Marillion’s “A Sunday Night…” Is A Great Listen For Any Night Or Day

Courtesy:  E.A.R. Music/Eagle Records

Courtesy: E.A.R. Music/Eagle Records

Marillion’s new live recording A Sunday Night Above the Rain was released in North America this week.  The double-disc recording is a piece that any fan of the veteran progressive rock band will want to add to their personal music library now that it is available to the masses.  The primary reason that audiences will want to add this new live recording to their personal music library is the band’s performance of its most recent album in its entirety along with a handful of other songs to complement the performance.  The second reason that Marillion’s fans will want to add this recording to their personal music libraries is its total run time.  Between its two discs, ASNATR offers audiences just over two hours of music.  The audio quality of those two-plus hours (technically two hours, two point four minutes) is expert.  All three factors together make Marillion’s new live recording well worth the money for any fan of this well-established band.

The central point of the success of A Sunday Night Above the Rain is the fact that the band’s set list in this show is comprised almost entirely of the band’s hit 2012 album Sounds That Can’t Be Made.  That album’s eight total tracks are spread across the record’s two discs.  They are accompanied by a handful of extremely rare songs from the band.  In the case of Marillion, the use of the term rare is not just thrown around.  Rather only perhaps two of those remaining five songs come directly from the band’s previous releases.  And those songs themselves have very rarely been performed live by Marillion.  The others are even rarer.  This makes the recording’s five remaining performances more than just part of the whole.  They become collectively a bonus in and of themselves.  Though, together with the other eight tracks from Sounds That Can’t Be Made, they become bonus material, too.  And that only serves to make this live recording even more enjoyable.

The songs included in Marillion’s set list are on the surface, great additions to the show.  On a deeper level, the very fact that the band would perform one of its albums in its entirety and do so for a live recording is even more important in itself.  That’s because while not entirely unheard of for a band to perform one of its albums in full, a band of such high regard doing so and for so many years as Marillion is less common.  It helps A Sunday Night Above the Rain stand out and establish its own identity even more.  That in turn makes this an even more special record for Marillion’s fans to add to their own home music libraries. All together, the performance of Sounds That Can’t Be Made alongside the rarer songs equals out to a performance time of just over two hours. To be more precise, it equals out to approximately two hours and two point four minutes. That is a lot of music for audiences to enjoy. And along with the last of this recording’s positives—the audio mix—those two factors and the set list together make ASNATR even more a great listen or Marillion’s fans.

The last factor worth noting in the release of ASNATR is the concert’s audio mix. Every concert venue around the world presents its own challenges when it comes to recording concerts.   Whether it be an American venue or one such as Center Parcs in Port Zealande, where this concert was recorded, balancing audio levels both for those in attendance and for potential home release takes painstaking and expert work. And that work paid off in the case of ASNATR. Neither front man Steve Hogarth’s vocals nor the music of his band mates covers the other at any point. Recording/Mix specialist Michael Hunter deserves his share of applause for maintaining that balance even in the recording’s softer moments. He shows that he can handle every moment from beginning to end. The end result is a recording that will allow listeners to capture so many nuances with each listen. The very fact that not every nuance can be caught in just one listen is in itself a testament to Hunter’s talents. Those talents are the finishing touch to a live recording that is one of this year’s best live CD recordings.

The CD side of ASNATR is available now in stores and online alongside its DVD and Blu-ray presentation. Each can be ordered online direct from Marillion’s website at http://www.marillion.com/shop/. They can also be purchased at the band’s upcoming live dates, the next of which will be Friday and Saturday, August 8th and 9th at the Cropredy Convention in Oxford, UK. The band’s latest tour dates are listed online at the band’s official website and Facebook page, http://www.marillion.com and http://www.facebook.com/MarillionOfficial. Fans can also go to either site or to the band’s Twitter page, http://twitter.com/marilliononline to keep up with the latest news from the band. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Little Feat’s New Live Record One Big Feat

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision/Eagle Records

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision/Eagle Records

Eagle Rock Entertainment is the leader in live releases.  The London based company has proven time and again in its near two decades in operation why it is more than deserving of that title.  Most recently, live recordings from the likes of The Rolling Stones, Dream Theater, and Sir Paul McCartney have shown just why Eagle Rock is the leader in live recordings.  Now with the release of Little Feat Live in Holland 1976, it continues to maintain that mantle.  This latest release, which hit stores and online outlets this week, is another success from Eagle Rock for a number of reasons.  One of those reasons is the performance itself.  It serves a number of ends in itself.  In direct relation, that Eagle Rock has provided the concert in an economic and ergonomic double-disc CD/DVD bundle makes this an even better release for audiences.  The quality of the sound and video in the presentation rounds out the whole package.  Considering that nearly four decades have passed since this performance was originally recorded, it sounds just as it did in the band’s performance back in 1976.  The efforts of those charged with transferring the recording from its original masters to CD and DVD along with the packaging and the show itself together make this record a definite candidate to be one of the first releases of 2014 to make this critic’s list of the year’s best new live recordings.

