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Past Lives
Sanctuary 2002
The classic line-up in their spaced-out prime moments – some familiar, some never heard before.

There’s a strange marketing strategy in throwing together a performances released earlier as “Live At Last”, the only live album from classic Ozzy years, and previously unissued recordings with no indication on where and when they got preserved for posterity. But rare pictures – mustache-less Tony Iommi at California Jam! – and the music make this double-CD set a genuine piece of history – revisited and revised.

Now “Live At Last” starts without “Will you welcome, BLACK SABBATH!” cry and chugs immediately into crystal-clear “Tomorrow’s Dream” – 1973 was the band’s creative peak, and it shows in top-notch delivery, Ozzy even knocking up alternative lyrics to “Killing Yourself To Live” yet to be released then. “You carry on and ya got so sick,” he sings of drugs harder than weed praised in jolly “Sweet Leaf”, and when those substances took over – “icicles within my brain,” says “Snowblind” – the 19-minute “Wicked World” jam, a monumental (mental?) showcase for Tony’s licks and Geezer Butler-Bill Ward joint, could hardly be as entertaining.

All the shaky moments of the second disc look interesting anyway, with tracks off “Sabotage”, “new album we’re gonna have released soon” as the vocalist refers to it, making their debut. That signs up part of the recordings to 1975, though there’s swing of “Hand Of Doom”, not the most popular cut off “Paranoid”, for a start. The hand had already struck the hour – ragged-voiced Ozzy heroically struggles with “Hole In The Sky” (in live version its “Children Of The Grave” riff re-use is more evident) and “Symptom Of The Universe” to find, at the end fantastic “Megalomania”, the lower register more comfortable. “Are you high? So am I!” barks Osbourne, yet the glory was obviously left behind.

Or “Behind The Wall Of Sleep” – this tune defines the concert that occupies the rest of the CD. Judging on “Iron Man” introduced as “a number off new LP” and freshness of “Fairies Wear Boots”, it’s 1971 and the quartet appear in their wonderful raw with a magical moment of Iommi’s acoustically improvising before the mammoth throbbing of “Black Sabbath” and beasty if hastened “N.I.B.”. OK, we are given now those things we thought unreal, yet why not put out the shows in their entirety?


DEFAULT – Fallout
TVT 2001
Vancouver debutants’ independent release convinced the majors to bow down – to the trend rather than music.

You know the formula: dramatic voice pulls up a tragic cloth over a drum skeleton on verse and screaming letting the guitars loose for a chorus. Then find the irony in the title “Sick & Tired”. Yet Jeremy James Hora’s guitar works in a classic tradition, with “Deny” that proved a hit with radio folks and rocking “Slow Me Down” examples of brilliant production – sparse and tight at the same time; if only there was a good melody on the offer to match the guts and Dallas Smith’s voice wasn’t devoid of emotions. With acoustic teaser of “Live A Lie” giving a hope, it’s better than the regular MTV fodder but mostly boring. The age of the players is no excuse.


Prayer For The Dying
SPV 2002
“We steer clear of stylistic experimentation but make sure that our songs stay straightforward and transparent,” – fairly said. The music follows suit.

True metal, as these Germans prove, can be good with heroism in the style not posture.
“Light In The Black” hooks up with guitar melodicism of Alexander Hitz and Georg Kraft in under four minutes, a craft in itself, with only the closing “Blood Of The Kings” stretching on to epic proportions. The “living” of a song isn’t restricted to that one though, Mike Tirelli’s sinewy vocals breathes and swells in catchy tune of “Night Comes Down”, while “Dream Evil” has soft choruses inserted into rumbling groove – drummer Eckhard Ostra and bassist Andreas Roschak know their sweaty business well, so you’d better believe “Blood, Sweat & Tears” appeal. That’s what – and a traditional tune in a “Thunderball” solo – it takes for a debut to be as scorching.


Flesh For Fantasy
Metal Blade 2002
A good goofy spoof – get in for a tough laugh.

