Music Reviews

Yes to be Inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

“Does it really happen?” YES it does. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame decided to “awaken” finally. The pre-eminent progressive rock group of the 1970s will be enshrined in its walls “soon.”

Whenever I’ve said Yes deserve an induction, people told me, “’Leave it’ go.” I replied, “’Hold on.’ ‘It can happen.’” Now “we have heaven.” “I would’ve waited forever.” I’m just glad it occurred before the “turn of the century.”

I’d go through “remembering” Progressive Rock royalty such as Genesis, Pink Floyd and Rush getting enshrined in the hall. “I get up, I get down” about it since Yes couldn’t claim the same honor. That oversight brought me “close to the edge.”

Now that they’re in, I’m at the “gates of delirium”! This news helped to “lift me up.” It sure put me in a great “mood for a day.”

I have “real love” for Yes’ music. There are no “parallels” to its complexity.  I feel like an “astral traveler”, a “starship trooper” if you will, on a “sound chaser” mission whenever I listen to it. The lyrics tell such “wondrous stories,” too.

This band’s “survival” astonishes me. It certainly took a “roundabout” way to stay on the music scene. Their line-up’s “perpetual change” has been a source of jokes for decades. But when judged by the end result, guys: “yours is no disgrace.”

If I may borrow a title from a Yes song: “Without Hope You Cannot Start the Day.” I’ve wanted the “ancient ritual” of thinking “I am waiting” “to be over.” “Then” “I’ve seen all good people” at the Hall. I thank them for making “your move.” All the “disillusionment” is behind me. The fans can now “rejoice”! I’ll be having “sweet dreams” of a lot of hands coming together in “the clap” until the band is formally enshrined. Now it’s “onward” to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for Yes.

Music Review – Rush R40 Live

After All the World’s a Stage, Exit Stage Left, A Show of Hands, Different Stages, Rush in Rio, Working Men, R30, The Grace Under Pressure Tour, Snakes and Arrows Live, Time Machine, The Clockwork Angels Tour, The Lady Gone Electric and infinite bootlegs, we finally have another live album from Rush. This has been one of the longer stretches where they haven’t released a one in recent years. R40 Live came out two years and one month after the last live recording. I have to give Alex, Geddy and Neil credit: it was worth the wait.

The “dinosaur trio” returned to launch a major tour celebrating 40 years of playing music together. When I received a “distant early warning” they’d be releasing a CD in commemoration I thought I was “losing it.” I purchased it deciding to “roll the bones” and see if they could “animate” some of the older tunes and not be “the wreckers” of them. I worried that after hearing this album, I’d want to stick my head “between the wheels” of a “red barchetta”. Would my musical tastes take a “headlong flight” from this band? Would that be “how it is”? Fortunately, R40 Live turned out to be more than “one little victory”. None of the tracks sounded like a “far cry” from the originals.

The band chose an outstanding format for this celebration. The package came with the audio and video versions of the show. The concert opened up with a pre-recorded compilation from the band’s history. Songs from the first album segued into one another leading into tracks from the last studio album, 2012’s Clockwork Angels. To balance this out, the concert set list began with songs from that album, progressed through tracks from the band’s extensive catalog and ended with a medley of tunes from the eponymous debut album.

I didn’t like the self-indulgence of Rush’s 30th anniversary DVD. Throughout the show photos of the band from over the years kept appearing on the big screen. The video portion of R40’s opening rectified this. It began with animated figures of the group walking down the street. Cartoon images of items from that period of the group’s history floated by in the background. The figures aged as they progressed though the various periods of Rush history.

I found the use of comedy absolutely outstanding. The animator ribbed Neil Peart for the mustache he sported during the 1970s, Geddy Lee for his 1980s ponytail and Alex Lifeson for his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech. I’ve been a fan for years and always enjoyed their sense of humor. The guys deserve a lot of respect for their willingness to be caricatured.

I also give Rush a lot of credit for their song selections. Most bands that have been around for 20 plus years use the same set-list every tour. They play the “best of” live along with three or four songs from the new album. Not Rush. Whenever they tour they pull songs “out of the vault”; in other words, they play tracks they’ve never performed live before. This offering introduced live recordings of Vapor Trails’ “How it Is” and “Losing It” from Signals.

