Christopher Lee

REVIEW: Hollywood Vampires – Rise (2019 3 CD Japanese edition) Part 2 – Live

Part two of a two part review

Check out part one, the studio album Rise, by clicking here.

HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES – Rise (2019 Edel Japanese edition) – Discs 2 & 3 Live

How do you do a Japanese edition up right?  How about including 21 bonus tracks in the form of a double live album?  Get your credit cards out, folks.

Hollywood Vampires Live unfortunately lacks any English documentation, but Japanese readers might know when and where this show was recorded.  It focuses on the covers with a handful of originals, the basis of the first Hollywood Vampires album.  Unfortunately a few more fallen heroes have been added to the list of rock casualties, and so Lemmy and Bowie are among the stars honoured.

The original tune “Raise the Dead” (featuring an intro by the late Sir Christopher Lee) opens the show, but it’s just preamble for the better known covers.  “I Got A Line On You” is the first track where you realize you’re listening to Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses, The Cult) on drums.  He’s unmistakable.  The big surprise is that the bassist is Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots)!  Alice first covered this tune back in ’88 and it sounds like it’s one of his own songs now.  “20th Century Boy” has bite, a little more than the studio cut.

Alice pauses to explain the concept of the band.  “We are the Hollywood Vampires,” he asserts.  “We pay homage to all of our dead drunk friends.  And here comes one now.”  It’s Keith Moon and “Pinball Wizard”, a Who cover that was not on the Hollywood Vampires’ debut album.  “My Generation” was however, and here it’s injected with the live fire of the sweaty concert stage.  Jimi Hendrix is honoured next with “Manic Depression”.  Joe Perry playing Jimi Hendrix.  Cool.   Alice Cooper has no problem jumping from style to style, expert performer that he is.

“This one’s for John,” states Alice.  That would be John Lennon, with both “Cold Turkey” and “Come Together”.  Joe Perry, of course, is no stranger to “Come Together” which Aerosmith scored a hit with themselves.  “Come Together” is another nice bonus because it wasn’t on the Vampires album.  It has a different feel from Aerosmith’s take even though it’s the same guitar player.

“Seven and Seven Is” (by Arthur Lee and Love) goes next, which is a late addition to the canon.  The Vampires recorded it as an iTunes bonus track for the debut album where it remains an exclusive.  The live version is a blitz; Matt Sorum’s sticks must have caught fire.  Contrasting that is the band’s interpretation of “Whole Lotta Love”, with Alice and Tommy Henriksen singing lead instead of Brian Johnson.

“I met these guys in 1968.  They were my best friends.  And I drank a little bit with Jim Morrison…”  The Doors are next to be saluted.  “Five to One” and “Break On Through” kick ass; Alice really gives ‘er.  David Bowie gets the nod on “Rebel Rebel” and “Suffragette City”.  It all sounds natural to the Hollywood Vampires.

“As Bad As I Am” is an original song about Johnny Depp, and another track that was only on the iTunes version of Hollywood Vampires.  It sounds a bit like “Reckless Life” by Guns N’ Roses.  Joe Perry takes the next lead vocal on “Stop Messin’ Around”, the old Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac blues number.  It’s an obvious choice since Aerosmith covered it on their 2004 blues album Honkin’ on Bobo.  This one is an extended jam, far beyond what Aerosmith did with it.

“My Dead Drunk Friends” is a Vampires original, sort of their raison d’etre, that being paying tribute to Alice’s deceased drinking buddies.  It pales in comparison to “Ace of Spades” (lead vocals by Henriksen), easily the heaviest song that Joe Perry’s ever played on.  Possibly Alice too.  Check out DeLeo on bass, doing his best Lemmy.  It’s sad that Lemmy Kilmister joined the list of Rainbow regulars who didn’t make it, but holy shit, what a version!

