itunes

REVIEW: Def Leppard – The Lost Session (2018)

DEF LEPPARD – The Lost Session (2018 iTunes)

Cast your memories back to 2012.  Def Leppard re-recorded some very high quality “forgeries” of some of their classic hits for iTunes.  Three of these iTunes singles were released:

  1. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” / “Rock of Ages”
  2. “Acoustic Medley 2012”
  3. “Hysteria 2013”

The iTunes exclusive concept dried up for Def Leppard afterwards, but in 2018 we got six more tracks, from a 2006 “lost session”.  The rest of the songs don’t sound like “forgeries”, as the first ones did.  These are listed on iTunes as “live”.  They are not.  They are also not meticulously recorded recreations.  They lie somewhere between:  not fully live, but raw in a way that Leppard rarely are.

There are a number of surprises in the re-recordings.  First and foremost:  “Let It Go”!  Any Leppard fan will tell you that the 1981 High N’ Dry LP is Leppard at their early, heavy best.  While nothing can compete with the Mutt Lange produced original, the re-recording is still razor sharp.  It gives you a chance to hear Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell on lead guitar.  The pair do not attempt to imitate Pete Willis and Steve Clark, instead blazing their own trail.

You don’t have to wait for the second surprise, a baffling one indeed: a re-recording of “Rock On” from 2006’s covers album Yeah!  Why do Leppard keep playing this song?  (It was even on their recent Best Of.)  Considering how they’ve beaten this dead horse, it’s actually not much of a surprise after all.  It was a boring song to start with, and Leppard can’t save it just by throwing down more guitars.  “When Love and Hate Collide” is another surprising choice to re-record.  The guitars are pretty incredible, but it’s just a ballad from a 1995 greatest hits CD.

“Foolin'” from Pyromania is missing the atmosphere of the original, but otherwise hits all the notes.  Joe Elliott still has an enviable voice.  Then it’s “Promises” from Euphoria, their best song from a dreary era.  Sure it’s a formulaic rewrite of their best hits rolled into one, but it works.  This re-recording is closest in sound and spirit to the original (from 1999).  Finally “Bringing On the Heartbreak” is a smokeshow as the closer.  It’s hard to really call it a ballad; there is some heavy rocking here too.  The guitars sound fabulous.  Def Leppard may no longer be the band they were in the 80s, but Phil and Viv are two of the best players in the game.  They don’t show off, so people rarely think of them when listing great guitarists.  But they are.  The outro solo (sounds like Vivian) nails it!

Def Leppard’s Lost Session is perfect for the fans who have it all.  Re-recordings are almost always very dicey cash grabs.  Leppard’s are worth the purchase.  They’re not cheap knock-offs.  New slants are fused with the old classics, so take these songs out for a fresh spin.

3.5/5 stars

 

 

 

 

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#689: “F*** iTunes” [VIDEO BLOG]

GETTING MORE TALE #689: “F*** iTunes”

 

Once again, here is something that came about due to a conversation with Superdekes over at Arena Rock.  In his review for Bon Jovi’s iTunes exclusive live album Inside Out, Deke said:

Inside Out is an iTunes only live release, which is kinda cool in a way to make guys like Ladano scoff at the no physical product tag! 

He’s right and I scoffed right away.

In jest, I made this video below.  I like to call it “Fuck iTunes”.  Everything is meant in good fun.  Enjoy the video.

 

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Bombay Calling – Bombay Live ’95

BOMBAYDEEP PURPLE – Bombay Calling – Bombay Live ’95 (2003 iTunes)

There are very rare circumstances under which I will pay for a download from iTunes.  I’ve made my case for physical product here over the years many, many times.  When it’s a band that I obsessively collect, like Deep Purple, I make an exception.  Bombay Calling is an interesting live release.  It says “Official Bootleg” right there on the cover art, but I’m not really sure what constitutes an official bootleg anymore.  I look at this as the soundtrack to a DVD that Deep Purple released in 2000, also called Bombay Calling.  That’s essentially what this is — the audio to Bombay Calling, the DVD.  In contains the entire show.

