Classic Rock’s New Releases Round-Up
This week we’ve got AOR, live recordings, a box set, reissues…and some barbaric romanticism. Can’t get better than that.
Words: Malcolm Dome
The return of cult AOR heroes Unruly Child has been greeted as some form of messianic return. Well, Worlds Collide (Frontiers) might not quite live up to such expectations, but this first album with the original line-up in two decades is certainly powerful and impressive. Some excellent musicianship is complemented by the strident vocals of Marcie (formerly Mark) Free, and neatly twisted melodies. Even if the title she sings the opening song as if the title is Salt Beef & Mustard, rather than Show Me The Money.
When it was first released over 20 years ago, Radio Silence (Angel Air) from Notorious came with a large side salad of hype and claims that the combination of former Diamond Head vocalist Sean Harris and multi-talented Robin George would sweep the world. Hard rock was changing, the PR machine insisted, and this was the future. Well, the album flopped mightily, and the band soon disappeared. Quite why it’s being resurrected now is hard to fathom. Age has not improved what is a confusion of half-formed ideas. Directionless, passionless and clueless, Radio Silence bad then and utterly irrelevant now.
As the year draws to a close two new live albums emphasise how great the loss of Ronnie James Dio has been. Dio At Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987 (Niji Entertainment) brings us the two memorable Dio performances at Monsters Of Rock. Both are thunderous and imposing, but the first CD has a slight edge, if only because Ronnie and his new band had a lot to prove – and did so.
Dio’s presence on Heaven & Hell’s 30 Years Of Heaven & Hell- Live At Wacken (Armoury Records) is slightly poignant, given that this was recorded last year, and we now know what he was suffering. Despite the occasional slight strain, the man is still majestic, as indeed are the band. There is also a DVD version (Eagle Vision), featuring interviews with all four members of the band.
The deluxe reissue of Jethro Tull’s Stand Up (Chrysalis) is a reminder of the moment the great band really took shape. Because here was Ian Anderson laying down the blueprint for much that followed over the next four decades. After the blues-rock fare of debut This Was, now Tull took onboard folk and classical influences. It’s still an album that, erm, stands up today. This new edition comes with a bonus CD and DVD, both from a show at Carnegie Hall in New York during 1970.
Deep Purple fans get a treat with two expanded reissues. Deepest Purple (EMI) is a compilation that was originally out in 1980. Now, it comes with a DVD featuring lots of promo clips. Come Taste The Band (EMI) has a bonus CD with a remix of the original album by Kevin Shirley. It’s amazing how bad the reception was for the album in 1975. Now, everyone seems to love it. MkIV rehabilitated. Tommy Bolin’s position as a great Purple guitarist assured, Finally.
In the year that marks the 40th anniversary of his death, the market is flooded with Jimi Hendrix stuff. But among the very best is the documentary on the man as part of the Classic Artists series (Impact). It really is excellent, put together by people who clearly care. This DVD features interviews with Dave Mason, Stephen Stills, Mick Taylor, Eric Clapton, a Monkee and is narrated by Slash. Great for Christmas.
Dave ‘Bucket’ Colwell has played guitar with Bad Company, Humble Pie and ASAP. Now he’s released solo album Guitars, Beers &B Tears (Jerkin’ Crocus) under the project name of Bucket & Co. Joined by the likes of Adrian Smith, Spike and Danny Bowes, it took two years to get finished, and is an unpretentious collection of good melodic songs played in an understated manner. Very British and thoroughly enjoyable. Just a musician getting on with his craft with no hype. Refreshing in this day and age.
Virgin Steele are coming up to their 30th anniversary, playing what they term ‘barbaric romanticism’, which is in essence is slightly less humorous than Manowar – and we all know how they like a chuckle. The Black Light Bacchanalia (SPV) is a right old romp, with lyrics talking about ‘The Hammer Of Zeus And The Wrecking Ball Of Thor’ and ‘Eat The Bread Of Wickedness’. Not sure what the concept is here – and there must be one – but this is so smeared in pomposity and operatic style flourishes that it ends up being really absorbing.
Finally the history of Magnum is beautifully presented in the five CD book set The Gathering (Universal). Not only do these discs span the entire history of the band, but the final CD has a previously unreleased live show from 1988, at the Hammersmith Odeon. If memory serves, this was broadcast live at the time by Radio One. There are also exhaustive notes by Classic Rock’s Dave Ling, which really do provide a balanced and authoritative account of Magnum’s career to date. A fitting celebration of one of the UK’s most enduring and beloved bands.
Tags: Adrian Smith, ASAP, Bad Company, Danny Bowes, Dave 'Bucket' Colwell, Dave Mason, Deep Purple, Diamond Head, Dio, Eric Clapton, Heaven & Hell, Humble Pie, Jethro Tull, Jimi Hendrix, Magnum, Manowar, Marcie Free, Mick Taylor, Notorious, Robin George, Ronnie James Dio, Slash, Spike, Stephen Stills, Steve Harris, The Monkees, Tommy Bolin, Unruly Child, Virgin Steele