To the reviews index

Forty Licks
Virgin 2002
Forty years – and still rolling on. The greatest living band in the world unturn the milestones.

Blimey, they’re here for four decades! Now THE STONES’ long path seems to have always been paved with gold, but back in 1962, did anyone think the combo of lousy looking lads would go to this length? Ten years down the line, in 1972, who could bet their drug-fueled exile wouldn’t turn the flight into plight? Come 1982, the exhausted bunch look for undercover to get through. 1992 sees their ranks about to downsize. What about 2002, then? A full circle, an impetus of the year one channeled into energy that’s hard to measure: one of four new songs on this greatest hits collection is “Don’t Stop”, which makes believe there’s at least another ten years lying ahead.

So swing back to “Tumbling Dice” to scale how much the band progressed over the years. Thankfully, not much and they’re still the same, spare for Mick Jagger’s phrasing and Keith Richard’s guitar elasticity that can stretch much now without getting really thin, and if Keef sings “Losing My Touch”, another new addition to THE STONES’ register, it’s as tongue-in-cheek as only they can do. The ensemble made a caricature of themselves so many times, the fans just learnt to love it. But “Street Fighting Man”, “Gimme Shelter”, “Satisfaction” – the running order suggests “Forty Licks” is a sort of concept album that the band have never released. Yet, at this stage, their still-piling catalogue is the best concept of all.

All the albums now remastered, this compilation feels a good taster of how the old gems can sound, if dusted off: Bill Wyman’s propeller-like bass in the tail-end of “19th Nervous Breakdown” gripping to the very bone and pristine mono of “The Last Time” caressing a nerve – the more enrapturing then comes stereo-panning “It’s All Over Now”.

A delight in itself is the booklet filled with rare photographs and detailing who did what on which song: thus we may learn it was Brian Jones playing piano on “Ruby Tuesday”, with Richards and Wyman operating bowed double bass. And if you’re not as convinced by THE STONES’ santiment of “Angie” or “Fool To Cry”, a poignant moment comes with a picture of keyboardist Ian Stewart: of all the musicians helping the band through the years, the one who got cut off from the line-up due to his non-rebel looks was the most faithful, and his boogie abandon is as vital to the spirit here on, among others, “Honky Tonk Women” as on ZEPPELIN’s “Boogie With Stu”; the other link between two giant combos being John Paul Jones responsible for “She’s A Rainbow” string arrangements.

As for strings, the glaring omission is the absence of “As Tears Go By”, the first Jagger-Richards joint venture into songwriting. One may also bemoan an inclusion of blankly funky “Shattered” as the third song, along with obligatory “Miss You” and “Beast Of Burden”, from the bleak “Some Girls” instead of early numbers like Chuck Berry’s “Carol” or “Come On” to get closer to genuine rock ‘n’ roll than “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”. And even though the answer lies here too – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” about ironically sums up the ensemble’s stance – it’s a big pity that all the little licks for an alert ear notwithstanding, those who choose to live with this fantastic collection will never know what a hell of bluesy group THE STONES have always been.


Louisiana ’55
N-M-C Music 2002
The great pretender about to take on the rock throne.

With Presley’s earliest live recordings released for the first time, came a feel of sensation and a praise from the most famous of the King’s fans, Sir Paul McCartney. All deservedly, as no other tape – neither studio cuts, nor 1968’s comeback – have caught the raw energy of a young rockin’ stud which Elvis was back in 1955 when, a year shy of the fame and fortune, he rode the waves of “Lousiana Hayride” with wild renditions of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” and “Hound Dog” and Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman”. Those numbers are the best evidence as to why the royal laurels were placed on the former truck driver’s head and how he managed to steal rhythm-and-blues from the black performers. It’s the feeling not leg-shaking that made the audience go hysterical to “Money Honey”, even maybe more than to the hits associated with Presley’s name – “That’s Alright (Mama)”, “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Heartbreak Hotel” which a compere misnames as “Motel”. Additional effect comes from the fiery backing to that lava-hot voice, Scotty Moore’s licks bouncing off Bill Black’s double-bass and DJ Fontana’s fountaining drums. Still, if the secret of the King’s birth needs to be investigated further and an interview snippet squeezed between songs isn’t enough, there’s a whole second CD with more of that, where Elvis can be heard telling he’s serious about music not girls and pondering whether rock ‘n’ roll is a passing phase. That’s kingly.


Concerto For Group And Orchestra
Harvest 1969
Deep Purple 2002

The first full version of the first full-fledged symphony and rock marriage.

