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BAD COMPANY -
In Concert:
Merchants Of Cool

Sanctuary 2002

See also the CD

That’s not too bad at all, though the Company’s not the same.

How often do you see artists giving roses to the ladies in the first row and not vice versa? That speaks volumes of the band’s performance in terms of sheer emotions filling a concert hall when BAD CO are on stage. Or simply, when they’re on – and this ensemble’s always on now, although it’s not the classic line-up anymore. This doesn’t matter anyway, as Dave Colwell had been tutored for the job by the original guitarist Mick Ralphs, and bassist Jaz Lochrie worked with Paul Rodgers before, but all the adequacy notwithstanding, they have a hard task of being the collective enterprise. All because of Paul, who steals the show naturally, even Simon Kirke is left behind – er, the drummer is behind anyway.

One can’t blame the singer, Rodgers does everything he can to make both his colleagues and the people down there feel happy, jamming around, hurtling the microphone stand in the air and beaming with the smile – it’s almost impossible to counterpoint sinews on his neck with the easiness he handles his work, even dances with detached Jaz – think of the fact BAD CO don’t have sad songs, and even “Ready For Love” isn’t one. So there’s a joy.

Upon watching the DVD, you can’t disagree with Paul shouting “Good rockin’ tonight!”, and you gotta believe the veterans talking about this stage of the band’s career not only with great enthusiasm but extremely sincere. Sincerity is what keeps them on this high level – sometimes literally: a change in the mood when the singer gets on a riser over the drum kit for the grand piano to start “Bad Company” and “Running With The Pack” is almost palpable – yet there’s more to their effort. Among other musicians praising the quartet here, Tommy Shaw likens Rodgers to a preacher, and here indeed is this highest rapport, the call-and-response with the audience in “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy” and “Can’t Get Enough”. Getting enough of these feelings seems really difficult.

To those who found the CD a bit disappointing, saturation may come with the interviews, hidden video of “Soul Of Love” and behind the scenes footage, if not with two FREE songs, “Wishing Well’ which sees Slash and Neal Schon join the band, and “All Right Now”. The merchants of cool are the big deal.

*****



RORY GALLAGHER -
Irish Tour ’74

BMG 2000

They don’t make them like this anymore: the guitar Cuhullan rocks the Emerald Isle.

Rory Gallagher was someone very special: an invincible hero on-stage and as extremely shy when out of the spotlight. Catching his very essence on the celluloid must have been no mean feat, yet this one has it all and is an impeccable companion to the legendary live album of the same title.

It sees the guitarist’s triumphant return to his beloved Eireland, and as fantastic as it is, feeding off the home soil like Antheus, there’s a certain wave of nostalgia surging, when Rory breaks into “A Million Miles Away”, very poignant, illustrated by Cork scenes. And the feeling is more intense with the bonus footage, a home video of that year’s fall’s Japanese tour: there, the artist’s equally natural as in the film, rambling in the streets or playing “Goodnight, Irene” at a party – the more joyful, then, the “Going To My Hometown” mandolin-driven folky stomp comes down.

Gallagher goes immensely deep into the music, belying his own statement “music should never be so serious”, emotions so overt that there’s often a close-up of Rory’s face rather than hands, sweat dripping from his chin like notes from the beaten-up Stratocaster, Rod de’Ath and Gerry McAvoy watching tightly to follow the leader. Revealing some of his secrets for the camera – bottleneck’s better with an electric guitar and steel slider for an acoustic – he weaves rock, blues and jazz into one solo, like in “Walk On Hot Coals”, and has the major kicks out of that.

He shares it with the kids who stretch towards the stage to catch a bit of this magic, and there’s the utmost level of mutual understanding between an artist and the audience to be witnessed. The spell is so full-on, it’s impossible to notice when exactly Rory changes guitars halfway through “Who’s That Coming”. But why stare, anyway? Much better is revelling in this revelatory playing – especially, when the hero’s gone.

*****



PINK FLOYD – The Wall

Sony 1999

Play a Humpty Dumpty experience and look not only at the dark side.

There’s no movie like “The Wall”. No other musical effort had grown into such a state-of-art visual statement to linger on for years with the same impact. This edition gives an additional impulse to the nerves, as the film makers – designer Storm Thorgeson and music producer James Guthrie among them – involvement allowed to be it fuller an experience; even menus are impressive to an extent that even exploring the DVD content before delving into it becomes an adventure.

