More info on the Dio/Iommi/Butler/Ward HEAVEN AND HELL project

Let me start by saying that the following information and comments are from Joe Siegler, the webmaster for Black-Sabbath.com (the best unofficial website for Black Sabbath on the Internet). If I’m not mistaken, I believe Joe is also the webmaster for Bill Ward’s official website and Geezer Butler’s official website. I frequent Black-Sabbath.com and I am also a member of his mailing list, I can honestly say that he is the best source for Sabbath related news and history. The following information is straight from Joe, it was included on his website and his Pilgrims Of Sabbocracy newsletter. Please go over to Black-Sabbath.com and check it out.

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From Black-Sabbath.com (Joe Siegler, webmaster): 

Subject: Heaven & Hell Rising in 2007?

This oughta start some conversations on the mailing list. :)

File this story under the “very interesting rumour” department…

I’ve gotten quite a few emails about this subject today, and I wasn’t
planning on saying anything quite yet, but the fact that I keep
getting emails has prompted me into saying something.

There is a story running today that claims that Ronnie James Dio, Bill
Ward, Geezer Butler, & Tony Iommi are going to be touring in 2007
under the moniker of “Heaven & Hell”. First off, let me copy the
article verbatim, and then I’ll have a few remarks about it:

– Start of Story –

    Madrid, Spain-based webzine Rafabasa is reporting that former
    BLACK SABBATH members Tony Iommi, Ronnie James Dio, Geezer Butler
    and Bill Ward will rejoin forces once again under the HEAVEN &
    HELL banner for a number of festival appearances next summer.

    According to Rafabasa, the four members cannot tour under the name
    BLACK SABBATH or “BLACK SABBATH with Ronnie James Dio” due to
    legal reasons.

    No tour dates have yet been confirmed, but the band’s booking
    agent is allegedly offering the group to the promoters of the most
    important heavy metal festivals that are set to take place next
    year.

    If the report is to be believed, HEAVEN & HELL will play a set
    consisting of selections from every single SABBATH CD that Ronnie
    James Dio appeared on: “Heaven & Hell”, “Mob Rules” and
    “Dehumanizer”.

    In an August 16, 2006 appearance on the syndicated radio show
    “Rockline”, Dio had the following to say about the possibility of
    further collaborations with BLACK SABBATH guitarist Tony Iommi:

    “We’ve already written one [new] song together. The reason for
    that is that there’s a release coming out, it’s called ‘Black
    Sabbath: The Dio Years’ – they’ve already done one, of course,
    ‘Black Sabbath: The Ozzy Years'; that was the beginning and,
    really, the best part of it all – but they’ve decided to do one,
    again, ‘Black Sabbath: The Dio Years’, and we wanted to make it a
    little but more special, not just give you things you’ve not heard
    from a live perspective. These are two things you’ll never hear
    again – two new songs. We are going to do that. It’s been fun
    already. The one we’ve done – the one that I’ve done with Tony has
    been really wonderful – just great to realize how magnificent a
    player he was. You forget that after 10 years at a time that you
    don’t work with someone. So we are gonna be doing that. And I hope
    you’ll like it. I think it’ll be great.”

    On the rumors of him possibly rejoining BLACK SABBATH, Dio said,
    “There’s always rumors about everything – about a RAINBOW reunion,
    about a BLACK SABBATH reunion. Our purpose was to do this because
    we wanted to have this product be a bit more special than anything
    else – not just, ‘Here’s a live track you’ve never heard before.’
    I mean, that’s cool, but I’m sure people have heard that. We
    wanted to do something a bit more special, so the whole band would
    write and play these songs, and. They’ve wanted to hear them long
    enough, so here they are. But it’s not anything that we’ve talked
    about leading to anything other than that. No, it’s for that
    project.”

— End of Story —

A few remarks by me on all this:

Today was not the first time I had heard these rumours. Running this
site I hear all kinds of things, and generally I tend to discount them
– but this one had some more weight to it, so I decided to do some
poking around on my own. While I can’t get anyone to officially say
anything about this, it does seem to have the air of an authentic
story to me. Heck, I can’t get any official word about who is even
playing on the new tracks for the Dio Years set, besides Iommi & Dio.
One would hope it’s the same four guys (Iommi/Butler/Ward/Dio), but I
can’t get official confirmation of that one, either.

So it’s known that the Dio Years box set is happening. When – who
knows, although I would imagine sooner rather than later. What the
contents of the set are is also officially unknown. I’ve been hearing
some rumours about specific content, but I don’t really want to spread
any more FUD about that issue, so I’ll leave that out for now. Suffice
it to say if what I heard is true, fans will really like it.

The other issue I wanted to say something about was the bit about
legally not being able to call themselves Black Sabbath. A few points
about this.. Ronnie has stated on many interviews and on his website
that he would not be rejoining Black Sabbath. Assuming you take that
as true, the rumour I heard that it was a choice to call themselves
Heaven & Hell and not Black Sabbath should be taken as correct. The
other side to that is the ownership of “Black Sabbath”. It’s always
been my knowledge that in the mid 80’s Tony Iommi bought all the
rights, and to this day retains such ownership. There was a lot of
stories that in order to get Ozzy to come back in 1997, some of that
ownership would have to be given to the Osbournes. Now I want to say
this. I am a fan. A somewhat connected fan, but I still am a fan. I’m
an idiot if I think I know everything – I do not. But I do pay
attention, and I have never seen anything that tells me that the
ownership situation of “Black Sabbath” has changed. My educated guess
tells me that this bit about legally not being able to use the name
Black Sabbath is incorrect, that it’s a choice to do that. If I hear
anything factually to counteract that, I will retract my opinion here.

