release?
There's all kind of artists that you would love to get the chance to work with - But we rather take on a hot and exciting new band/artist rather then a old one which lost the spirit and passion. I have learned through the years that a lot of so called "hero's" don't cut it anymore - and even if I admired their previous work would I not like to be involved with anything half decent that doesn't live up to the artists heydays.
But there's obvious also cases where artists and musicians aged in style and class - you can't judge anything just by a name - its the music that shall do the talking.

Mario @ Frontiers Records Italy:
- What were your labels best selling titles in 2003?
Glenn Hughes Songs In The Key of Rock; Bob Catley When Empires Burn; Gary Hughes Once and Future King (both volumes); Harem Scarem Higher; Royal Hunt Eyewitness.
It is actually six, but it s up to you whether you want to count Gary Hughes as one or two. The second volume has obviously sold less than the first volume (it came out later!) but it is already over Royal Hunt (but behind Harem Scarem).
- What were your favourite releases of the year?
Well, tough one - they're all legitimate children, so I will save myself in corner like I have done last year - all of them!!
- Favourite releases from outside your label?
In no particular order - July For Kings Swim, Switchfoot The Beautiful Letdown, Dishwalla Opaline, Martin Stenmark One, Seven And The Sun Back To The Innocence, Mark Schultz Stories and Songs, Across The Sky S/t, Wave State of Mind, Porcupine Tree In Absentia, Mago de Oz Gaia, Attraction 65 S/t, Hughes / Turner 2, Vertical Horizon Go, User User, Jeremy Camp Stay plus some others that don't spring to my mind at the moment.
- Any disappointments from 2003?
The latest Steven Curtis Chapman All About Love was way below what I have been expecting. Another big disappointment was the new Jars of Clay CD Who We Are Instead. There were also other disappointments but it would be too long to list them all and I have already done a huge one for the good releases.
- What are you most excited about and looking forward to with your 2004 releases?
Definitely we are going to have a very busy start of the year. Personally I'd say the Over The Edge project is what excites me most. What has been completed so far is unbelievably good, way beyond our best expectations and I am looking forward to the completion of the remaining tracks. I am also very excited with the new Hardline and Jeff Scott Soto which will come after the summer. There is another very very big project which we are building right during these days which is going to be the highlight of the year in the hard rock field & this one is going to be massive. We have many other projects in the works and I promise that no-one will disappoint the fans.
- If it was at all possible, what artist would you like the opportunity to work with for a brand new release?
Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Steve Hackett.

Khalil @ Escape Music UK:
- What were your label's best selling titles in 2003?
- What were your favourite releases of the year?
milesABOVE, PHANTOMS OPERA, FM, ZON, ORPHANS, Aftermath, Demon Drive
- Favourite releases from outside your label?
PRIDE OF LIONS, Radio Active "Yeah", LeAnn Rimes Greatest Hits, Ryan Adams Roll & Rock
- Any disappointments from 2003?
DREAM THEATRE "Train Of Thought"
- What are you most excited about and looking forward to with your 2004 releases?
- If it was at all possible, what artist would you like the opportunity to work with for a brand new release?
The greatest opportunity I had to work with one of the most gifted, talented and perfect gentleman STEVE OVERLAND it has been a pleasure!!
I would love to have opportunity to work with no other than Lou Gramm, and Steve Perry!! Would be very nice Christmas gift for 2004.

Sebastian & Mario @ MTM Music Germany:
- What were your label s best selling titles in 2003?

- What were your favourite releases of the year?
We like all our releases!
- Favourite releases from outside your label?
- Any disappointments from 2003?
A few, but we don't criticize our partner labels.
- What are you most excited about and looking forward to with your 2004 releases?
TNT "My Religion"

Georg @ AOR Heaven Germany:
- What were your label's best selling titles in 2003?
1. Altaria/Invitation 2. Pride/Signs Of Purity 3. Silver/Dream Machines 4. Emerald Rain/Short Sighted 5. AOR/Dreaming Of L.A.
- What were your favourite releases of the year?
- Favourite releases from outside your label?
1. Vonray 2. Matchbox Twenty 3. Attraction 65 4. Masterplan 5. Last Autumn's Dream
- Any disappointments from 2003?
not really
- What are you most excited about and looking forward to with your 2004 releases?
David Roberts!
- If it was at all possible, what artist would you like the opportunity to work with for a brand new release?

