rainbow

#587: Jean’s Stormy Weekend Vinyl Tales (With Video)

GETTING MORE TALE #587: Jean’s Stormy Weekend Vinyl Tales

Another long weekend in Ontario has come and gone.  Yes, international friends, the first weekend of August is a long weekend for we Ontarians.  Despite a stormy start, it was just a lovely time.

Every holiday weekend needs its weekend music (unless your name is “1537” or some similar number).  The car trip commenced with the finish of a double live album called Black Masquerade by Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.  This 1995 concert features Doogie White on lead vocals.  We enjoyed it as a contrast to the newer Live in Birmingham 2016 with Ronnie Romero singing, which had been in the car during the week.  On the whole, I think I prefer Romero to White in Rainbow, but that’s not an easy choice to make.  Both are very talented and charismatic frontmen, but with very different voices.

When Black Masquerade came to its natural closing point with “Smoke on the Water”, I switched the deck over to the new Styx.  Don’t be surprised if you see the new Styx album The Mission on many 2017 year-end lists.  It’s been a favourite of mine the past few weeks, and Mrs. LeBrain was very impressed herself.  “And this is their new album?” she asked, since it sounds straight out of the 1970s at times.

We got to the cottage Friday night.  A storm was blowing through.  It was too cold for funnel clouds to form, but as you will see in the video I put together, it was gale force weather.  And then the next day?  Completely calm.

Brand new video!

For weekend entertainment, I brought with me some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.  Thanks to Mr. BuriedOnMars, who has been reviewing the MCU films in order, I have been re-watching the early ones again.  This weekend I chose Iron Man 3 and The Avengers, because neither are on (Canadian) Netflix at the moment.  Both were enjoyable entertainment, but Iron Man 3 is just too gosh darn long and weakly plotted.  And of course there was more music to be heard.  Some friends down the road were partying to George Jones.  It reminded me of the old days when my Grandpa would have done the same but maybe with Kenny Rogers instead.

Mom and dad provided the meat for the weekend, and I did the cooking.  Jen did up her potatoes and I took care of the steaks.  On the holiday Monday, we hooked up with old buddy Peter and his sister Jo.  Regular readers may recall some of my adventures with Peter, particularly Getting More Tale #559:  Hotel Hobbies.  It was fantastic catching up with the two of them at the newly renovated Jean’s for breakfast.  Jean’s is bigger and just as busy.  It’s one of those reliable breakfast places that we have been going for years.  Still reliable!

Peter told me something at breakfast that did surprise me.  I noticed that the old Record Store in which I worked was now buying used vinyl again.  In the past, only Tom‘s store stocked used vinyl but times they-are-a-changin’.  Sadly Peter’s dad passed away late last year.  He had some old vinyl.  Not a lot, just about 20 records or so.  Pete’s dad would have had old German music, nothing of any particular monetary value.  Peter decided to give my old store a call to see if they’d take them off his hands.  What he was told was so strange:  He’d have to send them into the head office, and they’d take a look and get back to him within one month.

One month?  Peter took the old records to Value Village and dumped them there.

I don’t know what the story is with the one month thing.  Maybe they realized the records weren’t their thing and were trying to brush him off?  Seems a bizarre answer.

I’m sure if Peter’s dad somehow had any rare German Scorpions records, he would have let me know, as unlikely as that is!

Great to see old friends again.  After breakfast the weather was starting to turn rotten, so we made our way home.  And what a musical ride it was!  All of Deep Purple’s Purpendicular album.  All of Rush’s Moving Pictures.  Side one of the next album, Signals.  It was a smorgasbord of so called “smart-guy rock”!

Hopefully we’ll make it up a couple more times before the summer is over.  There are still quite a few new albums here at LeBrain HQ that need road trip testing.  Styx’s The Mission passed the road trip test, securing a big point in this year’s Best Album stakes.  To be continued….

 

 

Advertisements

REVIEW: Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow – Stranger In Us All (expanded edition)

RITCHIE BLACKMORE’S RAINBOW – Stranger In Us All (originally 1995, 2017 Sony expanded edition)

Blackmore said “adios” to Deep Purple for the second and final time in 1993.  He beat them to the punch with new music, in the form of a resurrected Rainbow…sort of.  As he is prone to do, Blackmore assembled an all-new Rainbow of unknowns.  The only familiar face was bassist Greg Smith who happened to be in Alice Cooper’s band when Wayne’s World was filmed.  The new singer was the smooth-voiced Scot, Mr. Doogie White.  White’s career almost broke in a completely different direction earlier, when he was one of two finalists in the running to replace Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden.  It went to Blaze Bayley.  Signifying new beginnings, Blackmore reverted the band’s name to Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow once again.