That doesn’t lessen the shock of watching the movie again, as more details make their way into one’s head following the way of Pink’s mutation from a maggot into a worm instead of a butterfly he could have become in his rock star stance. It’s much stronger now. Vera Lynn’s “The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot” playing on the telly is a grand lead-off to the hero’s childhood frustration to equal those Freudian images of “fecking flowers”, as Roger Waters calls them, and a ominous precursor to the poisonous rock ‘n’ roll of “Young Lust”. It’s still scary to see the startling sequence of bombers turning into crosses, the Union Jack revealing a cross from which blood flows into a gutter, and finally pinpoint Pink’s crucifix position in a swimming pool to the Passion Play which starts as, with “One Of My Turns”, the human spring which was pressed down for all of the life is released to the frightening consequences and his demons break loose into a fascist pandemonium.

With great astonishment one can think of how pictorial the music must be for the whole film to be based upon it, the idea of doing a film being there from the beginning, even before the album was written. Thankfully, the movie is not depressive as the album: to achieve that, “Hey You” had been withdrawn – to appear here, in all its hopelessness, for the first time ever – while more personal songs, like “When The Tigers Broke Free”, that didn’t go well with the album’s universal abstractness, were inserted to sharpen the images. Another kind of sharpening comes with the “The Other Side Of The Wall” ’80s documentary where the actual FLOYD’s show glimpses to make it clear why director Alan Parker states he didn’t want any concert footage in for “The Wall” to stand out, and artist Gerald Scarfe is seen working on the sketches of “weird psychopathic quality”. Hard to believe, there’s only 15 minutes of animation in the movie, there seems to be much more as it’s taken a life of its own.

Not many pay attention to it as well as to the fact that it was Bob Geldof singing some numbers instead of Waters, so those bits and pieces are analyzed in the new retrospective stuffed with interviews with Parker, Waters and their partners in cinematic crime. And if there’s no humor in the film, which Roger considers a big flaw, he and Scarfe make up for that in their running commentary, which goes beyond giving explanations to what’s in the screen and into reminiscing and philosophizing about things like child abuse. This feature, though, has to be left last to be studied, because it may ruin the overall impression. Just like the wall itself.

*****


ATOMIC ROOSTER -
Masters From The Vaults

Intense 2002

Charged and obsessively driven, one of the undeservedly underrated British bands do a cock on the walk.

Yardbirds ROOSTER weren’t even though they might look rather stiff here, in a studio set, trying to keep from blowing it with their atomic performance. 1972 caught them abandoned by singing guitarist John Du Cann, the vocalist slot was taken by Chris Farlowe, fresh from COLOSSEUM ruins. The personnel shift resulted in style melting from heavy metal to jazz rock without losing any of their heat , a transition too obvious with band playing material inherited from previous line-up, and this one still to cut “Made In England” album.

Not that they appear any weaker now, and “Breakthrough” organ riff much more powerful than original piano figure gives a hint of how fantastic were ROOSTER stage shows. And if the leader Vincent Crane looks hippiesh -straight mane, bandana, embroidered vest – swaying frantically behind the Hammond, Farlowe is hipper yet. Hardly a showman with that orc complexion, he has a powerful stage presence, hollering out and hamming it up, shaking a tambourine and humorously munching a sandwich while his bandmates are immersed in “Black Snake” which Chris peppers with a jazzy scat. Then Crane goes wild, as the lyrics dictate, sticking out a tongue like that same snake. As a contrast, solemn “Can’t Find A Reason” reveals a softer, safer side to the ensemble settling into baroque ballad to give fiery drummer Ric Parnell a break before hypnotic, Lizard King-like drift turns into mesmeric instrumental madness of “The Rock” that Steve Bolton lets rip with his guitar.

They were amazingly tightly-locked, “A Spoonful Of Bromide Helps The Pulse Rate Go Down” capturing, with a smoke from a cigarette laid on the keys, the very essence of ROOSTER, who could have been huge had this monster of a group not sadly fallen musically between two decades, ’60s and ’70s, and lost their battle to the kind of PURPLE and HEEP. With Vince Crane long gone now and all the due glory belonging to the past, this DVD is more than welcome.

*****


CURVED AIR -
Masters From The Vaults

Intense 2002

A strange fruit of progressive scene: a beauty and the beast in their blooming prime.

