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Music Review: Duran Duran, Status Quo, Steve Morse Band, Joe Bonamassa, and House of Lords

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Typical of this column, this edition has a wide ranging collection of music. From clever pop rock to instrumental rock to melodic rock, I have been listening to everything from black and death metal to stuff that barely qualifies as rock.

DVD Reviews

Duran Duran: Live in Hammersmith ’82!

Duran Duran, or D2 as some people referred to them if they didn’t want to necessarily admit who they were talking about in mixed musical taste company, were one of those bands many rockers secretly liked. Some were less than secret because of one major thing. D2 attracted the ladies in more abundance than Def Leppard and they still rather rocked. I came to like Duran Duran via their song “Hungry like the Wolf” which had enough grit for me. I was one of the few to buy Andy Taylor’s solo album after he left D2.

Anyway this was recorded on the Rio tour in front of adoring fans at Hammersmith in London. By any measure of the cheering it was mostly female fans, but the enthusiasm is quite enthralling. Furthermore the band is as tight as you would expect from such a slick operation. While the stage show is nothing terribly fancy or over the top, the sound is quite good. Of course what is most shocking is that this has never been previously released before. As well as this release, there is a deluxe version of Rio out with all the bells and whistles including b-sides and alternate versions.

In addition to the ten track DVD, you get a CD of the same gig as well the obvious bonuses of all the “era” videos and a couple of Top of the Pop’s performances. If you take away the good-looks, slick packaging, and visual-feast videos you are still left with a quite competent, poppy, rock band. If you ever wanted to buy a D2 DVD, but were afraid to get laughed at, then have a good at this one. I quite readily admit to rather enjoying the entire affair.

Status Quo: Pictures Live in Montreux 2009

Status Quo are quite the British oddity, an institution that have a legion of fans that absolutely adore them. Many serious rocks fans can’t understand their endearing popularity and ability to tour almost constantly to throngs of fans. They can release lackluster after lackluster release, although their last one is far from that, selling 250k copies in the UK and reaching number eight, to good sales and another successful tour. They have been around for 40 years and show no signs of giving up. Interviews with the mainstays Rossi and Parfitt are bonus features.

This DVD showcases a recent performance in Montreux. The enthusiastic crowd clearly demonstrates their enduring popularity and charisma on stage. Twenty-one songs, several of which are medleys, make up this gig. To many ears it all gets a bit samey sounding after a while, with little variety between each song. That said, their enthusiasm and the crowd’s is catchy. There will be a song on here or two that make you smile. Their cover of the “Wanderer” is just great fun and always delights.

All in all for a Quo fan this is a must, for the rest of us it ain't such a bad prospect.

CD Reviews

Joe Bonamassa: Live from Royal Albert Hall

The Bonamassa blues sensation has probably caught quite a few not paying attention by surprise. You could be forgiven for being shocked that the blues guy is of enough a stature to tread the stage of such a epic venue like the Royal Albert Hall. Then again, Eric Clapton, frequent denizen of the Albert Hall, shows up to leave his stamp of approval on this performance.

Then again, even if you have never heard of him before, one listen to this stellar performance will make it pretty dang clear what all the fuss is about. There is no illusion why the guy has been such a blues sensation of late. Whether delivering his own stuff or a classic cover, the man and his band produce the goods. Check out his track “The Ballad of John Henry” or his cover of a classic like “Stop”. In the betwixt it all there are splashes of Led Zeppelin and other great blue rock bands.

His voice sounds a bit like Paul Rodgers, which is always a help. If you like your blues rock then you can do far worse than pick up a copy of this release. It’s a joy to behold and one that you will be listening to for a long time to come.

Steve Morse Band: Out Standing in the Field

This guy has done time in the uber-muso band Dixie Dregs with Winger Rod Morgenstein, played with the classic American rock band Kansas, and then to top it all off replaced Richie Blackmore after he left Deep Purple for the last time.

In a possible tweak at Blackmore, the final song on here, “Baroque & Dreams” could have easily found itself on any of the Blackmore’s Night releases over the last fifteen years. So should you need it, proof Morse can keep up with the balladeers should he chose so. Other than that, this is very much a mixture of Dixie Dreg-ish jazzy workouts and the country-tinged progressive rock of Kansas, which is to be expected. There is a nice heaviness the pervades the tunes on here.

The US version of the CD has a nine minute plus live version of the song “Rising Power” which is quite impressive by any standards. This is an impressive release of some great guitar-led progressive tinged hard-rock instrumental that deserves a place in any rock fans collection. The Steve Morse band prove once again why they deserved to be on the Rush “Power Windows” tour all those years ago.

House of Lords: Cartesian Dreams

Famed and adored for releasing one of the great pomp rock releases of the 80s in the form of their debut the band have rarely returned to that stunning form. Line-up fluctuations have not helped matters either. Last year the band come back with a more consistent release called “Come to My Kingdom”, which got both critics and fans to prick up their ears again.

The follow-up is a solid release with some choice tracks including the title one. Tracks like “Bangin” with its ode to trawling and short dresses reminds us of the HoL of old. “Joanna” has some great sing along choruses with its tale of touring and temptation. They are all great heavy pomp rock tracks that remind one of the bands creative heights. Not sure yet if any of them are as enduring as the initial output, but, like Winger they have returned to doing what they do best. So good are almost all the tracks on this release that we can forgive them for the stinker that is “Desert Rain”.

If you are a fan of the band at their best and were waiting for a time to give a try again, then take a listen to this release. HoL have got their mojo back and almost as good as they ever were.

Well that is your selection for the week. Stay safe and rocking as always.

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