There are plenty of live Styx albums, the majority with current singer Lawrence Gowan. 2001’s Styxworld is as entertaining as the title implies. It really does represent the world of Styx: oldies, solo hits, and obscure tracks too. Because the Styx lineup in 2001 included guitarist/singer Glen Burtnik, there are a couple songs he wrote that Styx don’t play anymore.
Styx have had a credible career, post-Dennis DeYoung. Adding Gowan, a solo star in Canada, was a brilliant move. Though Gowan and DeYoung don’t sound alike, Lawrence is capable of performing Dennis’ more dramatic hits like “Come Sail Away”. You wouldn’t want that song dropped from the set! But Gowan also adds his own solo material: “A Criminal Mind” (from 1985’s Strange Animal) is more than welcome. A great song is a great song, and “A Criminal Mind” has since become a part of Styx.
Credit should be heaped for including lesser-heard classics like “Boat on a River” in the set, just as good as any of the missing songs. You’ll also hear “Rocking the Paradise”, “Miss America”, “Sing for the Day”, “Crystal Ball”, “Half-Penny, Two-Penny” and “Lorelei” (James “JY” on lead vocals). Essentially the setlist was whittled down to songs co-written by Tommy Shaw or James Young, with “Come Sail Away” being the only solo DeYoung-written song.
You could fill a whole other album with missing songs like “The Grand Illusion” or “Renegade” but what makes Styxworld strong are the songs included in their place. Like it or not “Love is the Ritual” was a minor hit for Burtnik-era Styx, and an effort seems to have been made to include everybody’s material. A big hit (though not by Styx!) is “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough” by Patty Smyth and Don Henley…written by Smyth and Burtnik. It’s cool to have a Styx version though it’s shortened for the stage. Of course there’s “Criminal Mind” by Gowan, and even the ballad “High Enough” by Tommy Shaw’s Damn Yankees. Though it seems like a ballad-heavy set, there is plenty of rock and roll.
Check out Styxworld for a taste of this period of Styx history. If you like Gowan, it’s a win.
BLACK SABBATH – Past Lives (2002 Sanctuary)
(CD 1 is a reissue of 1980’s Live at Last (NEMS))
Black Sabbath’s Live at Last (1980) has been reissued so often that its Discogs listing shows 81 distinct versions. Those don’t include the Black Sabbath live set Past Lives, of which Live at Last forms its first CD. The second disc is all unreleased live versions, from shows in 1970 and 1975. These consist of some of the big Sabbath numbers that weren’t on Live at Last (“Iron Man”, “Black Sabbath”) and more obscure material like “Hole in the Sky”.
“Hand of Doom” from Paranoid is an unusual though doomy way to open the CD. It rolls from gentle bass to a roaring mania. It is a taut performance largely because of Bill Ward’s enviable swing. “Hand of Doom” was recorded in 1970, but jumping ahead to ’75, Ozzy’s intro to “Hole in the Sky” is cute. It wasn’t out yet. “Listen to it, you might like it, OK?” asks Ozzy. Then, “Are you high? Are you high? So am I!”
Some Sabbath songs are like a brand new bulldozer, unrelentlessly heavy, yet shiny and cool. “Hole in the Sky” is one such riff-monster, an indispensable slab of heavy metal. It’s followed by another new one, and even heavier: “Symptom of the Universe”. Young, wasted Sabbath blast through it — and stay the fuck out of Bill Ward’s way! The drummer is a tornado. “Megalomania” makes it a perfect trifecta of new songs. It’s an epic 10 minutes of different paces, riffs and melodies. Unlike other metal bands, Sabbath often welded two or three unforgettable riffs together into mega-compositions. Look at “Black Sabbath” for example — they could have made two songs out of it, but instead we have one massive monolith. On stage, “Megalomania” is tense and never boring. Ozzy shreds his voice to pieces.
As far as Past Lives goes, these three songs (“Hole in the Sky”, “Symptom of the Universe” and “Megalomania”) are the nugget of gold in the middle. It’s a first official live release for most of them. A live “Symptom of the Universe” was issued by a Tony Martin-era lineup on 1995’s Cross Purposes ~ Live, but that cannot compete with the vintage original lineup.*
It’s only oldies from there in. “Iron Man”, “Fairies Wear Boots” and “Black Sabbath” (with unique Tony Iommi guitar intro) make up for their absence on Live at Last. “N.I.B.” and “Behind the Wall of Sleep” from the first Sabbath round out the set. Nobody did them better than the original band in the 1970s.
Today we have more original Sabbath to choose from that just Past Lives; two complete concerts were included in the recent Paranoid 4 CD box set. Back in 2002, this kind of release warranted bigger fanfare. The audio is not pristine. Flutter, static and amp hum are part of the deal. If you’re into buying archival live material, you know what this is about.
The original digipack release of Past Lives comes with a booklet, a poster, and most importantly a guitar pick. Collectors will probably want to hold out for a version with pick intact, though finding one might be a “holy grail” item. If you don’t care about such things, a simple jewel case release is widely available.
