And so ends a year with two faces.

 

Before I start discussing my musical year, I should not and simply cannot start this piece without mentioning what casts a shadow over all the good and beautiful developments of 2023. On March 12 of this year, one of my very best friends passed away suddenly. Han, I miss you. I miss the glances we exchanged when Rothery played his masterful solos for us. So grateful that The Great Escape was played at your farewell, thanks Wilma. David Gilmour also touched us deeply and I'm so glad that we listened to some nice music on the beautiful stereo set you had just bought. You've only been able to enjoy it so little. But as we all know, life is not fair!

So now to the music and that made me very happy this year. Where many complain about not hearing interesting new releases, I can only conclude that I don't agree with that. Of course I'm going to add my annual list to this column and as explained in my previous columns that can be a different number every year. This year it's actually a top twenty and that doesn't happen often for me. The first fourteen albums have received 80 or more points.

1 - Mystery - Redemption.

2 - Nine Skies - The Lightmaker.

3 - This Winter Machine - The Clockwork Man.

4 - Pallas - The Messenger.

5 - The Foundation - Mask.

6 - RPWL - Crime Scene.

7 - Sky Passage - The Gathering.

8 - Pendragon - North Star.

9 - Comedy of Errors - Threnody for a dead Queen.

10 - Sunchild - Exotic Creatures and a stolen Dream.

11 - Unitopia  - Seven Chambers.

12 - Overhead  - Telepathic Minds.

13 - The Ryszard Kramarski Project - Odyssey 9999.

14 - Riverside - I.D.Entity.

15 - IO Earth - Sanctuary.

16 - Galahad - The long Goodbye.

17 - Southern Empire - Another World.

18 - Retreat from Moscow - Dreams, Myths and Machines.

19 - Chandelier - We can fly.

20 - Lalu - The Fish who wanted to be King.

The winner, Mystery, never disappoints and continues to make excellent music with , i.m.h.o., Redemption as their best album ever. Live fantastic as always and what a fine and sympathetic band they are. I just love Every Note you play. Thanks guys!

Biggest surprise of the year : Nine Skies with the album The Lightmaker. To be honest, I don't think the previous albums of this French band are really special, but this is really a very clever, complete and beautiful album. I hope they will continue to make albums of this high quality and stay on this chosen path.

Best track of the year : The Dreamer by Nine Skies. The atmosphere, the lyrics, the vocals (Martin Wilson) and of course the epic guitar solo by Alexandre Lamia, it's all so beautiful and moves me to the max with every listen.

Best concert of the year : Arena in Zoetermeer. With Damian Wilson in the ranks, this is the ideal line-up for me, although John Jowitt would have fit in as well. The sound was fantastic and the mix of old and new songs was great, but of course there were also a few personal favourites missing. How much I would love to hear Wilson sing the song Ascension and then that stunning solo by Mitchell as a conclusion. Maybe someday......

Disappointment of the year: I should really say frustration of the year and that is the crappy delivery of many CDs from the UK. High customs clearance costs and especially long delivery times, which often forced me to post my reviews later than I would have liked. Brexit sucks, but Post.nl also made a mess of it on a regular basis.

Another thing that became clear this year is my preference for Blu-ray over DVD, with the result that I have sold almost my entire collection of concerts on DVD. I've kept a few that I don't want to miss yet and that are still of reasonably good quality, but for the rest I only have Blu-rays. I compared on my own modest set but also on that of a good friend with a very high quality set and the result was the same in both cases. The differences were particularly large in terms of image-technical aspects. The best Blu-ray came at the end of the year, I just love the last one from Marillion. Excellent image quality.

So now 2023, a year of contrasts and mixed feelings, comes to an End. It’s up to 2024 now.

Well to be honest, I only have one release lined up for 2024 that I expect a lot from and that is the new Drifting Sun (Veil). I'm sure there will be a few more and hopefully a few surprises as well. However, it will be difficult to top 2023 because, as mentioned, musically a top year!

I wish you all a