Whatever you may think of it now but the event which took place on September 24th, 1969 at the Royal Albert Hall preceded everything – HEEP’s “Salisbury”, ELP’s ‘Works”, Wakeman’s “Journey” – that followed in the wake of the PURPLE experiment, just like PURPLE themselves followed THE BEATLES a bit earlier, in “April”, in terms of complementing the band’s sound with rich orchestral textures to imbue the music with dramatics. This time it was different though, for the group not only took to playing what could be described only as classical piece but also brought in on-stage with no studio version to align to, a trick not to be repeated again when, two years later, Jon Lord came up with “Gemini Suite”. To add to the novelty, “Concerto” was to introduce a new line-up to the audience and open a new, the most interesting, chapter in the ensemble’s history.

The PURPLE profile not so high in their native Britain, not so many paid attention to the single “Hallelujah”, released a couple of months before, and it’s only from the Albert Hall stage that they heard the band’s sound reinforced with Roger Glover’s bass and Ian Gillan’s voice, both as impressive as Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar playing, Ian Paice’s drumming and Jon Lord’s organ pumping. The change proved pulpable from the rock set wreak as a warm-up gig: “Hush”, the group’s debut ’45 quite stiff in the Mk 1’s handling was now very loose and shone anew, and “Wring That Neck”, a magnificient instrumental, stunning with Lord and Paice’s jazzy language more so with Blackmore’s progress. Over the year’s period, as comparisons with "Inglewood" show, the guitarist’s delivery gained the quality that made Ritchie as influential a guitarist, and all the elements are here – an interplay with organ with spaces to be filled later with voice, even familiar lines yet to appear in new songs, the first of those already there.

“Child In Time”, must be said, was the last piece to feature “Gibson” guitar, and the difference between that and “Fender Stratocaster” sound seems obvious. Rather different to the final cut, especially in solos department, the song “about a loser”, in Gillan’s words, together with “Wring That Neck”, makes evident another characteristic PURPLE acquired, which was dynamics, a sonic space explored from the notes hardly heard to the deafening loudness the band became famous for. That’s the orchestral thing, and that’s what made possible the “Concerto” itself.

If one were to pioneer the rock and symphony fusion, it had to be Jon Lord, a piano player with academic background and six-year rhythm-and-blues experience who managed to strike a chord with The Royal Philarmonic Orchestra conductor Malcolm Arnold so that the “Concerto” could easily be credited to both. “First Movement: Moderato – Allegro” builds up in Tchaikovsky tradition, serene strings interspersed with dramatic brass, into Saracenic dance where the band kicks in with frenetic guitar and organ leads underpinned with brief bursts of bass and imaginative drumming. Less interesting may feel vocal lines Gillan puts into “Second Movement: Andante” but it’s this emotional singing that gave Ian his part in “Jesus Christ Superstar” less than a year later, and Glover’s fretwork is a vital part of “Third Movement: Vivace Presto” as Paice’s solo which steals the show and got to be repeated and expanded as an encore. Standing ovation was more than an affirmation of success – as well as 30th anniversary “Concerto” staging in 1999.

Yet there’s more to it than a marriage mission accomplishment. As great a stage performance as it was, chart-wise “Concerto For Group And Orchestra” went flop and that was the last straw in the tug between Lord’s classical inclinations and Blackmore’s heavy leanings. The knot cut loose, the hard rocking monster was unleashed.


Hello From The Gutter
SPV 2002
While those born at the time of the OVERKILL arrival reach booze-drinking age, the band count the cost.

The title track quite perfecty sums up what the gang are about – supercharged rock ‘n’ roll nerve laid bare for all to get electrocuted. And everyone’s been doing exactly so for 21 years now. Musicians seem to thrive on the energy channelled this way – one third of 24 songs of this “Best Of” collection are full-on live versions, kicked high with guitar mayhem and Bobby Ellsworth’s vocal idiosyncrasy. Spanning all the albums, “Hello From The Gutter” clearly shows how faithful to their initial course OVERKILL remained over the years. A key to this longevity may come from the name, and that’s the reason for two songs called “Overkill” to be included, their own beautiful beast and a MOTORHEAD classic. What anchores the ensemble to the tradition even more is D. D, Verni’s mighty bass – just listen to the “Electro-Violence” rumble. With “Rotten To The Core” and “Fuck You” providing a glance back to the punk attitude and “Black Line” being an arena anthem, past looks glorious enough to make the band’s approach as pertinent today, as proved by “Thunderhead”. That means, no matter what they call “Long Time Dyin'”, OVERKILL live on!


Natural Wild
Ballistic 1980,
N-M-C re-issue 2002
The Rex of reggae leaves the Earth for an outer space.

