The Top 5 DVDs of 2010

2010 wasn’t a bad year for music DVDs but I think it was very similar to 2009. In 2009, there weren’t that many notable DVDs released from the big name bands and a lot of bands used DVDs as special bonuses in first pressing of new releases. I also missed a few DVD releases in 2009 and that carried over to 2010 as well. The difference between the last few years, aside from Iron Maiden not releasing an awesome DVD this year, is that I made sure I picked up a few more DVDs. Actually, this turned out to be one of my better years for DVDs, I think I acquired about ten and all of them were very well done. Bands and labels are continuing to raise the bar by putting a lot of content into these DVDs so that the fans get a lot of value for their hard earned dollar. So here is my list of  The Top 5 Music DVDs of 2010:

#1

The Big 4 (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth & Anthrax) - Live From Sofia, Bulgaria (2010): Technically this is a box set but the reason you’re buying the box set is to see the concert. It was obvious from the second I opened the package that this was going to be the DVD of the Year because the expectation of seeing all four Thrash heavyweights on one bill, and then on one stage together, was the whole point. As far as content goes, this was definitely the best DVD. You got full sets from each band, along with the ‘Am I Evil?’ jam during the Metallica set, and they were all great performances. There was also enough bonus footage of the backstage are and the ‘Am I Evil?’ rehearsals to make that a special add-on. Maybe the fact that I got the DVD in the box set has something to do with it because the box set did include the audio CDs, booklet and photo cards but the DVD can be purchased separately and, if I got that version, it would still be at the top spot.

#2

Michael Schenker Group – The 30th Anniversary Concert: Live In Tokyo (2010): I’m putting Michael Schenker in the second spot because this was a tour souvenir for me after I caught the show in Foxboro, MA a few months later in July. Michael Schenker has been one of my favorite guitarists for a long time and the early MSG albums are still classics. When I caught the show in July, it was one of the best concerts I’d seen this year, if not all-time, Michael and the band put on a great show. This concert in Tokyo is basically the same show I saw in Foxboro with a little different running order, a couple extra songs and a different touring lineup. The concert is superb and it’s obvious that the magic between Schenker and original MSG singer Gary Barden is still there. Not a lot of extras here (some backstage footage and interviews) but the performance more than makes up for it with classic songs and great musicianship.

#3

Jeff Scott Soto – One Night In Madrid 2009 (2010): ONE NIGHT IN MADRID 2009 was released in Europe in late 2009 but got a proper U.S. release in early 2010 along with the two disc live album. Not only is Jeff Scott Soto one of the best Rock singers in the business, he is also extremely fan friendly when releasing CDs and DVDs. This DVD set includes the 21 song setlist from Sala Heineken in Madrid and and extensive bonus section that is longer than the main show! The Madrid show includes songs from all over Soto’s career and is a superb performance. The bonus section features eight music videos from Soto’s solo albums and second bonus section that includes behind the scenes tour footage and a tribute to Marcel Jacob, Soto’s bandmate in Talisman who passed away unexpectedly in 2009. The total running time for the single DVD is 4 hours & 5 mins but the concert itself is only 1 hour & 42 mins long…..that means there’s over 2 hours of bonus material. Now that’s really giving the fans something extra! This DVD would have easily made the #2 spot but the MSG performance was just a bit more special because I had seen it live. ONE NIGHT IN MADRID is a very close 3rd…..maybe if the live album was included in the package instead of a separate release it would have put it in 2nd.

#4

Halford – Live In Anaheim (2010): LIVE IN ANAHEIM is another one of those releases that got a separate DVD and a separate live CD release, it would have been nice to have the whole package together but that’s another issue. This DVD is two parts: Part 1 is a band documentary including four songs performed in Tokyo, Japan in February 2003 and Part 2 is the full 19 song concert in Anaheim from June 2003. This Halford footage is prior to Rob Halford reuniting with his Judas Priest bandmates so the Halford band was his only focus and, at the time, they were promoting and touring the band’s then latest record CRUCIBLE (2002). The band’s performances are tight, Rob is in fine form vocally and the Anaheim setlist is varied enough where there are twelve Judas Priest songs but seven songs coming from CRUCIBLE, RESURRECTION (2001) and some songs from Rob’s days in Fight. Personally, I would prefer more solo/Fight/Halford tunes than the Priest stuff because, well, it’s Halford but at least Rob and the band pull out some lost Priest nuggets like ‘Rapid Fire’, ‘Never Satisfied’ and ‘Riding On The Wind’.

#5

Heaven & Hell – Neon Nights: Live In Europe (2010): This Heaven & Hell live DVD captures the band live headlining the Thursday night opening day of the 2009 Wacken Open Air Festival in Germany. Obviously, with the death of Ronnie James Dio, NEON NIGHTS: LIVE IN EUROPE is the final recorded document of the Dio-era Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell…..ten months later, Ronnie would pass away. This DVD is the basic Heaven & Hell concert in support of the band’s latest studio album THE DEVIL YOU KNOW (2009) and it’s basically the same set that I saw a month later in Boston. As far as extras go, just a couple of interview segments with each band member including Ronnie. I’m adding this DVD in ahead of a few others I have because the performance is superb and the impact of the music is great. If this is the way we remember Ronnie James Dio and his time in Sabbath, then this is the way to do it.

Heaven & Hell – Neon Nights: Live In Europe (2010) CD & DVD

Heaven & Hell – Neon Nights – Live In Europe (2010, Eagle Rock/Armoury Records)

  1. E5150 (DVD only)
  2. Mob Rules
  3. Children Of The Sea
  4. I
  5. Bible Black
  6. Time Machine
  7. Fear
  8. Falling Off The Edge Of The World
  9. Follow The Tears
  10. Die Young
  11. Heaven & Hell
  12. Country Girl (DVD only)
  13. Neon Knights

Band Lineup:
Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
Tony Iommi – Guitar
Geezer Butler – Bass
Vinny Appice – Drums
Scott Warren – Keyboards & Backing Vocals

Executive Producers: Terry Shand & Geoff Kempim (for Eagle Rock Entertainment)

Country: USA & UK

Total Time (CD) = 1:14:30
Total Time (DVD) = approx 2 hrs & 30 mins

Heaven & Hell
Ronnie James Dio
Tony Iommi
Black Sabbath Online

NEON NIGHTS : LIVE IN EUROPE is a CD and DVD release of Heaven & Hell’s headline performance in Germany, at the Wacken Open Air Festival on July 30, 2009. This is the last professionally recorded performance from the band and of the late great Ronnie James Dio. This wasn’t the band’s final performance because the tour, supporting their latest album THE DEVIL YOU KNOW (2009), continued throughout the world and I was lucky enough to see the show in Boston, MA a month later. That tour stop in Boston was a great concert and will always be one of my favorite shows because I was right up front and dead center, it turns out that it was also the next to last stop on the world tour and the next to last live performance Ronnie would ever have. Sadly, Ronnie James Dio passed away from stomach cancer almost a year later on May 16, 2010. So what we have here with NEON NIGHTS is two separate releases: a CD version and a DVD version. If you’re going to buy one, I’d pick the DVD because they are both around the same price but the DVD has a little extra.

