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TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS
Damn the Torpedoes (DVD)
Eagle Entertainment

Next in Eagle’s series of classic rock records comes Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Damn the Torpedoes. Most remember the 1979 record for hits like “Refugee,” “Here Comes My Girl” and “Don’t Do Me Like That.” This 98-minute DVD explores the making of the album complete with interviews from the band, engineer Shelly Yakus and co-producer Jimmy Iovine. Damn the Torpedoes came at a time when Petty and Company desperately needed a hit. Having formed the band in 1975 with guitarist Mike Campbell, pianist Benmont Tench, bassist Ron Blair and drummer Stan Lynch, Petty needed cash. The group’s first two records sold slowly in the US (yet, were well received in the UK). By ’79 Petty was caught in a label tug-of-war leading to his filing for bankruptcy. Backstreet Records, a subsidiary of MCA released the group’s third record, Damn the Torpedoes, which quickly went triple-platinum. The DVD touches on the history of the band music during their recording calling it “a mix of rootsy American rock ‘n roll with the best of the British invasion.” Says Petty, “That was the record where life was never going to be the same again.”

One cannot forget the impact MTV had on commercial music after it’s initial launch in August 1981. Anyone with a video, especially an established artist got airtime 24-7. Petty was right there in the mix along with Pat Benatar, Duran Duran and the Buggles. The DVD pulls out some nice archive performances with band members narrating their personal accounts of the time and music. “We made our own noise,” says Petty “We wanted to make music that moved people.” The interplay between instruments was one of the key elements to the records success. Yakus and Lynch spent days getting the drum sound right, Campbell’s guitar and Tench’s organ sound would seamlessly blend together while Blair’s understated bass nailed down the groove. Being from the south (Florida), the unique combination of Rickenbacker and Fender and the bits of Chuck Berry, The Byrds and The Stones all came together to create something timeless. Petty wanted simple songs, rarely exceeding two verses, that could easily be played live. Even the legal tension added depth to “Century City” (where the lawyers lived), “Refugee” and “Don’t Do Me Like That.” A brilliant album that finally gets its due!

Website: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Eagle Entertainment

INFERNAL OVERDRIVE
Self-titled EP
Independent Release

A couple years ago we reviewed a strong up-and-coming Jersey band Loud Earth. Well, it seems they dissolved and morphed into Infernal Overdrive. The new band is two parts Loud Earth (drummer Mike Bennett and guitarist/backing vocalist Rich Miele), one part Cracktorch, Antler (guitarist/vocalist Marc Schleicher) and one part brother (bassist Keith Schleicher). Mike contacted me letting me know the band formed after Marc relocated from Boston and set up shop in Jersey. He sent along the EP for my listening pleasure. And a pleasure it is! The songs are baked in southern ‘70s hard rock with catchy riffs and plenty of power rumbling in the pipes. The info is sketchy but according the record’s liner notes, the four-song EP was recorded this year in Brooklyn, NY over five days (Feb 27, 28 & April 17, 18, 24, 25). Production was handled by Andrew Schneider (Throttlerod, The Brought Low, Hackman) with mastering by Nick Zampiello. Fans of our site will immediately make the Small Stone connection and that seems to be where the band are heading as the vibe is defiantly Detroit retro.

Take for instance “I-95” which opens the disc with a solid guitar wail and foot-stomping drum beat. Tambourine is added for flavor but the song bellows like fellow Boston-natives Roadsaw, mixing biker thunder with a Pat Travers/Leslie West riff-fest. Second track, “The Edge” is pure old school Nugent, including the repeat riff and frantic, almost MC5 delivery. Schleicher voice is ragged and ready to rock. The drums hammer and the bass drives laying down a solid bed for some sexy solo leads.  “Duel” has more Fu Manchu in the groove. It’s mostly in the chorus, but the build in the verse is still very Scott Hill/Brant Bjork. The track also boasts our favorite solo - frayed, not over played and sparked with cosmic energy. “Motor” is a 13-minute stoner masterpiece. A heavy bottom end brings to mind Sabbath, Sasquatch and Mountain. The riff is clean but thick with a layered solo painting in all the little nuances - perfect for a psychedelic ride. The echo on the vocals adds to the songs dripping mysticism while the guitar is allowed to float, pierce and melt the brain. Yeah, it only four songs, but dude, sometime that’s all you need when they’re this good.