In addition, they included songs they don’t usually play in concert. Since this is Rush, none of these cuts are easy to perform. R40 Live included oldies such as “Jacob’s Ladder” and the prelude to “Hemispheres”. The dueling double necks made “Xanadu” my favorite track. The two encore medleys, “Lakeside Park/ Anthem” and “What You’re Doing/ Working Man” rounded out the show nicely.

The ubiquitous complaint about live Rush recordings in recent years has been Geddy Lee’s vocals. To be fair, here, Rush’s melodies are just as complex as their bass, drum and guitar parts. (Are there any rests in the chorus to “Subdivisions”?) They’re not easy for a 20 year old to sing, let alone a man in his sixties. I thought the vocals on this concert album were Mr. Lee’s strongest since 1998’s Different Stages.

For those who still have issues with the vocals: I’d suggest being impressed that all the other instruments sound as sharp as they do. At the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, it sounded to me like the Foo Fighters struggled to keep up with the band on 2112.

I’m astonished to be writing this, but even for those who already own all the other Rush concert recordings, R40 Live is certainly worth picking up. Aside from the opportunity to hear songs they don’t usually play live, the classics such as “Tom Sawyer” and “Closer to the Heart” sound better than ever. It’s like these guys never age. I’m ready to reserve my copies of R50 and R60 today.

 

Whitesnake – The Purple Album

I tell fellow Deep Purple fans that some of these renditions of the band’s songs on this album “mistreated” the originals. You “might just take your life” after hearing some of them. The Purple Album features this week’s line-up of the band Whitesnake performing songs from the three albums their lead singer, David Coverdale, recorded as Deep Purple‘s lead vocalist. This seemed like a really good idea at its inception.

My first issue concerned the song selection. Deep Purple is primarily known for the guitar driven classic rock staple “Smoke on the Water”. The band went through, and continues to evolve through, various musical phases. During the Coverdale era, Deep Purple transitioned their music into a funky, soulful direction while still retaining their hard rock edge. The musicians on The Purple Album nailed the hard rock part, but lacked soul. The solution? Play everything much, much louder. The mastering on this recording is unbelievable. Even when I listen to it on my Kindle I need earplugs.

With personnel such as guitarists Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra along with drummer Tommy Aldridge, I thought heavier Purple tracks such as “Speed King” and “Child in Time” would’ve accommodated their strengths better. Coverdale limited the song selection to tracks from Burn, Stormbringer and Come Taste the Band. When he played with Deep Purple in the 1970s, earlier tunes such as “Smoke on the Water”, “Highway Star” and “Space Truckin’” were part of their set lists. Why not include them in the “tribute”?

David Coverdale undoubtedly deserves to be ranked among rock’s greatest vocalists. The version of “Mistreated” from Deep Purple’s Made in Europe sounded like an anthem. He deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for that recording alone. It bothered me to hear him struggling through it on this album. I’m not attacking his talent. The man’s been singing and touring for the last 40 years. That wears on one’s voice. It’s just a shame to listen to someone so talented having trouble hitting notes he nailed with ease in his heyday.

My biggest issue with the album concerned the personnel. How, and I mean how, can a group possibly do a tribute to Deep Purple without a keyboard player in the band? (Derek Hilland added keys on this CD, but he wasn’t formally a member of the group.) While no musician can mimic Jon Lord, adding a second guitar player didn’t serve as a comparable substitute. I’m sorry, but Lord’s organ on “Stormbringer” made that song heavier than a dozen guitarists could have.

I did like some of the new arrangements. Bassist Michael Devin added a harmonica intro to the beginning of “You Fool No One.” The group also included a bluesy slide guitar to the opening of “Might Just Take Your Life”. That harkened back to the R & B days of Whitesnake with guitarists Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody. I wish Coverdale made this kind of music a bigger part of the modern Whitesnake’s repertoire.

I felt torn when I heard “Sail Away”. Coverdale scrapped the funky guitar riff. (For those who haven’t heard the original: think “Play That Funky Music White Boy” pushed into overdrive.) He transformed it into a slow acoustic ballad. The new version is much different, but it’s as strong as the original. It goes to show you: a great song is a great song no matter how it’s played.

When David Coverdale fronted Deep Purple, Glenn Hughes sang back-up vocals. With the greatest of respect to the Righteous Brothers, those guys sang the best rock duets ever recorded. It made me glad to hear Hughes join Coverdale on this album. He still has an outstanding voice, albeit without the high notes anymore. I liked hearing the two of them sing “Burn” together again.

