Reviews

REVIEW: Journey – Freedom (2022, Japanese bonus track)

JOURNEY – Freedom (2022 Japan, Ward Records)

Last month we gave Journey’s new album Freedom a glowing review.  We also did an excellent episode of Tim’s Vinyl Confessions to discuss the new album.  Though many were sceptical, Tim and I agreed more or less on the entire album.  We were both pleasantly surprised at its quality.  What was missing was the Japanese bonus 16th track.  Neither of us got a hold of it…until now.

The bonus track, exclusive to Japan, is a Jon Cain penned track called “Hard To Let It Go”.  If you are predicting the song is a ballad…you would be correct.

Spoiler:  Tim’s comment upon hearing “Hard To Let It Go” was “I can see why the Journey track didn’t make the album…so-so.”

Below you can read the full Journey Freedom review, now including bonus track.


What a…well, Journey…it has been!  First drummer Deen Castronovo was fired for…reasons we won’t get into.  Steve Smith was brought back to replace him, until both Smith and bassist Ross Valory were fired for attempted takeover of the band?  One way or another they ended up with Randy Jackson and Narada Michael Walden forming a lethal new rhythm section.  Also added was second keyboardist Jason Derlatka.  Now Deen is back and the album they created together, Freedom, is a special one compared to all the other post-Perry records.  Musically, Freedom is the strongest lineup since the classic era. With Narada on songwriting, there is a clear uptick in memorable material. 16 songs, and a more satisfying listen than the last three or four Journey studio albums.  Freedom actually feels like a three sided album, with five songs per side (plus the bonus track).  Listen with that in mind and see if you agree.

1. “Together We Run” – Classic 80s sound with a catchy Jon Cain piano opening. Awesome chorus. The “Woah Woah Woah” part is excellent.  Top it with a classic Schon solo. Arnel  Pineda sounds more soulful than before. 5/5

2. “Don’t Give Up On Us” – This is the “Separate Ways” ripoff.  Tell me you can’t hear it.  It’s slowed down a tad, but similar. Good tune though! 4/5

3. “Still Believe in Love” – The first ballad.  Narada’s really nailing that soul vibe on drums. Really soft/romantic but good. 4/5

4. “You Got the Best of Me” – Second single. Solid Journey style hard rocker. Narada nails this vibe too in a style reminiscent of Steve Smith. Chorus is stellar. 5/5

5. “Live to Love Again” – Jonathan Cain solo writing credit. A bit corny but not more so than other Journey ballads or Bon Jovi for that matter. 3/5

6. “The Way We Used To Be” – First single, so long ago! Darker, more ominous Journey, but absolutely killer. Takes a while to sink it. Works better on the album than as a single. Powerful, with great chorus. 5/5

7. “Come Away With Me” – Uncharacteristic hard rock groover. Randy Jackson for the win. Do I hear an homage to the first album on this one? Relentless song! 5/5

8. “After Glow” – Ballad #3. At least each ballad is different from one another, which is necessary on an album like this. Deen Castronovo on lead vocals. Very Steve Perry circa Trial By Fire. 3.5/5

9. “Let It Rain” – Woah! Completely different. Funk courtesy of Mr. Randy Jackson on bass. Solid unexpected funky groove going on here. Schon is mental! 4/5

10. “Holdin’ On” – Randy’s first co-write. Very much an homage to the first three progressive Journey albums. Time signature is nuts. 4/5

11. “All Day, All Night” – Randy Jackson is MVP for his bass pulse on this soulful, funky groove. Wicked song, An album highlight. Schon just punctuates the air with some chords while the bass carries the verses. Arnel in top voice on the screamin’ outro. 5/5

12. “Don’t Go” – Arnel’s first co-write. Like early 80’s Bon Jovi with an uplifting power chorus. 5/5

13. “United We Stand” – No quite a ballad, but a midtempo tune. Lyrics could be interpreted as about the division in the US. Not a highlight, just kinda sits there. 3/5

14. “Life Rolls On” – A song about aging and rolling with the changes. Begins as a ballad and transforms into a rocker. Nice organ on here by Jon Cain. 4/5

15. “Beautiful As You Are” – Album closing ballad/rocker. Lovely acoustic closer. Understated and perfect until it goes rocker at the end. Arnel in top voice hitting the high notes. Homage to classic Journey at the end – “Anytime”? Walden kicking absolutely ass on the outro. 5/5