Only now, at the end of the concert, do the Vampires roll out their own past hits.  “I’m Eighteen”, “Sweet Emotion”, “Train Kept A Rollin'” and “School’s Out” sound brilliant.  In particular, to hear “I’m Eighteen” with Joe Fucking Perry playing guitar?  “Sweet Emotion” with Alice Cooper singing?  Sweet Jesus Murphy, is this a fever dream?  As usual, Alice melds “Another Brick in the Wall” to “School’s Out” pretty much making it the definitive “school” song.

Closing the show, Alice reminds us:  “And remember, give blood!  To us!”

If the Vampires keep putting out quality releases, then that’s a distinct possibility.

4/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: The Wicker Man (1973, Anchor Bay limited edition)

Rest in peace, Christopher Lee — one of my favourite actors. Please check out Sean Munger’s excellent tribute to this fine performer.  Weirdly enough, he had a heavy metal career too.  Check Sean’s site for the scoop.

THE WICKER MAN (1973, Anchor Bay numbered box)

Directed by Robin Hardy

Please, whatever you do — do not see the Nicholas Cage “remake” (I use that term loosely) of The Wicker Man. Do not waste your time. See this version, the classic Christopher Lee/Edward Woodward original.

Police Sgt. Howie (a young Woodward) receives a tip about a missing girl on Summerisle, a fictitious island in the north of Scotland. He takes a seaplane to the island where he is greeted very cooly by the locals. Strangely, none of the elders claim to know of the girl, Rowan Morrison. Howie is not dissuaded and refuses to leave. He sets up in a local hotel to learn more about the island and the girl.

Nothing adds up, as he finds her desk at the school and her name in the school registers, proof that the girl did exist.  Howie, a devout Christian, is horrified to find that there are no Christians on Summerisle — only Pagans. Their rituals are strange and disgusting to him, and the local church is rundown and obviously unused for quite some time. The things he witnesses on Summerisle are some of the most interesting images in the film, qualifying it a work of true art, and impossible for serious cinema fans to ignore.

Howie finds the grave of Rowan Morrison and wishes to exhume the body, but to do that he needs permission from the owner of the island, Lord Summerisle (Lee). Lee’s presence in this film is magnificent. Some consider this to be the best work of his career. As Lord Summerisle, he is regal, mysterious and dignified. But is he guilty of obstructing justice, or even accessory to murder? What is the secret history of Summerisle, which has suffered failed crops in the recent past? Who sent Howie the tip about the missing girl, and why?

Disturbingly and suddenly, Howie’s seaplane will not start and he cannot return to the mainland. As the plot slowly begins to unfold, and stranger and stranger things are witnessed upon the island, Howie comes to believe that young Rowan is not dead, but soon will be if he does not act. He aims to stop her sacrifice, and comes face to face with the wicker man himself. (If you don’t know what a wicker man is, look it up.) By the end of the movie, you will be haunted by the song “The Lord is My Shepherd” and the words, “Oh Jesus Christ!”


Movie card included in the box set

The horror in this movie is not gore, or monsters, or traditional horror frights. It lies in the situations that Howie gets himself into, by refusing to leave. The film is not for everybody. I know some people who watch it regularly, and others (like my dad) who have found it so chilling that they will never watch it again. Check it out cautiously. Only then will you know if you have the fortitude to face The Wicker Man!

This DVD edition by Anchor Bay is excellent. Two cuts of the film are included. The extended cut features some of the once-lost footage that enhances the experience. The extended version is the version to watch. There is also documentary footage on the DVD, including speculation as to where the last, lost bits of film may be hidden!

The only thing about The Wicker Man that I find hard to swallow is some of the music (some). Music is critical to the film, yes, but face it…Britt Ekland couldn’t sing!

This is a work of fiction. It is not meant to offend anybody of any religion. It is a simply a horror movie, or more accurately a thriller. The only thing offensive about The Wicker Man is that an American film studio thought it was a good idea to try to remake it!

5/5 stars