This week I actually managed to get to some of my pile of music DVDs and have a gander at what is on offer. They all (except one) come via those clever folks at Metal Mind and are great value each one of them. But before I get into the visual treats let me tell you about some interesting CDs I have listened to of late.
Iced Earth: Overture of the Wicked EP
As you can tell from the name this is an EP from the power metal power-house Iced Earth. It is a bit of a taster, four tracks, to their upcoming CDs expanding thier epic “Something Wicked” trilogy. The two CDs to be released this year and next will take the trilogy to the next level with added twist of having it all sung by Ripper Owens there newish singer. The EP is partly released to preface their guest slot on the Heaven & Hell tour in the UK.
As far as the tracks on here go, its standard high quality Iced Earth fare. If you like the band you will enjoy the tracks on here full of the intensity, passion and talent that you have come to expect from the band. And the EP has the desired affect methinks. I am looking forward to their next release in September.
Ozzy Osbourne: `Black Rain
Ten tracks of Ozzy goodness that are meant to prove that Ozzy ain’t just a reality show denizen and still can cut it. Does it work? Well yes to be honest. This is probably the best thing he has released since the classic No More Tears. It seems to contain all the passion and fluidity that has lacked in some of his more recent stuff. Ozzy and Zack are working well within the limitations of Ozzy’s voice as it gets older making sure not to stress his vocal cords.
There is not one duff track on here it has to be said. It is pure Ozzy at his finest with no attempts at being current or trendy. The CD opens with two two-fingered salutes to his critics in the form of “Not Going Away” and the first single “I don’t wanna stop”. In fact, the whole album has a bit of that feeling. There are even a couple of ballads on here, neither of which are dire but the best of which is the heartfelt “Here for You”.
In the end Ozzy is doing what he does best on here…being himself. This is a rather good Ozzy album with all that entails. Zack is on stellar form, lyrically its great and its all catchy as stink. Enjoyable and fun which is just what you want from an Ozzy album. The Ozman is back in fine form; get it and see.
And finally something a bit mellow and introspective for this column granted. Then again I am quite fond of Rick Wakeman, who might have been a bit nutty at times, but is a thoroughly nice bloke.
Tesla: Reel to Reel
Recieving this disc engendered mixed emotions it has to say. The accompanying bumf explains that Tesla are back in the UK for their first in a very long time which is a wonderful news. The bit of a downer is that they album therein is a covers album. Et tu Tesla! Yes, I know that certain 80s bands that have run out of ideas have to pump out covers albums to satisfy record deals but the mighty Tesla succumbing to the temptation. Say it ain’t so Jeff?
Once I recovered, and remembered what a nice bunch of guys Tesla are whenever I have met em’, I slapped the CD in the player with gusto. I can gladly report that this is not one of those dire cover albums that seem to pop up all the time. Its in fact rather decent, not as good as the Shaw/Blades release of late, but decent. The band do not butcher anything too badly, its all listenable and quite pleasant for a few spins. They do an admirable job on tracks like “Space Truckin’”, “Bell Bottom Blues” and “Honky Tonk Woman”. And it has had one good affect on me. I have found myself reaching for their debut ‘Mechinical Resonance” with renewed vigor.
There is no denying Tesla’s talent. Let’s just hope next time round its original material.
Starz: Greatest Hits Live, New England: Greatest Hits Live, 707: Greatest Hits Live
You might see a trend with these three and you would be right. MVD have released this trio of live albums to remind people why these three bands from the 70s were so good. Now I always find discovering a band via a live album, maybe Peter Frampton and Kiss excepted, is not the proper way of being introduced. It can be a bit intimidating to say the least. These three are no exceptions with their adoring audiences and sing-alongs.
Starz was one of those bands that was a bit glammy but mostly straight ahead hard rock. They were quite popular in their time and are frequently named checked by members of bands that followed them in the 80s. Hits like “Cherry Baby” are played with passion and lots of power. Fans of the band will probably welcome this excellent package and hearing this lot on CD. For the rest of us I am not quite sure. They are hard rock history but I suspect a studio release might be best for an introduction.
New England are far less glammy and a lot more heavy, but still retain a 70s feel. Some who would even say there is a touch of punk about them. They even have a song called “P.U.N.K.”. As with the rest of these releases not knowing the band makes this live CD a bit hard to get into. I think its one for fans of the band only.
707 are yet another band most of you probably never heard of but are spoken of positive tones by those of the proper age in the late 70s/early 80s. They play a competent and energetic live set on this CD which I am sure will please fans of the band. Its hard rock of its time. Of the three releases this one sounded the most dated, which is saying quite a bit.
The three CDs are nicely packaged and the sleeve contains notes on the band giving a bit of history. These are not cheap and cheerful releases and MVD has done a good job at giving value for money.
