Song of the Week Jr- Driving Wheels [Oztoberfest Part 5]

Oztoberfest week 3 is here, and we’re not losing any momentum. This week brings us the lead singer of Cold Chisel (having struck out on his own following their dissolution) with the opening track of his second album, the indomitable Freight Train Heart.

Top 3 Renditions

1- Barnestorming Live

It was great to get a live album from the Freight Train Heart tour. I’ve always held the opinion that the period gave us his best album and some of his best singing form. You can definitely hear it, especially when compared to some of the later Cold Chisel live recordings from 1983. The man would give Noddy Holder a run for his money in the power department.

2- The Studio Version

This was the version I grew up with for so long, so I can’t help but feel that this one of the best versions, despite it not being live. The gentle guitar intro is perfect for an opening track, and the piano/electric guitar combo for the verses rules.

3- Live, 1998

Eleven years on has hardly dented the man’s power. His enunciation isn’t as clear as it was before, but when your singing style is full volume on the edge of a scream, is that really necessary?

And this Wednesday we’re taking a look at Barnes’ fourth album, Two Fires.

The Angels: Face to Face (Review) [Oztoberfest Part 4]

Week two, post two and we’re coming back to The Angels (also known as Angel City in the Unites States), with a look at their second album. It was released in Australia in 1978, but the rest of the world wouldn’t see it until 1980, where some of their third album’s material contributed to the tracklist as well. So how is it?

Off to a less than stellar start, unfortunately. Opener “Straight Jacket”’s topsy-turvy vocal melody on the verses does it no favors, and it lacks the full blast of The Angels’ specialty, the full volume Def Leppard-esque chorus (just with less voices). The solo rules, though it’s just not enough to make this song a great opener.

But thing’s are kicked into gear on song number two. “After the Rain” is a quintessential Angels song, and the aforementioned full volume chorus is here in spades, with a more understated melody on the verses to contrast it perfectly. Doc Neeson’s unique vocals might take a little getting used to, but not to the degree of Jimmy Barnes or Bon Scott.

But moving on, song three, “Love Takes Care”, is unfortunately more “Straight Jacket” than it is “After the Rain”. It’s chorus, though, is simpler and more efficient, but isn’t very memorable after all is said and done. Being sat between two heavy hitters wasn’t doing it any favors either. Said second heavy hitter is “Take a Long Line”, and you know this song is going to rock from the off. The iconic bass line that introduces the song is soon accompanied by some unfiltered on-and-off riffing and Doc’s vocals telling the story that culminates with the short but sweet chorus.

The out and out rock of “Take a Long Line” is then followed by the more sophisticated “Marseilles”, another top-tier song. “Marseilles” is no slouch in the rock department, but never gets too bombastic. But the best part is that it rules without even needing to. And going off topic a little, the Baby Animals cover of the song rules too. But now we get back to a bit more average song, in what would have been the side two opener. “Live it Up”, with its barnyard feel and harmonica is definitely jarring to hear, and its certainly not the best song on the album either.

“Be With You” is more like it though. It’s a lot more ballady than most of the other song, but like Slade, The Angels still manage to hit full volume on the choruses of their ballads, to great effect too. A second ballady song, “Outcast”, follows, but it’s merely alright. The closing two numbers are far more noteworthy. The first is “I Ain’t The One”, and you know this one means business as its drum intro launches straight into the riff. It took a while to get back into the rock on this half of the album, but it was worth it. Same goes for closer “Coming Down”, which returns us to the full shout chorus to go with some more electric riffing. The payoff for listening to the whole album is definitely there.

Face To Face gave us a lot of The Angels’ most well-known songs but beyond that it’s largely lacking in hidden gems. But none of the filler is terrible, and the songs that aren’t filler are shining examples of the metal/punk/rock combo The Angels ruled at.

The verdict- 3.75/5 stars

Week three of Oztoberfest will see us going a little more well-known, as we look at the Australian equivalent of Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Barnes.