DVD:
The DVD version of NEON NIGHTS captures Heaven & Hell’s headline concert of the first day of the Wacken Open Air Festival in the Summer of 2009. It’s the full setlist shot with mulitple cameras along with two interview segments as bonuses. As far as the setlist goes, this is the exact same set that I ended up seeing in Boston about a month later…..a bunch of classics and three new songs from THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. Even though Black Sabbath with Dio only released three studio albums, there are plenty of classic tracks to choose from including ‘Mob Rules’, ‘Die Young’, ‘Heaven & Hell’ and ‘Neon Knights’ but, the tracks I like the most are ‘I’ and ‘Time Machine’ from the highly underrated DEHUMANIZER (1992) album. The difference on the setlist on the DVD is that the ‘E5150′ intro is shown in it’s entirety at the beginning and an abbreviated version of ‘Country Girl’ is played and segues into ‘Neon Knights’ to close the show. It’s a great performance, a great concert with timeless music and flawless performances. All the members are top notch on their instruments and, for a man around 66 yrs old at the time and battling the early stages of stomach cancer, Ronnie gives another spectacular performance. The bonus features include 30th Anniversary interviews with each band member. VH-1 Classic’s Eddie trunk interviews Ronnie James Dio, Vinny Appice and Geezer Butler while Classic Rock Magazine’s Malcolm Dome interviews Tony Iommi, all the interviews focusing on the timeline of Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell history over the last 30 years. There really isn’t anything new to these interviews if you’ve followed this version of the band over the years, the band history is pretty much recalled the same by all four member, what is interesting though is the will and desire to continue with the current lineup making new music and touring. These interviews were done before Ronnie’s death so, at the time, the plan was to continue with Heaven & Hell. Another round of interviews with Tony, Geezer and Vinny were added as a tribute to Ronnie after his passing and they are basic quick segments of each member remembering their friend and bandmate.

CD:
The CD version of NEON NIGHTS has an almost identical performance compared to the DVD, the only differences being the omission of the ‘E5150′ intro at the beginning and the abbreviated ‘Country Girl’ that moves into ‘Neon Knights’. There’s not really much to say regarding the CD aside from that, the booklet, pictures and liner notes are exact to the DVD version and there are no bonuses.

Bottom Line:
I really enjoyed NEON NIGHTS: LIVE IN EUROPE because it was a tour souveneir for me and a last look at Ronnie James Dio in action. My favorite Black Sabbath lineup has always been the Dio era and Heaven & Hell is a continuation of that era just with a slightly different name. Taking a good look at the entire package, I can’t help but wonder why Eagle Rock/Armoury Records didn’t just put the audio CD in with the DVD and charge one price for one package, it would be easier that way for fans. I hate to call it a “cash in” or a way to put extra product on the shelves after Ronnie’s passing because this was scheduled to come out anyway, and the concert performance is great, I just wish there were a few more extras remembering Ronnie. Overall, a good concert that was captured on audio and video and it will be the live document that will carry the Sabbath/Dio legacy forward. Well worth picking up on DVD, the CD is for diehards and completists.

CD Scavenger Hunt (November update)

In an attempt to not only keep track of my purchases, and to also keep this post from being two months late, I am actually going to add to this post throughout the month! A genius of an idea…..not sure why I hadn’t thought of it before. The added bonus is that I can clear up some desk space. I should really take an updated picture of my desk because I have a pile of purchases, a pile of promos, the pile of press releases and then my own notes…..and that’s just on the left side! Then there’s the pile of CDs that I want to upload into iTunes on the right…..don’t get me started on that. So here’s November’s buying update……

Ebay

Johnny Crash – Neighborhood Threat (1990) – $18 used: I have been on the search for this CD for about 8 years…..for a decent price. I used to go to this record store from around 1997 to 2002 when it finally closed and I used to get a ton of great used CDs every weekend. This was back in the day when the Internet, Ebay, Napster, and trading in used CDs for cash were all really a new thing (at least here in Rhode Island!). Anyway, I used to scrounge the used racks and I could come away with about 20 used CDs for $100 and they were all Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. You don’t know how many times I debated buying this CD and how many times I put off grabbing it because I found something else “more important”. Once that specific store closed it’s doors, I never saw another Johnny Crash CD. You can get one online through various outlets but Ebay has always seemed the easiest but I never bothered to pick one up because I thought that $20+ for it was too much, especially when I had seen it for $5 used in person. As the years have gone by, the amount of copies on Ebay have dwindled and the price has gone up. I have had this album on my Saved Searches for at least a couple of years and, one day last week, a notification came via email of a new listing with a BUY IT NOW price of $15 + $3 shipping. I jumped on it immeadiately!

Newbury Comics

The Big Four (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth & Anthrax) – Live From Sofia, Bulgaria (2010) box set – $55: Nothing would be better than to see the Big 4 of Thrash on tour in the U.S. but, for now, this live set from the 2010 European Tour will have to be enough. I grew up listening to all four bands so this was a no-brainer purchase for me, the only thing that bothered me was the price because $55 is expensive. I could have settled for the 2 DVD set for $20 but I wanted the audio as well so the 4 CD/2 DVD box set was the only option. Also included in the box set besides the CDs, DVDs and the box is a set of four photo cards (one for each band), a full color booklet and a guitar pick. The price really had me debating the purchase because I can get three or four different new releases for that amount but I reasoned that I was get more bang for the buck with one set. Plus, the regular price was $75 and waiting to use gift cards I will eventually get for the holidays would technically make it free…..but also $20 more expensive. I ended up saving $20.

Kiske/Somerville – s/t (2010) – $18: I have been wanting to pick this album up since it was announced first, because of Michael Kiske’s involvement (I’m a Helloween fan from way back in the ’80s) and second because Amanda Somerville jumped on my radar with her beautiful voice. I thought the concept was interesting in pairing the two singers and then I read a ton of positive reviews…..every once in a while I get an album stuck in my head that I just need to have, this was THAT album. The album came out a few weeks ago and I had been eyeballing it through the usual online stores but the price always floated up around $20 with shipping…..then the CD got a proper U.S. release and was on sale the first week. Unfortunatelt, the record store only stocked one copy the day it came out and someone managed to get to the store before me that Tuesday! This turned out to be one of the more pricey CDs I bought recently because I missed out on the initial sale price but I ended up with a comparable price compared to online and I didn’t have to wait for the mail.

Dio – Dio At Donnington, UK: Live 1983 & 1987 (2010) – $12: It’s been a rough time for me being a big fan of Ronnie James Dio and all the bands he fronted over the years, his death earlier this year affected me greatly because he was a big musical presence in my Metal journey of the last three decades. Besides groing up with the Dio band, I became a HUGE fan of his era in Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell and he led my favorite Rainbow lineup. One of the things I did after news of his passing was to listen to Ronnie’s collective work even more so there was a comfort in the music. This was a must have live set for me, not just because Ronnie is gone, but because I wanted to get my hands on an official release of both these legendary Dio shows at the Monsters Of Rock at Donnington. I hope that Ronnie’s wife Wendy continues to release classic archival material of Ronnie because his music is so great. Regular price was $18 for the 2 CD set so I saved $6 grabbing it on release day.

Helloween – 7 Sinners (2010) – $10: Like I mentioned up above, I started as a Helloween fan back in the ’80s with both KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS albums but somewhere in the early to mid-’90s I lost touch with the band. Some of the best Helloween albums have been released since 1998 when I rediscovered a lot of my old favorite bands when I got my Internet connection: 1998′s BETTER THAN RAW, 2000′s THE DARK RIDE and 2007′s GAMBLING WITH THE DEVIL. It just seems like Helloween just keeps pumping out record after record every couple of years, 7 SINNERS is their sixth studio album since 1998. I received a digital promotional copy of the album a couple of weeks prior to the release but there was a problem downloading the album so I never got to hear it! I would have spent the money on the proper CD for my personal collection anyway (this happens a lot!) and getting the CD on the day of release for $9.99 helped out a lot. Regular price was $16 so I saved $6.

GWAR – Bloody Pit Of Horror (2010) – $10: Didn’t GWAR just release an album last year? They did, LUST IN SPACE (2009). Nice to see the band trying to take over the world again as quickly as possible with two new albums and two world tours in two years. GWAR are the originators and bands like Mushroomhead, Lordi and Slipknot are capitalizing on an image that GWAR started all the way back in 1988! This was on my list of new releases to buy but it came out the same day as the new Dio and Helloween albums, then I found the Kiske/Somerville album, and I decided that I was going to spend too much money. Money is never an issue for me as long as the bills are paid and the family is fed but it’s getting close to the holidays and I didn’t want to overdue it…..I bought it anyway! The way I looked at it was that I would come back in a couple of weeks and have to pay the full price ($15) so I would be saving $5 by picking it up now. Plus, spending $10 now or in two weeks still means you’ve spent $10!