Nearly four decades have passed since Little Feat’s 1976 performance at the famed Pink Pop Festival in Holland.  That festival is still going strong today almost forty-five years after it started.  Countless bands and acts have performed at Pink Pop over the course of that time.  However, it would seem that very few performances from the festival’s storied history have ever been released in their entirety. That being the case, it makes this release all the more important for lovers of music with substance.   It becomes a piece of music history, so to speak. It will take older listeners back to their younger days and the joys of going to a concert truly worth one’s time and money. And for those that have become all too comfortable with today’s constant barrage of flash-in-the-pan artists, bands, and groups, it serves as an example of what was once right with not just rock music, but music in general. It shows that real music could (and still can) be made without down-tuned guitars and indecipherable vocals or any amount of foul language and references to drugs and sex. All it needs is heart as is evident throughout every song on this outstanding concert.

It’s been noted that one of the key impacts of this recording is that it will take more experienced audiences happily back to a day when concerts were nowhere near as expensive as they are today, and were far more worth the time, too. On the other side of the coin, it shows younger audiences what once made music and concerts great and still does today especially in a live setting. Eagle Rock has presented the performance in an affordable and ergonomic package including both the audio and video portion of the band’s performance that anyone can afford. On average, the double-disc set retails for about $20. Such a price for a concert that can be enjoyed time and again instead of just once is quite the bonus. That the concert can be enjoyed both on CD and DVD is even better. And that both are presented in a space saving case makes this so much more worth one’s time and money. This is especially the case being that this concert likely isn’t currently available on vinyl. Maybe the good people at Eagle Rock should look into putting it to vinyl for those that really want the full old school concert experience. Yes, that is a hint for anyone at Eagle Rock that might read this. Getting back on topic, audiences should see quite clearly by now what makes Little Feat Live in Holland yet another example of why Eagle Rock Entertainment is the leader in live releases.

Those that have yet to still see what makes Little Feat Live in Holland another example of why Eagle Rock Entertainment is the leader in live releases, will be convinced after hearing and seeing the quality of the recording’s audio and video. Nearly four decades have passed since this concert was originally recorded. Both the audio and video from this recording have stood the test of time quite well. And those charged with transferring both from their original masters onto CD and DVD have obviously taken quite painstaking efforts to present the concert as it should be presented. For that, those individuals are to be highly commended. It’s thanks to their efforts that the ever-growing generation gap in this country will be closed a little more after audiences take the time to take in this latest live release from Eagle Rock Entertainment. The efforts of those charged with bringing this classic concert back to life sits alongside the recording’s packaging and its collective historical and cultural value to make it effectively one of the year’s definitive best new live recordings.

Little Feat Live in Holland 1976 is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Live-Holland-1976-Little-Feat/dp/B00IPL2BCQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1398299812&sr=1-1&keywords=little+feat. More information on Little Feat and its new release is available online at http://www.facebook.com/LittleFeat, http://www.littlefeat.net and http://www.featbase.net. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

May & Ellis’ Candlelight Concerts Recording Another Huge Hit For Eagle Rock

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision/Eagle Records

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision/Eagle Records

Eagle Rock Entertainment and its visual division, Eagle Vision, have been at the front of the line in live recordings in recent years thanks to releasing so many big, bombastic concerts on DVD and Blu-ray. So it goes without saying that Brian May & Kerry Ellis: The Candlelight Concerts is quite the departure for Eagle Rock and Eagle Vision. That’s not a bad thing, either. While it features Queen guitarist Brian May alongside one of the most powerful voices in Broadway’s modern history, the references to Queen are kept to a minimum throughout the course of the concert. That is the most important factor in what makes this latest release from Eagle Rock and Eagle Vision so worth the time. Another reason that audiences will appreciate this new recording is its audio and video mix. The high quality video and audio mix (both on the Blu-ray and CD) maintain Eagle Rock and Eagle Vision’s long-held standard of releasing only the best quality concerts to audiences. And making everything complete for this latest recording is its packaging. Brian May & Kerry Ellis: The Candlelight Concerts has been made available to consumers in a double-disc Blu-ray/CD combo pack in a single package. This allows audiences to take in the performance in whole without having to choose which one they would want more. It may be a slightly higher price. But in the long-term, it’s more cost effective for those wanting the full concert experience. All of the factors noted here make Brian May & Kerry Ellis: The Candlelight Concerts yet another huge success from the leader in live recordings.

Brian May & Kerry Ellis: The Candlelight Concerts is not a Queen concert. That’s not to say that there are no Queen songs featured throughout the course of the set’s CD and Blu-ray. As a matter of fact, some of Queen’s biggest hits including ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Somebody To Love’, ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ and ‘No-One But You (Only The Good Die Young)’ are part of the performance. But by and large, this performance features covers of other songs, and even a couple original tunes. One of the most powerful of the performance’s moments comes in Ellis’ cover of ‘The Way We Were.’ The song, made popular by singer/actress Barbara Streisand in the 1973 movie by the same name. As Ellis notes before performing her take on the song, it’s more commonly performed with a full orchestral backing, even in the movie’s soundtrack. It gains a whole new identity in this completely stripped down setting. On the other end of the spectrum, May and Ellis presented a stripped down song in ‘The Kissing Me Song’ that absolutely cries out for a full band setting. Any drummers and percussionists out there will agree with this drummer that there is a stunning polyrhythmic drum track just waiting to come out in this piece. One can even hear a tambourine part echoing in the background. Making the song even more interesting is that it is an original piece, instead of a cover. It would be interesting to see if the pair ever re-works the tune for a full band setting. Moving on, there is at least one more high point in this performance in terms of the show’s set list that audiences will appreciate. That last high point is the duo’s take on ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love.’ Despite being in a stripped down setting, it is just as enjoyable in this setting as on record. And experiencing the audience’s enthusiastic reaction to the song makes it all the more enjoyable for viewers watching it in their homes. It has just as much energy here as in any other setting. As enjoyable as this moment is, it isn’t the last of the show’s many high points. There are plenty more moments from which audiences will get to choose when they purchase or order the combo pack for themselves.