Website: Infernal Overdrive

RIPPED
Self-titled
Independent Release

New Jersey-based Ripped unleash their 13-track debut with both guns a blazin’. They are whiskey-soaked, guitar-fueled, bad-ass rock and roll that takes you on a musical journey through Skynyrd, Stones, Rick Derringer, UFO, Alice Cooper and Aerosmith. Assembling the talents of Steve Keller (guitar/vocals), Jack France (bass/vocals), Jeff Kelly (drums/vocals), Brian McGee (guitar), Steve Sroczynski (vocals) they create a full sound with echoes of classic ‘70s buried deep within each cut. From the start, it’s the guitars that draw you in. Like Angus and Malcolm or Perry and Whitford, these guys find their magic in the riff.  The rip-shortin’ “You’ve Got To Change,” the boogie of “Sweet Addiction” and driving “My Friend Alice” pay tribute with a crosscut swagger and balls-out rhythm. They even tackle UFO’s “Lights Out” with gusto and determination (and a spot on solo) reminiscent of rock’s legendary glory days.

Vocalist Sroczynski has a gruff edge that pulls the most out of blues-edged “Little Girl At Home,” the title track “Ripped” and the more melodic “Swan.” His harmonies in “Including My Heart” and “Two Minutes Too Long” are right up there with Don Barnes or Donnie Van Zant of 38 Special. A surprise sneaks in with the Steve Miller-like “Faraway” casting a nice ‘60s vibe and allowing the record some breathing room. Our favorites come in the bass driven one-two-punch of “Freedom” and the modern edged “Blood On The Sand” both benefiting from Detroit punk elements and a twin guitar attack. The drumming on closer “Life’s Cruel” is absolutely killer. You can hear classic Iggy Pop reaching to get out. The group’s original compositions are strong, confident and memorable proving they can easily dance with the big boys. Pick up their disc at our favorite Jersey record shop, Vintage Vinyl in Fords, NJ as well as K-9 Kuts in Manahawkin, NJ or online from CDBaby.

Website: Ripped

ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA
Live – The Early Years (1973-1976) DVD
Eagle Rock Entertainment

All hail Eagle Rock Entertainment for releasing Live – The Early Years (1973-1976), a classic three concert series of beloved Birmingham (UK) band ELO. Not only is this a marvelous “visual” experience, it carefully crafts the long forgotten beginnings of what would become one of the titanic bands of the mid-to-late seventies. Originally formed from the ashes of ‘60s hit makers The Move, singer/guitarist Jeff Lynne, guitarist/singer Roy Wood and drummer Bev Bevan created the project as a way to combine modern rock and pop songs with classical overtones. Wood only lasted one album (The Electric Light Orchestra, 1971) but the band continued on with Bill Hunt (horns, keyboards), Steve Woolam (violin), Richard Tandy (bass) and cellists Hugh McDowell, Mike Edwards, and Andy Craig. They released eleven studio albums between 1971-1986, amassed 27 Top 40 hit singles in both the UK and the US and sold over 50 million albums worldwide - but never had a number one hit single.

The DVD not only commemorates the 40-year anniversary of ELO, but also pays homage to cellist Mike Edwards who was recently killed in a freak automobile accident 3 September 2010. The three concerts take the viewer on a trip down memory lane including excerpts from three performances: the UK’s Brunel University filmed in 1973, a six-track culmination from German TV’s Rockpalast in 1974 and 12 songs from the New Victoria Theatre in London 1976. Our suggestion is to, first, go to the bonus Rockpalast interview from 1973 and enjoy the vintage interview with the band. It acquaints you with the members of the group and makes the concert footage that much more enjoyable. It’s also amazing to see them so young (early twenties) and appreciate their dry, witty humor. The Brunel show captures the group touring behind their third record On The Third Day and includes “Ma-Ma-Ma Belle” and Grieg’s “In The Hall of the Mountain King” but misses previous work like their signature piece “10538 Overture.”