Having said all this stuff, this is a very exciting possibility. To
sum up:

Known Facts:

  * There will be a “Black Sabbath: The Dio Years” box set.
  * Said box set will contain at least two newly recorded tracks.
  * Tony & Ronnie collaborated on the newly recorded tracks.

Rumours/Speculation:

These are all unconfirmed – so don’t take it as fact, eh? :)

  * Geezer Butler & Bill Ward will comprise the rhythm section on the
    new tracks.
  * Iommi/Butler/Ward/Dio will tour in 2007 as “Heaven & Hell”.
  * They are not billing themselves as “Black Sabbath” due to legal
    reasons – FALSE, see update below.
  * The Dio Years set may include the video mentioned by Dio on the
    Live Evil recordings.

Hopefully I can get some official confirmation about this stuff now
that the “word is out” so to speak. I do work for Bill Ward & Geezer
Butler, and am fairly friendly with Tony Iommi’s people, so hopefully
I can find out something I can officially talk about. The only
“official” things are the three things listed above as “facts”. The
rest is speculation. I hope it’s all true. And if they do tour, they’d
better come to Dallas, dammit! :)

Hmm… Dio replaced Ozzy back in 1979, and now it’s (in a fashion)
being done again in 2007. Does this mean that a TV show with Ronnie
going “WENNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNDY, the dog crapped on the carpet
again!” is far behind? ;)

UPDATE Sep 28: I’ve since gotten email from an official source that
wishes to remain anonymous that I was 100% correct on the legal
situation with Tony Iommi and the name “Black Sabbath”. It’s still his
sandbox, so there’s no legal reason that would stop them from going
out under the name Black Sabbath should they choose to. Should this
all come off, and the name “Heaven & Hell” is used, it’s my belief
that it was some artistic choice, and not a legal one.

Joe Siegler
siegler@black-sabbath.com

Dio to reunite with Iommi/Butler/Ward in HEAVEN AND HELL

From Bravewords:

Even though their respective managements have not officially released any information, Rafabasa webzine in Madrid, Spain is reporting exclusively that starting in June, 2007 there will be a reunion tour of a group going by the name HEAVEN & HELL.

At this time, there are no dates confirmed, but the tour booking agent is offering the band to the promoters of the most important heavy metal festivals taking place next year.

Under the name Heaven & Hell you will find TONY IOMMI, RONNIE JAMES DIO, GEEZER BUTLER and BILL WARD.

Evidently if everything is confirmed, they will be playing a set consisting of music from every single CD that Ronnie James Dio performed with BLACK SABBATH, to include Heaven & Hell, Mob Rules, Live Evil and Dehumanizer.

The reunion cannot tour under the name Black Sabbath, or BLACK SABBATH WITH DIO, due to the fact that the copyright of the name is the property of OZZY OSBOURNE and his wife/manager Sharon Osbourne.
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For more information on this story, head over to Black-Sabbath.com (run by Joe Siegler), probably the best website for Black Sabbath news and history.

—- Steve

Career Reviews – Def Leppard (Part 2)

Please go back and read Part 1 of the Def Leppard discussion here.
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Retro-Active (1993) – A thirteen song collection of B-sides and soundtrack songs. Top song and single here is ‘Two Steps Behind’ that was featured on the movie soundtrack for Last Action Hero.

I never gave this album much thought because I was never into Def Lep B-sides (some people make a point to seek them out) and I wasn’t floored by the lead single. I never reach for this album, never. The last listen was for this article and I will put it back in the CD case for another lengthy stay. For me, it’s a cash grab from a band that needed a much deserved break.

Vault (1995) – Def Leppard’s first greatest hits record spanning the years 1980-1995. Too bad it doesn’t really cover all those years! The only track pre-Pyromania is ‘Bringin’ On The Heartbreak’ (from 1981’s High’n Dry). We get six songs from Hysteria, three from Pyromania, and three from Adrenalize. I’m shocked that Hysteria’s lead single, ‘Women’ isn’t on here, as well as, Pyromania opener  ‘Rock Rock (Till You Drop)’. I don’t remember ‘Two Steps Behind’ and ‘Miss You In A Heartbeat’ (both from Retro-Active) being huge hits for the band but they are included too. Overall, a good representation of the band’s “golden era” for the casual fan but the diehards almost always will make their own mix. Sold over 5 million in the U.S. last time I checked.

Slang (1996) – Another four years in between studio albums and the band releases their most controversial record to date. If the discussions about the change in the Def Lep sound were big around the Hysteria release, then they were huge come Slang.

Slang is a totally different record than anything the Leps have ever put out. It’s a “grown up” record, the band spreading their collective wings and channelling a new energy. At this point, Def Leppard is an ultra-successful band, every album so far has turned multi-platinum and their tours are big sellers. The boys are now men, seasoned vets of the music industry, they’ve grown.

Every band has an experimental record…..some are more experimental than others. Taking from the current trends in Rock in the ’90s and adding that to their own interests in British Rock/Prog from the 1970s, the band fashion a modern sounding album. Songs like ‘Slang’, ‘Work It Out’, ‘Pearl Of Euphoria’ are departures from the ’80s Leppard sound but they do retain key characteristics: good guitar solos and backing vocals, but not as overblown.

I like this album but I don’t reach for it that often. I see no problem in a band experimenting with their sound and, in Def Lep’s case, they still sound like Def Leppard. This is the time where you may notice that the band was shying away from the “80s Metal band” cliche and trying to be taken seriously. Competing with bands like Rage Against The Machine, Tool, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots for sales and chart position, Slang bombed in the U.S. I don”t even remember if they toured in my area. My copy is the two disc limited edition with the six song Acoustic In Singapore.

