Album Reviews

Issue 2007-065

Reviews in this issue:

David Gilmour - Remember That Night

David Gilmour - Remember That Night
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:EMI Music
Catalogue #:SMADVD055
Year of Release:2007
Info:David Gilmour
Encoding & SoundRegion 2 PAL
Aspect ratio 16:9
Dolby Digital Stereo
Dolby Digital 5.1


Disc 1 [152:01]: Speak To Me (1:09), Breathe (2:50), Time (5:14), Breathe Reprise (1:09), Castellorizon (4:39), On An Island (7:36), The Blue (6:06), Red Sky At Night (3:11), This Heaven (4:15), Then I Close My Eyes (9:46), Smile (4:19), Take A Breath (6:08), A Pocketful Of Stones (6:03), Where We Start (7:59), Intermission (0:50), Shine On You Crazy Diamond (11:50), Fat Old Sun (6:21), Coming Back To Life (6:41), High Hopes (9:18), Echoes (22:18), Wish You Were Here (5:26), Find The Cost Of Freedom (2:02), Arnold Layne (4:11), Comfortably Numb (9:38), End Credits (3:41)

Disc 2 [166:46]: Additional tracks: Wot's Uh... The Deal? (5:13), Dominoes (4:48), Wearing The Inside Out (7:25), Arnold Layne (3:21), Comfortably Numb (8:10), Dark Globe (2:14), Astronome Domine (4:53), This Heaven (4:35), Castellorizon (3:16), On An Island (7:12), The Blue (6:16), Take A Breath (6:13), High Hopes (9:35), On An Island [promo video] (6:44), Smile [promo video] (4:01), Island Jam (5.19)
Documentaries: Breaking Bread, Drinking Wine (46:30), The Making Of 'On An Island' (17:18), The West Coast (5:12), Easter eggs: Echoes [acoustic] (6:51), David playing the Cümbüs (0:43), On An Island [Dance Mix] (0:57)

Last year David Gilmour came out of retirement with his lukewarm received On An Island. His decision to go out on a full-blown tour - his first in 13 years - was received with considerably more enthusiasm. This DVD is shot over three nights at London's Royal Albert Hall, at the start of the second leg of the tour. I'd seen him perform during the first leg of the On An Island Tour, which was an excellent gig with the focus entirely on the music and the show extravaganza kept to a minimum. However, it seems an old fox never loses his tricks, because for the second leg of the tour the show leaned considerably more to a Floyd scale production, with a big light show with lasers and all.

Gilmour had invited an array of friends on his latest album, so it seemed only logical invite some friends for the gigs as well. Pink Floyd's keyboardist Rick Wright joined Gilmour's touring band, as did post-Waters bass player Guy Pratt. Another Floyd alumni is John Carin, who is pretty much 'the whore of Pink Floyd' as he plays both in Gilmour's and Waters' live bands, as well as with Floyd during the Division Bell tour and their Live 8 Reunion. Guitar duties are handled by Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera and the drum kit is occupied by Steve DiSanislao.

Joining the band for some songs are Soft Machine's Robert Wyatt on coronet, David Crosby and Graham Nash on backing vocals on On An Island, The Blue, Shine On You Crazy Diamond and one of their own songs Find The Cost Of Freedom and David Bowie for the last encores. Nick Mason also sat behind the drums on one of the nights, but somehow there is no footage of it, nor is it mentioned anywhere on the DVD.

The first half of the gig consists of the whole of On An Island, which causes me to doze off most of the times. Fortunately the second half is much, much better. The semi-acoustic version of Shine On You Crazy Diamond doesn't come off particularly well, but from Fat Old Sun onwards every note played is pure gold. Some of the newer Floyd tunes lead to the absolute highlight of the DVD: the full 22-minute rendition of Echoes, just absolutely fantastic and worth the price of this DVD alone.

The second highlight is David Bowie's performance on Arnold Layne and Comfortably Numb. It is amazing how Bowie has made both songs his own. Rather than simply singing his bit, he gives them a bit of Bowieness with his unique voice.

The concert is available in Dolby stereo and 5.1 surround - unfortunately there is no higher resolution sound channel available. That said, the DVD has also been released on Blu-Ray DVD, which contains Dolby True HD 48/24. For the regular DVD that would probably not have fit, as both discs are filled to their max! As if the 2.5 hour concert isn't enough of a treat, there is also nearly three hours worth of extras, including almost 30 minutes of additional Royal Albert Hall footage, another 30 minutes of a concert at Mermaid's Theatre, promo videos, an hour's worth of documentaries with additional extended scenes and three Easter eggs which include a terrific acoustic rendition of Echoes. This is Floyd heaven! Quantity-wise one could literally not ask for more.