The set list chosen for this penultimate performance of May and Ellis’ “By Candlelight Tour” is central to the enjoyment of this recording. Those hoping for a stripped down Queen set will be sadly disappointed since it isn’t a Queen set. For those more open-minded, they will deeply appreciate the variety of songs included in the show. The songs would be nothing without the expert work of those behind the cameras and soundboard. Eagle Rock Entertainment and Eagle Vision have maintained a high standard for their live recordings for some time. And this recording is no exception to that rule. The picture and sound are both crystal clear. And the angles used in the camera work expertly capture the emotion of both performers in the rather intimate setting. It adds so much depth to the overall presentation, making it even more worth checking out.

The set list and overall production values of Brian May & Kerry Ellis: The Candlelight Concerts are both pivotal elements to the overall presentation of this recording. Both go hand in hand in making the whole thing worth the time and money. There is still at least one more element worth noting about this set. That aspect is the recording’s packaging itself. Eagle Rock, Eagle Vision, and Eagle Records have come together to make the set available to the masses not as separate release, but as one entire package. On the surface, this might drive up the price of the set a bit. But in the long run, it actually saves money and the time trying to decide which is more important. Eagle Rock is actually serving its customers by combining the CD and Blu-ray into a full double-disc set. What’s more, each of the two discs gets its own spot on either side of the Blu-ray’s case. That saves space and in turn, helps to keep the cost of the set down. And that combined with the show’s outstanding production values, and equally outstanding set list makes it one more huge success from the company that more than deserves the title of being the leader in live recordings.

Brian May & Kerry Ellis: The Candlelight Concerts is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Candelight-Concerts-Live-Montreux-Blu-ray/dp/B00I60VY56/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1396512611&sr=1-1&keywords=brian+may+kerry+ellis. More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment, Eagle Vision, and Eagle Records is available online at http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt and http://www.eagle-rock.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Black Utopia Re-Issue Another Hit For Sherinian

Courtesy:  Armoury Records/Eagle RockEntertainment

Courtesy: Armoury Records/Eagle RockEntertainment

Derek Sherinian’s second solo album Black Utopia is an interesting work from this world renowned keyboardist.  There is so much to say about this record and not enough space or time to go into everything.  So instead of rambling, we’ll hit on the main points of what makes this album just as enjoyable for Sherinian’s fans the second time around as it was in its original release.   The first aspect of this album that makes it so enjoyable is its sequencing.  That is to say the order of the songs.  The second factor that listeners will appreciate (especially those that might be hearing the album for the first time) is the A-list guest stars that agreed to be a part of this album.  The third factor in the success of the album’s re-issue is the reworked liner notes.  All three of these factors together make Black Utopia an album that any Derek Sherinian fan will appreciate just as much in its new re-issue as they did in its initial release some ten years ago.

The success of Black Utopia is thanks in large part to its sequencing.  The album’s sequencing greatly exhibits the understanding of and appreciation for music possessed by both Derek Sherinian and co-producer Simon Phillips.  The pair treat Black Utopia as if they were creating a set list for a live show.  The energy of the songs rises and falls just enough throughout the course of the album’s nine tracks to keep listeners fully engaged.  That energy rises and falls just enough within the context of the songs themselves to make the energy in the transitions between songs even more impactful.  It shows on a deeper level, the pair’s understanding of and appreciation for their craft.  The resultant effect is one the makes this album one of those rare albums that listeners will want to take in from start to finish without skipping even one song. It’s just the starting point of the album’s success, too. And that’s saying something.

Black Utopia’s success is thanks in large part to its sequencing.  The sequencing of the songs would be moot without the music crafted by Sherinian and the guest musicians that make appearances on this album.  That is the second factor in this album’s creation that makes it a success.  Sherinian invited some of the biggest names in the business to join him on this record.  And it’s a good thing they accepted his invitation.  Among those major names are the likes of Simon Phillips (The Who, Judas Priest, Gary Moore, etc.), Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society), Al Di Meola (Return To Forever, Chick Corea), Yngwie Malmsteen, Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big) and others.  Their talents are well shared throughout the record.  The whole group teams up on the album’s opener for what is without a doubt one of the album’s absolute best works.  Malmsteen puts on a virtual clinic with his shredding, while Sherinian himself manages somehow to mix in a touch of jazz/fusion at one point, adding even more flare and substance to the song.  And the combination of Zakk Wylde, Simon Phillips, Tony Franklin and Jerry Goodman on ‘Nightmare Cinema’ is incredible.  Sherinian’s etherial keyboard part set against Phillips’ drumming early on perfectly illustrates the song’s title.  It establishes quite the eerie vibe.  The eventual addition of Wylde on guitar adds even more depth to the song as it progresses.  It is simply something that must be heard in order to be fully appreciated.  The same can be noted of the album’s remaining tracks.  Sherinian  and his fellow musicians come together on each song to show just why their addition to Black Utopia is such an important part of the album’s overall success.