Arrrgh, when “Kneel Down And Blow For Forgiveness” is a ballad title, there’s something hilarious looming large and almost obscene. Mad laughter rolls on, riffs spill out and girls sing back up on the organ-ironed playground which could easily be either velvet-draped strip club, if you’re in for “The Golden Nonstop”, or, in “Highway Crucifix”, a church filled with fervent halleluja’s. Whatever it is, there you can indulge in any perversion you like. Like that belly-dance guitar solo of “El Gonzo Mondial”, all pulsating buzz and Dr. Don Rogers’s tragic vocals breaking loose on “Rock ‘n’ roll is good for me alright” plea. Clownery, yes, but brilliant and effectively magnifying SCORPIONS’ “Rock You Like A Hurricane” to a tornado. That’s a strong stuff – just smell “Aroma” and get carried away. The band obviously did exactly that with a mesmerising hidden track sung in German.


The Rock Opera
Credo 2000
More opera than rock so there’s no deja vu, even with Ian Gillan’s guitarist playing.

“For those who believe… and those who don’t believe,” says the message in the booklet setting the musical value of “Credo” higher than its eternal subject matter. There’s no attempt to compete with Webber’s masterpiece, which wasn’t opera as such, so Roberto Danova, a man behind this concept, had swung the pendulum to the other extreme and let the story be told through the chants of various choirs – recorded in Israel, Russia, Italy, England and Armenia – backed by The Northern Light Symphony Orchestra with Peter Whittfield conducting. No narrative, no roles, no arias, yet the effect is great, and the mix of orchestral and rock arrangements and of English and Russian in “The Land I Love” (Liverpool’s Assisi plus Moscow’s Danilovsky Monastery Choir) sublime.

Rock arrangements come in small portions to grow on, bopping “Spirits Awakening” is redolent of Hank Marvin’s twang, while “Bitter Chalice” sees Steve Morris weaving liquid guitar solo into tight vocal harmony and stepping forward with a heavy riffage over Stephen Millington’s organ and Roy Martin’s drums, as opposite to “The Man Who Saved The World” acoustic lace. Elsewhere, as in “River Of Tears”, synthesizer takes voices into a new age territory to let the female singer of “Emmanuel Calling” soar to the sky – mind you, according to the Bible, Emmanuel is Christ’s name, so don’t be mislead with the music’s eroticism that shoots high in joyous gospel boogie “Jesus Is The Rock”. Spiritual and enthralling.


Massacre Records 2002
Not, not Lara but Lisa Croft’s stature at the microphone is no less heroic.

Reality appeared to be much harsher than shown in “Metropolis”, so this tribute to the movie director Firtz Lang has some good time nostalgia spliced to cold futurism. In “Engel Brecht”, sung in German, it works effectively but waving banners of “Till The Ferryman Dies” seem a bit artificial compared to “Sister Mary” wonderful rage. Perhaps, arrangements – Axel Julius’ guitars drowned in keyboards foil, Lisa’s lifeless voice – suit the concept, but songs like “Flight Of The Eagle” would be more appealing if emotionally charged. Yet ballads are the territory where women win, classy tear-jerker “Always Alien” is no exception, and, once on it, the right path is followed on to the closing “Rest In Pain”. Live version of “The Ferryman” is needless extra though.


DGM 1998
With “The Acoustic Adrian Belew. Volume Two” the crafty gentleman opens up his gentle, crimson-tinctured soul.

The first time it was a bit uncomfortable, the second attempt shows Adrian more as a brilliant singer who poured Beatlisms into KING CRIMSON fare rather than guitarist whose passages would color up Fripp’s and Zappa’s – now there’s even “Free As A Bird” live version learnt from Lennon’s demo and recorded prior the Fabs’ release. But if “Men In Helicopters” string quartet sounds like that of “Eleanor Rigby”, it’s as much flesh to this stripped bare album with arrangements giving “somebody’s digging my bones” line off CRIMSO’s “Dinosaur” another meaning and making “Cage” arresting if not very different from the band’s version, just like “I Remember How To Forget” could fit the ensemble style perfectly and “Young Lions” would suit Bowie who Belew played with before.