W.A.S.P. – s/t (1984) – $10 used: ever since Newbury Comics opened a store about 3 miles from my house, i never go to the Warwick, RI store anymore. True Rhode Islanders hate going anywhere if it takes longer than 15-20 minutes and the ride to Warwick, with traffic, can be 25 minutes. Needless to say, unless there’s other things that need to be done in the area, I don’t go down that way. After pulling a double shift at work, I came home to find that my wife was heading to Warwick to check out some holiday dishes for Thanksgiving…..the bribe for me to join her and the kids was Dunkin Donuts and a stop at the Warwick Newbury. This was a good trip because I found a lot of used bargains and this W.A.S.P. debut started it off. A little backstory here….. Back in 2003 when my wife was pregnant with our second daughter, she was out of work and we were cutting as many corners as possible. One thing I started to do was sell CDs I found on Ebay…..once my inventory was gone, I took a long look at my collection. I had all the original pressings of all the W.A.S.P. albums from the debut through CRIMSON IDOL but I also had the 1999 reissues with bonus tracks (the same reissues they keep re-releasing in different packaging every year!). Needing cash, I put the lot on Ebay and I think I scored $100! Over the years, I have regretted selling my original pressings because I think the reissues sound inferior so I’ve been on the hunt. When I saw this CD in the used bin, it was a definite purchase.

Tipton, Entwistle & Powell – Edge Of The World (2006) – $5 used: Here’s a disc that I passed up on four years ago and I have never seen cheap since the original sale price. Back in 2006, Glenn Tipton re-released his 1997 solo album BAPTIZM OF FIRE with two bonus tracks that were actually the Japanese bonus tracks from the 1997 release. I already had the original album so I didn’t bother but what did get my interest was this album that was released at the same time. So you have Glenn Tipton, The Who’s legendary bassist John Entwistle, legendary drummer Cozy Powell and keyboardist Don Airey working on a bunch of songs that weren’t done for BAPTIZM OF FIRE. Originally, this was supposed to be the band on BAPTIZM but the label got involved and these songs, and the lineup, got shelved. So the tracks finally see the light of day after close to ten years and 8 years after Cozy’s passing and 2 years after John’s. I never picked this up back then because I figured it would always be available, and it was, at $18 regular price. After a couple of years, the album disappeared off store shelves and I forgot about it…..$5 now is a great deal!

707 (featuring Kevin Russell) – Trip To Heaven (2000) – $4 used: I have this rule that if you’re going to rummage through the bargain bins, go through all of them thoroughly…..you never know what you might find. I’m an old school record store guy so I recognize a lot of obscure bands from my days as a kid flipping through racks of vinyl and cassettes, I recognized 707 right away. You may remember 707 from the early ’80s with their single ‘Mega Force’ but I remember them as being on Casablanca Records (KISS’ label). The band also got some publicity when Tod Howarth joined Frehley’s Comet and you may remember  singer Kevin Chalfant being a part of the band too. I wasn’t sure what kind of release this was but at $4 used, I figured that I could take a chance. Turns out Kevin Russell and 707 have been putting out some new material and re-releasing the old stuff.

Kotipelto – Waiting For The Dawn (2002) – $3 used: Bargain of the day! How can you pass up any Metal CD for $3? I recognized the band name as Timo Kotipelto from Stratovarius so I new that this was going to be some sort of Power Metal album. The album was released in 2002 on Century Media Records so I knew it had a regular release a few years ago but I didn’t remember Timo being solo. I grabbed this anyway, taking a chance again, but there was a second copy at the same price. Now the wheels are turning in my head…..could I sell this on Ebay? Good thing for cell phones! Turns out that this album sells for around$5 at auction so there wasn’t much upside to buying both copies but at least I got a great bargain! Perfect CD, as if it had never been played. No cut-outs, no wrinkles on the booklet, even the jewel case was in mint condition.

Sharon – Edge Of Time (1999) – $5 used: Another bargain! I’ve seen this album before back when it first came out in 1999 and I was a twice a week regular at 2 Guys Music in Warwick. That was a great place to get an education about what was coming out on European labels like Frontiers, SPV, Limb, Escape, Z Records etc. This CD came out in 1999 on Limb Music and distributed by SPV so I knew that I had at least found a Metal CD. What sold me right away, aside from the low price, was the gold sticker on the front of the jewel case that described the album as “sharp and timeless Melodic Rock & Metal”. That’s enough for me! From what I can tell, this was Sharon’s only release and the sound is a little dated from what the reviews say. I took the chance figuring that Melodic Metal from Germany, on a good label, can’t be all that bad. Plus, I checked Ebay on my phone and there weren’t any copies available for less than $9!

Domain – Stardawn (2006) – $9 used: Another awesome bargain! I would probably have to put this ahead of the Kotipelto CD as “bargain of the day” because this is a 3 disc set! STARDAWN was released in 2006 on Limb Music/SPV and it’s a 3 disc set including the STARDAWN album, a 16 song best of CD from 1988-2005 and a 9 song DVD titled SEVEN DAYS IN KOREA (LIVE 2005). I never let a nice set like this go: a 5 panel digipak, full color booklets, full color packaging, 2 CDs, a DVD and it’s a limited edition for Domain’s 20th Anniversary limited to 4000 copies worldwide. I didn’t see a serial number to designate which number out of 4000 I own but this STARDAWN collection isn’t something I’ve seen in local stores before.  Taking a quick look at my collection, it looks like I’ve picked up two or three Domain albums over the years but I don’t think I really have given the band much listening time.

Black Country Communion – s/t (2010) – $18: I ended up paying full price for this one because I passed on it the first couple of weeks after the album’s official release and, when I went to buy it on this trip, the sale price was gone. The sale price when this CD came out was $12.88 so I ended up paying $5 extra but I still felt OK about the higher price because I’ve heard such good things about this record. You’ve got Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian…..that’s as solid a lineup for a band as I’ve ever seen. Supergroup? Yeah, I’d say so…..it’s safe to say each musician is at the top of the list among their peers. I had this on my list just for Glenn Hughes, one of the greatest Rock singers of all time! The added bonus here is that the CD came with a bonus DVD that includes a video, interviews, behind the scenes in the studio and a photo gallery. If the album is as good as I’ve read, I’ll forget all about the high price.

Halford – Crucible (Remixed & Remastered) (2010) – $11: I picked this up to complete the Halford collection of remasters and because there were two copies, this one on sale and the other at regular price of $15. The sticker on the CD promotes the CRUCIBLE album remixed and remastered including four new tracks but, if you look closely, the four new tracks are really the two bonus tracks for the limited edition of the original pressing and the two bonus tracks for the Japanese import of the original pressing. This was one of those purchases that could have waited because I already have all the bonus tracks but, I was looking for something to buy and the sale sticker was calling my name. All the Halford remasters/reissues are top quality so I assume this one is more of the same. I haven’t opened it yet but when ido I will sit there and compare this to the original. Saved $4.

Halford – Live in Anaheim DVD (2010) – $15: For some reason, this DVD wasn’t released at the same time as the CD. I picked up the live album when it came out but this DVD came out a few weeks later and really flew under the radar. I could have pre-ordered this through the Halford website but I figured there would be a sale price and I could save a few bucks. The release date came and went and there was no mention in my weekly e-newsletter from the record store and there were no copies stocked in the store. About a month ago, I noticed that three brand new copies were in stock but regular priced. I decided to wait because there were three copies and there was no need to rush for it. A week later there were two copies…..two weeks after that I notice that there is only one Halford DVD left. I wasn’t going to risk another week, who knows who would buy it? This DVD includes the Anaheim concert obviously but also a documentary that includes four songs performed in Japan.