This concert was recorded on April 18 1995, which eagle-eyed fans will realize is well before the Purpendicular album.  Bombay Calling was recorded not long after “the banjo player took a hike” and Purple carried on without Ritchie Blackmore.  Joe Satriani stepped in for a short while, but it was Dixie Dregs guitar maestro Steve Morse that took the Man in Black’s place permanently.  This concert was recorded at the very start of Morse’s tenure, and features a few songs they would drop from the set a year or two later.  It also features a brand new tune they were working on called “Perpendicular Waltz”, later changed to “The Purpendicular Waltz” on the album.

There is one earlier concert available from this period, which is Purple Sunshine in Ft. Lauderdale Florida, exactly two weeks prior.  That one is truly is an official bootleg, taken from audience sources and released on the 12 CD box set Collector’s Edition: The Bootleg Series 1984-2000.  The setlists are slightly different.  When they hit India for this concert, a new song called “Ken the Mechanic” (retitled “Ted the Mechanic”) was dropped, as was “Anyone’s Daughter”.  They were replaced by long time favourites “Maybe I’m a Leo” and “Space Truckin'” from Machine Head.

Special treats for the ears on Bombay Calling include Steve Morse’s incendiary soloing on “Anya” (which would be dropped from the set in 1996).  His feature solo leading into “Lazy” is also excellent, and of course very different from what Ritchie used to do.  Jon Lord’s keyboard solo is among the best I’ve heard, and even features a segue into “Soldier of Fortune” from Stormbringer.  The solo segments that Deep Purple did often allowed them to play snippets from songs from the David Coverdale period of the band, and this one was unexpected and brilliant.

I love a good, raw live performance captured on tape, and Deep Purple don’t muck around.  This one is kind of special, coming from that transitional period when Steve Morse was just getting his feet wet.  Considering how different he is from Ritchie Blackmore, this smooth switcheroo is quite remarkable.  The band had changed, but into something just as good.  How many other groups can make that claim?

3.5/5 stars

Since you can’t take a picture of a non-physical product, here are pictures of the 2 CD set that I burned from the iTunes download!

GALLERY: Visual Enhancements

Gah!  Don’t you hate “losing” files among your many hard drives and devices?  I meant to include these pics with past posts, but had forgotten where they were (or just forgot to add them)!  So here are some visual enhancements to past posts (and links to the articles they go with).

1. Soundwave making energon cubes!  (He comes with the cube accessory and I added the effects.)

Originally for the gallery “Alice Cooper vs. the Decepticons”.

sw

2. A screenshot of the Risk-like computer game Lux.  This particular board is Las Vegas, Nevada being invaded by aliens.  I am purple.

Originally for the review of Michael Hunter – River.

LUX

3. I am on iTunes!

Originally for the review of Kathryn Ladano – Open.

itunes

4. Tracklist for one of my annual Christmas CDs that I made for family and co-workers.  Unfortunately I didn’t capture the artist names.  I do know them — in track order, the artists are:  1. Bill Ward, 2. Helix, 3. Twisted Sister, 4. Bryan Adams, 5. Marillion, 6. Bing Crosby & David Bowie, 7. Lemmy, 8. Helix, 9. Ted Nugent, 10. Steve Morse, 11. Hawksley Workman, 12. Wynton & Ellis Marsalis, 13. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, 14. John Lennon, 15. Def Leppard, 16. Jon Bon Jovi, 17. Eric Johnson, 18. Brian Vollmer, 19. Bruce Springsteen, 20. Sir Christopher Lee, and 21. Bob & Doug McKenzie!

Originally from the review of Marillion – A Very Barry Christmas.

 

Christmas CD 2012

5. Tracklist for a Bruce Dickinson “greatest hits” CD that I made for Aaron to accompany his copy of The Chemical Wedding.  Pretty sweet.  “The Best of the Rest of Bruce Dickinson”.  Heh!

Originally for the review of Bruce Dickinon’s The Chemical Wedding.

Best of the Rest of Bruce

6. NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH!  Click here only if you wanna see the bloody tooth that the dentist ripped out of my jaw in #352: “It’s All Helix’ Fault! – The Story Of My Tooth”.  I strongly urge you to heed this warning, it ain’t pretty!