Song of the Week- Mr Damage [Oztoberfest Part 3]

Round two of Oztoberfest brings us to a band held dear to many an Australian. Here’s one of my favorite songs from The Angels, a band formed in the 70s and the authors of a number of classic Australian songs.

Top 5 Renditions

1- Live Line

And here’s as good as it gets. A relentless assault of rock and roll. Apologies if the video is region-locked. I hope it isn’t because you have to hear this version.

2- Live at Narrara 1983

But if it is, this version might give you an idea of it. It’s not a patch on the Live Line rendition, but it’s still reflective of the great song that it is.

3- The Studio Version

The studio version is good too, if a little reigned in.

4- Melbourne 1988

It’s very much rougher than some of the other versions, but that’s fine. This is rock and roll we’re talking about. The unique extended outro is also cool too.

5- Live, with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra

While I have been said to say that everything sounds better with a horn section, I’ll admit that some things don’t always sound right with a horn section. This is one of these songs. I’m afraid to report that the orchestra just dilutes the pure aggression of the song. That and it doesn’t sound right without the original singer.

The Best Cover

The Angels (Post 2014)

I’m being facetious here. This is still the band, just with a new man on vocals after the death of Doc Neeson in 2014. And yep, not the same.

Baby Animals: Shaved and Dangerous (Review) [Oztoberfest Part 2]

Alright, the first album of Oztoberfest. Following on from the song of the week, we have the followup to Baby Animals’ self titled debut album. That album, released in 1991, was the best selling debut album in Australia for twelve years, until the release of Jet’s Get Born. So how did the group follow up that massive success? Unfortunately with a little bit of a disappointment.

The group’s first album walked the fine line between softer songs and rockers and nailed it. Shaved and Dangerous is a lopsided in comparison, with both rockers to softer songs and good songs to less memorable ones. All the rockers rule, it is the band’s specialty after all. “Stoopid” and “Backbone” are easily good enough to be on the first album. Even some of the softer songs are enjoyable as well. “Lovin’ Lies” puts the acoustic mostly front and centre and “be My Friend” closes the disc with a very “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” feel.

And it’s a real shame that things didn’t turn out better, because the band have grown so much since that first album. You can really hear a newfound sophistication to some of these songs. Ballady “Lights out at 11” features a layered and lush guitar outro that just oozes awesomeness. And uptempo, almost punk, “At the End of the Day” features DeMarchi singing the verse entirely in French. Meanwhile guitarist Dave Leslie speaks the universal language of riff and solo all throughout.

But that’s it unfortunately. Only six of the eleven songs really click. A couple others such as “Don’t Tell Me What To Do” are alright but the album just doesn’t have enough weight to offset the four song selection of mediocrity in the second half. It seems that Baby Animals’ albums are like Samson and get their strength from their hair.

The verdict- 3.25 stars

After a tour and some time without much activity, the band would break up in 1996, though they reformed in 2007 and have continued on to this day, releasing an acoustic album in 2008 and a third studio album in 2013 called This is Not the End. But that’s not where we are going next. Oztoberfest will explore a new artist for the next two posts.

Song of the Week Jr- Ain’t Gonna Get [Oztoberfest Part 1]

Did I just steal the name of a well-established Bavarian festival and twist it to suit my own ends. You betcha. Welcome to Oztoberfest everyone. This month will be all about Australian artists, each one getting a review and a song of the week apiece. This week it’s Baby Animals, a hard rock band formed in the 90s, and today we’re looking at the sonic assault that is the closer to their debut album.

Top 3 Renditions

1- The Basement Tapes

And they nail it live. The simple but effective drum intro and heavy riff open the song spectacularly, and the vocals are top notch. The extra emphasis on the ‘I’ll get on by my good reputation’ is the cherry on top of this rendition.

2- The Studio Version

No less heavier than the rest, the studio version also sports a bit more groove to it.

3- Live, Boston 1992

Suze’s voice has taken a little battering from the tour (a tour where they notably opened for Van Halen) but it’s still really solid. The riff has some extra oomph here. And stick around until the end for a bit of a history lesson from some American guy.