Back in 1995, my impressions of Stranger In Us All, the new album by Blackmore’s Rainbow, were significantly underwhelming.  It has taken its time, but over the years the album slowly penetrated my stubborn refusal to accept it as legitimate.  By now I think we know all Rainbow needs is the Man in Black.  And there he stands on the front cover, pilgrim-hatted again, gloriously silhouetted against a cloudy sky.

The only serious weakness in Stranger In Us All has nothing to do with the lineup.  The production (by Pat Regan and Blackmore) sounds low budget and the drums sound muddy.  Blackmore’s guitar tone is thankfully impeccable and his neo-classical leanings on the first track “Wolf to the Moon” were refreshing.  “Wolf to the Moon” is one song that has stood the test of time.  It is thoroughly still enjoyable today, and Blackmore is unleashed.  And the singer?  It is true that Doogie White stands in the shadows of some great lead vocalists.  I’ll resist ranking and comparing.  White has a very smooth voice with impressive power and range, and he doesn’t sound like any of his predecessors.  Where White really impresses is in live renditions.  He is an entertaining and amicable frontman.

Track two brings a slower grind to Rainbow, and White slinks along with him, adapting perfectly to every vibe.  Going slower still, “Hunting Humans (Insatiable)” really prowls.  It is spare, dark and sweaty.  Moving on to inspirational hard rock, Rainbow brings the harmonica-inflected “Stand and Fight”.  What is not to like?

Rainbow ended the first side in typically epic fashion.  “Ariel” was quite a track, featuring backing vocals from the lady who is now Ritchie’s wife, Mrs. Candice Night.  She co-wrote a number of the album’s tracks including “Ariel”.  This kind of thing is Ritchie’s bread and butter, he’s been writing epics like this since “Child in Time” back in 1970.  As an added bonus, the extended edition of Stranger In Us All has the single edit of “Ariel”, trimming it to a tidy format-friendly 4:00.  This is more like a re-edit, moving parts around and making it more compact.

They step on the gas again for “Too Late for Tears”.  Side two has a couple “stock” rockers — “Too Late for Tears” and “Silence”.  Good blood-pumping tracks, nothing to save for your greatest hits album, but decent enough.  “Black Masquerade” is better, as it has a dark neo-classical edge.  Thing go kind of goofy when they cover Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” and add lyrics.  They also have another go at the Yardbirds’ “Still I’m Sad”, this being the second time.  The first Rainbow version was an instrumental.  This one has vocals, and it’s pretty good.  Just like with lead singers, I don’t think it’s worth comparing this version to the 1975 one.  It’s unique enough that it’s almost two different things.

Back in 2013 I found the Japanese edition of Stranger In Us All at the 2013 Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale for $15.  Instant no-brain purchase right?  Now that this expanded edition is out, I no longer need it in my ever-expanding collection.  I am passing it on to massive Rainbow fan Brian over at Boppinsblog.  Now that CDs are worth nothing, I like to pay it forward with my retired music.  The expanded edition contains the Japanese bonus track, “Emotional Crime”.  It has a cool, “smoove” groove and a bluesy feel.  Think Purple’s 1988 remake of “Hush” in terms of vibe.  The other extra tracks are the aforementioned “Ariel” edit, and a live take of the old Rainbow classic “Temple of the King”.  This is and the “Ariel” edit are taken from the old out of print CD single.  “Temple of the King” was recorded in Stockholm October 2 1995, meaning it is not the same as the one on the double live CD Black Masquerade.  That was recorded exactly a week later in Germany.  (Thanks to Scott the Heavy Metal Overlord for pointing this out.)  It’s a brilliant arrangement giving Candice Night and Doogie White a chance to harmonize over a very quiet backdrop.  The Man in Black whips out a solo that surely must be considered one of his most passionate.

That’s how this version of Rainbow succeeds — by a putting a fresh spin on it.  You avoid trying to compare to other versions of the band and just enjoy.  Ritchie reveals in the extensive liner notes that he wanted to call the band Rainbow Moon.  And speaking of the liner notes, there are also recollections from Doogie White.  In short this expanded edition is worth every penny, even if you’ve bought it before.

3.75/5 stars

REVIEW: Dio – Finding the Sacred Heart – Live in Philly 1986 (2013)

DIO – Finding the Sacred Heart – Live in Philly 1986 (2013 Eagle records)

The King of Rock and Roll rolled into Philly with a new axeman.  Vivian Campbell bitterly departed and was replaced by Craig Goldy of Ruff Cutt.  Goldy had a flashier style, a bit heavier on the shred.  The Sacred Heart tour was a big deal, and I can distinctly remember seeing TV ads for the Toronto show.  They had their big dragon on stage, a crystal ball, and Accept as the opening act.  The Philly gig was filmed, and so today we have this double live album to enjoy.