Euphoria (1999) – Where Hysteria and Adrenalize left off, Euphoria continues. Hot on the heels of the ’80s Hard Rock revival that kicked off with the KISS reunion in 1996, the band crafts a very 1980s sounding album. I heard the lead single, ‘Promises’, on the way to Burgettstown, PA to see the Poison reunion tour. Great song, would have easily fit on Hysteria. Big choruses, guitar solos, harmonies…..the album is like a trip back in time to the mid-80s heyday.

I really like this album even though the band seem to have regressed to their “old” sound after denouncing it during the Slang era. Favorite songs here: ‘Promises’, ‘All Night’, ‘To Be Alive’, ‘Guilty’…..actually, I think the whole album is strong. I saw the tour in Mansfield, MA at the outdoor Tweeter Center, it was sold-out. The openers were nobodies and Def Leppard played a solid two hours with an acoustic interlude in the middle of the set. Great album, sold-out show, I figured that big sales for a big band were in the making. Radio didn’t latch on to the album and sales were around 300,000 in the U.S. last time I checked. Almost Gold isn’t bad for a band that isn’t in the top tier anymore.

This album and Slang are the forgotten records. Even the band forgets Euphoria now. I just saw the show with Journey last week. On the big screen, Def Leppard had graphics depicting all of their albums. Every single one was represented EXCEPT Euphoria. No songs from the album were played live, they did play ‘Promises’ on the X Tour in 2003.

X (2002) – Hard to believe it’s been four years since Def Leppard released and album of original material…..OK, I’m kidding. This is the formula the band follows: release album, tour for 2 years, take a year off, write and enter studio for a year, album released. No wonder the band gets forgotten about! At least the Leps decided that they would release quality material and X is exactly that: a quality album. Take 1996’s Slang and add it to 1999’s Euphoria and you get X. It’s an updated sound (like Slang) while retaining the band’s signature sound  (Euphoria) and getting the proper mix. I think this album is what they were trying to get when they made Slang.

It’s a lighter Leppard, a mid-tempo/ballady Leppard, a Leppard that tried to change it’s spots, went back again, and found a happy medium. It’s not traditional Hard Rock, X is more Pop-oriented Rock, more radio friendly and not lumped totally into the ’80s Hair revolution. Actually, the guys really start to hammer home that they ARE NOT a Metal band or a Hard Rock Band. The promotion for X saw Joe Elliot almost denouncing the band’s ’80s heyday and influence. Obviously trying to do what they want while keeping the fanbase intact, the album is good nonetheless. First single ‘Now’ and the follow-up ballad, ‘Long Long Way To Go’, were tailor made for Rock radio. Here in Rhode Island, both songs got serious airplay as did ‘Four Letter Word’ when the concert was announced.

Overall though, the record label (Island/Def Jam…part of Universal/Mercury) didn’t do much to really promote the album. I wonder if it was because the band was switched to a new subsidiary and the label didn’t know how to promote them. I do know that the band barely drew 2000 people to the Providence Civic Center, a 12,000 seater, that they had sold-out every tour so far. I was in the 3rd row and they played over 2 hours. An excellent show where they played the full High’n Dry album to start and then played all the hits with four songs from X. A very professional and energetic performance from the band. There was no radio promotion except for the occasional mention, no posters or adverts, no buzz.

Favorite songs here: ‘Now’, ‘You’re So Beautiful’, ‘Long Long Way To Go’, ‘ Torn To Shreds’, and ‘Love Don’t Lie’. Actually, I like the whole album, it’s different but really good.

Best Of (2004) – A two-disc greatest hits set with one new track, ‘Waterloo Sunset’, that was a taster for the upcoming covers album, Yeah!. Every song from 1995’s Vault greatest hits is here EXCEPT for ‘Miss You In A Heartbeat’. Of the 34 songs, some great inclusions here:

  • Rock Brigade
  • Women
  • Let It Go
  • Wasted
  • Die Hard The Hunter
  • Rock Rock (Till You Drop)

My version is the limited edition European version. This was released in the U.S. officially as The Definitive Collection (2005) seven months later with a different tracklisting, changing five songs, the running order, and the album artwork. I reach for Best Of more than Vault, it’s a better representation. The Definitive Collection is also a better overview of the band’s career than Vault is.

Yeah! (2006) – I reviewed this album back in June, please go here to read it.

Now that you’ve read my initial review, my opinion stays the same: I don’t really like it. I just saw the live show this past Saturday and I admit that both ’20th Century Boy’ and ‘Rock On’ were pretty good live. I would still rather have an album of original material than a covers album but I am not a member of Def Leppard and they can do what they want after such a successful career. From what I’ve seen online, as of July 4th, 2006, Yeah! only sold about 100,000 copies in the U.S. With the tour ongoing, I’m sure that’s gone up a little but not too much.

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I really hope that the band comes back with a solid album of original material and abandons the “we’re not a Hair Band/Metal Band/Hard Rock Band” schtick. If they embraced their past rather than discredit it, I think they would be seen as less of a footnote and more of a success.  I’m still a fan and I will still support their career.

Def Leppard and Journey in concert – 9/23/06

I flew solo to the Def Leppard & Journey co-headline tour this past Saturday night, had a great time. Gone are all my concert buddies, either they are too busy or have decided that they are too old to go to concerts, except for the really BIG shows. Even my wife won’t go anymore, unless it’s a really big concert by a big name act. I don’t mind flying solo to shows, I’ve been doing it for years. It’s actually a really good time: no hassle, I can get in and out faster, and I can enjoy the show and get lost in my own little world.

