Three Important Live Releases : THIN LIZZY, KILLING JOKE, and THE ELVES

Four Worlds Media are a new label that hit my inbox recently, ostensibly distributed via Candlelight Records. I was sent the two heaviest releases, from a pair of my favorite bands: Killing Joke and Thin Lizzy. Now Lizzy have released good live albums in the past decade, but all recorded before Lynott’s death; in contrast, 2000’s One Night Only was met with mixed reviews and inner-band turmoil. Their Live in London 2011 double album sets everything right (well… everything possible, anyway). The lineup is the strongest in 25 years, even with John Sykes absent on guitar. Scott Gorham still tears up those leads, and has Vivian fucking Campbell to play against here, though Campbell has since departed. The critical Brian Downey is back on the skins; much as I love Tommy Aldridge (who performed on One Night Only), Downey knows the band more intimately. Of course, he needs to lock into a solid bassist, and Phil’s absence leaves both that spot and the vocalist seat empty. The Mexican gunslinger Marco Mendoza fits the low end perfectly, adding sweet flourishes in tracks like “Emerald” and “Bad Reputation”, but that still doesn’t answer the singer question. Well, after floundering for about twenty years in a band called The Almighty (minimal info on those guys), Ricky Warwick was recruited to sing for Thin Lizzy, and the dude’s pretty good! His timbre is lively and dangerously close to Lynott, plus he plays some acoustic rhythm guitar, which adds further dimension. The only thing I take issue with is track listing, because there’s one night at the Hammersmith and one night at the Indigo, and the songs don’t match up in my promo package vs. what shows up in Spotify;  just annoyance. From major hits to deep cuts with excellent recording quality, Thin Lizzy fans can finally rejoice in the latter-day renaissance of the proto-metal masters on this impressive live document. 4/5

I don’t want to say anything bad about Killing Joke Live at Hammersmith Apollo 16.10.2010, mostly because Absolute Dissent was my favorite album of 2010; I wanted to leave my happy bubble intact. Rather than indulge in videos and remixes and so forth, I spun it heavily earlier in 2011 (since it received a late 2010 release), and then moved on with positive memories. When this double live album arrived, the Joke was out of my playlists, and I was eager for them to return. So, well… this is mostly terrible. In terms of fidelity, the mix is fucked, plus Jaz often sounds out of breath and off-key—particularly on newer songs! “In Excelsis” is a nearly-intolerable mess of of missed cues; “Absolute Dissent” improves the balance between instruments, yet the intrusive keyboards and strained vocals are jarring (“Fresh Fever from the Skies” is better executed); and “European Super State” is okay when on record, but doesn’t translate well when performed live, with poor background vocals. Classics like “The Wait” and closer “Pandemonium” were among my favorites, though in all cases, I bet attending in-person is the only way to fully understand. Any Killing Joke fan still needs to listen, because the original Coleman-Ferguson-Glover-Walker lineup has not recorded a live album since Ha! back in 1982. Live at Hammersmith Apollo 16.10.2010 is as explosive as their Molotovian cover indicates, but I think it blew up in their hands. 3/5

Finally, And Before Elf… There Were Elves is the latest from Niji Entertainment, showcasing the legendary Ronnie James Dio in his formative years. It also marks the brief period where Dio’s cousin, David “Rock” Feinstein, was still in the band before he formed The Rods. The Deep Purple connections soon followed—their debut was produced by Ian Paice and Roger Glover (with Glover producing their following two as well), and Ritchie Blackmore basically convinced all of Elf to reincarnate as Rainbow. There are lots of great covers on ABE…TWE, starting with an incendiary “You Shook Me” (most famously covered by Led Zeppelin) and a hard-charging take on “Stay with Me” (originally by the Faces). The scintillating “Buckingham Blues” is what really sold me, but its author is unknown. If anyone has details on this, drop some knowledge this way! The five middle songs are mellower and have a demo-level feel, but Ronnie’s voice is nonetheless magical. “Drown Me in the River” brings the electric blues back with another anonymously authored song, this time about a small-time hard-luck gambler; “Cold Ramona” is a humorous tale of romancing a movie junkie; and the Chuck Berry cover(s) of “Little Queenie/Johnny B. Goode” concludes in fine form. And Before Elf… There Were Elves is an intriguing piece of the larger Dio picture, with a revealing glimpse 40 years into the past. 3.5/5

~MetalMattLongo

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2 thoughts on “Three Important Live Releases : THIN LIZZY, KILLING JOKE, and THE ELVES

  1. Thanks for the reviews – you’ve sold me on the Thin Lizzy release. Not a week ago I swore there could never be Lizzy post-Lynott but a show-stealing opening set at the Judas Priest show in Cincinnati convinced me I was dead wrong. Just discovered your site – love it!

    • No problem! Yeah, it goes without saying (yet here I will say) that Phil Lynott left impossibly large shoes to fill. But after hearing this, I’m excited to see this latest incarnation of Thin Lizzy. Thanks for the kind words :)

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