Best of 2011: The DVD’s

As promised, I would give you a list of my favorite DVD’s released in 2011 as well. It was a lot easier for me to assemble a list of DVD’s I thoroughly enjoyed than with the albums, which is strange, considering that every album in the list deserves to be there. These DVD’s were way ahead of the pack, by which I mean that 2011 wasn’t necessarily a good year for music DVD’s, but the ones that were there are of incredible quality, starting with one in particular:

1. Orphaned Land – The Road To OR-Shalem

Orphaned Land is easily the best Metal band around these days. If you didn’t believe me yet, ‘The Road To OR-Shalem’ is the ultimate proof. Their mixture of Doom Metal, Prog Rock/Metal, traditional Middle-Eastern music and bits of Death Metal may sound difficult to replicate live, but their hypnotic brand of brilliant music translates well to the concert hall. In fact, the songs sound even better and more powerful live. Especially the songs from ‘Mabool’ have so much more power in these renditions. This DVD offers a full show in the band’s home country of Israel with stunning sound and picture quality and – for a change – bonus features that are every bit as enjoyable as the main feature. In fact, there’s a couple of extra songs from the same show in Tel Aviv, including a few with Israeli Rocker Yehuda Poliker. Brilliant, stunning and moving. Obligatory for anyone who appreciates music.

Recommended tracks: ‘Ocean Land’, ‘From Broken Vessels’, ‘Olat Ha’tamid’, ‘Sapari’, ‘The Path – Treading Through Darkness’, ‘Bakapaim’

2. Slash – Made In Stoke 24/7/11

“Oooh, which songs from Slash’s past are on here? ‘Nightrain’! Awesome! I’ll take it with me!” And that was before I even realized that the downright amazing Myles Kennedy – the first great rock singer since the Eddie Vedder/Chris Cornell generation – sung on the record and there was a whole brand of other amazing songs on the album, including those Slash recorded in his post-G’n’R era. The image and sound quality are perfect, Slash, Myles and the band are simply on fire and the setlist is nearly perfect. Also, Myles Kennedy does almost all of the songs better than the original vocalists. Reading in the booklet that this lineup will be the one that Slash will be recording his new album with made me very enthusiastic about the future. Until then, I’ll enjoy the hell out of this live release.

Recommended tracks: ‘Rocket Queen’, ‘Nightrain’, ‘Civil War’, ‘Promise’, ‘Slither’, ‘Nothing To Say’

3. Black Country Communion – Live Over Europe

One of the very few supergroups even worthy of the title, Black Country Communion creates an organic British seventies Rock sound located somewhere between Deep Purple (singer/bassist Glenn Hughes’ former band), Led Zeppelin (drummer Jason Bonham’s father’s band) and Bad Company (no relation to one of the band members). One of the reasons why this band works so well is that Hughes is the obvious leader and star of the band. His vocals and often overlooked, but top quality bass playing are all over this disc, maybe even moreso than Joe Bonamassa’s tasteful guitar work. But what’s even more important is that the songs that were written for this band are well-written and free of any form of pretention. The interviews between the songs are a bit of an annoying factor, but not so much that it ruins the watching and listening pleasure of this great Rock DVD. This group is actually super, you know?

Recommended tracks: ‘One Last Soul’, ‘The Outsider’, ‘Faithless’, ‘Cold’

4. Europe – Live! At Shepherd’s Bush, London

Anyone calling Europe a poser band, based on the big hair they had in the eighties, just doesn’t get it. Since the band’s reunion early this century, they have released three consistently good Led Zeppelin influenced Rock albums. This DVD, obviously, focuses a bit more on their newer material than the 2004 release ‘Live From The Dark’ and does well by that, because this is material worth hearing. Different from Europe’s heyday in the eighties, but still easily recognizable as Europe and at least every bit as good. In fact, for me, some of the glossy eighties hits distract from the powerful Bluesy Rockers of the now. Joey Tempest adjusted his vocals to his current range perfectly, John Norum has an amazing amount of Bluesy Soul in his guitar playing and this is obviously a band that learned to play together. Set your inhibitions aside and give this band a fair chance, you won’t regret it.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Beast’, ‘Last Look At Eden’, ‘The Getaway Plan’, ‘Start From The Dark’, ‘Scream Of Anger’

