Return to Forever: Live at Montreux 2008
Founded in 1972 by legendary keyboardist Chick Corea, Return to Forever went through several stylistic and personnel changes before settling on its final incarnation with Lenny White on drums, Stanley Clarke on bass and a 20-year-old guitarist named Al Di Meola. It is difficult now to imagine that time in the ‘70s when fusion bands could sell out arenas and there were instrumentals on the pop charts. But back then RTF was huge. Other than fellow fusion guitar master John McLaughlin, Di Meola’s chops were unlike anything we’d ever heard or seen. RTF split after several successful albums and Al went on to other adventures, including the super trio with McLaughlin and flamenco guitarist Paco De Lucia.
Now thirty some years later, RTF reunited for a tour that coincided with the release of their anthology, which brings us to this offering. Available both in DVD and Blu-ray formats, this is a beautifully recorded concert from their 2008 appearance at the Montreux Festival. We hear Di Meola wielding his classic Les Paul as well as his new PRS Prism signature model, a beautiful tiger-top PRS and some nice acoustics. While the fire of youth may be spent, the wisdom of experience lingers and a fine performance is what we get. Al can still burn it up, and the whole band appears to be digging on the fact they get to play their old tunes once again. The sound and picture on the Blu-ray are perfection, with ideal camera angles and cuts that enhance the viewing experience rather than detract from it. It’s a pure pleasure to hear and see these masters at work together. —PS
List $14.98 DVD
List $24.98 Blu-ray
Black Label Society: Skullage CD/DVD
There’s no tried-and-true formula with Black Label Society; its just heavy, in-yourface rock that is brutally honest and loud with ferocious drums, driving bass lines, killer guitar tones and solos from the bearded, leather-vest-adorned crew. This is no more evident than with their latest offering Skullage. Packaged with a greatest-hits CD featuring 13 tracks, including “13 Years of Grief,” “Fire It Up” and four acoustic renditions recorded live in Lehigh Valley, PA, the DVD is the real treat of the combo.
The DVD provides a well-rounded retrospective of the band in several formats. It shows off Zakk playing a solo version of “Spoke in the Wheel,” full band renditions of various live songs, a batch of the band’s most popular music videos and never-before-seen footage from Zakk’s “Slightly Amped” acoustic performances with Nick Catanese on their “Blessed Hellride” promotional tour. While this all stacks up as the meat and potatoes of the DVD, some of the coolest footage features Zakk at home in L.A. The BLS front man gives an MTV Cribs-esque tour of his house, including the coveted guitar room where many of his legendary Gibson guitars and Marshall amps and cabs from the “Wall of Doom” reside when not on tour. A personal favorite of the collection has to be the one-off paint job on a Les Paul by none other than the prince of darkness, Ozzy Osbourne. Another gearhead moment occurs when Zakk is shown working on a George Metropoulos Marshall Plexi replica kit on the kitchen table. Also, in between some beer swilling and weightlifting, Zakk opens up about the lyrical concepts on some of BLS’ more poignant songs. And to show that some things, when done by certain people, can still be labeled metal, he shows off his eclectic Barbie collection—rivaling his guitars in number and personal value.
Fair warning, for those who don’t like beer chugging, vulgar language and pick squeals galore, this package may not be your type of brew. But for those who can stomach it, Skullage offers BLS fans—new and old—a chance to own a cross section of the band’s best recorded songs, stunning live performances and never-before-seen footage of Zakk having some downtime at home. —CK
Motley Crue: A Visual History 1983–2005
There was hair metal and then there was the look that killed. Mötley Crüe’s visual aesthetic simply cannot be separated from the band’s music, and the subject is due for reflection as we wade through a new era of metal bands seeking to embody the images created for them.
With his latest book, legendary rock photographer Neil Zlozower celebrates the band that defined rock 'n' roll decadence. Accompanied by first-person accounts from managers, clothing designers, Nikki Sixx’s tech, the band’s head of security and others within the band’s inner pentagram, the 232- page book offers a glimpse into the business of rock imagery, not to mention debauchery.
Picking up in 1983, the band’s Too Fast For Love years are missing, but the Crüe that is probably tattooed on your brain—the big hair, Road Warrior, Warlock bass, Shout at the Devil-era Crüe—is preserved in all its glory and evolves into more of a wicked circus as you turn the pages. The photographs comprise Zlozower’s performance shots, studio sessions with the band (including the infamous “blood session”) and behind-thescenes candids. Whether posing in straitjackets, kicking back in the studio between takes, or strutting on a stage with full-on‘80s rock rigging, Crüe embodied their image with unquestionable authority, and Zlozower was there with the right angle or access to get the shot. The degree to which the photo selection was kept somewhat family- friendly is the only thing some Crüe fans will question. You just know there are shots in Zlozower’s Crüe stash that could’ve been filed under “Caligula” just as easily.
This book isn’t about that, though—despite the inevitable shots of a few ‘T’s and, unfortunately, Tommy’s ‘A.’ Rather, this book documents a rock 'n' roll image that was carefully crafted in an attempt to keep up with a band that pushed limits, flirted with death enough times to actually experience it, and wrote an anthem that is played in every strip club in America every single night. —JC
By the Time We Got to Woodstock: The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Revolution of 1969
Rock’n’roll changed the world. It didn’t put a man on the moon, or cure cancer, or make it possible for large numbers of people to travel from one part of the world to another, but it changed the way people thought about all those things. In particular, 1969 was a huge year in rock’n’roll, starting with Nixon’s late ’68 election, which so many artists and fans had fought against, and peaking with the events of Woodstock and Altamont. And Bruce Pollock was in the thick of it all, as a music journalist, writer and songwriter.
By the Time We Got to Woodstock is half memoir, half documentary. He describes the experience of being a part of the “counterculture,” but includes a great deal of background on the political and social events through which rock’n’roll percolated. Through recollections, news reports, interviews then and now, and writings of some of the monumental personalities of the day, he tells the story of the pivotal year when the hippies’ utopian dream went down in flames.
It’s a fascinating tale, and well worth reading, however sometimes the language is a bit over-the-top and sensational. Ah, but so were the times! —GDP
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