Best of 2012: The DVD’s

Granted, this list is a bit overdue, but I blame being extremely busy for it. Also, making a list of my favorite DVD’s (or BluRays…maybe I should change it to “concert recordings” next year?) prove to be not quite as easy as with the albums for 2012, though my number one was carved in stone from the day it was released onward. Here’s a great list to make your boring Sunday afternoons interesting. I usually work on my articles, but this works as well. Enjoy!

1. Led Zeppelin – Celebration Day

What else than the best band ever and their only true new release during my lifetime? ‘Celebration Day’ shows Led Zeppelin’s one night only reunion gig at the O2 Arena in London and it’s nothing short of magical. The late John Bonham is replaced by his son Jason, who does an impressive job of playing like his father – check out ‘Kashmir’! –  and the eternal Rock classic that is ‘Stairway To Heaven’ gets a whole new vibe here. Most of the songs are tuned half a step down to better facilitate Robert Plant’s current range, but he sings like the Rock god he is. Jimmy Page plays a bit sloppy, but that’s always been what made his playing so alive and vibrant. Any Rock fan who doesn’t own this has an incomplete collection.

Recommended tracks: ‘No Quarter’, ‘Kashmir’, ‘Stairway To Heaven’, ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’

2. The Tea Party – Live From Australia

Another reunion release. However, The Tea Party apparently intents on staying around a little longer. I’d say they are welcome to, because the performances on ‘Live From Australia’ are nothing short of amazing. The ten-minute rendition of ‘The River’ that opens the show is the first of many impressive goosebumps moments. The band really is on fire here and Jim Martin is still an amazing singer and frontman. It’s kind of weird that ‘Temptation’, one of my favorite songs, gets a somewhat lackluster performance here, but that is more than made up for by the best version I have ever heard of the dark, acoustic Bluesrocker ‘Sun Going Down’. ‘Live From Australia’ is another dark, atmospheric masterpiece and let’s just hope there will be many more now that the band is back.

Recommended tracks: ‘Sun Going Down’, ‘Sister Awake’, ‘Halcyon Days’, ‘Save Me’

3. Devin Townsend Project – By A Thread

DVD or monster box set? Either way, this is an impressive documentation of Canadian madman Devin Townsend performing the first four albums of his project in their entirity in London. He gathered as many of the original musicians around him as possible, but many of the people standing in deliver amazing renditions of the songs as well. This box contains all of Townsend’s key elements: the huge productions, the contrasts between hooky and melodic on one side and brutal and aggressive on the other and his infectious and morbidly sarcastic sense of humor. The DVD covering the amazing ‘Addicted’ album with Anneke van Giersbergen sharing lead vocal dutes is the one I play most, because of the joie de vivre it displays and the amazing songs. The encores covering all of Townsend’s carreer (including three Punky Brüster songs on ‘Deconstruction’) are the cherry on the pie. Amazing material. An obligated view and listen.

Recommended tracks: ‘Hyperdrive!’, ‘Life’, ‘Deep Peace’, ‘Supercrush!’, ‘Ki’, ‘Juular’, ‘Ain’t Never Gonna Win’

4. Alter Bridge – Live At Wembley

Frequent readers of this site probably know that I worship Myles Kennedy. His wide range and impressive power make him the best Rock singer since the generation of Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell. By far. I’m glad he’s getting more exposure fronting Slash’s solo band, but it’s his own band Alter Bridge that made me fall in love with his voice. ‘Live At Wembley’ shows the band promoting ‘AB III’, their best album yet, and features great renditions of their best material. Most songs are executed quite fast, but that is hardly a complaint. This band walks the tread between Rock and Metal, covering the best sides of either (the catchy songs and Mark Tremonti’s killer riffs respectively) and this was definitely one of their great shows. And I’m sorry people, but I have to emphasize this again: Myles Kennedy is divine!

Recommended tracks: ‘Slip To The Void’, ‘Blackbird’, ‘Coeur d’Alene’, ‘Come To Life’, ‘Isolation’

5. Amy Winehouse – At The BBC

When Amy Winehouse died, many of the news bulletins showed footage of her last Belgrade show, unable to perform due to substance abuse. This infuriated me at the time, knowing how much amazing footage there is available of Amy, who was able to sing just about anything when somewhat sober. ‘At The BBC’ has 3 DVD’s and a CD full of fantastic footage. Better than on the 2007 release ‘I Told You I Was Trouble: Live In London’ even. Especially the performance in front of a small crowd at a chapel on the Irish Dingle peninsula, only backed by bass and guitar, is breathtaking. That performance of ‘Back To Black’, with closeups of Amy’s face in repressed anger, is one of the most beautiful performances I’ve ever seen. The Jools Holland tribute features great footage of a young, focused Amy (with a guitar and her hair down: instant sexy) and the Porchester Hall show just oozes with an old school Soul atmosphere. A bittersweet experience maybe, considering that nothing new like this will ever be released ever again, but then again: this is what music is all about.