Watching the documentaries makes one think very clear: Gilmour is having fun making music again. He hasn't really looked like he was enjoying himself onstage since the mid-seventies and after the Division Bell tour everybody assumed he was ready for retirement. Let's face it, On An Island *sounds* like he is retired! Yet in the documentaries he comes across as really comfortable with his stage persona, his music and his life in general. Laughing and goofing around backstage, making jokes, doing interviews, talking to fans in the street... An example: Rick Wright takes on a dare that he can play the intro to Shine On You Crazy Diamond using half-filled wineglasses. He succeeds, and they continue to do this on a nightly basis, culminating in a week later when they pick up a professional wine-glass playing street musician from the streets of Venice to play with them live on stage. Something like this would have been unthinkable in the days of Floyd.

The only moment on the discs where you see the introvert and somewhat gruff Gilmour of old is when he bumps into Roger Waters at the rehearsal facility where it turns out Waters has hired the hangar next door for his tour rehearsals. Mind you, both actually look like they don't know what to say and are only there because the producer of the DVD thought it was a good stunt.

Remember That Night perfectly captures the Royal Albert Hall gig and On An Island tour and is highly recommended to any self-respecting Floyd fan. Gilmour's last solo album may not be everybody's cup of Earl Grey, but album makes up for only one hour of this 3.5 hour package. Recommended!

Conclusion: 8 out of 10


Blackfield - NYC (Live In New York City)

Blackfield - NYC
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Snapper/KScope
Catalogue #:SMADVD055
Year of Release:2007
Time:95:00 (approx)
Mini Site
Encoding & SoundRegion 0 NTSC
Aspect ratio 16:9
PCM 24/48 Stereo
DTS 5.1 Surround

Tracklist: Once (5.10), Miss U (4.36), Blackfield (4.45), Christenings (4.47), The Hole In Me (3.53), 1,000 People (4.04), Pain (4.16), Glow (3.38), Thankyou (5.01), Epidemic (5.03), Someday (4.25), Open Mind (4.25), My Gift of Silence (4.20), Where is My Love? (2.59), End of the World (6.29), Hello (4.04), Once (encore) (4.30), Cloudy Now (4.57)

Extras: Promo videos: Hello (3.13), Pain (4.00), Blackfield (4.01), Photo Gallery

Like Porcupine Tree, Blackfield is a Steve Wilson project that I greatly admire. Their first album, Blackfield, was a treat, but the second CD, Blackfield II, was even more impressive. In this collaboration with Israeli superstar Aviv Geffen, Wilson has clearly found a strong collaboration that's a perfect outlet for the more song based material that graces Porcupine Tree albums like Lightbulb Sun and Stupid Dream, leaving the Tree for the more experimental and heavy work. I saw and enjoyed Blackfield during their recent tour and was therefore really looking forward to this DVD.

However ... to be perfectly honest - and I find this hard to admit - this is a rare occasion in which I'm slightly disappointed with a Steve Wilson related purchase. To start with the easiest complaint, the extras are very meagre. We get the videos that were made for Blackfield, Pain and Hello from the first album. Blackfield is a brilliant video using a frames-disappearing-in-frames effect that I love watching over and over again. The typical Lasse Hoile effects in Hello make it much harder to watch. Pain is somewhere in between these extremes. Besides the videos there's the obligatory photo gallery that doesn't add much, especially since the DVD comes with a booklet with some pictures that give an impression of the show. And that's it. No tour documentary, no interviews, no nothing ...

For 'US' Blackfield fans and especially the ones that live in New York, where the performance was recorded, the opening menu must be a bit of an in-your-face shocker. It features an old picture of the city with the WTC prominently present. Using this picture must have been a careful consideration resulting in the decision to include it including the WTC towers. Makes me wonder why ...

The gig itself, which took place on 16th March 2007, is quite okay. The band performs well, but I have to say that the Blackfield you'll hear on some of the CD tracks is not the same Blackfield as you'll see on the stage. You'll find a much rawer, less polished sound. There's simply no way some of these multi-vocal arrangements can be recreated live without the use of backing tracks. Still, they are using backing tracks. An example: Aviv plays acoustic guitar but for some mysterious reason he puts it down for Hole in Me. But hold on, we clearly hear the guitar during the song, and no one else is playing acoustic guitar ... Questionable.