The proper story of CURVED AIR is to be told yet, but this is a valuable addition to any, not only a prog fan’s, collection. A short movie shot in 1974 has the British combo walk a thin line between method and madness, classical music and experimental, with a fine theatricality thrown in for a good measure. All this provides an excellent glance into the band’s world, a further line given to the founding member Darryl Way who, interviewed now, talks about the origins of the group and how it came to be, when he, a student of The Royal College of Music, met Francis Monkman, who studied at the Royal Academy. It took a certain lady, still, to make their Intellectuality peculiarly unique – if cherchez la femme is a unique formula.

But Sonja Kristina only added to the guys’ innate sensuality: it speaks volumes when, in “Marie Antoinette”, Way caresses a Mellotron and Monkman, eyes closed, gets lost in some reverie even while soloing on his transparent-body guitar. Very impressive – and expressive too. Sonja looks innocent, fitting into the acoustic mood of “Melinda More Or Less” so perfectly it’s hard to believe – especially with her face superimposed over some garden footage – that this fairy-like creature can spit fury in “Propositions”, suitably illustrated with images of birds of prey.

Kristina seems to impersonate their winging in her twisted dance to the rhythm of Mike Wedgewood’s fervent bass and the violent violin of Way’s who leaves his instrument a minute later to move to organ and then join Florian Pilkington-Miksa on the drums. A method to the band’s madness becomes clear as Darryl visibly relaxes – what a paradox! – getting to frenetic pace of “Vivaldi” extemporizations just to make, in the midst of it, his stringed instrument a percussive one and tease a feedback out of it like a consummate rocker. Which he was, indeed, all they were.

Yet they were too charged and too eclectic to retain those moments of crazy blissfulness for long, so to have this phantasmagoria preserved for posterity as a companion to 1975′s “Live” album is great.

*****


FOCUS -
Masters From The Vaults

Intense 2002

Whether it’s possible to concentrate on aural detail of Holland’s best is a question, but to miss any visual moment of this band seems positively impossible.

It’s a timely thing to reassert FOCUS’ status now, when not only their native country, Netherlands, became a place where progressive rock still thrives, but the ensemble resurrected for good as well. That brought about a certain bout of nostalgie, and the thirst can be quenched with this brilliant retrospective in which the founder member Thijs van Leer is a guide leading through the key moments of the group’s illustrious history or, actually, different stages FOCUS are shown at, weaving their sonic web from thin to thick and intense.

It can be deconstructed for one’s pleasure, as van Leer brings forth the trivia rather than chronology, yet it serves well for the better understanding of the music: to know that the name was chosen because “there was so much music around already to distract people from their own problems, and there is a music possible that can be a catalyst in order to focus upon your own shit”, and that FOCUS appeared to be an instrumental group out of poverty, if that explains anything. Still, they made it an advantage to enjoy themselves so much that to play almost endlessly. There’s even an illustration, “Hocus Pocus”, a tune so arresting the quartet can’t stop, and Jan Akkerman who plugged out has to step back in. The footage is as unique as van Leer’s yodel, involving, beside the “Old Grey Whistle Test” fragments, promotional videos, like “House Of The King” played in boutique between the glass shelves which perfectly conveys the transparent fragility of the music, and movie shot at the manor where the artists used to live in 1972, at the time of the “Moving Waves” cooking.

There, Akkerman, “the only guitar player in Holland with apt”, is seen standing in a room with Flemish pictures on the walls doing a classical piece before calling the others in to kick out a rehearsal, and that’s quite a domestic scene in the kitchen, where Thijs philosophizes about the band’s music being “not a revolution but only evolution”, Jan adding it’s a “solution”, possibly meaning the drinks on the table, and Pierre van der Linden hitting his knees with drumsticks while leaning on the stack of cheese – all very Dutch, and very whole is a picture these pieces create.

Out of deconstruction comes a synthesis, although the focus is on the onset, with extended live extracts from 1973 and 1974, the latter having the combo perform “Hamburger Concerto”, and from the later line-ups only “Angel Wings” featuring Philip Catherine on guitar. But the story of “Sylvia” being told – even sung – and a wonderful sight of Thijs, seated on the floor, serenading the landlady are more than adequate compensation for what’s not here. What is here and now is a new FOCUS, so the film leaves off in 2002 where the next DVD is picking up.

*****



URIAH HEEP -
The Magician’s Birthday Party

Classic Rock 2002
See also the CD

“Let’s all go to the Magician’s Birthday.” Did anyone ever hope for these words to come true. Welcome to a dream, then.