And stick around here for Wednesday and we’ll be looking at the band’s second effort in the recording studio, Shaved and Dangerous.

Paul Di’Anno: The Beast Live (Review)

Paul Di’Anno didn’t have the most successful solo career after leaving Iron Maiden. His attempts to step out from under the metal giant’s shadow all amounted to very little unfortunately, even that famous first solo tour in 1984 where he refused to play any of their songs in his set. Not long after, his setlists became dominated by Iron Maiden songs.

Which brings us to this album. A curious little rarity, it’s not even on YouTube, bar one single song. Released in 2001, it contains ten live recordings from Di’Anno’s archives at the time, most, if not all of them, recorded in Brazil. So how does an older Di’Anno sound singing these songs?

Great, actually. His voice has metallized a lot since his time as the punkish lead singer in Maiden. He’s singing everything clearly and with great energy. Though I’m not sure the liner notes’ claim that he possesses the finest voice in heavy metal is entirely correct, he’s in fine form here. People usually forget because he was succeeded by the air raid siren, but Paul could really scream too.

The production is nice and clear too. The metallic guitars come through nice and clear (and complement his voice well) and you can hear every little cough or grunt coming through that mic. These are definitely live. And as for the songs, nine Maiden classics and a cover of “Women in Uniform”, all rendered in a furious assault of power and aggression.

“Wrathchild” is at its heaviest, “Murders in the Rue Morgue” (always a difficult song to sing without making everything sound like a disjointed mess) feels more right here than it has since 1981, and “Running Free” features the best go at the drum intro I’ve ever heard. It’s just dripping with punkish vibes.

It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but this is probably the best thing to come out of Paul’s solo career, which is a shame because it’s quite rare nowadays. Not only is it packed with great renditions of great songs but it also provides an eye-opening look at what an older Paul sounds like singing these songs.

If you’re a hardcore Paul Di’Anno fan (as few and far between as they are these days) you’ll need this in your collection, or if, for some reason, you though that the first two Maiden albums weren’t heavy enough.

The verdict- 4.25/5 stars

Sadly, the effort and passion Paul put into his singing waned heavily in the 2000s, making this his last proper hurrah as well.

Song of the Week Jr- Do You Wanna Dance

No production issues here folks. Song of the week is still a go. And you might be surprised to see Cliff Richard on here, but there is some story behind this. Cliff Richard is a bit of a running joke between me and my mother. Whenever we here a song which neither of us knows/can tell who sings, it isn’t long before one of us jokingly suggests Cliff Richard.

But why do I own Cliff Richard? Well, less of a story, I simply bought the Knebworth 1990 live album back in May, and it had a couple tunes from Cliff’s set. The big surprise was that I actually found one that I really liked. So that’s what we’re looking at today.

Top 3 Renditions

1- Knebworth- The Album

So it’s no surprise to see this version top. Cliff sounds great, even better than in 1962, I’d say. The chorus harmony is lush, the guitar solo rules and I love the bit at the end where the instruments just drop out for the briefest of moments during the finale. And just look at Cliff go. He absolutely owns the stage. Sure he has a pin suit to help but his showmanship is top notch here. And he was 50 years old here.

2- The Prince’s Trust Rock Gala 1994

No pink suit here but he’s still nailing it. He even sounds a little more youthful here. The extra little embellishments in the background are nice too.

3- The Studio Version

It’s the start of the song’s history, and it’s alright. Cliff sounds a little young and the chorus harmonies just aren’t full enough yet. It’s also a little lacking in the energy the live versions brought.

Deep Purple: Live in London (Review)

Few bands have been through as many incarnations and line-ups as Deep Purple have, and they spent eight years broken up. Today’s review comes from the Mark III lineup of the band, consisting of Ritchie Blackmore, David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Jon Lord and Ian Paice. It was recorded, as you could probably tell, in London on the 1974 tour for Burn, originally intended for a radio broadcast. It got its first commercial release in 1982, six years after the band had broken up.

