Saturday, 16 December 2017

What to get the music-loving film fan who has almost everything (at the last minute)...

What's that? It's almost Christmas? And you have no idea what to get your other half, who loves the movies but also happens to have a penchant for rock music?

Well, why didn't you say...

You see, here at Popcorn Towers, we kind of fall into that category, and this year especially this seems to be a handy as there have been quite a few knocking about.

So lets us sort the wheat from the chaff, the bum notes from the slick licks if you will. Now get your skates on, you've only got a week's shopping left...

Now, this being Chrimbo time, you'll be wanting something a bit special no doubt - and while there are three that certainly fit the bill (musical tastes permitting, obviously), they do not come cheap.

First up is Def Leppard's Hysteria 30th Anniversary (yeah, I know, right?) deluxe edition, which will set you back an eye-watering £80 - but you do get a lot of bang for your buck.

Alongside the original album, there are two CDs worth of remixes and B-sides, two discs of a live recording from the '87 tour and not one but two DVDs.

All this on top of the four books and a poster (although frankly, the person who can afford this grew out of posters on their wall some time ago).

And the DVDs are almost worth the money. The first is simply the promo videos and Top of The Pops performances (for our overseas readers, Pops was a music programme which ran for many years but we've subsequently found out was presented by sex pests).

The second is a Classic Albums documentary, which sure you can catch on VH1 every now and then - but this comes with the stuff they took out, and here lie the gems.

Quips about Steve Clarke ("either a genius or an idiot" muses the bass player), chats about how things were written, record and mixed - these are all ticks on the geekie fan list, trust me.

Plus the whole thing comes in a lovely big box, so it looks fantastic on the shelf.

Can't argue with that, can you?

Well, you can if you're a Whitesnake fan I guess.

Slithering along the same lines, David Coverdale brings us his 30th Anniversary box set bonanza of 1987, the album that redefined his career.

Which would feel quite special if I didn't already own the 20th Anniversary double CD version...

So what do we get in this ickle, actually half the price of Leppard's one, box of tricks then?


Four CDs, a DVD, two books and a poster (again, WHY???), as you ask - and, on the whole, it's worth the money.

Glossing over Coverdale's endless urge to change the track listing of this album, the first CD is pretty much what you'd expect, while disc two is a 'bootleg' of a show from the 1987's tour as it passed through Japan.

I say 'bootleg', it's just slightly below par in the production department, but hey ho - it's fine enough.

The real gem here is disc three, '87 Evolutions, in which we are taken from rough demo to almost finished song through the course of each track - and to hear how songs such as Still Of The Night and Is This Love took shape is genuinely fascinating.

You can probably live without the remixes on disc four to be honest, which then brings us to the DVD. What should be the showpiece of the whole thing.

Sadly, this is where it kind of falls a bit flat.

Watching the famous, career-breaking videos back-to-back simply makes you realise that the only thing that seemed to change was the song. They all look pretty much the same.

The 'making of' documentary is interesting enough, if only because Coverdale's plummy English accent is just wonderful. It's like he's doing all he can to forget he's from the North East of England.

Finishing off with a couple of live bits and bobs, the DVD does seem to finish rather quickly and leave you looking at the box wondering if it was worth unwrapping.

Which is a shame, because after 30 years there must be far more to say about this album, given he went in to the studio not knowing if his voice would actually work, almost bankrupted himself, and sacked everyone the minute it was recorded.

Still, nice box.

A far nicer, and if I'm honest swankier and plusher, deluxe box set wotsit comes from the lovely guys in Marillion, who have been given the anniversary treatment by EMI two years late.

As with Hysteria and 1987, Misplaced Childhood was the album that put Marillion smack in the middle of the mainstream - not a place they necessarily wanted to be, but there you go.

Wrapped in a fantastic, textured hard-back book, which features photos, lyrics and the story of the album, we get a remixed version of the album, two discs live from Holland on the Childhood tour, plus a disc of B-sides and demos.

All of them worth your time and hard-earned £45.

To cap it all off is the BluRay (not DVD you'll note), which features 5.1 surround mixes of the album, the promo videos of the singles and a documentary where the original five guys get together to look back on their career landmark.

And it's this that is so worth the watch.

When the band split with frontman Fish there were quips, barbs and insults being hurled about in just about every interview any of them gave, so to see them sitting together, hatches buried, like old friends is a delight.

Some of us were quite upset when  they fell out you know...

The behinds the scenes look at an album the record company didn't actually want, and that sold millions against the odds, is a great way to recall just what these 10 songs mean.

And it has stood the test of time.