Deep Purple and Whitesnake are two of the best bands in rock history. In the latter’s early days, three of the members of the former played in it. Some fantastic music resulted. I had similar hopes for this album. Deep Purple is still together. Maybe they’ll do a tribute album to Whitesnake with better results. For now, I’ll listen to my Coverdale era Deep Purple albums.

Purple Encomium

My “woman from Tokyo”, a “gypsy” named “Anya” looked at me with a “demon’s eye.” She’s a “strange kind of woman”. “You fool no one,” she said. “Don’t hold your breath.” I’d told her that, although I’m not a “fortune teller”, someday Deep Purple will wind up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The place may seem like a “castle full of rascals” for their “wicked ways” in keeping them out so long, but “lady luck” finally came through. No one on the admissions committee had been a “speed king” about it. They thought we fans had “time to kill”, but “halleluiah!” The group will be inducted in 2016.

Some may think I’ve got a “bad attitude” and should “hush”. It’s unfair to criticize the hall for their “wicked ways”. Sorry, but this affront won’t be “soon forgotten.” “Sometimes I feel like screaming” about it. But then again, no longer can I say “the battle rages on.” Deep Purple will no longer be “mistreated” by the hall. For some the “truth hurts”, but they’re in.

The guys weren’t “lazy”. They worked their “fingers to the bone” to get enshrined in Cleveland. This is something every rock group “burn”s to do.

I can’t stand people who try to cleverly insert names of bands’ songs when they write about them. Just about anyone who does that is an “almost human” “ramshackle man” who’s a “nasty piece of work”. Just this one time, I can’t resist. I’m thinking the guys may decide to “abandon” “Don’t Make Me Happy” from the set-list when they jam at the ceremony.

Congrats go out to all members of Deep Purple past and present. I hope this achievement doesn’t mean they’ll “sail away” into retirement “this time around.”

“Talk about love,” I’ve been a huge Deep Purple fan for years. I am in “Seventh Heaven” and “any fule kno that.” I’m heading out to the pool with my copy of Deepest Purple. I’m going to grab a cigar, hop on my raft and have a “smoke on the water.”

 

Music Review – Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes: Live at the Greek

Listening to Chris Robinson attempt to croon “In My Time of Dying” made me wish it was my time of dying. His effort to sing the “Woke Up This Morning” made me wish I hadn’t woke up this morning. This album was but should never have been. As one can guess, I won’t share a “Whole Lotta Love” in this review.

The concept struck me as ill-advised. I’ve never heard of a lead guitarist touring with a separate band and 99% of the set list being songs from his previous band. When this album came out in 1999, the Black Crowes had a pretty extensive musical catalog. While talented, they were no Led Zeppelin. Why then play primarily Zeppelin tunes? I don’t get this one.

And what was going on with Jimmy Page? In the late 1960’s, he took over the Yardbirds after joining. Thirty years later he felt the need to take over yet another band. In addition, he got the top billing. I’m sorry. If Eric Clapton felt comfortable with The Delaney and Bonnie on Tour with Eric Clapton title just two years after leaving Cream, Jimmy should’ve had the same sentiment 19 years after Zeppelin’s split.

At times I think Chris Robinson deserved credit for taking on Robert Plant’s songs. Then I listen to the result of his doing so. These cuts seem totally unsuited for his vocal style. He sounded like he strained to hit the high notes on every song. Even on the more tenor-based Yardbirds track “Shapes of Things to Come” he struggled to maintain the melody. Keith Relf sang the original on that one. To put it as politely as I can, Relf was no Robert Plant.

Some of the arrangements were painful to listen to. “Hey, Hey What Can I Do?” and “You’re Time is Gonna Come” are acoustic classics. Why plug in and crank them up? At least they did keep a mandolin in the former. The later just sounded silly. How silly? Think Metallica pounding out “Can’t Find My Way Home” or Megadeth breaking into “Dust in the Wind”. Still, they played them better than “The Lemon Song”.

I did like the band’s rendition of Peter Green’s “Oh, Well”. It reminded me of the rave-up style of early Yardbirds tracks, such as “Smokestack Lightning”. I’ve never heard the original version of that song, though. Judging from the rest of this review that could be the reason I enjoyed it.

