Classic Rock’s New Releases Round-Up
This week, we’ve a live extravaganza, courtesy of Down, Black Sabbath and Mott The Hoople. Plus newies from Trans-Siberian Orchestra, The Doobie Brothers and Bad Religion, a reissue from Supertramp. Oh, and a glimpes of Richie Sambora in his pre-Bon Jovi days.
Words: Malcolm Dome
You have to love Down. As Diary Of A Mad Band (Roadrunner) proves, this is…well, well a mad band. In the best possible sense. The live performances are stunning, full of vigour and vitality, and offstage they know how to have a good time. A great document of a special period of time in the story of Down. Maybe it’ll never be the same again.
Mott The Hoople are enjoying a deserved renaissance at the moment. In Performance 1970-1974 (Angel Air) has four CDs taking in a gig at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon (1970, with Free also on the bill), The Tower Theatre in Philadelphia (1972) and the US tours 1971-73 and 1974. This is far from a state-of-the-art series of recordings. In fact, on occasion the sound quality and balance just slips away into a black hole. However, there’s no doubting the excitement and passion of the performances. And that’s really what matters most.
There are two Black Sabbath live albums being reissued. Both from the original line-up. Past Lives (Universal) is a double disc, the first featuring recordings from Manchester and London in 1973, and the second with various live performances during the 70s. It’s a timely reminder of just how good Sabbath could be onstage. Live At Last (Universal) is actually the same as the first disc of Past Lives. Still worth having if you’re not interested in the second CD in that package.
OK, away from the live scene, Atlantean Kodez are a German band who will bring to mind While Heaven Wept on impressive album The Golden Bough (Cruz Del Sur). It’s got a majestic, epic doom-esque sweep that is both enticing also quite eerie. The album deals with 12000 years of European mythology. All of which is an incredibly daft undertaking. Rather like fighting a nest of angry dragons with a leaky water pistol. But the band’s lyrical ambition is matched by some brilliant music.
Breakfast In America (Universal) represents the pinnacle of Supertramp’s fame. And this 30th anniversary deluxe reissue certainly underlines just how potent and powerful the band were at the time. Full of great songs, it was the sound of a band reaching their commercial peak. In addition, there’s a bonus live CD, recorded on that tour. Whether you really need this when the Paris live album already exists is another matter, but these are different live versions to those on that record.
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra have long been arena news in America. Over here it’s still a case of wondering why a train has its own in house band (ahem). But the release of Beethoven’s Last Night (BMG) is the first step in introducing us to their charms. Originally put out in 2000, it’s a concept album mixing up Beethoven, Mephistopheles and Fate. All rather like a Jim Steinman album without the latter’s sly sense of sybaritic humour. Still, sets everything up for TSO’s live debut in the UK, at the Hammersmith Apollo on March 29.
You know what you’re gonna get from Bad Religion. Like, say. AC/DC they’ve their own style. And The Dissent Of Man (Epitaph) fits neatly into their usual format. Which means lots of articulate political comments and old style punk with real tunes. Not a classic, but good enough.
Bring Me The Horizon have a growing following among those who enjoy screamo. The claim’s been made that their third album, There Is A Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is A Heaven, Let’s Keep It A Secret (Visible Noise), has taken them to a new level. Hard to hear where. There are a couple of tracks which have a certain subtlety and cleverness. But for the most part, it’s business as usual, albeit better produced. It has to be admitted, Bring Me The Horizon are very good at this sort of thing. But if their intention was to move onwards and outwards this time, then it’s difficult to see where they’ve done it.
Aeon Zen are neat, tidy and emphatically melodically progressive. Very much the vision and brainchild of Rich Hinks, Suggestion (Time Divide) is an impressive array of beautifully constructed music, complementing exhaustive instrumental interplay of the sort Transatlantic would find worthy, with tunes befitting of Touchstone. Natural Selection could become a surprise airplay hit.
Wicked Wendy are a Brit band with real sparkle. A New Skin is an EP that bristles with easy on the ear hooks and the sort of alternative approach that brings to mind Paramore, only with a little more stubble and grit. One band worth watching in 2011. Find out more at www.myspace.com/wickedwendymusic
Before he became famous with Bon Jovi, guitarist Richie Sambora had been part of a rather decent New Jersey band called Shark Frenzy. Volumes 1&2 (Retroworld) collects together some of the band’s recordings over two CDs. It’s interesting, if not classic. The style is, if anything, more sophisticated than Jovi, and you can tell that Sambora is a major talent. The band also featured Bruce Foster, who’s gone on to become a major figure as a songwriter and producer.
A decade after their last studio album, The Doobie Brothers really hit the right groove on World Gone Crazy (Eagle). This is mid-70s style FM fodder, and that’s the best compliment you can give the masters of that laidback boogie groove. Still present from the glory days are Tom Johnston, Patrick Simmons and Michael Hossack, with Michael McDonald making a surprise guest appearance. Smooth operators still, the songs are strong and the vibe is…well, it’s Doobies like!
Tags: AC/DC, Aeon Zen, Atlantean Kodex, Bad Religion, Black Sabbath, Bon Jovi, Bring Me The Horizon, Bruce Foster, Doobie Brothers, Down, Michael Hossack., Michael McDonald, Mott The Hoople, Paramore, Patrick Simmons, Rich Hinks, Richie Sabora, Shark Frenzy, Supertramp, Tom Johnston, Touchstone, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Transatlantic, While Heaven Wept, Wicked Wendy