The sound quality is top notch, as can be expected from a Steve Wilson production. The concert is available in PCM 24 bit 48 hz stereo, and DTS surround. Why the stereo track is 24/48 and the DTS track isn't 96/48, which is rapidly becoming the new standard. Nevertheless it is a very tasteful surround mix. Blackfield's music isn't the type of music that lends itself to freaky surround sound effects, so for most of the concert the surround effect is fairly minimal: the vocals are moved towards the centre, a tad of reverb on the surround speakers, and most of the audience is also mixed to the back, creating a very lively atmosphere as if the band is playing in your room.

As far as the tracklist is concerned, the full second album is played with the exception of This Killer. All the tracks of the first album are present with the exception of Scars, Lullaby (unfortunately missing) and Summer. Contrary to the title, Once is played twice, both as an opener and first encore. It's a marvellous tune (in all its simplicity) so I'm not complaining and it works well, sandwiching the show. An additional treat is the performance of Alanis' Thank You, which was previously released as one of the Cover Versions recorded by Wilson. For me, this is one of the highlights of the show. It takes place in the middle of the gig after Aviv has done a piano-vocal only version of Glow.

And that's where I get to my major complaint about the DVD. Aviv Geffen. He may be a superstar in his own country. He may be a very skilled songwriter. But ... how shall I say this ... if he'd participate in the auditions of Idols he wouldn't get beyond the first audition. I'm left underwhelmed by his vocal performance, but that's not the worst aspect of his presence. It's his presence itself. Whereas Steve Wilson is his normal semi-shy, introvert, spectacled anti-star that blows everyone away when he performs it's the other way around with Aviv. And he stands out like a sore thumb on stage. Seemingly Aviv is only comfortable wearing either a creepy posh suit or nothing at all. Especially his urge to perform the last section of the show with a bare chest makes me wonder when this habit from the seventies was re-introduced in rock music. And than there's the awful glittery stuff he's wearing on his eyelids and the painfully forced attempt to be cool jumping from the drum kit platform is simply too silly to spend more than these few words on. The - at times annoyingly present - audience which I expect is largely composed of the Jewish community of Aviv fans in New York may love this kind of behaviour but I would expect the average fan of Blackfield's music to be way beyond this type of behaviour.

But of course it's not all bad. There are instances where he's not in the camera shot and you can enjoy the other band members instead. Especially the passionate play of keyboardist Erna Mitelman is a feast for the eye. Tomar Z (brother of Nir Z) on drums and Seffy Efrati also put down energetic performances. And don't worry, of you try not to focus to much on Aviv there's a lot of brilliant music and even though the stage is rather small and the Bowery Ballroom venue a strange choice for a live the gig is filmed very well. But don't expect any big stage show, projections or Lasse Hoile effects treatment of the footage like on the Porcupine Tree DVD Arriving Somewhere. This gig is clearly about the music only ... and Aviv's superstar attitude.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10


Porcupine Tree - Fear Of A Blank Planet

Porcupine Tree - Fear Of A Blank Planet
Country of Origin:USA
Record Label:WMG/Transmission
Catalogue #:Transmission 6.1
Year of Release:2007
Info:Porcupine Tree
Encoding & SoundRegion 0 PAL
Aspect ratio 4:3
24-bit stereo
DTS 5.1, MLP 5.1
Tracklist: Fear Of A Blank Planet (7:28), My Ashes (5:07), Anesthetize (17:42), Sentimental (5:26), Way Out Of Here (7:37), Sleep Together (7:28)

DVD Extras: Nil Recurring EP: Nil Recurring (6.08), Normal (7.09), Cheating The Polygraph (7.10), What Happens Now? (8.23) Videos: Blank Planet - short film (5.03), Fear of A Blank Planet (4.56), Anesthetize (17.13)

When Porcupine Tree's Fear Of A Blank Planet came out earlier this year, it was released in two formats: regular CD, and limited double disc with a bonus DVD containing surround mixes of the album. So what is the point of having yet another, DVD-only, release of the album? Well, my guess is as good as anyone's on the exact politics, but I did notice that the limited edition was extremely limited, as it was only available in shops for about a week. Whatever the reason for this cancellation, it was always clear that Steve Wilson would want a DVD version of the album regularly available, as has been the case with all Porcupine Tree albums since In Absentia.

This new edition brings everything the DVD of the limited edition had, plus quite a bit more. The most obvious is that the tracks of the Nil Recurring EP have been included. Not, as earlier reports indicated, incorporated into the running order of the album, but rather as bonus tracks.

Furthermore there are three Lasse Hoile directed videos: Blank Planet, a short film about the concept of the album, the uncensored promo video of Fear Of A Blank Planet, and the full 17-minute video which supports Anesthetize during live shows. This chaotic footage is shown on the backdrop behind the band when they perform this song live and it suits the music very very well. It is definitively the visual highlight of the DVD and it is a real pity no other live videos have been included, like Way Out Of Here which is currently shown on Youtube.

