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DIRT MALL
Pacifuego
Day Kamp Records

Boston boys Dirt Mall move from the amped-up reckless energy of their first record to a more adventurous ’60 garage romp with disc number two Pacifuego. Opening track “Building A Case” does just that by introducing a more polished Cheap Trick/Replacements vibe. Granted the guitars are still up close and personal but the groove is more…well, groovy - like Arthur-era Kinks. The four-piece, including bassist Jamie Griffith and drummer Derek Madeiros, rally around guitarist/singer Johnny Anguish as he makes each track a bright array of texture while lead guitarist Jason Murray barbs his way in with electric darts. By elevating a more ‘60s garage rock sound brings hypnotic tracks like “I Am The One and Only” and “Rats” into snapping hip-shakers with punk attitude. Early Who and a bit of Alex Harvey sneaks in to “What Now?” with a defiant snarl and schoolyard leather. Even “Suffer The Damage” uses a Dick Dale-like surf tone to create a gritty retro rocker that ozzes black & white biker films at the drive-in.

Claiming to be fans of the Hellacopters, The Cult and The Dictators, Dirt Mall spread their high-octane ferocity through “Standing In The Road” and the hard-hitting “Buried By You.” Their twin guitar assault is pulsating and razor sharp, perfect for dancing over the top of a pounding rhythm section. “Calling All Clowns” echoes back to early Warrior Soul especially in the vocal delivery where Anguish finds his darker side. Where as, it’s harmonies that lift “Lost In Plain Sight” to a new-wave chorus. Hot pick for single action is “Pearl,” a melodic Stones meets Kinks knicker pucker laced with pop friendliness and a catchy hook. The Replacements-inspired “You’ve Got The Whole Thing Wrong” is polished to a keen shine and stands out as a great mid-western edge combining Soul Asylum on it ragged edge. At the end of the day, Dirt Mall are a great rock and roll band with tremendous songs. What more do you need?

Website: Dirt Mall

BLINDSTONE
Rise Above
Grooveyard Records

Riff-machine Blindstone deliver a serious ass-kicking third album in Rise Above. Power trio Martin J. Andersen (guitar/voice), Jesper Bunk (bass) and Anders Hvidtfeldt (drums) converge like the basic elements of a hurricane and roar through ten tracks of hard rock electric blues with a generous dose of funk. Jump to “Sonic Motor King” and listen to what this Danish three-some can do in four minutes of mind-blowing heaviness. Andersen can go “stoner” deep in the rhythmic chug of “Wiser” and still deliver a Hendrix scorching lead in the astounding JHB cover “House Burning Down.” He not only pays respect but adds his own signature at full-throttle. “Beyond The Purple Sky” completes his adoration with a wicked Frank Marino workout in “He’s Calling” as a bonus “hidden” track. Title tune “Rise Above” is so massive it sets the new standard for guitar-heavy classics. The song has all the ingredients including a thick riff, catchy chorus and clever lyrics with Ty Tabor of King’s X stepping in to take a solo. The anthem “Keep The Rock Alive” is not only a grand biographical statement but name-checks the Groveyard when Andersen’s shouts out, “I work the Grooveyard shift keeping rock alive.”

Stirring up the record’s dynamic is the funky “New Direction” which pulls Hvidtfeldt out front and allows him full command to wail on his kit with intense abandonment. Bunk’s bass flies wingman riding the beat and jumping in for the fills. The rhythm section really asserts itself in the Isley Brothers “Climbing The Ladder” taking on a great ‘70s R&B bump while Andersen’s guitar soars above dropping metallic leads like sonic bombs. Fans a big, fat, open chords with loads of amplification will flock to the Trower-like “Power Man” where the guitar twist and turns in an arched display of total supremacy. Thirty years ago, when songs like this were on the airwaves, Blindstone would have been hailed as a world leader with the likes of Nugent, Mahogany Rush and Pat Travers. To make our point, try “Horizontal Activity” on for size. A proud display of testosterone, its throbbing back beat and hard rocking riff make it a perfect sex romp coupled with the lyrics “leave behind the world and lay down with me / for a little horizontal activity.” Kinda like the Ohio Players gone metal.