Now, we appreciate that the ones reviewed so far as a little hard on those on tighter budgets, but thankfully there are some nice little gems at the more affordable end of the market.

First up is Alice Cooper's Welcome To My Nightmare Special Edition.

At a mere £10 of your earth pounds, this DVD contains both the 1976 concert film Coop shot off the back of his smash hit album - his first fully solo, having got shot of the rest of the band.

And it's a fun old show.

Now. we no fans of just watching a concert at home - because what's the point? A live show should be just that, with someone standing too close, someone else obscuring your view and two other berks talking through the whole thing.

These are key parts of the performance experience that can't be replicated.

But it's different with Alice.

He has dancers, people in spider costumes (FYI, if you really hate spiders you'll struggle with this), new material (at the time), classic songs - it's a proper SHOW.

But the selling point here is The Nightmare, the 1975 TV special shot with Vincent Price where by Alice tells the story of the Nightmare with spooky effects, a new narrative, the songs in a different order, and a slightly spaced expression on his face.

It's probably fair to say his wasn't exactly sober when he shot this.

But that doesn't matter when we are treated to a camp, spooky spectacular with dancing skeletons, more spiders, Vincent Price looming large over the whole thing and a furry cyclops.

Nope, me neither, but it's there.

What both of these things capture is a man having fun. Sure, he's drunk, but he always was back then, but the man is a born vaudeville star. Sure he writes good songs, but he's all about the theatre.

And both of the performances capture him at his camp, spooky best.

Speaking of concert films, Black Sabbath bring us The End.

Not, as you might hope, the cinematic release which featured their farewell show in Birmingham intercut with interviews (which is great btw), but just the show.

Sure, you get the "extras" of four songs played in a rehearsal studio three days later, but, well, big woop.

You see, while frontman and former reality TV star Ozzy Osbourne is one hell of a character and great in interview, these days he's not the most dynamic of frontmen.

And given how little bassist Geezer Butler and guitarist Tony Iommi move about, this is an issue. What this means in real terms is the stage show has to do the legwork.

Granted this works a charm in the arena, outdoors (such as Download last year) and on your TV, it's barely an upgrade on putting a CD on.

And at least with the CDs you can pick the tracks you want to hear...

Thankfully, this is not an issue with our penultimate choice.

You may remember Mr Big from such hit as To Be With You. Or you may not. You might have been busy in 1992.

What precious few people seemed to be aware of was they had other songs and other albums.

What even fewer people are aware of is that they went away and are now back.

Packaged as a 'deluxe' edition, their new album Defying Gravity is available with a bonus DVD. Which is meant to help boost sales, but we're willing to bet this hasn't happened.

Not because it's not a good album - it's fantastic - but because it's unlikely even the most hardcore fan is that bothered about peaking behind the scenes.

There's a couple of videos already available on YouTube, there's a kind of 'making of' said videos, then there's the run through the album.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that sounds like it's just people talking their way through each track.

And you'd be right.

And while it's not without merit, you very quickly forget which song they were just talking about as they move on to the next. And unless you have the case with you, you can only trust it's in the right order.

What would have been good was to actually hear at least snippets of each song as we went on.

But hey.

What would have been even better, of course, while we delved behind the scenes, would be to explain why Pat Torpey is no longer behind the drum kit.

Diagnosed three years ago, Torpey has had to all but give up hitting things for a living thanks to Parkinsons Disease.

Now, this is huge. It's also a fantastic opportunity to talk about this and raise the profile of the condition.

Instead we get the new guy banging on.

Hey ho, no matter. Not like it's important or anything...

Finally, let us point you in the direction of Spike & Tyla's Hot Knives.

The occasional project of Quireboys frontman Spike and Dogs D'Amour founder Tyla, their album The Sinister Indecisions of Frankie Gray and Jimmy Pallas actually came out last year - 10 years on from their debut, Flagrantly Yours.

We said occasional, OK? We weren't kidding. And we only found out it existed in September. Hence why we're including it. So there.

Anyhoo, Sinister Indecisions features 11 new songs, darker in tone than the debut but no less loose and debauched.

Attached is a DVD featuring a live show from London's The Borderline, the promo video for Believe (from the first album) and a gig they did in Spain, including snippets of the flight, landing and getting to the gig.

Now, as mentioned, we're not fans of the 'concert at home' thing, but because it's shot in a small club, and because Spike can't stand still, and because it's loose and rough in keeping with the music - dang if it doesn't just work.

They're not edgy, they're not punk, they're not experimental - they're just two bloke who like getting pissed and playing songs.

And such a simple ideal is captured perfectly here - so all you have to do is pour a whisky, put your feet up and wish you'd been at The Borderline that night...

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