But the real reason to fork out the money for this album is not visible, but audible only. Besides the 24-bit stereo and DTS surround soundtracks, there are two more soundtracks, which are only playable with DVD-Audio compatible DVD players. The MLP (Meridian Lossless Packing) Advanced Resolution surround and stereo tracks are a huge improvement on the already near-flawless sound-quality. This is probably the closest digital audio can come analogue. Note that this audio can only be played by a DVD-Audio compatible player. The rest of the content can be played by any DVD player though.

So if you have the choice between the limited edition and the DVD version of the album, which should you buy? Well, the limited edition has both a CD and a DVD version of the album, so that you can play it in your car as well, but other than that there isn't a single reason why anyone should pay a fortune for it on eBay. This new DVD-A version is, indeed, the definitive edition of the album to own.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10


Sigur Rós - Heima

Sigur Rós - Heima
Country of Origin:Iceland
Record Label:EMI Music
Catalogue #:510 4199
Year of Release:2007
Info:Sigur Rós
Encoding & SoundRegion 0 PAL
Aspect ratio 16:9
Dolby 5.1, DTS 5.1
PCM 2.0


Disc 1 [91:15]: Intro (3:15), Glósóli (7:32), Sé lest (9.38), Ágætis byrjun (7:27), Heysátan (4:52), Olsen Olsen (6:03), Von (9:30), Gítardjamm (7:43), Vaka (5:32), Á Ferð Til Breiðafjarðar 1922 (6:05), Starálfur (6:16), Hoppípolla (5:05), Popplagið (13:03), Samskeyti(5:07) Extras: Audio commentary, subtitles

Disc 2 [152:00]: Glósóli (9:01), Heysátan (5:09), Sé lest (11:29), Ágætis Byrjun (6;59), Gítardjamm (5:32), Dauðalagið (13:13), Vaka (Snæfell) (5:53), Á Ferð Til Breiðafjarðar 1922 (6:03), Starálfur (5:43), Vaka (Álafoss) (5:24), Heima (3:34), Popplagið (15:47), Hoppípolla (7.16), Olsen Olsen (8:24), Samskeyti (5:23), Von (8.31) Extras: Páll from Húsafell (featurette) (4.05), Memories of Melodies (4.22), Thorrablót (featurette) (6.47), Tour Diary (9.19)

In 2006, having toured the world over, Sigur Rós return home to play a series of free, unannounced concerts in Iceland. Heima is a unique record of that tour, filmed in 16 locations across the island, taking in the biggest and smallest shows of the bands career

There is no denying that Icelandic four-piece Sigur Rós is one of the most progressive bands of today. Their mesmerizing melodies combined with unintelligible lyrics make their music completely unique, not comparable to anything else. After their music started to get used in commercials and movies the young band got propelled to stardom, yet they retained their independence and uniqueness. Heima (which means 'home' in Icelandic) is proof of that. Rather than filming one of their gigs during the 2006 Takk... tour they went home to Iceland where they played sixteen free, unannounced gigs, which were captured by a film crew.

The performances range from a full blown electric extravaganza in the capital Reykjavík, to tiny performances for just a handful of people like their protest gig at the Karanhjukar where they played entirely acoustic without any amplifiers.

Their whole tour is captured documentary-style and is interspersed with interviews by with the four band members, as well as the Amiina string quartet that have been playing live with Sigur Rós since 2002. The result is a most unusual concert film. The ethereal music of Sigur Rós lends itself particularly well to to the shots of the beautiful Icelandic landscape. And although the band did not set out to create a tourist promotion film of their country, the images of the country are breathtakingly stunning.

As interesting as the interviews are, a full-blown concert film is always likely to get more spins in my player, and fortunately there is a second disc in the Heima package. The tracklisting suggests that the second disc contains the raw concert footage which was used for the Heima film, but in fact it is more like an extended edition of the film. The interview bits are cut out, and instead all performance songs are presented in full, but a bunch of featurettes and other extra bits have been added in between.

The performances are excellent and according to the liner notes the music contains no overdubs. The surround sound mixes are stunning and Sigur Rós' music lends itself exceptionally well for 5.1 treatment. I wouldn't be surprised if their next studio album will be released on Super Audio or DVD-Audio as well.

The acoustic performances on this DVD are a real surprise. The electronic nature of the band's music might suggest it does not work acoustically, but on the contrary, these tracks are just as powerful as their electric counterparts. Especially Ágætis Byrjun and Starálfur work really well in acoustic format. On the other hand, it is with full-blown electric songs like the 15-minute trance-like Popplagið - here presented at the huge open air gig in Reykjavík - where the band is at its best.

