Music Reviews

Popular Music CDs - Part 23 - August, 1999

Graham Vine and Bill Vine





Def Leppard

Bludgeon Riffola; 546 307-2

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After their last outing with "Slang", which marked something of a departure from the norm, Def Leppard returns with an album much more in keeping with their NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) roots yet which still has a fresh sound to it. "Demolition Man" is a lively opening song, and you can tell that this would make a great live track. The song surges forward towards a middle section with a different rhythm from the rest of the track, which in turn leads into a nice simple guitar solo before returning to the main tune of the song. "Promises" is classic Leppard with the arpeggiated chords and harmonies that have been present on previous albums. It is a much slower track than "Demolition Man", and so provides a nice contrast. Again there is a guitar solo which, in keeping with the rest of the track, has all the trademarks of a distinctive Def Leppard song. "Back In Your Face" is, as might be expected from the title, slightly more gritty. A lot of this is due to the drumbeat which would not be out of place on Queen's "We Will Rock You" if it were slowed down a touch. 

"Goodbye", another slower track, bears a resemblance to other slow Leppard tracks but manages somehow to remain individual where it could so easily have become formulaic. There is a delightful guitar solo at 2:36 which is surprisingly sensitive, perhaps due to the absence of distortion, but whatever it is, it works well on this piece. "All Night" starts off sounding very much like a generic 'Prince' track and returns to this at various points in the song. These 'Prince-like' verses are interspersed by a more traditional rock chorus. "Paper Sun" sounds a bit like "I Wanna Be Your Hero" from the "Retro active" album, but also has a similarity to "Fractured Love" from the same album. This is not a bad thing as they are both very good songs. "It's Only Love" is one of the tracks on this album that sounds the least 'Def Leppard' but this little piece of experimentation has paid off, and the result has been very successful. Again it is a relatively slow track and does feature some sections which are more 'Def Leppard' than others. From this point on there seems to be more experimentation in the tracks, but without losing the Def Leppard feel. "21st Century Sha La La La Girl" offers us a slightly bemusing title but is actually a very catchy number which is not too complicated, but at the same time, does produce a surprising amount of variation.

"To Be Alive" is very relaxing, and the lyrics are quite moving. It is a nice song to close your eyes to, although be prepared for the following track, "Disintegrate" which is an instrumental track, but is much more 'rock' than some of the previous tracks. "Guilty" returns to more recognizable ground once again and, as with  "Paper Sun", contains similarities to other Leppard tracks. The same can be said of "Day After Day", but this song also brings a noticeable element of darkness to the proceedings, which is actually quite welcome. The final track on the album is "Kings Of Oblivion", and this is once again a track which could quite easily have come from the "Retro active" sessions. Like most of the songs on that album, it is rather dark and dirty and is a perfect track to end this album on, which has managed to provide us with a taste of most sides of the Def Leppard archive. There are also some new visions which show us that there will most probably be more records on the way from this fivesome. Overall this is an excellent album for Def Leppard fans, but is also recommended to those who are not.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Demolition Man

2. Promises

3. Back In Your Face

4. Goodbye

5. All Night

6. Paper Sun

7. It's Only Love

8. 21st Century Sha La La La Girl

9. To Be Alive

10. Disintegrate

11. Guilty

12. Day After Day

13. Kings Of Oblivion

- Bill Vine -


"Friends and Relatives"

The Electric Light Orchestra

Eagle; EDG CD 091

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Here we are, half-way through 1999, and Eagle Records treats us to a brace of new releases from the original Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). For the enthusiast, it is always interesting when new material is uncovered and made available. So a little analysis is in order, and the first of these two double CDs is a veritable rock family-tree with, of course, the Electric Light Orchestra at its hub. In many ways it follows the theme I established in my radio feature "The Jeff Lynne Connection". All of the acts featured on "Friends And Relatives" have a very direct link to the ELO including some (live) material which will be new to many listeners.

Back in the early 1970s, a rock/pop group called The Move decided the take the core of that group (Roy Wood, Bev Bevan, Jeff Lynne) in a different, more orchestral, direction and so ELO was born. Prior to that transformation, The Move had achieved great success (in the UK, at least), and three of their best are included in this album. Amazingly, the sound quality from those early releases is preserved extremely well. But even before The Move, there was Carl Wayne & The Diplomats. And after Wood left ELO there was Wizzard. So the 'spiders-web' of talented musicians who have connections with the Electric Light Orchestra spreads outwards, even up to the present day.

The live tracks from ELO are taken from two of Eagle's earlier releases, based on the 'Wembley' and 'Winterland' concerts. The sound quality from these has been commented on adversely in the past, so it is no surprise that it leaves something to be desired on the present album also. That being said, the material has been selected from the best available of the two live concerts and will be new to many a fan. Certainly the excitement of a live performance is captured here. It would seem that Eagle was unable to get clearance for ELO studio material, but that is easily obtained on CD albums, so better to include these potentially 'rare' tracks.

