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Knights Live

Track Listing
1. Give Me A Reason
2. Hare & Hounds
3. Language of Love
4. Tables Turning
5. Dancer in the Rain
6. Place in the Sun
7. My Heart Beats For You
8. Forever By Your Side
9. In the Arms of Love
10. Why Is My Heart Feeling Lonely Tonight

SPV 2002

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More Axel Rudi Pell Live:
Made in Germany - Live (1995)
Knights Treasures DVD (2003)
Axel Rudi Pell Studio Gems:
Wild Obsession (1989)
Oceans of Time (1998)
Shadow Zone (2002)

 

Axel Rudi Pell's albums are always of the highest quality, but how much of that is studio tricks and enhancements and how much measures in with just raw talent lighting the way? The answers can always be found in concert performances, which for those not living in Europe, is an impossibility to attend. So a live album is the next best way to present the musicians in their natural habitat. "Knights Live" is a fairly untouched representation of Pell's playing and current lead vocalist, Johnny Gioeli's precision and emotion. Sure they sound terrific on tape, but surprisingly these two offer a different dimension live. They have the kind of power to pull these metal workouts off with convincing technique and ability. No overdubs, no studio smudges, "Knights Live" is just that... live. With Axel himself being a steadfast perfectionist and a jaw droppingly fantastic axe wielder, the whole cd just gels while oozing with talent. Gioeli takes charge of the mic and drives all the suckers home with charisma, charm and pure belting power. He sounds almost as good live as he does on the tape. A hefty compliment, but true all the same.

 

The disc itself plays out like a greatest hits compilation, with every possible area expanded. Disc one shows some restraint throughout with the exception of the monolithic "Medley" but the second cd just lets it all hang out with four of its five songs clocking in at well over the ten minute mark. The openers are kept slick and simple, with the sizzling "Nasty Reputation" squeaking out right after "Edge of the World" and the straightforward rocker fist-in-the-air favorite, "Tear Down the Walls" curling out like a snake ready to strike right afterwards. Then you get a 27 minute "Medley", that is just what the title suggests... a track running into overflow of the very best of Axel and his talented sidekicks. So much killer material is packed into this one song that its unbelievable. You get the creeping elegance of "Masquerade Ball", the slamming sensation of "Casbah", a killer drum solo by Mike Terrana which is followed by a sendup of Rainbow's "Stargazer" that is guaranteed to give you chills before the remains of "Casbah" close this thing down. A brazen showcase of the perfect marriage between melody and extravagance. This just might lose the non guitar fanatics along the way, but not to worry if you aren't axe crazed, because the guys snap you back into their musical world of fantasy come to life with the following tracks such as the powerhouse "Fool, Fool" to end disc one and the catchy "Carousel" to kick off disc two. Gioeli has no problems translating songs he did not originally perform on into his own personal style, blending character defining pieces of the originals with flourishes that are all his own. The ripping "Tear Down the Walls" does not suffer from a lack of Jeff Scott Soto belting it nor does "Snake Eyes" lose its slinky sexual qualities, Johnny nails the nuances when they count and Pell is never far behind, slamming the riffs into overdrive and playing far outside the pre-established lines. "Call Her Princess" is demanding and heavily peppered, you can feel the spice and aftertaste of this one, far into the final track, "Warrior" which proves to be the perfect closer.

"The Clown is Dead" sucked on "Magic" and still continues its suckish legacy here. Axel has written so many wonderful ballads, why put this staining smear on an otherwise perfect collection? And why does it have to be so bloody long? If they wanted a teary eyed ballad to simmer down with, that time could have been better used with "Silent Angel", "Night and Rain" or any of the ballads from their last studio release, this year's "Shadow Zone". Pell has penned so many memorable ballads that his works have spilled off into not one but two "The Ballads" compilations. "The Clown Is Dead" happens to be the only stinker in his otherwise stellar light n' lovely musical selections.

The only stop along the way not revisited is "Eternal Prisoner", Axel's 1992 disc with Jeff Scott Soto. Curiously enough, its not the second time the songs from this disc have been exiled from a live album, because nothing from it appeared on the first concert to cd Axel offering, 1995's "Made in Germany - Live". "Prisoner" might not be Pell's best, but certainly it didn't deserve a total snub this time around. Despite the obvious cold shoulder given to "Eternal Prisoner', the bottom line however is that Pell still rocks, and no matter what he does, its definitely worth checking out. His track record has so far been amazing, for those of us that love the style and live the music. "Knights Live" is a nifty must-have for the Axel fan and while I rarely recommend live releases as a starting point for newcomers, this one is a rousing exception. Even the clueless would do well for themselves by checking this out since it spans Axel's entire solo career (which is a mighty chunk of music) from 1989's "Wild Obsession" to 2002's "Shadow Zone" (with the already mentioned history skip). While the high quality in performances and song selection is superb, one would have to admit that its simply a warmup for what we really want... "Knights Treasures", the forthcoming DVD, which much to our sorrow, has been delayed yet again.

Ratings and Wrap Up:
8.2
Songs - 9.2, Performance - 8.5, Production - 8.0, Lyrics - 8.2

Hot Spots: "Medley", "Snake Eyes", "Tear Down the Walls"
Bottom Line: Axel Rudi Pell's live extravaganza... all backed by A+ material from the past 13 years.


Review by Alanna Evans -



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