Classic Rock’s New Releases Round-Up
This week we stretch back to the Dio era of Sabbath and also to some Germans who seem to think they’re Swiss. There’s also the last album from ze Scorpions, the debut by Reckless Love, some Shakespearian nonsense, eeriness courtesy of the Red Sparowes and an unsigned lot from Bournemouth…
Words: Malcolm Dome
So, the ongoing tornado of Black Sabbath reissues reaches the Ronnie Dio era. The latest batch feature Heaven And Hell, Mob Rules and Live Evil (Universal). The debate will always rage as to whether these albums are true Sabbath works, or should have issued a different band name. Whatever those arguments, Heaven And Hell (originally put out in that incredible year of 1980) is utterly indispensable. It’s irrefutably a classic from start to finish. At the time of its release (1981) Mob Rules was regarded as a pale album compared to its predecessor. But now, it sounds bright, heavy and powerful. In fact, there are those who think this is the best record the band did with Ronnie Dio. Live Evil (from ’82) is still bathed in controversy, mainly because when the split with Dio happened soon after, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler claimed that the singer was sneaking into the studio at night to turn up his vocals! Now, the perceived wisdom is that there was a lot of misinformation flying around. Whatever, Live Evil doesn’t really do Sabbath justice. Still, it is probably the best Black Sabbath live album ever. Not that it has much competition. Live At Last, anyone?
Crashing back, with spotlights firmly turned onto the 1980s, the Scorpions have rediscovered themselves with Sting In The Tail (Sony). It’s set to be their final album, with a three-year world tour during which we can wave a tearful farewell to human pyramids, gaping mouths and flying Flying Vs. After two decades, during which they’ve released a succession of disappointing albums, the Scorps have gone right back to Love At First Sting and Blackout, with this cracking collection of Kraut compositions. It reminds us all why – notwithstanding ze unintentional humour – we all love this lot.
SPV Records have started a series of reissues called Rare Classics. Quite how they justify including two albums from Germany’s Mass remains unclear. Neither Angel Power (1980) nor Swiss Connection (two years later) are up to much. Basic meat and potatoes NWOBHM with a Teutonic twist. It’s a puzzle why the band decided on the title Swiss Connection. Unless you take into account the fact that the album was produced by Martin Pearson, who’d worked with Krokus? Or, are we back in ‘German humour’ territory?
Red Sparowes offer some heavy ambient doom instrumentals on The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies The Answer (Conspiracy). An enigmatic title that offers up some really trippy sounds, in a mephedrone kinda way. But if you’re in the right mood (reflective yet sombre), this is the best soundtrack around.
First Sir Christopher Lee, now Richard Briers? It appears The Good Life star has forsaken the cabbage patch for metal pastures. Well, slightly progressive, actually. Briers isn’t actually on the album Sonnet 155 (B7 Media), but he is one of the thespians who’s been roped in by composer Tim Arnold to bring his interpretations of Shakespeare to life onstage next month. All very well, but the album’s so dull it could easily be the theme for the next get together of the world’s dullest people, chaired by Sir Henry McDull. If you must see it brought to life (and gawd it’s dead enough to need a full-scale biblical resurrection), then it’s being staged at the Almeida Theatre in London on May 2/9/16.
Reckless Love stormed out of the stalls with Beautiful Bomb not so long ago, getting the attention of those who rather like the idea of Poison laced with a slice of TNT and Van Halen. But the Finns’ self-titled, debut album (Spinefarm) really offers nothing else that’s close to the trashy allure of that song. In fact, it’s all a bit mannered and manicured. It’s ersatz kitsch, rather than the real deal. They’re playing the Barfly in London on May 24, if you’re bothered.
Finally, an unsigned band worth checking out if you enjoy The Answer. Voodoo Vegas come from Bournemouth and their self-released Live album suggests they’ve the ability to take their Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC influences into their own territory. Keep an eye on ‘em.
Tags: AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Geezer Butler, Guns N' Roses, Krokus, Mass, Reckless Love, Red Sparowes, Richard Briers, Ronnie James Dio, Scorpions, Sir Christopher Lee, The Answer, Tim Arnold, TNT, Tony Iommi, Van Halen, Voodoo Vegas