I’d suggest Led Zeppelin fans pass on this one. Go back and listen to the originals of these songs. For Black Crowes fans, delete this one from your catalog. Even Jimmy Page’s presence can’t improve a bad concept. What a “Heartbreaker”.

Music Review – Pink Floyd The Endless River

Appropriately enough, I purchased The Endless River on a rainy day. As I drove around through the flooding rain storm, it put me in the right frame of mind to absorb this album. David Gilmour and Nick Mason decided to release it as a tribute to fallen band mate Richard Wright.

David Gilmour has proven repeatedly that he’s one of the greatest rock guitarists who ever took up the instrument. It delighted me to discover he felt the need to prove it once again. Every track except for one on The Endless River was an instrumental. Gilmour showcased his dexterity on the acoustic, electric and slide guitars. Let this be a lesson to all those great guitarists out there with aspirations of becoming ‘singer/songwriters’: stay focused on what you do well.

While Dark Side of the Moon came closest to a ‘definitive’ Pink Floyd album, everyone was original in its own way. Endless River continued this tradition. Only one of the eighteen songs featured a lead vocal. The band originally recorded these fragmentary tracks during jam sessions for the Division Bell sessions. Still, the Floyd and their team of producers did an outstanding job of melding them into a finished album. Endless River sounds like a new age album recorded by Pink Floyd. The arrangement allowed each tracks to segue into the next one a la Echoes. The overall whole reminded me of such progressive rock masterpieces as “A Passion Play” and “Thick as a Brick” by Jethro Tull as well as “Supper’s Ready” by Genesis; all this without the prattle of inane vocals.

This album pleasantly surprised me. At first I anticipated a loose compilation of out-takes from Division Bell. Some of the tracks did exhibit the germination of songs explored more deeply on the album. Gilmour used the guitar synthesizer from “Take It Back” liberally on these tracks. “Talkin’ Hawkin’” featured voice overs by Dr. Steven Hawking. His observation that, “All we need to do is keep talking”, later appeared in the eponymous song. Most of the song titles related to the theme of communication. A concept later explored lyrically on the completed album.

The album also included some pieces that harkened back to ‘vintage Floyd’. I heard shades of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” in the piece “It’s What We Do.” While Roger Waters didn’t join the band for this outing, Gilmour’s bass work on this track sounded just like him. I also enjoyed his addition of an acoustic guitar to the mix.

“Anisina” served as the true highlight of the album for me. In the beginning I thought Wright borrowed his piano part from “Us and Them”. Upon reading the liner notes, I realized that Gilmour played it! He did an outstanding job paying tribute to Wright. Fans will also recognize the synthesizer riff from “Comfortably Numb” on this track. This song also called to mind the instrumental piece “Terminal Frost” from Momentary Lapse of Reason. The guitar orchestration on “Anisina” was much better, though. I really enjoyed Gilmour’s addition of a slide guitar to this song.

I can’t leave out Nick Mason’s contributions. His drumming on “Skins” showed that age hasn’t dulled his skills since his tour-de-force performance on Live at Pompeii.

As with any Floyd offering, the album featured phenomenal artwork. The front cover showed a young man on a boat in the clouds rowing towards the sunset. The back cover displayed the same picture only with an empty boat. I interpreted that to mean that while the band itself may be headed into the sunset, the music would remain.

The late Richard Wright’s keyboards sounded absolutely ethereal on The Endless River. While listening to the album, I recalled a line from Miles Davis’ drummer Jimmy Cobb. He remarked that Kind of Blue, “sounded like it was recorded in heaven.” The same could be said of The Endless River. It served as a fitting encomium to an outstanding musician.

Music Review – Live After Death by Iron Maiden

EDDIE LIVES!

Without question, this 1985 cut deserves to be called one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded. The audio features an introduction by Sir Winston Churchill. The cover showcases Eddie bursting out of a grave. Behind him H. P. Lovecraft’s cryptic quotation from the Necronomicon on the tombstone reads:

That is not dead which cannot eternal lie.
Yet with strange aeons even death may die.

As if all that doesn’t make fans want this album: there’s the music.

