Didn't get what you wanted this year? Got some extra money from Grandma? Feel like some new music? With so many Vintage Rock CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays to choose from, you'll be OK. Check out what we got.
Eight Days A Week
The Touring Years
(DVD & Blu-ray Disc)
I caught Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years when it first aired on Hulu in September 2016. Because of the high bar set by the extensively detailed Beatles Anthology series from 1995, I wondered what else could be said. To his credit, director Ron Howard put a unique spin on the chaos and mania that surrounded the Beatles when they were on the road. Pretty much everything else I have to say about it can be found at this review.
Now, just in time for the holidays, comes the DVD and Blu-ray release of Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years with the inevitable extras. The double-disc special edition features 100 minutes of extras. There are segments that explore the Lennon -McCartney songwriting team, as well as George Harrison’s contributions as a guitarist, musician and songwriter in his right. Then there’s rhe Beatles as a collective, their humor, women and their role as a musical movement. There’s quite a detailed look at the band’s roots in Liverpool and the friends who helped them. Ronnie Spector talks at length about hanging out with the Beatles.
Additional pieces include shooting A Hard Day’s Night, going to Australia and Japan, and playing Shea Stadium. Through it all, there are previously unseen interviews with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, Paul Greengrass, Stephen Stark, Peter Asher, Malcolm Gladwell, Sigourney Weaver, Whoopi Goldberg, Richard Curtis, Elvis Costello and many others. Throw in five performances of the Beatles in concert and a 64-page booklet with rare photos, and you have a sure hit with any Beatle fan on your list.~ Shawn Perry
Rejoice! I’m Dead!
Rejoice! I’m Dead! is Gong’s first release since the death of founding member Daevid Allen. Lead by singer and guitarist Kavus Torabi, a man recruited by Allen himself, the band carries on in true Gong form, just as Allen himself had said he wanted them to before he died of cancer in 2015. The soaring guitar mover, “The Thing That Should Be,” goes right into the jumpy “Rejoice!,” which features some wild popping from bassist Dave Sturt, and a kinetic instrumental Middle-Eastern mid-section.
“Visions” is a true outer space volume pedal-and-atmospheric guitar instrumental soundscape. And you have to love the harmony-rich, sax bleating, sardonic lyrical send-up of “Insert Yr Own Prophecy.” The 28th studio release from Gong — Torabi, Sturt, Fabio Golfetti on guitar and vocals, Ian East playing wind instruments, and Cheb Nettles manning the drums — continue the legacy well into the future with Rejoice! I’m Dead!~ Ralph Greco, Jr.
Live at The Royal Albert Hall
With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Heart has been racking up the frequent tour miles for the last few years. But after blowing minds, including President Obama’s, with their rendition of “Stairway To Heaven” at the Kennedy Center Honors and then being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, the band have ascended to a new level of respect and distinction — fitting enough to land them a sold-out gig at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. And fortunately for those who couldn’t make the trek, it was all caught on film. Live At The Royal Albert Hall With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, now on DVD, Blu-ray, CD and digitally, captures Heart in their element, balancing sweet, pastoral melodies with heavy riffs and a full orchestra.
Singer Ann Wilson with her sister Nancy on guitar and vocals, are joined by drummer Ben Smith, bassist Dan Rothchild, guitarist Craig Bartock and keyboardist Chris Joyner mix it up with songs from the group’s most recent album, Beautiful Broken, including the title track, “Heaven” and “Two,” alongside classics like “Alone,” “What About Love,” “Barracuda,” “Magic Man” and “Dreamboat Annie,” which features Ann Wilson on flute. Playing the UK, it only seems natural Heart would nod their head to Led Zeppelin. They do so in style and reverence with a stirring cover of “No Quarter.” Even Grandma will dig this after a couple eggnogs.~ Shawn Perry
All Night Long
The remastered & reloaded All Night Long from Sammy Hagar will pretty much knock you back a few steps. Originally released in 1978 (and in 1979 as a UK-only version under the title Loud & Clear), this is Hagar and his band delivering hard and heavy 70s rock. With Bill Church on bass and background vocals, Alan ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald playing keys and backing vocals as well, Denny Carmassi on drums, and Gary Pihl on guitars and backing vocals, this live collection was originally released sans overdubs. On this remastering, it sounds pristine.