The action picks up with Rockpalast’s inclusion of the instrumental “Daybreaker” (the B-side to “Ma-Ma-Ma Belle”) and a funky “Showdown,” a track not included on the UK version of On The Third Day. Though the show repeats several earlier tracks, it’s interesting to see how much the group grew musically in a year. Fusion ’76 shows ELO taking flight as they now have several radio hits under their belt including the gorgeous “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head,” from Eldorado, with “Evil Woman” and “Strange Magic” from Face The Music. They also sneak in “Do Ya” from their soon to be released breakthrough album A New World Record which would contain “Telephone Line,” Livin’ Thing” and “Tightrope.” It’s here we finally get “10538 Overture” in all it pomp and glory. Though the group was still three years away from their apex (which would happen with Discovery in 1979) they were extremely well rehearsed and moving in a direction that would catapult them into superstardom.

Website: Eagle Entertainment

GHOST BLUES
The Story of Rory Gallagher (DVD)
Eagle Entertainment

Those of us lucky enough to attend the Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival in Ballyshannon, Ireland got a big wind-up about this wonderful documentary over the weekend of June 2-6th, 2010. In conjunction with the unveiling of the impressive Rory Gallagher sculpture by artist David Annand, Melly’s Pub played a continual round of classic Rory featuring “Live at the Cork Opera House” Thursday night (3 June), “Irish Tour ‘74” to a wild crowd Friday (4 June) and “Live at Montreux” Sunday afternoon (6 June) – the day after Bernie Marsden paid a fitting tribute by tearing the roof off the RG Theater. It’s remarkable that Gallagher is still considered underrated to the likes of Clapton, Page and Beck. Never a critics darling, he was always the working class hero, a blues man with heart and soul that worshipped the guitar as much as a good pint of Guinness Stout. His well-worn sunburst 1961 Stratocaster (Serial Number 64351) has become his signature with its finish stained and marred by the guitarist’s unusually acid sweat. Yet, for his legions of fans, many of which make the annual pilgrimage to the festival and Gallagher’s final resting at St. Oliver’s cemetery near Cork, Ghost Blues is the ultimate tribute to the “Sinner Boy”.

This 2-DVD set continues Eagle Entertainment’s dedication to preserving the music and memory of Rory Gallagher as a visual treat for the viewer. Disc 1 is The Story of Rory Gallagher documentary directed by Ian Thuillier. It follows the path of the musically gifted child of Daniel and Monica Gallagher, their harsh financial circumstances and the sacrifice they made so that Rory could have his first “real” guitar. The narrative is made up of Gallagher interviews with commentaries from his brother Donal, Bob Geldof, Bill Wyman, Cameron Crowe, bandmates and managers. There are a wealth of rare photos, some early stage footage and snippets from TV shows. When asked about his start by one interviewer, Gallagher said, “There was no one doing American blues in Ireland so I did it.” Rory studied the recordings of Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Jerry Lee Lewis, later recording with several of them. The film follows his career from the seedy beginnings in Show Bands, forming power trio Taste and developing as a solo artist before his untimely death in 1995 at the age of 47. It’s amazing to see Gallagher’s genius extending beyond the guitar to incorporate slide, alto saxophone, bass, mandolin, banjo, harmonica and coral sitar.

Disc 2 includes rare, never before seen performances from The Beat Club sessions filmed for German TV from May 1971 to June ‘72. Great care has been used to clean up the original tapes so the picture looks fantastic with crisp colors and superb sound. The disc shows a very young Gallagher joined by former Deep Joy bass player Gerry McAvoy and drummer Wilgar Campbell. Considered by many to be the band’s most prolific period, the power trio rip through 16 classics including “Laundromat,” “Sinner Boy” and “Crest of a Wave.” What makes these particular sessions such a delight is their high-energy “live” delivery. Playing in a studio is much different than in front of a ‘real’ responding audience, yet Gallagher and his band hold nothing back, attacking each performance with passion and determination. At times its not only remarkable – it’s breathtaking. Transported back in time, it’s also a treat to see, close up, the kind of equipment and other gear they originally used. A detailed listing of the dates, equipment used and locations would have been a nice bonus in the booklet liner notes, but that’s just for us geeks. The rest is pure brilliance.