16. “Hard To Let It Go” – Ballads can work very well as bonus tracks; an added “coda” to a track listing.  “Hard To Let It Go” takes a few listens to like.  If it were in the main tracklist, it would fade into the background in the wake of better songs.  Slow, deliberate, with an excellent speedy bluesy solo by Neal.  (Steve Perry did call Neal Schon one of the best blues players in the world on the Captured live album.)  Really though, the song is B-side quality compared to the rest of Freedom.  It stands out a little more thanks to its positioning as the last song. 3/5

Freedom is the first Journey since Trial By Fire that really intrigues you enough to go in for multiple listens.  This lineup has it all and though health issues have gotten in they way of Randy and Narada touring, the album is a moment frozen in time when Journey had these two awesome veterans in the engine room.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick (1972, 50th Anniversary remixed, cut 1/2 speed vinyl edition)

Thanks to Aaron of the KMA for sending this record for my 50th birthday!  50th anniversary edition for my 50th trip around the sun.

 

JETHRO TULL – Thick As A Brick (Originally 1972, 50th Anniversary Chrysalis Steven Wilson remix, cut 1/2 speed vinyl edition)

This review is focused on the remix and packaging of the 50th anniversary edition.  For a more music-focused analysis, read our 25th Anniversary CD review.  That CD came out in 1997.  How does that make you feel?  Here we are on the 50th anniversary of this great album already.

Even those who dislike remixes often approve of those done by Steven Wilson.  In 2012, for Thick As A Brick‘s 40th anniversary, Wilson created new stereo and 5.1 mixes for the album.  Such remixes work best when you play the album and can’t quite tell exactly what has changed.  Such is the case for Thick As A Brick.  The bass sounds deeper and the album sounds bigger.  You may notice musical elements you didn’t pick up on before, but the remix was clearly done with respect and never deviates too far from what you know.

The 5.1 remix is scheduled for a reissue in the fall, as even the 40th anniversary edition will get a reprint after nearly a decade out of print.

This vinyl LP was cut at 1/2 speed at AIR Studios.  According to the front sticker, this was performed on “a fully customized Neumann VMS80 lathe with fully recapped electronics”.  According to the same sticker, the 1/2 speed cutting allows better recreation of high frequencies.  I probably can’t hear them anyway, but in short:  the record sounds amazing!  The nuances of the flute, the organ, the acoustics…all here.  All thick as a brick!  Punchy.  More three-dimensional.  Because everything is so clear and in your face, this is my preferred way to listen to Thick As A Brick.  There is no struggling to hear any of the parts.  It’s all there, with good separation too.

For this reissue, the newspaper packaging has been reproduced full size.  The actual sleeve of the album is a 12 page newspaper.  This was, of course, discontinued for most reissues over the past decades.  Like a real newspaper, this packaging include crosswords and advertisements, all fake and meticulously assembled to entertain and baffle those who stumbled upon it.  The outer page, which becomes the front cover, is of harder paper stock than the inner pages.  There have been complaints of bent and damaged pages inside the shrink wrap, but this copy was perfect upon opening.

In case you need to be told, Thick As A Brick is one song, split over two sides of vinyl.  “Thick As A Brick” sides one and two; there’s your complete tracklisting!  It must be said that though side two tends to get less appreciation, the last 10 minutes are pure progressive rock delight.  The album just gallops on side two.

Get your newspaper and a coffee, and sit down to enjoy the Steven Wilson remix of Thick As A Brick.  It’s a lovely way to spend your day.

5/5 stars

 

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Mystique – Standing on the Firing Line (Guest video review by Uncle Meat)

Thanks to Marco D’Auria for the use of three exclusive movie clips in this review.

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 2 – CD 2 & bonus features)

Part Forty-Three of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 2 – CD 2 & bonus features) (2013 Bludgeon Riffola)

When Def Leppard rocked Vegas, they rocked it with far more than just a faithful live reproduction of the Hysteria album.  They also “opened” for themselves as “Ded Flatbird”, and treated the diehards to a set of 15 deep cuts and lesser hits.  For many, this is in fact the superior part of the show.  Indeed, Leppard really pulled some surprises out of the bag, finally satisfying a number of fans who perennially complained, “Why don’t they play ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’?”  With a wink and a smile, they did.  They performed two completely different sets as Ded Flatbird, on March 29 and March 30 2013.

