It’s Friday and so it must be Self Made Man day – and what better way to kick off the weekend in classic fashion than with our resident rock blogger?

This week the mane man looks ahead to what could top his 2011 Best Of lists but it appears there’s still plenty of room for a late contender… 

It’s at about this time that I start thinking about my albums of the year, recalling all the new music I’ve listened to over the past ten months or so.
Well, “new” is certainly the key word for 2011 when it comes to the CDs I’ve recently bought for I can’t recall a year over the past two decades when I’ve listened to so much from bands that have only been around for a short time.
Since this website was launched, it’s been an annual tradition in December for regular contributors to nominate their top 20 albums of the year and, if my memory is correct, my winners have been Live At Gdansk by David Gilmour in 2008, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s God And Gun 12 months later and last year, The Scorpions’ Sting In The Tail.
Typical choices, you might say, from a bloke over 45 whose musical DNA is stuck in the past.
Well, without completely giving game away and announcing who is in pole position for the top prize, I can reveal that among the favourites are several bands who I’d barely heard of this time last year.
I’ve already written about how impressed I am with Rival Sons and Saint Jude but they’re not alone in newbies figuring prominently in my thoughts right now.
The Treatment’s  This Might Hurt is simple, straightforward rock and all the better for it while The Black Spiders’ Sons Of The North is another that wouldn’t win any prizes for innovation or arrangement but still represents a prize offering.
Supergroups Black Country Communion and Chickenfoot have both followed up their debut albums with equally impressive follow-ups with neither band showing any sign of suffering from second album syndrome.
Joe Bonamassa, unarguably the most prolific artist in rock today, released an excellent solo album in Dust Bowl, co-wrote BCC’s second album and has recently collaborated with Beth Hart on the enchanting Don’t Explain which is at least the equal of those two.
And then we have The Answer and Black Stone Cherry, veterans compared to some of the bands just mentioned but two classic rock bands who only burst on the scene this millennium. Their third albums will surely figure in the top tens of countless rock fans’ lists this year.
Discovering new bands is one of the pleasures of being a music fan, even within classic rock, a genre its critics claim is more retro than innovative.
But another great thrill is being exposed for the first time to music from someone who has been around for years.
If someone had mentioned Leslie West a few days ago, I’d have told them he was the guitarist from Mountain whose most famous song Nantucket Sleighride was the theme music for Weekend World, an ITV current affairs programme 30 years ago presented by Brian Walden. But that was the sum total of my knowledge of West or his band.
So when West released Unusual Suspects last month, it was an album which passed under my personal radar until I started reading review after review which waxed lyrical about the album, which features contributions from the likes of Slash and Bonamassa.
And when I heard a couple of songs on Planet Rock, which hit me right between the eyes, that clinched it and I now own an album which, I can exclusively reveal, is set to challenge all those aforementioned upstarts battling it out for Self Made Man’s album of the year.
Of course, I won’t rule out albums by Stevie Nicks, her erstwhile Fleetwood Mac partner Lindsey Buckingham, Whitesnake, Greg Allman, the list goes on………
But that’s for another blog!
Ian Murtagh