Traditionally, reggae’s appeal stems either from the off-beat rhythm or the genre’s political gravity. Prince Lincoln Thompson embraced it all but added another vital ingredient that makes his music so special: the voice. It’s this bitter-sweet instrument that lifts “Mechanical Devices” way up the song’s content casting away the Babylon system and praising the humanity values. Going, “We’re gonna fight for the right of every human being” in “People’s Minds”, his shot seemed so universal that “Spaceship” easy dub takes off really cosmic, remaining quite rootsy though. With this brilliant album Prince Lincoln moved on from latter day stylistics back into rock steady territory – hence the presence of Joe Jackson’s boogie piano and jazzy drift of the title track, the best example of “My Generation” attitude. All that may sound rather smooth, and “Smiling Faces” is a hit but with sincerity oozing off every pore, “Natural Wild” appears a gem, with “God Sent Dub” mixes giving more polish.


Rock Fantasia Opus 9
Sterne 1980,
Musea re-issue 2002
Rock of ages running back to the Medieval era – on a guilded thread.

They should have been warned by the likes of AMAZING BLONDEL and GRYPHON and known how limited their audience would be, but the French bunch would chose that path anyway – such was the determination of their leader, Alain Carbonare. Producing traditional instruments like psalteries and lyres himself and writing music rooted in 15th century, what Carbonare wanted his band to do was hardly rock. The music’s here calm and breezy, with a lot of air between the strings and piano, “Prefixe Et Dance” swinging from new age beauty to court dance. So, although “Rockopus 7” has a special groove in it, all the pieces are exquisite enough to draw on a different kind of feeling than many a prog composition, the electric guitar solo of “Concerto Pour Un Minot” notwithstanding. Only 25 minutes in duration, the album enchants – still, it could fare better without two tracks, recorded in 1986: if Bach’s one is OK, Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy” signals a beaten path – what this band had always been trying to steer clear.


Different Stages
SPV 2002
Funk Meister, as seen through false mirror, is too heavily laden to reflect different stages.

Someone seems to have taken “The Voice Of Rock” moniker tagged on Glenn Hughes too seriously. The artist himself has always been denying his firm association with hard rock dabbling with many genres often bordering with funk and soul, so to not include into this “Best Of” collection anything from Hughes’ solo debut, “Play Me Out” (1977), not even mentioned in the booklet, is quite unfair. Understandable though it is: what SPV took in comes from the label’s own releases. That’s why there’s no sign of “Blues”, Glenn’s “return” album, but, fortunately, “Burning Japan Live” and “Live In South America” EP accompanying 2000’s "Return Of Crystal Karma" contained enough material from various eras of the master’s 30-odd year career.

The choice feels strange: of six DEEP PURPLE tracks here, Hughes was the main singer only on “Gettin’ Tighter”, while “Lady Double Dealer” could easily be discarded in favor of “This Time Around”; the same with TRAPEZE songs – Glenn’s signature tune “Coast To Coast” didn’t make it to “Different Stages” alongside heavy funk masterpiece “Your Love Is Alright”. Soulful side of Hughes is reflected by songs from 1995’s “Feel”, “From Now On” from the eponymous record, and – a paradox – fantastic re-working of “No Stranger To Love” and “You Keep On Movin”, originally recorded with, respectively, BLACK SABBATH and PURPLE. Anyway, the talent and voice shine throughout heavy stuff, be it numbers from an acclaimed “Hughes / Thrall” project, a bit awkward cover of Hendrix’s “Freedom” or “Can’t Stop The Flood” off the latest, "Building The Machine". Hardly a portrait to please the artist or real fan, this may be an introduction to Glenn Hughes’ music – but ain’t a double CD a bit too much for the purpose?


The Lords Prayers II
N-M-C Music 2002
Rarest jam from the punks who were glam.

LORDS, the bastard children of Stiv Bator and Brian James, never followed hit-and-run formula in terms of live shows, but they were no slouch in notching a brilliant song and tuck it away on some obscure release. Combining sides from Germany and France with previously unissued material, this collection has enough stuff to surprise with. For one, there’s Rufus Thomas’ “Walking The Dog” boogie that goes so nicely, rthythmically, with the alternate version of almost baroque “Dance With Me”. But that’s for everybody’s delight, while completists will be happy to bite into the “I Wanna Be Disengaged” dirge from the movie “Tapeheads” and get hold of unreleased songs, “Never Be Another One” as strong as LORDS’ classics, or “New Victorians”, basically a variant of “Real Bad Time”, which is also here, strung on Grant Flemming’s sprightly bass. This versatility goes on the lyrical level – “Loyal To The Queen” an opposite to “She’s not the human being”? – and on stylistical too: how many punks were glam enough to do the blues? Live staple “Route 66” didn’t make it to “Prayers I” yet here it draws a bridge to the bonus concert CD, “My Father’s Place”. A method to the madness, really.