7. And lastly, this wasn’t for anything special.  I just wanted to have a permanent record of that one day (Nov 11 2013) when two articles featuring poop were in my top five most popular posts!  Ta-da!

TOP 6

REVIEW: Kim Mitchell – “Alana Loves Me (New 2014 version)” single

NEW RELEASE

ALANAKIM MITCHELL – “Alana Loves Me (New 2014 version)” (iTunes-only single)

Kim’s last studio album, 2007’s Ain’t Life Amazing, failed to blow me away.  Since then he’s been very busy, changing to a career in radio at Toronto’s Q107.  While I miss the days of being able to look forward to new Kim music every other summer, he’s been very popular and successful at Q, so good for him!

A few weeks ago, Kim announced that he’d re-recorded his old hit “Alana Loves Me” from Shakin’ Like A Human Being, a 28 year old song.  The original is sounding pretty dated with all those 80’s synths and keyboards, so I approached this with an open mind.  Plunking down my hard-earned $1.29, I bought “Alana Loves Me 2014” on iTunes.

Even though I had not expected too much, I am crushed with disappointment!  All the charm of the original has been sucked dry with a boring acoustic arrangement.  This snooze-inducing rendition only comes to life towards the end, when it goes into a more interesting laid-back instrumental band arrangement.  The piano player (Ray Coburn?) is excellent and has a long solo.  Then, finally, Kim himself picks up an electric guitar and does what he does best.  He proves he’s still the most underrated guitarist that this country has to offer.  His solo is awesome, warm and melodic, but tricky too.

So: first half of the track sucks, and the second instrumental half isn’t bad.  How do I rate it?

2/5 stars

#331: Where Do You Buy Your Music?

BUYING MUSIC

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale

#331: Where Do You Buy Your Music?

Where do you buy music?  I put together an informal survey of where my music has come from over the last 12 months.

DISCOGS – What a great way to fill up on old 12” and 7” singles that I am missing.  Not a great way to fill up on uber-rarities.  For example, I cannot pay $63 for Tenacious D’s Jazz EP which has only one track.  I cannot pay $58 for Iron Maiden’s “Virus” single on 12” vinyl which has two rare Soundhouse Tapes on the B-side.

AMAZON – The lion’s share of my music comes from here.  Whether it be a new release or a reissue of something in a deluxe format, Amazon is my go-to store.  The prices are fair and the shipping is free for all orders over $25, which is all my orders anyway.  Also great for gift-giving when your family has created their own Amazon wishlists.  And if you don’t want to buy new titles, Amazon has plenty of marketplace sellers who deal in affordable, good condition used CDs.  You just have to check out their ratings, like you would on eBay.

ENCORE RECORDS – The newly relocated Mecca of music shopping in Kitchener.  It was even better when Encore was located just around the corner from the great comic book store, Looking For Heroes.  Then I could kill two birds with one stone (or as Ricky might say, get two birds stoned at once).  Their selection of new and used is awesome.  Any deluxe reissues that I don’t get from Amazon can easily be found there.  T-shirts, oddball releases, singles…this is the place to go in the area.  At least, this is where I go!

CD JAPAN – I’ve been buying on and off from CD Japan for over a decade, but only in the last year have I really gone hogwild.  (Thanks, Mitch.)  When I can find Japanese versions of albums with bonus tracks for only a little more than the domestic versions, I’m in.  These guys have never let me down.  I’ve bought about a dozen discs from them in the last 12 months, none of which I would have been able to buy affordably anywhere else that I shop.  My biggest score ever was my recent Thin Lizzy At The BBC box set.  CD Japan price, brand new?  $140.  Discogs price, for US issue?  $322.

SUNRISE – Now closed at Fairview mall.  Too bad.  I used to buy a lot of stuff there.  They had great sale items.  I stocked up on Zappa reissues there for $9 each!

ITUNES – For exclusives only.  I will never buy anything on iTunes that can be had physically.  This year I purchased Mitch Lafon’s A World With Heroes EP on iTunes, and the odd bonus track here and there.  That’s it.  iTunes can fuck off otherwise.