As it did on Sacred Heart, “King of Rock and Roll” opened the set with a flurry of speed.  Another newbie, “Like the Beat of a Heart” goes over well with an extended solo by Goldy including a nod to Blackmore.  “Don’t Talk to Strangers” is the first Dio classic in the set, though “Hungry for Heaven” was a top 30 single.

Dio had so much material to play (including his past with Rainbow and Black Sabbath) that a lot of the biggest songs are jammed into medleys.  “The Last in Line”, “Children of the Sea” and “Holy Diver” are truncated into eight minutes.  “Rock ‘N’ Roll Children” is joined with the Rainbow classics “Love Live Rock ‘N’ Roll” and “Man on the Silver Mountain”.  It seems a shame that there are guitar solos, a drum solo, and even a keyboard solo, but all these classics had to be crammed together into medleys.  “Heaven and Hell” is complete at least, but Claude Schnell’s keyboards sound out of place on this Sabbath cornerstone.

1986 was one of many prime periods for Dio.  Your perception of this CD set will largely hinge on how much you like Craig Goldy vs. Vivian Campbell.  Goldy was a fine replacement though his shredding often sounds like a green kid just going for it.  There is plenty of great Dio material to enjoy, all killer no filler from start to finish…solos aside that is.  There’s even a live version of the smooth “Time to Burn”, the first new song with Goldy from the Intermission EP.

There is a nice selection of live Dio available on the market.  Finding the Sacred Heart would be a great choice for most, but if you want Dio live with Vivian Campbell, probably best to go for the Donington 1983 & 1987 set.  This one certainly sounds excellent, it’s a beautiful recording and mix.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Rainbow – Straight Between the Eyes (1982)

scan_20160911RAINBOW – Straight Between the Eyes (Remastered, originally 1982 Polydor)

I’ve always found the most interesting bands in rock to be the ones who have had multiple singers over different eras.  Blackmore’s Rainbow never did two albums in a row by the same lineup.  From Ronnie James Dio to Graham Bonnet to Joe Lynn Turner and beyond, Rainbow has been an ever-changing entity during its brief lives.  Each era has much to offer, with the Turner years sometimes slagged as the weakest.  It is true that ballads became a larger part of the Rainbow sound under Joe, but the turn towards the commercial was evident during the Graham Bonnet era, on Down to Earth.

The peak of the Turner period would have to be Straight Between the Eyes, his second with the band.  The lineup this time consisted of founder Ritchie Blackmore, with Roger Glover on bass (his third Rainbow record), drums by Bobby Rondinelli (his second) and new keyboardist David Rosenthal, replacing Don Airey.  Rondinelli is a remarkably hard-hitting drummer and his solid, massive beats propel the songs.  The finest example of this is “Death Alley Driver”, which could easily be seen as an updated version of “Highway Star” from a decade earlier. The amusing video clip featured Joe Lynn Turner on a motorcycle being chased perilously close by a pilgrim-hatted Blackmore in a hearse!* “Death Alley Driver” indeed!**

Although “Death Alley Driver” is the first track, the soulful ballad “Stone Cold” was the first single. It was a minor hit and still gets radio play today. The integrity lies in Ritchie’s smooth guitar, Joe’s always authentic vocals, and the classy organ backing it up. The song’s strength is in its unmistakable pulse, which is Rondinelli and Glover’s impeccable rhythm. Blackmore fans may have been aghast at the soft rock single, but “Stone Cold” holds up as a classy ballad from a spanking album.

Sadly the music video was not the humorous pleasure the “Death Alley Driver” was. Turner looks stiff**^ and awkward searching through a hall of mirrors looking for a girl with a frozen face.  Blackmore just looks disinterested.

Straight Between the Eyes was produced by Roger Glover, as were the previous two albums.  With Bobbi Rondinelli behind the kit, Glover extracted an even bigger drum sound, and it is up in the mix.  Each track boasts a massive beat, even the ballads like “Tearin’ Out My Heart”.  He provides a gallop, and that’s the extra kick the songs get.  The album would not have been as forceful with a different drummer.

So as Joe sings it, “Let the Dream Chaser take you away” if you want to get “Rock Fever”!  The album can be found affordable so it won’t be a “Tite Squeeze” on your wallet.  Feel the “Power” and “Bring on the Night”!  It’ll rock you “Stone Cold”.**^^

4/5 stars


* Something about that action-packed music video makes the music seem faster and heavier.