So to the songs themselves, first up is “Burn”. It’s a scorching rendition of the fiery number. Blackmore and co are in top form, and the sound is crystal clear, as you’d expect of the BBC. Extra props to Jon Lord’s keyboards being nice and prominent in the mix. “Might Just Take Your Life” is next, and despite sitting between two explosive numbers, manages to keep interest and shows off the funkier side of this incarnation of Deep Purple.

A little understated keyboard intro (that I love) gives way to the bombast of “Lay Down Stay Down”. The Coverdale/Hughes combo is hard to beat, and the rest of the band play at a level that complements this. I particularly love the keyboard work under the guitar in the solo. And then we’re into a slightly extended rendition of “Mistreated”, and if you’ve been paying attention at home, you’ll note that they just opened the show with half of the Burn album. “Mistreated” rules too. Glenn Hughes goes crazy on the backing vocals during the finale. Disc one now closes with the first Mark II song, the immortal “Smoke on the Water”. This is easily my favorite version the band has done of this song. The Coverdale/Hughes combo rules, and Jon Lord is on fire here too.

So disc one was a rip-roaring ride that didn’t let up. Disc two, meanwhile, is two songs. I’ll admit, I’m not too inclined to listen to these two giant jams on their own, but that’s fine because we listen to whole albums here. The first is a a one/two combo of “You Fool No One” and “The Mule”, with some jamming extensions throughout. The two base songs are great, and rendered spectacularly, but my favorite parts of this track are the previews of things to come. The first, just after the six minute mark, is a string of about ten notes that got lifted wholesale for part of the guitar solos in Iron Maiden’s “Killers” (A peculiar coincidence, given that this album came out the year that The Number of the Beast did). The second sneak peak is less iconic. It’s just a bluesy jam at the ten minute mark reminiscent of the one that would be part of “Man on the Silver Mountain” in the Rainbow days.

And the last song is a monolithic thirty minutes of “Space Truckin’’”. David Coverdale’s voice might not be perfectly suited to the song, but him and Hughes’s unhinged take in the chorus still works, if a little more due to energy than pleasantness. There’s some neat little Easter eggs too. Brief bits of both “Child in Time” and “Still I’m Sad” are played during the jam. But my favorite part of this track is probably the intro, which features Jon Lord playing part of “The Blue Danube”.

Unfortunately, as the liner notes reveal, no encore was played at this show. While I’m fine missing out on the cover of “Going Down”, I would have loved to have heard the band in this top-tier form belt out “Highway Star”. But speaking of liner notes, the ones accompanying this disc are fantastic. There’s tonnes of pictures, and they go into the history of the UK tour that year, the recording of the show and its journey to a commercial product and they shed some light on the source of the live bootleg video for “Burn” that’s out there. And all that’s before the halfway point in the booklet. There’s tonnes more interesting stuff in there.

So yeah, this album is great. Even without the encores, Live in London is still the definitive statement from the Burn tour. I just wish they could have snuck “Sail Away” in there somewhere.

The verdict- 4.25/5 stars

Not bad at all for an album that started its life as a record company cash-in.

Song of the Week Jr- Motorhead

It’s been a little while since we’ve looked at some Motörhead. Despite my review of Iron Fist, I really do like the band. That album just didn’t do it for me beyond the tracks I’d already heard. Anyway, for the band’s first song of the week we’ll be looking at the song the band is named after, written before the band actually formed.

Top 3 Renditions

1- No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith

It’s rough, raw and rules. The vocals are a little buried but it’s still a great rendition. Lots more head banging can happen to this one, and it was a close pick between this one and second place. And, you know, I really wish they played this one a lot more live, and you’d think they would considering they’re named after the song.

2- Hawkwind’s Studio Version

Original singer rules mean this one is still applicable, though the rule has definitely never been applied in this context before. I like this version quite a lot. It’s cleaner and got a different feel, with less intensity. It makes for a fun listen, and the solos give me major ELO vibes with those violins.

3- Motorhead’s Studio Version

Gotta admit, this one sounds a little weird. There’s a funny effect going on with the vocals that I’m not the hugest fan of. The guitar fills and solo are cool though.

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