Released: 2002, Lion Music
Some odd history behind this CD. Initially released in 1997 on Tony’s own small label in the US it went virtually unnoticed. Then it was re-issued in Japan in 1998 with a different (and better) cover. Now it sees a re-re-release for Europe on Lion Music with yet another cover in ’02. And oddly enough I have all three versions and I’m not even that huge of a fan! Many metal fans would suggest guitar hero CD’s are bad. Instrumental guitar hero CD’s are even worse. So here we have a Live, instrumental, guitar hero CD! The only thing worse could be a Live, acoustic, ballad, instrumental, guitar hero CD. Shudder. If you think about it, overall, live guitar hero CD’s are extremely rare, I can really only think of a dozen or so. Tony as an innovator fusing classic and metal combined with a long, critically acclaimed career, is certainly deserving to produce such a CD.
This is Tony’s 9th solo release and it is a decent, nine song, 50 minute CD. Along for the ride are Ricky Riccardo on bass and surprise (!) Mike Terrana on drums! The tracks were recorded at The Roxy in Hollywood in 1997. A quick track run down shows us he plays a song or two from 6 of his 8 solo albums to that point and the debut track “The Vision” seems to be a new, unreleased track, but I’m not positive. I would have liked to see him play a track from EYES OF THE WORLD and MADNESS and drop one from each of FREEDOM TO FLY and MAXIMUM SECURITY but I’m just being picky. One song from each solo album would have been cool however for this sort of 10th anniversary live set.
The production is quite clear, almost too clear which makes me think that there was some post-production tweaking and the crowd is virtually inaudible. Was there little crowd noise because no one was there, or they were really quiet (bored? stunned in amazement?) or got the crowd got faded out later? Another negative is that there is absolutely no crowd interaction whatsoever, helping to diminish the live impact of already a fairly clinical and sterile sounding live production. But who knows? Each note is very clear, the piano solos sounding particularly nice, and the bass super punchy, so I can’t really complain, but it deserves comment.
The packaging is pretty piss-poor. Four Polaroid style live photos inside and that is it. One live band shot on the back and one of Tony on the front. No liner notes, no track-by-track commentary by Tony, nothing. A little essay, a note from Tony, a discography would have been a nice edition but this is strictly a budget re-issue.
Musically this CD encompasses the best and worst features of guitar heroes. For example on the perhaps negative, extended solos, long songs without lyrics and a density of notes that it is often hard to follow a standard song structure. However on the plus side the caliber of musicianship is so utterly jaw-dropping and the ability to duplicate it live and add that extra emotion and passion is truly something to behold/hear. If you have an intimate familiarity with Tony’s catalogue you WILL love this CD. I really like it a lot and I don’t know every note to every song he has done, far from it. For the most part Tony choose up-tempo, catchy numbers to play live and man can he shred when he needs to. In a recent review of the Axel Rudi Pell CD (Shadowzone) I commented that Mike Terrana was wasting his skill on that CD. Well, not the case here. Mike is an octo-armed monster behind the kit but still providing that driving power for tunes like “Stream Dream”. My favorite solo would be when Tony rips back into some shredding guitar after his piano solo interlude in the tune “Box Office Poison”. The opening solo in “King’s Cup” kicked my ass too. I admit to liking the second half of the CD, which is older early 90’s late 80’s material, because of the style or perhaps because of nostalgia and a bit more familiarity with tunes from MAXIUMUM SECURITY and EDGE OF INSANITY. When all is said and done (despite the sterile production, lousy packaging, lack of a live feel) this is now one of my favorite guitar hero live CD’s, it’s better to my ears than the live Vai, live Satriani’s (both of them), and live Pell CD’s, but not as good as the Live Malmsteen CD’s. Drop by http://www.tonymacalpine.com