Recommended tracks: ‘Back To Black’ (Dingle), ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’ (Porchester), ‘You Know I’m No Good’ (Porchester), ‘Tenderly’ (Jools Holland tribute)

6. Iron Maiden – En Vivo!

Opinions on ‘The Final Frontier’ were heavily divided. Despite a few songs I didn’t really care for, I thought the album was quite good. Much better than the snoozefest that was ‘A Matter Of Life And Death’. So naturally, I was looking forward to ‘En Vivo!’. This show in Chile is exactly what one can expect from Iron Maiden: an impeccable production, a huge stage show and especially the great, good old Heavy Metal that Iron Maiden is known for. Bruce Dickinson is twice my age, but has an energy I can’t even dream of. His voice is still in great shape as well. Sadly, the worst song on ‘The Final Frontier’ (‘Where The Wild Wind Blows’) is also on, but the wide array of great songs makes up for that. Iron Maiden is on the verge of releasing too many live recordings, with close to one of each world tour, but as long as the quality is similar to what is displayed on ‘En Vivo!’, you won’t hear me complain.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Talisman’, ‘Fear Of The Dark’, ‘2 Mintues To Midnight’, ‘El Dorado’

7. Peter Frampton: FCA!35: An Evening With Peter Frampton

‘Frampton Comes Alive’ was of course a legendary album and performing a live album in its entirity sounds like a bad idea – I know it did to me – but it works surprisingly well here. Part of that is the fact that Frampton’s voice has aged surprisingly well and his guitar playing qualities have never gotten any less. What makes the DVD even more of a pleasant experience is the endless joy that Frampton’s face shows. And he should be, because he had just gotten one of his beloved Les Pauls back prior to the show. His sense of humor during the announcements is awesome as well. Besides the entire ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ set, Frampton and his band – featuring original ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ bassist Stanley Sheldon – plays a complete additional set, including a couple of songs with his son. If you enjoyed this the first time around, you most likely will this time as well.

Recommended tracks: ‘Show Me The Way’, ‘Something’s Happening’, ‘Road To The Sun’, ‘Four Day Creep’

8. Robert Plant & The Band Of Joy – Live From The Artist’s Den

Robert Plant’s solo output is of consitently high quality. He explores many different styles, some of which are more of my liking than others, but it’s all quality stuff. I liked his World Music inspired former backing band The Strange Sensation more than the rootsy Americana of the Band Of Joy, but this performance is nothing short of inspired. Always fun: the Led Zeppelin tunes sound radically different than their original versions and that’s always the case with Plant solo. Buddy Miller’s guitar work is simple, but brutally effective and Marco Giovino’s rhythms are especially what this type of music needs. And what can I say about Robert Plant’s voice that I haven’t said before? Oh, that’s right! Nothing! The only major point of criticism would be the absence of ‘Monkey’, the psychedelic masterpiece that is the highlight of the Band Of Joy album.

Recommended tracks: ‘Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down’, ‘Rock And Roll’, ‘Down To The Sea’, ‘Ramble On’

9. Stratovarius – Under Flaming Winter Skies

A few years of drifting and eventually replacing both bassist Jari Kainulainen and guitarist and chief songwriter Timo Tolkki didn’t exactly feed my interest in the originators of the Finnish Metal scene, but accidentally seeing a scene from ‘Under Flaming Winter Skies’ made me curious. And it’s actually quite good. Timo Kotipelto’s voice, while still good, is fading a bit, but that’s an age thing. New guitarist Matias Kupiainen is in fact really good and the band seems to be comfortable around each other again. The two covers (Deep Purple’s ‘Burn’ and The Who’s ‘Behind Blue Eyes’) and solo spots – though Lauri Porra’s bass solo is surprisingly entertaining – must have been more fun for the band than for the listener, but their own stuff is executed surprisingly well and the very crisp and clear image quality does the rest. This is a worthy goodbye for drummer Jörg Michael.

Recommended tracks: ‘Visions (Southern Cross)’, ‘Black Diamond’, ‘Deep Unknown’, ‘The Kiss Of Judas’

10. Gamma Ray – Live Skeletons & Majesties

As much of a fan of Kai Hansen’s work I am, the cons kind of balance out the pros on this release. To start out with the cons – don’t forget I’m Dutch – ‘Rebellion In Dreamland’ and ‘Send Me A Sign’ need to be electric and not acoustic, Kai Hansen’s voice has been better and is way too high in the mix and the show is a little too heavy on ballads. The set contains a lot of surprises, ‘Men, Martians And Machines’, ‘Wings Of Destiny’ and ‘Time To Break Free’ being the most pleasant ones. The latter and two others feature Hansen’s former Helloween bandmate Michael Kiske, who still has a great voice but second to no stage presence, therefore getting across better on the CD than on the DVD. On the good moments, this is an amazing DVD, but in the end, it has a little too many tracks worthy of skipping.

Recommended tracks: ‘Anywhere In The Galaxy’, ‘Men, Martians And Machines’, ‘Time To Break Free’, ‘Wings Of Destiny’, ‘Hold Your Ground’

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