Black Sabbath – The Eternal Idol (Deluxe Edition) (2010) – $35: OK, the price on this may stagger you but this is the standard price for this UK import. I’m not usually sucked into buying these “deluxe editions” that seem to be coming out for every single band now but I do have a few but there were some serious bonuses and the new editions were released in the U.S. I already own THE ETERNAL IDOL (1987), and I’m a big Sabbath fan, especially post-Ozzy, but there was one reason why this deluxe edition way high on my want list…..the sessions with Ray Gillen on vocals. Back in ’87, Ray Gillen (ex-Badlands) was the singer for Black Sabbath having taken over for Glenn Hughes during the tour for THE SEVENTH STAR (1986). The band hit the studio after the tour but for some reason it wasn’t working out with Ray Gillen on vocals…..Tony Martin eventually came in to replace Ray (who went to Badlands with Jake E. Lee) and just re-cut the vocals. The Ray Gillen sessions have been widely circulated in bootleg form but this is the first time Tony Iommi has allowed these recordings to be officially released. Another cool bonus is the two B-sides from the proper album: ‘Black Moon’ and ‘Some Kind Of Woman’. I was so worried about having to order this online that I bit the bullet and bought this right away…..and this was the only CD I bought on this specific shopping trip.

Issa – Sign Of Angels (2010) – $16: This is one of those albums where I heard a track and had to have it. Issa is a new artist on Frontiers Records and, obviously, it’s female-fronted melodic Hard Rock. I had a digital promo of the album, downloaded it to iTunes, listened to it once and accidently deleted it! So I checked out the video for the second track on the album, ‘I’m Alive’, and I just had this idea in my head that I had to have this album! The problem was I saw only one copy in the record store when the album was released and I hadn’t seen it since. I didn’t want to pay the high import price online for a new artist that I only really new by a video but I ended up paying the same price when I found a fresh copy about a month later. I’m a sucker for female-fronted bands but this is an impressive album, push this back 20 years and it’s a major hit.

Heaven & Hell – Neon Nights: Live In Europe (2010) – $10: This is the live CD of Heaven & Hell’s performance at the 2009 Wacken Open Air festival on the tour for THE DEVIL YOU KNOW (2009). My favorite Black Sabbath lineup is the one with Ronnie James Dio so I would have snapped this live album up anyway but, with Ronnie’s passing still fresh, it was even more important to me to buy it. There’s just something about Ronnie James Dio that has really hit home with me over the last ten or twelve years and he has crept up into my Top 10 favorite artists/bands. Doesn’t matter if it’s Sabbath, Rainbow, solo, Elf or gueat appearances, I just have had a need over the last decade or so to collect all things Dio. Now that he’s gone, I want even more Dio music. Anyway, I saw this tour in Boston the same summer so it’s a nice way to re-live a great show. Saved $5 on the CD…..there was also a DVD released the same day.

Firewind – Days Of Defiance (2010) – $12: With Gus G. touring as Ozzy’s new guitarist, I completely forgot that a new Firewind album was coming out! Newbury Comics didn’t forget because there were at least ten copies available all with nice sale tags. I have a couple of Firewind CDs so I put this on my list and ended up going back and picking this up right away instead of waiting another week. You know what your getting with Firewind…..European Power Metal and excellent guitar work from Gus G. Usually I don’t get too excited over a new Firewind album but I must have had a Gus G. hangover after seeing Ozzfest and re-visiting the Dream Evil album that was released earlier in the year. Gus G. is having a pretty good year in 2010! I’ll tell you what sold me on picking this up right away…..there was something else released the same day that wasn’t in stock when I got to the record store so I spent the money I had on Firewind and still saved $4, regular price was $16. And that item was…..

Heaven & Hell – Neon Nights: Live In Europe DVD (2010) – $10: The DVD version of the new Heaven & Hell live album was released the same day as Firewind but the store only stocked two copies of the DVD and I got to the store an hour after it opened so I missed out. I got the CD no problem, there were plenty of copies of that available but the DVD is what I really wanted. I wanted to see the show one more time because I had seen the Boston tour stop and it was a great show. I had the guy at the counter check the next delivery date, which was the next day, so I had it reserved. Show up the next day and the DVD didn’t come in, only more live CDs so my pal at the counter took my name and number and promised me a copy ASAP. Another 24 hours and I get a phone call from the store that my DVD is in so i made my third trip to the record store in two days for one DVD…..at least I got it and saved $5 in the process, regular price was $15.

David ‘Rock’ Feinstein – Bitten By The Beast (2010) – $10: And the Ronnie James Dio releated releases keep on coming! David ‘Rock’ Feinstein is Dio’s cousin and was in early Dio bands like Ronnie & The Prophets and Elf with RJD but you might remember Feinstein best from his days with The Rods. I remembered reading a year or so ago that Feinstein was working on two new albums: a solo album and a new Rods album both with performances from Ronnie. The album was going to be released by Ronnie and Wendy Dio’s label, Niji Entertainment, and Ronnie not only performed a song, ‘Metal Will never Die’, he helped Feinstein mix and master the album before his death. I probably would have picked this up eventually but because of Ronnie’s death, the Dio radar is up and I have to have more Dio related music. Picked this up on sale for $10, regular price was $14, so I saved $4.

Yngwie Malmsteen – Relentless (2010) – $12: Can anyone tell me why Yngwie has to release new albums so close to the end of the year? He did the same thing with his last record a couple years ago and I totally missed it! Anyway, I’m a Malmsteen fan all the way back to Steeler and Alcatrazz so I usually buy Yngwie’s new records but I wasn’t going to initially because I was sent a digital promo…..or so I thought. I get a lot of promos, mostly digital downloads and, if I like the band or album, I usually go buy it because I’m a collector. I got an email from Yngwie’s promotional people offering a digital copy of the album for review but, when I followed the links, I got a digital stream that wasn’t downloadable. I like to download this stuff into my iPod and listen to these album’s on the go but I was chained to my computer to hear RELENTLESS. Now I get the whole priacy thing and I don’t question an artist from trying to avoid it but it was just an inconvenience…..so I didn’t bother with it. I even forgot the album was released! I happened to see it when I grabbed the Feinstein CD and noticed the good sale price, regular price was $18. I didn’t want to pay such a high price knowing that I would end up grabbing this eventually so i bought it and saved $6. By the way, Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens is back on the vocals.

Total = $298

Total (year) = $1758

Average Price (per item) = $10.72

Total CDs (year) = 149

Total DVDs (year) = 6

Total Box Sets (year) = 7

Total LPs (year) = 2

R.I.P. – Ronnie James Dio (1942-2010)

R.I.P. – Ronnie James Dio (1942-2010)

Ronnie James Dio passed away this morning at 7:45am after battling stomach cancer for the last 6 months…..he was 67 years old. Ronnie’s wife & manager Wendy Dio updated the Dio website with the following:

“Today (May 16th) my heart is broken, Ronnie passed away at 7:45am. Many, many friends and family were able to say their private good-byes before he peacefully passed away. Ronnie knew how much he was loved by all. We so appreciate the love and support that you have all given us. Please give us a few days of privacy to deal with this terrible loss. Please know he loved you all and his music will live on forever.”

You can leave your condolences on Facebook.
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This is a very sad day for me because I am a huge Dio fan and I love all of his music. Cancer is a horrible disease, one that has touched more than a few in my family, so I can’t even imagine what Wendy Dio and Ronnie’s family are dealing with right now. When I read the news that RJD had stomach cancer last year, I was shocked, not because RJD had cancer but because one of my heroes had cancer. Musicians, athletes, actors, whatever type of celebrity…..the fans put these people on pedastals and they seem almost superhuman but they are people like the rest of us. It’s a sad day for the Heavy Metal world because we lost an icon and a supreme talent but we also lost a man who respected his family, friends and fans and seemed like a good guy. I will miss Ronnie James Dio because his music has meant a lot to me in my 30 years of being a Metal fan but it is with that music that Ronnie will live on. My deepest condolences go out to Wendy Dio and to Ronnie’s family, friends and fans. Rest In Peace Ronnie…..