Lasse @ Lion Music Finland:
- What were your label's best selling titles in 2003?
Empire - Trading Souls, Sun Caged - Sun Caged, Mattsson - Power Games, Section A - The Seventh Sign, Winterlong - The Second Coming
- What were your favourite releases of the year?
Sun Caged - this band is gonna get big!
- Favourite releases from outside your label?
Dream Theater's new album
- Any disappointments from 2003?
Assholes who don't pay their bill unless they are sued...
- What are you most excited about and looking forward to with your 2004 releases?
Vitalij Kuprij, Book of Reflections, Tears of Anger, Mister Kite all have very good albums that should do really well.
- If it was at all possible, what artist would you like the opportunity to work with for a brand new release?
Dream Theater and the Beatles.

John @ Kivel Records USA:
What were your label's best selling titles in 2003?
1. DAMN CHEETAH "Primal" 2. TNA "Branded" 3. ADRIANGALE "ReProgram" (still selling strong) 4. NO MORE JOHNNY "S L A M" 5. PYN SIREN "Slave To Your Master"
- What were your favourite releases of the year?
That's a tough one. Well, I can honestly say every single one. Each one of our 03 releases offered up its own sound. I wouldn't say CHEETAH sounded like NO MORE JOHNNY, and neither sounded like PYN SIREN or TNA. So I can say each one was a fave of mine for its individual sound from the other. If you asked me which was my favorite cover was...that would be easier! lol. For that I would say NO MORE JOHNNY and TNA "Branded". Special kudos to and for helping another two releases shine visually for us.
- Favourite releases from outside your label?
Well, a lot of people are aware I am a FAN of this very scene and market. I buy and collect all the same CDs and bands your site goers do from N+T to Frontiers and Metal Mayhem. But right now I would have to say the BEST CD I have recently gotten my hands on is on none of the above or any of the other UK labels. I highly HIGHLY recommend you all check out the band 7th Heaven with their new release SILVER. The song CELLOPHANE alone will make it worth the $10!!! Its like DEF LEPARD! I can't gush enough about this CD.
- Any disappointments from 2003?
Hmmm....The Yankees losing? My only disappointment is not having more releases this year. Not to worry though, I plan on making up for that this coming 04.
- What are you most excited about and looking forward to with your 2004 releases?
Just bringing some great new bands and a few old faves to the fans of our genre. Expect some of the same from me and a few surprises this year.
- If it was at all possible, what artist would you like the opportunity to work with for a brand new release?
Well there are two, I'm sure they are both reading this. We have been talking about it for a while now and I think it will happen in 04. Not going to say who the two are, but im sure at least one will happen for sure. Sorry for being so cryptic, but better not to spill the beans till it happens.

Ulf @ Ulftone Music Germany:
What were your label's best selling titles in 2003?
NOT IN ORDER - Steve Lukather - Santamental, David Poe - The late album, Mike Tramp - More to life than this, Skew Siskin - Album of the year, Pat MacDonald - strange love.
What were your favourite releases of the year?
Hard to say which one of your kids you love most, eh...I really can't tell!
Favourite releases from outside your label?
Maroon 5 Songs about Jane, Rush in Rio DVD, jeez, there's been too many but really nothing I would still remember in five years.
Any disappointments from 2003?
The Great White-disaster where we lost our friend Ty Longley and having to overcome a lot of frustrated people in the music industry that are thinking that the CD-market as such is a dying market. Otherwise, the year was fine.
What are you most excited about and looking forward to with your 2004 releases?
I am looking forward to a renewed and stronger approach in some of our markets since we realize that you need to have a strong presence in a market to create an impact. Our release schedule is already stronger than it has ever been for the first six months so I am really looking forward to it.
If it was at all possible, what artist would you like the opportunity to work with for a brand new release?
Kiss 20 years ago!

Geoff @ Majestic Rock UK:
- What were your label's best selling titles in 2003?
Grand Slam 'Twilight's Last Gleaming' digi-pack edition; UFO - 'Big Apple Encounters'; The Plot - S/T; Black n' Blue - 'Without Love'; Black n' Blue - 'Black n' Blue'
- What were your favourite releases of the year?
John Sloman - 'Dark Matter'; UFO - 'Big Apple Encounters'; Heavy Pettin' - 'Lettin' Loose'
- Favourite releases from outside your label?
Dream Theater - 'Train Of Thought'; Transatlantic - 'Live In Europe'; David Bowie - 'Alladin Sane' digital remaster...must be loads more, but I can't think right now.
- Any disappointments from 2003?
Why don't people get 'Dark Matter' and proclaim John Sloman undisputed ruler of the planet (OK, the lat bits a little OTT)
- What are you most excited about and looking forward to with your 2004 releases?
The most exciting thing for me - and its very personal because I've been chasing the bloody thing for five years! - is getting to release Tytan's 'Rough Justice' album. Ever had an itch that you just couldn't scratch.....?
- If it was at all possible, what artist would you like the opportunity to work with for a brand new release?
There are two. Stevie Salas, who's an old friend of mine, and Glenn Hughes, who's my idol. I know they've worked together before, but how about a Hughes Salas Project!!!