The who’s  who of musicians recruited to record Black Utopia alongside Derek Sherinian is just as important to the success of the album as its sequencing.  Without the talent of the musicians in question, the sequencing would not be all that important to discuss.  Thankfully that wasn’t the case here.  And because it wasn’t the case, it leaves only one remaining factor to note of this re-issue.  The factor in question is the updated liner notes included with the album.  This time out, Black Utopia includes an article crafted by journalist Joe Lalaina, of Guitar World magazine.  Lalaina outlines the album in his own words.  Sherinian’s own thoughts on Black Utopia are also included as a follow-up to Lalaina.  Listeners will take special interest in Sherinian’s comment about working with Brian Tichy (Something Unto Nothing, Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol).  He notes that it was his friendship and working relationship with Tichy that led the pair to work together on this album.  There’s also mention of his excitement of working with both Yngwie Malmsteen and Al Di Meola.  One of his comments in particular regarding this can’t be repeated here.  But it will most definitely have listeners laughing.  It’s the finishing touch to an album that any hard rock fan should hear at least once now that it has been re-issued by Armoury Records.  More information on this and other albums from Derek Sherinian is available online at http://www.dereksherinian.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

“Sounds…” Re-Issue Offers Audiences Even More Enjoyable Sounds

Courtesy: Eagle Records/E.A.R. Music

Courtesy: Eagle Records/E.A.R. Music

Veteran British progressive rock band Marillion released its seventeenth full length studio release in 2012. The album, Sounds That Can’t Be Made, was met largely with positive reviews from fans and critics alike. A little over a year later, Eagle Records and E.A.R. Music re-issued Sounds That Can’t Be Made with an extra bonus. That bonus is an extra disc that boasts variants of songs from the original album. Those variants include a handful of live and in-studio performances, a demo of another song, and a previously unreleased song that kicks off the whole thing. That song is an incredibly emotional piece titled ‘Wrapped Up In This.’

‘Wrapped Up In Time’ was a fitting way to open the bonus companion disc to Sounds That Can’t Be Made. This deeply emotional piece is a perfect opener for the album’s bonus disc. The song’s introspective, almost mournful lyrics will leave anyone with a heartbeat in tears. Front man Steve Hogarth sings in this previously unreleased song, “Things got wrapped up in time/Like the past and the present/Or the perfect line/In a song/They take their time/And when they’re gone/They take their time/You can’t have them back/For the time for them has gone/Their time has gone.” Hogarth perfectly catches the emotion of someone remembering lost loved ones here. This is especially true when he hits the high notes in the song’s chorus. The control he exhibits over his voice is incredible. His use of vibrato even better illustrates the pain in the song. The addition keyboardist Mark Kelly’s performance only serves to add to the song’s emotional depth.  Anyone left dry-eyed by the song’s end simply isn’t human.

‘Wrapped Up In Time’ is a fitting opener to the bonus disc included in the new re-issue of Sounds That Can’t Be Made. That’s because it is so beautiful yet heart wrenching at the same time.  On the completely opposite end of the spectrum, the band’s original take on its song ‘Lucky Man’ is just as interesting to hear as the final product.  The final product that is on the originally released album is a joyous piece celebrating happiness with what one has in life.  Hogarth sings in this song, “Some of us want diamonds and trinkets and gold/The perfect body and the perfect skin/Witnesses to their good deeds/Willing accomplices to their sin/Some of us pray for absolution/Some want sex and call it love/But freedom  to cheat’s not something I need tonight.”  He goes on to sing in the chorus, “I truly am/A lucky man/I have everything that I want.”  His words ring loud and clear.  We as people are never truly happy.  We should be happy with what we have, where we are, and who we are.  The final take on the song is a full on rock song.  One can close one’s eyes, take in the music and lyrics and see all of the images of which Hogarth sings being book ended by a camera spinning, pointed up at a shining blue sky.  The original demo take on the song is noticeably different from the final product.  It starts off much softer and doesn’t have the full on rock feel of what’s on the album.  It’s more piano driven.  When the choir comes in, its effect against Hogarth’s piano playing is just as powerful as what is presented in the album take of the song.  It definitely is one of the highest of points on the re-issue’s bonus disc.

Both ‘Wrapped Up In Time’ and the original demo take of ‘Lucky Man’ are wonderful additions to Marillion’s newly re-issued album.  There is at least one more addition to the re-issue’s bonus disc that merits noting.  That song is the band’s live performance of the title track from its recent release.  This nearly eight-minute performance taken from the band’s 2013 performance in Holland is a prime example of what makes Marillion such an extraordinary band in a live setting.  Hogarth’s vocals soar as he sings, “Aurora Borealis/Shimmering green and blue/Indigo and violent/Like phantoms half-imagined/Something unreal/But realer than everything/Seeing all the planet’s love floating in the air/Caressing you every day.”  The semi-psychedelic sounding lyrics gain even more power in the song’s live performance.  That’s thanks not just to Hogarth, but to the talents of his band mates, too.  Guitarist Steve Rothery is right up there with the likes of Dream Theater’s John Petrucci as he makes his way through the song.  And drummer Ian Mosley keeps the whole band together with this less-is-more style playing.  There are no major flashes or fills from Mosley.  He keeps a solid beat and adds a little musical spice where need be for lack of better wording.  Put simply, the band’s performance of the album’s title track is something that audiences must hear for themselves in order to fully appreciate it.  The same applies to each of the songs included on the bonus disc of Sounds That Can’t Be Made (Special Edition).  Audiences that give these variants a chance will agree at just how impressive each one is.  They will agree that the songs collectively make this record a solid re-issue and a re-issue worth hearing.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other releases from Marillion, as well as all of the latest news from Marillion is available online at http://www.marillion.com, http://www.facebook.com/MarillionOfficial and http://twitter.com/marilliononline.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Saga’s Latest Live Recording A Welcome Return For Fans