Long live Rock ‘n’ Roll…..long live Ronnie James Dio!

– Steve

The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#1-#10)

We finally made it to the Top 10!

Something you may have noticed by now is that some of my favorite bands are missing from the countdown so far…..guess where they are?

2009 was another great year for new Hard Rock and Heavy Metal albums and I was lucky to have heard a great many of them. There were hundreds of new albums released by hundreds of bands over a wide range of Metal genres, it was very hard to keep up especially when I’m spending my hard-earned cash! Unfortunately, I can’t buy every new album so there are more than a few that I have missed. I am still very lucky to have many labels, PR firms, and bands sending in their CDs for review, to all of them I would like to extend a very grateful THANK YOU! Without these promotions I would have never heard some great releases and discovered some new bands. I have totalled up the CDs and there were 125 albums up for this year’s honors!

The only criteria I followed for my Top 40 was that the album had to be a studio album, not a live record, best of, or covers collection AND the album had to be released in 2009. In the beginning of the year I decided that an album that was released in 2008, but was released in 2009 for the U.S., qualified as a 2009 album…..basically I went by the date on the back of the CD! There are plenty of albums that got late U.S. releases and there may be a few in this countdown. 

The ranking of the Top 40 is based solely on my enjoyment of the album and not some scientific formula. Bottom Line: I had to like it! There were so many releases this year that I more than doubled the list this year so I will be splitting it into three posts. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here is part 3, my Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#1 – #10):

#10

Wolf – Ravenous (2009): I completely missed 2006′s BLACK FLAME so I really didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this latest album from Wolf. Needless to say, I was blown away and I immeadiately knew that this was going to be one of the best albums of the year. Wolf has this classic retro Metal sound with major influences from Iron Maiden, Helloween and Judas Priest so I ate this up immeadiately! The songs are all excellent and the twin lead guitars really make this album what it is, especially at the solos. I have been singing along, headbanging and playing air guitar to RAVENOUS since March and it definitely set the bar high to get into this year’s Top 10.

#9

Cheap Trick – The Latest (2009): THE LATEST album from Cheap Trick turned out to be the biggest comeback of the year from a band that never really went away! Cheap Trick has always been one of the most underrated Classic Rock bands coming out of the mid-’70s/early ’80s and I always make the huge mistake about waiting to buy their new records until a few weeks after they are released. This year was no different and I waited until I caught part of their opening performance on Def Leppard’s summer tour before I picked it up. The odds were against the band when they basically started the album off with a Slade cover (‘When The Lights Are Out’) but it turned out to be one of the best songs of the year for me! Cheap Trick has always been a band with excellent musicianship and songwriting skills and THE LATEST is just another example of how great this band is. If I could describe this album in one word: Beautiful. After I gave this album a full listen, I played it again to make sure my ears didn’t deceive me…..I knew immeadiately that this was one of the best records of the year.

#8

Sunstorm – House Of Dreams (2009): The Joe Lynn Turner factor! There is no doubt in my mind that JLT could sing me the menu at a McDonald’s and I would absolutely worship it! This is the best AOR/Melodic Rock album of the year without a shred of doubt…..it’s like it came straight from 1985. Now a lot of people are going to say that the album sounds too retro, too ’80s, too keyboard friendly but that is exactly what it’s supposed to be. Add in some awesome songwriter like Jim Peterik and Desmond Child lending a hand and you’ve got AOR gold, I swear if this record came out 25 years ago then it would have been a Top 10, multi-platinum album. The sound is Joe Lynn Turner meets Survivor meets Journey meets Pride Of Lions…..just plain old feel food melodic music that has great overall songwriting and musicianship (the guitars and keyboards complimenting each other perfectly) to go along with one of the greatest singing voices in all of Rock.

#7

Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (2009): One of my most highly anticipated albums of 2009, Heaven & Hell (or Black Sabbath if you want) did not disappoint with their first true full-length album since 1992′s DEHUMANIZER. As many of you know, my favorite incarnation of Black Sabbath is the Ronnie James Dio era and it’s safe to say that Black Sabbath as a whole is one of my favorite bands of all-time. When I gave THE DEVIL YOU KNOW it’s inaugural couple of listens I was a little disappointed by the lack of fast and furious Metal songs like previous classic ‘Neon Knights’ and ‘The Mob Rules’ but I kept listening and it turned out that this is one heavy Doom record with a few well-placed fast numbers (‘Double The Pain’, ‘Eating The Cannibals’) to break the heaviness up a bit. Tony Iommi continues to write the best Metal riffs and Dio continues to sing better than vocalists half, even two-thirds, his age! The rhythm section of Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice are still as high-powered and brutal as ever and hearing them in concert proved to be a thunderous experience. Say what you want about this album not being HEAVEN & HELL (1980) or MOB RULES (1981), THE DEVIL YOU KNOW is definitely a great Black Sabbath Heaven & Hell album that can easily sit alongside those classics.

#6

UFO – The Visitor (2009): Another one of my favorite bands…..one of Top 5 in fact! There is now way I could have a Best of 2009 countdown without putting in THE VISITOR because it was easily in the running for my favorite record of the year since I got it. You have to give UFO credit, they have been doing it longer than most of their peers (40 years and counting!) and they consistently put out solid records. Since the band reunited in 1995 with the classic lineup, there have been many lineup changes but the mainstay is founder and singer Phil Mogg who puts in a brilliant performance vocally and as a songwriter…..no one writes or turns a clever phrase quite like Phil. The lineup still isn’t stable with founding bassist Pete Way out again due to health reasons and founding drummer Andy Parker coming back again to replace Jason Bonham when he left for Foreigner. Vinnie Moore proves that hes is more than capable of handling the guitar duties and holding back the Michael Schenker legend while Paul Raymond continues to be an integral part of the UFO sound on keybords, guitars and harmonies. Not a bad song on the album and well worth checking out.

#5

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth (2009): I received the promo for INTO THE LABYRINTH in December 2008 and I reviewed it mid-January…..I almost declared this the album of the year right there! Saxon has been one of the most consistent bands from the early days of the NWOBHM movement and, since 1997, have released some great albums that combine pure Power Metal with that classic NWOBHM style. Take the first two songs from the album, ‘Battalions Of Steel’ and ‘Live To Rock’: the first is Traditional/Power Metal and the latter is pure NWOBHM as if it was 1981. What Saxon is doing is what I keep emphasizing throughout this year’s countdown…..they are expanding/enhancing their trademark sound. You have to evolve and Saxon is showing a lot of the younger Metal bands out there just how to do it. Any other year and this would be my favorite album but there was stiff competition this year and a Top 5 showing is not bad at all.

#4

Johnny Lima – Livin’ Out Loud (2009): I had been reading all about Johnny Lima and this album for a couple of months before i actually broke down and ordered it from Johnny’s website. First, let me give Johnny a ton of credit for emailing me within 10 minutes of my order and personally thanking me and then sending the CD out same day including an autograph. Then he emails me a couple days later to make sure the album arrived! Keeping a connection with the fans is what it’s about and Johnny Lima gained an instant fan. And the music is good too! After spinning this once I knew this would be the best Glam/Hard Rock album of the year. If you like Poison, Def Leppard, early Bon Jovi, Dokken, Ratt, Cinderella and Motley Crue then you are definitely going to find a song on LIVIN’ OUT LOUD that could easily fit into any of the bands’ catalog. That’s not to say that the album is a carbon copy of what these big bands have done in the past rather it’s a statement that revisiting and reinterpreting the classic ’80s Hard Rock style is OK. That’s something that these bigger bands are afraid to do! Every song is catchy with a ton of hooks, big harmonies and great guitar…..this is the kind of record that is so infectious that you can’t help but sing along and have a great time. This was a major contender for the top spot for 2009.