The experimentative side of the artist isn’t downplayed though, “Return Of The Chicken” and “Nude Wrestling With A Christmas Tree” being a two-part instrumental extravaganza, and “Things You Hit With A Stick” a kitchen-sink percussion celebration, but with all the kudos to Adrian’s broad views, his best moments here lie with piano-led innocent pop of “Big Blue Sun” and “Everything”. Simplicity taking over the complexity lets a glimpse into the musician’s psyche with all its pulsating veins and nerves – isn’t anatomy theater a great spectacle?


Between Heaven And Hell
Massacre Records 2002
A different slant to cloak-and-dagger fix, heavier than regular fantasy book.

A title track and “Firewind Raging” are disappointing, heady but dumb mix of power and speed metal with all the musical and lyrical cliches on display. Fortunately, little by little the album builds up to steady heroic whole. Vocals pathetics here and Yngwie-esque neoclassic runs there, with “Destination Forever” comes balance, short instrumental “Oceans” is all but masterpiece, while “Tomorrow Can Wait” and the SCORPIONS’ “Pictured Life” revive early ’80s metal in all its glory with “I Will Fight Alone” a bright culmination. So raging… The album’s a strong debut yet as a statement of intentions it falls exactly where the title suggests. Still, with magic ballad “Who Am I” a question is poised for their own identity to be found.


The Fan Convention
Northern Line 2002
Veteran caught in the crossfire of the rough yet ready.

Saturday, July 20th, 2002 saw John Wetton fans gathering to get closer to their hero, who just didn’t look as such. Possibly, the reason was an anticipation of the old partner, Geoff Downes, joining him on-stage after some years on non-speaking terms in the wake of ASIA reunion failing. Finally, peace restored, and Geoff comes up for “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes”, “Heat Of The Moment” (with a reggae solo!) and “Sole Survivor” re-capturing the magic with John Mitchell inspired guitar. So songs, beginning with suitable “Voice Of America”, may suffer with very raw vocals but this roughness makes “God Only Knows” that inspired Wetton become an artist in the first place so poignant and personal. The only other surprise here is Billy Joel’s “Allentown”, a homage to a place where convention was taking place; with “Red”, heavy with Wetton’s powerful bass and made sinister by John Young‘s piano, a highlight, the rest is the veteran’s greatest tunes. No matter how many warts are there, sincerity prevails for the book of that Saturday be as enjoyable.


Massacre Records 2002
Third part of the “Evilution” saga hits the heart of darkness.

The scene supposed to be scary with “Dead Serious” being all guitar whiplash and fury-spitting voice, yet fear fizzles out as “Call Of Freedom” sprawls the arena-swaying chorus and bass-laden “Massacre Machinery” produces a theatrically humorous effect with its deadpan singing and deliberately shaky soloing. A good way to follow a concept without overstretching the music and a skilfulness: “Got Milk?” has a solid live feel to it, while “Parting Gift” time signatures and rotating textures display a certain jazziness. Fear the ripper of the epic title track but stick safely with almost dancefloor groove lying in the “Monsterman” dark core. Whatever heavy the album is, it’s never boring – not on the first listening though. This is evilution.


SAS BAND – The Show
ABM 2001
British quiet greats go perfectly loud, led by the QUEEN keyboard player.

Spike Edney doesn’t claim to be a member of the band he’d been playing keyboards for for some years as well as for Brian May and Roger Taylor but there was a reason on February 19th, 2000 to perform many classics, as the show was benefitting Mercury Phoenix Trust. Such a cause usually features an array of celebrities yet Edney’s SAS BAND is an all-stars line-up in itself, with the singers and a top-quality instrumentalists including Damon Hill on guitar and veteran bassist Neil Murray. So when Chris Thompson breaks into “Blinded By The Light”, he catches the mood well to take “The Show Must Go On” to its emotional peak in the very end.