Website: Grooveyard Records

DIRTY DAVE OSTI
Voodoo Guitar
Grooveyard Records

LA-based Dave Osti debuts with this stellar slab of guitar-fueled celluloid. Ten cuts of strat-slingin’ mojo blues fill this bad boy with nearly an hours worth of volcanic guitar eruptous. “Playing What The Man Can’t Say” gets the whole thing started with a sauntering soulful groove that uses the rhythm guitar like a keyboard fill while Dirty Dave fires away with all six strings a blazin’. The title of the song says it all as he let’s his axe do the talking – and the ass-kicking. Joined by drummer Moyes Lucas and bassist Dave Batti, this smokin’ trio tell stories of being down and out, having bad relationships, chasing naughty girls and turning water into wine. Dave’s voice is perfect for the blues, thick and deep with a ragged edge that makes you believe everything he says. His guitar fills in the rest and when the two come together, like in slow burner “Light On Right On” it’s goose-bumps city. It’s the same reaction when the band kick into overdrive on “Wild Side” where there’s plenty of hot licks to accompany Dirty Dave as he sings, “Give me some of that tattoo, yea, you know the one.”

The second half of the record really shows the guitarist’s picking prowess starting with “Delusion As Usual.” His electrified bluegrass combined with a foot-stomping backbeat adds another dimension to Osti’s repertoire. Just ‘cause there’ pickin’ doesn’t mean the trio back off their punch. Both “Delusion” and “Rusty Rose” use a more complicated riff structure with just enough repetition to keep it memorable in the same way Rory Gallagher fashioned his playing. The political “Water to Wine” is more laid back with a blues groove and heavy drum. Here, the guitarist uses several angles to his solo runs like scratching, tempo changes and a jazzier arrangement. The Stevie Ray Vaughan-inspired hard rocking “Lips Of A Liar” has all the makings of a bonafide hit with its driving beat and sidewinder lick. The lyrics universal are especially sharp, haven’t we all been victims of the lips of a lair? The disc closes with title cut “Voodoo Guitar,” a swamp blues picker that jams deeps on a sweltering pulse while Osti’s guitar snakes its way through a sensual, grinding dance. He even name checks the Grooveyard, so listen for it.

Website: Grooveyard Records

WILDE STARR
Arrival
Furnace Maximus Records

Vicious Rumors bassist Dave Starr has struck out on his own and recruited the voluptuously talented and stellar voiced London Wilde. The two began discussing a band project while London was engineering Starr’s bass tracks for the Chastain’s album In An Outrage (2004). The two put a demo together in 2007 to critical acclaim, which led to the recording of the extraordinary Arrival. Symphonic/Power metal in nature, the outing takes elements of Judas Priest, Vicious Rumors and Queensryche and melds it with bands like Epica, Nightwish and Beautiful Sin. In her bio, Wilde states, “Our sound is about huge, layered harmony guitars, soaring powerful vocals, great melodies, and a thick fat sound that is both polished and raw at the same time.” With the opening track “Rose In The Dark” looms the foreboding cinematic soundscape that spills out into layered melodies of crunchy guitar and thunderous rhythm. Wilde’s vocals range from a low alto to spine-tingly soprano reflecting a health study of Geoff Tate, Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford.

“From the beginning, Dave and I set out to make a record that WE wanted to listen to,” says Wilde, “whether anyone else liked it or not.” Not to worry since hook-filled songs like “In This World” and majestic ballad “Nevermore” seem destined as classics. Wilde’s lower range gives credible strength and proves more than effective as she lyrically paints a canvas that reflects the general cycle of life complete with complex emotion, passion and fear told from several points of view. For atmosphere she contributes keyboards to the Queensryche-inspired “Arrival,” and “Touching God” as well as her own backing vocal creating an immense chorus. Whereas Starr’s lust for metal fuels “The Chain,” “Rise” and the Judas Priest-like thrasher “Generation Next.” His guitar-tone echoes of Vinnie Moore, David Chastain, Brad Gillis, Geoff Thorpe and Mark McGee, all giants he’s played with. Recruiting drummer Jim Hawthorn, in the eleventh hour gave Wilde Starr the opportunity of working with an ace stickman giving the recorded an added bump. Personal favorites are the operatic “Voice In The Silence” with it’s layered guitarmonies and the melodic Scorpion-ilke power ballad “Down Of The Sun.”