The show at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield, MA was sold-out! That includes the lawn! I was surprised to say the least when I found out that they were turning people away in droves at the ticket windows. I saw Journey in 2001 on the Arrival Tour, they sold well but not sell-out. I saw Def Leppard on the Euphoria Tour in 1999 at the Tweeter, sold-out show. Saw them again on the X Tour at the Providence Civic Center and the barely got 2000 in attendance. I didn’t expect a sell-out, maybe the seats would be full but definitely not the lawn area. It was a great atmosphere, it reminded me of the excitement of the ’80s when almost every show that came to town was a sell-out.

The opener was Stoll Vaughan , a singer/songwriter from Kentucky. Not bad, reminded me of a more Country-ish John Cougar Mellencamp. The guy came out with an acoustic guitar, backed by Ross Vallory and Jonathan Cain from Journey, and did 5 songs. Off in 20-25 minutes.

Journey came out and absolutely ROCKED! If you use Google, you’ll find the setlists for the tour but it was all the hits you’d expect. After all the problems the band had with lead singer Steve Augeri losing his voice early in the tour, the band righted the wrongs by bringing in Jeff Scott Soto on lead vocals. Let me just say this: the band had renewed energy, played their asses off, and fed off JSS’ performance. They crowd was totally into it, songs like ‘Separate Ways’, ‘Chain Reaction’, ‘Ask The Lonely’, and ‘Stone In Love’ just smoked. Neal Schon just shredding the guitar, mesmerizing the crowd. If Journey doesn’t retain Jeff Scott Soto on vocals for the future, then it’s a crime. A total pleasure to watch a band play professionally, enjoy themselves, and leave the crowd screaming for more.

On to the Leps…..

Def Leppard always has a great live show. I saw them a few years ago on the X Tour and they opened the first part of their set by playing the whole High’n Dry album! Now THAT was an awesome show! The show I saw following Journey’s awesome opening left a lot to be desired. I’m a big Def Leppard guy, I was there since Pyromania and I am devout in worshipping the pre-Hysteria and post-Retroactive eras. What I heard and saw was boring.

First, Joe Elliot’s voice is either shot or strained from the rigors of touring. He didn’t sound like Joe Elliot. I realize age and lifestyle may have something to do with it, we all can’t be in our mid-20s forever! He gets a pass.

Second, the setlist was too predictable. I remember this one (not in order but by album):

  • Let It Go
  • Bringin’ On The Heartbreak
  • Let’s Get Rocked
  • Rock On (from Yeah!)
  • 20th Century Boy (from Yeah!)
  • Foolin’
  • Rock Of Ages
  • Photograph
  • Women
  • Rocket
  • Animal
  • Hysteria
  • Armageddon It
  • Love Bites (encore)
  • Pour Some Sugar On Me (encore)

A setlist full of surprises! Yeah right! I like the hits just like anyone else but I could use a couple of curveballs in there to freshen it up. Nice to hear ‘Let It Go’ again, best song of the set. I saw some people singing along but most of the crowd just stood there. I sang right along and I think I annoyed the young ladies to my left. They got revenge by spilling their beer on me more than a couple of times. Nothing is more annoying than spilled beer on your jeans so I decided my Pepsi just had to be spilled into their merchandise bag. It was an accident, I swear! At least they were dry and didn’t smell like Bud Lite!

Back to the show…..I didn’t like Yeah! when it was released but the 2 songs played from it live were pretty good. They pulled it off and they were a pleasant diversion from the Hysteria-filled set. I still like Hysteria but do we really need to seven songs from the album? Why not throw in a track from Slang, Euphoria, or X? I understand the crowd wants to hear familiar songs but the diehards keep the flames going when the masses don’t buy the new albums (see the last two studio albums), why not throw them a bone and play a tune from On Through The Night? When a band like Def Leppard goes out of their way to denounce their Heavy Metal/Hard Rock roots in the press, why can’t they back it up live and play newer material? Def Leppard isn’t the only band guilty of pandering the hits, KISS does it all the time and I rip them too. The covers count but they really don’t, play some of your OWN material, please!

Overall, I enjoyed the hits, I just hoped for more, I expected more variety. I’ve seen this set before basically, it was no surprise. I left at the encore to beat the crowd. By that time they hadn’t played ‘Love Bites’ or ‘Sugar’, not their best songs and I really didn’t need the chicks next to me spilling more drinks. It was all too predictable.

Funny story – Between Journey and Def Leppard, I met a guy around my age (34) that claimed to be Def Lep’s biggest fan. He had the old Pyromania tour shirt on, he bought EVERY piece of merchandise at the stand, and told me of his shrine to the Leps at his house. Sounded like a KISS fan! He waxed poetic on the glory days, how good Slang was and how unappreciated the X album and tour was. So the guy asks me what my favorite Def Lep album is…..I answer Pyromania…..his answer was Hysteria. I ask him if he thinks that Hysteria was too much of a departure from their Metal roots on OTTN and HND. His answer: “Which albums are those?” So I remind him of the band’s awesome first two albums, his answer: “Def Leppard made two albums BEFORE Pyromania?” My reply, “Are you serious?” That ended my conversation with Def Leppard’s biggest fan.

Career Reviews – Def Leppard (Part 1)

Def Leppard is one of those bands that are synonymous with the 1980s heyday of Heavy Metal. Back in the late ’70s, five young lads from Sheffield, England formed a Rock band rooted in the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement and launched into superstardom by the mid-80s. Def Leppard is one of those bands that also carries the weight of controversy. Punters across the globe all agreed the boys could rock but, as their success began to build, their sound became more Pop oriented and diehard Metalheads felt betrayed. Despite personal tragedies, the excesses of success, and changing musical trends, Def Leppard remains as one of the most successful Rock/Metal bands of all time…..