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/E.A.R. Music

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/E.A.R. Music

Veteran Canadian prog-rock band Saga has been making music for over thirty-five years.  The band has had its share of ups and downs through those three decades plus. From lineup changes to flying just under the mainstream radar, the band’s members have managed to stick it out the entire time and make album after album that fans have largely applauded.  Unlike its fellow and far more popular counterparts in Rush, Saga never found the success of Geddy Lee, Neil Peart, and Alex Lifeson.  The band did however find success in its home country and across Europe.  Now nearly four decades since the band originally formed and released its self-titled debut record, Saga is back once again with its latest live release, Spin It Again!: Live in Munich.  Most of Saga’s fan base will welcome this new live release first and foremost because it has been made available separately on Blu-ray and double-disc CD.  This separation gives fans the option to add the performance in either format or both.  Also worthy of note in this new release is its set list.  It would be impossible for the band to cover its entire catalogue of songs in just one performance.  But the songs included in this performance cover a healthy portion of the band’s material.  One more aspect of the release to take into consideration is that by and large, Saga has very rarely played any American dates.  So having both the double-disc CD and Blu-ray portion of the concert available for the band’s U.S. fans is the proverbial icing on the cake for this release.  It makes the whole presentation whole, and that much more worth adding to any fan’s collection.

Saga’s new live release, Spin It Again!: Live in Munich was recorded five years after the band’s last breakup.  Considering that so much time passed between that breakup and eventual reunion and concert, the band collectively sounds like it hadn’t missed a beat.  And thanks to Eagle Rock Entertainment, the band’s fans have been given the choice of enjoying this performance either on Blu-ray or double-disc CD.  This is pretty much standard for every live recording released through Eagle Rock Entertainment.  There will always be those critics that would like to discredit such packaging methods.  They do so because of the costs to the consumer versus bundling.  That will always be an issue.  However, by splitting the recording into two separate formats, Eagle Rock is giving audiences options.  The most obvious hypothetical situation to consider is that perhaps one format is not available but the other is.  It’s better for fans to have something than nothing, right?  Right.  To that extent, Eagle Rock is worthy of applause once again for separating Saga’s reunion show rather than bundling it.  This is just one reason that fans of Saga will appreciate this new recording.

The availability of Spin It Again!: Live in Munich is just one reason that Saga’s more seasoned fans will appreciate this latest live recording.  The show’s set list is another reason for fans to applaud this new release.  The recording presents a respectable amount of material from the band’s expansive catalogue of material.  Fans of Dream Theater’s older material circa 1992 will appreciate the set list.  That’s because some of the material presented by Saga here will instantly conjure thoughts of Dream Theater’s breakout 1992 album Images and Words.  That’s especially the case with ‘The Perfectionist’and the concert’s opening number, ‘Anywhere You Wanna Go.’  The remainder of the band’s performance runs the gamut.  Fans will hear plenty of music that is more in line with material from the band’s American hair metal counterparts that rose to fame in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The songs chosen for Saga’s performance in Munich are just as important to the recording’s overall presentation as the fact that the show is presented in two separate formats.  Having the presentation in two separate formats is important in its own right.  On a deeper level, the very fact that Eagle Rock Entertainment has made this concert available for fans outside of Canada is highly important.  It is important because otherwise, fans of a band such as Saga would be severely limited in their options concerning experiencing the band’s live show.  That Eagle Rock Entertainment has made the show available not on one but two formats gives fans outside of the band’s more often toured regions the chance to experience the band live, too.  The resulting effect of this is that it could even help spread the word of Saga to other audiences that perhaps had never heard of the band themselves.  Yet again, Eagle Rock is more than deserving of any and all praise that it receives for taking the time to release this concert to the masses.  It is available now on Blu-ray and double-disc Blu-ray.  More information on this release and more on Saga is available online at http://www.eaglerockent.com, http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt, http://www.ear-music.net, and http://www.sagaontour.ca.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Fans Get Quite An Anniversary Gift From The Rolling Stones In New Documentary

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Records/Eagle Vision

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Records/Eagle Vision

The latest release in the ongoing celebration of The Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary is another welcome addition to the library of any fan of this legendary veteran rock act.  The new DVD and Blu-ray release covers the band’s formative years during the 1960s and 70s.  There are those that have criticized this new release, comparing it to the likes of The Beatles’ Anthology.  But let’s be realistic, considering the price of that set and the price of the Stones’ previous box set, Charlie is my Darling, this latest release is just as good.  Would it be nice to see the importance of the band throughout its care, considering that the world is celebrating its 50th anniversary?  Yes, it would.  And hopefully Eagle Rock will follow up this release with one that follows the second half of the band’s storied career.  But in the meantime, this volume will do just fine.