“Are you ready to party? We got a lot of surprises for you, guys, tonight!” cries Bernie Shaw. The “guys” do know: there’s anything impossible at HEEP’s annual gathering, and to be a part of it feels great. The audience members proudly announce where they come from, “an army of reality brought from every corner of the world”, just like “The Spell” predicted. What’s been unpredictable for the last 21 years is that Ken Hensley would play with this band once more. But here he is, looking as if he doesn’t believe it. Ken visibly wakes up for the acoustic guitars duet in “Paradise” and, pulling faces, works a slide – still a showman par excellence when he lets it loose.

“Between Two Worlds” gets another meaning with David Byron’s picture projected on-screen, for bringing back together two line-ups – a current one and that from 1976-1979 – was “not an easy job but exciting time”, in Mick Box‘s words. The rehearsal footage documents the nervousness go away, which took some image changing as well: Lee – a beast drummer and one hell of a singer nowadays! – fashions a funny haircut, Bernie sports a goatee and Mick shaved off the beard he had for a last couple of years, all to ease off the strain. John Lawton singing “Feelings” at the performance which later brought the "Steppin album provides a background for the report of other Festival Club events that reflect the atmosphere of the show itself. Emotional is the right word – in “July Morning” Trevor Bolder, deep in emotion, raves up tossing his old beaten bass around while Box triumphantly puts the guitar over his head to salute the crowd.

The punters have all the right reasons to go crazy – be it full-throttle rock of “Sympathy” and “Free ‘N’ Easy” where Lawton and Shaw bounce off each other or Thijs Van Leer, calm as a mountain in his shades, hat and black leather coat, erupting in yodel for “Tales” and weaving a flute magic into “Mistress Of All Time”. “The Magician’s Birthday” turning out like a little theater with Shaw predatory circling around John Lawton who marches out to give a full embodiment of evil powers and steals a couple of Bernie’s lines, and Lee Kerslake blowing a whistle, while Hensley gets his kicks out of the scene – a genuine celebration. So if there’s a drawback it’s a sound mirroring the picture: what you see on the left blasts from the right speaker and vice versa as if you were on-stage. But why not? – you can do it at the party.

*****



KARNATAKA -
In Concert

Classic Rock 2002

Welsh sensation on the rise coming down with a storm.

It’s always suspicious when a young band with only two albums on their deposit receive accolades, but Classic Rock Society isn’t to give it easily, so when KARNATAKA won the Best New Band and Best Female Vocalist awards in 2001 it was deservedly.

That October they played London’s Mean Fiddler club as if to confirm their success, and here’s this performance, building slowly to gradually resolve into an atmosphere quite loose. Punters go for it, someone saluting the band with a bottle of vodka. In the beginning, “Time Stands Still” has the sextet frozen, musicians looking estranged except for guitarists Paul Davies and Ian Jones who get the show relentlessly going for others to tighten up their act with “Heaven Can Wait”. Backing singers lift it up to ethereal effect that becomes crystal during instrumental break in “Heart Of Stone” – a whole unity is visibly born.

“Shall we rock?” asks singer Rachel Jones before “Tell Me Why”, and there is rock attack in those folky songs of innocence and experience – “Woman In Me” feels seductive. Rachel knows how to rule the crowd, all the guys sighing out loud when she leads into “Delicate Flame Of Desire” from the forthcoming album. Shaking the tambourine and dancing shamanic, during “Crazy” it looks like Jim Morrison’s finally found a new body yet there is that intrinsic grace of a Welsh girl, so clear in a video which caught her walking a wintry countryside and Ian minstrelling by her side. Black-and-white backstage footage, on the contrary, shows KARNATAKA not as a bucolic bunch but ordinary people. That’s the secret of their appeal – and they’re only rising for the moon.

****



JUDAS PRIEST -
Live In London

SPV 2002

British steel shines and cuts as ever – the game continues.

“United – heavy metal and JUDAS PRIEST!” bawls out Tim Owens from the London’s Brixton Academy stage in December 2001. Who’s to argue? The band, however, seem eager to state it again and again. If anyone still has doubts about how new vocalist fits into this ageless bastion of British metal, all the worries should be discarded now. Though Ripper made it into the fold from the cover group, he doesn’t pretend to be Rob Halford – good for him! Straddling across the stage, Owens is visually more calm than his predecessor, which gives him an opportunity to work free up to making “The Ripper” completely his own. The singer acts like some caricature figure – quite a contrast to old soldiers, guitarists K. K. Downing and Glenn Tipton and bassist Ian Hill, who look too serious trading their riffs – strange