On Through The Night (1980) – Hard and hungry, that’s how I describe the Def Leppard debut. Coming in at the beginning of the NWOBHM, this album rode the wave and is still regarded as one of the harder, and better, Def Leppard albums. Great tracks on this platter: ‘Rock Brigade’, ‘Rocks Off’, ‘Wasted’ and the rest. A strong debut from a very young band. It sounds more raw than the polished High’n Dry that followed. I remember the band at the beginning but I never heard this until after Pyromania in ’83. I got that album and went back to the beginning.

High’n Dry (1981) – Enter Mutt Lange, producer extraordinaire! This is another gem of an album. Building on their debut’s momentum, the Leps break radio with hard rocker ‘Let It Go’ and power ballad ‘Bringin’ On The Heartbreak’. More polished than On Through The Night, courtesy of Mr. Mutt, but still a strong Hard Rock album rooted in the NWOBHM. At this point, the Leps are starting to really make noise, along with Iron Maiden, putting the new British Invasion on FM radio across the U.S.

I remember listening to 94 WHJY (Providence, RI) and hearing ‘Let It Go’ for the first time, I kept singing the chorus over and over for days. Like the debut record, I didn’t hear this one until after I got Pyromania. 24 years later, I reach for High’n Dry more than any Def Leppard album even though it is not my true favorite.

Pyromania (1983) – Open the floodgates! Building on the relationship the producer Mutt Lange, the band creates what many believe to be their masterpiece. It’s also no surprise that the band’s rise to the top went hand in hand with the birth of MTV. By 1983, MTV was in more households across the U.S. and people clamored to be in front of what was a revolutionary way to listen/see music. Starting with ‘Photograph’, and moving on to ‘Foolin’ and ‘Rock Of Ages’, the band created some of the most memorable songs of their career. They also used videos to help the singles climb the charts and push Pyromania into multi-platinum status. From openers to headliners in the blink of an eye, Def Leppard became a household name.

This cassette came my way thanks to Mom, who knew I was addicted to MTV. She didn’t want me to sit in front of the TV all day so she bought me the tape so I could LISTEN to it in my room, freeing up the TV for a bit for my younger sister and brother! I ate it up, devouring the album tracks as well: ‘Rock, Rock, Till You Drop’, ‘Too Late For Love’, ‘Die Hard The Hunter’. I was too young to see the band in concert but some guys in my class went, they had the Union Jack muscle shirts…..I always wanted one. My 6th grade was split on who was better: Def Leppard, Van Halen, or Motley Crue. If you add the girls in, you got Duran Duran. I was the lone KISS fan. It all hinged on MTV’s FRIDAY NIGHT VIDEO FIGHTS: ‘Photograph’ vs. ‘Jump’, the winner got to face Duran’s ‘The Reflex’. To a class of 11 yr olds, these things were extremely serious! This is my favorite Def Lep release mostly due to the nostalgia of this being one of my first non-KISS albums and my first Leppard release.

Hysteria (1987) –  If the floodgates were open with Pyromania, then the dam totally burst with Hysteria! But not at first…..

Master Mutt behind the knobs again and the boys had been in the studio during 1985 for some grueling sessions. This album was delayed because of Mutt’s tenacity at making the guys do the takes over, and over, and over, and…..well, you get the picture. Master Mutt wanted perfection and, if we go by sales, he got it! There was also a delay due to Rick Allen’s near fatal car wreck that sacrificed his arm. I give the guys credit for waiting on the guy, you wouldn’t see that today. I remember seeing the report on MTV and a blurb in a newspaper, Def Leppard was one of the top bands, I couldn’t imagine them not being around. I remember the special report Circus did the issue following the accident, it wasn’t news until Circus or Hit Parader reported it!

After much delay, and four years in the making, the Leps released Hysteria and the first single, ‘Women’, to radio and MTV. I saw the world premiere late at night and I thought the song was great, the public didn’t. Same with ‘Animal’, the second single. And ‘Love Bites’, the third. Gone was the young, and hungry band, they were fat on success and could do what they wanted…..or what Mutt Lange wanted. Hysteria is a “watered down” Def Leppard. Over-produced, sounds almost robotic, especially the drums which I assume is a drum machine like Pyromania’s. The songs aren’t that bad, except for a few, it’s just that the Leps became a different type of band: a Pop Rock band. 

The album stalled until they released ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ mid-tour. They were hovering around 2 or 3 million sold with decent attendance but, once they released the new single, everything skyrocketed. I saw the band live (with Tesla) in Providence, RI early in the tour. They had just released ‘Sugar’ and the hysteria hadn’t hit yet. I feel fortunate to have seen the band live when they were actually working hard on stage, when they came back around the New England area after ‘Sugar’, it was a totally different live show. The guys were into it but the fire, the hunger, the power was gone.

Seven singles released from what has become one of the biggest Hard Rock sellers of all time. Definitely Def Leppard’s pinnacle for popularity, sales, attendance, and money. Do I like the album? Yes. I like everything except ‘Love Bites’ and ‘Sugar’. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s because it dropped when I was an impressionable 15 yr. old trying to get a chick. If Hysteria was released now, I’d probably pass it by.