From the pounding “Red,” to Carmassi and Church beginning the chunk of “Rock ‘N’ Roll Weekend,” to the inclusion Montrose classics like “Make It Last” and a bad-ass arena rock sing-along, “Turn Up The Music,” it’s pretty much wailing guitars and rolling big drumming here. There’s even the obligatory poppy love tune, which became a monster hit for Rick Springfield, “I’ve Done Everything For You,” and the heaviest moment (and best tune for me personally), the over-the-top blues rock fire of “Young Girls Blues.” The slide work on “Bad Motor Scooter,” the second of two Montrose tunes, is over the top and a perfect closer for this sweet little live album.~ Ralph Greco, Jr.
You can’t keep Neil Young away from the studio, no matter how hard you try. So, the best thing to do is get out of the way and let the man have at it. Having issued the live Earth with Promise of the Real and booked for the Desert Trip festival, you’d think Young would take the rest of 2016 off. Instead, he got randy and put together 10 songs, brought in drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Paul Bushnell, went into Rick Rubin's Shangri-la Studios, and laid down tracks for Peace Trail, an album ripe with politics and humanity, many referencing the Standing Rock protests, the environment, oil and water, sparse and minimal in production and presentation. In other words, classic Neil Young.
Many of the songs on Peace Trail were played during Young’s fall shows in California, including Desert Trip. Where Promise of the Real did a lot of heavy lifting with this material, Young, Keltner and Bushnell’s attack is more basic, adding an intimate dynamic to the arrangements. Listen to Keltner’s scrubbing drums on “Indian Givers,” and you’ll understand why he’s one of the most in-demand session drummers in the history of rock and roll. After a while, you even begin to appreciate the simplicity of “Show Me,” “Texas Rangers” and “John Oaks,” along with the quirkiness of “My Pledge” and “My New Robot,” Which Young proudly states he bought off “Amazon.com.” I remember seeing Young perform “Terrorist Suicide Hang Gliders” in Pomona two days before his second Desert Trip appearance. It had all the ingredients of everything that people like about Neil Young. On Peace Trail, it’s a little different. That’s exactly what I like about Neil Young.~ Shawn Perry
57th & 9th
Sting’s 2016 studio release, 57th & 9th, is his 12th solo album from the former Police front man and his first rock release in over a decade. The record is filled with 10 songs, rendered in that expert and varied way that Sting can write and play. It was recorded in three months in a New York City, at a studio right near the intersection of 57th Street and 9th Avenue. Apparently, that was enough impetus to inspire Sting to work the intersection into the album’s title.
All the tunes, especially the ballads, get topical lyrics with a certain urgency. There’s the big poppy single “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You” and “Inshallah,” which reminds me very much of the Police’s “Bring On The Night.” “50,000” explores the death of too many of our best and brightest musicians dying this year (the lyrics are not one of Sting’s best, sorry to say). There are also those solid and heavy moments where Sting rocks out. It’s great to hear him sing songs like the ballsy “Petrol Head.” It’s equally awesome to have him rolling his beautiful voice around “The Empty Chair,” the acoustic ballad that ends 57th & 9th. Yeah, It’s good to have Sting back in the world of rock and roll.~ Ralph Greco, Jr.
Time Stand Still
If you want to get the inside skinny on the history of Rush, 2010’s Beyond The Lighted Stage does a decent job of hitting the milestones and digging up the dirt (not that there’s a lot of dirt to dig up on Rush). However, if you want to get to the crux of why and how Rush ended their 40-year career, and see hardcore fans crushed and genuinely in tears at their final show, Time Stand Still has the answer. Narrated by Paul Rudd, the film provides an intimate look into the band’s sold-out “R40” tour, their unique relationship with fans and themselves, stories from the road, and, sadly, details about drummer Neil Peart’s decision to quit touring due to the physical demands of drumming at the expected Neil Peart level on an aging body. While there are bits and pieces of performances, the focus of the film falls squarely on everything that goes on around the music — Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart, their crew, their fans and their emotional farewell.