TARANNA – Aaron and I do our annual Toronto trip and end up with many treasures every time!  See our videos for more details.  Also included here is the Toronto record show I attend each April.

And of course, sometimes you just have to buy music directly from the artist. Artists such as Lee Aaron and Helix have earned my dollars via their own websites this year.


Then, there are places I haven’t bought anything from this past year.  Walmart, Best Buy…there’s no point, really.  Others include:

EBAY – I have bought no music from eBay in over two years.  When I’m looking for uber-rarities, this is a very expensive way to get them.  A last resort only.

My old store – Although Aaron finds stuff he wants there all the time, I haven’t had any luck in the last 12 months.  However that is simply because I have so many CDs.  It’s not due to the quality of that store.  They are excellent at selling good condition used items.  I just haven’t found much this year.  I’m sure I will again.  I’m just very picky about which versions of items I want, and if I don’t find the exact version I just want to keep looking.  I still recommend my old store to anyone looking for cheap, good quality used CDs.

Regardless of where I obtain my music, one thing is certain:  The collection keeps growing, and growing, and growing.  I am confident with 100% certainty that it will continue to grow, thanks to the fine vendors listed here!

REVIEW: A World With Heroes EP

NEW RELEASE

A WORLD WITHA World With Heroes EP – A KISS Tribute for Cancer Care (Anniversary release)

You’ve heard me talking a lot about this one lately.  It’s a release I’m really excited about.  The record shows that I heartily approved of last year’s A World With Heroes (A Kiss Tribute for Cancer Care), assembled by Mitch Lafon.  Proceeds went to benefit the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence in Hudson, Quebec.  And it was a killer, killer CD as my 5/5 star rating attested to.  To hear there was an EP coming featuring more Kiss covers, that peaked my interest.  Lafon always makes sure that there are quality tunes, performed by artists we care about.

The Killer Dwarfs do “C’mon and Love Me” just right.  I like that Russ Dwarf throws in some of Gene’s mannerisms in the chorus, but also sings it in his own voice.  If you like Killer Dwarfs and Kiss, you will love this, guaranteed.  Once again, the A World With Heroes series has delivered a solid Kiss cover that is valuable to fans.

“Calling Dr. Love” as performed by Crash Kelly is a real rarity.  You had to pre-donate to the original compilation CD to get an mp3 of it.  Now you can buy it on the EP.  They turn in a fun version of “Dr. Love”.  They make it a bit more pop rock in feel, and Sean Kelly absolutely nails Ace’s solo note for note.  It’s uncanny.  We all know Sean is a talented axeman, but that solo was flawless.

“Save Your Love” is an awesome Ace song, but Matt Bradshaw’s take on it is unique to say the least.  He transforms it into a funky acoustic ballad.  But it works!  I was prepared to hate it but was pleasantly surprised.  It’s bizarre how the song completely works in this format.  This is an example of an intelligent, innovative cover — something that is rare these days.   Brilliant cover.  Seriously.

“Every Time I Look at You” was originally from the Revenge album.  Some fans assume that Bruce Kulick played the guitar solo, but it was in fact Bob Ezrin’s old pal, Dick Wagner.  Dick Wagner passed away recently, at age 71.  This was his last song ever, which makes his version of this song that much more poignant.  His quavering voice speaks of the years past, but much like a late period Johnny Cash album, it only adds character to the song.  He sounds like a cross between Bob Dylan and Keith Richards.  The guitar work is lovely of course.

The Dwarfs return with “Nothin’ to Lose” from the first album.  Once again Russ nails the Gene mannerisms, while still sounding like Russ Dwarf.  This one is replete with piano and cowbell (Piano is by Bruce Stephen Foster, who also played on the Kiss original!).  I gotta be honest with you, I like the idea of the Dwarfs covering Kiss songs.  They can do more if they want.  They’re allowed.

Sudden Flames are a metal band from Quebec City.  They heavy up “Coming Home” considerably.  It’s one of my favourite Kiss songs ever, so it’s kind of funny to hear it with drums blasting away like this.  Like “Dr. Love”, this song was only available to those who donated in advance to the original CD.  Now you can get it on iTunes too.   I enjoy hearing their Québécois accents, truly one of the greatest accents on this Earth.