Website: Wilde Starr

FREE
Forever (DVD)
Eagle Entertainment

As noted by Island records’ president Chris Blackwell, FREE “were the most powerful unit.” Each member of the band was unique, having their own personality yet when the four combined their efforts, they were a combustible four-piece that put them in league with The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. This 2-DVD package, like the Island box set Songs Of Yesterday has scrapped the archives for what is available on this titanic group. As is stands, it is the definitive collection of what is left of the film footage of the UK blues rock outfit and represent some very fine moments. One must remember that much of the film work done for the BBC (and other outlets) was consider disposable and rarely archived, except in personal collections. What the producers have done on disc one is track down what they could get rights to including the Beat Club (’70), Granada TV (70) and several original studio videos. The surviving members, Paul Rodgers, Andy Fraser and Simon Kirke are each interviewed as well as Paul Kossoff’s older brother Simon.

Several things make this package extremely special. For the first time Free’s entire appearance at the 1970 Isle of Wight is fully available on audio (disc 2). Video of three tracks, the emotional ballad “Be My Friend,” the bass monster “Mr. Big” and their classic pop masterpiece “All Right Now” are shown with multiple camera angles. Free were a fierce lot, a wooly bunch with long hair and a gruff manner. They were also very young (in their late teens) and after a couple solid years of road work, somewhat hardened. Their aggressive delivery was captured in the hit “All Right Now” which increased their profile and in its wake gave us much of what fills Forever. As part of the promotion machine for ARN, which stemmed from the band’s third record Fire and Water, several pop music TV shows took interest in filming the group, primarily Germany and France. Aside from ARN we watch the cock-sure band proudly strut through the plodding “Ride On Pony,” a chilling version of “I’ll Be Creepin” and laidback “Songs of Yesterday.”

Free’s record label Island put out a succession of videos after the tidal wave of their massive single hit. Here, you can view “The Stealer,” “My Brother Jake” and the dated “Wishing Well” released in 1983 after Gary Moore had a hit with the song. But none where to turn the ear of the public like “All Right Now” shown here on four separate occasions. Paul Rodgers was blessed with a voice that easily combined the ragged blues with soul, while always remaining melodic. Andy Fraser was confident to the point of arrogant as he often stood with arms folded in a defiantly manor until his part arrived – then, and only then, did he unleash his bass. Drummer Simon Kirke was a skillful tactician, aggressive yet steady literally wailing away at his kit while guitarist Paul Kossoff linked the blues with every molecule of his body. It’s wonderful to visit the band in their heyday getting a glimpse of how they really were as in the 1970 Australian interview. They were a pissed off bunch spitting the lyrics and surging the stage determined to do it their way. Free lasted four years, broke up twice and recorded six studio albums. When Paul Kossoff died of heart failure at 25 Free became immortal. This is the only place to watch their glorious rise out of the British blues boom to become rock’n’roll legends.

Website: Eagle Entertainment

FOGHAT
Last Train Home
Foghat Records

Since the tragic death of founding members Lonesome Dave Peverett and Rod Price, the legendary Foghat seemed slightly adrift. Original bassist Tony Stevens left in 2005 leaving only drummer Roger Earl (of the 1968 line up) to helm the ship. Earl has kept the franchise going by carefully selecting a stellar line up including singer/guitarist Charlie Huhn (Humble Pie, Ted Nugent), slide and lead guitarist Bryan Bassett (Wild Cherry), and bassist Craig MacGregor (Foghat alum 1976-82, 84-87, 91-92, 05-present). Over the past five years the four-piece have jelled moving beyond a tribute band to actually capturing the spirit of their origin. Testing the waters, they released the smoking Live II to critical praise and now, with full intent to restore the pride of the original band, they have put together Last Train Home. Not only does the disc exceed expectations, it’s a thrilling listen returning Foghat to its blues roots complete with a guest appearance by the legendary Eddie ‘Bluesman’ Kirkland on the five-minute scorcher “In My Dreams” and the bar room boogie “Good Good Day.” To note, all bass tracks on this album were played by Jeff Howell, former Foghat bassist (as well as former member of Savoy Brown & The Outlaws). Jeff fills in for Craig MacGregor when he is unable to play.

