So everyone who knows me knows that I’m not really a big fan of the holidays. Most of you have also realized that I don’t do nearly as much rocking as I used to – I’m far more prone to indie popping these days. However, I do enjoy, every so often, indulging in my roots as a headbanger (beyond the skintight denim, glittered scarves, and sterling silver skull bracelets that I am yet to give up). These days, more often than not, it is Eagle Rock Entertainment who inspires in me such nostalgia with their CDs, documentaries, and live DVDs covering the likes of The Rolling Stones, Velvet Revolver, Jane’s Addiction, Black Sabbath, and Black Label Society. Well, they have done it again, and just in time for the holiday season. So if you’re looking for a last minute for that uncle who-still-thinks-he’s-cool you may want to pick up and gift wrap one of the following recent releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment.
Made in Stoke 24/7/11
($17.98 for 2CD, $24.98 for 2CD+DVD)
…The good old double live album… the staple of any monster of rock… and, I will admit, something that I still occasionally indulge in (I mean, who doesn’t still listen to KISS Alive! whenever they get the chance?). And this is the double live album of the year (Yes, better than The Cure’s Bestival Live 2011). It’s no Alive! (or even AliveII, for that matter), but it is a good reminder that anorexic guys in leather pants, turning it up to 11 can still be cool – even if it’s been more than a decade since anyone new came along to reiterate the point.
Made in Stoke has former Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver axe-slinger, Slash, returning to the town in which he was born and raised (Stoke-on-Trent) to perform for the first time, earlier this year. The band he brought with him? Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy on vocals and some regular revolvers of the Sleaze Rock/Hard Rock circuit for the rhythm section (Bobby Schneck, Todd Kerns, and Brent Fitz) – they do have a bit of a sterilized, radio rock feel, but not to a degree worthy of mocking. And the setlist? A shockingly eclectic mix of Slash’s recent solo material, G’N’R classics, and even a handful of Slash’s Snakepit tracks. The new material, off of 2010’s Slash (which, let’s face it, we really couldn’t care less about) isn’t shoved down your throat. And you’re not steamrolled with an overwhelming barrage of second-rate Guns N’ Roses covers either (Apparently someone else has already got that covered.)
The G’N’R numbers are a little cliché and guessable (“Civil War,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Paradise City,” etc.), but they’re spaced out enough (encore aside) and carried out competently enough to not seem painfully novel. Myles Kennedy’s voice is quite a bit closer to Axl’s than Scott Weiland’s (who has most recently been singing G’N’R tunes alongside Slash), however, at times he sounds a bit too polished, like he’s churning out a G’N’R number for Steven Tyler and J. Lo. What he lacks is grit (something neither Rose nor Weiland are lacking), making songs like “Nightrain,” “Patience,” and “Mr. Brownstone,” (which Weiland actually did great renditions of) sound fairly trite and unlistenable. Surprisingly, Kennedy’s take on Weiland’s vocals for “Slither” is actually his most satisfying imitation on the whole album.
However, the album’s greatest moments don’t come from when the guitar legend is trying to sell you on his latest output or he’s giving you your money’s-worth of hit singles from a previous band. They come from songs that I, honestly, thought would be forever buried deep in Rock’N’Roll’s basement, never to be heard again. The album’s greatest moments come from the four songs coined by Slash’s Snakepit, a brilliant project that popular history has, tragically, nearly erased. Snakepit was Slash’s first “solo” effort (which existed in two, completely separate, formations from 1993-1995 and 1998-2002), whose sound is more or less The Black Crowes, had they been reared on Hollywood and Vine (Yeah… Buckcherry didn’t invent this.) Two of these four “moments” come within the first four tracks of the set. The evening began with “Been There Lately,” which channels a soulful glam aesthetic into a bar fight and, shortly after, “Mean Bone” provides a nearly pornographic groove that wouldn’t be matched for the rest of the evening. And a little later on, “Beggars & Hangers On” stomped the asses of “Patience” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” for the heaviest and most touching moment of the entire release.
God Bless Ozzy Osbourne
($14.98 for DVD, $19.98 for Blu-ray)
Yes, there’s another doc. about The Prince of Darkness (who really does rock, in every sense of the word). You’ve seen the Behind the Music, you’ve seen the A&E Biography and, if you’re truly cool (well, were “cool” for a metalhead in 1991), you have an old, VHS copy of Don’t Blame Me. And you’re probably thinking that there is little of value left for the video cameras to mine of Ozzy… You’re mostly correct, but after the initial, generic, un-evenly paced “look-at-what-a-crazy-life-of-ups-and-downs-this-guy-had,” God Bless Ozzy Osbourne does manage to reveal (beyond some never-before-seen-and-pretty-interesting performance footage) another side to the story of Oz… Well, not so much another side, but a side which he and his circle were yet to own up to.
Beyond the talking head interviews with Henry Rollins and Robert Trujillo and archival footage of Ozzy decapitating a dove with his pearly whites (which, somehow, through three decades of overexposure, has become dull), the crux of God Bless Ozzy Osbourne lies in the Ozzman and his family admitting, and coming to terms with the fact, that throughout his latter years in the spotlight, he was functioning on about a half a cylinder due to substance abuse that he had promised was long in his past. Yes, this is something that we all realized, but the cold, bitch-smacked sincerity of Jack, Sharon, Kelly, and Aimee actually makes the realization far from cheesy… and, in addition (and, perhaps, most importantly), makes us feel like shit for laughing at their mis/fortunes for so long (even if only for the length of the film).
God Bless Ozzy Osbourne is not quite a rock doc. It’s a bleakly sexy tale of a dysfunctional family that includes Black Sabbath performance footage. It’s not exactly Capturing the Friedmans, but it does make Jack, Sharon, and Kelly Osbourne slightly less loathsome… which might just make it award-worthy.