Steamhammer re-issues 2002
Gutter Ballet 1989

Streets 1991

Edge Of Thorns 1993

The second triplet tracking the band on the wane – before they went Phoenix.

“When The Crowds Are Gone” was a telling title: by the end of ’80s SAVATAGE appeared at the dead end street – hairy metal they were an antidote to started to vanish, and without this competition and a fatigue the quartet faded too. “Gutter Ballet” sounded a bit hysteric, as kicked off with “Of Rage And War”, yet Jon Oliva’s classical leanings, clear in instrumental numbers and piano of the title track, pushed them into the sublime. As a result, though not perfectly balanced, album still stands proud with smashes like “Hounds” and “Summer’s Rain”. Unlike the next one.

“Streets” was a wrong way to get out of the ditch. Conceptually a cross between “Ziggy Stardust” and “Tommy”, a rock opera format appeared a bite too much for SAVATAGE – and a storyline by longtime producer Paul O’Neill not so strong as well. They had too much pathos yet too little operatic possibilities, arragements of “Jesus Saves” kind turning out more pop-based, the orchestrations of previous efforts gone, “You’re Alive” being a pure glam, and only “Ghost In The Ruins” on par with what had been done before.

“Edge Of Thorns” signalled the end of an era, with Jon Oliva stepping out off the microphone for Zachary Stevens to sing arguably better, though Jon still was writing and playing keyboards. Moreover, the album was the last to feature his brother’s guitar – in a year Chris Oliva would be dead. The more poignant his playing sounds on acoustic “Sleep” and sharp rock ‘n’ roll “Lights Out”. It was a time for a change, as marked out by “Follow Me” which runs from subtle balladeering to full-on attack, but the realisation of the intent came later. Now, it’s all history told in exhaustive (if unreadable due to small font) liner notes and augmented with a smattering of bonus tracks. Next, Al Pitrelli came onboard, and SAVATAGE reinvented themselves into a power metal machine.


Liver Than You’ll Ever Be
N-M-C Music 2002
“Ein, zwei, drei! Down in flames!” that’s how it was in NY’s Ritz on the Christmas of 1987 when, seven years after the break-up, the original DEAD BOYS got on stage once more. For the last time, as by 1991 Stiv Bators successfully fulfilled a desire he sang about in “I Wanna Be A Dead Boy”. Then and there though the band delivered a blistering set kicked off with “Sonic Reducer” which retained all of its momentum in an era when punk was long gone, the fact a lot of people clearly hadn’t come to terms with. The reaction is fantastic throughout, screams drowning the music, so Cheetah Chrome’s guitar feedback and dirty sound add much to the atmosphere of what could be a definitive live document of the genre.The foursome hardly needed to tackle the STOOGES’ “Search & Destroy” and THE STONES’ “Tell Me”, they would rival RAMONES in pop numbers like “What Love Is” or “I’m Calling To You” and the hiatus didn’t diminish their appeal. “I Need Lunch”, a hook out-and-out, makes the audience rave while the rhythm section of Jimmy Zero and Johnny Blitz keep the punters going wild. And here’s Bators, a charismatic frontman in all his glamorous glory, enjoying the show as well, even changing the “Ain’t It Fun” lyrics to “there’s fun”. “Ain’t it fun when you’ve broken up every band that you’ve ever begun and you know that you’re gonna die young,” sounds very poignant from today’s perspective giving this recording a dramatic slant. Maybe a bit of liner notes would augment the package but this music is eloquent enough not to complain.


In My Own Way
The Complete Sessions
N-M-C Music 2002
In 1974 a band called ALICE COOPER decided to take a break for each member to release a solo record. Once one of them came up with “Welcome To My Nightmare” album, the ensemble days were numbered, and for various complicated reasons an album by guitarist Michael Bruce wasn’t released. No doubt, this little gem couldn’t compete with his friend’s big production success, what doesn’t diminish its beauty. From the opening “King Of America” exuberant BEATLES-ish harmonies wrap around the ears with Michael’s warm voice and soft guitar strokes that go so sublime with the lush strings of the title track. No sign of pretention in these ten songs, among them SLADE’s “So Far So Good” and THE EASYBEATS’ “Friday On My Mind”, and if “Lucky Break” has a cabaret streak it only adds to the overall joy.