Crossfire Hurricane is such an impressive work because it in fact does cover a specific portion of the band’s career.  It covered the band’s career during what was one of the most turbulent times in the modern history of the world.  Mick, Charlie, Keith, and the late Brian Jones are all presented here in their highs (both metaphorically and literally) and their lows.  From dealing with public perception versus the perfectly proper “Fab Four” to becoming the voice of a disenchanted youth to dealing with the loss of a brother, it’s all here.  Audiences see the band’s meteoric rise to fame, and hear direct from the fans and the band itself what made the band so important even in its infancy.    Viewers even get to hear what the band had to say about working with one another, too, which leads to another positive in the presentation.

Audiences get so much out of the history presented behind the band in Crossfire Hurricane.  Directly related to the band’s history is the video footage presented in this release.  Fans that bought the recently released DVD, Blu-ray or complete box set presentation of Charlie is my Darling will recognize some of the footage included in this presentation.  There is far more footage included here that wasn’t included in that presented in that set, too.  Together, the final product will take fans of all ages back in time to the band’s younger days.  While Mick’s look hasn’t changed much since the band’s initial performances, drummer Charlie Watts is almost unrecognizable.  Parents should be warned that among the footage, there is some nudity throughout the expertly re-mastered footage.  So parents who perhaps want to introduce their kids to one of rock’s greatest bands should take this into note before watching it with younger viewers in the room.  That aside, it is still an impressive look back on what are some of the most important years in the history of The Rolling Stones.

If the history lesson on The Rolling Stones’ early years isn’t enough for viewers, then maybe the bonus live performances included will entertain audiences.  After all, Eagle Rock continuously proves itself to be a leader among companies putting out live releases.  Just as the footage compiled for the documentary will take viewers on a nostalgic trip down memory lane, so will the bonus live performances.  The earliest of the performances included in this release date as far back as 1964.  Considering that nearly half a century has passed since these performances were recorded, the footage has stood the test of time quite well.  Both the audio and video sound quite impressive.  They sound just as good as any of today’s recordings.  As good as they sound and as much of a resurgence as vinyl has had today, it would be even more amazing for nostalgia’s sake to see Eagle Rock release those performances on a complete vinyl release, too.

So much more could be noted of this new release.  But it goes without saying that as already noted, it is one more impressive way for fans to celebrate the career of a band that is simply put, rock royalty.  Who knows, maybe Eagle Rock will even follow up this presentation with another celebration of the band’s career with a feature on the second half of the band’s career.  Fans can be the first to find out when they “Like” the Eagle Rock Entertainment Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt.  The DVD and Blu-ray are both available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via the Eagle Rock Entertainment website at http://www.eagle-rock.com.

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Styx Live Doube-Disc An Impressive Companion To 2012 DVD/Blu-ray Release

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Records

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Records

Eagle Rock Entertainment keeps bringing the hits for fans of classic rock.  Last year, Eagle Rock put out quite the live release in the form of Styx: Grand Illusion & Pieces of Eight Live on DVD and Blu-ray.  The performance marked the first time that the veteran rock band had ever performed both of its iconic albums live back to back in one show.  Now the audio companion to that live video recording has finally been released thanks to Eagle Rock.  The audio companion comes in a double-disc gatefold package that follows the DVD and Blu-ray verbatim.  So what audiences get from the live video recording whether on DVD or Blu-ray is what they also get on the double-disc audio recording.  This is quite impressive both in terms of the set-list and in terms of the recording’s audio quality.  Though, it definitely will lead audiences that have not yet purchased the DVD or Blu-ray to want to surely pick up that recording.  Those that already have the video portion of the performance will want to pick this up just as much, thus completing the full live experience from one of the most important performances of the career of the members of Styx.

The very first thing that audiences will appreciate about the new audio companion to Styx’s recent live DVD and Blu-ray release is its packaging.  The audio portion of the show is packaged in a gatefold package with one disc on either side.  In opening the package, audiences will note that making the packaging even better is that the performance of each classic album is contained within its own disc.  Not only is the title of each album provided, but a track-by-track listing is provided on each album’s performance.  Vinyl has made quite the resurgence in recent years in its popularity.  To have each live album presented in this format makes for even more of a sense of nostalgia for fans as they listen to the band make the announcement about each side of each album ending and the other side beginning.  It makes one feel as if one is holding the vinyl in one’s own hands, only on a smaller scale.  For that, those involved with the recording’s packaging are to be commended.  As minor a factor as it may seem to some, it’s always the little things that can make so much difference.

Having taken in the release’s gatefold packaging, the next step is to take in the live audio experience.  And those that already own the DVD and/or Blu-ray portion of this recording will enjoy this portion of the show just as much as those that don’t already have it.  Whether one already owns the DVD and/or Blu-ray half of the show, they will feel like they are right there at the show.  The audio mix remains just as impressive on this half of the recording as it is on the video portion.  Hearing classic hits the likes of: ‘Come Sail Away’, ‘The Grand Illusion’, ‘The Message’ and the rest of these iconic works will take the band’s long-time fans back to another time; a time when perhaps they first saw this veteran act for the very first time.  This is the magical thing about a recording such as this.  It’s what makes live recordings just as great as being there.  That feeling of nostalgia is made even greater with such recordings.  At a time when the cost of going to see a live show has drastically increased (counting not just ticket costs, but lodging, food, souvenirs, etc.) recordings such as this one will give listeners a live show that they can buy for about twenty-dollars and enjoy any time any place that they want.  It’s available now in stores and online and can be purchased online via the Eagle Rock website at http://www.eagle-rock.com.