The record’s title is aptly appropriate as several of the songs deal with life on the road. First track in, “Born for the Road” the band did live last winter at Lake Tahoe. It was just a sampling of the depth this album proves to be. “So Many Roads, So Many Trains” captures the highs and lows of being in a working band, where the title track, “Last Train Home” is a hard rocking heartbreaker with some blistering slide. The backbone of Foghat has always been their personalized covers including their first big hit, Willie Dixon’s “I Just Wanna Make Love To You.” Last Train Home boasts several soon to be classics in the shape of the toe-tapping Elmore James rumbler, “Shake Your Money Maker” and the 1940’s Tampa Red tune, “It Hurts Me Too.” The Chuck Willis “Feel So Bad,” made famous by Elvis Presley, gets a rocked up treatment with Charlie Huhn starting the song, acapella. Our personal favorite is the electrifying, “Louisiana Blues” a song Savoy Brown recorded for their 1969 Blue Matter. Foghat take on this beast, roll it into a rip snortin’ charger that puts their legacy clearly into focus.

Website: Foghat

JACKYL
When Moonshine and Dynamite Collide
Mighty Loud Records

Don’t know what these guys have been drinking, but keep the rounds a comin’. When Moonshine and Dynamite Collide is Jackyl’s first record in almost a decade and a fine return to their lean, mean and hungry attack. Taking their queue from Let There Be Rock-era AC/DC, the quartet whip up 12 anthems of fist-pumping, blood and guts rock ‘n’ roll. “Loads of Fun,” “I Can’t Stop” and “Freight Train” are headbangin’ fun that take the band’s old school chops and run ‘em through a V8. Singer Jesse James Dupree can still belt out a Jack Daniel’s chorus with brothers Jeff (guitar) and Chris (drums) Worley ripping off Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet for a southern rock mash up. Newcomer, bassist Roman Glick (ex-Brother Cane) gets the funk out with the bass-driven “Get Mad At It” and the ultra sexy “She’s Not A Drug” that sounds like a pure tribute to Nazareth. Glick even takes on Mother’s Finest with a heavy boogie and an ode to the brothers in “Just Like A Negro.” You know the brothers are the ones that started rock and roll, yeah.

Elsewhere the four-piece let their true hillbilly colors fly with “My Moonshine Kick’s Your Cocaine’s Ass.” You can hear the State Fairs calling as the band take on ass-shaking, beer-guzzling, blue-collar rock in “The Overflow of Love” and a drunken cover of Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz.” As the band slows for a breather on the country-fied title track “When Moonshine and Dynamite Collide” they immortalize their heroes with the lyrics, “Let’s crank some AC/DC and throw down till we’re blind.” A favorite from our first listen is “Deeper In Darkness” with it thick bass beat melding into a catchy open riff. The song is a simple, straight forward pop blues pattern with a nice hook and solo. The record closes with the chugging “Full Throttle,” a track that’s maybe more Buckcherry-meets Danzig than retro ‘70s but with a good swift kick in the backend. Jackyl have always been politically incorrect spreading tales of debauchery and sin. Nice to have them back with a new set to contaminate the brain.

Website: Jackyl

BLACK SABBATH
Paranoid (DVD)
Classic Albums / Eagle Entertainment

Continuing in their aggressive production of the Classic Album series, Eagle Entertainment finally got around to the most essential album of the Heavy Metal genre, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. Timed perfectly with the reissue-expanded-deluxe CD edition, the DVD gives the viewer a thrilling ride into the writing, recording and production of the highly acclaimed masterwork. We always judge these projects by the interviews rounded up and here we have all the essential players. Vocalist Ozzy, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward are not only thankfully alive, they are vibrant and charismatic as they reminisce about the making of the record. For us the inclusion of Bill Ward makes the disc. Ever illusive and often out of the public eye, his insight and comments are essential to the production. There’s others, like engineer Tom Allom, manager Jim Simpson, Henry Rollin (who seems to be in everything these days), assorted music journalists and even metal Guru/Sociologist Deena Weinstein.