Website: Rory Gallagher, Eagle Entertainment

RORY GALLAGHER
The Beat Club Sessions
Eagle Records

In conjunction with the Ghost Blues DVD is The Beat Club Sessions CD. The 12-song selection is not as appetizing as the second disc from Ghost Blues yet it still showcases a broad set of songs from three different Beat Club sessions. The Best Club was a German music program that ran from 1965 to 1972 and was broadcast from Bremen, Germany. It had a small studio audience, which saw the likes of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and The Who among many other notables. The first four tracks from this disc including “Laundromat,” “Hands Up,” “Sinner Boy” and “Just The Smile” were taken from the May 1971 show. All four songs were pulled from Gallagher’s debut solo LP recorded months after he disbanded Taste. The performance captures the group at their rawest with Gallagher’s untamed passion driving the music. Six months later, in December ‘71, the band returned to Bremen fresh out of the studio after recording second solo record Deuce. “Should’ve Learnet My Lesson,” and “Crest of a Wave,” stem from that session with the ultra rare “Toredown” and the Junior Wells classic “Messin’ With The Kid” added for dynamic impact. The group returned a third time with the live staple “I Could’ve Had Religion,” and three more Deuce numbers “Don’t Know Where I’m Going,” the metallic “Used To Be” and blinding “In Your Town”. The Beat Club Sessions is a brief but captivating set that makes for a nice introduction to the early solo years of Gallagher as well as a real gem for the collector.

Website: Rory Gallagher, Eagle Records

RUSH
Classic Albums: 2112 / Moving Pictures (DVD)
Eagle Entertainment

Even casual listener of the Toronto, Ontario-based trio Rush will know the titles 2112 and Moving Pictures. They are, as Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson says in the DVD narrative, “the two most important records the band ever made” and bookend the five essential records that define the band. This DVD is basically the same documentary filmed for the VH1 Classic Album series discussing these two landmark recordings with some 50 minutes of added interviews and bonus material. If you’ve seen the Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage movie you’ll recognize some of the interview footage as vocalist Geddy Lee, Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart discuss the creation, recording and impact those two records had on their lives.

2112 was the first record we made where we actually sounded like Rush,” says Lifeson. “It was the beginning of everything.” After forming in 1968, the band moved from writing Led Zeppelin-like structures to more complex pieces in the vain of King Crimson and Jethro Tull. 2112 was their third record and carried with it not only a sophisticated storyline but an enormous level of musicianship. The DVD delves into the thought process behind its creation and what led to it being considered one of the masters of progressive rock. A key component was writing long sections, specifically for the LP format, which linked together and told a story. An undercurrent of angst gave it a brooding almost sinister vibe which added life to lyrics inspired by novelist Ayn Rand. The B-side is also discussed including the drug-hazed “Passage to Bangkok” and the band’s obsession with the TV show “Twilight Zone.”

Producer Terry Brown is critical in discussing the bands evolution and talks about the arrival of 8th record Moving Pictures. “It was mainstream success for the band,” he claims in the documentary. “Rush were moving away from concept records, away from progressive art rock to a more radio friendly environment with short concise songs.” There was nothing sloppy about the power trio, every move they made was thought through. You can hear it in songs like “Limelight” where Peart struggles to process the band’s newfound fame. “We were open to Punk, New Wave and Reggae,” says Peart. “We absorbed it all.” With Moving Pictures, the songs themselves become stand-alone stories. There was the quintessential road song “Red Barchetta” with its tunnel-like solo, the bass/drum extravaganza of “YYZ” and the band signature anthem “Tom Sawyer,” all discussed in depth.

From 2112 through to Moving Pictures Rush become an icon of mass popular acceptance. Their music has thrilled, intrigued and mesmerized us. They are truly one of the great ones. With this documentary they are able to detail some of the steps it took to build their reputation. The bonus material includes rare concert footage, their personal influences, and reflections from each band member as they talk about one another with humor and admiration.