I only wish this was a physical release.

4.5/5 stars

  1. “C’Mon and Love Me” – Killer Dwarfs
  2. “Calling Dr. Love” – Crash Kelly
  3. “Save Your Love” – Matt Bradshaw
  4. “Every Time I Look At You” – Dick Wagner
  5. “Nothin’ To Lose” – Killer Dwarfs
  6. “Coming Home” – Sudden FlamesA WORLD WITH EP

 

 

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – 10 (2014)

We’ve had a couple strong new releases in a row here of late: The new Helix and Judas Priest albums have been particularly great.

I guess two out of three ain’t bad.

NEW RELEASE

CoverQUIET RIOT – 10 (2014 iTunes or Amazon mp3 download)

I’ve made no secret of my dislike for the happenings in Quiet Riot recently.  I find their current reunion, with no original members, to be tenuous at best.  Singer after singer, Quiet Riot stumbled onwards before finally hiring Jizzy Pearl of Love/Hate and Ratt fame.  With Pearl they’ve managed to record an album.  10 is the name of that album, another thing I find a little disrespectful.  The name 10 seems to me to imply it’s their 10th album.  It’s not; all fans know Metal Health was their third, not first, album.   This seems to play into an earlier attempt to re-write the Quiet Riot related Wikipedia pages to state that Metal Health was the band’s first record.  Why?  I can only speculate that this is done to promote the current Quiet Riot as having “original members”, when in fact they have none.

However, I’m going to listen with open ears, because that’s what I’m here to do.

First track, “Rock in Peace” is one I like quite a lot.  What I don’t like is the muddy, muddy sound.  The drums sound like they’re in another room.  It’s too bad because I think the song has potential.  As for Jizzy, it’s easy to adjust to him as lead singer of Quiet Riot.  Although he doesn’t sound like the late Kevin DuBrow too much, he does have certain screamy qualities in common with DuBrow.  This enables him to adapt to the Quiet Riot sound.  The lyrics quote the band’s biggest original hit, “Metal Health”, which is alright.  Halford’s quoted himself before too.  OK, so production aside, not bad.

“Bang For Your Buck” has some tasty guitar by the talented Alex Grossi, making his first Quiet Riot album appearance here.  Unfortunately the otherwise fine song is held back by Jizzy, overreaching and straining.  Grossi really does redeem the song especially with the solo…but damn this album sounds muddy.  Congested.  Like I have a head cold while listening to it.

Third in line is the weird titled “Backside of Water”.  I don’t know what that title means, and since this is a digital release, there are no lyrics.  It smokes along nicely, with more fantastic Grossi guitars, but it’s an unremarkable song that doesn’t sound like Quiet Riot, except in the sense that Quiet Riot has a lot of unremarkable songs.  The Ratt-like “Back on You” is outtake quality.  I’m sensing that the guys think they can just throw a shout-AC/DC-style chorus on something and call it catchy, but it doesn’t work that way.

“Band Down” is what you’d call a “down n’ dirty” rocker.  I’d call it dull, and poor sounding.   I think they’re trying to recapture that “Stay With Me Tonight” vibe, but without a memorable chorus.  But “Dog Bone Alley” is worse, absolutely sunk by horrendous backing vocals.  It has a slinky, heavy groove, and some smokin’ guitars, but that’s not enough to build a song with.

Alex Grossi, Jizzy Pearl, Frankie Banali, Chuck Wright

Alex Grossi, Jizzy Pearl, Frankie Banali, Chuck Wright

Quiet Riot’s biggest stumbling block has always been songwriting.  That’s why some of their biggest hits are covers.  Quiet Riot 10 continues that frustrating tradition.   Just like albums such as Alive and Well had some good songs and solid moments, so is Quiet Riot 10.  And that’s only six songs!

