Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

The Who The Kids Are Alright DVD (Deluxe Edition) (2008)


Really, I just don’t know how this DVD could be any better.

It seems like every night, Dave and Jay have some new band on stage. Some angst-projecting vocalist trying to sound like Kurt Cobain, some guitarist who knows 5 chords and 2 ways to strum each one, a bassist who plays one note at a time, and a drummer who knows only one rythem – bump-bah-bump-bah-bump-bah-badump. But no matter how bad they are, they all have one thing in common – they’re all pretty enough for MTV. It’s enough to make me scream in frustration, because I know how good rock and roll can really be, and this DVD is it.

Patch your DVD player through your stereo, put masking tape on all your window glass, stuff the dog’s ears with cotton, protect all small children with DOT approved devices, then pop this DVD in and hide under the couch, because THIS is rock and roll as it was and is meant to be – master musicians with genuine f— it all attitude, playing through 10 tons of Marshall Hiwatt amps. In the late 70’s there was a famous ad in “Stereo Review” showing a guy sitting in an armchair in front of a speaker, with his necktie being blown straight back behind him. Picture that, and you get an idea of what this movie and this band are all about.

The movie itself is half comedy and half action-drama. The comedy comes during interviews and conversations with the band, with Keith initiating most of it and everyone else either joining in or, in the case of the slick corporate “host” types, getting skewered. The action-drama is all on stage, with Pete whirling his way through incredible guitar playing, Roger providing his usual peerless singing, Keith bringing something almost otherworldly to his drums, and John holding it all down, standing there motionless like the rock of Gibralter, his fingers on the bass a blur.

Unlike so many modern bands, who surround themselves with “star” mystique and who are always safe and cool on stage, The Who were self-deprecating and able to laugh at themselves when they weren’t playing, and when they were playing… well, when they were playing, they consistently reached for the stars. Sometimes it didn’t work – sometimes they sounded like crap. But when they were in the sweet spot, when they were in “the zone,” they were, to use the apt words of another reviewer, “the greatest rock and roll band ever to draw breath.”

Most of what you get in this DVD special edition is “in the zone,” and what little isn’t, doesn’t really detract from the experience. Everyone who worked on producing this DVD edition should get a medal, as the film looks and sounds as close to perfection as it is ever going to get.

By the way, if you are listening through an old-fashioned, two speaker system, choose “stereo” under sound options. The reviewer who panned the sound, probably hadn’t tried that option yet – on my system (Carver tuner with 2 Dahlquist DQM-9 Compact loudspeakers) choosing “stereo” cleaned up the sound greatly.

Unfortunately, most of the people who buy this DVD, probably already know how great it is. You won’t be disappointed, and if you show it to a friend or two, maybe the memory of The Who won’t die with us. There’s never been another band like them, and this DVD does them justice for the ages.

May 31, 2013 Posted by | The Who The Kids Are Alright DVD | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin A Day Before The Hoochie Coochie Man’s B’Day (Bristol, January 1970)


Colston Hall, Bristol, England – January 8th, 1970

Disc 1 (53:49): We’re Gonna Groove, I Can’t Quit You, Dazed And Confused, Heartbreaker, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, Since I’ve Been Loving You

Disc 2 (40:00): organ solo, Thank You, Moby Dick, How Many More Times, band introduction, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown

“A Day Before The Hoochie Coochie Man’s Birthday” is Tarantura’s take on the same tape used for the TCOLZ release “Out Of The Bristol Tale” reviewed previously by GS.

As stated in the earlier review the sound quality of the tape varies but I felt it might actually rate a fair to VG- quality rating in places. The recorder seems to have trouble on some of the faster, louder songs such as Heartbreaker, WLL and Communication Breakdown but it was actually surprisingly clear on the quieter bluesy songs like “I Can’t Quit You”, “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and might even rate a VG- on “White Summer” and “Thank You”.