NEO: Broadcast, Pendragon: Past and Presence, Andromeda: Playing Off the Board
Three Metal Mind DVDs of varying types of prog played live. The reason I clumped these three all together is that they all are rather impressive DVDs with lots of interesting extras. Each CD has an interview with members of the band, extra live archive footage and even rehearsal footage plus the normal personal videos, weblinks and pics. At 140, 180 and 250 mins these releases certainly do not skimp on material.
NEO is a British prog second-wave supergroup, consisting of members of Arena, Palas, IQ, Pendragon amoung others. As with my progsters most of these guys have played on so many albums of others its rather hard to keep track of in the end. The band play songs from each of their members bands, of various vintages, but try to make them interesting by mixing things up with different lead singers or even different arrangements.
What is quite good for those who do not know the afore-mentioned bands is that the songs tend to be shorter varieties of their originals. This makes the tunes accessible to the neophite. I would recommend watching the interview on the history of the group as its quite interesting.
Pendragon are a very English, well with that name what do you expect, prog act of some age. This DVD is to celebrate the release of The Jewel their debut, 21 years ago.They never have quite made it to the level of Marillion or Yes but they deliver solid prog music with talent and tenacity. Pendragon and prog fans will lap this DVD up and its good to see Metal Mind putting so much effort into this release.
Finally we have Andromeda who are not English. Listening to this band, of whom I had not heard any tracks, reminded me most of Dream Theatre at their most accessible. This is power prog played with oodles of talent and attention to detail. Tracks like “The Words Unspoken” really shine on here and might prompt those new to the band to seek out their studio work. Great stuff from a talented band.
Rick Wakeman: Amazing Grace
Rick Wakeman has produced a lush DVD/CD set of inspirational instrumental versions of popular hymns. The bonus vocal track is sung by his daughter Jemma Wakeman with the English Chamber Choir. The DVD is rather unusual. Instead of the normal live performance of his twiddling with his keyboards we see pastoral scenes that are meant to be relaxing. The DVD part of this CD is meant to be not only background music but visuals as well.
The CD that included has even more hymnal tracks as well as yet another version of Amazing Grace. I am sure most of you know who Rick Wakeman is, but in case you don’t let me remind you. Wakeman is former keyboard player with the prog powerhouse Yes. He began his keyboard rise to stardom with The Strawbs. The man is prolific and continues to work and release music when most people are happy in their retirement. There is no doubting his talent and its all on show here.
While instrumental versions of hymns might not be the regular fare of most of the people who read my columns or normal reviews you can’t fault the quality of this release. Its nicely packaged and you get quite a bit of music for yer money. Futhermore this would be a great present for your favourite religious Christian. And lets face it, a rousing redition of Jerusalem always does one good.
Well on that inspirational note I end this column. As always make sure you stay safe, rocking and check out any live music you can as often as possible. Oh, one more thing, do any of you dear readers have any contacts in the country music biz? Its a bit out of my genre as you might imagine.
Oh yes, one more thing. As a bit of bonus after my recent review of Beatallica they were kind enough to give me an interview. Here is the result.
1. Describe to those who have not heard you yet what you sound like and who?
Grg Hammettson: Beatallica is not a tribute band. We are an affectionate homage to the Beatles and Metallica. We play a mash up of Beatles based songs the way we think Meatallica would play them. So expect a lot of headbanging metal but with the Beatles at it’s core.
2. How did all of you get into music and how young did you start playing?
Grg: When I saw my first Ibanez Explorer 2 with mother of pearl fret inlays and the rock it created I knew I just needed to play the guitar. I bought “Ride the Lightening” when it first came out because I loved “Fade to Black”. I got it home, put it on and turned it up but what came out was the first tune “Fight Fire With Fire” and I was confused for a moment by this odd metered heaviness. But then it hit me and I realized that this was amazing. I started playing late, around 17 or 18 and didn’t take lessons for years. But I practiced quite a lot. One of my ex-girlfriends said that I played guitar as a nervous habit. She loved it.
3. Would you care if you were only big in Japan or Germany and not the US?
Grg: To be even remotely “big” in today’s music industry is a mind numbing blessing, so I wouldn’t mind being big anywhere. But If I had to choose then I pick Germany because I adore schnitzel.
4. What do you think of what is currently in mode on the radio?
Grg: Radio is tough for me because I have the whole CD of the one song they play and I know that there are 9 to 15 other cool ass tunes on there that will never see the light of day. I guess this bugs me.
5. Do the guys in Metallica and the remaining Beatles know about you?
Grg: I know that Metallica has heard us, and even said in interviews that they like us. Which is amazing. Of course they could have been misquoted. Larz has been in contact with us and helped us greatly in the past with some legal issues. He is a cool dude. I am quite sure the Beatles have never heard of us, I mean come on, Paul has better things to do I’d bet.
6. How hard were the song choices?
Grg: Do you mean which songs to include on out new CD coming out on July 10th at a record store near you? Well we had a bunch picked out and we even recorded some that we couldn’t get permission to use. So in that sense it was easy to choose, we just picked the best ones we could get the rights to mash up.