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Rainbow Live Re-Issue A Welcome Return For A New Generation Of Audiences

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Long live Eagle Rock Entertainment.  That’s what fans of classic rock group Rainbow will be saying after experiencing the band’s newly re-issued recording, Live in Munich 1977.  This classic concert was originally released to DVD in 2006.  Now seven years later, it’s available once again for a whole new generation of purist rock and roll fans to enjoy.  And it goes without saying that this is quite the performance.  It is available now on DVD, 2CD, digital audio and digital video, and even vinyl for older audiences with a certain sense of nostalgia. 

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Records

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Records

The classic lineup of Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple), Ronnie James Dio (Black Sabbath, Dio), Bob Daisley (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Dio, Uriah Heep)  and Cozy Powell (The Jeff Beck Group, Whitesnake, ELP, Black Sabbath, etc.) came together for what is one of the single most epic concerts of this band’s career.  It’s also the only full live show ever filmed that featured this lineup.  And what a show it was.  It is yet more evidence of everything that once was right with rock and roll.  This is not just some rock and roll concert.  Rainbow Live in Munich 1977 is a rock and roll experience.  The show’s shortest song is four minutes and forty-two seconds long.  The longest comes in at a whopping twenty-seven minutes and thirty-three seconds.  So it is not for those with short attention spans.  The songs in between are hardly short, either.  And that is perfectly fine.  The audio (CD/Digital audio) portion makes for great driving music for classic rock fans, especially with the weather having turned warm.  The video portion (DVD/Digital video) is just as enjoyable to pop into one’s DVD/Blu-ray player.  Those with home theater systems will especially appreciate the surround sound experience of this show. 

Speaking of the overall concert experience one would be remiss to ignore the overall performance presented by Rainbow in this recorded concert.  Both Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio showed why they were and are two of the most respected individuals in the music community to this day.  RJD no longer being with us, this concert serves as a testament to his vocal abilities, even though his vocals are somewhat overpowered by the rest of the band at times.  When he cuts through though, RJD really cuts through and shows why he remains one of the best singers in the rock business today.  Blackmore’s chops on the guitar are second to none throughout the show.  This is especially the case on the anthem, ‘Love Live Rock ‘n’ Roll.’  He and the rest of the band put on a virtual clinic with this song that was brand new at that point.  It’s such a simple song.  Yet somehow, Blackmore with his solos and Cozy Powell with his solid time keeping make this one of the show’s highest of highs.  On a side note, seeing Cozy Powell playing with the traditional grip is just as incredible.  When one thinks of drummers using the traditional grip, the most common association made is with jazz, not so much rock music.  There are those that did and do today.  But their numbers are few.  So for the drumming community, this, along with Powell’s solid time keeping makes the performance even more enjoyable. It’s just one of so many examples that could be pulled from the show that make it such a joy to experience whether one is hearing Rainbow for the first time or fiftieth.

Rainbow showed that it could really bring down the house with a number such as ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll.’  It also showed its versatility on the equally bluesy ‘Man on the Silver Mountain.’  This sixteen-minute plus opus had its own slower jam session moment that is just as incredible as anything that any of today’s blues musicians could churn out.  It’s also one of the moments when RJD really got the opportunity to showcase his powerhouse vocals.  And did he ever?  His vocals soar on this performance.  And even after this song ended Dio showed again why he was and is one of rock’s best front men.  Here was this larger than life figure.  Yet on stage, he seemed so down to Earth and so humble.  Seeing the rapport that he had with the audience in comparison to the myth surrounding him is so eye opening and refreshing.  He shows that he was a rock star’s rock star.  He showed he didn’t have an ego and that he appreciated having the chance to do what he did; even more proof of the importance of RJD as an artist.  And the band fed off of that energy, too, making this whole concert such a joy to look back on.

The concert contained on the DVD and double-disc CD are both wonderful additions to the home library of any classic rock fan or any fan of pure, guitar driven rock music.  This latest re-issue boasts more than just a concert though.  Adding to the overall enjoyment of the performance are bonus interviews with Bob Daisley and Colin Hart, as well as an interesting recording of the band performing in Texas the year prior.  The interviews with Daisley and Hart are entertaining to say the least.  During his interview, Daisley tells an anecdote about going driving with one of the other band members.  This little story is sure to make for some laughs.  He also tells his side of how the band came to be and much more.  What else is discussed, audiences will have to find out for themselves when they pick up the DVD.  Hart’s interview is just as entertaining, and at other times candid.  This is especially the case when he is asked to share his thoughts on drummer Cozy Powell.  It’s obvious in hearing him talk that this was a difficult topic to touch on.  Fans will take away a lot from this and Hart’s other thoughts on fellow band member Ronnie James Dio, as well as his thoughts on the band’s success and other topics. 