The sessions were joy – you can feel it, there’s a lot of working versions and leftovers from the album on the second CD – so it’s no coincidence Keith Moon paid visit to the studio. Mooney got drunk and his parts weren’t used but another guest’s were: Alice joined in for “As Rock Rolls On”, the most sharp number on display balancing majestic “If The Sky Should Fall” and soulful “Gotta Get Hold”. With the sound thick and axe work very economic Bruce moved far from the music he’s known for. Not a wanton statement, “In My Own Way” is a labor of love, and it’s vital now, perhaps, even more than then. A bitter loss turned wonderful discovery.


The Lords Prayers I
N-M-C Music 2002

Originally issued as
“Scene Of The Crime” &
“Second Coming”

Bach’s Toccata In D Minor at punk concert would seem strange yet LORDS were more than punks? By the mid-’80s THE DEAD BOYS’ Stiv Bators and Brian James of THE DAMNED loomed larger than cult heroes to the new generation. “Do you luuurve me?” – this Bators’ question making the audience roar turns out full of sarcasm as it’s followed with “Bad Timing”. The timing was right for another bang from a different angle, raw energy now balanced with sexy soul of “Murder Style”. Sex is OK, “fuckin’ is freakin’,” as Bators says – that’s what “Pretty Baby Scream” and “The Seducer” are about, but Bach? For one, organ is a church requisite so there was a reason for its use during 1985’s show that occupies one of these two CDs, the second given to the 1988’s recordings. Then, their game had the rule of “Method To My Madness”, a song the band would kick off with. Method was charged rock ‘n’ roll and blues, and if bar-room “Gun Called Justice” isn’t that surpising revved-up Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” is. Gone were the times of DIY, and this combo were a tight combat unit, guitar solos anchored by Dave Tregunna’s profound bass no matter combustive they are or gently surfing like in “Happy Birthday”. But that was the end of an era, fulfilling the commitment of “Things Go Bump,” soon the LORDS’ prayers would be their last rites.


Lucky Seven
(Expanded edition)
N-M-C Music 2002
Previously, it was only seven numbers supposed to make it to an album that Ronnie Lane’s band plus Eric Clapton worked on in July 1977. Now, the value of those songs is boosted – except for the title track of Lane’s solo debut "Anymore For Anymore" and alternate takes of his singles, acoustic “How Come” and lush “Poacher”, there are treasures to surprise and to enjoy. To start with, Ronnie’s SLIM CHANCE studio version of THE FACES’ classic “Ooh La La”, which artist clearly saw as a trampoline for his own career, and a live rendition of SMALL FACES’ immortal “All Or Nothing”. All or nothing, that’s how it was for a little man with a big heart, so again and again Lane returned to the pieces he tried earlier. Here’s a reason why “Annie Had A Baby” and “Kuschty Rye” from Clapton sessions were cut anew in 1981 with BIG DIPPER, as well as “Debris” and “Stone” CHANCE used to play in mid-70s. This time they gained a groove more danceable than country vibe of 1977’s tapes. The original seven tracks have a demo feel to them, “Last Night” even lacked lyrics while vocal on “Walk On By” got caught though it’s scarcely heard, just like Eric’s guitar work. Yet there’s a method of a moment registered, a lucky strike.


Brian James /
Ready To Crack
N-M-C Music 2002
End of the ’80s saw the end of LORDS OF THE NEW CHURCH, and Brian James was left to his own devices one more time. This time a solo album was due, which arose from guitarist’s jams with fellow DAMNED Rat Scabies. No risk taken, save for powerful instrumental “Bibbly Bubbly Crisis” the record features upbeat rock ‘n’ roll numbers. Among them, charming “Cut Across Shorty” approaching Rod Stewart’s reading doesn’t feel strange. Strange is the music’s seriousness: playful tempos like that of “Cut Throat” are contrasted with sharp riffs, meticulous soloing and nervous singing, so clear in “Slow It Down”. Standing alone, Brian seems not at ease, maybe that’s the reason for laying down new, relaxed version of 19??’s single “Ain’t That A Shame”, his debut. Whatever it was, such attitude gave James’ approach a subtlety shining through “Another Time, Another Crime” bravura. Gradually, fun finds its way in, “Polka Dot Shot” being a nice showcase of the artist faithful to himself.Not that it was Brian’s intention to form a new band in 1992, THE DRIPPING LIPS moniker sprung out when he and singer Robbie Kelman were asked to appear in “Abracadabra”, a movie the two wrote the score for. One year down the line, legendary producer Jimmy Miller enters the story and offers his service; “Ready To Crack” was his final work. Free from vocals duties, James hurled back at full swing, an opener “Powerful” introducing the slick attack Miller tried out two decades earlier and bluesy “You Treat Me Too Kind” a STONES caricature. That took guitarist further too, to lay thick wall of sound for “What’s On Your Mind” and slice acoustic layers for “Such A Lot Of Stars”. A decline it wasn’t though, with “Damn You” signalling of a circle full and, unlike many an album made in the early ’90s, this pair is still relevant. Quality is quality.