Paranoid was Sabbath’s second studio effort with Roger Bain as producer and Tom Allom as engineer. The record is 42-minutes long and contains only 8 songs, but these are eight of the best song ever written. They became the framework of what would be Heavy Metal, Stoner Rock and Grunge. The disc is a visual playground with vintage live footage, rare photographs and timeless quotes. Says Geezer Butler, “There was a lot going on back then, there was pollution, war - a lot of things were happening in the world and no one was saying anything about it. So I started writing about it. That’s what inspired me.” As primary lyric writer Butler penned “War Pigs” (War Pigus) commenting on the Vietnam conflict and “Iron Man” a revengeful time traveler hanging on Iommi’s effective feedback and killer hook. The disc also digs deeper into Iommi’s fascination with jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt yielding “Rat Salad” and “Planet Caravan.” The bonus features are priceless including a look at Ozzy’s first job, Geezer bass lessons, Iommi’s solo techniques and Ward’s magical hands. An absolute must!

Website: Black Sabbath, Eagle Entertainment

THE ROLLING STONES
Stones In Exile (DVD)
Eagle Rock Entertainment

In conjunction with the recent flurry of excitement surrounding the remastered version of The Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street deluxe package, Eagle Rock Entertainment puts their lot in the box with the Stones In Exile DVD. Filmmaker Stephen Kijak, with the Stones themselves as executive producers, directed the two and a half hour documentary. Most know the story surrounding the album’s recording. The year’s 1972, Nixon’s busted in the Watergate scandal, Arab gunmen kill 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympics in Germany and the Stones flee to the south of France in tax exile. A nice little shit storm. Flower power was dead and buried and rock music was preaching rebellion. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards had a house in France so with the guillotine of taxes hovering over their heads they all relocated. One of the most telling scenes in the beginning of the DVD’s story is when Stones bassist Bill Wyman is asked how he feels about immigrating and he responds, “Are we really going?” The Stones themselves were baffled by the move. Over the course a several months they turned Keef’s basement into a recording studio and used their mobile to capture the raw tracks of what would become the Stones masterpiece.

Kijak’s film style is a blur at first. A combinations of photographs, news reels, vintage concert footage and interviews (most shot in black and white to blend with the times) provide the visual while the voices of Jagger, Watts and Richards narrate the story. Within the first 20 minutes you get it and settle in for a fascinating feature. A cluster of famous friends from actor Benicio Del Toro and Sheryl Crow to a clueless Jack White and Shine A Light director Martin Scorsese add their two bits. Some of the most iconic moments are captured by French photographer Dominique Tarlé who was given cart blanc to the band including their personal lives. One must remember the Stones were not just five guys, but eight with the addition of Bobby Keys (saxophone, percussion), Nicky Hopkins (piano) and Jim Price (horns). The band was scattered over southern France and Mick was often with Bianca in Paris. Production was slow. Jimmy Miller, the record’s producer admits, “In the end we chose convenience, I suppose, over sound.”

With a troubled start the record managed to still come together due to the guiding hand of manager Marshall Chess. As part of the narration he admits, “Amid the clutter, Mick Taylor (Stones guitarist, then 23), stepped into his own laying down some of the best blues-edged guitar work of his five-year career with the band.” Listening to “Ventilator Blues,” “Tumbling Dice” and “Plunder My Soul” one can hear his smooth lyrical touch and tone that contrasted with Richards’ jagged, cutting technique. Though Richards contributed songs like “Happy” the rockabilly “Rip This Joint” and gospel-blues “Let It Loose,” his best moments were on Slim Harpo’s “Hip Shake” (also the inspiration for ZZ Top’s hit “La Grange”) and Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breaking Down.” Fans of bonus features will lap up the extend interview with the major characters and the humorous interplay between Watts and Jagger as they return to Nellcôte and the Olympic Studios (something they vowed at the beginning of the disc never to do). Best line in the film was during a vintage Richards’ interview when he stated, “I never plan anything, Mick’s rock and I’m roll.”