The louder songs had some points of distortion where the sheer volume of the music overloaded the recorder and there was a low level of tape hiss evident during the quieter passages. There was also a very strange panning effect on several songs which I only noticed with headphones but was not evident while I listened to this release in my car.

The show starts off with a fade into “We’re Gonna Groove” missing the beginning of the song. The sound is distant, slightly muffled and very compressed with a fair amount of echo. There are several microsecond dropouts which are not too distracting. While every instrument can be heard the effect can be a wall of sound at times. The band jumps directly into “I Can’t Quit You” and the sound clears up significantly as if the recorder was moved out from under the tapers chair.

The tape is now very listenable with all the instruments showing better separation with Jimmy’s guitar dominant in the mix. We next get a great fifteen and a half minute version of “Dazed and Confused” with very unique solos by Jimmy. Robert announces Heartbreaker next with the band jumping right into the song. The recorder overloads at times probably from the sheer volume of the band and there is a strange rapid panning effect of the sound, I mentioned earlier, at different points during the song.

The highlight of the show for me is up next with Jimmy playing an absolutely brilliant razor sharp thirteen and a half minute version of White Summer/ Black Mountain Side. The recording again shows the strange panning effect for most of the first two minutes, and to a lesser extent in several other parts, of the song. Side 1 ends with an excellent compact six and a half minute version of “Since I’ve Been Loving You “and a very short snippet of “Thank You” which opens Disc 2.

Disc 2 starts with “Thank You” with the sound quality now verging on VG- . Next Moby Dick is cut after about 2 minutes which in my opinion is not a great loss as echo makes the drums very muddy and a tough listen. Robert does the band introductions at the start of “How Many More Times” not at the end as the back cover setlist claims. Robert intro’s Jimmy as “Jimmy Hootchie Coochie Man Page’ which is the inspiration for the unusual title of this release. The show concludes with a very tight 20 minute version of ”How Many More Times” which sets the crowd into a frenzy screaming for more. With the MC whipping the crowd up, we get two very powerful compact versions of “Whole Lotta Love” and “Communication Breakdown”

The packaging is a very simple glossy cardboard bifold with pictures of the band members superimposed over copies of the tour poster on the inside covers and small picture of the band in a pub next to a black and white version of the tour poster on the back cover.

The discs are housed in paper sleeves with round cellophane windows. Disc 1 is silk screened with what looks to be a period correct black and white photo of Jimmy playing his beloved Black Beauty Les Paul Custom which was eventually stolen at an airport while in transit. Disc 2 has a black and white photo from the same concert which shows Robert and jimmy in action with Jimmy playing one of his sunburst Les Paul’s.

After reading the TCOLZ release review of this tape I was a little apprehensive about reviewing this title as I am not a fan of poor sounding shows but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how listenable and enjoyable I found this release to be. The performance is outstanding and the sound quality was just good enough to make me want to listen to the whole show several times while preparing this review.

With a very listenable sound quality and the outstanding performance I would agree this is a must have for the hardcore fan. For the casual fan you might be better served getting a copy of the excellent pro recorded Royal Albert Hall concert from the next night but if you have an opportunity to listen to this show you may be pleasantly surprised.

May 31, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin A Day Before The Hoochie Coochie Man’s B’Day | , | Leave a comment

The Doors 1st Album (1967)


Their debut album was shocking and immediately put them in the superstar league.

Rightly so: and not only because the general aura of this debut was quite different from anything anyone was doing at the moment, but also because it was incredibly catchy, melodic and displayed signs of genius in most of the tracks. Darkness and dreariness that was given a catchy pop edge – something that Jefferson Airplane, the world’s most depressing band at that period, could only have dreamt of and never managed to achieve in the end.

There’s a certain shy feel about it, too, as if the band wasn’t yet ready to overflow us with self-penned material. So they do a couple of covers – surprisingly, they manage to totally fit into the standard paradigm. The Broadway musical ditty ‘Alabama Song’ is by now a rightful Morrison classic, as Jim delivers the ‘show me the way to the next little girl’ lyrics with enough conviction to guarantee us that ‘tomorrow we must die’.