What Quiet Riot did to make a full album is include four live songs, kinda taking a page out of the ZZ Top book, a-la Fandango!  These tracks are all obscurities, songs not available in live versions before.  They all feature Kevin DuBrow, but could Frankie have not found better sounding recordings?  From Quiet Riot III is a horrid sounding version of “Put Up or Shut Up”.  This is bootleg quality, and not even good bootleg quality.  Too bad; sounds like it was a good version.  Then, from the stinky Rehab CD comes an unnecessary “Free”.  So it’s heavy, whoop-de-do.  It’s a shitty song, and the vocals are so damn distorted at times that it sounds as if Kevin’s under water.  “South of Heaven” too suffers from these sonic defects.  It seems like they were going for a Zeppelin “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” kind of vibe, but as if the mothership crashed into “The Ocean”.  (See what I did there?)  Kevin even yelps, “Push, push!”  It’s a shame because Frankie really is a smokin’ drummer.

The final track is a nine minute rock n’ roll medley.  This is a great jam.  Humble Pie’s “Red Light Mama, Red Hot!” is a great little obscure choice.  Kevin sounds like he’s having a blast.  Actually the whole band sound like they’re having more fun here than they were playing their own originals.  This seques into other more familiar hits, still harkening back to that old British blues rock sound.

Live many albums of Quiet Riots past, 10 stumbles and fails at times, while producing pleasing hard rock surprises at others.  The sonic issues are a surprise to me.  I hope a physical CD release, if there is to be one, would improve the sound.

2/5 stars

1. “Rock in Peace” 4:00
2. “Bang For Your Buck” 3:52
3. “Backside of Water” 4:18
4. “Back on You” 3:24
5. “Band Down” 3:17
6. “Dogbone Alley” 4:29

Live
7. “Put Up or Shut Up” 4:18
8. “Free” 4:05
9. “South of Heaven” 5:25
10. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Medley” 9:22

 

For further reading, check out Jon Wilmenius’ review of Quiet Riot 10.

REVIEW: Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (2009)

H&HTDYK_0001HEAVEN & HELL – The Devil You Know (2009 Atlantic)

If one considers The Devil You Know as a part of the official Black Sabbath canon (as I do), then it’s not a stretch to call it the darkest and heaviest album in this band’s storied career. The only album that would be on a par with that is Born Again. If I refer to Heaven & Hell as Black Sabbath in this review, I trust you’ll forgive me. After all, this is the Mob Rules/Live Evil/Dehumanizer lineup of Black Sabbath, and a rose by any other name….

The previous album that these four guys did together was 1992’s masterpiece Dehumanizer, (notwithstanding the three new songs on the compilation Black Sabbath: The Dio Years). The last official Black Sabbath studio album prior to this was 1995’s Tony Martin-helmed Forbidden, a dreadful rushed piece of garbage that almost buried Sabbath forever.*

So, it is quite refreshing that The Devil You Know is so heavy, and so good. If you are familiar with the slow, dirgey sludge that were the three new songs on The Dio Years, that is a good reference point to the sound on this album. Very sludgey, mostly slow, guitar-heavy and intense. There are some faster ones (“Double The Pain”, “Neverwhere” etc) but for the most part this is 10 tons of pure heavy Black Sabbath. Songs like “After All” from Dehumanizer are the blueprint.

Especially enticing are the riffs. Iommi’s riff on “Bible Black” is crushing. “Fear” has some exotic noodling that I found surprising and refreshing. Vinnie’s drums are all cannons without the machine guns, which I do miss. I also wish Geezer’s bass was more slinky and audible, but combined with Iommi’s guitar it just creates this sheer wall of metal. All this is held together by Dio’s still-strong, unique, wonderful voice. Tonally, it is deeper than it was back on Dehumanizer, over 15 years previous.  He was 66 years old when this was recorded.

Walmart version

Walmart version

The Devil You Know is not an instant pleasure. Hooks are scarce, as the album bludgeons you with sound. However, the familiarity that these four musicans create with their combined sounds are the hook. One of the most missed sounds in metal was that of Black Sabbath. When Ozzy came back to Sabbath in ’97, new music was scarce (only two new songs on Reunion, although a third never-released new song called “Scary Dreams” was absolutely mindblowing). I am glad that Dio-era Sabbath was capped off with one hell (pun intended) of an album. This album stands up to the glory days without copying it, and that is a hard thing to do.