Still, another Mercury tribute it wasn’t, with quite an uplifting feeling overall and the only other QUEEN songs on this CD being Roger Taylor’s soft reading of “Radio Ga Ga” and SPANDAU BALLET’s Tony Hadley’s take on “Hammer To Fall”. Here, even Arthur Brown’s “Fire” isn’t startling and Leo Sayer looks edgy bashing out “My Generation”. The most natural are two Paul Youngs – “Every Time You Go Away” by the youngest sounding as an epitath to the other, now late singer of the Mike & THE MECHANICS fame, who shone that evening in “Every Day Hurts”. And if Tom Robinson and Fish may not surprise, eccentric Richard O’Brien and Roy Wood do. As does Spike Edney’s craft in bonding them all together. Indeed, the fairy tales of yesterday may grow but never die.


SPV 2002
After 18-year hibernation Aussie rockers roll back with no pain in sight.

“Black magic never stops!” proclaims Angry Anderson from the onset. Looks like that, Pete Wells and Rob Riley’s swampy guitars shuffle as before defying the band’s long non-existence. Is downunder a reservation where rock ‘n’ roll, blues and boogie live peacefully to re-emerge once in a while with relentless beat of “Someone To Fuck” or “No Mercy”? The guys have retained the pub feel others lost in the battle and a good sense of humor – check out those Angus-like licks at the end of “Stir Crazy”. 16 numbers in the poach could seem too many unless you don’t have a crate of beer and a bunch of buddies by your side but that’s as romantic party as it gets with “Union Man” and as much pain as with squeezing into old shoes. Groovy, catchy, feet-tapping music – what else one needs to throw the problems out the window? The answer lies in the last number: “One More Drink With The Boys”.


Whiter Shade Of Pale /
Like A Rolling Stone
Zoom Club 2002
The whole is bigger than a sum of its parts – Phil Lynott going psychedelic.

With the THIN LIZZY glorious enterprise over, Philo felt the need for a change, and this change was gonna come in 1984 in form of GRAND SLAM. Mostly a combination of Lynott and MAGNUM keyboard player Mark Stanway’s talents, stylistically it sat between hard rock that Phil had left behind and pop direction he pursued with solo albums. Unfortunately, the ensemble’s potential wasn’t realised due to the artist’s increasing drug and alcohol addiction, and by January 1985 the band, having failed to secure a record deal, were no more, though not without some material stashed away. In a year Lynott would be dead, so this two-song medley found among original music is all the more poignant: an amalgamation of Phil’s own look at his uncertainty, it shows at the same time how a new thing could turn out like.

It’s Lynott’s hurting psyche that made him turn psychedelic and stitch together first verses of the PROCOL HARUM and Dylan’s classics. Seamlessly – not only on musical level, with Laurence Archer’s guitar playing the lead into “Shade” over the light organ and then seaguing into “Stone” underscored with bubbly piano, but lyrically as well, a line “I was feeling kind of sea-sick, a crowd called out for more” perfectly matching the chorus of “How does it feel to be on your own like a complete unknown”. Songs are firmly interwoven to be easily switching from one to the other and back again and creating a magic which can’t be ruined even by a little demo feel of the medley – quite unimaginative drumming and and not too inspired singing. The energy and abandon effectively makes for it all. A gem.


Nuclear Blast 2002
Sixth album round sees the band trotting the same ground.

