REVIEW: Savatage – U.S.A. 1990 (bootleg CD)

scan_20170120SAVATAGE – U.S.A. 1990 (1994 Live Storm bootleg CD)

When a bootleg live CD just has a picture of the bass player on the front, you know you’re not in for a perfect listening experience (Motorhead, Kiss and Iron Maiden bootlegs excepted).  Nothing against Johnny Lee Middleton of course, but it would make more sense to put Jon or Criss Oliva on the cover.  U.S.A. 1990 (released 1994) comes from Live Storm in Italy, where many bootlegs originated.  It seems to consist of songs from multiple shows, due to the repeating “Of Rage and War” and “Hounds”.

Repeat aside, U.S.A. 1990 focuses on early heavy tracks with not a single ballad.  Fans of early ‘Tage are going to love getting live versions of “The Dungeons are Calling” and “City Beneath the Surface” from the Dungeons are Calling EP (1984).  There is also the amazing riff-tastic title track from Sirens (1983), to this day still one of their best tracks.  Interestly enough, this very same version of “Sirens” was released officially (and in official sound quality) as a bonus track on the long deleted Music For Nations pressing of Sirens.  You can tell when Jon screams “Danke schön! Hello Deutschland!  You are metal!”  It’s the same version…but wait a sec!  Last I checked, Deutschland is not in the U.S.A.!  Such is the charm of a bootleg release.

“Hounds” from Gutter Ballet (1990) is ominous and evil-sounding, made more so by Jon’s blood curdling screams and howls.  He calls it “doom music”.  Also from 1990, “She’s in Love” is just speed on top of riffs on top of screams.   Gutter Ballet was an ambitious album, and part of that was a three-song suite about insanity.  From that suite “Thorazine Shuffle” is lifted, a classic example of Criss Oliva’s style of snaky guitars. “Of Rage and War” brings another menacing riff, and a topical lyrical message:

Better listen to me you son of a bitch,
Better disarm those missiles sleeping in the ditch,
You have no goddamn right to do the things you do,
The world would be a better place if we were rid of you!

“Sirens” is the centerpiece, a stormy metal drama loaded with waves of guitar crashing against the rocks, wrecking everything in their way.  Jon’s shrieks warn away the meek and timid.  Only the strong will survive the “Sirens”.  You will find no refuge in the “Hall of the Mountain King” either.  This castle of stone shall offer no protection from the riffage pouring down.  Madness reigns, so just go with the groove and get your stomping boots on.  The final track is the upbeat rager “Power of the Night”, the title track from their 1985 album.  It’s a string of lyrical cliches backed by some serious heavy rock.  Raise the fist of the metal child!  Unfortunately the track is cut short.

U.S.A. 1990 is a fairly common bootleg, so if you find one in the $7-8 range, take a shot.

2.5/5 stars


    1. I like that abbreviated name to save a superfluous 4 letters & 2 syllables!
      And I also appreciate the price point recommendation Mike – I sometimes have trouble separating the price from payoff (I have trouble not thinking in ‘cost/benefit analysis’ mode), so good to have expectations managed here!

      Liked by 3 people

        1. I tried to cover all that stuff in my Maiden series. Anybody who reads it will know every single B-side! For Savatage I’m weary of buying and re-buying. I was going to line up a review of the first album, all three versions….

          Liked by 1 person

  1. What was it with those Italian produced bootlegs? I had a ton of Nirvana and Pearl Jam tapes and CDs back in the day. Long before the internet and bootlegs were easy to get for free.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I can imagine 90% easy. Certainly would be around that with my own bootleg tapes and CDs… I guess it was much easier to sell them in Europe.

        I used to buy them from a chap at the Barras. Me and some friends got to know the guy a bit and he got to know us – used to ask if there was anything we were looking for and he’d let us listen to the tapes or CDs we were after to see what the quality was like. “That one is soundboard… that’s a radio broadcast… that’s a pretty decent audience recording…”. Every few months he would be missing for the weekend and turn up next time with a bunch of new stuff and tell me that he would pick them up at record fairs and whatnot across Europe.

        Although it’s easy to find good boots on the internet, I do miss that stall.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The first time I ever went to a record show, I was probably 19 years old. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Bootlegs everywhere! Tapes and CDs! Expensive! Had to pick just one! (I picked Kiss – Unholy Kisses from 1992 — I believe made in Italy!) I recall seeing a Def Leppard one with all early tracks I’d never heard of. Iron Maiden…U2…so many CDs.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I used to buy a bunch every weekend. Pretty much all the money I had went on bootleg tapes and new releases. All the unreleased stuff was great…


    1. Deke I actually had a policy at work: buy every bootleg I saw by bands I like! I passed on an early Crowes one in my first months. I regretted that and made the “always buy” policy for myself. I got them so cheap compared to what you usually saw them for. It seemed a good idea because I could sell them and recoup or make profit. Things like Savatage (this one) I have probably not played in 15-20 years….


  2. “Better listen to me you son of a bitch,
    Better disarm those missiles sleeping in the ditch,
    You have no goddamn right to do the things you do,
    The world would be a better place if we were rid of you!”

    Shades of Dylan’s Masters Of War…


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