As for Willie Dixon’s ‘Back Door Man’, now there’s a tune that drives me nuts, at times it managed to edge out ‘Light My Fire’ and ‘End Of The Night’ as my favourites on here. There’s something Zeppelin-ish about the way the dudes treat this blues cover, sharply accentuating the main heavy riff and ‘whetting’ all the edges of the song so that it slices through your mind as nothing else can. Jim’s lionish roar on this track is easily his best vocal delivery on the entire album, and Krieger tops it off with a wall-rattling guitar solo. While the Doors were never a generic blues band, this track showcases, from the very beginning of their career, Jim’s ability to assimilate old blues to his own dark, dreadful, terrifying style.

Thus the main problem with the album is definitely not the presence of covers, but rather the presence of some rather nasty filler: the short little ditties ‘I Looked At You’ and ‘Take It As It Comes’ are nothing but your average pop songs set in the same ‘negative’ environment. ‘I Looked At You’, in particular, irritates me every time I put it on with its pedestrian lyrics – ‘I looked at you/You looked at me/I smiled at you/You smiled at me/And we’re on our way’. Together with ‘Take It As It Comes’, the song feels pretty much out of place on the record; add to this that ‘The End’ has never been my favourite ‘epic’ Doors song, and you can understand why I so often turn it down right after ‘Back Door Man’ which is the first song on side two.

By no means are these two tunes ‘bad’, but they are certainly not up to the standard of the first-rate songs which are mostly grouped on the first side of the record. The album opener ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ is the first fast ‘dark’ rocker ever recorded, and it announces the Doors’ arrival on the scene with a crash boom bang: a low, grumbly, but amazingly catchy guitar riff, ominous, mathematically precise organ solos and above all – the lyrics: ‘you know the day destroys the night/Night divides the day/Tried to run tried to hide/Break on through to the other side’.

The seven-minute anthem ‘Light My Fire’ raises all kinds of emotions, especially with Ray’s organ and Robbie’s guitar solos which are so well constructed and so flawlessly played that you never regret their lengthiness even for a second. A crying shame that they were edited out of the single version – but that’s how it goes, and the band couldn’t really do anything about it. Thus begins the lengthy war of the Conceptual Album Creators with the Hit Single Producers.

It’s the ballads, though, that best display Jim’s talents: the gentle and beautiful ‘Crystal Ship’ which deals with matters far wider and far more dangerous than a simple love story, and especially the haunting mystical ‘End Of The Night’ where Ray sounds like a professional Dark Magician and manages to create an atmosphere so dreary and majestic at the same time that it really makes one shiver.
The two lesser tracks are ‘Soul Kitchen’, which nevertheless boasts a really memorable melody, with a strange naggin’ organ riff that borders on the genial, and ’20th Century Fox’ which, strange enough, some people dislike, but I really don’t see anything that nasty about it. It’s just a little poppy, but just a little, and it has a great solo; what else do you need? ‘But she’s – no – drag – just – watch – the – way – she walks’, chants Jim, and the line sends me laughin’ down the alleyway.

Last comes the least. Actually, the lengthiest. ‘The End’ is often hailed as the Doors’ most successful ten-minute-long (actually, eleven) ‘gothic’ epic, the one that sets a pattern for all the following stream-of-conscience, rambling poetical deliveries by Jim set to a somewhat rudimentary, but strangely effective musical backings. But me, I’m not convinced. I like the poetry, and most of the images that Jim conjures along the way, all the ‘weird scenes inside the gold mine’, ‘the blue bus is calling us’, ‘ride the snake to the lake’, and, most important, the famous Oedipus complex description where the line ‘Mother I want to fuck you’ is effectively buried in the mix under an undecipherable mess of roar and hum – all these things are quite flashy and effective.