Maybe, it’s quite comfortable to be not developing their own style having stucked to something proven. Very likely so, with opening “Truth” able to challenge any MAIDEN hit, though there’s more symphonism to PROPHET’s style reaching the high in creeping “Killer’s Confession”. The problem with this comfort is its uninspired feel, even ballad “Among The Dead” almost bereft of sincerity, what can’t be said of solemn “Bolero” delivered by Steve Kachinsky harmony guitar. Elsewhere, an invitation of synthesizers into the band’s palette helps, and “Martyred” and “Magenta” show a progressive border, redolent of great ’70s. If only the quintet didn’t fear to mellow out and didn’t intersperse melodic cuts with awkward rockers like “Blackest Of Hearts” that doesn’t do justice to Rick Mythiasin’s voice either. Nothing unseen, really.


Live At The Rainbow 1974
Angel Air 2002
A Queen of Scottish blues shares her soul to feed the mood.

1974 marked an important time for Maggie: STONE THE CROWS, broke up in the wake of Les Harvey’s tragic death, and the singer had to embark on a solo route without her dear friend’s help. “Suicide Sal” released a couple of months before, the UK tour was to establish Bell as an artist in her own right. Sadly, Mag’s ascend didn’t last long, and some years later she retreated to family life to occasionally perform, but then she went down with a storm – as documented by this recording.

Pure fun exuberantly pours out of three lengthy soul medleys incorporating “Shout”, “Blueberry Hill”, “Rock Me Baby” and a dozen more perennials, but significantly, the opener is circumstances-defying “Coming On Strong” which immediately reveals Otis Redding’s influence. The only other singer to match Mag in this emotional corner was Paul Rodgers, yet it took her powerful pipes to fill FREE’s “Wishing Well” with lava-hot feelings underscored with Brian Breeze’s funky guitar, Mo Foster‘s elastic bass and Pete Wingfield‘s piano. In sublime drama of “As The Years Go Passing By” from the forthcoming “Queen Of Night” album, already recorded but released only in 1975, they bounce flashy flourishes off Bell’s scat, and, if to balance this extravaganza, “I Was In Chains” and traditional “Aileen Mochree” showcase the voice, in places uncannily close to that of another Britain’s finest, Sandy Denny.

A good method for Mag’s pub rock to get gloriously dissected into folk, blues (tight rendition of CROW’s staple “Penicillin Blues”) and, sure, cabaret panache of “Suicide Sal” and “I Saw Her Standing There” – all to create an exciting celebration of soul. “You make me feel so good,” rings Ms Bell thanking the audience – well, its her own strut that makes a listener wanna shout.


Brimstone Blues
Massacre Records 2002
Welcome to the edge of the world. Or out of this world. Or not of this world. Does it really matter?

If you let slip that very moment when “Silver Machine” got changed for some other vehicle, there’s one more chance, a bit longer. A time-warp to HAWKWIND’s space age comes with “The Ebb And The Flow” mad march, where Starbuck chants apocalyptical couplets over Shank and Wolf’s catchy riffs and Gonzo’s bass. Ah, SABBATH-influenced and brimstone hot – are these guys really from Finland? How come they do a “Stonehenge” pagan dance with such a proficiency? Is “UFO has just arrived” a hint? Still, basking under the starlight is no option here, frantic pace of “Cosmic Dancer” will wake you up anyway. In “Damn Delilah” this punk attitude sees space banditism unleashed anew but you’re being robbed elegantly with no reason to complain if you’re in for a thrill. It’s with “Journey’s End” acoustic touch fading away that you complain it’s all over.


Purple Records 2002
A fan dream coming true – the first official concert recording from the first line-up.

Previously, the closest we get to the DP Mk 1 live work were the BBC cuts tagged as bonuses onto the remastered editions of the first three albums. Now, here’s a full show – unabridged though shortened, due the support role PURPLE were playing on October 18, 1968, mere seven months since the band’s inception. On that day, CREAM were the main act, yet the historic value of this recording lies in the fact that it was the five’s debut Stateside, and there’s no aural document of an earlier gig at all. USA were much more important for them anyway – in Britain the band were nothing, while across the Pond they’d already scored with “Hush” and their new single “Kentucky Woman”, released just days before, had been on the way up in the American charts. A little wonder, these two songs seemed the obvious choice for kickstarting the 50-minute frenetic performance, a steady mix of “Shades Of Deep Purple” and fresh “The Book Of Taliesyn” material.