For those who want more background information than just the interview snippets there is also the option to watch the main feature with audio commentary by band manager and film producer John Best

The DVD is available in two formats, a regular edition and a limited edition with 116 page hard cover photo book. The latter is presented in the way you'd expect from Sigur Rós. Once the plastic wrapping has been removed no references of either the band nor the DVD title remain, just the blurred photo that makes the front cover. The photo book too looks more like someone's personal photo collection rather than a tour book.

Heima is one of the most unusual audio-visual experiences of the year and highly recommended to any prog fan with an open mind.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10


Rhapsody Of Fire - Visions From The Enchanted Lands

Rhapsody Of Fire - Visions From The Enchanted Lands
Country of Origin:Italy
Record Label:SPV
Catalogue #:SPV 85697
Year of Release:2007
Info:Rhapsody Of Fire
Encoding & SoundPAL & NTSC
All Regions
16:9 Widescreen


Disc 1: Unholy Warcry (Introduction), The Past Few Years, The Wisdom of The Kings (Live from Germany), The Fans, The Village of Dwarves (Live from Canada), The Mystical Journey, Erian's Mystical Rhymes (Live from Canada), Drum Solo (Live from Canada), Canadian Cousins, Dawn of Victory (Live from Canada), Lamento Eroico (Live from Canada), Emerald Sword (Live from Canada), The Village of Dwarves (Live from Czech republic), Land of Immortals (Live from Czech republic), Holy Thunderforce (Live from Germany), Unhole Warcry Music Video (extended version), The Magic of the Wizards Dream (German version) Age Of The Red Moon (audio only), Power Of Thy Sword (audio only)

Disc 2: Unholy Warcry - Music Video, The Magic of the Wizard's Dream - Music Video, The Making of the Dark Secret - documentary, The Making of the Wizard's Dream - documentary, Unholy Warcry (Live from USA), Live Equipment, Additional interviews from 2005 tour, Triumph or Agony - electronic press kit, Rehearsal - Erian's mystical Rhymes, The Village of Dwarves, Outtakes, Unholy Warcry - Music Video (Behind the Scenes)

Visions From The Enchanted Lands is the first live DVD from Rhapsody Of Fire and it's a celebration of 10 years of bombastic epic progressive metal from Italy. The live material was recorded in 2005 therefore no songs from their latest album Triumph Or Agony. Songs from both Symphony Of Enchanted Lands albums but also from Dawn Of Victory and one song from Power Of The Dragonflame are present on the play list.

The first disc contains recordings from several different live performances and some bonus features, all live recordings are in stereo and 5.1. The songs recorded in Canada are the same as on their CD Live in Canada - The Dark Secret. Songs from different performances is not preferable but perhaps it was not feasible for them to record a whole show, however, it's very annoying that the songs are interrupted by interviews. Their pronunciation is also very difficult to understand, many Italians just don't speak English very well. Subtitles are not available so the remote has to be within reach to increase the volume. When the music starts be sure to decrease the volume in time or it will blast out of your system.

The live material is absolutely superb, sound and vision are of excellent quality. Rhapsody of Fire is well known for their visual approach to support the story and the music and this results in beautiful stages with dragons and castle walls. Fabio Lione shows he is one of the top vocalists in heavy metal, his live performance is amazing. The shots of the audiences are breathtaking, their huge loyal legion of fans sing along with all their heart. The drum solo has to be skipped at all times - it's not very spectacular and the slow motion footage made me feel nauseous. The choice of songs is peculiar with some songs appearing more than once. The Village Of Dwarves has two different live recordings and The Magic Of The Wizards Dream has three different versions. Unholy Warcry is the winner in this contest by appearing on this DVD-set five times (introduction, extended video, normal video, Live and behind the scenes). One of these, the extended video of Unholy Warcry, is the highlight of the whole DVD-set. As a bonus there is a German version of The Magic Of The Wizards Dream featuring Christopher Lee also singing in German. I know this song by heart so it sounds really odd, but still very enjoyable Another bonus are two audio songs, Age Of The Red Moon and Power Of Thy Sword. The latter is a cover from Manowar, friends of Rhapsody of Fire, and Eric Adams sings along. Two of the greatest heavy metal voices united.