The problem is, the musical accompaniment is WAY too monotonous and, frankly speaking, boring to let you enjoy the number from beginning to, well, the end; more or less, the thing consists of just two or three guitar lines being endlessly repeated over and over, and even the ‘transitions’ in the sections (both this and ‘When The Music’s Over’ off the next album are built according to one scheme: intro – fast transitional passage – main psycho part – fast transitional passage – outro) don’t seem all that great. While the song still stands out as one of the Doors’ main trademarks, I simply don’t think it has enough musical potential in it to live up to all the hype.

In the light of this, I wouldn’t give the album a better rating than an eight: while the album’s absolutely groundbreaking nature is doubtless, and the Doors wouldn’t really make much conceptual innovations over the next four years, the record still betrays signs of relative inexperience in the studio. It’s been often called one of the most impressive debuts in rock history, and maybe it was: the album’s sales skyrocketed in no time, and the Doors became superstars almost overnight (although the singles buying public wasn’t so sure: ‘Break On Through’, the first single from the album, flopped).

In retrospect, though, the album’s flaws become all the more evident: there ain’t much of ’em, but the inclusion of ‘I Looked At You’ and the monotonousness of ‘The End’ are among the most offensive. Their next record, however, would shut out all doubts about whether they would be able to better themselves, and it still remains an absolute masterpiece of the ‘dark psychedelia’ genre. At least, that’s how I regard it.

May 31, 2013 Posted by | The Doors 1st Album | | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix Isle Of Wight (1971)


This is a rip-off of sorts, but not a very painful one.

A lot of Jimi’s performances from the Isle of Wight Festival, which, as everybody knows, was his last huge public appearance, ended up in different documentaries and stupid ‘collections’ which nobody has any reason to own. In the end, what was left was placed on this LP, and that wasn’t much: just six songs that leave the album with a shamefully brief running time. So in the end it all comes to whether you will or will not cope with the idea that the actual package could have been much better. It sure could, but let’s deal with reality, ‘kay?

The Isle of Wight performance has long been rumoured as presenting Jimi in a very poor state. Tired, disillusioned, stoned out of his mind and actually sick of live playing. On the other hand, certain Jimi fans claim that what some people view as a ‘poor’ state of playing is actually nothing but just a more refined and moderate style: simply put, Jimi was sick of his usual scene image as the tongue-waggler ‘n’ teeth-picker that casual fans regarded him to be, and for this particular show he decided to refrain from the gimmicks and just, you know, play some guitar for a change.

I think that, as usual, the truth lies somewhere in between. On one hand, Isle Of Wight is a nice album to listen to, and whatever one says, there’s plenty of energy to be found. On the other hand, I certainly wouldn’t call Jimi’s style on here spectacular or anything. He does engage in some of the usual gimmicks anyway (‘Foxy Lady’ has some teeth-picking, for instance), and also, whoever would wish to hear Jimi at his freakin’ best, should turn his attention to Woodstock; no other live performance of the man I’ve ever heard can compare with the intelligent, masterful riffage of the final thirty minutes of that show.

So Isle Of Wight is just… competent. Miles better than the stupid Band Of Gypsies album, because it’s all Hendrix, for God’s sake: it’s not Buddy Miles. Oh, by the way, Jimi’s backing band consists of the trusty Mitch Mitchell on drums and Billy Cox on bass, but I guess you knew that already. What a nice thing to know that Buddy Miles is no longer there to trouble us. Good riddance to bad circuits.
The recording quality is pretty fine, although there sure is one question I’d like to pose – what’s up with the endless ‘radio announcements’ on the quiet parts of the songs?

Is this stuff they were transmitting at the Festival at the exact same moments or is this just some kind of mixing crap that got added later through some butthead’s incompetency? Heck, this thing already looks like a bootleg of sorts; don’t make matters worse by adding further arguments. Apart from that, Jimi is perfectly audible, even if I bet you anything that Jimi is the easiest player on earth to be rendered ‘audible’. For the most part you couldn’t hear no bass or drums at all once the man started being really loud.