All of it may sound very raw, but it’s the, an unmistakable PURPLE sound, heavily laden with Jon Lord’s stupendous organ, still the leading instrument; Ritchie Blackmore still had to develop his skills although his brief bursts of notes in “Kentucky Woman” as well as soft brushes in “Help” make the studio versions bleak. Even more amazing is Ian Paice, the youngest of the bunch, whose drumming – one minute subtle, the other thunderous – drives “Mandrake Root” in firm clinch with Nick Simper’s bass. The weakest link here feels Rod Evans: not that he was struggling with his voice so much, the singer seemed just unhip commenting on the songs – “Help” written by THE BEATLES, “2001” intro to psyched-out “River Deep, Mountain High” composed by Richard Strauss, “Hey Joe” recorded by Tim Rose. Now, it’s funnily innocent, then uncool to the bone, like admitting, “I changed me pants ’cause the other ones split.”

Uncool – still, the energy is as overwhelming today. Furious jazz of “Wring That Neck” (incorporating “Jingle Bells” – in October!), which remained in the set for two more years, attests PURPLE were great from the start. To miss this glorious album would be a shame.


BALAKAN – Gypsy Ride
Nada Records 2002
From Balkans to the Middle East, the gypsy music reels on.

“Gypsy” is more of a common denominator here, as the tunes on the offer come from Greece, Yugoslavia, Macedonia and are re-worked by the Israeli band with members of various origins, many of Balkan countries. The combination of electric and traditional instruments works good, yet expectations of some rocky thing are mostly vain, though twangy solo in “Turkish Caravan” is redolent of early ’60s guitar bands. “Oferetzes” has an edge to it as well – accordion, durbukas and puncuated bass dance groovy. The best by all means is the only original number here, “Garod”, a brilliant example of fusion taking in both acoustic textures and synthetic beats, and there’s a flamenco-like lace in “Borino Oro” that stands it out. Overall, it’s an easygoing album – as any dance album should be! The ride is up for enjoying.


SPV 2002
Legions march again – from here to Eternity.

The third album is always a trend-setter, and this one fares well in the heroic metal lore, opening “Metal Invasion” not as stupid as the title suggests, but a powerful piece combining luxurious operatic choruses and adrenaline-shot rush, and in “Warriors” CALL come close to QUEEN’s elegance. Unlike many others in the genre, Chris Bay’s voice sounds very sincere and unpretentious, which only adds to music’s melodic appeal. Emotions to relate to are in abundance, anthemic “Flame Of The Night” soars hitting a soul despite its pathetics. In “Flying High” all the heaviness gets lifted with loads of keyboards to a great effect, as bass rolls on like propeller, while “Bleeding Heart” hosts an acoustic wave in the folk-tinctured drama. But there’s no tragedy – even in sad “Turn Back Time” – and in its optimism “Eternity” is unique.


Passe Compose
Musea 2002
Airier than AIR. this easiness might come from France only.

Ethereal, that’s how it goes from the soaring vocalise of “Tchau Teo” and on, to electronica neverland. Sitting somewhere between new age and the Middle Ages, the music enchants with exquisite melodies and hushed beats, as in “The Lost Lake Of Crystal”. Composer and synth player Loreau weaves a new cloth from the pieces both previously unreleased and those issued before but now revamped, and on this canvas paints a landscape of rare beauty. In the vein of Kitaro’s sonic journeys, these let a soothing guitar glide by the dribbling keyboards, like in “Communion”, yet “La Lecon De Musique” or “Le Clos De Papillons” are undoubtedly European, and quietly autobiographical “A Son Is Born” and “A Daughter Is Born” work on more personal level. With heavily jazzy “A Bad Movie” an exception and a reason, altogether it’s a perfect soundtrack for an evening in.

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