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LANA LANE –
Project Shangri-La
Limb Music 2002
Does the title mean “building a paradise”? That’s likely with the singer’s new venture having no rough edges and instrumental “Redemption”, a progressive piece that rides on Lane’s other half Erik Norlander’s piano, a tone-setter. Even Vinnie Appice’s mighty drumming is mixed down to make the title track and “The Beast Within You” smooth for no obvious reason, leaving only ex-FAIR WARNING Helge Engelke’s guitar and Hammond or harpsichord bolster Lana’s voice. This escapism determines the collaborations shining here, a bit sharper than the rest comes Engelke’s penned rifferama of “Encore”, and a duet with Mark Boals in operatic “Time To Say Goodbye” sung in Italian. (“I Believe In You” by John Wetton appears as a bonus track on Japanese version, while others have “Romeo And Juliet”, recorded with Arjen Lucassen and Tony Franklin.) Still, the classical direction of this album feels good, fairy tales ballads like “Before You Go” comes nothing short of brilliance yet why crossing over to ZEPPELIN in “Tears Of Babylon”? Sliding to some cozy place and fear of risk are the reason why “Shangri-La” crashes down where it could have lift off.

***4/5
 

RINGO STARR
AND
HIS ALL STARR BAND
– The Anthology…
So Far
Eagle Records 2001
“The first among equal” is a principle this everchanging ensemble lives by. As simple as the question “What’s my name?” poised in the very beginning. Ex-Beatle’s name keeps the act together for more than ten years now, and here’s a deep wisdom: if John played only two solo concerts, George undertook only two solo tours, and only Paul performing for many years, how could the most modest of the four do it on his own? Sure, with a help from his friends, which is not hard for Starr’s such a likeable person that his friends are host. And the host Ringo appears to be to the classic rock elite who consider it a honour to join Richard Starkey in his endeavours.

The veterans not only find it easy to accompany – and be accompanied by! – Ringo but also clearly had an immense pleasure playing with each other. So to cherry-pick the best moments of different line-ups should’ve been a difficult task, there are 47 songs spread across three CDs. Starr himself delivers not more than fourteen hits spanning his whole career, from “Boys”, his 1963’s vocal debut with the Fabs, to a couple of tracks off 1992’s “Time Takes Time”. Never a great singer, he shines and excels, new version of “Honey Don’t” rocks on at full throttle. Why not, since here Ringo’s a ringmaster rather than one quarter of the best band in the world.

Under Starr’s banners on-stage come usual suspects like Billy Preston with his “Will It Go Round In Circle” meaty funk, Gary Brooker serenading “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”, or Joe Walsh, whose finest hour is not “Life In The Fast Lane” but newly-fashioned “Desperado”. There was some kind of reunion, when Ringo invited onboard Joe’s partner Timothy B. Schmidt thus making “I Can’t Tell You Why” sound true to the EAGLES original. Old friendships revival seems to be in the very spirit of ALL STARR BAND, their performances saw together THE BAND’s Levon Helm and now-departed Rick Danko sliding through “The Weight”, as well as E-STREET BAND members Nils Logfren and Clarence Clemons. Unfortunately, Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman of GUESS WHO were not in one line-up, so it’s the former who sreamed out “American Woman”, while the latter stuck to the BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE repertoire. Surprises are abound. Dr. John conjuring voodoo in “Iko Iko”. Simon Kirke doing his best Paul Rodgers impression in “All Right Now”. John Entwistle of THE WHO running the frets for his signature “Boris The Spider”, and the other the other bassist, Jack Bruce, burning “Sunshine Of Your Love”. Still one may only wonder why GRAND FUNK leader Mark Farner isn’t featured here when Peter Frampton received three spots.

With the musicians having brought in their cherished treasures, this set is an unbelievable bag of presents. Felix Cavaliere, Todd Rundgren and Dave Edmunds, each an equal attraction, deserved to be a part of ALL STARR BAND. So good so far. Yet “so far” in the album title means more. It means, Ringo’s circus return on the road on and on. Something not to be missed.

*****
 

IAN GILLAN –
Cherkazoo And Other Stories…
Eagle Records 1998
The epitome of hard rock warbler for many, Ian Gillan has always been a multi-faceted artist yet, spare for the Jesus part, all his attempts to go beyond were doomed. Here’s the evidence. Roger Glover wasn’t the first PURPLE member to enter the movie circuit – Gillan tried this path as early as 1971. The “Cherkazoo” should have turned out “an animal, space, musical travelogue fantasy,” as the author explained. Apparently, there was no interest from the film companies, and what’s left of the project is a few pieces of music. No sign of heaviness, Ian and Rog came up with charming pop songs, like the title track filled with harmonies inherited by the two from their early outfit, EPISODE SIX. “Monster In Paradise” and “The Bull Of Birantis” border with psychedelia little relevant this side of the ’60s but, fascinated with the ’50s, Gillan didn’t care and shaped “Donkey Ride Dream” and “Hogwash” into vaudeville numbers. Unfortunately, that side of the singer’s talent became downplayed as years went by.

Still, one of “Cherkazoo” songs, “Driving Me Wild” that the singer tested in bluesy and jazzy forms, had built a bridge to 1976’s session the essence of which makes the bulk of this disc. Not a tune of the same name issued in 1982 on “Magic”, it shows which direction Ian, inspired by the reception at the “Butterfly Ball” concert, was planning to pursue in order to establish himself as a solo performer – easy stuff: rockabilly of “She Called Me Softly”, croon of “You Led My Heart Astray”, or innocent soul of “Music In My Head”. Off those recordings only Elvis’s “Trying To Get To You” resurfaced later on the “For Gillan Fans Only” EP, while another standard, “Ain’t That Loving You Baby”, debuts here. “A Little Share Of Plenty” – a title says it all, and “You Make Me Feel So Good” is exactly how the singer’s admirers would relate to it. It’s them that “Cherkazoo” is for – or those who never heard of Gillan at all.

****1/3
 

RHAPSODY –
Power Of The Dragonflame
Limb Music 2002
Pitifully, the third, closing chapter of the “Emerald Sword Saga” doesn’t fully live up to the expectation – “Agony Is My Name”, the best song of all, is a title suspicious. No sensation this time, yet a passing phase, title track measure is stiltness instead of depth, while only a chorus is anything worthy in “When Demons Awake”. Not that it should’ve been any different from the previous albums but here the band comes locked in their own seriousness. Their own, because choir and orchestra already became a part of RHAPSODY’s formula, and it’s too much histrionics of Fabio Leone’s singing that defies folk-imposed immediacy in “The March Of Swordmaster” or romanticism of “Lamento Eroico”. Vocals takes over Alex Staropoli’s keyboards and Luca Turilli’s guitar squeezing their parts out for the latter to deliver an amazing acoustic intro to the epic “Gargoyles, Angels Of Darkness”. “Hollywood metal” sours to nothing more than a soundtrack. A pity.

****
 

SANDY DENNY –
Gold Dust
Island 1999
Ain’t it symbolic that the British folk queen made her final bow at the Royalty Theatre? November 27th, 1977 saw the closing performance of Sandy’s 11-date UK tour, her last ever as in five months Denny was gone. The higher, then, is the historical value of this album, and forgiven may be the fact that most of the guitar parts and backing vocals had to be re-recorded now – fortunately, by the same personnel, Jerry Donahue, Simon Nicol and Chris Leslie. Going solo, the singer loved to stay in friends’ company nevertheless, so her band was something between FAIRPORTS and FOTHERINGAY, with those mentioned before and Dave Mattacks on drums, Pat Donaldson on bass, and Rob Hendry and Trevor Lucas (Denny’s other half, now deceased too) handling guitars. The set list was a similar mix of Sandy’s endeavours – mostly slow-paced, it’s quite spooky, dramatically built concept of a concert.

That’s not an afterthought. Starting with Richard Thompson’s “I Wish I Was A Fool For You” from then-fresh “Rendezvous” album and keeping “Who Knows Where The Time Goes?” to the very end, songstress appears a worried spirit. Yet no matter what problems Sandy experienced having just given birth to a baby girl, her delivery in “Solo” and “I’m A Dreamer” is nothing short of sublime. Not a lot of folk here for past were the days of pastoral joys, Denny sounds a mature woman – she was only 30 at the time! – who had seen everything in this life and poured the weariness of the world in painful “Nothing More”. More solid than ever before was the golden voice of the golden-haired lady leading her band into “John The Gun” and showing rare self-confidence in “One More Chance”. Sandy hadn’t been bestowed with it but… No more sad refrains, as she requested.

*****
 

GRAHAM BONNET –
The Day I Went Mad
Escape Music 1999
The singer largely famous for his stint with RAINBOW, Bonnet’s main problem is quirky melodies but his forte lies in a powerful voice. All of this comes on display in the title track when the heady rock ‘n’ roll breaks into blissful “Ave Maria” which Mario Pargas guitar picks up from the vocals. Self-repetition may be considered a drawback too, and “Flying Not Falling” comes dangerously close to ALCATRAZZ output, yet this time Graham called up a strong line-up that includes bassists Bruce Kulick and Tony Franklin to make Mick Ronson-penned “Don’t Look Down” wonderfully thick, and effectively balance singer’s idiosyncratic approach, most notable in “Oh! Darling”, adorned with a solo from Slash. This classic and McCartney-esque ballad “This Day” show what a mixed bag the artist came up with now so it’s a surprise that he manages to keep it together. The denominator is basic rock riffs used as a trampoline even for curry-flavoured “Killer”, country-tinged “Model Inc.”, or “Hey That’s Me” alluring with hand-clapping Bonnet has always been fond of. Mad? Perhaps but this is an entertaining kind of madness.

****
 

MONTANY –
New Born Day
Limb Music 2002
With a history tracing back to the late ’80s, the Dutch quintet gained enough experience to make their debut impressive, “Back From The Sky” reflecting this bumpy ride with a brilliant smoothness, compelling tune and high energy packed into Patrick Van Maurik’s vocal delivery. “Smoothness” is the right word, as a tad more edginess would be welcomed to this classical mix of Dirk Hoek’s and Albert Houwaart’s guitar knot and the Brederode brothers’ tight rhythm section. Twin guitar thing looks not as developed as it could have been, taking to cliches of heroic metal, and whatever melodic they are, songs blur one into the other. That may be considered another quality which makes “New Born Day” a whole spiced with tidbits like “Scattered” or “World Of Dreams” piano. The seeds for a bright future sown, an urgent quest for the band’s own face is needed. Good background music currently, variety will make a new day more alluring.

***1/2
 

PHIL LYNOTT –
Live In Sweden 1983
Zoom Club 2002
A definitive moment of this fantastic artefact is Philo introducing “The Boys Are Back In Town” with a couplet off POLICE’s “Every Breath You Take”, which shows the artist’s move from the heavy lore into clever pop rock. Sting hardly an example, yet it’s him the kind of singing bassist icon Lynott was supposed to become after his previous endeavour ceased to exist. It was the conceptual decision rather than musical, as the band Phil embarked with on his solo tour a mere month before his mammoth ensemble’s last exit were a couple of members away of the final LIZZY line-up. If Doishe Nagle is not that known anyway, a subtitle “featuring John Sykes and Mark Stanway” doesn’t do justice to Brian Downey, a drummer who’d been with his friend through thick and thin. Or THIN, indeed, while it’s MAGNUM keyboardist Stanway, Sykes’ buddy, who’s responsible for these tapes resurfacing to reveal the real Lynott.

“A Night In The Life Of A Blues Singer” is the best illustration of these recordings made on August 5th and 6th 1983 (each given a CD in this package) that show not macho but a man clearly nervous coming out on his own: when Lynott goes, “Mama, mama, mama, my soul’s destroyed,” tears ring in his voice just like love overflows “Sarah” dedicated to “a very special girl”, Phil’s daughter. He’s trying to hide this soft spot behind the humour and calls one of his most famous tunes “Parisienne Blowjob”; a hit that established Gary Moore’s profile in his co-writer’s reading is much mellower (famous long note kept in). That’s how the artist felt about then, even “Still In Love With You” took on a new height. That’s where went the division between his past and all too short future.

Of course, the audience wouldn’t have allowed Lynott to leave out THIN LIZZY hits – his own creatures them all including unreleased “Look In These Eyes” – yet Phil followed his new line. So here’s a unique chance to hear for the first time not only live rendition of “Sarah” but also the beautiful reggae of “Solo In Soho”, social pop of “Yellow Pearl”, naive “Old Town”. And even though “King’s Call” sounds shaky it’s a poignant valediction to Phil himself.

*****
 

PRETTY MAIDS –
Planet Panic
Massacre Records 2002
Fifteenth album is a respectable deed but for the Danish band it also signals sliding into groove too comfortable, the music’s as original as the cover artwork: one shot too many, and each Ken Hammer’s riff, like those of “One Way To Rock” or “Playing Gods”, seems too familiar. Whatever brave musicians play, the ensemble feel tired with a rare glimpse of catchiness, there’s a wonderful acoustic guitar woven into “Worthless” and the ballad “Natural High” artfully combining pop tune and fiery rock’n’roll of which Ronnie Atkins’ voice snatches the mood. Elsewhere, it’s an artificial rage, “Virtual Brutality”, that’s how they put in the opener spliced with sampled sounds. Witnessed are a bunch who’ve lost their way and stumble upon SABBATH in “Not What You Think” or LIZZY in “Face Of My Enemy”. “Mentally subsided”? Quite likely so.

***1/3
 

STEVE HOWE –
Natural Timbre
Eagle Rock 2001
Never far away from use of acoustic, YES’ guitar wiz comes up with eighteen tunes performed on no less than 22 instruments. Even so, there’s an obvious restriction, the pieces sounding more chamber and disciplined yet the stylistical range is wider than before. There’s Big Bill Broonzy-inspired “Intersection Blues” drawing on country and jazz-tinged “Distant Seas” alongside medieval pavane of “The Little Galliard” and “Winter” which sees the master tackling Vivaldi for the second time (the first was back in 1979). All tunes are massively filled with air – thus, natural timbre concerns guitars as well as overall vibe, Steve’s accompaniment being his son Dylan, on drums, Anna Palm’s whose violin makes “In The Course Of The Day” almost an authentic, if moody, bluegrass, and Andrew Jackman playing piano and recorders on the YES tunes. Howe re-shaped the classics his fans voted for: now “Your Move” has vocal part delivered on acoustic guitar, bass lines on mandolin and guitars on mandola, in “Disillusion” voice is substituted with two steel guitars, and here’s the uppermost magic in epic “To Be Over”, that the band didn’t touch since 1975! Maybe, it was the time referred to in solemn “Golden Years”, blues turning hymn. “Through the eyes of those who can’t disguise what they have seen,” goes composer’s comment; the nature of Steve’s music is revealing rather than hiding, that’s why this timbre is easy to relate to.

****1/3
 

PRIMAL FEAR –
Black Sun
Nuclear Blast 2002
Here’s a concept album that sees FEAR’s metal eagles heading for the stars. Attack, that’s what the “Countdown To Insanity” kicking intro and the title track are about, driven by Matt Sinner’s double bass and riffs from Henny Wolter and Stefan Leibing. Their soloing saves “Armageddon” where Ralf Scheepers’ vocal part copies Ozzy‘s of “Symptom Of The Universe”. Yet he’s good, spitting fury into “Revoltuion” – a melodic finetuning of the band progresses on and on, arresting “SIlence” the witness, what can’t be said of the lyrics: battle and metal become subject tedious and dubious. Such are the rules of this game but a feeling of the band conforming to them is overwhelming. Presently, it’s alright, and, hopefully, black sun won’t turned out a trap.

***4/5
 

GLUECIFER –
Basement Apes
Steamhammer 2002
If the humour of the title can slip away, the mood of the record can’t. Frisky, spiky rock’n’roll to which occasional member of THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES and the like are drawn induces pelvis twisting as “Reversed” zooms in with Stu Manx’s screwdriver bass and fiery guitars from Captain Poon and Raldo Useless. The names lead to the core of some punk play, yet all the swagger of “Losing Ends” comes juxtaposed here with mellotron-filled “Little Man”, a “Space Oddity” brother a bit strange to the early ’60s teenage panache where these little devils dwell. They awash Biff Malibu’s Jagger-ish prance in an organ swirl and amazing instrumental work – Danny Young’s tremendous drumming works a treat. The title of “I Saw The Stones Move” may seem ambiguos thus, but this bluesy lurch appears the most unexpected trick with slide guitar and harmonica of “It Won’t Be” or “Brutus” boogie piano. “Powertools And Piss” is an instrumental for all feeling low: we find apes copying people an entertainment, GLUECIFER made it an art.

*****
 

DAVE KERMAN/ 5UU’S
– Abandonship
Cuneiform Records 2002

Distributed in Israel by Jazzis

Having relocated to Israel, Dave Kerman not only didn’t miss a chance to team up with native players but has also been basing his aural pictures on what he sees around him now. “The weight of the world hovers over all of Tel Aviv,” intriguingly goes “Hill Of Spring” (“Tel Aviv” in Hebrew) before spilling in honks, while “Yordei Hasira” draws the city in intense musique concrete buzz of street vendor and wind-up monkey toy infused into eerie 12-string howl and nervous drums. This attempt of creating the musical box playing Frippertronics, so clear in “Penguins On Dizengoff” appears quite a traditional palette for the one who co-led U-TOTEM and was in THINKING PLAGUE; from the latter band, Deborah Perry appears here to dance the “infant tango” of hypnotically paradoxal anxious pastoral “Couple #3 Is A Solo” contrasted by the “Thoroughly Modern Attila” crazy bolero sprawling its murky tentacles across the album. Here and there touched are the political (“Suits”) and religious (“Noah’s Flame”) matters as intertwined in Kerman’s new home as piano and tuneless organ lines in his music. “Belly-Up” epitomizing surrender sheds a different light on the album title: an element hard to struggle and at the same time hard to get away from.

****4/5
 

RONDELLUS –
Sabbatum
Beg The Bug 2002
The most original tribute to BLACK SABBATH, the work by renowned Estonian purveyors of genuine medieval music sees Ozzy-era classics re-shaped and – an amazing thing! – translated to Latin. Remarkable and significant is that the only album not represented herein is “Technical Ecstasy”, the one belonging to the future rather than past. Going back in time once more proves the heavenly, not hellish source of this music: bariton and tenors make “After Forever” sound very sinister but, with Miriam Andersen’s and Maria Staak’s voices, “War Pigs” takes sublime chorale heights. If these were a natural choice, the oddest one could be “The Wizard”, a pure blues originally that seems difficult to translate into RONDELLUS’ formula. Solution was found in distilling the folk roots of the piece and putting them forth with Andersen’s gothic harp and Tonu Joesaar’s fiddle. At the same time “Solitude” receives another angle, positive organ replacing the Iommi’s flute yet retaining rural feel in Staak’s soprano and Veikko Kilver’s tenor.

Strong vocal focus may be an unexpected feature – especially when a violin duet of “A National Acrobat” and “Symptom Of The Universe” two organistrums offset voices to quite a monotone sound – but balance springs from fantastic hurdy gurdy of “Junior’s Eyes”, soothing if compared to the valediction Oz sang to his dad. The full force of the band comes with uniquely mesmerising “Behind The Wall Of Sleep” delivered by eight-strong line-up; the song gained a suitable trance ambience which, along with “Wheels Of Confusion”, can be attributed to the gurgling witches brew – there are burning cauldrons everywhere in the booklet. The more chilling then ring drops of lute in “Planet Caravan” and the more exciting the bagpipe accompanying the march of “A Hard Road”. The selection of unlikely material shows how deep an understanding of SABBATH music RONDELLUS have hitting the very heart of each piece, stripping all the extravaganza of “Spiral Architect” to just voice and lute. Forget “Nativity In Black” – this is a real magic and wizardry.

*****
 

DEMON –
Spaced Out Monkey
Record Heaven 2001
Metal heroes take off to outer space, “Never Saw It Coming” outlines a formula with fragile keyboard line smoothing off the angular riffarama and Dave Hill rapping the world’s capital, thus uniting two meanings of the word “universal”. This combination of acoustic and electronic keeps the band modern enough to kick the title cut into charts ’cause there’s a melodic appeal the veterans are good at: whatever patchy “Beat Of The Underground” is it rocks at full swing for all to sway to. Or to bow down to bare nerve of the “Child Of The Dark Sky” blues with its guitars imitating violins yet that’s quite raw to not steer too far in the open, “Dreamtime” an anchor. So while it’s great to hear classic hard rock of “Let Me Out Of Here”, in-between position is where the music falls with this pretty concept work. But if HAWKWIND are too spaced out for you to get, DEMON cook a tasty drug.

****
 

SHATEA – Waiting
Jazzis Records 1992
An Israeli Arabs band playing rock is a rare surprise still left in the modern music. There’s an undeniable RENAISSANCE influence in piano and voice of “Across The Sea” and “See You Soon” but Safa’a Ammar’s soulful delivery makes the band’s output stand out. And it’s crazy, title track and instrumental “P-23″ drawing equally on Motown funk and neoprog: Klofa Totary’s guitar rings around Raymond Haddad’s slinky bass while Kareem Nusser and Saml Kamboura work out a jazzy keyboards solos. Sometimes though synths feel too “plastic”, like in “Colors”, yet wavering voice, crawling desert melody and children choir save the day, weaving the sonic cloth both intense and transparent – an a cappella part of “Utopia” is impossible to resist. They escape boasting their roots, this path is beaten now, still it’s deep in anxious “Distant Voice” that develops in heartwrecking masterpiece. Reach out for “Oh Brother”, Eastern rhythm housing Western rockabilly solo, a point where the twain had met. An elusive moment of bliss for the waiting.

****1/3
 

ROCKFOUR –
Another Beginning
Third Ear Music 2001
Originally titled “One Fantastic Day” and scheduled for September 11th, 2001 release, the album had to be renamed “Another Beginning”. That’s what it is for Israeli combo whose first major work in English (a kinda combination of the previous two released only in Israel) is making a hype. While many have a go at the ’60s innocent psychedelia, only a few hit the target: imagine Syd Barrett deputizing for Ray Davies, and here’s “Government”, an institution paying dues to tradition. Yet the band do their own thing so don’t get fooled by bluesy “Route 66″, and there’s less from the Fabs than “Smell Of Sweets”or occasional tabla strokes suggest. Although not everything bears the immediacy of “Funny Paper/Money Maker” and polyphony tuned around Eli Lulai’s vocals still has to gain individuality, ROCKFOUR’s knack for wonderful melodies bravely wrapped in sound effects, like in “Oranges”, is amazing. A secret may lie in clever economy, no guitar solo from Baruch Ben-Izhak being exuberant. “President Of Me”comes not only as deliciously orchestrated, spiritual ballad, but an introvert philosophy as well, a vision for everyone to relate. It’s easy with feelings born on the cosmic playground of childhood, which soft deep heart is re-visited with “Dark Side” buzz of “Austronauts” and romantic “Superman”. A hit? “Wild Animals”! Their universe expanding, for this ensemble cult following is a frame too tight.

*****
 

FIVE FIFTEEN –
Death Of A Clown
Record Heaven 2001
A good joke. What could be a covers album with titles like “Death Of A Clown”, “Season Of The Witch”, “Lick Your Fingers Clean” and “My Oh My” there’s neither KINKS, nor Donovan, neither TULL, nor SLADE tune on the offer – shadows of the past lurk only in a classic schemes that are the foundation for the Swedes’ original material. More ZEP for “Season Of The Witch”, anyone? You’d better keep from namechecking the influences, as the songs like “She Kicked Your Present Off The Bed” are designed to fool (“I fooled you after all” are the album’s final words) as much as to oil the ears with arresting meloldies. It might come from ’70s, sprinkled with Pate Kivinen’s analog keyboards and Esa Mark’s guitars. The music swings between glam and solid hard rock taking blues in-between. There’s “The Prostitute” with its catchy “we belong” refrain lingering on Mika Jarvinen’s and Hanna Wendelin’s voices on one side and, on the other, “Stone Cold Heartbreaker” guitar riffs and Hammond solo getting a grip on yer guts. All tongue-in-cheek, profound “Sometimes It Helps” highlights the band’s attitude saying “I throw up to the wishing well”. Ain’t it wonderful? – especially when they hark back to the psychedelic Britannia in “From London With Love”. So follow the instruction “To be played at maximum volume” and… let’s all drink to the death of a clown.

*****
 

ANNIHILATOR –
Waking The Fury
Steamhammer 2002
Bass and drums solos of compelling “Striker” have old stallions raging with a live approach, fittingly defined in the opening track as “Ultra Motion”. Modern synth icing underneath, there’s a band never still yet sticking to their guns. Kicking Grieg’s “Mountain King” for “Prime Time Killing” may seem one cliche too many but it’s hard to stay away of “Ritual” that takes you in. Jeff Walters’ and Curran Murphy’s twin guitars paint sensible fireworks and sway to and fro depending on what force Joe Corneau puts in his vocal delivery but always keeping good speed balance with rhythm section. Randy Black’s drumming lets Russ Berquist’s bass crawl in for a crazed rock’n’roll of “Lunatic Asylum”. If you gotta lotta nerve, as rollicking “Nothing To Me” goes, waking the fury is a good exercise in going psychic. That’s what “Cold Blooded” hot rhyme is about.

****4/5
 

MINISTRY – Sphinctour
Mayan Records 2002
Those horny freaks finally bring out a live album proper – right in time for the band’s 20th anniversary, though the material was recorded during 1996’s Sphinctour. A real treat for the fans, the experience is not for heart-fainted: there’s a riot goin’ on from the thrash of “Psalm 59″ undercut with Al Jourgenson’s madcap recital and on to the chillling decadent “Fall”. That’s a shamanic thing with quite a danceable groove and inductrial noise being spilled out. It may seem dull unless some little things sip through: folk licks inserted into “Reload” or bluesy harmonica for “Filth Pig”. So having mis-heard the “Crumbs” refrain for “trance” you don’t get away too far because it feels exactly like this. Still, it’s as sharp when metal finds its way into “Hero” and “Thieves” is a razor-edged punk – well, what else they could do with such a tour title? A fart for everyone’s sake.

*****
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