The Complete John’s Children
N-M-C Music 2002
In 1967, to be kicked off THE WHO tour for creating havoc is a reputation, especially to a band with such a clean image. Clean yet not that clean-cut as now the band are primarily famous for having Marc Bolan in their ranks rather than being British psycho pioneers alongside TOMORROW. With the release of their sole album cancelled at the time, their output was reduced to singles, all on this 2CD compilation. JC psychedelia appeares adventurous not so musically as lyrically: Spector-esque pop of “Smashed Blocked” – harmonies weaving around chunks of organ and brass – is only slightly freaky, while “Strange Affair” combination of rhythm-and-blues and storytelling combination pave the road for Viv Stanshall’s circus, but fantasy… “Perfumed Garden Of Gulliver Smith” or “Remember Thomas A Beckett” make it hard to believe no drugs were involved there. But on drugs or not, the four posessed a kind of childish innocence caught most perfectly in songs Bolan took on his further trips – “Desdemona” and “Hippy Gumbo”. Not sexual innocence as “Mustang Ford” (or its early incarnation as “Go-Go Girl”) and “Hot Rod Mama” dripped their honey beside “Not The Sort Of Girl You Take To Bed” and “Jagged Time Lapse”. Equally, innocence isn’t naivette, so taking heavy riff for “But She’s Mine” they could be menacing as well as lulling in “The Love I Thought I’d Found”. Embrace it all, and what you have is a formula very familiar. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, “Casbah Candy” (to turn into “Jasper C, Debussy”) says it all.


Vagabonds Kings Warriors Angels
Mercury 2001
Fifteen years on since the passing of Phil Lynott, his work all but deserved an anthology. Whatever attempts to revitalise the band there were, it was Philo’s child – here’s the reason for these four CDs to start with LIZZY’s first single “The Farmer”, recorded in Dublin in 1970, and end with solo B-side “A Night In The Life Of A Blues SInger”, released in 1985 a month away from its author’s death. It was Lynott’s personal quest, his own transmutation from black boy in white neighbourhood – a fact he never forgot and sang of in funky “Half Caste” and “Black Boys On The Corner” – to rock’n’roll Phoenix who burned himself off. The title says it all, how Phil matured coming to grips with his voice and learning fierce bass thrumming, a study reflected in “Remembering (Part 1)”, how he seeked and found a way of his own. CREAM-like trio in the beginning, in the end Lynott stood as a lone ranger – still, it always was about blues, epitomised in early cut “Broken Dreams”. About blues and Ireland, beloved Eire. In “Dublin” singer’s voice sounds so innocent while in “Thunder And Lightning” he’s a prototype heavy metal figure.Drummer Brian Downey the only other mainstay, guitarists come and go making it hard to state which of them was (or were) the perfect foil for Lynott’s music. Arguably, it’s Gary Moore, the closest friend who Phil returned to over and over to conjure the old ghosts with “Black Rose” or “Sitamoia”, having started the fellow Irishman’s solo career on the way, so that “Parisienne Walkways” presence here is as justified as that of “Whiskey In The Jar”. Many say, it’s Bell in “Slow Blues” able to run, in turn, through Hendrix, Clapton and Page styles (in 1981 original trio reunited to record “Song For Jimi”). The golden era though came with appearance of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, this pair’s addition put LIZZY into hard rock category. “The Boys Are Back In Town” broke the band to the worldwide fame 1978’s “Live And Dangerous” was a reflection of, yet deep inside the leader remained the same vulnerable soul: included herein are both tremulous songs called “Sarah”, 1973’s dedicated to Phil’s granny who raised the boy and 1979’s written for his daughter. Not that he kept his fragile side tucked away from the public eye – ballads as “Still In Love With You”, duet with great Frankie Miller, are tremendous – but a root for sarcasm and irony of “The Rocker” and “Don’t Believe A Word” grew out of it, just like childhood fascination with Wild West – straight out of comic books and into “Cowboy Song” and “Johnny The Fox”.