** During the Blackmore closeups inside the hearse, pay attention to the rear window behind him. You can clearly see from the trees behind that the car is not moving an inch!

**^ Cue Aaron.

**^^ These are all good songs.  No real duds on Straight Between Eyes.

R.I.P. Jimmy Bain

2016, I fucking hate you.

R.I.P. Jimmy Bain, age 68, now the second member of the original Dio to pass.  And yet another Rainbow casualty.

Jimmy rocked.  Listen to some Jimmy today.

REVIEW: Rainbow – Live in Munich 1977 (vinyl)

Thanks for joining me this week for my Deep Purple Project. I admit that this review is a bit of a cop-out. I got dreadfully sick with the flu a week ago and was not able to finish any more Purple reviews for this week. I pulled an old one out of the hopper instead. This is close to Purple,  — the Man in Black himself, and Blackmore’s Rainbow. This review is for music writer Victim of the Fury!

RAINBOW – Live in Munich 1977 (2013 Eagle Rock 180 gram 2 LP set)

Something about listening to classic rock with that rich, warm sound of pristine vinyl played on nice big speakers for the first time…is there anything better?  Dropping the needle on side A, let us begin the ritual of properly listening to a double live album.

This 180 gram was a birthday gift from my sis, knowing my love of all things Ronnie James Dio. Not to be confused with the double CD Live in Germany 1976, this freshly mastered concert was recorded in 1977 for German television.  Dio was one hell of a powerhouse, especially in 1977.  Live in Munich contains what must stand as one of the best Dio performances caught on tape.  This was caught just before the album release for Love Live Rock ‘n’  Roll.  “Kill the King” was a storming opening and the live recording is all but flawless.  If Rainbow could be faulted for anything at this point in their brief life, perhaps they played too many long jams on stage.  “Mistreated”, the Deep Purple concert favourite, is the first of these.  As usual for the Man in Black, Ritchie Blackmore himself, the song is almost 12 minutes in length when stretched out live.

Lets not get into comparing Ronnie James Dio to David Coverdale. There’s no point to that.  As with Black Sabbath, you either like Ronnie’s interpretation or you don’t.  Regardless is it drummer Cozy Powell who detours most noticeable from the Deep Purple original, doing a busier blast than Ian Paice did.  As for Blackmore, his solo spans the entire spectrum delightfully.  He fluffs it for a moment, only to immediately take control and keep going.  This is a brilliant version of a song we have heard many times.  Ritchie then takes center stage for a delicate workout to “Greensleeves”, before blasting into the Rainbow barnstormer.  Once again, this is probably the best live version on tape.

IMG_20151108_111910Flipping the record to side B, we are treated to Ritchie seemingly tuning his guitar…melodically…working his way into a lengthy “Catch the Rainbow” including classical interludes.  There’s more than a little “Little Wing” within “Catch the Rainbow”, which Ritchie plays into.  Bassist Bob Daisley sings the angelic backing vocals, proving why he has been such an integral member to so many bands over the years.  In fact this would have to be one of the strongest Rainbow lineups, period.  Keyboardist David Stone rounded out the quintet, and he is kept busy on “Catch the Rainbow”.  The brand new song “Love Live Rock ‘N’ Roll” is next, and a few people in the crowd indicate they may already know the song!  It is presented more Deep Purple in style (hints of “Black Night”), perhaps a bit more laid back with nice flashes of organ here and there.

The second LP has to shuffle the track order out of necessity.  “Still I’m Sad” is 25 minutes, so it must occupy all of side C, even though it was played after “Man on the Silver Mountain” in concert.  There is something about a side of vinyl that contains one monolithic slab of music in only one track.  It feels like a challenge, a solo-laden endurance challenge.  Once it starts rolling, it becomes one of the most intense versions of the song yet recorded by Rainbow.  Then it goes all over the place as pretty much every member has moments to shine.  It’s way too much and it’s way over the top and taxing even to the staunching rock fans.  It was 1977 and this is the way it went down!

Settling in for the final slab o’rock, side D is also daunting with two tracks of 15 minutes apiece. Purple’s “Lazy” is teased out, as part of “Man on the Silver Mountain”. Lots of soloing and noodling abound, and the big weakness with this period of Rainbow is that they thought we needed this much of it. The segue into “Starstruck” is way more fun. More solos and a frantic “Do You Close Your Eyes” ends the concert. Stone’s keyboard solo is cheesy fun, but overall this is another great over the top performance from Rainbow. You can hear a guitar destroyed at the end of it all.

Double lives are best experienced on vinyl, and pristine 180 gram records fit the bill perfectly. If you’re going to go double live for Rainbow, do it with Live in Munich.