The six songs in question present no huge surprises. There are only two crowd-pleasing “oldies” – a lengthy ‘Foxy Lady’ and a rather brief ‘All Along The Watchtower’; the latter is performed exceedingly well, but I don’t think it beats the studio version exactly. Plus, you gotta get used to Jimi missing the lyrics all the time. As for ‘Foxy Lady’… you gotta remember that by 1970, ‘Foxy Lady’, along with ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘Hey Joe’, was probably that very ‘stone’ around Jimi’s neck that popular bands dread so much: always requested, always preferred to the ‘newer’ stuff, and it’s really amazing that Hendrix was able to master enough strength and conviction to pull it off in the usual wild manner on here.

Maybe it can’t be called ‘fresh’, but that’s quite understandable. Given the conditions, it’s fresh enough.
The other four songs are taken from Jimi’s recent compositions. ‘Freedom’ and ‘In From The Storm’ you can look up on First Rays Of The New Rising Sun, while ‘Lover Man’ and ‘Midnight Lightning’ can be found on South Saturn Delta. The only serious disappointment for me is ‘Lover Man’ – compared to the rip-roaring metallic studio performance, this version is pretty short and timid, almost like a ‘raped single version’, if you know what I mean.

The other three songs roll along pretty well, with even a minor Mitch Mitchell spotlight: he gets an economic, tolerable drum solo at the beginning to ‘In From The Storm’. ‘Freedom’ has great riffs, and ‘Midnight Lightning’ is at least more impressive than the acoustic performance on SSD, even if hardly memorable. Anyway, Hendrix fans will be glad to add this stuff to their collection, as superfluous as that phrase actually is. The stage banter is also worth a chuckle, with Jimi dedicating ‘Foxy Lady’ to certain namechecked ladies and the infamous ‘I just woke up two minutes ago’ phrase at the beginning of ‘Lover Man’. Peace, brother.

Of course, it goes without saying that, unlike the Who’s disc from the same festival, Jimi’s performance is worth far more for its historic significance, and it can form the concluding part of perhaps the most outstanding ‘historical trilogy’ of all time (from Monterey to Woodstock to Wight), so I was really hunting for this album for a long time. We all need a little symmetry and systematic treatment in our lives, you know.

But no, I didn’t raise the rating for ‘historic significance’, if that’s what you wanna know. No slandering, please!

May 31, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Isle Of Wight | | 1 Comment

Art Of Noise In Visible Silence (1986)


No Trevor Horn? Well, what’s in a name but a little-known Yes member who couldn’t even turn an album like Drama into a timeless masterpiece.

Turns out that Dudley & Co. can function as a functional function even without their spiritual mentor. There have been made subtle changes, though. And the subtlest change is the most painful: they don’t sound nearly as.. uhh… juvenile on this record. It’s darker and denser and at times, it’s fuckin’ serious. And it’s just not as captivating to hear an avantgarde record that takes itself seriously as hearing an avantgarde record that just goofs around with you.

If only for the reason that there’s way too many records that fall into the former category and way too few that fall into the latter. Still, it’s a good album, and as every good album, it grows on you from the minute you have firmly established that this just might be a good album. The big temptation about it was the single ‘Peter Gunn’, released at the same time and featuring Duane Eddy himself on guitar. Actually playing, not just sampled, unless I’ve got something wrong.

It was, of course, an excellent choice, and today, along with ‘Close To The Edit’, it just might be the most “quotable” AON track of all time. Eddy’s basic guitar riff is, of course, used as the spine for all the usual AON gimmicks – synth loops, electronic drums, sampled effects a-plenty and hilarious dum-dum-dumming vocals. Perhaps the most telling moment is when they actually try to reproduce the melody with a sequence of their favourite sound – that of the automobile engine revving up! That moment just got to be heard. And for the diehards, this new CD edition that I am reviewing actually adds an extended six-minute version of the track as a bonus (with Eddie muttering ‘oh you don’t think I should do one more?’ midway through).

