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Music (CD/DVD) Reviews: Dio, Rolling Stones, The Michael Schenker, Ransom, Logan, Touchstone

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Another week is gone and the pile never seems to fall. This week there are a few DVDs to liven things up.

DVD Reviews

Dio: Holy Diver Live

Few in the audience for this event could imagine that by the time the DVD was released Ronnie James Dio would be dead. His premature passing, yes he actually beat Ozzy to the grave, tinges this DVD viewing experience with a touch of sadness. That said, there is no sign of illness in Dio’s performance with his super-tight band, filmed in 2005 at London’s Astoria (which no longer exists either).

As you expect, this is his debut solo band album in its entirety, with a few Sabbath and Rainbow faves along for the ride. The performance makes it clear that the album has lost none of its immediacy and quality. While the albums following his initial release were never stinkers, for the most part, none really had to the consistency of the first one. Tracks like the title track, “Don’t Talk to Strangers” and “Rainbow in the Dark” are highlights of this highlight full set.

Seventeen tracks in all their glory plus the extras in the form of interviews fill out the package. Needless to say this is a must for Dio fans and I would be hard-pressed to say its not worth it for any metal fan worth their salt. Have a glass (or three) of ale and watch one of the master frontmen of all time as he shows us how its done.

Rolling Stones: Ladies & Gentlemen

Another week and another Rolling Stones release. This one the Rolling Stones filmed over four nights on the “Exile on Main Street” tour in 1972. Unlike the documentary, Stones in Exile, released early this year about the making of that classic stones album (some argue their last great one) this is merely a live CD. No doubt this release is meant as a companion to the documentary however it’s more about their live spectacular. A decent release, as are most things associated with the Stones, but far from essential.

As with most such releases, there are extras on this blu-ray including a tour rehearsal of “Turn Your Hips” and “Tumbling Dice” as well as an interview on England’s Old Grey Whistle Test.  For good measure, there is an interview with Mick Jaggar filmed this year by way of contrast. Stones releases seem to be good at having something current to pair with the older material.

As with many live gigs of such vintage, there is something missing if you weren’t there at the time and are watching this for the first time. Then again, if you are a Stones fan it probably won’t matter. Not sure what the attraction is for the rest of us.

The Michael Schenker Group: The 30th Anniversary Show

This is just what it says on the box, a live gig in Tokyo to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Michael Schenker vehicle called MSG. Not to be confused of course with the 90s variant, for a couple of albums, McCauley Schenker Group. Schenker has on again, off again frontman Gary Barden along, with talents such as Neil Murray and Simon Philips joining him as well.

I interviewed Mad Mickey (as the press loves to dub him) and he was a nice, quiet chap who was a pleasure to hang out with. He’s always had MSG to fall back on when his other gigs fizzled. Of course, there are tracks from his entire career, including the early days of the Scorpions, UFO, and even a few “solo” tunes.

There is no doubting the quality of this band and Schenker’s playing as captured by this quality release. At 175 minutes there is plenty to sink your teeth into including 18 live tracks and extras. The extras include an LA rehearsal, backstage impressions, Michael chatting about himself and the rest of the band interviewed.

An impressive release to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band. Unpredictable he may be, but when Schenker is on form there are few heavy rock guitarists that can rival him.

CD Reviews

Ransom: Better Days

I confess that I have never heard of this lot. They strike me as being the half-way house between Bon Jovi before they “got serious” and “modern” melodic rock. One of the band members toured with Air Supply as their bassist, but don’t let that scare you off. There is more an edge to this stuff than the fluff that was the MOR faves. Don Cromwell, mainman behind this lot has written and produced for Eddie Money and a whole host of EMI artists. He resides in LA and you can tell from the vibe on this CD.

This is very much 80s rock tinged with a taste for the slightly modern in the form of various pop rock groups. But that is not to say the band sounds stale or just rehashes. There is a sense of immediacy that makes this stuff rather catchy and attractive.

“Learn to be Alone” is a power ballad that Bon Jovi never penned but wish he had. It’s a song that, were it to have the right name attached to it plus a weepy video, would be huge. “Best is Yet to Come” is another such track. If you occasionally like some rock that is catchy and fun, then check this lot out.

Logan: The Great Unknown

Never has a CD been more aptly titled. You see Logan has had an odd career. A bit like Gavin Rossdale and his band Bush, Logan were always far better know in the US than in their homeland of Scotland. Not only did they have that in common with Bush, they peddle a similar post-grunge rock. Their first release made them stars in the US. It took them quite a while to actually be acknowledge at home in Glasgow, Scotland. That changed when they did a gig in their home town opening up for Bon Jovi.

This is their fifth release and it retains that sense of post-grunge or grunge light that was been so successful for bands like Creed and Nickleback. Now don’t let either of those band turn you off, as this has a touch of something quite different. It’s possible that the Tartan touch gives it a feeling that evokes bands like Nazareth and even Gun. That may have something to do with bringing in Keith Olsen to produce.

There is no sense of navel gazing moaning, though the lead singer has got a Vedder-esque voice, on this album and it’s quite interesting that I found this album to my liking. Though twelve tracks with a couple of bonus ones might be too much for some at first, given time you might just grow to like this release. To be quite honest this Is just a decent rock album.

Touchstone: Live in the USA

Most people have never heard of this lot, and it’s a shame. They managed to pull of a Frampton-esque manoeuvre and released a double album that really impresses. Most bands release live albums to ho hum reactions from even their fans. This lot have released a double live album with music taken from their debut EP and two albums to huge acclaim. Magazines like Classic Rock and Powerplay are all aflutter about it.

So why they hype? Well this lot do progressive tinged heavy rock that is female-fronted. Unlike many of the bands about now, this is not prog power metal, but more folk tinged music akin that is almost a heavy Fleetwood Mac . The wondrous thing about this lot is they pull it off with great aplomb. At the end of this release I felt album left out because I never heard of them before.

End the release with a cover of “Mad World” by Tears for Fears sums up the whole thing quite nicely. It follows their great song “Strange Days,” which is an added treat. Most live albums are rubbish, this one not only isn’t but its quite worth the effort. Oh Jeffery Irons show up in vocal form to start the whole thing.

Well on that progressive bit of aural pleasure I shall leave you all. Until next week stay safe and rocking.

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