Website: Rush, Eagle Records

Ronnie Wood
I Feel Like Playing
Eagle Records

Ron Wood must get seriously bored playing rhythm guitar for the Stones. Yeah, they’re the biggest band on the planet but they work so infrequently that for a musician as talented and active as Woody - the down time must be a killer. It looks like he’s filling his time jamming with friends and painting fine art. Both are reflected in his new solo outing I Feel Like Playing. This is Woody’s first solo album in nearly ten years – its a fun record, laid back and often biographical touching on a few self-made troubles. Lots of his buddies come along for the ride including Slash, Flea, Eddie Vedder, Billy Gibbons, Kris Kristofferson, Bobby Womack and fellow Faces alum Ian McLagan. Like Keith Richards, Wood’s voice is an acquired taste, a husky baritone (sounding somewhere between Tom Waits and a bottle of whiskey), like an old friend but without the smell. But it’s his guitar work we came to hear and folks, it is stellar. First single “Lucky Man” is straight up Stones/Faces with the help of Bob Rock (guitar), Ian McLagan (keyboarda) and Daryl Jones (Stones bassist). It’s got a catchy hook with a strutting swagger and Woody’s signature guitar wail.

With the melancholy twang of opener “Why You Wanna Go and Do Thing Like That For,” one of five songs featuring Slash, one might think Ron was easing into retirement and setting the rock aside. Then we get to “Thing About You,” a brawny, electric blues number, and it’s clear the guitarist can still cut heads with the best of them. “Catch You” and “Well I Don’t Think So” come straight outta the Rolling Stone hymn book with some nice steel guitar and good ol’ boogie piano. Counter that with the funky, raw edge of Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful” which has Wood trading vocal chops with Stones backing singer Bernard Fowler and ripping guitar leads with Slash. Wood tries a couple off beat tunes that round out his headspace like the Reggae-infused “Sweetness My Weakness” and the garage-y “100%” - but for the most part he sticks close to the blues. Personal favorite is “Fancy Pants,” a traditional 12-bar blues with a sharp sense of humor and a bit of self-deprecation. Some of the best guitar work is saved for the last two tracks, the soulful “Tell Me Something” and crisp southern mover “Forever,” both offer up Wood as much more than a one trick pony and certainly more diversified than his day job.

Website: Ronnie Wood, Eagle Records

The Rolling Stones
Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones (DVD)
Eagle Entertainment

1972 was to be a busy year for the Rolling Stones. They had just spent the previous 14 months in tax exile in the south of France where they’d written some 20 songs that would become Exile on Main St. Lead guitarist Brian Jones (who died July of ’69), had been replaced by Mick Taylor, who made a substantial contribution to the band’s 1971 album Sticky Fingers, but would really step into his own on Exile. The Stones hadn’t toured the States since the Altamont disaster in ’69 where a fan was stabbed and beaten to death by the Hell’s Angels. 1972 was to be their comeback and to document the occasion they put a couple film projects in the works. The first was a documentary filmed by director Robert Frank shot in cinéma vérité (using several cameras) and included backstage parties, drug use and roadie antics. The film was named after the controversial song “Cocksucker Blues” and was legally stopped from distribution by the band. The second film project was Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones.

To appreciate the historic significance of this film onto DVD it’s important to highlight some of the key features that make it quite remarkable. The concert movie was shot by director Rollin Binzer, over four nights, while the Stones were playing Ft. Worth and Houston, Texas in support of Exile on Main St. The movie saw its release in 1974, two years later enhanced with quadraphonic sound, which gave the theater goer an experience of actually sitting in a concert arena. The film had a limited run, only showing in major markets and then was hidden away by its backers. The Rolling Stones reclaimed the film in the late ‘90s and after an extensive overhaul are now releasing it on DVD and Blu-Ray. Understanding that it was filmed for a theater audience gives meaning to the intro piece: a black screen with quadraphonic audience noise which fools the viewer into a sense of actually being there. It intensifies the aural intimacy when the Stones begin to play. The opening shot is a young Charlie Watts adjusting his drums followed by an animated Mick Jagger (lead vocals, harmonica) with David Bowie-like glitter accenting his eyes. Keith Richards (guitars), Mick Taylor (guitars) and Bill Wyman (bass) all join in with the occasional glimpse of Nicky Hopkins (piano), Bobby Keys (saxophone) and Jim Price (horns).