Feelings overflowing Philo made equally great poet and composer out of him, even a few unreleased tracks to be found in the box among the selection from the albums and rarities shine with talent. And there’s a tragedy in this talent’s early departure: like Ben Edmonds writes in his brilliant accompanying essay, it’s the rock’n’roll logic, “Rock is where vagabonds are transformed into kings. Once a king, you must then become a warrior to keep your kingdom.” Not an angel by any means, Lynott’s another kingdom now yet the legacy is his most generous gift.

Steamhammer re-issues 2002
Power Of The Night 1985

Fight For The Rock 1986

Hall Of The Mountain King 1987

That’s where the power metal of today started. What is too clear and clean and sour now, in mid-’80s was something real, a moment of truth in a time of saccharine metal. SAVATAGE didn’t opt for overt heroic strut like their rivals MANOWAR did, yet took off with Chris Oliva solid catchy guitar riffs and his brother Jon’s rough vocals and keyboard work. When in 1985 they signed to Atlantic Records and embarked on recording their third album, “Power Of The Night”, the band felt obliged to deliver the best. It was their first to be laid down in real studio with a considerable time and budget, so the result appeared nothing short of brilliant. Rock’n’roll approach provided with vitality, live experience, proved here by bonus tracks, gave the strength. Still, it always depended on whose decision it was to do a certain concert staple: “Power Of The Night”, the song, is a massive impact while FREE’s “Wishing Well” that management plumped for for the next LP, “Fight For The Rock”, lacked the energy of their own creations.Songs written by Oliva brothers and their colleagues had an important feature, the melodies. To bring out almost danceable “Hard For Love” and fragile, piano-led ballad “In The Dream” when these could be thought of as a betrayal seems not a mean feat but SAVATAGE never denied their affection for quality pop music. In 1986 the band covered another classic, BADFINGER’s “Day After Day”, not only to get radio play – it was a tune they loved for long. Just like Grieg’s piece in the core of the next album, “Hall Of The Mountain King”, that saw another concept, legends and myths after more obvious metal subjects of “Power” with its “Warriors” and “Necrophilia” and slowed-down, romantic “Fight”. The latter holds a surprise in organ and harpsichord use for madrigal-shaping of “The Edge Of Midnight” and “Out On The Streets”, and out of there even grander music might rise. Unortunately, “Mountain King” showed the combo in pursue of heavier direction with advanced playing techniques yet without the former visceral vibe. Jon Oliva’s use of falsetto and growl, possibly copied from King Diamond, made his singing lifeless and songs like “Legions” simply dumb. Following this one, “Strange Wings” feels strange indeed with its commercial lustre overshadowing the tune. “Madness Reigns”, as one of the SAVATAGE’s motto said. Even so, this trilogy comes very refreshing nowadays – a lesson to be learnt. Not from liner notes though: the fonts cause harm to the eyes. Work your ears instead.


N-M-C Music 2001
A songwriter par excellence, Ballard was responsible for the ARGENT string of hits before making on his own. Well, almost: people tend to know his tunes as covered by others, so here’s a chance to touch the originals. And that’s funny, to measure the distance between RAINBOW’s sharp take and Russ’ bouncing soul of “Since You Been Gone” (eh, where’s “I Surrender”?), equally arresting, or compare “On The Rebound” biting disco jive to URIAH HEEP metal foil of the said tune. You never know the musician’s criteria anyway – joyous “Winning” feels far from SANTANA’s Latin soup yet Carlos went for it as well.Then warning! those references hardly serve as major attraction: whatever catchy, Ballard’s songs are too ’80s, so “Two Silhouettes”, though very sunny, leaves a kind of synthetic aftertaste, while “Hey Bernadette” – what an acoustic solo! – sounds as if cut with FOREIGNER in mind, whereas “Hold On” would suit SUPERTRAMP great. It’s a deceptive simplicity, smooth voice comes accompanied by likes of Simon Phillips and Jeff Porcaro and weaves silky gems of “Treat Her Right” as well as kind or boogie ditties, the best of which is “She’s A Hurricane”. Ballard’s music appears grander when filled with quiet emotions, either orchestrated, Bacharach-way, in case of “I Don’t Believe In Miracles”, or simply poignant as “Living Without You”. Where did rock come from, then? Well, had KISS picked “Rock & Roll Lover” instead of “God Gave Rock & To You”, they might’ve scored not worse.

Strangely, alongside all those hits and catchy pop of “I Can’t Hear You No More” Russ used to deliver boring ones – “Voices” and “The Ghost Inside” are hard to bear, glory clearly gone. So “Here Comes The Hurt”, as Ballard put it himself. Is that a reason for a nine-year silence?