We continue with theWEEK OF FLAMING TURDS! We’re looking at a collection of malodorous music. Strike a match, you’ll need it for these stinkers! Today, please welcome to the stage, Mr. Geoff Tate.
QUEENSRŸCHE – Tribe (2003 Sanctuary)
Queensryche fans have had a lot to deal with over the last 20 years. Uneven albums, lineup changes, framed by occasional flashes of brilliance were the norm up until recently. The most significant obstacle was the 1997 departure of Chris DeGarmo, their chief songwriter and beloved guitarist. Overall burnout caused by band turmoil led DeGarmo to retire from music altogether and follow his dream of becoming a pilot. Later statements from the band (during their legal battle with former singer Geoff Tate) claimed outright that he left because of “Geoff Tate’s personal demeanor” with the guitarist. In his absence, Tate took over the role of primary songwriter and began leading the band. Their first post-DeGarmo album was 1999’s Q2k, a pretty heavy record that was largely dismissed by fans for being a departure from style and quality. DeGarmo’s replacement guitarist Kelly Gray was let go shortly after the Live Evolution album. Struggling to come up with material for another album, Queensryche called Chris DeGarmo up on the telephone. The guitarist softened his stance and readied himself to make a full return to the band. He wrote, played guitar in the studio and even took part in photo shoots. Fans hoped for something special that would live up to the Queensryche legacy from this reunion. It was not to last. The same old strains returned between DeGarmo and Tate, and it was over before it started.
Fandom felt the wind taken out of its sails, and eyebrows were raised at the sudden second departure. The released album Tribe featured five co-writes from Chris DeGarmo, and one from new Queensryche guitarist Mike Stone (ex-Peter Criss), who was hired shortly after. Both Stone and DeGarmo receive credit as special guests. Upon listening, best hopes for the album were dashed. Tribe‘s 10 songs come off as half-baked outtakes from a better album that was never made. Some of the blame must go to the production, a flat and dry sounding affair. However that cannot explain the dull songs. It’s not all bad — “Open Your Eyes” features a damn fine, exotic sounding riff, probably contributed by DeGarmo. They just couldn’t construct a memorable song around it, and Tate couldn’t seem to get his singing into gear.
The sole Mike Stone co-write, “Losing Myself” is a programmed mess of samples without a song. The chorus sounds like an outtake from the dreary Hear in the Now Frontier album. Same with the acoustic “Falling Behind”, which is too bad because it’s one of the songs on which you can hear Chris DeGarmo’s playing. In fact, Tribe in general might be considered Hear in the Now Part II, so similar are they.
The only real quality musical moment happens on the DeGarmo co-write “Desert Dance”. Exotic and heavy but with an actual song built out of it, “Desert Dance” gets you moving. Drummer Scott Rockenfield throws a lot of percussion tricks into it, emphasizing the exotic (this is true of the album in general). Tate actually sounds alive on this, becoming the cheerleader of the album. “Desert Dance” was the only song that had me reaching for the volume knob to turn it up. One other decent track is “Rhythm of Hope”, a co-write with Eddie Jackson and Scott Rockenfield that sounds like it was an effort to be the second “Silent Lucidity”. Unfortunately that moment has passed.
It’s worth noting that the only member to have a songwriting credit on every song in Geoff Tate. I place the blame for Tribe‘s lack of life at his feet. The album is only 41 minutes, but it is a long 41 minutes. Difficult to finish, hard to like and easy to forget, Tribe remains a chore today.
I acquired this DVD for ridiculously cheap at my old place of employ via their web order service, but after I left their employ so no staff discount. Its condition is impeccable! Very impressive.
BRUCE DICKINSON – Anthology (2006 Sanctuary)
Bruce Dickinson is that rare kind of artist, one whose solo work has the same level of quality, integrity and emotional impact as the work with his better-known band. I think it is safe to say that most Iron Maiden fans have enjoyed Bruce Dickinson’s solo work, or at least most of it. This DVD Anthology is a complete collection of all of Dickinson’s solo video material in one 3-disc package.
Up first is Bruce’s live video supporting his first solo album whilst still in Maiden, Tattooed Millionaire. This video, which was extremely rare when it first came out (I never located a copy), was called Dive! Dive! Live! and featured Maiden guitarist Janick Gers. It also features every song from that Tattooed Millionaire performed live, plus several B-sides and a handful of covers. No Maiden. As Bruce was proud to say, this video is very raw. Also on the first DVD is the video Skunkworks Live, which was released in the mid 1990’s. It featured Dickinson’s new solo band, also called Skunkworks, featuring guitarist Alex Dickson. I was not a huge fan of Skunkworks, as I found their style (particularly the bass by Chris Dale) not to mesh so well with Bruce’s songs. Most of the Skunkworks album is performed live, plus some older songs and B-sides, and one Maiden cover (“The Prisoner”). This is another very rare performance as once again, the original video was very hard to find.