Website: The Rolling Stones, Eagle Entertainment

WHEN YOUR STRANGE
A Film About The Doors
Eagle Rock Entertainment

A story about The Doors is really a story about Jim Morrison. The singer/poet of the famed ‘60s band has grown into a larger than life personality shrouded in mystery, depicted as a shaman and revered my millions. When Your Strange idolizes the lizard king. Though keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger function as support characters, Morrison is the star. All things revolve around him from the segmented footage of his ’69 film project HWY: An American Pastoral to the Morrison-like ghost driving a ’68 Camero from scene to scene. Director Tom Dicillo (Living in Oblivion, Delirious) takes a number of liberties as he pieces together archival and never before seen footage of the now infamous band. Intertwining newsreels of the day, he stitches in Vietnam, the Kennedy’s and early 8mm shots of the four musicians both privately and on stage. Though weak in plot and script, the film does stand as an editing masterpiece - hence the awards from Berlin, Sundance and SXSW Film Festivals. Narrated by Johnny Depp and directed by Dick Wolf (Law & Order) we get not only a historical timeline but insight to The Doors musical impact.

So what makes this film different than the half-dozen other similar documentaries on the same band? Quality, passion and it’s the only film to ever include an interview with Jim’s father Admiral George C. Morrison. The history of the band remains intact, maybe even brought in clear focus with less speculation. It certainly makes more sense than Oliver Stone’s warp adaptation. It’s obvious the surviving members of The Doors each had their say in the telling of the story. Depending on who’s speaking Morrison was a spiritual guide, drunken drug user or song stealer, however without Morrison, The Doors would not have existed at all. His spark, creative genius and uninhibited nature are the elements that propelled the band forward. The film is keen on this point. There is a good run down of classic Doors tracks yet all are abbreviated versions of the original and most are plagued by the voiced-over narrative - a tad annoying. However, for the “nice” price, the viewer does get 96-minutes of the best Doors documentary to date. “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: infinite.” ~ William Blake 

Website: The Doors, Eagle Entertainment

THE WHO
Live At The Isle of Wight Festival 1970
Eagle Records

When The Who played their second Isle of Wight festival in 1970 they had just finished a grueling tour in support of Townshend’s rock opera Tommy. Gone were the days of mod as they transformed into a full on rock band reaching their apex both creatively and musically. Success and excess were rolling in. Their PA was so enormous that many of the festival bands used it over the four-day weekend. Lucky for fans, their entire set was captured on film showing The Who at their primal best. Moonie was bashing his kit to pieces, Townsend whirling away on his guitar, Daltrey in a skin-tight leather fringe and Entwistle, “the ox,” standing like a statue. When the DVD of this show was first released in 1999 several significant cuts of the original set were made however, the shear energy and raw power of the show was so intoxicating that you could play the disc through the stereo with the TV turned off and be catapulted back in time. True, this 2-CD set was originally released in 1996 with different art, photos and liner notes, yet the facelift here reminds us to give it another listen and enjoy a quintessential band in their prime.

The “oo” start the show with the Entwistle-penned (and sung) “Heaven and Hell,” a cobbering testament to the thunderous bass player, after all it was his suggestion they take the band in a much harder direction. Townsend’s guitar is slightly out of tune and fully distorted making this a magical psychedelic monster. The group’s banter between songs makes the show surprisingly humorous as they hammer out the power pop “I Can’t Explain,” the gritty “Young Man Blues” and pre-Lifehouse “I Don’t Even Know Myself.” Thirty minutes into the set they launch into a well-rehearsed Tommy and plough through Side A track-for-track. The set shifts to include “Eyesight To The Blind” (written by Sonny Boy Williamson II) the only song of the night not written by The Who. Entwistle’s “Cousin Kevin” is shortened while hit-single “Pinball Wizard” is moved up to apparently get the crowd back on their feet. After playing all four side of their masterpiece, the band close the marathon show with a string of hits including “Substitute,” “My Generation” and “Magic Bus.” Aside from Live at Leeds there is no better representation of The Who in full strut.