4/5 stars

A
1. “Kill the King”
2. “Mistreated”
3. “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves”

B
1. “Catch the Rainbow”
2. “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll”

C
1. “Still I’m Sad”

D
1. “Man on the Silver Mountain”
2. “Do You Close Your Eyes”

#458: The LeBrain 2015 Christmas Extraganza! – full report

GETTING MORE TALE #458: The LeBrain 2015 Christmas Extraganza! – full report

Scraps of turkey remain, wrapped in tinfoil, awaiting soup or sandwiches to be made.  The cranberry sauce, if not used up, has been thrown out along with a mountain of cardboard and paper packaging.  Bank balances are lower, but hearts are fuller.  Christmas has come and gone.

Here we sit on the Monday after, hopefully still on vacation, to enjoy the spoils.

The first thing I need to address personally is this:  Happy birthday to my sister Kathryn!  Kathryn requested a birthday review this year, but unfortunately I just have not had the time to do it.  I will review her request sometime in early 2016!

The first Christmas gift that I opened came in the mail from Aaron who sneakily did this even though he certainly didn’t have to!  And I know he has sent Christmas gifts to other folks in the community.  What a generous lad!  I know he loves to hear about how we react to his surprises, so I had Mrs. LeBrain record mine.  This was done on the evening of the 22nd. Thanks Aaron!

You can’t have too many Kiss shirts!  And that Flying Colors blu-ray is going to be amazing.  In fact I’m already arranging a group screening for review purposes!

On the 23rd, we had a half day at work, and a huge Christmas feast for lunch. This was catered in by a company called Platters that we’d never tried before. It was easily the best catered meal we have had in my eight Christmases at the company. Lots of laughs and handshakes, and then by 1:00, most people had taken off for the Christmas break. For some of us though, a long day was still ahead! We had taken on a job that was new to us only a week before. The job had to be completed and shipped on the 23rd, so we had a skeleton crew left, working hard to get this accomplished. I was responsible for coordinating the customs paperwork, and so I was among the stragglers. Around 5:00, the job was finally completed and I crawled home exhausted to begin my holiday. It sure felt amazing to walk in that door!

Mail had arrived, and in the box was Marillion’s latest fan club-only Christmas CD!  Free gifts given only to fan club members, I collect these things which are true rarities. I’m only missing the first two (1998 and 1999). This year is a double live called A Monstrously Festive(al) Christmas.

On December 24th, Christmas Eve, it was so warm outside that I was wearing shorts. In all my years I have never seen a Christmas without any snow. This was the first. We’ve had blizzards and mild weather but nothing like this!

Christmas in shorts

Christmas in shorts

Over the course of the next 24 hours, there were some pretty damn cool gifts given and received.  Here are the musical highlights.  All are still sealed, so as to savour every delightful moment.  As usual, I have some intensive listening to do in the weeks and months to come.  Do you see something here you’d like reviewed?

It’s a very Purple Christmas this year!  Hard Road is a 5 disc box set containing the first three Purple albums with bonus tracks, and also the rare original mono mixes, which I have never heard before.  This renders even the best remastered versions of the early Purple CDs obsolete.  I need someone to gift them to!  As for the Rainbow, and Wacken sets…this is a lot of hours of music.  Include that Flying Colors double live as part of my Purple Christmas!

The live rock continues:

Two new releases and one classic.  Many more hours of incredible musicianship to be had right here.  But what’s Christmas without some kind of crazy deluxe edition boxed set?

I originally acquired Too Old to Rock ‘N’ Roll in 2012, so I don’t know it very intimately.  I do like it though, so why not go for the whole hog?  This box set contains: the original album, the previous bonus tracks with a bunch more on top, the original quadrophonic mix transferred to DVD for the 4.0 quad experience, a TV special, bonus video features such as a tribute to the late bassist John Glascock, and lots more.  Go big or go home!

Then we have this massive Led Zeppelin book set, The Ultimate Collection by Chris Welch, including a DVD and an enormous amount of reproduction memorabilia:

Sheer overload!  When am I going to have time to go through all this?  I only have a week off!

Fortunately, I have already enjoyed these two movies, Ted 2 and Ant-Man.  Great way to enjoy Boxing Day.

Scan_20151227

New Transformers and nerd-stuffs also arrived chez LeBrain.  My mom even bought me a selfie stick Nerd Stick.  Look at the aerial photo I took of her Christmas village!  In fact, the only snow in town could be found in her Christmas village.