Beginning with the March 29 set, the unlisted intro is a bit of “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, which is not present on the CD, only the DVD.  Then it’s onto the first shocker of the night, and probably the biggest:  non-album B-side “Good Morning Freedom”, from the single “Hello America“.  Straight-ahead riff rock.  It sounds surprisingly at home with the current version of Leppard.  Phil rips a solo and Rick Allen can’t wipe the smile off his face.  For the occasion of opening for himself, Phil Collen wears a shirt.  (Appropriate for an “opening act”, the backdrop is a simple union jack flag, hiding the big screens that would come out for the main set.)

As soon as “Good Morning Freedom” has struck its final chord, and standing in front of a stack of EVH amps, Phil rips into the delicious “Wasted” single.  This song from the first album is the one fans have been begging for, for years.  Joe’s voice is lower and rougher, and perhaps even more effective.  The song is still lethal!  That riff could be the most devastating one in their entire catalogue.

From Pyromania, “Stagefright” is another welcome inclusion.  Joe struggles with the challenging screamin’ vocals but he does the job.  He doesn’t cheat the notes.  This is the Leppard that fans have been wanting to see live all this time.  Then another shock:  from High ‘n’ Dry it’s “Mirror Mirror”!  Joe introduces Ded Flatbird as the best Def Leppard cover band in the world, and he must be right.  The tackle this, one of early Leppard’s sharpest and most melodically riffy songs, with ease.

Joe claims his name is “Booty Ruben” as they kick into the Sweet cover “Action”.  There are several official live versions out there.  This is one of ’em.  Not a song necessary for anyone to need another live version of, but once again Rick Allen can’t seem to stop smiling.  Back to the oldies, it’s another surprise with the early single “Rock Brigade”.  Perhaps by adopting the alternate identity of Booty Ruben (who swears Joe Elliott is a nice guy!), Joe is able to sing these old lyrics from a lifetime ago without feeling too silly.  He sounds awesome on the On Through the Night material.  Their music hadn’t got really screamy yet and Joe rocks it with ease.

Another surprise comes next, albeit a more recent one.  From their last album, Mirror Ball, is the rarely played “Undefeated”.  Though not one of their most outstanding songs, even the generic “Undefeated” deserves to be heard live at least once.  This is to date the only live version you can buy.  “Promises” from Euphoria is the last song of this set, and it sounds really great live with rich backing vocals.

The March 30 Ded Flatbird set brings us another set of delight.  After “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, they go right into “On Through the Night” from High ‘n’ Dry.  A bit “Achilles Last Stand”, isn’t it?  Screamin’ Joe manages well.

The surprising “Slang” from 1996 introduces modern beats.  It sounds good live, if a bit under-energetic.  Sounds like it’s just a little shy of full concert electricity.  But that’s OK.  If energy is what you need, then Leppard come at you with both barrels for the remainder of the set:  it’s all of side one of High ‘n’ Dry, in sequence.  “That ain’t good enough?” asks Joe/Booty.  No, no, it’s plenty good, this is what we have been asking for all this time!

“Let It Go” powers the show forward.  Amazing how close they nail it considering the Def Leppard of today has two different guitar players than the band of 1981.  Yet “Let It Go” is the triumph you want it to be.  “Another Hit and Run” is pure smoke.  Full speed ahead, Screamin’ Joe givin’ it all he’s got, and Viv and Phil ripping the solos while Rick and Rick keep blasting it forward.  “High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night)” brings the tempo down but the temperature up.  What a riff, and what a fist pumper.

The closing pair of “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” and “Switch 625” are a thrilling way to end this set.  Like a true guitar duo, Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen walk together to the ramp protruding from the front of the stage, and play “Switch 625” united.  It’s beautiful.  Not to be left out, Ricks Allen and Savage then get a bass/drum outro together.

The DVD has a few more extras to discuss.  There’s a brief and somewhat pointless photo gallery, to the tune of “Animal” live.  None of the photos are on screen long enough to really study.  A better bonus is the “Acoustic Medley”, which is on the DVD but not on CD, except in Japan where it was included as the bonus track.  We’ll discuss this awesome bonus next time.