Adrenalize (1992) – Four years after Hysteria, the band releases Adrenalize. Now if this album was released in 1989 or 1990, Def Leppard would be the biggest band on the planet! I call this Hysteria II. The album just oozes technology and production.  Produced by the band and Mike Shipley, the Executive Producer is none other than Mutt Lange! Big surprise. Biggest loss is the death of Steve Clark. Obviously a huge blow to the band by losing a close friend but also a huge blow to the sound because I think Steve Clark had the balls of the group. Maybe if he lived, Adrenalize would be more it’s own record rather than a sequel to Hysteria. I guess that’s the problem in itself: you have the biggest seller of your career, an ultra-successful 2 and a half year tour, and all your dreams have come true. How do you follow that? The easiest thing to do is follow the same formula.

Six singles off this platter but the album stalled at around 5 million in the U.S., a smashing success for a Hard Rock band in 1992 but a failure for Def Leppard who are now used to shifting albums upwards of 8 to 10 million. I passed on the tour this time around as I figured I’d seen it already twice back in ’87/’88, my friends said it was a great show. Overall, the album leaves me cold. The songs are catchy, typical Def Lep, but it’s an album without fire to me. I like it, not as much as Pyromania, or even Hysteria, so I don’t reach for it much. Best track on the album is ‘Tear It Down’, a ripping single that goes back to the glory days. I also dig ‘Heaven Is’, it’s got a nice groove.

I remember going to Strawberries Records & Tapes in Pawtucket, RI for the special midnight sale. Adrenalize was released the same day as Bruce Springsteen released both Lucky Town and Human Touch albums (check out my post from April about this night) so the crowd was pretty big. It was an event, maybe the last of such events as the musical climate had changed. Like I mentioned, if this album was released in ’80/’90, Def Leppard have another HUGE hit and mega-sales. During the Seattle/Grunge/Nirvana wave of music, a release from one of the biggest Hard Rock bands of all time got lost in the shuffle (if you want to call 5 million shifted “lost”). This album began the decline, albeit a successful start to the decline.

The band became a victim of their own success. It’s tough to top your previous work if that work is your biggest seller. It’s also tough to release new material and stay relevant if you are on tour for the same album for 2+ years. I always said that the 4 year gaps between Pyromania-Hysteria and Hysteria-Adrenalize were part of the band’s undoing. You can’t blame the guys for the car accident or death of Steve Clark, things happen. You can’t blame them for milking each record and tour either, they were doing what everyone would do…..make a boatload of money! By the end of this tour, the Leps needed to take a break…..

(Stay tuned for Part 2, coming next week…..)

The “I’m too busy to listen to Metal” playlist – 9/19/06

I know, I know…..I said Metal has been “on hold” lately but I had a slow night at work last night and I have been off duty from packing today so I caught up on some listening…..

Q5 – Steel the Light (1984/2000, High Vaultage reissue) – This has been on my want list for awhile. High Vaultage reissues some great albums with nice packaging and bonuses so most of there releases are on my list. I’ve given this 2 spins of only the original tracks, not the 7 bonus tracks. I wanted to listen to the album first, then the whole package. This seems to be a highly regarded debut from reviews I’ve read, so far I’m not disappointed.

Def Leppard - On Through The Night (1980), High’n Dry (1981), Pyromania (1983), Hysteria (1987), and Adrenalize (1991) – Last night at work I decided to start at the debut and go as far as I could before the headphones had to come off. Def Leppard made some of the most memorable and recognizable music from the 1980s/1990s but the quality depends on the listener. I’m going to the Def Lep/Journey show Saturday so I wanted to listen to some Def Lep to get geared up. I doubt they will be as good promoting Yeah! as the did in concert for X. On the X tour, they came out and played High’n Dry in order, in full. Sad that I was the only one in the 3rd row singing every word, at least until ‘Bringin’ On The Heartbreak’.

Krokus – Headhunter (1983) – Thanks to Metal Mark I am listening to Krokus right now. Metal Mark wrote a review of Headhunter (posted today) and there have been plenty of comments, including mine. This is easily Krokus’ pinnacle in a long career. Fave track: ‘Eat The Rich’

On deck:

The Sword – Age Of Winters (2006) – I really wanted this slice of Doom Metal after I read many glowing reviews. I’ve given this some spins but I still haven’t given a critical listen.

Metal on hold?

The last two weeks have been really hard to get through. Between work getting busier, soccer, my first cold of the season and house-hunting, I’ve been really run down. I hate to say that listening to Metal, and writing here, has taken a little hiatus.

Now all Metal hasn’t gone on hold, the new Iron Maiden and Motorhead albums are still getting many spins around the house but I haven’t really felt like spinning the amount of discs I normally do. I’ve been so tired lately that putting on my Dell DJ at work seems like too much effort. Forget picking up the guitar either. I just haven’t had the energy or the time to sit down and practice. I also have a few music DVDs and some taped episodes of Gene Simmons Family Jewels to watch.

Music isn’t the only thing that has a hold on it. I’m finding it hard to play Madden 07. I usually play a game to unwind (with a CD on of course!) but I just haven’t had the energy. The only thing I have kept up with is spending as much time outside with the kids as I can to soak in the good weather, it’ll be gone in a few weeks.

The house-hunting has been very productive. We saw many properties and we finally settled on one and put in an offer. Offer accepted! I close by Halloween so I am probably missing both Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper on tour this Fall. We started packing our apartment but we are a long way off. My wife has wanted to pack up my CDs but I won’t do it until the last minute. I really don’t want to pack them, it’s a pain in the ass! 2000+ CDs, and all the DVDs, and all the box sets…..it will be major work.

So how do I spell relief?
T-H-I-S W-E-E-K-E-N-D.

This coming weekend is my first full weekend off from work since the 1st week of February…..