.Everything’s different off-stage: “Demolition Time”, a short documentary incorporating bits from the soundcheck that makes a separate feature, shows the musicians as a humorous bunch. They’re giggling and joking, sharing impressions of their recent Japanese tour, of which there’s a footage, and showing around the tour bus. No sign of the fury PRIEST demonstrate before the faithful audience. Scott Travis, whom the colleagues call Osama Bin Drummer, is very shy, and here’s another side of Ripper seen when, relaxing, he breaks into a Roy Harper song – a key to the treatment the singer gives to acoustic numbers like “Lost And Found” and “Diamonds And Rust”. Kicking off the concert, he’s up on the riser in a silver suit urging the fans to sing along “Metal Gods” before leading them into a mix of hits old and new.

With all the freshness, tradition’s served well, even trademark bike finds its way back on-stage before “Painkiller”. “What do I think of the show?” – Ripper asks. And answers, “It was a lovely piece of work.” Who’s to argue?

****3/4



FAIRPORT CONVENTION -
Cropredy Festival 2001

Classic Rock Legends 2002

One more gathering on the ledge, all the usual suspects and more trodding the beaten turf.

As the years go, Cropredy Festival has become a kind of folk institution. A meeting of friends, that’s how one of the FAIRPORTS call the event but there’s more to it: Cropredy has something of a family thing about it – children are dancing on the ground while their parents enjoy camping. In Simon Nicol’s words, “Meet On The Ledge” has “an unparalleled emotional impact”, so going there annually is a tradition, which everybody follows, a mixed bunch of people, from the folksters who proudly wave the banner saying, “10 Years At The Front”, to metal bangers. “The crowd will always be with you,” sing those guilty in this crime of togetherness, and they’re goddamn right. There’s a snippet of the band playing JETHRO TULL’s “Life’s A Long Song”, amid the interviews where they talk of favorite albums and songs and then take the narrative to the current material and to the celebration itself, because Cropredy is this lifelong song.

Some heroes don’t get old though, and Chris Leslie looks amazingly young compared to his predecessors he pays a debt to before on-stage come Maartin Allcock and Ashley Hutchings to join in for “Tam Lin” sung by Vikki Clayton in her best Sandy Denny manner. “Liege & Lief” era is revisited with reminiscences of Sandy, and here’s Dave Swarbrick adding the third fiddle to “The Big Strong Lad” from his wheel-chair, yet Cropredy has never been about the past, it’s always contemporary and sharp. On “Rocky Road” Ric Sanders even brings his fiddle close to an amp to get the feedback, and Gerry Conway sums up, “It’s not just playing in time – it’s like a rush”.

It is, and as funny when a camera zooms in on the “Spinal Tap” sticker on Dave Pegg’s suitcase. They band have their kicks trying to give “Matty Groves” a reggae slant, but sad note comes from Ian Anderson, completely out of voice and reciting “John Barleycorn” and “Locomotive Breath” rather than singing. Nobody cares anyway: Cropredy took a life of its own, leaving music be only a soundtrack to the feel of soul and soil common ground.

****



KEN HENSLEY &
JOHN WETTON -
More Than Conquerors

Classic Rock 2002
See also the CD

Two prime melodicists of classic rock playing one-off gig – low-key yet glorious. Though conquest it’s not.

The Magician’s Birthday Party festival that took place in London in December 2001 held many surprises for URIAH HEEP fans. And one of the events which only they, the fans, could be delighted with was the reunion of two HEEP associates – or more than just associates. Actually, the veterans renewed their collaboration when John Wetton dropped by the Ken Hensley‘s studio to contribute to his latest album, “Running Blind”, but hardly anyone expected those musicians would go live. They did. Panache-less yet with a confidence, more from John, a performer of an enviable pedigree, less from Ken, who stopped touring many years ago.

Hensley takes to the stage first, to play “Overture: La Tristeza Secreta”, and here’s an overture visual: pictures of the two from 1975, when they joined their forces in HEEP, bring us into present tense with this classic piano piece perfectly conveying the nostalgic feel. Then the band come up to wire it up to “Easy Livin’” that immediately shows Ken struggling with his voice. Fortunately, it improves in time for “Return To Fantasy” where he shares vocals with Wetton. John gives it full although he doesn’t feel very comfortable with “One Way Or Another” which makes its live debut here, twenty-five years after the song was recorded, together with “Confession” the audience seems not well familiar with. Now it’s all different, with two guitarists – the fantastic David Kilminster and Wetton, who leaves bass duties to Andy Pyle to join in with his four-string on “Lady In Black” – and two keyboardists, John Young helping Hensley make “July Morning” more authentic. Hammond swings as furiosly as before – perhaps, not to fantasy but return it is.

