Each Sunday we name the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK and deliver our verdict on the BEST OF THE REST.
And the highlight of this week’s new releases has to be the re-released Dio (pictured) classics Holy Diver, Sacred Heart and The Last In Line.
We throw the spotlight on fast-rising Brit rock n rollers The Burning Crows and feature the latest slew of releases from the Frontiers Records stable: read what we have to say on the latest offerings from Jeff Scott Soto, Jack Blades, Furyon and Pretty Maids.
And don’t forget to check out the best new music from the worlds of rock and metal right here every week!
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Classic Rock
The dilemma facing the Dio estate whenever the question of mounting yet another back catalogue raid is raised is how to improve upon perfection. Is it worth it? What’s the point? Will fans feel ripped off?
With Holy Diver all of the above come into sharper focus as the powers that be are dealing with a stone cold hard rock classic. But those diligent folk at Universal have experience in this field and, once again, they’ve done the business.
The now familiar gatefold packaging unwraps a double disc set featuring the original album and 12 bonus tracks that are more killer than filler. Evil Eyes, a legendary B-side from the album’s self-titled lead single release, kicks things off on the second CD before a couple of choice live tunes perfectly capture the mood of early 80s Dio.
And then there’s the six-track ‘King Biscuit Flower Hour’ set that sees Ronnie James in supremely confident form – and why not with a sensational solo album under his belt and a made-for-arenas band in tow.
It’s still tough to come to terms with a rock world bereft of Dio but music like this keeps the memory alive. Holy Diver might not garner the widespread critical acclaim afforded certain Dio-era Purple and Sabbath records but given the circumstances behind its inception and the ease with which it was delivered this album could be the pinnacle of a phenomenally successful career.
Enjoy the legend all over again. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Holy Shit!
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Classic Rock
A year after Holy Diver had proved there was life after Sabbath for Ronnie James Dio, this magnificent follow-up quenched the thirst for more material from one of the finest vocalists in rock.
A more assured Vivian Campbell – later to star with Whitesnake before finding a permanent home in Def Leppard – continued to have a hand in what would become Dio classics with his work on Breathless exactly that.
The tantalising title track and seven minute-plus closer Egypt (The Chains Are On) still stand the test of time.
But the real treasure here – and reason for investing in The Last In Line all over again – is the eight track set from 1984’s Pinkpop Festival. Mixing Dio’s various guises, and featuring a superb rendition of Heaven And Hell, it’s a glorious trip down memory lane. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Last But Not Least
Genre: Classic Rock
The Dio bandwagon rolled on with another mid 80s classic adding a third title in three years to an increasingly essential back catalogue.
Notably it would be the last to feature Vivian Campbell: although the future Whitesnake and Def Leppard man boasts five co-writing credits on another fantastic slab of classic rock he became a peripheral figure during its conception.
Top 40 singles Hungry For Heaven and Rock N Roll Children could still bother the rock charts today and remain standout highlights of the Dio legacy.
Repackaged with the Dio EP and the live album Intermission, this two-disc set is another must-have for the Ronnie James devotee and interested newbie alike. The last of the three ‘great’ Dio records, this is another masterpiece in mid-80s hard rock. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Hearty Effort
Genre: Classic Rock
Back in the days when the Quireboys and Little Angels jostled for chart positions with Terrorvision and Thunder, homegrown rock was on a roll. Two decades on and the Burning Crows bring that Britrock sound bang up to date with a swagger and style criminally lacking in so many of today’s emerging heroes.
Fashioning singalong tunes to complement their sleazy image, this cocky quartet boast the hooks and the looks to go far. Opener Slow Up, Get Down is, perhaps, the least catchy of the five songs thrown together here but there’s an addictive quality about Going Down that confirms this lot can write.
Quireboys’ tinkler Keith Weir makes a guest appearance (The Burning Crows are managed by Quireboys’ drummer Matt Goom) and don’t be surprised to see your new favourite band opening up for Spike and co. sometime soon.
The Burning Crows – like Stone Gods before The Darkness reunion – have the potential to drive domestic rock back into the mainstream. It’ll be a long, hard road but don’t bet against frontman Whippz leading his colleagues to their final destination with time to spare. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Stone The Crows
The well-oiled phrase ‘return to form’ is bandied about far too easily and yet if there is such a thing then Damage Control is it.
There will be those who insist Jeff Scott Soto couldn’t fail to improve upon previous solo offering Beautiful Mess (including JSS!) but this carefully crafted AOR classic easily surpasses that patchy album and goes on to put much of the former Journey man’s previous work in the shade.
Its sugar-coated choruses and healthy mix of hard rock and straight-up AOR makes for a truly pleasurable listen. Astute collaborations with old friends and new colleagues keep the whole thing fresh and 20 years ago JSS would have been looking at a string of charting singles shimmering with a made-for-MTV sheen.
BonaFide is one of the finest ballads you’ll hear in 2012 but its no diamond in the rough. This is an album which confirms JSS’s standing as one of the finer exponents of AOR and fans new and old will be hoping a new dawn of creativity has broken. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 He’s Scott The Lot
Genre: Hard Rock/Heavy Metal
The first thing that strikes you about Furyon – and it’s more of a full-blown punch in the nose than a passing strike – is that the uber professional quartet don’t sound at all British.
That’s no bad thing when they sound this good: think elements of Shinedown, Queensryche and Soundgarden fused together to create an ear-bleeding sound all of their own and it’s little wonder Frontiers picked up on Gravitas to give the album its worldwide release.
Our Peace Someday is a brilliant piece of music delivered with a degree of panache likely to make Geoff Tate sit up and take notice. Surrounded by three six minute-plus epics it’s a shorter, sweeter burst of Furyon at their classy best.
If this masterful album passed you by first time around then this is second chance Sunday. A band billed as the future of British metal might be just that. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Furyon And On
Genre: Melodic Rock
More than 30 years into a prolific, if never spectacularly commercial, career enduring melodic rock masters Pretty Maids have never sounded so good.
On the back of 2010’s fabulous Pandemonium comes this career-spanning live treat – further evidence, if it was needed, of a band enjoying a new lease of life on the back of solid songwriting and sensational stagecraft.
With vocals veering wildly from vintage-era WASP (opener and title track from Pandemonium a case in point) to 80s-era Europe it’s never easy to pigeon hole the versatile Danes. And perhaps that’s always been their biggest problem.
However, the founder member and singer Ronnie Atkins coasts through the Leppard-esque Another Shot you’re left wondering why Pretty Maids need one. They should have been much, much bigger a long, long time ago. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Maids To Measure
Genre: Classic Rock/AOR
Mixing a Damn Yankees chorus with a Def Leppard riff, Jack Blades goes back to the early 90s in some style on the spine-tingling Hardest Word To Say and at his best the 57-year-old veteran of some of the biggest names in rock is simply peerless.
Yet this long awaited follow-up to 2004’s self-titled solo album suffers from attempting to be all things to all men. Blades might have been exactly that during stints in Night Ranger, Damn Yankees, Rubicon and Shaw/Blades but in striking out on is own he’s in desperate need of individuality.
Instead Rock N Roll Ride sounds like the Beatles (Anything For You), Tom Petty (West Hollywood) and even The Who on the contrived intro to Love Life. It’s a mixed bag, catch-all approach that ultimately frustrates those searching for the real Blades.
There are some superb highs on a record that occasionally serves as a suitable platform for one of the finest musicians on the melodic rock scene. Disappointingly, Rock N Roll Ride is punctuated by odd moments of inexplicable mediocrity. Bizarre. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Jack Of All Trades