Tag Archives: Live Albums

Dio – Finding The Sacred Heart: Live In Philly 1986 (Review)

Dio in his spectacular 80s live prime: explosions, lasers, crystal balls, knights, heraldry and a big fucking dragon! None of that on the CD version though… but have no fear! The music is just as spectacular. The band, including new guitarist Craig Goldy, breathe fire into the new material from the under-rated Sacred Heart album: King Of Rock N’ Roll is an explosive opener; Sacred Heart and Like The Beat Of A Heart are stately magnificence; and Hungry For Heaven and Rock N’ Roll Children are fun melodic anthems. The powerful band does a great job on the older Dio tracks like We Rock, Stand Up And Shout and Rainbow In The Dark too. In particular, the version of Don’t Talk To Strangers here is goosebump city: the best version of the track I’ve ever heard. Unfortunately, some of the other Dio, Rainbow and Sabbath classics get shoehorned into medleys, which are enjoyable enough but a bit frustrating. Especially when drum, keyboard and guitar solos are allowed to drag…on(!) for 18 minutes of valuable running time. So there’s both heaven and hell here for Dio fans. If you can find the sacred skip button, you’ll discover golden renditions of your favourites and fresh excitement from some lesser-heard treasures. Buy the live DVD too… it’s got a big fucking dragon in it!

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

[Dio – Don’t Talk To Strangers Live 1986]

Saxon – The Eagle Has Landed Part II (Review)

Saxon – The Eagle Has Landed Part 2 (1996)

With original member Graham Oliver ousted from the band, Saxon had to quickly recruit a new guitarist in time for their tour to support the excellent Dogs Of War album. In stepped Doug Scarratt, ex-David Hasselhoff guitarist(!) and a friend of Saxon drummer Nigel Glockler. Coincidentally, Glockler had made his Saxon album debut on the 1982 live release The Eagle Has Landed and now his pal Doug made his on the sequel The Eagle Has Landed – Part 2. The use of the title evoked the band’s NWOBHM glory days, presumably in an attempt to signify to lapsed fans that the band had returned to metal. But it also bravely invited comparison between the 1996 lineup and the classic Saxon of yore.

But The Eagle Has Landed – Part 2 ducks the comparison by weighing heavily towards the band’s more recent material. In fact, with the exception of five songs, all of the material here is drawn from the band’s early-90s output. It sounds great and the band performs well. Doug Scarratt fits in seamlessly (showing off his chops on a tastefully shredded solo spot) and Biff Byford puts in a powerful, committed vocal performance despite sounding like he’s got a frog in his throat. In fact, he makes it work for him. The sound of him straining and pushing to hit the notes adds a real edge of excitement to tracks like Forever Free.

Although the new lineup acquits itself well, the focus on new tracks drags the album down, especially in the middle section. Ain’t Gonna Take It, Crash Dive and Can’t Stop Rockin’ are decent enough on their respective studio albums but they don’t cut it in a Saxon live set. But the second disc recovers well with Solid Ball Of Rock and Great White Buffalo proving effective live before some oldies-but-goodies see the album out on a high. The only blip in the older tracks is a version of Denim & Leather that’s marred by an overbearing guest spot from Yngwie J. Malmsteen who solos over everything that can possibly be soloed over.

Diehard fans/collectors will find the rare performances and historical value of The Eagle Has Landed – Part 2 make for a worthwhile release. But collectability aside, most listeners will find it a bit uninspiring and, while it certainly has its moments, it’s the least exciting of the Saxon live albums to this point: a solid but unspectacular start to the band’s post-Oliver career. The new lineup would have to impress mightily when they unleashed their next album.

HMO Rating: 2.5 out of 5

[Saxon – Solid Ball Of Rock]

Rainbow – I Surrender: Live (Song Review)

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“I’m giving up the role of pretender”

I know most metal fans prefer the Dio-fronted Rainbow but round these parts Joe Lynn Turner rules. So here’s a superb version of the classic Rainbow track I Surrender. It’s taken from the Live in Japan 1984 double live album that was made available recently as bonus discs with the Ritchie Blackmore Story box set. It’s a bonus extra that outstrips the main feature easily. Listening to Ritchie Blackmore reminiscing about his career is one thing: listening to him play is another entirely. And if you’ve never listened to The Man in Black’s live playing, you’ve never really heard him at all. No criticism of his studio output – it’s adorned with legendary guitar work – but this is a man that likens studio recording to “being at the dentists”. Unshackled from the studio, his playing reaches a transcendent level of inspiration and excitement. The whole band is on great form here, especially Joe Lynn Turner who sings with passion and commitment. But Blackmore grabs this great AOR track by the balls, lifting it to another level with one of his ingeniously messy, improvisational and thrilling solos. There’s a tag I use on this site: The World’s Greatest Guitarist. It’s reserved for The Man in Black and performances like this are why.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

[Rainbow – I Surrender (Live)]

Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen: Live (Song Review)

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“And all you did was count the dead”

