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Dio, Judas Priest, Motorhead & UFO CD Reviews

November 12, 2012

DIO –

“THE SINGLES COLLECTION” (CD)

(Universal)

It’s still difficult to comprehend that Ronnie James Dio – one of the greatest and most humble men in hard rock and heavy metal – has been dead for a little over two years now. Not only did he have one of the most distinctive voices in rock but he was also one of the friendliest; he was a real raconteur and a true gent. He’ll be best remembered for his stints in Black Sabbath, and its off-shoot Heaven And Hell, as well as Rainbow but he also left behind a strong body of work with his self-titled band that he formed in 1982 after leaving Black Sabbath. Dio’s first album ‘Holy Diver’ remains a cherished masterpiece; one which the various incarnations of Dio would never better (although they came close with its superlative follow-up, 1984’s ‘The Last In Line’.)

This lovingly put-together and beautifully designed box-set evidently celebrates the singles which Dio released through Universal/Vertigo, and best of all each single is a replica of the original release. Kudos to Steve Hammonds and Hugh Gilmour, well as and sleeve notes writer Malcolm Dome, for putting this fantastic collection together. The box-set also includes a DVD of promo videos and a 32 page booklet detailing Dio’s discography from the Vertigo years. There is little point in detailing every song but suffice it to say there are 22 live tracks and 15 bonus tracks as well as the 14 singles. The live tracks are awesome and were primarily recorded at Castle Donington in 1983 and various spots in the USA throughout 1984 and 1985. Dio would go on to make more music for other labels and with different musicians, but those albums would not be as commercially successful or as brilliant as what is represented in this box-set. Dio himself may have been small in stature but he was larger than life in personality and with his powerful voice. ‘The Singles Collection’ is very much a fans-only release but it is so spectacularly produced that any fan of rock and metal would want this box-set sitting proudly in their record collection.

Dio’s widow and manager Wendy Dio is evidently committed to keeping her deceased husband’s name alive and with more products in the works (such as his eagerly awaited autobiography) there’s no doubt that Dio’s memory and music will live on, and rightly so. It can be argued that some things – such as Dio’s Disciplines – are in bad taste and somewhat cynical but such opinions are entirely subjective. ‘The Singles Collection’ is conveniently released just in time for Christmas.

Copyright Neil Daniels © 2012

 

JUDAS PRIEST –  

“SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE – SPECIAL 30TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION” (CD/DVD)

(Columbia)

Celebrating thirty years, Judas Priest’s seminal metal album ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ was the natural successor to 1980’s equally important ‘British Steel’ although it was actually released after 1981’s vastly underrated ‘Point Entry’, which has sadly faded into relative obscurity. By the time Priest released this now legendary album they had become a major arena metal band in America which had begun in earnest with ‘British Steel’; their first real serious stab at commercial success in America and arguably the start of a series of pop-metal albums from the band throughout the 1980s. The term “pop-metal” is not entirely accurate, however, especially as this album contains some stunning metal tracks such as the brilliant ‘Riding On The Wind’, which is dominated by Dave Holland’s powerful drums, and the stunning title-track shows just how awesome a singer Halford was back then. ‘Bloodstone’ contains one of Downing and Tipton’s most melodic and seductive lead riffs, and little needs to be said about the iconic duo that is ‘The Hellion’ and ‘Electric Eye’. ‘Devil’s Child’ is certainly a dose of pop-metal but a catchy song nonetheless and we all know about ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’’. The less well-known ‘Fever’ and ‘Pain And Pleasure’ certainly deserves more attention while ‘(Take These) Chains’, written by Bob Halligan, Jr., shows just how good Priest were at creating melodic metal at that point in their career yet it still manages to maintain an edge.

This 30th anniversary edition also includes a bunch of bonus tracks: four live tracks recorded in 1982 and the studio track ‘Prisoner Of Your Eyes’ which was recorded during the 1985 ‘Turbo’ sessions. However, best of all is the DVD which contains the band’s now legendary performance at 1983’s US Festival, which was held in San Bernardino, California. The twelve song performance illustrates just how stunning Judas Priest were onstage back in the 1980s: edgy, energetic and enthusiastic, traits which they have seemingly lost in recent years. My only gripe is that as it is such an important release and a welcome re-release a box-set would have been more commemorative rather than the bog standard two-disc CD case. The famous ‘Hellion’ artwork has been reworked by Mark Wilkinson and there are some cover sleeve notes by US metal broadcaster Eddie Trunk, which in all honesty lack detail for the more serious metal nerd.