This Time Around
Live In Tokyo ’75
Purple Records 2001
Isn’t blaming the innocent for the others’ fault a sin? For almost 25 years PURPLE’s “Last Concert In Japan” had been lambasted for a poor performance. Well, the late Tommy Bolin’s arm might be not as good due to heroin injection yet that is hardly an excuse for harsh editing and poor mix of December 1975 show which, now fully restored, proves impressive. Cut out were two thirds of the concert, including “I Need Love” and “Drifter” that make here their debut as live recordings, while, alongside Bach’s Toccata In D Minor and Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” excertps, “Woman From Tokyo” riff is given its right position in Jon Lord’s solo and no more credited as a proper song. Moreover, put up front in the mix before, now Lord’s part does justice to Bolin’s playing. It appears, Tommy was quite OK during the band’s third night in Japan, and if there’s no guitar in the beginning of “Burn”, it’s because of the amp, not the man who delivers a scorching slide solo in “Lady Luck” and gets off “Owed To “G” flying high Japanese-way.The same goes for the sound: if, with all the fantastic interplay, it’s a bit shaky, that’s because of the band still coming to terms with a new guitarist. The Hughes-Paice rhythm section grooves mighty to leave Ian in the spotlight for “Lazy”, where Glenn screams his lungs off to go further in “Georgia On My Mind” wrapping up “Smoke On The Water”. PURPLE Mk 4 were the strongest in vocal department, as not only Hughes and David Coverdale perfectly polished their harmonies to shine in “You Keep On Movin'” but also band acquired the third singer in Bolin supporting Glenn in their most funky number, “Gettin’ Tighter”, and crooning his own “Wild Dogs”. That might press hard on non-playing Coverdale yet he gets his own back with “Soldier Of Fortune”, short but worthy a full-length “Stormbringer” or “Highway Star” saved for encore. In perspective, PURPLE’s last months towards April 1976 final show can be seen as an encore – but what an encore it was! This time around you cannot disagree.


The Mick Ronson Memorial Concert
NMC Music 2001
A year to the date since Ronno passed away, on April 29th, 1994, his friends staged a memorial show, the highlights of which form this set with good part re-mixed for the re-issue by DEF LEPPARD’s Joe Elliott. For the occasion, Elliott took over frontman’s position with THE SPIDERS FROM MARS, who now are only Woody Woodmansey and Trevor Bolder. Nevertheless, with a help from Joe, his LEPPARD partner Phil Collen and Billy Rankin on guitars and Trev’s URIAH HEEP colleague Phil Lanzon on keyboards, the band delivered mighty set comprising not only Bowie’s classics “Ziggy Stardust”, “Moonage Daydream” and “Suffragette City” but also posthumously released Ronson’s “Don’t Look Down” plus “White Light/White Heat” that Mick originally produced. Shame on David, who didn’t show up, yet, even in his absence, a host of stars coming up the stage was amazing.Logically, kicking it off with mighty, slide-framed “It Ain’t Easy” was early Ronno’s group THE RATS featuring none other than Tony Visconti on guitar. Poignant it may be, but sad is not how Ronno should be remembered, that’s why Dana Gillespie gives a full swing to “A Lot Of What You’ve Got”. Touched by Mick’s glam was she, like was “Burning Sound” Glen Matlock recorded long ago with THE RICH KIDS to let it loose one more time in THE MAVERICKS company. He might come from another generation, as well as THE CLASH’s Mick Jones putting his own “Medicine Show” here on, yet there’s no use denying glam influence on punk. Still, not all’s down to respect to the glitter hero, as hats off to the late guitarist take Bill Wyman’s WILLY AND THE POOR BOYS sending Elvis’ “Mystery Train” down the memory lane, and one of THE POOR BOYS, Gary Brooker, doing, piano-bare, eerie “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” – perhaps, the most spiritual tribute to Ronno, as unpredictable as Roger Taylor’s brave rendition of “A Kind Of Magic”.

Once on-stage, starting with accompanying Steve Harley on “Come Up And See Me”, Rog leaves the stool only for Woodmansey to keep a rhythm for his namesake Daltrey, who, Simon Townshend beside him, belts out “Baba O’Riley” and “Summertime Blues”, and for Ian Hunter’s set. Cherry-picking songs, Hunter dedicates “Michael Picasso” to his late mate and leads the full cast into – what else? – “All The Young Dudes”. Not many receive such a homage – shy, humble Ronson all but deserved it. The love poured out during the show was immense, and it shows. Feel it and raise a cup in Ronno’s memory too.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *