Angel Air 2014
Rough ‘n’ ready, the glam squad get their act together for the final blockbusting hurray.
One may speculate it was in the USA in March 1976, when Ritchie Blackmore came on-stage with SWEET to pay a tribute to Paul Kossoff, who died a few days earlier, that RAINBOW guitarist told his compatriots about recording haunts Clearwell Castle and Château d’Hérouville, and it was there that the Ballroom Blitz brigade worked on their arguably heaviest album, the last to feature singer Brian Connolly. A solid record, “Level Headed” saw the light of day in January 1978, but the band started preparation to take it on the road much earlier, this collection documenting their stay at Shepperton Studios. With no less than seven new songs – six cuts from the forthcoming LP and single “Stairway To The Stars” – in the set list, it reflects the quartet’s earnest attempt to get serious, and they sound the part.
Unfortunately, the lead vocalist’s pipes are so shot and raw in places here that it feels rather convenient that Connolly always took the low end of harmonies in the majestic “Love Is Like Oxygen” whereas his voice gives a nice weight to rarities like the pounding “Done Me Wrong Alright” with its twin-axe assault and Hammond solo or the exquisitely laced “You’re Not Wrong For Lovin’ Me” which more than compensate for it. Set against these, time-tested hits “Fox On The Run” and “Action” somehow sag, as their riffs – reinforced by seasoned session players, Gary Moberley on keyboards and Nico Ramsden on guitar – receive a late ’70s gloss. Yet the group decided to give a live airing to the roaring epic “Windy City” as well as “Yesterday’s Rain” from their 1976 and 1977 platters and deliver them with envious aplomb which the romanticism of “Dream On” and “California Nights” lacks, while the line-up expansion, punctured with Steve Priest‘s bass, shines there.
Still, the lyricism warps when the Scott-sang “Lady Starlight” introduces references to cocaine and Valium, which can’t be said of “Fountain” where ragged elegance and sharpness collide before the Greek twang of “Air On ‘A’ Tape Loop” takes the panache into space, and “Set Me Free” rips it up. As close as it gets to the actual live show, these rehearsal tapes provide a great insight into the famous glamsters different clothes.