The set list is vibrant cherry picking from Exile and Sticky Fingers with established hits “Brown Sugar,” “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Street Fighting Man.” After a rambunctious run through “Bitch” and before “Gimme Shelter,” the band break a few strings which cause Jagger to comment, “a few hearts are broken and a few stings busted – that’s not a lot to wait for between friends.” The band are in excellent form and it’s interesting to note how razor sharp Mick Taylor is compared to the loose playing of Keith Richards. Five songs load the set from Exile on Main St. including a bopping version of “Rip This Joint,” “Tumbling Dice,” the acoustic gem “Sweet Virginia,” “Happy,” and “All Down The Line.” We also get “Dead Flowers” filmed at Ft. Worth and only occasionally played elsewhere on the tour. “Rocks Off,” which was played at all the 1972 tour shows, is notably absent from the film. However, Robert Johnson’s “Love In Vain” is beautifully touching while “Midnight Ramblers” with all its raw edge almost steals the show.

Supplementing the concert footage as bonus material is 1972 tour rehearsal footage from Montreux, an Old Grey Whistle Test interview with Mick Jagger from the same year, and a 2010 interview with Jagger. The digitally re-mastered version of the film will be shown in select theaters in the UK and US in HD. Some locations even promise an introduction by Mick Jagger.

Website: The Rolling Stones, Eagle Entertainment

MICHAEL MCDONALD
This Christmas ~ Live In Chicago (DVD)
Eagle Entertainment

Nothing says Christmas like a white-haired Michael McDonald crooning out yuletide favorites with a couple Doobie Brother tracks thrown in for good measure. Chicago’s Soundstage has been host to a couple other McDonald DVDs and this one follows suit with holiday flare. Since rejuvenating his career with a couple tributes to Motown, the blue-eyed soul singer has released a total of three Christmas CDs including This Christmas released in ’09. The DVD of the same name mimics the CD but with a different tracking order and a set of substantial Doobie hits to keep our attention. McDonald is in fine voice as he and the band take flight with “It Keeps You Runnin” solo hit,“I Keep Forgettin’,” and “Sweet Freedom.” Guitarist Bernie Chiaravalle (Ambrosia, Christopher Cross, Don Henley) raises the temperature while McDonald drives the band center stage behind a black Baby Grand piano. Having played together for 20 years, the chemistry between the two is infectious. “We’re going to do some songs from our Christmas album,” says McDonald three songs into their set. “We love playing this because it’s a change of pace and gives us a chance to do some original holiday songs.”

The jazzy “Every Time Christmas Comes Around” translates like Minute By Minute Doobies complete with full horns and R&B swagger. The piano brings added texture to the wintery, “On This Night” and complements the organ in ‘This Christmas.” It’s easy to see why McDonald translates so well into holiday flare as his crooning voice delivers warmth built for candlelight. The 9-piece band easily bounces into the Reggae/Gospel treatment of “Come, O Come Emanuel/What Month Was Jesus Born,” the quirky “Christmas On The Bayou” and a Dixieland-inspired “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” Vocalist Drea Rhenee joins McDonald for a duet of the traditional “Wexford Carol” while Stevie Wonder’s “That’s What Christmas Means To Me” tributes one of McDonald biggest influences. The singer flexes his dexterity playing acoustic guitar, accordion, banjo and, in the Judy Garland classic “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” on the ukulele.  “White Christmas/Winter Wonderland” leads into the logical conclusion of “Minute By Minute,” “What A Fool Believes” and “Takin’ It To The Streets.” Bonus track “Hallelujah” offers a very intimate closing to a seasonal highlight.

Website: Michael McDonald, Eagle Entertainment

HEAVEN & HELL
Neon Nights, 30 Years of Heaven & Hell, Live in Europe
Armoury Records

Magic really does come in small packages. Heaven & Hell, the famed band formed with vocalist Ronnie James Dio, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Vinny Appice in 2006 have released a live record worthy of their legendary status. As most already know, the band took their name from the first Dio-fronted Black Sabbath album released in 1980. The union brought a more diverse range to the Sabbath camp and gave rise to Dio as a lyricist and frontman beyond peer. In May 2010 Dio lost his battle to stomach cancer making this disc not only significant as a tribute but honors the man at the height of his game. Neon Nights was recorded at the band’s appearance in Germany at the Wacken festival in 2009. They were supporting their recent opus The Devil You Know with several songs from that record making the live set.