Saturday night – Def Leppard/Journey concert (Jeff Scott Soto with Journey).
Sunday night – Pats Vs. Broncos at the stadium
Monday – vacation day with nothing to do

My only other plan is to pick up the new Mastodon album that came out last week and put it in rotation with Maiden and Motorhead. I have the new Taz Taylor Band CD and a classic from Q5 – Steel The Light (High Vaultage reissue) waiting for first spins. Hopefully, I will get some much needed sleep and be up to speed by tomorrow.

<<goes to the mailbox>>

The new issue (#99) of Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles just arrived in my mailbox, just what I needed. Nothing is better than getting a fresh Metal mag in the mail to rekindle the fire!

Motorhead – Kiss Of Death (2006)

Motorhead - Kiss Of Death

Motorhead – Kiss Of Death (2006, Sanctuary)

  1. Sucker
  2. One Night Stand
  3. Devil I Know
  4. Trigger
  5. Under The Gun
  6. God Was Never On Your Side
  7. Living In The Past
  8. Christine
  9. Sword Of Glory
  10. Be My Baby
  11. Kingdom Of The Worm
  12. Going Down
  13. R.A.M.O.N.E.S. (bonus track)

Total Time – 46:18

Band Lineup:
Lemmy Kilmister – Vocals & Bass
Phil Campbell – Guitars
Mikkey Dee – Drums

Motorhead official website

Motorhead has been making the same fast, loud Heavy Metal for the last 30+ years. Much like AC/DC, Motorhead employs the theory of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The new offering from Lemmy, Phil, and Mikkey is exactly what their last release was: a bunch of Motorhead songs that will kick your ass!

Motorhead is that one band, again like AC/DC, that everyone can agree on. Metalheads, punks, AOR purists alike all can agree that Motorhead just flat out kills! Kiss Of Death does exactly that, it grabs hold of your jugular and clenches tight for thirteen songs. ‘Sucker’, ‘One Night Stand’, and ‘Devil I Know’ all clock in around 3 minutes…..fast and hard. ‘Trigger’ comes in under 4 minutes and continues the assault. ‘Under The Gun’ turns into a nasty mid-paced groove that still smacks you in the head but still leaves you breathing.

One of my favorite tracks is ‘God Was Never On Your Side’. Lemmy’s rasp over some nice acoustics and subdued drumming. C.C. DeVille from Poison lends a hand in the guitar department on this slower number. It’s a cool departure from the headbanging norm.

‘Living In The Past’ is sludgy and dirty, the vocal reminds me of ‘Orgasmatron’ from back in 1986. One heck of a solo here by Phil Campbell. ‘Christine’ is the “sing-a-long” tune…..it’s fast, has memorable hooks and riffs. It’s like a bad KISS song that I could see Gene Simmons singing! It’s a good song though, very catchy with a bit of boogie…..this is another favorite of mine.

The next four songs (tracks 9-12) continue the all-out Metal assault: fast, crass, and in your face. Up until this point, I haven’t found a weak song or one I don’t like. The album is plain solid until the Ramones tribute, ‘R.A.M.O.N.E.S.’. Is it bad? No. Is it good? Yeah. Is it necessary? No. With twelve originals of Metal perfection why not add another for #13? I’ll bet the band has a better song that I would enjoy more than this, especially when it was first recorded on the 1916 album. Motorhead is Punk, Motorhead is Metal…..they can get away with covering themselves I guess but I would prefer another new song.

Bottom Line:
If you’ve heard Motorhead albums before, you know what you’re getting. The album is hard, fast, in your face Metal with a mix of Punk. It’s good…..no other way to say it.

Iron Maiden – A Matter Of Life And Death (2006)

Iron Maiden - A Matter Of Life And Death

Iron Maiden – A Matter Of Life And Death (2006, Sanctuary)

  1. Different World
  2. These Colours Don’t Run
  3. Brighter Than A Thousand Suns
  4. The Pilgrim
  5. The Longest Day
  6. Out Of The Shadows
  7. The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg
  8. For The Greater Good Of God
  9. Lord Of Light
  10. The Legacy

DVD Extra:

  1. The making of The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg
  2. The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg video
  3. Studio performance footage of Different World
  4. Photo gallery

Total Time – 72:06
DVD Total Time – 46:12 

Band Lineup:
Bruce Dickinson – Vocals
Steve Harris – Bass & Keyboards
Dave Murray – Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Janick Gers – Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Adrian Smith – Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Nicko McBrain – Drums

Iron Maiden official website
Maidenfans.com

Released on September 5th, A Matter Of Life And Death, the new album by Heavy Metal legends Iron Maiden has caused quite a bit of discussion among fans and critics around the world. The discussion centers around the length of each track, the epic songwriting, and the Progressive vibe the music contains. Many fans and critics are pointing to the length of each track, the writing of epics, as a disappointment. Many people want Maiden to revert back to the early 1980s and write songs that are more straight forward and shorter…..singles, if you will.

Since Iron Maiden re-emerged on the musical landscape in 1999, with vocalist Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith back in the fold, the band has gone in a more Progressive Metal direction while retaining it’s signature wall of sound. Previous albums with the reunited “classic” lineup, Brave New World (2000) and Dance Of Death (2003), each contained songs with a more Progressive flavor and an expanded length. Of the ten songs on Brave New World, seven were in excess of 6 minutes long. On Dance of Death, six out of ten were over 6 minutes long with a 7th, ‘Montsegur’ coming close at 5:50. On the current album, seven out of ten songs are in excess of 6 minutes. Obviously, the band has been leaning toward longer, more intricate songs for the last six years, making the length and style a non-issue. If we look back to previous albums, Maiden has crafted some of the best epics of the genre: ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’ (1984), ‘Alexander The Great’ (1986), ‘The Clansman’ (1998) to name a few. So this is nothing new and I find it irrelevant. What matters most is the quality of each song.