If the bonus interviews aren’t enough for fans, then maybe the bonus promo videos and the included booklet in the DVD package will impress audiences, too.  The booklet included in the DVD outlines the history of Rainbow from its formation to the replacement of Dio, Daisley, and Stone.  It’s just one more extra piece that fills this small package with so much to appreciate.  The bonus videos included in this recording are actual full performances of the songs ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’, ‘Gates of Babylon’, and ‘L.A. Connection.’  They aren’t just little snippets of the songs.  If all of this set alongside an already impressive full live performance isn’t enough for fans, then fans that don’t appreciate everything included here either don’t have a pulse or aren’t real fans to begin with.  Keeping this in mind, this latest re-issue is one more incredibly jam packed live release that is more than worth every watch.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online from the Eagle Rock Entertainment website at http://www.eagle-rock.com/product/EV306049/Live+in+Munich.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Re-Machined More Than Just A Tribute Record

Courtesy:  Eagle Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment

Famed British hard rock band Deep Purple is set to drop its new album next month.  The album, titled Now What?! will be released in the United State Tuesday, April 30th.  While fans wait for the release of this highly anticipated album, they have another recent release to tide them over in the form of the tribute album, Re-Machined: A Tribute to Deep Purple’s Machine Head.  It may be a tribute album, but it is still a great album for both new and long-time fans of Deep Purple.

The new honorary compilation hit stores in late 2012 as part of the 40th anniversary of the landmark album’s original release.  It features all seven tracks from Deep Purple’s original iconic album plus a pair of bonuses.  One of those bonuses comes in the form of Metallica’s cover of ‘When A Blind Man Cries.’  As Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich notes in the compilation’s liner notes, “I have a list of songs in my head that Metallica should play before we either break up or die, and Deep Purple’s ‘When A Blind man Cries’ is one of those songs.”  The song in question is a bonus in that it actually never made the record.  Again, the liner notes shed light on this.  The notes, written by Classic Rock Magazine’s Mark Blake note that the song in question was originally a B-side to the song, ‘Never Before’ but has become a fan favorite throughout the years.  So it only made sense to have it included on this tribute record.  And it’s just one of the pieces that make this album a must not just for any Deep Purple fan but for any hard rocker, period.

‘When A Blind Man Cries’ is just one part of what makes Re-Machined such an impressive album of covers.  Going back to Ulrich, he and Metallica constitute just one of the acts brought together to record this album who openly tout Deep Purple as an influence in their own career as musicians.  Blake writes of Iron Maiden’s front man Bruce Dickinson (whose band also covers a track on the disc) that he [Dickinson] was also a “serious Purple aficionado.”  He quotes Dickinson as saying, “I cut my teeth as a kid on Deep Purple.  It’s what I grew up with.  It’s what got me out of bed in the mornings.”  Now if that isn’t a tribute in itself to the importance of Deep Purple in the music world, it’s anyone’s guess what is.  Dickinson and company ended up recording ‘Space Truckin’’ for the record, which is an absolutely outstanding piece both originally and as a cover here.  The way that it drives (no pun intended), it will have fans pumping their fists and singing along loud and proud. 

If Iron Maiden’s ‘Space Truckin’’ isn’t enough to convince fans of this compilation’s importance, then maybe the album’s opener will.  Carlos Santana (yes, that Carlos Santana) joins Papa Roach front man Jacoby Shaddix for a cover of what is arguably the band’s most famous song of all time, ‘Smoke on the Water.’  What’s really interesting about this cover is that while it is a cover, it doesn’t feel or sound like one.  Far too often, bands and artists try to take classic songs and update them.  That’s not the case here.  Shaddix and Santana have taken the classic and made it their own while still paying homage to the original.  It makes perfect sense as to why the album would open with this cover in hearing Santana’s guitar chops and the solid vocals of Shaddix.  It also serves one more purpose that at a passing glance is missed.  But in really thinking about the generational mix presented here, one sees the purer purpose of using it as the compilation’s opener.

On the surface, having a bunch of bands and artists resurrect one of rock’s most important and iconic albums is a great thing.  Having the album resurrected by a collection of rock’s greatest names past and present is even greater.  What this does is it makes it more than just a tribute album.  It makes the album a music history lesson in and of itself.  As evidenced in the opening number, young audiences will be pulled in by the inclusion of Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix.  Older audiences will be pulled in from both the fact that it’s Deep Purple and that fellow veteran musician Carlos Santana is on the track.  Also because of the inclusion of Santana, those same younger audiences will potentially be introduced to the music of not just one great classic act, but two in both Deep Purple and Carlos Santana, thus preserving both acts’ legacies for a whole new generation.  The same could be said of the inclusion of Chickenfoot’s live cover of ‘Highway Star’ and Black Label Society’s cover of ‘Pictures of Home.’ 

It should be clear by everything noted here that Re-Machined is more than just a tribute to a band.  It’s a tribute, yes.  But it’s also a tribute to everything that was and still is right with rock and roll.  It’s a musical love letter to real rock and an excellent way to get a whole new generation of hard rockers and metal heads into what is without a doubt, one of mainstream rock’s greatest bands.  The album is available now in stores and online.  Audiences can get more information on this album, the band’s upcoming new full length studio release and its tour dates online at http://www.deeppurple2013 and http://www.facebook.com/officialdeeppurple

To keep up with more from Deep Purple and all the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.