Viva! Hysteria is an excellent package from top to bottom.  The band were fearless, playing material that they have shied away from for years.  Two CDs, one DVD, and a total of 30 tracks.  Leppard worked hard to get these songs into shape live, and Joe in particular had a lot of challenging material to sing.  They pulled it off, with flying colours, proving that Def Leppard are just as good as they ever were.

5/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings
  42. Viva! Hysteria (CD 1 & DVD)

Next:

44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese bonus track)
45. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
46. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
47. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

REVIEW: Rush – “Caravan” / “BU2B” (2010 CD single)

RUSH – “Caravan” / “BU2B” (2010 CD Anthem single)

“Parts one and two of Clockwork Angels, a work in progress”.

That’s pretty monumental.  Rush were releasing two key tracks from their forthcoming studio album, a full concept album this time, well in advance.  Two years in advance.  Notably, this was a full concept album start to finish.  In the 70s, Rush were more known for half concept, half non-conceptual records.  The bands that Rush inspired like Queensryche and Dream Theater had done full concepts.  Now the original masters were taking a shot.

On the final album, “Caravan” is track one and “BU2B” is track two.  On this single the order is swapped.  “BU2B” (“Brought Up to Believe”) opens, although its intro changes on the album version.  “BU2B” absolutely slams.  “I was brought up to believe that the universe has a plan…”  Perhaps it opens this single because it sums up the overall album concept.  In a fictional world run precisely by a “Watchmaker”, a rebellious protagonist feels pulled in a direction different from that assigned to his life.  Questioning his reality, he embarks on his own adventures despite his mandated mundane role in society.  Musically, after the metallic riff has done its business, Neil Peart takes the spotlight a moment as the song shifts.  Geddy lays down the heavy bottom end while Alex strikes hither and yon with lightning-like licks.  Clearly a classic in the making.

“Caravan”, the final album opener, sounds pretty much the same as the record.  It establishes the setting, “in a world lit only by fire…”  The riff is a major feature, a deliberate, descending rock monster that feels just right in the guts.  The lyrics paint a picture of a steampunk world, half explored, with alchemy and ancient knowledge.

Clockwork Angels wound up as one of the greatest final albums by any band anywhere any time.  This single is a nice add-on, a reminder of the long careful gestation period that created a masterpiece.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: KISS – Off the Soundboard – Des Moines 11.29.1977 (2022)

Off the Soundboard – Des Moines November 29 1977 (2022 Universal)

We are now at the fourth Off the Soundboard series release from Kiss, and this is the most hyped yet.  It’s the second original lineup release in the series, but the first from the classic era.  This time we travel back with Ace, Peter, Gene and Paul to the Alive II tour.  Arguably the pinnacle before things began to slowly crumble, this Alive II show is unsurprisingly loaded with Kiss firepower.  However, with only one CD, it’s the shortest in the series so far.  It does appear to include everything they played that night.

Opening with the brand new “I Stole Your Love”, Kiss truly were on fire.  Playing fast, tight and enthused, this is the Kiss of legend, the Kiss we have heard stories of!  Unaltered Kiss live in their prime!  The sound is, as expected, bootleggy, but pretty solid considering it’s 45 years old.  Paul’s vocals are so good they can bring a tear to your eye, remembering the Starchild when he was bulletproof.

“King of the Night Time World”, still second in the set, benefits from Peter Criss’ trademark pitter-patter.  Ace is a bit shrill at the beginning, but it’s 1977 technology.  Star Wars was brand new and the Space Ace was in his element.  He always harmonized well with Paul, which he does on “King”.  Paul then invites the girls to meet ’em in the “Ladies Room”, which means it’s Gene’s turn to sing.  Gene messed up some lyrics:  “You say you like to play, well, yes you play with me anyway.”  Or something like that.  Sounds like his bassline is also off.  Doesn’t matter, in fact that makes it even more cool.  A snapshot of a moment in time.  It’s all more of less buried in the glorious noise they call live rock and roll.  The crowd certainly didn’t care.

Paul tells them that Kiss had a good feelin’ about comin’ back to Iowa.  Temperature’s rising, so they gotta call out the “Firehouse”!  A lot faster than album and more like Kiss Alive!, this version of “Firehouse” is incendiary for all its energy and flaws.  The only misfire is Paul’s intro to “Love Gun” itself.  He’s certainly done better.  “When it comes to shootin’, we ain’t gonna miss!”  You just did, Paul!  Fortunately the song is just as kicking as ever, with Paul absolutely roaring.  This is the Kiss I remember growing up with.  Unstoppable energy.  The power remains high on “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N Roll”.  In a quaint blast from the past, Paul wants to see some lights in the crowd, some matches!  This is a song that always sounds best with Ace Frehley on lead guitar, and those who love the Spaceman will appreciate his fearless fretwork and signature technique all over it.

A chunky “Makin’ Love” is a set highlight, all riff and bass with Paul audibly jumping around haphazardly.  Peter is awesome on this.  “Christine Sixteen” is a bit clunky and awkward, as is Paul’s intro.  The less said the better.  “Christine Sixteen” falls into place on the chorus.  Their vocals here are an excellent example of Kiss’ ability to actually sing.  Then the moment you have been waiting for:  Paul says they got a surprise, and Ace Frehley’s gonna do “Shock Me”.  This version of “Shock Me” is up there with the better ones and of course Ace gets his big solo at the end.  It’s not just the Alive II solo, it’s a different beast and by the middle, Ace gets his Les Paul roaring.

The gentle intro of “I Want You” is just a feint, we all know that the song absolutely slams.  Ace’s guitar stings on the verses, and he gets to take an extra solo at the end just before Paul goes into his “I waaaa-aaa-aaaant!” tease with the crowd.  Then he queries whether everybody’s ready to take their medicine?  It’s time to call out “Dr. Love” and Gene is loving it.  “Shout It Out Loud” follows, at a fast tempo similar to its Alive II rendition.  The vocals are better though; you can really hear Peter Criss in the back.  His drumwork is manic too.  Great rendition of “Shout It Out Loud” and one of the best on CD.

Gene’s bass solo precedes “God of Thunder”.  It’s noise; just bass through a digital processor. Skippable noise.  “God of Thunder” itself is much better, containing a Gene/Peter groove that doesn’t always fall right into the pocket like this one does.  Then the Catman gets his drum solo, which is better and longer than the Alive II rendition.  (Gene’s vocals are also better, way more aggressive.)

“Rock and Roll all Nite” is the last song of the main set, the rock and roll national anthem according to Paul.  Like many of the songs, it’s faster too.  Very cool to hear both Ace and Peter on backing vocals quite clearly.  The Spaceman’s solo is sloppy stuttery greatness, and it’s hard not to enjoy this song that we already have live in dozens of incarnations.

Onto the encores:  “Detroit”, of course “Beth”, and the finale “Black Diamond”.  “Detroit” opens with a mistake and Kiss quickly recover, driving the thing into oncoming traffic with a reckless devil-may-care attitude.  By this point in the show, Kiss are playing on adrenaline and missing some of the parts.  Which is half the thrill.  As for “Beth”:  it’s “Beth”.  No more no less, though there is a lot of tape noise.  Peter’s vocals are so-so.  He struggles when he has to be tender, but he blasts on “Black Diamond”, which oddly opens with full band introductions which you rarely hear at a Kiss concert.  Paul gets a spotlight moment to play around with the “Black Diamond” intro on guitar before he starts singing.  Pound for pound, this is one of the best versions of “Black Diamond” by the original lineup out there.  From the vocals to the Ace soloing, to the explosive outro, this is one of the best renditions hands down.

Now that the vaults have been opened and we’re getting classic shows from the original lineup, the sky’s the limit what could come next.  This is the best one so far.  Let’s hope for an Eric Carr show soon.

4.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 1 – DVD & CD 1)

Part Forty-Two of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 1 – DVD & CD 1) (2013 Bludgeon Riffola)

In the long history of Def Leppard, one of the greatest things they did was go to Vegas and play all of Hysteria live in sequence.  Joe Elliott worked hard on getting his voice in shape to sing those old songs from 25 years before.  Hysteria was an album where every track was meant to be a potential single.  It’s really the most logical of any record, short of a concept album, to play live in sequence.

This review focuses on Disc 1, the Hysteria set.  The next review will cover Disc 2 and the “Ded Flatbird” set of rare tracks.

You already know Hysteria (or at least you better since we have reviewed it here three separate times).  You know every song is great (with the possible exception of “Excitable”) and you know how important this album was, and still is.  In the opening DVD intro, Joe stresses the importance of writing great songs.*  Hopefully you know every one by heart and can hear the differences.  Viva la difference!