To comment on each track from the other acts would be impractical, so I will mention those which were highlights to me. The two Bev Bevan tracks are excellent - I wished for more artist information in the sleeve-notes. Including Mik Kaminski ('Violinski') with his wonderful hit "Clog Dance" made this available to me for the first time on CD, and the Tandy Morgan tracks have convinced me that I need to research this duo to obtain more of their output. The Carle Wayne / Choral Union version of "Miss You Nights" is the best I've ever heard. So it's an interesting compilation and a fascination theme to follow. There have been other 'Friends And Relatives' compilations, and I intend to look further into these. The choice of material on the current album is well made, showing the performances off to good effect, and revealing new musical threads which are well worth persuing. My horizons have been expanded wider yet again.

For reference, full track-listing:

Disc One:

1. Intro (Live) - Tony Curtis

2. Rockaria! (Live) - ELO

3. Telephone Line (Live) - ELO

4. Are You Ready To Rock - Wizzard

5. Let There Be Drums - Bev Bevan

6. Fire Brigade - The Move

7. Top Ten Record - Rick Price

8. Custer's Last Stand - Rick Wakeman featuring Roy Wood

9. In Time - Denny Lane

10. Someday - Carl Wayne with Choral Union

11. Clog Dance - Violinski

12. Under The Blue/Asteroid - Tandy Morgan

13. Any Old Time Will Do - Roy Wood

14. Evil Woman (Live) - ELO

15. 10538 Overture/Do Ya (Live) - ELO


 Disc Two:

1. Mr Blue Sky (Live) - ELO

2. Livin' Thing (Live) - ELO

3. Flowers In The Rain - The Move

4. Rock 'n' Roll Winter (Loony's Tune) - Wizzard

5. Bitter Sweet - Rick Price

6. Pictures In My Pillow - Tandy Morgan

7. Heavy Head - Bev Bevan

8. Miss You Nights - Carl Wayne with Choral Union

9. Eternal Quest - Denny Laine

10. Ria - Tandy Morgan

11. This Is The Story Of My Love (Baby) - Wizzard

12. Oh What A Shame - Roy Wood

13. Blackberry Way - The Move

14. Roll Over Beethoven (Live) - ELO

- GV -


"Live at the BBC"

Electric Light Orchestra

Eagle; EDG CD 097

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"Live At The BBC" is the second of a pair of new releases featuring the original Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), the other being "Friends And Relatives". In many ways this is the more interesting double CD. It covers concerts performed by the band for transmission by the BBC and includes two quite different periods in ELO's development. From early in 1973, when they were still an arty, experimental rock/classic fusion ensemble, we have songs based around the first two ELO albums. Shortly after this period (in 1974), there are tracks from another concert. The later period of the Electric Light Orchestra is represented by a summer of 1976 concert when they were heading towards their most successful rock/pop period and the all-conquering "Out Of The Blue" album.

The audio on these tracks is, quite simply, superb. The BBC engineers captured every nuance, and the sound is crystal-clear. The concerts were performed in front of respectful audiences, and there are nice introductions from the shows' comperes. Although live shows, the sound is much more like in a studio, playing to invited fans, so the BBC must have had mic feeds ahead of the band's own mixing desk. But being live concerts brings us those variations in the set which are unobtainable from normal studio albums. It is these moments which produce the magic of "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" - two versions! The original studio album version of this track always sounded a little flat, but Jeff and the gang really bring it to life on "Live At The BBC".

I would have liked more 'showcase' performances from individual members of the band. Mik Kaminski's "Violin Solo / Orange Blossom Special" seems to be over before it's begun! And the sleeve-notes, while adequate, could have usefully catalogued the albums and respective dates to help plot the progression through the band's various phases. It's best to ignore the repeated quote of "Oh No Not Susan" as a typo.

Of all the live material from the original Electric Light Orchestra which is available on CD, this new album has to be about the best. They are terrific performances backed by fantastic sound quality. It is to be hoped that Eagle Records are able to secure the rights to more of this material, including the middle to late period of ELO's first incarnation. And judging by the sell-out concerts for the mainly touring band 'ELO Part Two', there is still enormous interest in this unique combination of rock music with a classical touch.

For reference, full track-listing:

Disc One:

1. From The Sun To The World

2. Kuiama

3. In The Hall Of The Mountain King

4. Roll Over Beethoven

5. King Of The Universe

6. Bluebird Is Dead

7. Oh No Not Susan

8. New World Rising

9. Violin Solo / Orange Blossom Special

10. In The Hall Of The Mountain King

11. Great Balls Of Fire


Disc Two:

1. Fire On High

2. Poker

3. Nightrider

4. Medley from "On The Third Day"

5. Showdown

6. Eldorado

7. Poor Boy (The Greewood)

8. Illusions In G Major

9. Strange Magic

10. Evil Woman

11. Ma Ma Ma Belle

- GV -

Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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