As is often the case with Rush, there’s plenty of Canadian-style humor to go with that. In one instance, longtime lighting director Howard Ungerleider talks about how Lifeson used to put a paper bag on his head and make Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley laugh. But the film goes beyond the antics of the band to specific fans who worship at the alter of Rush. It all comes to a head in Los Angeles as fans talk about the role Rush plays in their lives, their favorite Rush songs, their favorite Rush albums, their favorite Rush moments. Between the band and the flock, there’s a bond unlike few others. After a limited theatrical run, Time Stand Still is now on Blu-ray Disc and DVD. The 67-minute bonus footage from the 1990 Presto tour (dubbed Live From The Rabbit Hole) makes this one sweet package to gift yourself or someone who will freely loan it to you for an extended period of time.~ Shawn Perry
Take It On Faith
Gary and Dale Rossington are back with Take It On Faith. Featuring Gary Rossington’s signature electric blues and slide sound and his wife’s strong voice, this is a 12-song CD celebrating redemption and love in all its permutations. There are torchers like “Should Have Known” and the pretty acoustic ballad “Take It On Faith,” featuring some pristine Rossington acoustic slide. There’s the big piano gospel number “Light A Candle.” Delbert McClinton lends his harmonica to the honky tonkin’ “Dance While Your Cookin’.” Dale Rossington gets nice and nasty knowing she’s been done wrong on “Something Fishy. ”
On this album, we get well-crafted tunes in a southern rock blues mix. The Rossingtons get in and out fast on these dozen. They say what they have come to say, Dale Rossington belts out the stories in a voice that has grown lower but certainly more interesting with age, and we hear Gary Rossington wail round the solid backing of his players in a way we haven’t heard him do since the golden old days of the original Lynyrd Skynyrd.~ Ralph Greco. Jr.
Your Turn To Remember:
The Definitive Anthology 1970-1990
For the uninitiated, Uriah Heep is a classic 70s British hard rock band that falls somewhere between Deep Purple and Queen. They carry on to this day with guitarist Mick Box, the band’s sole original member, leading the way. Back in the 70s, however, they were serious contenders, along with Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin in the British hard rock sweepstakes, pumping out records and touring the world. With the deaths of bassist Gary Thain in 1975 and singer David Byron in 1985, and departure of keyboardist and songwriter Ken Hensley, the band’s revolving-door lineup and instability started to take its toll in the 80s. Nevertheless, they carried on, making records and earning a cult status in Europe. Your Turn To Remember: The Definitive Anthology 1970-1990 covers two pivotal decades — the 70st defined their rise, the 80s, despite a few stumbles, defined their sustainability
Fans and novices alike will probably favor the first disc of this two-pack set. This is where the classic Heep asserts its might. Tracks like “Gypsy,” “Lady In Black,” “July Morning,” ‘Easy Livin’,” “The Wizard” and “Stealin’” all showcase Byron’s operatic vocals, Hensley’s heavy-handed keyboards, and Box’s glistening guitar work. This was most certainly the band’s heyday, with albums like Demons And Wizards, The Magician’s Birthday, and Sweet Freedom denting the album charts and pushing the group to the forefront. The second disc is, for the most part, underwhelming. Some speculate things started to unravel when John Lawton replaced Byron in 1977. Frankly, light and airy songs like “Free Me,” “Come Back To Me” and “It Ain’t Easy” were feeble attempts to become more listener-friendly. For longtime Heepsters, it pretty much fell on deaf ears. Singers like John Sloman, Peter Goalby and the band's current vocalist Bernie Shaw did little to move the group forward, but, as Your Turn To Remember: The Definitive Anthology 1970-1990 shows, hidden nuggets like “Too Scared To Run” and “The Other Side Of Midnight” retained the Heep’s edge and kept them going. Whichever way you go, there’s no question this set offers a complete picture of Uriah Heep in all their glory and gumption.~ Shawn Perry
Searching For The Spark
Since he began playing guitar in the early 1960s, through his time with Gong and beyond as a solo artist and one half of System 7, Steve Hillage has shown the world what it truly means to be “progressive.” The sprawling 22-disc Searching For The Spark box set shines a light on Hillage’s prolific career. There’s Hillage’s eight solo albums, System 7’s debut, plus a whopping seven discs of live material, and four more filled with demos and archive recordings. Highlights include Hillage’s alluring cover of George Harrison’s “It’s All Too Much,” the mind-bending, spacey “Aftaglid (Tambura Backing Track Mix),” and a load of stellar live material featuring Hillage and his band at the Hammersmith in London in 1979.
Accompanying the CDs is a beautiful 188-page coffee-table book, written and assembled by Hillage and Gong family expert Jonny Greene. The rest of the package includes three promo posters, two lyric booklets, a high quality enamel badge, a 60-page scrap book containing more photos and cuttings, and a certificate of authenticity signed by Steve Hillage and his creative partner Miquette Giraudy. This one-of-a-kind Steve Hillage set is limited to 2500 copies, so you better hurry if you want one for yourself and or a close loved one.~ Ralph Greco, Jr.