#3

Sacred Oath – s/t (2009): Early in the year I started to read more and more about Sacred Oath and their forthcoming new album being an iTunes exclusive…..I don’t download, I buy CDs, so I didn’t pay much attention to the press releases. Then I read that the band was releasing the album on CD on their own label so I emailed the band for the release date. I received a promo copy in late May/early June and was completely blown away! Like I said in the review, if you took Metallica, Iron Maiden, Queensryche, Judas Priest, Armored Saint, Diamond Head and Metal Church and rolled them all into one, you would get Sacred Oath. The band takes influences from all the great bands and blends them together for an American Metal feast that goes from Heavy Metal to Power Metal to Progressive Metal and then the NWOBHM. It’s a huge sound to live up to and the album does just that. Searing riffs, pounding rhythm section and soaring vocals added to great songwriting…..it’s a wonder why the band broke up 20 years ago, I’d bet they would have been huge. Well, they are huge this year because this was my #1 album hands down until the next two in the countdown showed up. This record is still in my weekly playlist, I don’t see it leaving anytime soon, and ‘High And Mighty’ is one of my favorite songs of the year.

#2

Ace Frehley – Anomaly (2009): Ace Frehley has always been my favorite member of KISS and, with KISS being my favorite band, anything a current of former member of KISS does is a big deal. The last time Ace released a solo album was TROUBLE WALKIN’ in 1989…..20 years later ANOMALY has finally arrived! I have followed Ace’s career in and out of KISS since I was a little kid and he has talked about a new record since the early ’90s but nothing has ever come of it. Then there was the KISS reunion that lasted 6+ years and Ace started talking about a new solo record after he left the band in 2002 but nothing was released again. The only time I believed that Ace was releasing anything was when the album cover was released in June…..but would an actual record come out? September 15, 2009…..I was outside Best Buy before the store opened to get my hands on ANOMALY. One listen was all it took to hear that Ace Frehley had made a huge comeback with his solo career, ANOMALY is a well-written Hard Rock album and Ace sounds as focused as ever. Of all the albums he’s released as a solo artist or in Frehley’s Comet, ANOMALY ranks just below his KISS solo album. ‘Foxy & Free’, ‘Outer Space’, ‘Pain In The Neck’ and even the cover of Sweet’s ‘Fox On The Run’ are all solid Hard Rock songs that are catchy and full of that signature Ace guitar tone. The surprises here are the acoutically driven ballads like ‘Change The World’ & ‘A Little Below The Angels’ that show Ace’s diversity. This whole album is top notch from the music, to the album cover Ace designed to the special digipak packaging that tuens into a pyramid. I gave this album a ton of listening time and I still haven’t taken it out of my daily rotation! When I started to make this year end best of list I installed ANOMALY near the top because I enjoyed it so much. The bottom line on this list is that I enjoy the album and, between the excellent songs and my KISS worship, Ace Frehley has gained the #2 spot for 2009.

One album to go everyone! The #1 album is next but before I get to it let me say again how great this year was for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal…..my Best of 2009 list, along with the other websites’ lists, will attest to that. I’ve listened to more new releases this year than any other year that I can remember and this year’s list was a hard one to make, there were so many really good albums that got left out of the countdown so maybe next year I will expand again to a Top 50. Let’s move on though to my pick for the Top Album of 2009…..

#1

KISS – Sonic Boom (2009)

So what album did you all expect? Of course my top album for 2009 is the new KISS record! I’m a KISS diehard after all! Seriously though, of all the 2009 albums I listened to this year, SONIC BOOM was the one I wanted the most, listened to the most, and enjoyed the most. Any year that your favorite band releases a new album is a good year but I had no hopes that KISS would actually follow through with releasing an album of all new material. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons have been saying that they weren’t interested in releasing a new album for the last 7 years and I had no reason to doubt their conviction. Who knows why they did now? Maybe Paul Stanley liked working on his solo album a couple years ago? Maybe the Wal-Mart deal was in place ahead of time? Maybe they were just bored? Who cares! The bottom line is that KISS has released an album that is their very best since REVENGE (1992) and it completely blows away the reunion album PSYCHO CIRCUS (1998). I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much from SONIC BOOM because most KISS albums are half good songs and half filler. If the band was dead set against releasing a new record, why should they release a quality one? First thing the band did right was give Paul Stanley full control in the studio…..he’s the one that guided the band from 1983 to 1992 and his track record as a producer, performer and songwriter are proof enough. Ever notice that all the singles in the ’80s were Paul’s songs? After Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley is my favorite and I have always told people the he is the talent in KISS. The second thing the band did right was actually write. Paul & Gene actually wrote songs, and performed them, together for the first time in a long time in addition to what they brought in individually. The songs are high quality, catchy and there is an element of true ’70s KISS mixed with the KISS of today. Third thing the band did correctly was to involve Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer in the writing and in the singing to make it a true band effort. Nothing beats a band unit, compare SONIC BOOM and the sham that is PSYCHO CIRCUS and the winner is clear. I bought this album at my local Wal-Mart on October 6 (day of release) and I have played it everyday, many times more than once. I have been a diehard KISS fan since 1978, I’ve lived and died with this band and I am actually proud of them for releasing such a great record. I haven’t felt this good about KISS’ future since REVENGE and the 1996/1997 Reunion Tour…..SONIC BOOM is my favorite album of 2009!

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Please check out The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#11-#25) and The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#26-#40) for the rest of this year’s countdown.

Vacation playlist

Today starts my last vacation week of 2009. I always take the same vacation weeks every year and it’s that time again…..Halloween week! My family has the graveyard in front of the house and the kids are getting their costumes together and I have zombies to build for the graveyard. So what do I do? Sleep all day and watch football! I had a double shift at work again so I was able to get the iPod fired up and listen to a couple albums…..

Heaven & Hell – Live From Radio City Music Hall (2007): I’ve been on a big post-Ozzy Black Sabbath kick again so I put this Heaven & Hell live record on so I could hear the current Sabbath lineup do what I’ve seen them do four times in concert since the band adopted the Heaven & Hell name. This is becoming one of my favorite live albums.

Black Sabbath – Live Evil (1982): I played this album just so I could compare Sabbath then to Sabbath now. This is still one of my favorite live albums and a classic everyone should have in their collection.

KISS – Sonic Boom (2009): I had to get my daily listen to the new KISS album. It really is a solid record and a great studio comeback for the band.

Ace Frehley – Anomaly (2009): Just like the new KISS album, I had to get my daily listen to the latest Ace Frehley record. Just like the new KISS album, ANOMALY is a solid record and a great comeback for Ace 20 years after his last solo effort.

Metallica – Death Magnetic (2008): I wanted to give this a fresh listen because I feel like I didn’t give this enough time last year even though it made my Top 30 for 2008.

W.A.S.P. – The Last Command (1985): This is my favorite W.A.S.P. album and one of those albums that were so important to me when I was growing up and discovering different Metal bands. Great songs all around but I forgot just how good ‘Wild Child’, ‘Fistful Of Diamonds’ and ‘Cries In The Night’ are. The whole album is a classic but I get sick of ‘Blind In Texas’ so I usually skip over it.

Current Playlist

I may have let the blog go downhill a little but I have definitely been listening to a lot of music…..a lot of new releases that I’ve picked up recently. This has been another great year for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal! Here’s a sample of what I’ve been spinning…..

KISS – Sonic Boom (2009): Of course I’m listening to the new KISS record! Nothing is better than your favorite band releasing a new album and this is 11 years in the making. I have to admit that I didn’t really get into SONIC BOOM after the first couple of spins but I’ve given it a lot of time and I’m starting to really enjoy it.

