Classic Rock’s New Releases Round-Up
Classic Rock’s been going through a load of CDs over the past week, ones that pile up unlistened, as you tend to go for the priorities, like those you have to review, or actually just want to enjoy. And as usual, it’s a case of some surprises (good and bad) and others which live up (or down) to expectations.
Words: Malcolm Dome
Let’s start with Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hits (Mercury). Available in single and double disc format, the best of it comes from the first five albums, when the band were peerless as melodic masters. Subsequently, they became somewhat anaemic and insubstantial. And the four new songs recorded for this compilation are, frankly, a waste of time. They really do sound like a band going through the motions. I could spend ages trying to analyse just where and how this once supreme band went wrong (and the debate will rage on as to whether Jovi should even be acknowledged anymore by Classic Rock). But let’s just say their best songs are still mighty anthems.
Keys To Ascension (Proper) is a massively expanded edition of the 1996 Yes live album. It’s now a four CD set, with a bonus DVD, which means lots of live extras, all from 96. Sure, this is good stuff. Yet, it’s somewhat excessive to find the original record so swamped. But it’s aimed at Yes completists, and they’ll love it.
Still in Yes world, the combination of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman comes close to being Yes by the name of Anderson/Wakeman, on The Living Tree (Gonzo Multimedia). Of course, it’s missing key Yes elements like Steve Howe and Chris Squire, but the album’s really affecting, in an acoustic fashion. Just Anderson’s voice and Wakeman’s piano, giving it an intimate setting that eschews all arena trappings. You can really feel the pair’s genuine rapport and love of music.
‘Weird’ Al Yankovic has been cunningly spoofing big hits and classic songs for nearly 30 years. The Essential ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic (Sony) is a double CD full of mirthful moments such as Another One Rides The Bus, Smells Like Nirvana, Amish Paradise and The Night Santa Went Crazy. He does his first UK tour in December. This is a tasty reminder/introduction to what we can expect from a man to whom no rocker is sacred. Thank goodness.
Former Scorpions drummer Herman Rarebell always did have a sense of humour. So, it’s little wonder he calls himself Herman Ze German. Take It As It Comes (Dark Star) is a diverting collection of 80s style hard rockers, even if none of them are exactly up there with Rock You Like A Hurricane. Talking of which…Rarebell has decided to revisit this Scorps masterwork, revamping it in a modern urban style. Ooops.
There was a time when the name Doris was associated either with insipid 1950s romcoms, or was used as a suitably euphemistic pseudonym by Metallica for obliging young ladies. But Doris Brendel doesn’t fit into those categories. One-time singer for 90s proggie types The Violet Hour, she’s come up with a really impressive album in The Last Adventure (Sky Rocket). It mixes melodic hard rock with folk elements and a sense of 60s soul. Think Issa meets Dusty Springfield on the road to a Sandy Denny epiphany.
Allen/Lande is a combination of Symphony X frontman Russell Allen and Masterplan vocalist Jorn Lande. The Showdown (Frontiers) is their third album together, and it sounds like a natural fit. The songs are written by guitarist/producer Magnus Karlsson, and the pair do a fine job of complementing each other on tunes that have a definite Euro melodic rock style, but avoid the gumby trap. Not a great album, but definitely entertaining. To get a taste, you can download the title track for free.
Sodom are one of the Big Three of German thrash, yet have never been given much credit over here. Unlike Kreator and Destruction, they’re regarded as something of a joke by many in the UK, mainly due to the fact that a little over 20 years ago they took Sepultura out as their support band for some British dates, and the young Brazilians stole the limelight. Hopefully, In War And Pieces (SPV/Steamhammer) will go some way to restoring their reputation. It’s a brutal powerhouse of unrelenting fire. Old school thrash, but done with a refreshing candour. Tom Angelripper lives!
It’s astonishing how easily veteran German melodic metallers Fair Warning lure you into their world. Talking Ain’t Enough (SPV/Steamhammer) is a triple live CD, mostly recorded earlier this year in Tokyo. Once you get past frontman Tommy Heart’s “Turn ze spotlight on ze pipple” type of between song banter, then the music is really rather good, albeit in a self-indulgent, pompous kinda way. But skip an instrumental cover of Zeppelin’s Kashmir. Frankly, that is ludicrous.
David ‘Rock’ Feinstein returns with solo album Bitten By The Beast (Niji Entertainment), and shows he’s still got a definite magic touch. You hear hints of early Rods, plus a more expansive guitar-led approach. The man really should get greater respect than has been his lot so far. ‘Rock’s one-time bandmate and cousin, Ronnie James Dio guests on the song Rock Will Never Die. A poignant reminder of what we lost this year.
Engrained have the sort of antagonistic force which made GBH and The Exploited so powerful at the start of the 1980s. Deep Rooted (SPV/Steamhammer) is punk with no time for the charting misdemeanours of Green Day or The Offspring. The Germans just get on with the business of banging out the anger.
Tags: 'Weird' Al Yankovic, Allen/Lande, Bon Jovi, david 'Rock' Feinstein. Ronnie James Dio, Destruction, Doris Brendel, Dusty Springfield, Engrained, Fair Warning, GBH, Green Day, Herman Rarebell, Herman Ze German, Issa, Jorn Lande, Kreator, Led Zeppelin, Magnus Karlsson, Masterplan, Metallica, Russell Allen, Sandy Denny, Scorpions, Sepultura, Sodom, Symphony X, The Exploited, The Offspring, The Rods, Tom Angelripper, Tommy Heart, Yes