Here’s a rousing track from Primordial’s new live album Gods to the Godless (Live at Bang Your Head Festival Germany 2015). I always feel like live shows are defined by the inclusion of new tracks. My memories of live performances usually revolve around the new songs that were played. For better or worse, bands seem to put extra welly into the new stuff: meaning that brilliant new songs make for an unforgettable show but weak ones will likely mar my recollections, no matter how classics-laden the show might have been. The former is definitely the case with Primordial. Four of the eleven songs here are taken from their last album Where Greater Men Have Fallen and here’s an amazing version of the title track: a burly and martial take that surpasses the studio version. Alan Nemtheanga proves himself, once again, the consummate metal frontman, and the band’s chemistry and the skill of their arrangements are even more evident in the live setting: every instrument occupying a unique space to create a massive wall of sound. Primordial, over twenty years into their career, sound like they’re determined to remain impassioned and vital until the bitter end.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

[To hear the Song of the Week, click track three on the YouTube screen below. And then listen to the whole thing, you won’t regret it]

 

Iron Maiden – Heaven Can Wait: Live (Song Review)

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“I’ll go when I’m good and ready”

It’s been a dark and frosty week here in Glasgow. Perfect conditions for enjoying some black metal but I decided I needed some sunshine in my listening. Time for some synth-era 80s Maiden then! I opted for the excellent live album Maiden England ’88 and this song always stands out for me. The real magic happens 3mins in though, as the “take my hand…” bridge ratchets up the tension and the song’s tone shifts from jaunty to totally epic. Then the song cruises into the famous, roadie-enhanced “woah-oh-oh”s. This singalong section always seemed like it was devised for live performance so it’s no surprise that it works so much better here than on the Somewhere in Time studio version. The building urgency, shimmery guitar fills and Bruce’s added exhortations to the audience make it breathlessly exciting. It’s brilliant stuff that turns one of the potentially weaker songs of the set into an outright showstopper.

HMO Rating: 4.5 Out Of 5

[Iron Maiden – Heaven Can Wait Live]

Danko Jones – Live at Wacken (CD/DVD – Review)

Wacken Roll
Wacken Roll

I love a good live album and I love “classic” rock but rarely come across magnificent examples of either these days. And a good live classic rock album is even rarer! So I was hoping that Danko Jones’ latest release Live at Wacken would deliver on both accounts. I’ve only ever heard a few songs of his and never been blown away. It’s all a bit too much like a jeans advert. But I hear a lot of people say he (they?) are great live. On the basis of this set I can imagine that’s probably the case but the excitement only partially translates to CD/DVD. It’s got a great sound and jovial atmosphere. The band is loose and frontman Danko is in charming form, clearly enjoying being the loverman rocker at Europe’s Metal Mecca. But for all their self-professed “mean power chords” there’s not much in the way of decent riffs or songs. But the energy, witty raps and cheery vibe are winning and some Misfits-style pop punk numbers like the excellent The Twisting Knife add melodic substance in amongst all the two-chord dating-manual songs. It’s likely to be the only Danko Jones I will ever want or need but it’s enough of a good time to be worth holding on to. Like their festival slot, it’s fun for the afternoon but they’ll need to do better to score any hot night-time action.

HMO Rating: 2.5 out of 5

[Danko Jones – The Twisting Knife]

Saxon – Greatest Hits Live! (Review)

Saxon - Greatest Hits Live! (1990)
Saxon – Greatest Hits Live! (1990)

Greatest Hits Live! captures Saxon on the upswing following the doldrums of their disappointing Destiny album and tour. Frontman Biff Byford had taken over their management, securing a well-received support slot with Manowar that galvanised the group. Saxon then launched a European headlining tour in 1990 to celebrate 10 Years of Denim & Leather* and the UK leg was such a success that the band added another run of UK gigs later in the year. They played more than 40 shows in the UK alone, winning much-needed acclaim and credibility in their homeland. The Nottingham show was recorded and released as Saxon’s third live album.

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Unlike its two predecessors, The Eagle Has Landed and Rock N’ Roll Gypsies, Greatest Hits Live! offers a full** Saxon live set, living up to its title. It’s bulging with classics (Wheels of Steel, (747) Strangers in the Night, Princess of the Night, And the Bands Played On), hard-hitting metal bangers from the early days (Motorcycle Man, 20,000ft and Heavy Metal Thunder) and well-chosen newer material (a bouncy Rock N’ Roll Gypsy and a tougher take on Ride Like the Wind). There are some mid-set surprises too with a captivating Frozen Rainbow and an absolutely phenomenal version of See the Light Shining. And just to put the icing on the cake: the classic tracks Denim and Leather and Crusader finally make their live album debuts.

The Tracklist
The Tracklist

Greatest Hits Live! is an honest and energetic live album that drives home the quality of Saxon’s material and the celebratory vibe of the tour. On the evidence here, it’s no surprise that they won over audiences up and down the country. However, through all their ups-and-downs, Saxon’s live prowess was never in doubt. If they were going to have a future they’d have to produce new material that lived up to the glorious past celebrated here. Buoyed by the enthusiastic reception from their UK fans, Saxon rushed back into the studio. The comeback was on.

*Biff announces “we’ve been together for 10 years” but their debut album was released in 1979 so in 1990 they were a year out. Instead, the liner notes proclaim that the 10 years refer to the anniversary of their 1980 breakthrough with Wheels of Steel. But then they called it “10 Years of Denim & Leather” after an album that was nine years old.

**One song is missing. The show was also released on VHS and the set included Strong Arm of the Law. I’ll let them off though.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

Mah copy
Mah copy

[Saxon – See the Light Shining]