With the countdown to Christmas in full swing what better to buy the rocker in your life than one (or even both) of this week’s top releases? Rock Solid sees in the new music week with the pick of the best new records and tomorrow sees a pair of pearlers hit stores.

Man Raze – Surreal (Surrealist Records)  

When you hear the name Phil Collen the first things you expect are expert musicianship, razor sharp riffs and humalong hooks. With Surreal you get all of that plus slick vocals and an eclectic mix of punk, classic rock and reggae. In fact if you’ve heard a more varied and surprising record all year we want to know about it. 

Americans have been lapping up Def Leppard star Collen’s superb side project for months now and the ‘Raze’ reviews have been coming thick and fast. Although the axe mastro sounds spookily like band mate Joe Elliott on a number of hard rocking standards this is no Songs From the Sparkle Lounge Pt 2. Collen has every right to let the day job influence slices of Surreal but there’s a conscious effort to define this as a vital new record in its own right.

It’s when you hit the dub-tastic Runnin’ Me Up that you realise this isn’t a Leppard clone and from that point onwards Collen and fellow Razers Paul Cook (Sex Pistols) and Simon Laffy (Girl) reveal a refreshing strand of creativity and freedom which makes this one of the most listenable records of 2008.

Turn It Up and Shadowman are more like the straight ahead rock you might aspect from a man behind some of the biggest hair metal records in history but that’s no bad thing. It would be foolish of Collen to turn off his Lepp fans altogether and there’s enough here to keep the Pyromaniacs and Hystericals happy.

Four years in the making is nothing these days but producing Surreal has been time well spent. Grab the UK copy with the five-track bonus disc and those reggae influences are even clearer but don’t fear – this is no UB40 tribute CD. Collen, Cook and Laffy are canny enough to play to their collective strengths and rock is the overriding flavour here.

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Man Size Rock

Frank Turner – The First Three Years (Xtra Mile Recordings)

And what a first three years it’s been from the former Million Dead frontman turned folk rock hero. Festival favourite, underground legend, people’s champion, songwriter supreme – call him what you like but Mr Turner is something special at a time when formulated rock continues to overshadow the truly sublime.

This solo career-spanning collection is crammed full of tracks taken from single releases, EP specials, AA side collaborations and hitherto unheard sessions. It’s a treasure trove of 21st century musical commentary ranging from the bullish Thatcher Fucked The Kids to the contemplative Worse Things Happen At Sea. And for all of us who still lament the passing of MD there’s even a cover of the band’s Smiling At Strangers On Trains.

If you’re looking for something offering real value in these times of financial hardship then look no further than The First Three Years. It will keep you guessing from track 1 to track 23 – even if that last song is a fairly sloppy cover of Abba’s Dancing Queen.

rushonrock verdict: 7/10 The Turner Prize