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Music Review: Black Crowes, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Primal Fear, Dredg, and The Deer Hunter

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It's been a great week for music, some really cool stuff about, including a couple of albums that are a very different type of prog. Never worry we have some proper head-banging metal, as well as the poncey stuff.

DVD Reviews

Warpaint: Black Crowes

When the Robinson brothers first brought their train-wreck masquerading as a proper band to the attention of rocker’s ears, they created quite a splash. Since their heights I have always found them to be over-rated and rather dull on record. The recent Warpaint has been hailed as “a return to form” and something we should all check out. A decent album yes, but nothing that great considering the quality out there today.

Now comes the Blu-ray, live testament to the tour that followed their “come back” album. Never has there been a more misnamed live album, instead of warpaint, it should have been called “paint-drying live”, it's that boring. There is just no ambiance at all.

What is appalling is that you get exactly the same tracks as you do on the two-CD set with no “extras” included. It's just the live tracks with no “bonus” material whatsoever. Considering how expensive a Blu-ray disc is these days surely bonus footage for those picking this format might be appropriate. This DVD, even for the most ardent fan, does not really seem like value for money.

I rather hoped it would offer something above the CD release. Nothing could be further from the truth.

John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers & Friends: 70th Birthday Concert

The gig was recorded in 2003 for UNICEF, but this Blu-ray makes it feel like it was recorded yesterday. It looks and sound great and sounds, really coming to life on this DVD. Along with Mayall, the king of British Blues, you have Eric Clapton, Chris Barber, and Mick Taylor all of whom served time in the Blues training school that is the band. There are 19 tracks on here (three bonus to the Blu-ray) that span the man’s entire career with his band. Eric Clapton is featured on many of them and reminds us of two things. First of all you can tell why Mayall picked Clapton to play in his band in the 60s, and secondly, you are reminded of just what a blues force Clapton can be.

Also included is an brief interview with Mayall that explains his philosophy to band-leading stating he found inspiration in jazz bandleaders. For him having so many band members over the years, and it started in the early 60s, is a rather normal thing.

159 minutes of blues bliss for those who enjoy the genre. There are few bands that do it so well with such talent. If you ever wanted to get to know the Bluesbreakers this is probably a damn good place to start.

CD Reviews

The Deer Hunter: Life after Death

Subtitled “The Latest Chapter Act III”, this might worry some that it's part of this three album long suite that is terribly hard to get into. You would be wrong if you were to avoid this release for that reason. In fact, this is a quite accessible with tracks that are as catchy as anything on Operation: Mindcrime and not some pompous pretentious navel-gazing epic. Epic in scope, deep in meaning, but never hard to get into, it’s the right sort of concept album.

Whether or not it’s a concept album, the tracks on here are a great listen and one that you will find yourself enjoying whether or not you get the story. The writing is strong and catchy with each song working well on its own and in context. Now, I have not had the pleasure to listen to the rest of this trilogy and I do feel I have missed out a bit because I rather like the band.

There is a touch of the indie sound to this, but it's not an issue as the release can be enjoyed by fans of the prog genre. There are touches of Floyd, Marillion, Yes, and even some of the heavier prog that is out there these days.

All in all a great album from a great band who should see their prog star rise with this release.

Dredg: The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion

Unlike many albums this is not a dead parrot by any means and, in fact, is quite fun. There are touches of funk, prog, and even pop sensibilities combined to produce a wonderful soundscape. There are bits that remind you of the Beatles circa Sergent Pepper, ELO, as well as a dash of Prince circa Purple Rain to really mix things up. This is epic in scope, but there are parts that are as accessible as any 80s pop tracks.

This is modern prog done with nods to all sorts of music from the past. It all works in a way that is attractive to all sorts of music tastes, add to the rich tapestry that is progressive music. It’s a great album that continues to surprise every time you listen to it. It’s a really enjoyable release that deserves the ears of clever rock fans who like bands who try to do things to mix stuff up.

I am really rather glad that I got this release to review. It's no surprise the band have their tracks showing up on X-box games and being used by Major League Soccer. It clever without being pretentious, progressive while being catchy, and quite a bit of thinking music fan’s fun. This is very much worth seeking out.

Primal Fear: 16.6 (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead)

Former Gamma Ray vocalist Ralf Scheepers and Mat Sinner from the eponymous named band started this bunch in 1997. This year finds them releasing another bunch of Germanic power metal. And the quality remains in droves, with each song continuing to show the best of the genre. Now, to some its an acquired taste, but I have always loved this sort of metal.

It's heavy driving and riff-heavy while retaining the catchiness quotient perfected by Iron Maiden. There are songs on here that are clearly written for their sing-along potential live. The title track has got one of those choruses that sticks in your head and will not let go. Americans will love their ode to a famous gun-maker in the form of “Smith & Wesson.” That is not to say the rest of the tracks are not great slabs of Kraut metal.

There are few bands that actually get it right with this amount of consistency. There is no duff track on here, nothing that makes you cringe with its cliché lyrics and cheesy chorus. Primal Fear know what works and what doesn’t. While this release might not break any new ground its consistency is to be welcomed. Any way you cut it this is a great metal album.

A couple of DVDs and some great CDs is not a bad collection for this week. Have fun out there next week, check out some good live music, and if you are stateside have a good 4th of July weekend.

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