Ace Frehley – Anomaly (2009): Of course I’m listening to the new Ace album! So far I like it a lot better then KISS’ SONIC BOOM, he beat them to the punch by releasing his new album first. Ace always had the talent, he just lacked the focus, ANOMALY proves that.

Queensryche – American Soldier (2009): I have this annoying habit of picking up albums when they are released and not listening to them, this is the case of the new Queensryche record. I’ve had it, it’s been sitting on my desk, it’s was still wrapped in the cellophane. I ended up putting it in and was impressed with the overall concept and performance. I wasn’t digging the idea of another Queensryche concept album but I’m really enjoying it.

Immortal – All Shall Fall (2009): I wanted to start getting into more extreme styles of Metal so I started picking up different Death & Black Metal bands up over the last few weeks. I’ve given this only a couple of spins and I’m not really sure what to make of it. Black Metal isn’t my first genre of choice but I’m keeping my mind, and ears, open.

Johnny Lima – Livin’ Out Loud (2009): I’ve been listening to this a lot over the last few weeks. It’s really good melodic hard Rock that leans toward Def Leppard, Poison, Dokken and Bon Jovi…..one of my favorite albums this year.

Lita Ford – Wicked Wonderland (2009): The Queen Of Metal’s big comeback! I’ve given it two spins and I’m not overly impressed. Could be a grower so I’ll give it some more time.

Spinal Tap – Back From The Dead (2009): Love the movie, love the soundtrack, love BREAK LIKE THE WIND (1992). I’m not sure if Tap’s brand of comic Metal is what we need in 2009 but it’s a cool break from the ultra-serious way the scene usually is. I could have gone for a straight up new record but I’ll take the re-done classics as a bonus.

Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (2009): I still can’t get enough of this album, one of my favorites of the year. I still wish there were more faster songs though.

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth (2009): One of my top albums since it came out back in January. Saxon is one of those bands that I can never get enough of and INTO THE LABYRINTH satisfies both the old school NWOBHM fan in me as well as the Power Metal fan in me. This will definitely be in the running for this year’s best.

Ted Poley – Greatestits (2009): Search for the cover and you’ll understand the spelling! 2 CDs, 23 songs, all spanning Ted Poley’s career after Danger Danger. There are some excellent songs here and now I’m making a list of all the Poley projects I don’t have and need to buy.

Heaven & Hell and Coheed & Cambria in concert at the Bank of America Pavilion (Boston, MA) – 8/28/09

I bought my ticket to the Heaven & Hell show back in early May but I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it last night with all the stuff I’ve had going on physically. About 5pm I decided to drag myself behind the wheel and make the hour drive up to Boston for the show. This was going to be my 4th time seeing Heaven & Hell since they reunited back in 2006 and I had 11th row! Can’t pass that up!

Coheed & Cambria setlist:

I’m going to be extremely honest here: I have no idea who these guys are! I’ve seen the albums in the stores, seen the ads in magazines but I’ve never heard one tune by this band. I figured they were a new band but they’ve actually been around since 2002. The band played 50 mins and was a big hit with the younger crowd that was in attendance…..I would say that everyone ages 12-25 new who these guys were. They got a great response from the crowd and I saw a ton of Coheed & Cambria shirts being bought. Maybe these guys are worth checking out?

Heaven & Hell setlist:

E5150
The Mob Rules
Children Of The Sea
I
Bible Black
Time Machine
(Vinny Appice drum solo)
Fear
Falling Off The Edge Of The World
Follow The Tears
(Tony Iommi guitar solo intro)
Die Young
Heaven & Hell (with extended solo)

Encore:
Country Girl
Neon Knights

Like I mentioned, this was the 4th time I was seeing Heaven & Hell since the reformed back in 2006…..I’ve always been a huge Black Sabbath fan, especially post-Ozzy, so hearing the classic Dio-era of the band in concert is a special thing. Call it what you want, it will always be Black Sabbath to me! So I got to my seat right after the Coheed & Cambria set: 11th row and dead center! I was so close I could see Iommi’s fake fingertips! Great seats!

The band started out with ‘The Mob Rules’, an absolute classic, and never stopped. One thing I have to say for the band, they deliver a high powered set that a lot of younger bands could learn from: Ronnie James Dio sounded the best I had heard of all four shows, Tony Iommi played brilliantly and effortlessly, Geezer Butler’s fingers flew up and down his bass and Vinny  Appice is one heavy hitter. You could tell the guys were enjoying themselves, a lot of smiles on the stage last night! Not a lot of talking in between songs, just quick song intros,  just pure Heavy Metal.

The setlist was pretty good but a little short. The band played the mandatory classics like ‘Heaven & Hell’, ‘Children Of The Sea’, and ‘Die Young’ along with three new songs off THE DEVIL YOU KNOW (2009): ‘Bible Black’, ‘Fear’ and ‘Follow The Tears’. I’ve had the new album since it came out and I really like it so it was good to get a few new songs in the set although I was surprised that they didn’t play any of the three songs off the LIVE AT RADIO CITY (2006) album. I figured they would play two tracks from the latest album and give us ‘The Devil Cried’ or ‘Shadow Of the Wind’. The new songs came off well live with great crowd response…..I did notice a run on the CDs at the merchandise stand after the show, a lot of young kids picking up the album!

The only complaint I have in an otherwise flawless performance is that it was too short. I think I say that about every show I go to because I enjoy the music so much but this one was short despite the 95 minute set. Heaven & Hell have some long songs and ‘Children Of The Sea’, ‘Falling Off The Edge Of The World’ and ‘Heaven & Hell’ take up close to a half an hour on their own, especially when you add in some extended soloing from Iommi. The new songs are also on the slower/longer side of things so you got a more quality than quantity…..I’ll definitely take that. Sometimes newer bands try to cram in a ton of songs and they suck performance wise. The encore had a abbreviated ‘Country Girl’ that was almost like a quick intro to the speedy ‘Neon Knights’ but it got a great response. A lot of old school Sabbath fans were commenting after the show that it was a pleasant surprise to hear ‘Country Girl’ live.

I enjoyed the entire show but there is always something that stands out and for me it was the two tracks that the band played from the underrated DEHUMANIZER (1992) album: ‘I’ and ‘Time Machine’. It’s great to see the band embrace their entire catalog and DEHUMANIZER is a great album. I saw Sabbath on that tour also so that album holds a special place in my Metal world alongside HEAVEN & HELL and MOB RULES. ‘I’ has been in the setlist since the reunion in 2006 and the band has seen fit to perform ‘Computer God’ and ‘After All (The Dead)’ at the other shows I’ve seen so getting ‘Time Machine was a complete surprise! Great songs! Great show! RJD mentioned that this show in Boston was the next to last show of the tour so it looks like I’ll have to wait until 2010 or early 2011 to see the band again.

Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (2009)

heaven-hell-the-devil-you-know-2009

Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (2009, Rhino)

  1. Atom And Evil
  2. Fear
  3. Bible Black
  4. Double The Pain
  5. Rock And Roll Angel
  6. The Turn Of The Screw
  7. Eating The Cannibals
  8. Follow The Tears
  9. Neverwhere
  10. Breaking Into Heaven

Heaven & Hell 2009

Band Lineup:
Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
Tony Iommi – Guitars
Geezer Butler – Bass
Vinny Appice – Drums

Produced by: Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi & Geezer Butler

Total Time = 54:05

Heaven & Hell
Heaven & Hell MySpace page
Black-Sabbath.com
Rhino Records

Black Sabbath is the band that started it all…..they created Heavy Metal. I’ve been a long time fan of all incarnations of Sabbath whether it be with Ozzy, Dio, Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes or Tony Martin on the mic. My favorite era by far is with Ronnie James Dio. Take a listen to the dual masterpieces HEAVEN & HELL (1980) and MOB RULES (1981) or the severely underrated reunion record DEHUMANIZER (1992) and you will hear classic track after classic track of monumental riffs and soaring vocals of early ’80s Heavy Metal. I was lucky to witness the the DEHUMANIZER lineup in concert in Boston way back in 1992 and that cemented my worship of the Dio-era Sabbath. Through all the reunions with Ozzy and the Ozzfest performances I saw of the original Sabbath, I still liked the Dio-era better. That’s not to say that the Ozzy-era is bad, it’s just as timeless, I just prefer the better singer. So with Ozzy holding the Black Sabbath name in check, I was glad to see Dio, Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice reunite their classic lineup of Sabbath even if they use the different name of Heaven & Hell.