IMG_20151225_104754

Nerd stuffs:

Finally, I needed a new coffee mug.  I need a cup that can comfortably hold 12 oz.  Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom delivered, with my brand new Vader mug.  Dark side or not, that’s just a light roast inside him.  This is actually quite a nice mug, with silver paint applications on Vader’s mask.  It’s odd to see the Disney logo on anything I own, but there it was on the box.  I believe that Lord Vader will be accompanying me as I journey through the light and dark sides of live music sets!

IMG_20151227_101619

I hope everyone had a merry, merry Christmas.  Next up:  the new year.  And you know what that means!  Year end lists!  Next time on Getting More Tale.

LeBrain

REVIEW: Dio – Holy Diver (deluxe edition)

DIO – Holy Diver (2012 Universal deluxe edition, originally 1983)

Ronnie James Dio often said that the best Dio album was the first.  Fans will always have their own favourites, but there is no denying that Ronnie was right about Holy Diver being a special album.  Dio had always had a knack for rallying talented people around him.  Just look at that lineup:  Ronnie and Vinny Appice had recently fled Black Sabbath.  Jimmy Bain had worked with Dio in Blackmore’s Rainbow, an integral part of that band’s lineup in the Rainbow Rising period.  On guitar – Vivian Campbell, from little known New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Sweet Savage.  A shredder he was, able to compete with the hot flashy players of the 80’s.

Very few people do speedy metal songs better than Ronnie James Dio.  “Stand Up and Shout” is the prototype of such Dio songs.  Youthful and rebellious, “Stand Up and Shout” was exactly what fans in 1983 were craving.  The band got to show off their chops a bit, with Vinny Appice leading the way via a hell of a drum performance.  Then it’s Vivian’s turn to shine on one of the speediest solos laid to tape.  “You are the strongest chain and not just some reflection,” sings Ronnie, inspiring the masses with his positive message of self-belief.

For the first four albums, Dio always put the title track second.  If this holds some special meaning, I do not know.  “Holy Diver”, with its ominous opening, still remains upon  the lofty peak of the best songs Ronnie has ever written.  The riff, written solely by Ronnie, is iconic.  Perhaps it is not recognized on the level of immortal riffs such as “Whole Lotta Love”, but among metal fans, it is held in high regard.  “Holy Diver” is the shiniest jewel in the crown, a massive track that just has everything.  Bain and Appice formed a tight rhythm section with the exact right amount of heft.  The song is flawless…shiny diamonds indeed.


Like the eyes of a cat in the black and blue, something is coming for you.

“Gypsy” is a knockout.  Ronnie belting in full voice with a solid mid-tempo song behind him is always a pleasure.  This is Vivian’s first writing credit on a Dio album.  The guitar solo could use some focus, but I think the directive here was “just shred”.  One of Dio’s most pop moments (in terms of melody only) is “Caught in the Middle”, one of his catchiest, most concise and direct songs.  Even Vivian sticks to point on the solo.  But “Caught in the Middle” is soon eclipsed by an even more exciting song:  “Don’t Talk to Strangers”.  The acoustic fake-out intro is a trick Dio pulled again later on “The Last in Line”, but when the song really starts, it’s friggin’ frantic.  It’s like the wind.  These guys had so much energy, it is remarkable.   “Straight Through the Heart” has balls to it, it’s a groovy tune.  I loved Halestorm’s cover of it immensely.  I think they really caught and emphasized what is great about the song.  Lzzy Hale is one of very few people who can do Dio justice vocally.

The slow intro to “Invisible” reminds me of a 1987-era Whitesnake ballad.  This is another trick!  It stops and abruptly turns into another Dio stomper of high quality.  There is very little letup on this Dio album.  The momentum is maintained by the stunning single “Rainbow in the Dark”.  That’s Ronnie on keyboards, by the way.  I have a story about this song.

Our local rock station, 107.5 Dave Rocks, has a 3:00 contest called the Tedious Tiresome Trivia in the Tri-Cities, or the TTT in the TC.  What makes it so tedious and tiresome are the callers.  Craig seems to attract the…how should I say this? The most “interesting” callers.  The most notorious of these is “Bore-linda” who has a legion of haters who can’t stand her perky tone.  (She’s actually a very nice lady in real life.)  Craig Fee would receive emails from annoyed listeners saying, “Hang up on Bore-linda!  Play some Dio!”  So that’s exactly what Craig did, and he chose “Rainbow in the Dark” as the song.  And Bore-linda calls in a lot.  And Craig hangs up a lot.  For a while, “Rainbow in the Dark” was played almost daily between 3 and 4 o’clock.  And you know what?  It never got tiring.  Every single time it came on was a fist-pumper.

Holy Diver deserves a dramatic ending, and that would be “Shame on the Night”.  Copying the template of a song like Sabbath’s “Lonely is the Word”, it occupies the same kind of slow-paced dark metal space.  Vivian’s guitar intro is very cool, but the song just pounds.