Phil Lynott said he wanted Thin Lizzie to be “the Yardbirds of Heavy Metal” due to the dueling guitarists. I’d call Maiden the “Rolling Stones of Heavy Metal”. The interactive guitar playing between Dave Murray and Adrian Smith took the genre to a whole new level. Tracks like “The Trooper” and “Children on the Damned” exhibit two outstanding axe men at the apex of their talent. Unlike many metal guitarists from the 1980’s they did more than just tap and run through scales as fast as they could. These maestros understood they were playing Rock and Roll, not noise. The goal wasn’t to play as fast as possible: the point was to play good music. They failed in a way on the later: they played great music.

Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain anchored the heaviest rhythm section I’ve ever heard. How these guys get overlooked when one talks about the great bass and drums combos in rock history mystifies me. Sometimes Harris sounded like he was playing the “William Tell Overture” on steroids, at other times he’d’ craft creative bass lines on tracks such as “Phantom of the Opera” that Jazz musicians would struggle through. McBrain’s drumming style was both heavy and distinctly his own. I especially liked his playing on “Die With Your Boots On” and “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”. I really liked the way he used the ride cymbal. He didn’t limit himself to hitting it on every eighth or quarter note. I don’t recall hearing a drummer take that approach before. His fills and bass rolls always fit the song, unlike many of his lesser talented contemporaries. He never did it to be fancy or flashy. And the key point that all the youngsters reading this should take note of: both these musicians always kept the beat. That’s something that all bassists and drummers should remember: regardless of what genre he/she plays. That’s the reason they’re in the band.

Steve Harris and the members of Iron Maiden didn’t hold back when it came to writing songs and words. Bruce Dickinson deserved great credit for remembering all the challenging lyrics and unusual melodies. “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” sounded like the epic poem they based it on. “Phantom of the Opera” came across as the Heavy Metal version of a theatrical performance. I thought his performance on this album much better than that on later cuts such as A Real Live One and A Real Dead One.

As much as I love this album, one of the biggest disappointments of my adult life came when I bought it on CD in 1995. It had songs I didn’t remember hearing on the original such as “Iron Maiden” and “Revelations”, which I liked. I didn’t like that they replaced great tracks such as “Wrathchild”, “22 Acacia Avenue” and especially “Phantom of the Opera” with them. I thought the tunes on the original cassette represented a much better set list. Fortunately, the record company re-issued the CD in 1998 with all the tracks from the CD and the cassette. I had to wait for it, but I this release made me happier than any re-issue I’ve ever heard.

I have to admit, it displeased me to learn that the B Sides of the two singles the band released with the original recording in 1985 did not appear on the re-issue. While in the present era, I can listen to them on-line, it still makes me feel like the re-issue is incomplete. On “Losfer Words”, the flip side of “Run to the Hills”, Murray and Smith displayed their proficiency on this instrumental cut. It’s a shame it didn’t make it to the album. It reminded me a bit of the instrumental portion at the end of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird”, only with more of an edge.

Live After Death certainly qualifies as one of my “desert island discs.” I doubt death will ever die, but Iron Maiden’s legacy won’t.

Music Review – Live Evil by Black Sabbath

Rarely does an album live up to its title this well. I’ve got to give the guys credit: they delivered exactly what they promised. I’m sure music aficionados realize this disc shares a title with a live album recorded by Miles Davis. The similarities end there. This tour-de-force recorded during the Ronnie James Dio fronted incarnation of the band features some Black Sabbbath staples as well as prime cuts from Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules.

I know “purists” will argue that it’s not really Sabbath without Ozzy as the front man. I disagree. Dio (may he rest in peace) had a stronger voice and broader range as a vocalist. Much to his credit he understood he wasn’t Ozzy and decided not to try to be Ozzy. He took Sabbath gems like “Children of the Grave” and “N. I. B.” and made them uniquely his own. His ad libs on “War Pigs” and “Iron Man” gave the songs a more ominous aura lacking in the originals. I still can’t listen to this album in the dark. It makes me keep thinking that Iron Man is coming to get me.

As a bit of a purist myself, I do wish Bill Ward had been on the drums for the recording. While Vinny Appice possessed tremendous skill as a drummer, I think Ward’s style fitted Sabbath much better. His style complimented Geezer Butler’s bass playing better, as well.

Even with half the original members, the Live Evil line up delivered a solid performance. “Paranoid” is one of the greatest metal songs ever recorded: no matter who’s playing it. As remarkable a statement as this is, “Vodoo” and “Mob Rules” sound even heavier than the studio versions. These are phenomenal accomplishments even for the members of Black Sabbath.