Disc 2 is the Scream For Me Brazil show, featuring my favourite lineup of Bruce’s band. Roy Z and Adrian Smith on guitars, the hulking Eddie Casilias on bass, and the talented tribal and bizarre Dave Ingraham on drums. This to me was Bruce’s finest moment as a solo artist. The performance itself was never meant to be released at first, this is a rough and raw video feed. However, as grainy as it is, the raw energy and sheer performance chops of Bruce and his ace band come through. The tracklist is a mix of songs from the three albums featuring Roy Z (Balls to Picasso, Accident of Birth, and Chemical Wedding).
Disc 3 is my personal favourite disc, seeing as Bruce’s music videos were rarely shown on Much. Every video is included here. There are some really off the wall videos directed by Storm Thorgerson (check out “Tattooed Millionaire”! Shoes for hats?) and some really cool horror-chiller-theater-type videos directed by Julian Doyle. Further on, I loved “Accident Of Birth” (directed by Bruce himself), mainly because Dave Ingraham makes awesome faces while playing the drums, and is wearing this funny leather aviation hat through the whole thing. But that’s nothing, wait until you see “Road To Hell”. Ingraham is now wearing a gas mask through the whole thing! Julian Doyle’s “Abduction” video is also cool, as Bruce himself is captured by mysterious Men in Black, and experimented upon….
But there are some pretty bad videos too. “Tears of the Dragon” comes to mind, a great song, but a terrible video. Here’s Bruce, looking all pensive…then there’s some weird sumo wrestler looking guy…fire…a beach…Bruce wrecking stuff…I would have preferred to see his band. It was the early 90’s, and this was the kind of video that people were sick of seeing, pompous and self-important. Awful video.
Lastly as a bonus there is an old Samson video directed by Julian Temple. I don’t even know what to say about Biceps of Steel except it’s an odd one! There is also a lot of supplimentary bonus material, including some introductions and explanations from Bruce himself….
This package was extremely well assembled, and is very enjoyable for all Bruce Dickinson fans. You won’t be let down. Completists in particular will appreciate that Bruce is very hands-on with his product and tends to give the fans what they wanted along with stuff they didn’t know existed. Full endorsement from LeBrain.
IRON MAIDEN – Maiden England ’88 (2013 CD reissue)
It only took 25 years, but Iron Maiden have finally released a complete 2 CD edition of their legendary Maiden England recording. A video was released in 1989, and a truncated CD version in 1994. These were great, but less than 100% satisfying.
The first thing you notice is the striking cover art. This is by somebody named Hervé Monjeaud. It resembles Derek Riggs’ Eddies enough to fit in fairly seemlessly with the 1988 era. I wish they used the original motorcycle cover art by Derek Riggs, but at least they credit him inside as the original artist.
Also checking the credits, I was pleased to find that the audio was not remixed. This is the same mix that Martin Birch produced at the time. The three unreleased songs are freshly mixed by Kevin Shirley, but there’s no tampering. This is the authentic Maiden England.
Last year when I reviewed every Maiden release in a row, I discussed Maiden England. Please check that review out if you’re looking for a more comprehensive review of the songs and content. Back then, I gave it 4/5 stars. I found the sound a tad muddy, I complained about the brief running time, and I didn’t like that the CD did not include every song from the VHS version. The missing songs were “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Can I Play With Madness”. This edition restores them to the running order, and even adds three more songs that were cut completely from the original release! So right there, two of my beefs have been addressed.
What about the sound? Bloody great! Whatever it was about the first CD release, the flatness of it, is gone. It’s like when you take your car to the wash, how it shines. Maiden England ’88 sounds so much better than the original CD. And of course there’s a nice substantial booklet with photos and lyrics. No notes from Steve or anybody else, disappointingly. I always like those “producer’s notes” or what have you. But that’s window dressing, this is really such a pleasure to listen to, I assure you. As I wrote these words, Dave Murray was wheedly-wheedly-ing in my ears. And I liked it.
With the added material and fresh sound, Maiden England ’88 takes its place alongside other Maiden classics such as Live at Donington or Rock In Rio. Of course it cannot usurp Live After Death, nothing ever will. Maiden England ’88 has some really awesome Maiden material that didn’t make Live After Death, such as “Still Life”, which remains dramatic and stunning. “Killers” and “Sanctuary” are two other songs that were not on Live After Death. Not to mention, by 1988 Maiden had two more albums to draw from. That means you’ll also hear “Wasted Years” and “The Clairvoyant”, songs that stand strong among the old stalwarts.
The three unreleased songs are “Run To The Hills”, “Running Free” and “Sanctuary”. These were the encores. They are not mixed onto the end of the show, but follow a pause and have a noticeably different sound. It’s hard to describe how the sound differs, but you can hear a change. I’m not sure why these weren’t included on the original VHS. Surely not for quality reasons. The running time of the original video was 95 minutes. Would another 15 have bumped them into a higher, tax, uhh, you know? (120 minute tapes were common back then too.)
There’s a DVD too, but I don’t have that yet. One thing at a time! Send me a copy, EMI, and I’ll be happy to review it!