Itunes bonus tracks exist for the OCD collector: You can find unique live versions of both “I” and “Neon Knights” on their version of The Devil You Know. If you’re not a hardcore collector, then you can stick to the double live album Live From Radio City Music Hall. If you are a Sabbath completist, then be aware the two live bonus tracks are not from that album, but are unique (and great) live versions unavailable anywhere else.

Rest in peace Ronnie. Sleep well, knowing that you did something rare. You created a cap stone worthy of your body of work.

3.5/5 stars

* The “rough mix” of Forbidden is better.

REVIEW: Judas Priest – A Touch of Evil – Live (2009 Japanese and iTunes versions)

JUDAS PRIEST – A Touch of Evil – Live (2009)

A Touch of Evil is, depending on how you count, either Priest’s 5th or 7th live album.  Regardless, it’s their first official live album since the Rob Halford reunion. The goal here was to give fans versions of songs never before released live on CD. However, when Priest claim that, they’re not counting the live albums they did with “Ripper” Owens on vocals, or the live songs released on remasters and box sets.

This is a great CD, and it’s very well recorded and mixed. Tom Allom came back to the mixing board after a 21 year break from the Priest. The guitars are driving, the drums are loud & clear but not overwhelming. Allom has done a great job. You can’t hear any obvious tampering or overdubbing (even though, let’s be honest, you know on every live album released today there must be some).

Rob Halford’s voice really struggles on “Painkiller” but absolutely shreds on “Hellrider”. “Hellrider”, in fact, is even better than its 2005 studio version. Halford is now singing in a lower register and saving his screams for special moments in the songs. Don’t forget, he has been screaming for 35 years by this album. He tends to be stronger on more recent material. The rest of the band show no signs of slowing down at all, especially Scott Travis on the drums.

It is absolutely great to hear two songs from the Nostradamus CD recorded live. “Prophecy” is one of my favourites from that album and I hope the band get to play the whole album live one day. It is also fantastic to hear “Dissident Aggressor” which was originally released on Sin After Sin in 1977. It is still heavy and powerful, although Rob has changed the vocal melodies a bit, out of necessity. “Beyond The Realms Of Death” is another great one to have with Rob singing, from 1978’s Stained Class. For a while in 1990 I thought they’d never play it live again, after the band’s “suicide trial”, even though they emerged victorious.

Japanese bonus tracks are “Worth Fighting For” and “Deal With The Devil” both from 2005’s Angel Of Retribution. I think these (and “Hellrider) are the same versions as the Rising In The East DVD. “Worth Fighting For” is one of my favourite recent Priest tunes.  It’s a great mid-tempo burner.  The iTunes bonus track is “Breaking The Law”, the only song absolutely positively undeniably released before on an official Priest-with-Rob live CD (Priest…Live!). This version of “Breaking” is faster than the studio version, and very enjoyable for the sheer glee that emanates from it.

ATOE_0005

The artwork for this CD, sadly, sucks. Mark Wilkinson has done some great covers for Priest (see: Painkiller), Iron Maiden, and Marillion. Here there’s a picture of the world on fire, or something. A comment on global warming? You decide. The liner notes also, sadly, suck. There are no indications as to which shows these songs were taken from, or even which tour (the CD culls from 2005 and 2008 tours). There is a brief note from the band about how awesome they are, as they have done on previous live albums. There are some cool pictures, but little else (the Japanese version has lyrics).

I don’t think this CD is essential to anybody but Priest fans. Newcomers would be wiser to buy Unleashed In The East first, and maybe even Priest…Live! before buying this. Priest fans will enjoy hearing live versions of these songs, because they already own “Another Thing Coming” and “Living After Midnight” elsewhere. So, if you are a Priest fan, pick it up and enjoy the sonic blast of metal fury as only Priest can deliver!

4/5 stars

*Note: There is supposedly a Russian version with another bonus track, also taken from the Rising in the East DVD: “Angel”. I question whether this is an official release or not.