I’d describe this album as the Live at the Regal for metal guitarists. Tony Iommi got the most wicked guitar tone I’ve ever heard. It sounded real raw, metallic and heavy. His trills gave me the mental image of his steel strings pounding against an anvil. I enjoyed listening to him stretch out on “Heaven and Hell.” He even tacked on an extended solo piece at the end of it. I also liked the way he anticipated the riff to Metallica’s “One” during his introduction to “Black Sabbath”. Keep in mind Iommi’s axe of choice has always been a Gibson SG Guitar. Let that be a lesson to all you guitarists out there buying axes made so-called “exclusively” for “metal”.

I always thought Weather Report’s Heavy Weather had the most creative album cover. That was until I saw Live Evil’s. It features figures that illustrate every song on the CD against a dark background. It’s amazing they managed to get all tracks represented so vividly.

Aside from the great musicianship, the lyrics are much better than I expected from a heavy metal band. The great alliteration “phantom figures free forever” in “Neon Knights” really set the song apart from others in the genre. Well, that and the line “bloody angels fast descending.” If Shakespeare were alive today and playing in a heavy metal band he’d be struggling to come up with words that good.

Even without Ozzy and Bill Ward, Live Evil represents the Black Sabbath brand very well. Like Miles Davis, Tony Iommy and Geezer Butler both had ears for talent. They managed to bring new capable musicians into the band and keep it relevant. It does make me wonder what might have been had Dio and Appice not left the group following its recording. In that sense this album is both “Heaven and Hell” for fans like me.

Music Review – Ozzy Osbourne: Live and Loud

Who would’ve thought someone with an appetite for rabid animals could turn out to be one of the greatest front men in Rock and Roll history? Nowhere is the extraordinary interplay between performer and audience more deftly displayed than on Ozzy’s 1993 release Live and Loud. Ozzy Osbourne built a rapport with his fans that I haven’t heard since the late James Brown’s 1962 performance on Live at the Apollo.

When I first heard Black Sabbath’s latest release, 13, it made me feel old. In my old age I can’t handle the modern Heavy Metal scene. So I had to go back and listen to some “classic”, mellower Ozzy. That inspired me to pull Live and Loud out of my CD collection and give it a listen. Just like every time I give Led Zeppelin discs a hearing, the monumental talent of the performer struck me just as it did the first time I heard his music.

Ozzy recorded Live and Loud during his 1991 – 1992 “retirement” tour. Fans now shed “No More Tears” as Ozzy thankfully re-considered. (If Ozzy is reading this: please stick to the music and give up television.) The audience can also be grateful for this monumental career retrospective from one of Rock’s most colorful characters.

This album had it all. The band played the classic Black Sabbath tracks us old timers can unwind to such as “Paranoid”, “War Pigs”, and even “Changes”. As an added bonus, the original members of the band re-united, thankfully not for the last time, to perform “Black Sabbath”.

Ozzy also included tracks from his solo career. The band cranked out killer versions of tunes from the Randy Rhoades era, as well. They included such gems as “Mr. Crowley”, “I Don’t Know” and “Flying High Again”. They also played many tracks from the No More Tears album as well as others.

I thought Ozzy’s back-up band outstanding. I liked the heavy bottom end tone Bassist Michael Inez used throughout the entire recording. To my ears it sounds like a lot of modern bass players put guitar strings on their instruments and crank the treble on their amps. It pleased me not hear that on this album. It always brings a smile to my face when the bass sounds like a bass.

I found Randy Castillo’s drumming competent. I did think him guilty of “overplaying” at several points throughout the album. I heard some bass rolls that seemed excessive. I thought he did some unnecessary snare rolls. Before readers comment and point out to me that’s what Heavy Metal drummers do, I still think some of Castillo’s playing excessive. I do concede, however, that he’s not as over-the-top as Mike Portnoy during his Dream Theater days.

The true highlight of Live and Loud was undoubtedly Zakk Wylde’s guitar playing. The tone he got out of his “Bull’s Eye” Les Paul Custom sounded both rough and clear at the same time. He got that legendary Gibson crunch tone on tracks like “Suicide Solution” while sounding great clean on “Goodbye to Romance”. While no Randy Rhoades or Tony Iommi, Wylde added his own unique voice to their guitar parts and made them his own.