However, great fun as it is, ‘Peter Gunn’ just isn’t very typical of the rest of this album – in terms of atmosphere, it hearkens back to the debut, and the only thing that it has in common with the rest of In Visible Silence is that it’s much more of a compact musical performance than any of the early numbers. Only the opening track – ‘Opus 4’ – is “anti-musical” (just a bunch of overdubbed Dudley vocals sounding occasionally not unlike a stoned Beach Boys outtake from the Smile sessions); most of the rest not only have rhythms, but actually melodies. And they’re much more openly danceable, too. In fact, ‘Paranoimia’ definitely has a disco glitz to it, although, of course, a weird one.

Keeping up with the tradition, much of the album’s second side is given over to ‘Camilla – The Old Old Story’, a moody, half-ambient (but rhythmic) instrumental that looks like the yonger sister of ‘Moments In Love’. In fact, it’s almost as good as ‘Moments In Love’, but lacks the major hook of that monster, and the 10cc/’I’m Not In Love’ connection turns out way too strong (those deep hushed vocals singing gibberish I can’t decipher are hardly a coincidence).

And then there’s ‘Instruments Of Darkness’, another huge epic that more or less matches its name – it is dark, starting from the ominous overdubbed political commentary throughout and ending with the sometimes almost Wagnerian “orchestral” whomps and swooshes. Maybe a ‘Hey! Hey!’ or a ‘can I say something?’ would help somehow alleviate the atmosphere, but instead of that, we only get proto-Rammstein yells of ‘come on!’.

If we prefer to speak in terms of catchiness, the best song after ‘Peter Gunn’ would have to be ‘Legs’ – an almost mainstreamish synth-popper… then again, wait a minute, I keep forgetting that at this time Art Of Noise pretty much were mainstream, right? Weren’t they supposed to be selling out the electronic underground and all? Well, on ‘Legs’ they’re doing it nifty fine, and it’s a terrible pity that so few Eighties’ synth-poppers bothered to study their approach – with numerous overdubs, diverse keyboard tones, and repetitiveness based on cyclic development rather than on… well, on repetitiveness.

There’s a whole slew of catchy moments on ‘Legs’, and the biggest problem is you’re gonna have to fish them out, just like you have to fish out the best 10cc hooks off their classic records – there’s just so many of them they can’t bring themselves to repeat them more than a couple times.

‘Backbeat’, in the meantime, rises to almost epic heights at times – it’s definitely ambitious, what with all the Quadrophenia-like synthesizers giving the track epic (or mock-epic) majesty it probably doesn’t deserve, but, to give them their due, they never really sound pretentious. You know, after all, that it’s all just one big quote, and that if sometimes the synthesizers swirl around in pseudo-violin phrases that really belong on ‘Love Reign O’er Me’, this is totally intentional. (The band’s Who fetish is pretty interesting, actually – remember the ‘Baba O’Riley’ sample? Hmm, could it be a masked tribute to Pete Townshend as one of the big “electronic sample” innovators of the early Seventies?).

All in all, the “Hornless band” are still going strong, but whereas that earlier 12 was afforded by me out of true inner devotion, this here 11 is afforded rather out of respect and curiosity (plus there’s ‘Peter Gunn’). That said, I can see where serious fans of AON and similar music could prefer this over the debut – provided they actually respect their idols more when they’re serious. Because, honestly, these are no longer naughty kids messing around with their dad’s electronic toys.

These are stern conceptual artists making some kind of point (although it’s hard to tell exactly what kind of point). And since I honestly believe that this kind of music is at its best when it’s openly silly, well, you get me drift here. ‘Peter Gunn’ is silly, so I love it. ‘Instruments Of Darkness’ ain’t silly, so I… uhh… feel it’s sorta respectable.

But really, this is a good album.

May 31, 2013 Posted by | Art Of Noise In Visible Silence | | Leave a comment