Shirtless Phil Collen opens on a rising platform, playing the opening signature to “Women”.  The DVD looks fantastic, sharp and with great angles.  Rick Allen’s Hysteria kick drum lights up when he hits it.  And check out Joe’s cool Hysteria-striped mic stand.  The recording is also excellent with lots of separation between the guitars.  Dig Rick Allen’s union jack headphones, and check out Joe nailing that first scream before the solo.

“Rocket” has some impressive backing vocals.  The backdrop changes to a wall of TV sets, like the old music video.  The guitars slightly deviate from the album blueprint but only just.  Onto “Animal”, a reliable toe-tapper.  The pace changes with the first ballad “Love Bites” but it’s a natural place to slow it down.  Phil takes some different roads with his guitar parts, adding some new flavours.  The camera lets us see all of Rick Savage’s pedal work too, normally hidden by the stage monitors.  Vivian Campbell does a wonderful job of the classic Steve Clark guitar solo.

 

“Sugar” goes next, always a bit goofy live (if not in the studio).  It’s still an undeniable anthem and the smiles in the audience tell the story.  The backing vocals can be dicey but they are solid as a rock here, with Viv and Shirtless Phil doing the heavy lifting.  Viv takes the spotlight for the “Armageddon It” intro and we’re already halfway through.  There are times in the solo when the Irish axeman just bursts into grins at the Vegas experience.

At this point the lights go out, and old video footage from In the Round: In Your Face goes up on the screens.  It’s a Steve Clark moment, as “Gods of War” was one of his signature songs.  Steve’s unique intro plays before the band comes back live.  It’s almost seamless, as if Clark was there for a brief moment.  Joe Elliott really delivers on this song.

“Don’t Shoot Shotgun” is surprisingly fun, with live vocals instead of the layered and sequenced album counterparts.  Now that we’re on side two of Hysteria, Viv has shed his jacket and changed his colour palette from blue to red.  It must be said, the Irishman does an impeccable job of paying tribute to Steve Clark’s solos.

On the demanding “Run Riot”, Joe does the best he can with his voice at his age, but this is the first point of the show where it’s really noticeable.  Though he’s hitting the notes, the depth of grit and power can’t be matched.  And that’s fine.  That’s not a criticism, just an observation for the purposes of this review.

“Hysteria” is the centerpiece.  Majestic; magical, mysteria!  This version is as good as any other live version.  They always do it well.  But “Excitable” might the surprise.  Is it better live, stripped of the samples and loopiness?  It may well be.  It’s certainly harder.  Screamin’ Joe absolutely nails every high on this one.

Hard to believe we’re already there, but it’s the Hysteria album closer, “Love and Affection”.  Always one of those deep cuts that should have been a commercial single, “Love and Affection” rules.  Vocally, it too is very demanding and so the album version cannot quite be matched.  Close, though!  Very close.

Joe Elliott does not get enough credit.  As a singer, a songwriter, and just awesome human.  He does not get enough credit.

Encore?  Of course!  “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph”; two essential songs from Pyromania.  They need to be there.  So there they are.  For deeper cuts, we’ll have to wait until Disc 2, the “Ded Flatbird” set (which is Def Leppard opening for themselves with a set of rarities).  As for the Viva! Hysteria portion of the package, it’s a completely satisfying disc.

As an unlisted extra, the end credits are to the tune of the 2013 re-recording of “Hysteria”.  A physical release, albeit DVD and not CD.

5/5 stars

 

* Some of this footage is recycled from the Visualize DVD, including Steve Clark interview material.

 

 

 

5/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings

Next:

43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 and DVD extras)
44. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
45. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
46. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

Sunday Screening: Trainwreckords – Generation Swine (Todd in the Shadows)

Todd in the Shadows has finally tackled one of the 1990s greatest turds: Motley Crue’s Generation Swine.  Though “hair metal” isn’t his genre, Todd gets most of the facts right and touches on many of the factors that made this album such a trainwreck.  He uses interviews with Nikki Sixx, John Corabi and others to illustrate the history, and also throws in some clips from Pam & Tommy.  Simply stated, Motley were lost at sea with a much-hyped Vince Neil reunion that never lived up to expectations.  In fact Motley purposely veered away from expectations.  The biggest problem was that they had no idea where they were going.