‘Screaming For Vengeance’ is without question one of the band’s finest achievements. It would influence not only the burgeoning thrash metal bands of the 1980s but a whole legion of other metal bands that found success in years to come such as Annihilator and Pantera, and more contemporary bands like Fozzy. If there was such a thing as a ratings system on my blog then ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ would be one of those rare albums that would get top marks. It truly is a wonderful album. Nuff said.

Copyright Neil Daniels © 2012

 

MOTÖRHEAD –

“THE WORLD IS OURS VOL 2” (CD/DVD)

(EMI)

Motörhead are back with the inevitable follow-up to the superlative first volume of live material. They’ve probably released more collections, reissues and live material in the past few years than any other band but I guess there’s an obvious thirst for this stuff. It’s good to see Motörhead doing so well at the minute even if their success is being milked.

The first part of this package is a two-disc set featuring material from four concerts. Disc one is an almost complete set from 2011 Wacken Open Air Festival. The tracklisting omits two songs (‘Ace Of Spades’ and ‘Overkill’) which can annoyingly be found on disc two. It’s the usual Motörhead setlist. They have been rather sluggish lately when it comes to altering the line-up of songs. On a personal note I’m pleased they got rid of ‘Sacrifice’ because I never could stand Mickey Dee’s extended drum solo. There’s a terrific version of ‘Over The Top’ and ‘The Chase Is Better Than The Catch’ makes a welcome return. Overall, it’s standard Motörhead fair. Disc two includes six songs from 2001’s Sonisphere and five songs from the same year’s Rock In Rio. The question is do you really need three versions of the same songs in the same collection? The answer of course is: No! The DVD is also the same material from the same performances. They’re not an especially visual band so I prefer the audio versions.

Motörhead have a fantastic cannon of songs; they just don’t exploit it enough. Personally, I think Lemmy and co should resurrect songs from their nineties albums. There’s some terrific stuff buried in those studio opuses’ like ‘Burner’, ‘Civil War’, ‘I Am The Sword’ and ‘Overnight Sensation’. But they seem contend with playing a similar setlist every year with just one song that hasn’t been played for ages as a treat for longstanding fans, and a couple of tracks from the new album, plus the usual songs like ‘Iron Fist’ and ‘Bomber’ et al. ‘The World Is Ours Vol 2’ has some excellent performances but most fans will already own these songs in other CD/DVD collections.

Copyright Neil Daniels © 2012

 

UFO –

“THE DECCA YEARS – 1970-1973” (CD)

(Repertoire)

It may come a surprise to some that UFO began their career as something of an arty space rock style band with hints of sixties psychedelia about them. Having formed in 1969, Messrs Phil Mogg, Pete Way, Andy Parker and Mick Bolton recorded two albums for the tiny label Beacon Records as well as a live album simply called ‘UFO Live’ that initially only had a Japanese release (not by Beacon) in 1971. Both ‘UFO 1 and ‘UFO 2: Flying’ have whiffs of the band’s influences, including Led Zeppelin, The Who and US blues rock giants Blue Cheer. Some of the tracks on this collection are hard to stomach but songs like ‘Star Storm’ and ‘Silver Bird’ certainly have some merits.

UFO formed at the tail-end of the British white blues boom that spawned the likes of Cream and Savoy Brown so it’s inevitable UFO soaked up the blues. The first disc includes 18 songs with tracks from those first two albums and various single A-sides and edits. There’s UFO famous cover of ‘C’mon Everybody’, which made the band huge in Japan while there’s also a cover of ‘Loving Cup’, a song originally by the American white blues guitar player Paul Butterfield. The second disc contains extended versions of just four songs although the shortest is a lengthy nine and a half minutes. The extended versions of ‘Who Do You Love’ and ‘Boogie For George’ are both live.

After the departure of Mick Bolton in 1972 Larry Wallis was hired and promptly fired just months later to be replaced briefly by Bernie Marsden who really wasn’t interested. On a tour of Germany with the Scorpions in June 1973 the band hooked up with an eighteen year-old non-English speaking German named Michael Schenker whose elder brother Rudolf okayed Michael’s departure from the Scops. Schenker would change UFO’s overall sound for the better and with keyboardist/guitarist Paul Raymond in 1976 UFO would find their true sound, but since Schenker’s first departure in 1978 there have been few bands with a history as convoluted as UFO’s. Historically speaking this is a good, interesting collection of songs but don’t expect anything near the quality of ‘Rock Bottom’, ‘Lights Out’ and ‘Only You Can Rock Me’ et al. UFO is a British rock institution and it’s interesting to explore their roots. ‘The Decca Years’ is also a nicely produced package.

Copyright Neil Daniels © 2012

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