The only criticism I have of this album is Ozzy’s repeated use of a certain four letter f-word.  (Hint: It wasn’t farm.) When I first purchased this album in the mid-1990s I lived with my parents. I positioned my sound system next to my bedroom window that overlooked my neighbors’ porch. While I thoroughly enjoyed the music on Live and Loud I couldn’t play it without head phones due to Ozzy’s repeated profanity. This was the one drawback to the album. Due to the sound quality, especially on the tone of Wylde’s guitar, this was an album I wanted to blast at full volume through my speakers. Unfortunately, it was only able to live up to half its title when I bought it.

Ozzy Osbourne’s tremendous passion for his music came through on every song. His sincere love of his fans was evident every time he addressed the audience. I’ve heard many live albums and been to my share of concerts. I’ve never heard a performer as effusive in his appreciation of his fans. After listening to the 1995 re-mastered version of Live and Loud, it’s we who should be thanking Ozzy.  

Music Review – Paul McCartney and Wings: Wings over America

I’d say maybe I’m amazed that it took so long for this album to be back in print again, but there’s no maybe about it. With the greatest of respect to those who still admit they ever listened to Peter Frampton, Wings over America was the greatest live album released in the 1970s. (Full Disclosure: I’m a huge Who fan, but even I reluctantly acknowledge it’s a much better album than Live at Leeds.) I wouldn’t describe it as recording of a great rock show, I’d call it a true tour-de-force. It featured Wings playing their biggest hits while they were in their prime. In addition, it included some stellar renditions of Lennon/McCartney classics.

 

Wings over America provided the total Paul McCartney experience. It showcased the full range of his musical skills as a singer/songwriter. Fans get to hear why he was one of the best bassists in the history of rock and roll on tracks such as the funky bluesy “Medicine Jar”. Some of his piano playing on “Maybe I’m Amazed” even gave Jerry Lee Lewis a run for his money. He also demonstrated his proficiency as a guitar player on the acoustic classic “Blackbird”.

 

It’s difficult to play any of the aforementioned instruments, let alone play them well. Sir Paul did this all, not only on the same album, but during the course of one concert! He earned a knighthood for that feat alone!

 

I first purchased this album 25 years ago when I started playing bass guitar. Yes, I started out as a bassist when I was three years old. At the time McCartney’s chops on his Rickenbacker 4001 impressed me, but I found the album disappointing. I didn’t like the fact that McCartney switched between bass and the other instruments. As I’ve matured musically, when I listen to Wings over America now I appreciate it from an overall song composition and arrangement perspective. Plus, even I have to admit, Denny Lane played some exceptional bass lines; especially on “The Long and Winding Road”. I enjoyed hearing a Fender P-Bass as well.

 

I thought the quality of musicianship on this album incomparable. McCartney selected an outstanding group of players to back Wings on this album. Jimmy McCullough did a superb job on lead guitar. I especially enjoyed his slide work on “Hi, Hi, Hi”. Denny Lane exhibited fantastic performances on rhythm guitar and bass. He did a nice job singing on a tune from his Moody Blues days, “Go Now”. Joe English held down the beat a bit more creatively than Ringo would have on these tracks. The horn section was great. And Linda McCartney, while no Rick Wakeman on keyboards, got the job done.

 

While I loved the live renditions of Beatles staples such as “The Long and Winding Road” and “Lady Madonna” the true highlight of this album was the acoustic set at the end of the first disc. Wings recorded this in 1976: years before MTV Unplugged made it cool to pull out acoustic instruments. This band performed the greatest acoustic set I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard some good ones. It opened with the Paul McCartney penned “Picasso’s Last Words”. It featured one of the greatest lyrics ever.  

Drink to me, drink to my health

You know I can’t drink anymore

Classic!

           

The set then progressed through Paul Simon’s “Richard Corey” and another McCartney tune, the mellow “Bluebird”. Then they got serious. The band played “I’ve Just Seen a Face” in a way that rivalled the version the Fab Four recorded. McCartney then swapped his 12-String for a 6 and performed solemn readings of “Blackbird” and “Yesterday”. I would’ve felt thrilled to hear the last two tracks once, let alone to have the opportunity to listen to the re-mastered versions on the disc.

 

The 2013 re-mastering of Wings over America is an absolute must for McCartney fans. It’s tough to beat the combination of great music with superb sound quality. Wings never sounded better.