Both John and Ken seem extremely pleased with the camaraderie vibe – and the musicians too; Young, Kilminster and drummer Steve Christey played with Wetton previously to polish off their tight harmonies. Heroes of the day are present on-stage most of the time complementing each other’s songs; Hensley supplies organ to his friend’s “After All” while Wetton reciprocates with piano solo for “I Don’t Wanna Wait”. Added are videos of the latter that caught Ken and a band in an intimate home atmosphere and Wetton’s “Battle Lines” featuring footage from “Chasing The Dear” movie John wrote music for. A rare stuff – but equally unique is sight of a guy in a crowd in a Viking helmet with “Wetton” written on it, something to defy the notion that it’s Hensley who was in charge. A conquest, ain’t it?

****



PENDRAGON -
Live… At Last And More

Metal Mind 2002

Released for the first time in 1997, the band’s only full-length video re-emerges with enhanced sound quality and a handful of extras.

“Live… At Last” captures the British quartet’s show that took place back in 1996 in Krakow during "The Masquerade Overture" tour. Theirs had been a long ascension and, having reached the peak, the four look poised to impress. Not with self-indulgent endless solos, Nick Barrett’s long guitar piece in “Master Of Illusion” is justified by its magic, but keeping in progressive rock framework, which is nothing to be ashamed of as Nick states in current interview. There’s a five-year division between the concert and interview footage, and it shows: no matter how humorous the singer can be while talking about the ensemble’s name, he’s not that playful bloke from “Saved By You” bonus video – a very ’80s one, a contrast so clear through a photo gallery.

On-stage, the group look as though some characters came to life out of backdrop: clothed in yellow-and-green gown, Barrett jumps across the stage, Clive Nolan rocks the organ at full tilt, and Peter Gee switches between his basses and keyboards. They put on a theater with “As Good As Gold” and ‘Paintbox”, the melody of latter serving as a background for most of the extra features, and it’s not difficult to believe Nick confessing his teenage passion for glam. The audience eats out of PENDRAGON collective hand singing along to “The Last Man On Earth” and swaying to “Guardian Of My Soul” that sees Barrett pantomime clock and Fudge Smith give it an aural edge. “Sing us a Polish song,” asks the leader, and people obey to be thanked with “The Last Waltz” and dance the night away. A definitive artifact of neoprog naiveté.

****4/5


ROGER DEAN – Views

Classic Rock 2002

The Dean of rock art faculty opens the doors into his vision.

If there’s an artist whose work is as important to rock as its musical aspect, Roger Dean is the one. The players would be the last to deny this. “Maybe, without Roger’s work YES wouldn’t have sold so many records,” says Steve Howe, when interviewed for this amazing documentary. Before, it was a book called “Views” that became a best-seller in 1975 and, to Dean’s surprise, influenced a whole generation of designers – up to the “Star Wars” makers.

Now, the DVD not only takes it further down the time – the pictures shown panoramically, sometimes animated, start to come to life – but actually is a biography of “the artist and philosopher,” as presenter Rick Wakeman calls him. That’s not an exaggeration: welcoming into the world of his, the master explains his method, “For me, landscape is existence and a journey through it is a spiritual experience, and what I’m trying to do is to catch this spiritual essence.” A genius, or, in Wakeman’s words, a genie bringing luck to the bands he works with – extras include performances from three of those: URIAH HEEP, ASIA and Wakeman.

“He’s the only guy to be in and out of the YES’ camp more times that I have,” goes one of Rick’s humorous yet insightful remarks, and Dean tells why in the bonus Q & A session. It’s with YES that he found his fame and creative freedom. Not based on lyrics or music, Roger’s artwork served rather as a description of the band’s emotional state, so when it went wrong his pathways took a turn too. Literally – having followed Howe to ASIA, the artist changed curvy lines for angular and drawing for painting to come up with another classic series, John Wetton thanks him for in the film. Delving into details, the master points to the bits that are easy to miss, like similarity of forms of the hands of ASIA’s dragon, eagle and robot, while camera zooms in on the rider hidden in “Red Dragon” which graces Howe’s “Not Necessarily Acoustic”.