Enjoy!

REVIEW: Rod Stewart – “Leave Virginia Alone” (1995 CD single)

ROD STEWART – “Leave Virginia Alone” (1995 Warner CD single)

Rod Stewart’s album A Spanner in the Works came out during my first year at the Record Store.  I have a lot of fond memories of hearing certain songs.  “Leave Virginia Alone” was one of them.  Tom Petty penned this acoustic mid-tempo hit.  Petty wrote it during the 1994 Wallflowers sessions, though his version was not released until after his passing.  Though it has a certain unmistakable Petty quality, Stewart makes it his own song simultaneously.  Like an electron caught between two positive charges, “Leave Virginia Alone” is both quintessentially Rod and Tom at once.  My preference is to Rod’s rendition.

The B-side is an exclusive non-album song called “Shock To The System”. To my knowledge it’s never been released anywhere else, making this brief single worth owning for fans.  It’s a guitar based rocker with funky bass and a nice fat horn section backing Rod. Good song.  Sounds like vintage 70s Rod, with 90s production.  A bit like “Hot Legs”.  Probably considered not commercial enough for a 90s Rod album.

4/5 stars. Good, but too brief.

RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – iTunes re-recordings (2012-2013)

Part Forty-One of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original reviews: 

DEF LEPPARD – iTunes re-recordings (2012-2013)

It began in 2010.  After a long absence from the digital platform, Rick Savage of Def Leppard announced that their music would soon be available to buy on iTunes.  Due to a long dispute over dollars and cents with the record label, Leppard’s albums were not yet available on the platform.  Then, due to “some twat at the label” (according to Joe!), somebody reneged and the deal never came to be.  As a short-term solution, Def Leppard decided to record new versions of old hits exclusively for iTunes.

The first of these new versions, affectionately called “forgeries” by Joe, came in 2012.  It was a double-A sided single (to use ancient terminology) for “Pour Some Sugar On Me (2012)” and “Rock of Ages (2012)”.

Beginning with “Sugar”, the opening guitar figure is virtually indistinguishable from the 1987 original.  Only the “Hey!” vocals really hint this is not your old “Sugar”.  Joe Elliott sounds a teeny bit rougher around the edges, but just a smidge.  This is the same version used on the Family Guy / Simpsons crossover episode, for Peter and Homer’s “sexy car wash”.  Only serious fans will know immediately this is a forgery.  Everyone else should be happy thinking they’re listening to the same recording they had on their Walkmans in highschool.

From the “Gunta Gleeben Glooten Globen”, it’s clear “Rock of Ages” is also pretty close.  Being more reliant on the vocals, it becomes more evident early on this is a re-recording, but it is an admirable job.  The backing music and even the mix is eerily similar.  It’s just impossible for anyone to scream as if it’s 1983.

The next re-recording released in 2012 was a single track, but a medley of acoustic hits.  This is less a forgery and more a re-imagining and re-framing of some big and lesser known songs.  The abbreviated tracks performed in order are:

  • 0:00 to 1:01: “Where Does Love Go When It Dies”
  • 1:02 to 2:06: “Now”
  • 2:07 to 3:22: “When Love and Hate Collide”
  • 3:23 to 4:36: “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”
  • 4:37 to 7:32: “Two Steps Behind”

Joe’s in fantastic form on this medley and even though it’s an acoustic performance, there’s care and production value, not just acoustic guitars.  They obviously spent time arranging this medley, because it flows incredibly well from song to song, focusing on the best parts.  It also includes the complete “Two Steps Behind” as the closer.

The final iTunes re-recording came early in 2013.  One more ballad, but not acoustic:  this was “Hysteria”, which coincided with their Viva! Hysteria shows in Las Vegas.  This one might be the closest of all the forgeries.  Joe worked hard to get his voice in vintage shape again for those shows, and “Hysteria” shows it.  Easily the most satisfying of all the tracks.  The backing vocals are so bang-on, you’d think Mutt Lange himself stepped into the room to record them all, a note at a time.

Today, only the 2012 acoustic medley is still available to buy on iTunes.  The other three tracks have disappeared.  One of those cases of “you snooze you lose” in the digital world!

4/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)

Next:

42. Viva! Hysteria