The three new songs from THE DIO YEARS (2007) best of record were excellent and they translated well in concert…..I saw them twice! So when the guys announced in 2008 that they were writing new material for a brand new Heaven & Hell album, I couldn’t have been happier! THE DEVIL YOU KNOW  has been one of the most anticipated albums of the last year because the band is legendary and the players among the best of their craft. Who wouldn’t want to hear a new Black Sabbath Heaven & Hell album?

If I could describe THE DEVIL YOU KNOW in one word it would be “doom”. Tony Iommi has laid down the best Doom Metal riffs in the history of Heavy Metal and he continues on the new record not only with his heavy handed riffs but with his amazing solos. Ronnie James Dio is in top form vocally (as usual) and sounds better in his mid-60s than many of the Metal vocalists half his age…..his performance alone shows just how timeless he is and proves that he is still one of the best Metal singers on the planet. Geezer and Vinny lay down a solid backbone that throbs and pounds the music into your eardrums. This is one heavy album! More mid-tempo Doom rather than an all out Metal assault, I hear a lot of DEHUMANIZER and the slower parts of MOB RULES thoughout THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. The first two songs (‘Atom And Evil’ & ‘Fear’) are slow and sludgy but powerful, they have that mid-tempo heaviness and that epic sound but the best is saved for ‘Bible Black’. If you had to find this album’s ‘Children Of The Sea’ or ‘The Sign Of The Southern Cross’, then ‘Bible Black’ that song. The song builds on every note Iommi plucks from his guitar and Dio puts in the performance of the album. Listen to that main riff and you will be coming back for more!

‘Double The Pain’ picks the pace up a bit more and sounds a bit more straight forward than the epics that start the album…..the song reminds me of the DEHUMANIZER album. ‘Rock And Roll Angel’ slows down again and seems out of place with it’s title and lyrics, the music is fine but it sounds like a solo Dio throwaway. Maybe with a better title and better lyrics this would be a better song? The guitar work, especially at the solo break, is superb so I can’t really give it a bad grade…..good music always trumps bad lyrics! Geezer’s bass is the main thrust of ‘The Turn Of The Screw’, another mid-tempo Doom classic that displays all of the band’s strengths.

Six songs in and we only have one uptempo song with ‘Double The Pain’. The best thing about the Dio era albums was that for every ‘Heaven & Hell’ you had a ‘Neon Knights’. For every ‘The Sign Of The Southern Cross’ you had a ‘Turn Up The Night’. What’s missing for me so far is the fast songs that speed by fluidly and display a whole other side of the Sabbath, I mean Heaven & Hell, power. Thankfully all the prayers are answered with ‘Eating The Cannibals’, the song that is the ‘Neon Knights’ of THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. Dio displays his uptempo registers proving he can do the epics and the fast stuff easily in his mid-60s and the Iommi/Butler/Appice machine just wails. Younger bands should take a listen and learn a lesson, this is classic heavy metal at it’s best! More mid-tempo doom awaits with ‘Follow The Tears’, a song that sounds like it came from the DEHUMANIZER sessions, and the final track ‘Breaking Into Heaven’ but I find I really enjoy the faster ‘Neverwhere’ more.

Bottom Line:
Fans of Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell should definitely pick this up because it’s a classic album by a great group of top musicians. The band is firing on all cylinders with some of the best performances they have ever created together. After 30 years as a riff giant, Tony Iommi stills sets the standard for Heavy Metal guitarists and Ronnie James Dio displays the same versatile vocal range he’s had throughout his career with Rainbow, Sabbath, and his own band. I’ve read some criticism in some reviews that the album is too slow, too plodding, I’ve read the word “dinosaur” in a few. THE DEVIL YOU KNOW is mostly slow to mid-tempo Doom laden epics but they are powerful and anything but boring (maybe ‘Rock And Roll Angel’ lyrically) and the three faster songs are very good with ‘Eating The Cannibals’ standing out the most. I say go out and pick this up, the band picks up where they left off in 1992 and the three song teaser from 2007. One of the best albums of the year for me!

Favorite Songs:
‘Bible Black’, ‘Eating The Cannibals’, ‘Neverwhere’, ‘Atom And Evil’, ‘Fear’

The first iPod playlist!

Well I finally did it…..I bought an iPod!

My Dell DJ 30 has served me above and beyond the call of duty and it finally died a noble death. I was listening to my DJ at work last week and the headphone jack fell out of the unit. Turns out the solder that held the actual jack in place had come loose and that’s why I kept thinking my headphones were dying. I was getting volume from one ear on the headphones unless I packed the jack with aluminum foil, a temporary fix. Then it happened…..I pulled the headphones out to put in a little more foil and the entire piece came out! R.I.P. Dell DJ……..

So I went to Best Buy last Saturday and dropped the $250 for an iPod 120gb and $40 for the 2 yr. warranty (if anything happens to it, I can bring it back and get a fresh one). I’ve been loading albums into iTunes but I don’t have nearly as many as I had in the Dell. Here’s what I have in the iPod because it’s all I’ve listened to…..

Great White – Rising (2009): I still haven’t given up on this album even though it’s a little too mellow. It’s definitely a grower and I’m beginning to enjoy it more everytime I play it.

Hammerfall – No Sacrifice, No Victory (2009): Here’s another album that I haven’t given up on yet especially since I kind of knew what to expect. Hammerfall plays straight ahead Power Metal and they don’t stray far from their formula…..that can be either refreshing or redundant depending on the quality of the material. This album gets more refreshing everytime I spin it.

Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens – Play My Game (2009): This new record comes out next week and I was lucky to get it in the mail Saturday afternoon. I’ve only given it one full spin so far.

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth (2009): The album of the year for me so far!

UFO – The Visitor (2009): Another album I was lucky to receive in the mail a full month before it’s release…..all UFO has done since 1995′s WALK ON WATER is release high quality albums and THE VISITOR is no exception.

Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (2009): This album was probably one of the most anticpated of 2009 for me next to the new Saxon. I’ve been playing this non-stop but I haven’t gotten around to reviewing it yet…..probably sometime this week.

Accept – Predator (1996): Accept’s final studio album and probably their most confusing since EAT THE HEAT (1989). I remember I picked this up the week it came out because I had read about it in a fanzine and Accept were one of my formative bands back in the ’80s. I figured that I was going to get a Metal album but PREDATOR is a mix of different styles, the best track being the first: ‘Hard Attack’. The biggest problem I had was that Udo didn’t sing every song on the album, bassist Peter Baltes sang lead on three tunes and had a primary role on the backing vocals. At the time I loved it save for a couple of tunes…..13 years later I can hear a few more filler tracks but there is some good material too.

Livenation.com presale for Heaven & Hell tour

The presale is up at LiveNation.com for the U.S. Heaven & Hell tour and it’s only for today. You need the special password, and after some searching, I found it: devil. Remember that the password is case sensitive so type it in with small letters.

I’ll see everyone at the show in Boston at the Bank Of America Pavilion on August 28.

New Release Tuesday: Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know

heaven-hell-the-devil-you-know-2009

Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (2009) – $9.99: I was outside my local Best Buy at 9:45 this morning to get the new Heaven & Hell album because Best Buy had a bonus DVD of studio footage included with the CD. The sale price was phenomenal for a 2 disc set! I almost went across the street to Wal-Mart to get their version with the different cover artwork but I decided against it. I’ve been listening to this album all day!