Mark @ Now & Then Records UK:
- What were your labels best selling titles (Top 5) in 2003?
Bob Catley "When Empires Burn", Harem Scarem "Higher", Gary Hughes "Once And Future King", Nexx "Colours" and Saracen "Red Sky".
- What were your favourite releases of the year?
I was very happy with all the releases from the label this year. I really believe that we stuck to our quality not quantity motto and released nothing but great titles. The sales figures and end of year polls appear to bear that out.
- Favourite releases from outside your label?
In no particular order - Pride Of Lions, Masterplan, Circle II Circle, Pride, Brainstorm, Waltham, Crystal Blue, Radioactive, Talisman, Brian McDonald, TNT E.P., Human Fortress, Star One DVD, The Rasmus, Taxiride, Newman, Last Tribe, Gotthard, Kee Marcello, Neal Morse, Cornerstone, Sonata Artica, Evanescence, Dreamtide, Ion Vein, Closure and of course, the mighty Darkness. "Growing On Me" is my son Tommy`s favourite song of last year for sure. We even got camcorder footage of him headbanging to the song aged 18 months!!!
- Any disappointments from 2003?
The negativity in the AOR scene in general and the constant arguing and bickering that goes on. I was slo very disappointed at the turnout for The Gods 2003. After the huge success of the previous year`s show I was hopeful that we`d established the event as something that people would attend for the vibe and the chance to discover new talent as well as for the `name` artists, but that wasn`t the case. It seems that other genres have a much more faithful and excitable fan base. One of our bands, Power Quest, played at the Bloodstock Festival last year and the crowd reaction was better than a headliner at The Gods can expect. The crowd was chanting their name between songs and bouncing up and down all the way to the back of the hall throughout the performance. It was a real eye-opener to the difference in the scenes.
- What are you most excited about and looking forward to with your 2004 releases?
Finally finishing the new Millenium album -) Seriously though, this is going to be a huge release for us. It`s a step further into melodic metal territory for the band but then I`ve never considered them to fit in with the AOR scene particularly. The new CD will blow fans of "Hourglass" and "Angelfire" away but we`re looking to take the band to a new audience as well as anyone who likes Savatage, Circle II Circle, Masterplan etc will love this one.
I`m also really looking forward to unleashing some new talent onto the scene in 2004. Power Quest for instance, our Anglo-Italian power metal act is already causing ripples in Japan and the vibe for their new CD "NeverWorld" is building up in Europe very nicely. We have a lot of faith that this band will deliver a lot in 2004.
We`ve also got several new signings that we`ll announce in more detail over the coming weeks but look out for the likes of Cloudscape, Magistral, Seasons Of Storms, Circular Logik, Tragik and a very different band (for us) called Virgin Sin all coming up this year.
Of the existing roster of acts that we have product coming up by I`m really excited about the second Nexx CD. This band for me is the way forward for the scene. They are young, enthusiastic, hugely talented and most importantly they are a real band that plays live. Not some `put together` studio project that far too many releases are these days.
The Saracen concept album about the Knights Templar will also be released this year and that`s going to be very interesting after the success of their comeback album and live display at Bloodstock last year.
- If it was at all possible, what artist would you like the opportunity to work with for a brand new release?
I`d love the chance to work with Ted Nugent as he`s pretty much my all time hero. Maybe in some Damn Yankees style supergroup so that other vocalists could be involved. Hey, I love the guy but he ain`t no Jorn is he? -)

Questions were also sent to Song Haus, Metal Mayhem, Perris and Z Records. No replies were received.

Hope you have all enjoyed the 2003 feature! It's taken too many hours of work to complete this, but it's very enjoyable to write and a good way to sum up everything current in the world of melodic rock. You may not agree with everything written within this feature, but I do hope you all found it to be a good read.
Do let me know what you think!

Previous Years In Review: 2002 / 2001 / 2000 / 1999 / 1998 & 1997

2003 - YOUR SAY!