The bonus CD is chock full of Dio goodness.  Deluxe editions should always present a complete set of B-sides.  This has the three from this era, including the studio cut “Evil Eyes”.  This excellent, cruisin’ tune was re-recorded for The Last in Line, and the B-side version has remained obscure until now.   Vivian has a lot of different solos on this version, and they are all cool.  Then, essential cuts “Stand Up and Shout” and “Straight Through the Heart” are both live B-sides, every bit as electrifying as the originals.  They are simply more raw, probably a little faster, and there is nothing more powerful than Ronnie James Dio’s voice live in the raw.

The balance of the disc is fleshed out by six live songs recorded for radio by the King Biscuit Flower Hour.  They sound excellent, thanks to King Biscuit.  You get “Stand Up and Shout” a second time, but the rest of the live songs are not repeats.  In the mix are some Sabbath (“Children of the Sea”) and some Rainbow (“Man on the Silver Mountain/Starstruck”).  Of the two, “Children of the Sea” fares better from the Dio band’s interpretation.  To be fair, I think Tony Iommi and Ritchie Blackmore both have so much personality, that it is daunting to cover them no matter who you are.  I think Vivian’s style works less well on the Rainbow song than it does with Sabbath’s material.  The rest of the songs (“Holy Diver”, “Rainbow in the Dark”, “Shame on the Night”) are all quality Dio tracks.  Although the market is now inundated with live Dio packages, it is still a delight to have these early recordings on CD.

I needn’t divulge that this deluxe edition is loaded with cool liner notes and pictures.  You have come to expect that from a good deluxe edition.  And Holy Diver is quite good indeed.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Rock Star – Music from the Motion Picture (2001)

Scan_20150812ROCK STAR – Music from the Motion Picture (2001 Warner)

I remember dragging my long-suffering girlfriend at the time out to see this movie.  She had every right to complain.  The movie was a stinker, absolutely.  Not to mention, it had no idea when it is taking place.  Vaguely, the 80’s, but then after this guy (Marky Mark) leaves the band (Steel Dragon), he goes and becomes the founder of grunge?  The movie sucked!  It was very, very loosely inspired by the story of Ripper Owens being discovered by Judas Priest, by being in a Judas Priest cover band.  In the movie, Marky Mark becomes the singer of Steel Dragon after their original singer (who also happens to be gay, hmmm?) quits.  It was supposed to be a really inspiring story of the everyman with talent who succeeded, but it ended up being just a normal everyday turd.

But listen, we’re not talking about the movie.  We’re looking strictly at the soundtrack CD.  I ask you one simple question: If you were to pick one band to write and play the title anthem for a movie about a heavy metal band in the 80’s, who would it be?  Obviously the answer is Everclear.  (I say “obviously”, because a whole bunch of suits who get paid a whole lot more than I do picked it, so they must be right.)  Actually, their tune “Rock Star” isn’t bad.  It sounds a bit like an old Canadian rock band called Deadline, actually.

Scan_20150812 (3)

It’s astounding, but Zakk shaved his beard to get that 80’s look back!

The main attraction of the CD is actually the original tunage by the fictional band Steel Dragon.  On record, the lineup was:

  • Zakk Wylde – lead guitar
  • Jason Bonham – drums
  • Jeff Pilson – bass
  • Nick Cantonese – guitar
  • Mike Matijevic – lead vocals
  • Jeff Scott Soto – lead vocals

See why I dragged that poor girlfriend out to see this movie?  Zakk, Jason and Jeff were in even the movie, as the band Steel Dragon.

They had two lead singers, while Marky Mark mimed.  Jeff Scott Soto sings the raspy, mid-rangey stuff such as “Livin’ the Life”.  This isn’t a bad rock tune, but it’s Zakk’s guitar that makes it perk up a bit.  Mike Matijevic (Steelheart) sings the smooth and screamy stuff, with his impeccable range.  “We All Die Young” is a bonafide  great songs.  Matijevic’s stunning vocals meeting Zakk Wylde’s leads is probably a wet dream for some folks!  The only problem with it is that it doesn’t sound accurate to the period.  The movie is supposed to take place in the early 80’s (I think) but “We All Die Young” sounds early 90’s.  But wait…we’re supposed to be talking about the CD, not the movie.  Fuck the movie!