The second disc contains extra features like interviews, behind the scenes and music videos. The audio on this disc is only in stereo. Both the making of and the music video of The Magic Of The Wizard's Dream are very interesting material. Christopher Lee is an interesting man and his vocal performance is magical. Behind the scenes of Unholy Warcry shows how much effort Rhapsody of Fire puts in the visual aspect. After this, watch the extended version on the first disc and you will appreciate it even more. The rest of the material, interviews etc., is only interesting for a one time viewing. The Triumph or Agony - electronic press kit seems a bit unnecessary because this album was released almost a year before this DVD. A discography would have been more appropriate.

As you can see there is a lot to complain about this DVD but in the end it's all about the big picture. When skipping from one song to the other I found that there is enough to enjoy. Over three hours of footage must yield some interesting stuff. The live performances are outstanding and the music videos are astonishing. This DVD is a very good document for 10 years of epic symphonic metal of the highest form. One point of caution: keep the remote within reach.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10


Queensrÿche - Mindcrime At The Moore

Queensrÿche - Mindcrime At The Moore
Country of Origin:USA
Record Label:Warner Music
Catalogue #:034972720-2
Year of Release:2007
Time:178:00 (approx)
Encoding & Sound5.1 Surround
2.0 Stereo

Tracklist DVD1: I Remember Now, Anarchy-X, Revolution Calling, Operation: Mindcrime, Speak, Spreading The Disease, The Mission, Suite Sister Mary, The Needle Lies, Electric Requiem, Breaking The Silence, I Don't Believe In Love, Waiting For 22, My Empty Room, Eyes Of A Stranger

Tracklist DVD2: Freiheit Ouverture, Convict, I'm American, One Foot In Hell, Hostage, The Hands, Speed Of Light, Signs Say Go, Re-Arrange You, The Chase, Murderer?, Circles, If I Could Change It All, An Intentional Confrontation, A Junkie's Blues, Fear City Slide, All The Promises. Encores: Walk In The Shadows, Jet City Woman. Bonus Material: Tour Documentary, The Chase - by Queensryche with Ronnie James Dio, Queensryche Rock & Ride, Picture Gallery

Mindcrime At The Moore captures Queensrÿche performing both their 1988 classic Operation Mindcrime and the not-so-classic 2006 sequel Operation Mindcrime II in their entirety in their hometown Seattle. Now, before I review this double DVD I should mention that whereas Mindcrime I was one of my favourite eighties albums I considered Mindcrime II a bad idea and found the end result even worse. In order to review this DVD I have given the album a couple of spins again but looking back I'm even amazed how I arrived at a rating as high as 7 out of 10 for that album. Maybe seeing it performed back to back with the original Mindcrime in a theatrical approach would change my mind.

Of course there has been a previous release of a live version of Mindcrime. I'm the proud owner of the wonderful LiveCrime box set with CD, video and photo book that shows the band performing the concept album during their 1991 Building Empire Tour. Unfortunately I don't currently own a working VCR and I haven't purchased the DVD version of LiveCrime yet, so I can't do a detailed comparison. I do however remember that the LiveCrime video showed the bands using video projections and had Geoff Tate acting out the role of Nicky. For the 2006 performance of the concept and its sequel they build on this approach and included more video projections, stage props and a cast of actors. Pamela Moore, who sung Sister Mary's parts on the legendary Suite Sister Mary and could also be seen in the LiveCrime video is present in both sets as Sister Mary, including her earlier incarnation as a prostitute.

Well, let's first take a look at Mindcrime (One). The show opens with the old animation for I Remember Now, after which the band kicks in with Anarchy X. For added drama the band had invited the Seattle Seahawks drum band to perform the piece on stage. Quite an impressive spectacle and it works well for the 'crowd feel' of the song. For some reason Mike Stone, who's characteristically 'metal' presence and behaviour I've always found rather out of place with the band, is wearing a gas mask. His first solo in Revolution Calling makes it painfully clear that we'll be missing Chris deGarmo's authentic sound in this rendition of the album. Fortunately Michael Wilton restores some of the original sound in his solos.

Like in the original show there's an elevation behind the drum kit and a video screen that is used extensively throughout the show, including interaction between on-stage and off-stage characters. By the way, the band go out of their way during the show to show the audience what an *sshole they think George Bush is and what they think of the war in Iraq. Sure, this makes the concept more up-to-date and they might be right, but it also opens up a political debate that would not be 100% necessary.