Those ’80s covers didn’t make it to the original book anyway – as well as early art school sketches Dean shows tracking his life back to the very moment in the ’60s when he’d been commissioned to design the Ronnie Scott’s jazz club interior.

The drawings appealed to musicians more than that, and the sense of security Roger kept to in his architecture designs was turned down in favour of aggressive style of the GUN cover, Dean’s first – handwriting emerged from it too. Then came OSIBISA, GENTLE GIANT, PALADIN and many more, among them URIAH HEEP. Both Ken Hensley and Mick Box express here their awe of what the artist did for “Demons And Wizards” that he repeatedly refers to as “Wizards And Demons”. “Thus spoke the Wizard in his mountain home,” sing HEEP their aural illustration to Dean’s revelations filmed at home and London and Philadelphia exhibitions. Artists make things exist, Roger states. He knows because he views, the seer of dreams.

*****


ULI JON ROTH -
Historic Performances
Volume I & II
The Electric Sun Years

SPV 2002


It might be a loss to the music that Ulrich Roth decided to stick to the “German Hendrix” tag and has been following his idol’s style even in the clothing with all those feathered hats, headbands and flamboyant shirts on. As no surprise, then, comes the trio format Uli chose for his ELECTRIC SUN, the output of the band showcased on this DVD. Having parted company with SCORPIONS in 1979, he still tried to fit in the day’s fashion by combining bluesy vibe with disco rhythms, a bit awkward move that makes studio clips like “Showdown” or “Lilac” with musicians miming feel dated, Roth himself looking uncomfortable. His passion surely was a stage, yet though poor quality of live footage – in particular, of “Japanese Dreams” from the 1980′s Hendrix festival – can’t hide the energy emanating from the guitarist, this collection out of his vaults is for the fans only.

A loyal lot, more likely to cheer classic “Red House” blues than “Virgin Killer”, should find a big value in songs recorded in 1982 in France, at Moonlight festival, the last rise of the three-piece SUN scoring the most with long jams. In time for 1983 UK and Sweden tour the line-up was expanded to include backing singers and two drummers who gave the band another dimension. Simon Fox and Clive Bunker (yes, of JETHRO TULL fame) are seen performing unbelievable dual thing – duet and duel at once – while black girls breathe spirit into “Angel Of Piece” letting the leader go wild. “Icebreaker” depicts the drive at which Roth embarked on the road, occasionally steering away from the blues to demonstrate all his skills in “Beethoven’s Paraphrase”, a classical direction he’s set to pursuing later on. Glance over the shoulder is always a good thing…

***


IQ – Subterranea:
The Concert

Giant Electric Pea 2002


Visualization lay at the very core of “Subterranea” since the inception of this project. To bring 1998′s album to stage life was no mean feat which IQ undertook with a great prowess and here’s the result – what, before, was a delight only for ears now can be seen in its full. It’s the same performance, recorded on April 4th 1999 in Holland, that already saw the light of day in 2000 as "Subterranea: The Concert" yet DVD appears all worth the wait. There was no such imaginative small-stage show since “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” that “Subterranea” comes close to from the point of the protagonist’s mental journey and use of costumes and masks (er, Pink Rabbit instead of Slipperman?), so the more amazing it was, taking place 25 years down the line from the golden age of progressive rock.

The DVD tells a story about a story: how an ambiguous storyline existing in the band’s minds had been shaping into what would be a glorious culmination. “Going Underground” feature follows the show’s way to the stage through pictures which caught the band in hot discussions, extensive interviews with production team, images and sketches; now it becomes clear how the IQ logo was transformed in the “Subterranea” symbol. No chance was left for any accidental to occur, even the audience reaction to different light effects got taken care of. Still, the nervousness in the beginning, when the curtain behind lonesome Peter Nicholls reveals the players, is obvious – but, as the concert progresses, it’s gone and encores “Human Nature” and “The Wake” see the five at ease and jumping.

Their comments on what’s going on live provide an insight into the concept so there’s an urge to watch the concert twice, with the musicians’ voices off and on – ooh, this presence feel! No talk on-stage, projections fitting the lyrics work magnificently, capturing one’s attention and making hold a breath to a magic of the music. An ambition fulfilled.