Website: The Who, Eagle Records

EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER
Pictures At An Exhibition (Special Edition DVD)
Eagle Vision

Emerson, Lake & Palmer are an acquired taste, no doubt about it. Keith Emerson (keyboards), Greg Lake (bass, vocals) and Carl Palmer (drums) created a unique power trio, classically trained, but operating in an emerging progressive rock world. For years we missed the boat on these guys considering their classical bits to far reaching for most simple-minded metalhead like ourselves. That was until a friend made the comparative leap to Rush, combining elements of King Crimson and Atomic Rooster - which we soon embraced. We arrived late with the “Lucky Man” 45rpm, then jumped to Brain Salad Surgery (’73) and it’s H.R. Giger illustrated cover. Next was Tarkus (1971) because of Greg Lake’s blinding guitar solo in “Battlefield.” In fact, the whole “Trarkus” suite was a mind-blowing cerebral experience. Pictures didn’t show up on the turntable till late ’77, by then it was six years old and the band itself could hear the toll of the death bell. The first time through the record’s twelve ‘live’ tracks was in a haze of reefer, black lights and stumbling sex. Yet the memory was enough to go back to it time and again.

ELP’s interpretation of Modest Mussorgsky’s work Pictures at an Exhibition was originally recorded ‘live’ in 1971 at Newcastle City Hall using a two-story Harrison & Harrison pipe organ. The original film, of the same name, was shot at the London Lyceum a few months earlier and was given limited theatrical release in 1973. In 2000 the film was remastered with Dolby sound and released on DVD format. What we have here is a repackaged and slightly expanded version of the ‘00 release. The production and sound is clean capturing an ‘over the top’ performance of a young ELP in their prime. As one critic says, “This performance mixes moments of refinement and explosive intensity combined with an ethereal rawness.” However, the special effects that seem to plague this production clearly date it! Acid graphics including psychedelic tints and color effects, choppy editing and zooms become dizzying after awhile. It was not something ELP used but was a gimmick added by the producer. Bummer really as the performance alone is classic. The disc comes with a bonus performance of the group playing Belgium’s Pop Shop, 1971. Total running time: 144 minutes.

Website: Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Eagle Entertainment

GUDARS SKYMNING
Dansa Tillbaks Till Din Grav
Independent Release

The good folks at Record Heaven hooked us up with this outstanding new release from Sweden’s Gudars Skymning (God’s Twilight). The debut from this fierce foursome, Dansa Tillbaks Till Din Grav (Dance Back to Thy Grave) is heavily influenced by ‘70s hard rock with elements of Mountain, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. Power riffings abound inspired by Swedish lyrics and a simple lust for all things heavy. Following the same path as other Swed nationals including November, Abramis Brama, Magnolia and Svarte Pan, Dansa Tillbaks Till Din Grav is a blues-soaked, sometimes proggy affair that mixes native music ranging from dark, mood passages to out right unruly Norrland stomps. Guitarist Knut Hassel, drummer Anders “Ondertz” Olofsson, bassist Magnus “Pepper” Hazel Stam and vocalist/guitarist Kenny-Oswald “Captain Blue” Sjödin have created a certain Laplandish melancholy, a gust of the original Swedish prog coziness, with a decisive nod to the best of old school heavy rock.

The disc starts with the roaring “Giftas 1&2” pushing a driving open chord into a thick organ tidal wave. The rhythm section is bold, almost overtaking the song while Sjödin vocals are gruff with intensity, yet honest with emotion. Blues-based “Allting Flyter,” “Ljusare Tider,” “Tung Kärlek” and “Tv-Gud” make the most out of grinding guitars and cathedral organ. The mood is one part Uriah Heep and another Emerson Lake and Palmer. “Klippan” comes up with the best riff on the record taking its cue from Motley Crüe’s “Kick Start My Heart.” Melodically heavy with plenty of testosterone, the song begs for another injection of jet fuel and gets it. The title track is a gorgeous four-minute opus that opens with a piano intro and builds into a swirling cyclone of muscle rock. In its wake is the slower, atmospheric “Bortom Vintergatan” that emphasizes Hassel’s raw guitar tone. Personal favorites are the big and powerful “Solen Låg Het Över Gransjön” and the Sabbath-like “Ruttna Brädor,” a seven-minute ball crusher. Appropriately the whole thing closes with the spaced out of “Två Stenar På En Öde Planet.” Superior!

Website: Gudars Skymning