Geoff Tate comes on stage dressed as Nicky and something that immediately becomes clear is that he has changed quite a lot between 1991 and 2006, as one would expect. His vocal range has also become slightly less broad, although I quickly have to add that this isn't really annoying and his voice has survived the 20 years since the mid eighties much, much better than most of his colleague singers. His physical appearance has stood the test of time slightly less successfully and at times it feels weird to see him performing the role of a young man, displaying the body of a middle aged man. Actors begin to appear on stage. We see Nicky getting a drug injection from Sister Mary (Pamela Moore) while Tate puts on a long Matrix-like coat for the role of Dr. X. He starts interacting with Nicky resulting in a very theatrical rendition of the title track. Of course the acting adds quite some drama to the pieces but at times there's so much overacting that it borders on silliness. Pamela Moore performs backing vocals on the title track, which as far as I'm concerned doesn't do the song any good. This doesn't go for Spreading The Disease which is performed as a duet between her and Tate while she's dressed up as a hooker.

The sound you hear while watching the DVD is definitely live, but at times it seems to be a bit out of synch with the footage, giving the impression that Tate is miming. Since the film recorded over 3 nights I suspect that footage and sound of different evenings is being used now and then, causing this effect. Another weird moment is during The Mission, which has a very out of place classical piano arrangement added to it, but there's nobody playing keyboards! The song does have a nice interaction between Nicky (Tate) and Sister Mary (Moore) in which they struggle and her nun's dress gets torn off to reveal her as a prostitute again.

Suite Sister Mary is spine-tingling as always and is a perfect combination of theatrics, projects, lighting and dueting. In Electric Requiem we have another theatrical highlight that reveals how Mary died (which by the way is rather inconsistent with the lyrics of the album). Electric Requiem itself has been rearranged and expanded, including new lyrics, but has become a bit too musical-like for my personal taste in the vocal department. The same goes for the rearranged version of My Empty Room, which also features a return of the invisible piano player. Breaking The Silence finds Moore back on vocals dressed in black as a mourning widow and I Don't Believe In Love has some nice new video footage of Nicky being interrogated by the police. For Eyes Of A Stranger Tate is wrapped in a straightjacket by a doctor and nurse and left to perform the last song in that uncomfortable position. The show ends with the reprise of Anarchy X, complete with drum band and invisible synth player.

All in all watching Mindcrime (I) is an experience with ups-and-downs and in the end I'm not quite sure if it is an improvement from the original LiveCrime performance. The theatrics vary from very nice to bordering on the ridiculous, not all of the new arrangements of the songs make them better and occasionally there's seems to be some static on the recordings of the vocals. Nevertheless, Mindcrime (I) is quite an enjoyable watch and a great walk down memory lane.

After the intermission the band continue with Mindcrime II and the story picks up when Nicky is released from prison, 18 years after being locked up. As you can imagine the video footage of this part of the show is all new and therefore looks less dated than in the first half of the show. When the band starts I'm American Tate rises through the elevated platform to pull off his prison clothing and reveal a three piece suit underneath, ready to harass the yuppies who are toasting at the front of the elevation. This brings back fond memories of the way he walked on stage at the Promised Land gigs ... now if only they would release a video of that show! Anyway ... fine theatrics in this performance.

One Foot In Hell has some nice footage of Tate as suited Nicky sporting a goatee and Pamela Moore reappears on stage as a prostitute (she'll be present for most songs, either doing backing vocals or performing as the 'ghost of Mary'). A pimp and a hobo make the street scene complete. For Hostage a judge, two attorneys and complete jury appear on stage for a 'flashback' to perform an excellent scene of Nicky's trial 18 years earlier. At the end of Speed Of Light Pamela Moore rises from the platform in the same dress she wore in Sweet Sister Mary, as the ghost of Mary (or Nicky's conscience). The performance of The Chase, which on the album features Ronnie James Dio as Dr. X, takes place on the video screen. We see footage of Tate on a motor cycle and bits with Dio singing his parts. It's strange that there was no more innovative way to do this, especially since the three gigs were being filmed for DVD release. As a way of making up for this the DVD contains a bonus version of The Chase in which Dio actually performs with the band on stage. For Murderer? Tate appears back on stage and ties Dr. X to a chair for an execution scene, while Pamela Moore plays his conscience in the form of white-clad Mary.

With the main climax of the story behind us and another 25 minutes of rather tedious music to go the next part is probably the least interesting of the whole DVD. I've seen enough of Tate stumbling around the stage in the past 1.5 hours to stay interested in his portraying of Nicky's self-pity. The duets with Pamela Moore are no longer a big surprise either, with the exception of the dramatic theatrics in An Intentional Confrontation and the energetic Fear City Slide. A shame it's followed by that utter anti-climax All The Promises, which on the DVD come with a rather annoying misty effect to make the duo appear ghostlike. Why? I'm pretty sure this wasn't in the show either ...

