Rush by Andrew MacNaughtonExperience is the name of the game this week as a veritable slew of rock veterans go head to head with new – and not so new – releases.

Rush (pictured) repackage live gems from the past six years while Slade repackage everything they’ve ever done again to cash in on the pre-Christmas market.

Steve Morse delivers an outside contender for album of the year and Devin Townsend serves up the second record in his series of four DTP releases.

rush workingRush – Working Men (Atlantic Records)

There is no doubt that Rush remain one of the must-see acts on the classic rock circuit and over the years their live work has become an essential part of any fan’s collection. While the top notch studio albums still come thick and fast, the Canadian trio have a history of delivering live records which mean as much to true devotees of the band as their pre-recorded work. But this ‘Best Of’ live album is a new concept altogether.

Like Iron Maiden’s Flight 666 live CD, released earlier this year, this is a collection of tracks recorded at various locations rather than tunes culled from one set in a certain town or city. Instantly any sense of atmopshere is lost and even Rush struggle to make this 12-track mix cut the mustard. Even the inclusion of the previously unreleased One Little Victory fails to make this a must-have record by the prog rock legends.

Having released three full live albums in six years – the latest, Snakes & Arrows Live, a fantastic record of a band at its best – the reasoning behind Working Men is difficult to imagine. 2112, from Rush In Rio, and Tom Sawyer, from S&A Live, sound superb but then they always did. Do Rush fans really need more evidence that their favourite band are the kings of live rock? This smacks of one easy commercial venture too far and that’s a crying shame when you consider the joy Rush has brought its fans for 35 years.

rushonrock rated: 6/10 Rush Job

sladeSlade – Merry Xmas Everybody: Slade Party Hits (UMTV)

Do the 70s glam kings really deserve a rushonrock review? It’s a debate which has raged long into the night here at our Tyneside HQ and the answer is yes.

Why? Because behind the marketing sheen, Noddy outifts and festive cheese are some super cool riffs and the kind of singalong pop rock chorsues which made Slade one of the biggest bands of the early 70s.

Forget, for a moment, Merry Xmas Everybody, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town and, even, Cum On Feel The Noise and dig a little deeper into this 20-track jolly-thon. There you will find classic tracks like Gudbuy To Jane, Standing On The Corner and Coz I Luv You – the dodgy spelling apart three tunes any self-respecting glam rocker would kill for.

Clearly aimed at the casual music buyer, and given a full festive makeover, this latest Slade release doesn’t break any new ground. But any one of these songs has got to be better than the X-Factor crew destroying Michael Jackson.

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Slade Bells Ringing

devin townsendDevin Townsend Project – Addicted! (Inside Out Music)

The second of four albums linked by their creator’s desire to deliver the full rock package, this cracking record came highly recommended to rushonrock by none other than Steve Vai. And when Vai recommends, we listen.

We listen. And listen. And listen. Because this is a rock record so simple it’s brilliant. Townsend once worked with Vai and the duo share a love for all things technical and instrumental. Yet if the May release of Ki – the first record in the set of four – betrayed an artist pushing the boundaries then this follow-up is delicious in its straightforward rock style.

The opening song, and title track, introduces ex-The Gathering vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen and her melodic tones complement perfectly the metal aggression of Townsend. But whether you revel in the Prodigy-esque intro announcing Universe In A Ball! or chuckle at Resolve! – the song starts with a laugh and raises a huge smile as it becomes the metal version of Roxette – there’s never a dull moment on what may well become Devin’s mainstream tour de force.

This is an album which really is all killers and no fillers. In fact there’s no filling within the 10 tracks with every one a concise and focused slice of explosive rock. Genius.

rushonrock rated: 8/10 All Devved Up

steve morseSteve Morse Band – Out Standing In Their Field (earMUSIC)

If you’re looking to fill a gap between Joe Satriani’s 2008 return to form and his post-Chickenfoot follow-up then look no further than one of the finest guitar driven records we’ve heard in a while.

Right from the off Out Standing In Their Field is a joy for all fans of virtuoso electric guitar wizardry with opener Name Dropping setting the tone for a record which Satch wouldn’t be embarrassed to call his own.

There are enough changes in style – Relentless Encroachment appears to take the album in a new direction bofore the aptly named More To The Point sees Morse back on track – to keep even the most critical of judges intrigued. And a rhythm section boasting Dave Larue and Van Romaine keeps things tight whenever the band’s leader – and the album’s  producer – threatens to stray too far. Fantastic stuff from one of rock’s truly creative movers and shakers.

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Morse The Merrier