High quality is what you get on A Matter Of Life And Death. The musicianship, especially the triple guitar attack of Murray/Smith/Gers, is top-notch and Dickinson’s voice sounds as powerful as it did on classic albums of yore. On the first few listens, Bruce’s performance stood out the most, his voice full and rich, able to maintain a healthy range from low to high without a drop in power. I compare it to his brilliant performance on his 1998 solo album, The Chemical Wedding. What else would you expect from a band as highly regarded as Iron Maiden? Each member an expert at their instrument and craft, the execution never an issue.

The first six songs on this new album absolutely smoke! They are by far the strongest on the album, my personal favorites being ‘Different World’, ‘These Colours Don’t Run’, and ‘Out Of The Shadows’. I don’t particularly care for the first single, ‘The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg’. Not sure why really, it’s a good song but it didn’t really grab me like the first six did.

The last four songs, including ‘Benjamin Breeg’, all clock in at over 7 minutes and are all quality epic compositions. If we were still in the vinyl/cassette days, these four songs would comprise Side 2 and I think it would require a more closer listen to absorb all the different aspects of each track. Of the last four songs, my favorite has to be ‘The Legacy’. It starts very slow and calm, and builds into a grand wall of sound. I really enjoy the acoustic guitars and bass in this song, that blend into the wall of electric, yet are always underneath keeping an even flow and contrast. ‘The Legacy’ is one of the strongest tracks on a very powerful album.

Bottom Line:
Iron Maiden has put out another classic album. An album that requires the listener to actually listen closely to take in the full scope of each song. It’s ambitious, grand, and fresh to my ears. It is also a continuation of Iron Maiden’s Progressive Metal direction they have leaned to thoughout their career but have really explored since their resurgence in 1999. At a time when popular music is a “cookie-cutter” industry, and many Metal bands in all genres try too hard to be seen as different, bands like Iron Maiden come in and just create music that is an extension of themselves and the music of their past. A Matter Of Life And Death is superb and will easily be at the top of my Best of 2006 list.

Jason Becker official website

Jason Becker.com

Many of you may remember guitar phenom Jason Becker from his time in David Lee Roth’s solo band, recording on the A Little Ain’t Enough album. Maybe you remember him from his early days in Cacophony. Maybe you remember him as being one of the hottest young guitarists of the late ’80s/early ’90s.

What you may not know is that Jason was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) during his tenure with DLR and he has lived a productive life since the disease started to take hold. According to Jason, he has actually improved over the last few years. Amazing!

The Metal Sludge website has an interview with Jason in it’s archives, it’s very inspiring. Jason’s website and life story is an absolute tribute to the undying human spirit. Aside from being a brilliant musician, he is a brilliant human being.

Please take a few minutes to take a visit…..

New upcoming KISS releases: Alive Box Set & Millenium Collection 3

From Bravewords:

The Alive! box set that we mentioned a while ago, to contain KISS’ first three Alive albums (as released on Universal labels, whereas the latest Alive IV/Symphony album came out via Sanctuary Records), turns out to be not just that! Apparantly, it’ll be a 4 disc box set, scheduled for November. Believe it or not, the fourth disc is expected to be the never released, original Alive IV album (cover art pictured) that was once advertised back in 2000 and recorded when the band was still with Universal Music.

Recorded on New Year’s Eve 1999/2000 at Vancouver’s BC Place Concert Bowl in Canada, the original Alive IV was set for a March 28th, 2000 release. However, it quickly got pushed back to April 18th before it got shelved indefinately. Around that time, PAUL STANLEY stated in an online chat: “Alive IV will be out at some point. We missed our deadline and we’re still in midst of it.”

The tracklisting back then was supposed to be: ‘Psycho Circus’, ‘Shout It Out Loud’, ‘Deuce’, ‘Heaven’s On Fire’, ‘Into The Void’, ‘Firehouse’, ‘Do You Love Me’, ‘Let Me Go Rock ‘N’ Roll’, ‘I Love It Loud’, ‘Lick It Up’, ‘100,000 Years’, ‘Love Gun’,’Black Diamond’, ‘Beth’ and ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’ (with the Japanese edition to also include the bonus tracks ‘2000 Man’, ‘God Of Thunder’ and ‘Detroit Rock City’).

In other Universal Music news, the band’s former label will release yet another KISS compilation album. Titled Millennium Collection – 20th Century Masters Vol. 3, the album is set for an October 10. The release and obviously the sequel to Volumes 1 and 2. The tracklisting is as follows: ‘God Gave Rock ’N’ Roll To You II’, ‘Unholy’, ‘Domino’ – Live, ‘Hate’, ‘Childhood’s End’, ‘I Will Be There’, ‘Comin’ Home’ – Live Unplugged, ‘Got To Choose’ – Live Unplugged, ‘Psycho Circus’, ‘Into The Void’, ‘I Pledge Allegiance To The State Of Rock And Roll’, ‘Nothing Can Keep Me From You’.

——————————————————–

Obviously it’s nice to finally see the “original” Alive IV released but now you have to buy the first 3 all over again. I’d just prefer a separate release. As far as the new Millenium collection…..I’ll buy it but it’s a label cash grab. At least ‘Got To Choose’ from Unplugged is being released domestically, it was the Japanese bonus track. Also, you don’t need to buy the Detroit Rock City Soundtrack for ‘Nothing Can Keep Me From You’. Of course, if you bought the KISS box set a few years ago, these were included.

Can’t blame Gene & Paul, Universal owns the back catalog and can release what they want. I’m sure the guys won’t refuse any checks that come their way but I do hope they have some creative input.