ufoSelf Made Man had to keep his powder dry as the RUSHONROCK team swarmed all over Download 2014 but our resident classic rock columnist is back.

And he’s in a pretty positive mood as he looks back on the first six months of what could be a major year for massive rock releases.

Remember you can read Self Made Man right here every week exclusively on RUSHONROCK


Twelve months ago, I wrote a blog which in effect was a half-term report on the music of 2013.

It was a pretty underwhelming piece (aren’t they all? Ed) because, to be brutally honest, the output in the first six months of the year was distinctly average.

In the end, 2013 turned out to be not such a bad year after all with The Temperance Movement releasing what I considered to be one of the best debut albums I’d heard in ages while Deep Purple proved that ageing rockers can still produce outstanding music.

Deciding to replicate that aforementioned article, I jotted down a list of bands who’ve released albums since the new year who will be contenders for this year’s top ten list.

And I’m glad to report it’s a pretty long list. Not just that but of the 14 I’ve written down, around half could conceivably be my best of 2014.

I’ve excluded Led Zeppelin’s remastered albums and their companion discs even though they’ve given me as much pleasure as any I’m about to mention.

What makes the list so exciting is that it contains several bands I hadn’t even heard of this time last year.

Pride of place must go to Blackberry Smoke’s stunning The Whippoorwill as good a southern rock album I’ve listened to since Lynyrd Skynrd were at their peak.

Black Stone Cherry’s Magic Mountain is of a similar genre and while I know one or two rock fans who are disappointed with the band’s fourth release, I’m not.

Carrying on the “Black” theme comes another album I haven’t stopped playing since I first heard it last month.

The Black Keys walk that fine line between classic rock and indie with consummate ease, drawing fans from both genrres in equal measures.

Turn Blue, as the title suggests, is their most bluesy album to date and the opener Weight Of Love is probably my favourite track of the year so far.

Augustines, like Blackberry Smoke, weren’t even on my radar a few months ago but their self-titled debut is a work of songwriting art. Think Springsteen or The Gaslight Anthem and you’ll get the picture.

Band Of Skulls too have thrilled me with their music, so simple yet distinctive too. In fact, after buying Himalayan, I immediately went out and bought their first two releases.

Californian Breed, Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham’s latest enterprise following the demise of Black Country Communion, have recently released their debut album and it’s a racing certainty that fans of BCC will love it.

Kasabian and Elbow may be mainstream these days but both appeal to rock fans and while the latter’s Take Off and Landing took me a few weeks to get into, it’s undoubtedly a top ten contender.

In contrast, Kasabian’s 48:13 proved instantly appealing and again, like Black Keys, the Leicester band are another with the ability to attract an eclectic audience.

I’m hoping that very soon, we’ll be talking about the excellent Rival Sons in the same way.

Great Western Valkyrie, which came out last week, is their best batch of material so far and that’s saying something considering their first two albums blew me away.

They are retro with a 21st century edge and if talent was ever a determining factor in the music business, then they are destined for greatness.

One or two golden oldies figure in my list too.

Neil Young’s latest album A Letter Home is interesting rather than outstanding, an ultra raw reciting of some of his favourite covers.

Paul Rodgers’ The Royal Sessions is a more polished effort, soulful, hearty and underlying once again the man’s greatness as a vocalist. It doesn’t rock, it purrs and will undoubtedly figure in my top ten.

So too could Wilko Johnson’s immensely enjoyable collaboration with The Who’s Roger Daltrey.

Gong back home is earthy, straightforward rock and roll and while it turns no new pages, it’s an album which leaves you with a smile on your face.

So there it is, my half-yearly state of the rock nation verdict. If the next six months produces as much great music, then we are in for a treat.

Ian Murtagh