The theatrics in this second set are excellent and it sometimes seems like Mindcrime II was written with all of this in mind. Unfortunately, a nice stage show can of course not disguise compositions which cannot compete with the songs performed in the first half of the show. With the exception of a couple of songs (I'm American, One Foot In Hell, The Hands, Fear City Slide) I'm still not impressed by Mindcrime II. However, the stage show does make it a lot more interesting to watch compared to listening to the CD. Seems like after all you can polish a turd a bit.

The band come back on stage for two encores (Walk In The Shadows and Jet City Woman). As mentioned, the extra's also feature The Chase with (the slightly scary) Ronnie James Dio. The video and sound quality of this performance is however not as good as the Moore show. Other extra's include a short 2.5 minute Rock & Ride documentary focussing on Queensrÿche's (well, make that Tate and Stone) motor cycle tour to support the Save The Music foundation. Nice if you like motor cycles (I don't). The picture gallery is nice because it captures some stills from the theatrical performances. Most interesting extra is the 24 minute Tour Documentary. It's not really a tour documentary since it only covers 2 gigs. It isn't really a documentary either, but more a collection of behind the scenes footage and conversations with fans, but it does have some interesting scenes. We see the preparations for the show's choreography, instrument set-up and costumes, there's sound-checks and rehearsals at the Moore, Mike Stone getting psyched about a sticker that needs to go on his guitar, Dio's appearance in LA, the mobile manor used for the recording of the DVD, the enormous bruises of the actor playing Dr. X, rehearsing with the Seahawks and more ... A funny moment is when Tate, Moore and Tate's wife are discussing the moves of Sister Mary as a prostitute and Tate asks his wife 'what would a hooker do?', resulting in a fierce 'how the fuck would I know ?!'. The rehearsals show how well Tate actually performs, making the out-of-synchness of the show itself all the more annoying.

To sum it up, the performance of Mindcrime I isn't always an improvement compared to LiveCrime, especially musically I could have done without most of the changes. Watching Mindcrime II's first half however, is definitely more interesting than listening to the CD.

Conclusion: 7+ out of 10


Tony Palmer's film of - Fairport Convention & Matthew's Southern Comfort

Tony Palmer film of - Fairport Convention & Matthews Southern Comfort
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Voiceprint
Catalogue #:TPDVD105
Year of Release:2007
Info:Fairport Convention
Encoding & SoundRegion 0, Ratio 4:3
Stereo Sound
Classification: E

Tracklist: Fairport Convention Various Jigs and Reels, Sir Patrick Spens, Now Be Thankful Matthews Southern Comfort My Front Pages, Southern Comfort Fairport Convention Flatback Caper, Jenny's Chickens and The Mason's Apron Bonus material Interview with Tony Palmer

Watching this brief but interesting footage of Fairport Convention and Matthews Southern Comfort from 1970 I was reminded of an era when differing music sat comfortably together on both the television and radio. With the electric folk rock of Fairport sitting alongside the pop, rock and prog of the time. In fact Fairport had a minor chart success in 1969 with Si Tu Dois Partir, eclipsed by Matthews Southern Comfort who sat at the top of the UK charts in September 1970 with their version of Joni Mitchell's Woodstock.

Only recently discovered, this footage depicts a warming glance of a bright summer day in 1970, set in the Kent countryside, with Tony Palmer's film nicely capturing both bands at the Maidstone Fiesta. Palmer's footage cuts nicely between the bands performing on stage and snippets of the audience. The stage camera angles are a little limited, presumably due to budget and available technology at the time, but the film definition is very good. As is the audio.

Fairport's line-up here includes founder members Richard Thompson (vocal & guitar) and Simon Nicol (vocal & guitar), along with Dave Pegg (vocal, bass), Dave Swarbrick (violin) and Dave Mattacks (drums). Amongst others the concert features two tracks, (Sir Patrick Spens and Flatback Caper), from the band's most recent album Full House and certainly shows why this line-up were "considered one of the key line-ups of Fairport Convention".

With former Fairport member Iain Matthews leading up Matthew's Southern Comfort the similarities are evident in the music, although the inclusion of pedal steel player Gordon Huntley added a more American country vibe to MSC. Matthews performs two tracks, Southern Comfort from his debut release (1969) and a cover of Arlo Guthrie's My Front Pages

The bonus footage takes the form of an informal discussion between Tony Palmer and John Kirkham. A prety much once viewed experience.

With other DVDs in this feature offering several hours of music and bonus material the three quarters of an hour on this DVD must appear very meagre. However it is what it is - a snapshot of Fairport Convention (and Iain Matthews) early in their careers, and careers which have now spanned 40 years. I suppose much of whether or not you buy this DVD depends on the amount of available money in the wallet.

Brief but enjoyable!

Conclusion: Not Rated


Album Reviews