5. Bad Company – Live At Wembley

Even better than their first live DVD with Paul Rodgers, Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke reunited, ‘Live At Wembley’ shows us a band that is so experienced and comfortable with each other, that not enjoying this is no option. Lynn Sorenson from Paul Rodgers’ solo band is an excellent replacement for the amazing, but sadly deceased Boz Burrell and adding former Heart guitarist Howard Leese – also in Rodgers’ solo band – as a second guitarist is an excellent choice. Bad Company obviously does what they do best here, which is giving the audience first class Blues drenched seventies Rock. I really don’t see how Rodgers – in his early sixties – keeps improving and Kirke and Ralphs are the only right musicians for these songs. This DVD is nothing fancy, just really, really good music.

Recommended tracks: ‘Ready For Love’, ‘Bad Company’, ‘Run With The Pack’, ‘Honey Child’, ‘Seagull’

6. The Answer – 412 Days Of Rock ‘n’ Roll

One of the very few music DVD’s where the documentary is actually just as interesting as the actual live footage. They are, in fact, labelled as of equal importance as the live footage. I may have preferred one headlining show to be the main footage to the DVD, but in fact, the interesting thing is that this DVD is set up as a document of Northern Ireland’s The Answer’s year and a half of opening for AC/DC and as such, more than succeeds its purpose. Also, the video and audio quality are great, but not too polished. Exactly the way Rock ‘n’ Roll should be. And maybe the headlining DVD may come later, after their tour supporting their discography’s highlight ‘Revival’, which came out shortly after this DVD. And how many bands can say that they have had two killer releases in one year? Exactly!

Recommended tracks: ‘Too Far Gone’, ‘Demon Eyes’, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaw’, ‘Tonight’

7. Loudness – World Circuit 2010

Just apart from the music… Probably it has to do with them being from Japan, but any DVD Loudness puts out (and there have been a lot of them these last few years) are of such crisp and clear picture quality that it almost devaluates any other DVD you own. Musically there’s nothing to complain about either. On the first DVD especially. As always lead by guitar wizard Akira Takasaki, the band rips through a number of killer renditions of classic Loudness tracks and more recent headbangers. New drummer Masayuki Suzuki is mind blowing as well, no disrespect to the late Munetaka Higuchi. Just check out how he blasts into ‘King Of Pain’ from the drum solo. Simply amazing. Due to health reasons, I had to miss out on them during the European tour represented by two shows on the second DVD, but if I ever get the chance to see them again, I will. This is quality Metal and the best thing to ever come out of Japan since Mega Man X.

Recommended tracks: ‘In The Mirror’, ‘Hit The Rails’, ‘King Of Pain’, ‘Esper’

8. Mastodon – Live At The Aragon

The entire ‘Crack The Skye’ album played live, what’s not to like? Well, maybe the vocals, because they definitely aren’t up to par with the studio renditions of the songs (especially Brent Hinds’ could have been better), but the sheer quality of the music from Mastodon’s magnum opus makes up for a lot. They pull of the richly complex and layered psychedelia of their masterpiece with such ease that it seems almost impossible that this is only played by five guys; the band members and guest keyboard player Derek Mitchka. The psychedelic visuals displayed on stage truly enhance what you hear and you can even see them separately as a bonus feature. Also, check out the amazing twelve string fretwork of Hinds on some of the songs. And – I can’t emphasize this enough – Brann Dailor is probably the best Rock/Metal drummer in the world today and his performance on this DVD is once again proving that.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Last Baron’, ‘The Czar’, ‘Crack The Skye’, ‘Where Strides The Behemoth’

9. Billy Joel – Live At Shea Stadium: The Concert

Billy Joel’s piano playing and songwriting are something I will always have a weak spot for. Even though his vocal range is decreasing now he’s in his sixties, he still manages to put on quite a show. No matter what kind of music he tries his hand at or what size the venues are he does it at, he does it with a Rock ‘n’ Roll charisma. Even when it’s ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’. This closing ceremony of the New York Mets’ Shea Stadium is put to tape in an incredibly fine matter. Especially interesting are the guest appearances by Tony Bennett and Paul McCartney – whose Beatles played the first concert ever at Shea Stadium. Joel and his stellar backing band deliver some great renditions of his hits and a few nice covers. At the Pasman residence, this was one of the few acquisitions of last year that was there to enjoy for the whole family and it makes sense, being the versatile musical party that it is.