*****



S.O.D. -
Speak English Or Live

SPV / Megaforce 2001

Strange, indeed, yet S.O.D. were the first band to proudly wear the “crossover” tag. Even stranger is that their every performance is a double show, one being what the quartet put on, the other the audience themselves. En masse element feels vital to what’s going on there, fans going wild no matter how polite their heroes are. And they aren’t – at least on-stage. Which concerns mainly their singer Billy Milano always looking and behaving like a grown-up teenager – especially, when in comes a flashback to 1985. Yes, they’ve been around for long – since then Milano grew a mane of hair, while ANTHRAX-spawned guitarist Scott Ian, who in “behind the scenes” cuts appears as intelligent singing a praise to his vocalist shaved his head off. Quite a personal thing, just like pre-gig doings in the dressing room and in-studio tips that the musicians give to those ignited by S.O.D.

There are many of them, cheering up as Billy farts to, spits at or dives into their ranks. This simplicity, epitomized in “Milano Mosh”, is buying, and the singer breaking a CD the same minute he calls it a “piece of history” feels an illustration to the “No Turning Back” song. In fact, both concerts there hark back to 1992. The more welcome is 1999′s Ian commenting on the footage. New York show, though shot very amateurish, feels exciting, the feeling that Germany outdoor performance comes short of. Which doesn’t mean it lacks energy – “March Of The S.O.D.” inevitably gets the audience going from the first second to the last – but the eye contact is important. And that is what this DVD gives in abundance.

***3/4



URIAH HEEP -
Sailing The Sea Of Light

Classic Rock Legends 2001


“Sailing The Sea Of Light” tells, in Tommy Vance narration, the story of the longest-serving HEEP line-up, together for 15 years now. Although the Dave Ling-edited book included in the special edition takes in some snippets from the film interviews, and there are some anecdotes to enjoy – like Mick Box coming to the STRATUS concert and singing off the top of his lungs to see how his and Bernie Shaw’s voices would match (which is true), or visas that the Russians had to obtain to go from Leningrad to Moscow (which is not true).

But though tales about Steff Fontaine’s oddity told in the pages are quite funny, one have to put the DVD in and hear how Trevor Bolder pronounces the name to feel HEEP’s feelings towards that singer. Strangely enough, neither DVD nor book mention John Lawton stepping in to sing in 1996 for South African tour, when Shaw had his throat operated. Hardly a drawback anyway, it gets compensated with a complete HEEP concert taped by Bulgarian TV, “Melinda” promotional video and two songs, “Pacific Highway” and “Mr. Majestic”, taken off the glorious Moscow stint, which was the start of this enduring sailing. Long may they sail!

*****



MOTORHEAD -
25 & Alive: Boneshaker

Steamhammer 2001


Warts and all, old hooligan Lemmy reins the ball in celebration of his rocking circus anniversary with this DVD+CD release. Quarter of the century down the line from being kicked off HAWKWIND, Ian Kilminster still generously shares his simple delights with millions. It’s visual and at the same time aural pleasure, as ‘HEAD don’t pull on that much of a show except for occasional dancing routine from Lemmy and Phil Campbell. Be the show more spectacular it may turn into sheer idiotism seen in bonus videoclips of “Sacrifice” and “God Save The Queen” (“not the last single but the latest one”). Queen? Up the Brixton Academy stage on October 22nd, 2000 was unlikely Brian May rather than Ozzy one might expect to. Oz does his cameo appearance anyway – in the archive film following the band’s progress. The more poignantly is to see the current looks of a guest from the past, “Fast” Eddie Clarke, and witness him not having lost a bit of fire. He joins Lemmy, Campbell and Mickey Dee for the good part of the concert and puts in his five cents to the backstage interviews which are relatively brief compared to the trio musings.

Perusing the obscure releases and the band galleries is, sure, curious but hearing the “We Are Motorhead” growl brings forth an animal kind of joy. There’s no other classification to this feel justifying “No Class” appeal. The band present an illustrious selection of smashes old and new, and though the cream – “Iron Fist”, “Bomber” (the metal construction changed a little with the years, ain’t it?), “Ace Of Spades” and “Overkill” – are kept to the end, it’s all relentless “orgasmatronic” rock’n'roll, down to Little Richard-ish (an influence) “Going To Brazil”. Musicians talk interrupting each other and swear: the camaraderie thrown from the stage is enormous, ‘HEAD not just claim they’re “Born To Raise Hell” – they do raise it. And there are girls, Doro Pesch and Sam Fox, jamming too – it’s Lemmy after all! – while the bass-plucking ringmaster never falls out of focus. Was he 55 at the moment? Well, yes – 55 and pretty much alive. Lemmy comes from “Lemme a fiver”. Take another 25 instead!

*****

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