Die Young

REVIEW: Neon Nights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell – Live in Europe

HEAVEN & HELL – Neon Nights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell – Live in Europe (2010 Armoury)

Even though there was a double live CD (Radio City Music Hall) shortly before this, I don’t think anybody was complaining.  Obviously, with Dio now gone, this is his final live album. There was also a studio album in between these two live albums (The Devil You Know) and there are three songs from it here. The fact that none of these albums are released under the name “Black Sabbath” means nothing, to me this is Black Sabbath by any other name.  Please excuse me if you find me using the names Black Sabbath and Heaven & Hell interchangeably.

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Obviously Ronnie was not a young man when he died, and the human voice changes naturally with age. This is not the same sound as the guy who recorded Mob Rules or Heaven and Hell. The older Ronnie had a deeper voice, the range reduced noticeably. However, it is still Ronnie James Dio, one of the most powerful charismatic metal singers of all time. It might be an older, wiser Ronnie, but he knows how to work around his voice’s limitations to still deliver stirring versions of these songs.  He made stylistic changes to compensate.

The band itself is cooking. Tony’s riffing and soloing sounds straight out of 1980. Vinnie’s drumming is more fill-laden than it was on The Devil You Know which was very sparse. I’m happy about this.  Geezer is playing those rolling, rollicking bass lines that only he can compose.  This helps define that “Black Sabbath sound”. Geezer played on 3/4 of Black Sabbath’s studio albums, and his bass sound is part of that identity.  Most importantly, Heaven & Hell were having fun, showing the world why these guys together were as Black as any Sabbath. This is the way it should have gone with the Dehumanizer tour. That reunion should have lasted a long time, should have produced tours like this one, and should have produced a live album. I guess there were still egos and wound and the band weren’t ready to stick it out back then. This then is our last chance to appreciate the Iommi/Butler/Appice/Dio gestalt of Black Sabbath.  They should have but didn’t get all the glory back in ’92, the last time they tread the floorboards of hockey barns nationwide.

The track listing is just fine and dandy if brief. I would have preferred a double CD like Live Evil or Radio City Music Hall. Highlights for this listener included the three new songs, especially “Bible Black” and “Fear”. I also loved the new version of “Heaven and Hell,” which has some new tricks during the extended middle. I guess the guys were being creative right up til their last.

Because the keyboards are handled by Scott Warren (Dio) and not Geoff Nicholls (Sabbath 1980-1995),  there is a slightly different sound to the backing keyboard parts. He uses different voices than Nicholls did. Not a huge deal but an observation worth mentioning. Speaking of voices, I don’t like the way that Sabbath have been using tapes/samples on the backing vocals. This is especially noticeable on “I,” where you can hear several distinct Ronnie’s singing backup vocals while the “live” Ronnie sings lead. I guess Sabbath lacks a good solid backup singer, and Ronnie couldn’t hit the same notes anymore, but I feel cheated. I am firmly in the category of people who like their live music to sound live.

4/5 stars. Still a crucial part of the Sabbath live canon and necessary to all fans as Ronnie’s last stand.

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Part 215: Mono

RECORD STORE TALES Part 215:  Mono

Today, I was listening to some old-school Dio, and I had a thought.  A sudden thought that I wanted to explore:

“My taste in music was 100% solidified by that month in 1986 that I had mono!”

Yeah!  I think it’s true!  I was sick at home for a month (at least) too tired to do anything except record videos on the Pepsi Power Hour!  I was inundated with a steady intake of incredible songs, in many cases for the first time.  And because I still have the old VHS tapes, I know exactly what’s on them.  This brief but intense period of my life was rocked by this soundtrack, over and over again:

power hourOzzy Osbourne – “The Ultimate Sin”

Hear N’ Aid – “Stars”

Dio – “Rock and Roll Children”

Black Sabbath – “Die Young”

Lee Aaron – “Shake It Up”

ZZ Top – “Rough Boy”

Kim Mitchell – “Lager and Ale”

Thor (Jon Mikl Thor) – “Keep the Dogs Away”

Triumph – “Never Surrender”

Loudness – “Let It Go”

Spinal Tap – “Hell Hole”, the theme song that my sister and I dedicated to our old Catholic grade school!

These songs were first impressed upon me during that period, the visuals always cool and intriguing to me.  Especially Lee Aaron.  Ahem.  Anyway.  I watched these videos over and over again.   I recorded the audio (in mono) (…hah, I made a pun!) to a cassette so I could listen to them on my Walkman.  This came in handy at the cottage.  We didn’t have a VCR or cable there, so the only way to bring my songs was to tape them from the TV.

That one intense period of being stuck at home with nothing but heavy metal heroes might have made me the LeBrain I am today.  I’m glad something good came out of it!  I couldn’t even go swimming that entire summer!

MOVIE REVIEW: FUBAR II (2010)

“Knowledge of non-knowledge is power. “  – Dean Murdoch

FUBAR II

FUBAR II (2010 Alliance, directed by Michael Dowse)

Most sequels aren’t worth owning.  Fubar II is.  Plus, it comes with a bonus disc: Fubar, the original complete film. This was a total surprise to me. I had no idea it was going to be in there. I’m a little bummed that I bought the original film on blu shortly before this.  I gifted it to my buddy Cliff at work who also adores the exploits of Terry and Deaner.

Synopsis:  5 years after surgery, Deaner is celebrating these years of good health. Even though an eviction is looming, he and Terry have no real worries.  During a drunken house-trashing party, Tron tells them they have jobs waiting in Fort McMurray. Terry and Dean pack up their meager belongings and head to work in the oilsands.

As with the first Fubar, tragedy must eventually strike. Terry and Dean come to blows over a girl, Trish, who Terry has moved in with. Dean gets some bad news, and Terry gets even more unexpected news from Trish. For a while, Fubar II becomes much darker than the first film.

Unbelievably, a stroke of scripting genius turns Dean’s tragedy into triumph. This ending was as satisfactory as it gets. I ended Fubar II with a huge smile on my face. This sequel does something very unusual: it is funnier than the original, it has more emotion than the original, yet it doesn’t copy it. I have to say this is one of the best sequels I’ve seen.

The footage of the oilsands is really cool.  It looks like a cross between Vegas and the Mustafar system – a whole other planet. One thing about this movie, you can tell it had a budget this time, compared to the original. There are some really nice looking shots, and the movie itself looks great. The graininess has been replaced by slick production. The documentary style has been mostly dropped in favour of more traditional storytelling, although a few interview segments are scattered within.

For music geeks, Justin Hawkins of The Darkness has a vocal cameo near the end.  You’ll know it when you hear it!  The movie also features excellent tunage by Ronnie James Dio & Black Sabbath, The Gun, and Dean’s own classic “Whale Hunter”.

I mentioned the bonus disc with the entire original film, bonus features intact.   Other special bonuses in this set include a ton of deleted scenes. While some were overly long and you can seen why they were edited or pared down, others add to the story and comedy. There were several regarding Dean’s illness that might have worked well in the movie. One, “Mixing Meats,” was a shorty that just had me howling. Also, like the original film, this one comes with a commentary from Michael Dowse and others. Better though will be the in-character commentary by Terry and Dean. This was a real treat on the original film, and I’m sure this one will be too. I’ll have to check that out on next viewing.

Pick this up. Just give’r.

5/5 stars