Recommended tracks: ‘The River Of Dreams /Hard Day’s Night’, ‘New York State Of Mind’, ‘My Life’, ‘Allentown’, ‘Piano Man’, ‘The Ballad Of Billy The Kid’

10. Foreigner – Rockin’ At The Ryman

Ladies and gentlemen: Kelly Hansen. Those could be the only two words needed to describe why you need to see and hear this. Many old school Foreigner fans are complaining about the absence of original singer Lou Gramm in this reunion lineup (which maybe isn’t a strict reunion, figuring that guitarist Mick Jones is the sole original member), but two things: Gramm’s range isn’t anywhere near what it used to be and Hansen is the front man he never was. And his voice has a warmth that just hits me. In addition, the rest of this Foreigner lineup is professionally representing these timeless Rock songs. Their professionality does however sacrifice a little spontaneous energy, with only Hansen and especially bassist Jeff Pilson being exceptions to that rule. An awesome setlist and a few bonus tracks they hardly play live (‘Night Life’!) make up for that. The quality production does the rest.

Recommended tracks: ‘Double Vision’, ‘Urgent’, ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You’, ‘Cold As Ice’, ‘Blue Morning, Blue Day’

11. Iced Earth – Festivals Of The Wicked

As the connection between Iced Earth and myself goes way back, I still follow everything they do, despite them having had an offensively mediocre decade behind them. Last year worked out pretty well for them, however, as ‘Dystopia’, the first product released with new singer Stu Block, was an amazing album and ‘Festivals Of The Wicked’, the last product with Matt Barlow, was the first great product in ten years. This DVD features three festival appearances (Metalcamp 2008, Rock Hard 2008 and Wacken 2007, the latter featuring Tim Owens on a bad day on vocals), all in the superb quality that Roax Media always stands for. The Metalcamp performance stands out, also by the way it looks, it’s almost a cinematographical highlight among concert registrations. Matt Barlow is divine during these shows and the most stable lineup they had in years (with guitarist Troy Seele, drummer Brent Smedley and bassist Freddie Vidales on band leader and king of US Power Metal rhythm guitar Jon Schaffer’s side) just rocks. That makes ‘Festivals Of The Wicked’ the ideal goodbye for Barlow, despite all the double inclusions. Now all we need is a DVD with Stu Block fronting.

Recommended tracks: ‘Dracula’, ‘The Coming Curse’, ‘Travel In Stygian’, ‘My Own Savior’, ‘A Question Of Heaven’

12. Hypocrisy – Hell Over Sofia

Cool Death Metal DVD! Hypocrisy released a DVD recorded at Wacken over a decade ago, but ‘Hell Over Sofia’ owns that DVD in every aspect. Of course, we’ve come a long way technically since then; the sound is awesome and the picture is beautifully colored, but it also has to do with Hypocrisy’s DVD. With two of the best albums they released behind them (‘Virus’ and ‘A Taste Of Extreme Divinity’), the band is at the top of powerfully stomping Death Metal again. Maybe it has to do with Peter Tägtgren having Pain as an outlet for his more experimental stuff nowadays, I don’t know. Fact is that Hypocrisy played an amazing show for a grateful crowd in Sofia and they’re not ashamed to show it. Neither should they. The documentary included is surprisingly entertaining as well. It’s good to see Hypocrisy doing what they’re good at again. By the way, Hieronymus Bosch called, he wanted his painting back.

Recommended tracks: ‘Warpath’, ‘Roswell 47’, ‘Apocalypse’, ‘Valley Of The Damned’, ‘Eraser’

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