The usually chatty Dio is reserved during the first few song, conserving his energy to his vocal performance. Butler and Appice are thunderous while Iommi is a sonic riff machine. The production is clean and full. There are a couple blips but that could be due to the live “action” more than a fault of the engineer. For instance, Dio’s echo is over done on “Mob Rules” and Iommi’s guitar is a bit shrill during “I” especially in the first solo, however those are all minor as the spirit of the show is so overwhelmingly positive with each song becoming an event. Classics “Children of the Sea,” “Heaven and Hell” and “Die Young” are played to perfection with Iommi adding a few bonus frills and Dio soaring. “Bible Black” comes alive as a sinister masterpiece! With age Dio’s voice has become more ominous and his growl more dangerous. Their version of “I” is the most dark and frightening recorded to date.

Death metal could take a few lessons in harmony and delivery from new tracks “Fear” and “Follow The Tears” where melody, phrasing and impact converge to form brilliance. “Time Machine,” a song included on the Wayne’s World soundtrack and off the underrated Dehumanizer record, is reworked as a shivering epic featuring Geezer’s bone-rattling bass. If there was a song that showcased Dio in full flight is must be “Falling Off The Edge of The World.” His operatic voice swirls around Iommi’s stoner dirge with Appice hitting his kit with inhuman power. Evidently “Country Girl” is to be included on the Neon Nights DVD with interviews of the remaining band members set for release November 16, 2010. The booklet is beautifully done with a brief bio including three stunning pictures of Dio.

Website: Heaven & Hell

TWISTED SISTER
Live At Wacken – The Reunion
Eagle Entertainment

This is Eagle Entertainment’s reissue of the 2003 Live At Wacken – The Reunion package - hopefully with out the CD flaws that plagued the initial release. The two-disc, CD and DVD, is a nice collection for Twisted Sister fans. Those that didn’t get it the first time around, the DVD follows the reunion of the band in 2003 culminating with their headlining Germany’s Wacken Open Air festival in front of 40,000 screaming fans. The “Stay Hungry” lineup, considered by many to be classic, included Jay Jay French (guitar), Mark Mendoza (bass), Dee Snider (vocals), Eddie Ojeda (guitar) and AJ Pero (drums). Twisted Sister started making waves on the New York club circuit in 1976. After Dee Snider joined, the band secured a record deal in the UK and released the Pete Way (UFO) produced Under The Blade in 1982. After signing to Atlantic records in ’83 and with improved production, marketing and comedic videos on MTV the band’s fame soared.

The DVD touches on the group’s history with band interviews while segmenting full songs from Wacken including traditional show opener “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can’t Hurt You),” “The Kids Are Back” and “Stay Hungry.” The band originally broke up in 1987 in bitter conflict and inflated egos. The interviews are candid and don’t pull any punches. With accents intact, the band members paint a rough picture of the break up with Mendoza especially on edge. One of the oddest moments is watching the Blue Man Group do a rendition of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” a feature actually involved in bring the group back together again. After each historic segment the film cuts back to TS strutting in full glory at Wacken. It is surprising to see how tight the band played - still parading around in glam makeup and bad wigs.

Archived footage of The New York Steel benefit gig, just after 9/11, shows the five-piece stripped down to jeans, t-shirts, and no makeup. It proved TS could reunite and ignite the same dynamic energy that propelled them back in 1984-85. A successful USO tour followed causing Jay Jay French to comment, ”We were a band that was vilified before the United States Senate 15 years ago and now we’re going to Korea to perform for the troops. It’s a different world now.”  The crowning moment in the documentary is the crowd reaction during Wacken’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” which became so enthusiastic the band had to play the closing chorus three times. Bonus material includes the remaking of “Stay Hungry” and a photo gallery. The CD contains segments of four shows including Detroit, MI, Portchester, NY, 1980, London, UK December 1982 and Wacken 2003.

Website: Twisted Sister, Eagle Entertainment