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Music DVD and CD Reviews: Dream Theater, Queensryche, Cream, Sebastian Bach, & Magnum

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It is already that time of the week again, so without further bother, here is the latest collection of reviewed stuff.

DVD Reviews

Dream Theater: Live at Budokan

As you might expect from a DT release, this is less a DVD and more a lifestyle choice. If for only value for money this is one of the best releases you will see this holiday season. They do their best to fill every megabyte space on the Blu-Ray disc. As you can tell this was filmed at Budokan on their 2004 tour of Japan. This release features their now departed drummer Mike Portnoy. As you might expect with this sort of release, there is a rather good documentary of the tour included, complete with a reminder of all the great bands who have played Budokan before. For fun, the tour introductory video for their “Chronicles” tour from 2004 features a condensed history of the band. As someone who still remembers getting the promo of Images and Words, it’s amazing how the band has evolved.

The 18-track set included on here features songs from all their eras and older fans will be pleased to hear songs like “Pull Me Under”. It might be a lengthy concert video with its extended jams and solo bits but time well spent. The band is on fine form and blaze through the tracks in their normal consummate professionalism. Included as extras for the true Dream Theater geeks are John Petrucci’s “Guitar World”, Jordan Rudess’ “Keyboard World”, a Mike Portnoy Drum solo, and “Instrumedley Multiangle Bonus”. Needless to say, this is a real treat for Dream Theater fans and is a fitting end of Portnoy’s long tenure in the band.

Queensryche: Mindcrime at the Moore

This is a Blu-Ray of the albums Operation Mindcrime and Operation Mindcrime II performed in their entirety back-to-back in the band’s hometown of Seattle. Plagued with a series of lacklustre releases before and after OMII, the band have opted to do what they do best. Those who know the two albums already know that the first part of this DVD is more interesting than the second because of the differing quality of the two albums. Part II was not a bad album, it just didn’t hold a patch on the metal epic concept album that was the first one. That said, the band do a great job at giving the songs their due. Like the live performances of The Who’s Tommy. QR had guest singers in to play the appropriate parts on the albums.

Bonuses on this release are an interesting documentary on the “Mindcrime I & II” tour and the logistics it took to get it right. There is another bit called “Queensryche Rock & Ride” which is nice to watch once. What is a bit galling is a rather poor quality live version of “The Chase” featuring the late Ronnie James Dio. It is no doubt meant as a tribute to the dear departed vocalist but it does smack as a bit desperate. That said, this is a quality package for Queensryche fans and ones who saw the tour. Certainly the band performed far better than the last time I caught them live and it is an enjoyable live DVD.

Cream: Royal Albert Hall

When Cream announced they were re-forming to tour back in the mid-’00s, there were more than a few that were surprised. The short-lived supergroup of the late ’60s set the template for the power trio but was a bit of a flash in the pan. However, the brief time they were around saw their fusion of jazz and blues rock produce several of the most memorable tracks of the era in the form of “White Room” and “Sunshine of Your Love”. No doubt many people who adore these songs have no idea who originally penned the tracks. As you might expect, Cream’s “residence” at the Royal Albert Hall in early May of 2005 was a hit with the fans. This live Blu-Ray is made up of songs from each of those nights and not just one show in its entirety.

What is most interesting, as with many of this sort of reunion DVDs, is the interviews with Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton. One thing that you take away from the whole thing is that they are surprised as anyone that the idea worked at all. They clearly realised that if they were ever gonna get it together they had to do it again as they are aging quickly. They reflected on the fact that very few of their contemporaries would be able to do such a thing due to members no longer living.

Ultimately, the stand-out tracks on here are not the hits but some of the more bluesy tracks. “Crossroads” and “Born Under a Bad Sign” are moving the way good blues songs should be. This is all three musicians at their talented best. It is a great release that reminds us all what an amazing collection of talent Cream were then and now.

CD Reviews

Sebastian Bach: Kicking and Screaming

Touted as return to form by many, there is quite a bit of interest in this release. Interestingly enough, it has been released on the AOR-centric Frontiers Records. Never fear, this is not Bach getting in touch with his Journey side.

There are hints at his work with Skid Row on records like Slave to the Grind. It is not his “Chemical Wedding” by any means. This is not a more-Skid Row than Skid Row release. It’s far more a mixed bag of tricks that hints to all the various things Bach has been up to over the years.

One thing that is quite clear is the album really doesn’t have that instant appeal that you might expect from such a talented front-man. It lacks a certain hook that grabs you from the first listen. Still, repeated listens will result in a warming to the record, despite the fact there is nothing that screams stand-out, although a few tracks come close. This is a solid release from Bach that will please fans of the man. Those wishing for a Slave Mark II might be disappointed. In the end, this is Sebastian Bach record, no apologies to anyone.

Magnum: Evolution

This band have been on quite a roll of late with each album inching them back to their former glory. The band certainly is gelling better than it has in years and it’s been releasing some quality albums. Magnum never pottered around with “release an album for the sake of touring” that some older acts seem to be keen on doing. Well this release might fall into that category. The band have re-recorded 10 tracks from their post “break-up” period and re-released them for those that missed them the first time round. To call it a greatest hits record would be silly, but it is clearly meant to be a best of their recent output. The songs selected for “the treatment” are good ones and few fans will quibble with the choices made.

As you would expect with the better of this sort of release, there are a couple of new tracks to keep the reliable fans happy and buying. Neither “The Fall” nor “Do You Know Who You Are?” feels particularly out of place in the company of the material on here. That said, neither of them is anything spectacular either. But let’s be honest. Magnum does not really release any material that is a stinker; they value their fans too much.

If you own the albums from which most of the tracks on here are culled, I am not sure there is enough to warrant a purchase. However, if you are a Magnum fan who has skipped the last bunch of albums you might be pleasantly surprised by the selection offered.

Well that is the selection for this week. As always keep safe and rocking in the lead up to Halloween.

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