“Blood Pollution” (written by Twiggy Ramirez, interestingly) has Matijevic singing, but as with “Livin’ the Life” the song isn’t that special.  It sounds like Motley Crue, except with Zakk Wylde on guitar and a better Vince Neil.  Jeff Scott Soto helms “Stand Up”, which is way heavier than you’d expect considering Sammy Hagar wrote it!  This version actually came out before Sammy’s, on 2002’s Not 4 Sale and has different lyrics.  “Stand Up” kicks ass, and along with “We All Die Young” is one of the soundtrack highlights.  Just listen to Zakk killing it in that fast part! It’s also one of the few tunes with that patented, genetic Bonham Stomp.

Another track right up Motley Crue’s alley is “Wasted Generation”, and with its Desmond Child co-write it’s a lot heavier than expected. Jeff Scott kicks ass on the anthemic punchy chorus, and Zakk’s shredding is tasty. The final Steel Dragon tune on the disc is a Rainbow cover — “Long Live Rock and Roll” with Matijevic singing. I never understood why the band Steel Dragon would be playing a Rainbow cover, since it is implied that Steel Dragon were active in the 70’s too, contemporaries with Rainbow. But we’re here to talk about the CD, not that piece of shit movie. “Long Live Rock and Roll” with Zakk Wylde on guitar…it’s not what you’d hope it would be. Bonham’s awesome though, and remarkably Ian Paice-like.

The rest of the disc contains various hits from various bands from various years.  The Verve Pipe – “Colorful” (2001), check!  INXS – “The Devil Inside” (1987), check! Why? Who the fuck knows. I like some INXS, it’s completely out of place. I suppose that a soundtrack for you. More suiting to the tone of the CD are Kiss’ “Lick It Up” (1983), Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” (1986), Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” (1975), and Motley Crue’s “Wild Side” (1987). I do wonder why “Stranglehold” seems to be the only Nugent that ever shows up on movie soundtracks.  At least Marky Mark doesn’t have any songs.

The final song, Trevor Rabin’s “Gotta Have It” sounds like end credits music, but I’m not going to watch that crummy movie to find out. Rabin’s track is excellent, as should be expected. It sounds like Rabin, which is all I can really say to describe it!

So: Rock Star, a shit movie, gave us a pretty OK soundtrack. Considering I (and probably you) already had the Nugent, Kiss, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue songs, I salvaged seven tracks from the album as keepers: the six Steel Dragon tunes, and Trevor Rabin. There are 14 songs, so this time the math is easy.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Dio – Intermission (1986 EP)

IMG_20150129_173910DIO – Intermission (1986 Warner EP)

Intermission was Dio’s live EP, bridging the gap between Sacred Heart and Dream Evil. At the time it came out, Dio was very busy with the Hear N’ Aid project as well as replacing Vivian Campbell on guitar. Maybe that’s why he opted for just a Dio EP to tide fans over.  For a long time this unavailable on CD; it has recently been reissued in its completion as bonus tracks on the deluxe edition of Sacred Heart.  Good news, I’m sure, for those fans without the equipment to play vinyl.

The band was in a transitional period.  They had recorded the five live tracks with Vivian, but replaced him with Craig Goldy in the middle of the tour.  For years, fans were wondering who played on Intermission.  Goldy’s picture is on the back, but the solos are clearly Vivian.  There were no credits either, but today we know that Vivian is indeed the guitar player on the live tracks.  And so is Craig!  They overdubbed Goldy over Campbell on the live rhythm guitar parts!  Why he decided to do this, aside from spite, I have no idea, but I strongly dislike tampering with live recordings. (Yes, that makes me a hypocrite since I rated Kiss Alive! a 6/5!)

Goldy plays all guitars on the soul newbie, “Time To Burn”.  This new studio cut was a really excellent one; a mid-tempo burner (no pun intended).  He co-wrote it, probably contributing that cool riff.  The song has melody to spare and is definitely a diamond among Dio’s early solo material. It sounds similar to the Sacred Heart era, but with a higher level of songwriting quality.

As far as I’m concerned, they may call it an EP, but this is essentially an album, clocking in at 32 minutes.  That makes it slightly longer than Van Halen’s Diver Down.   It may only have six tracks, but one is a 10 minute medley of Dio and Rainbow classics.  “Man on the Silver Mountain” sounds incredible; Ronnie was singing powerfully on this tour, and despite the tampering the band does sound great.

The Dio songs sampled here include obvious choices like “We Rock” and “Rainbow in the Dark”, but the two biggest hits (“Holy Diver” and “Last in Line”) are absent.  Diligent fans already had live versions of those two on the last Dio single B-sides. The more puzzling inclusion is “King of Rock and Roll” which was already released live on the last album!  Ultimately though I’m satisfied with the songs selected on this EP.  The vinyl used to be frequently played around these parts, though it has no been collecting dust since the reissue of the songs on the deluxe Sacred Heart.  It remains a great sounding mini-album, if you will!

4/5 stars