Live At The Hammersmith Odeon (Rhino)
First off, if you've got any interest, get over to www.rhinohandmade.com and snap up one of these, 'cos this is part of Rhino's cool limited series, meaning there's only 5000 copies, all numbered, to be had. Now, I'm not a Live Evil-hater, so I'm not going to say this is miles better than that album (that for some reason, folks either quite admire or find a bloat). Still, this thing finds the band on fire. One shocking way to take it in is to compare it with the Heaven And Hell show you just saw. What that graphically exposes, is how energetic and savage Ronnie was, versus his current sort of sartorial, level-headed deliveries (26 years later, I suppose that's allowed!), Dio interjecting often, singing like he's grinning. Must mention that this is the snap-happiest rocket up the behind version of 'Neon Knights' ever, and I also must mention that the overall sound quality makes no bow to the boots. It's fat, explosive, clear, as if intended for commercial consumption. As a survey, you get the 'E5150' intro plus 13 tracks. Six are worn Ozzy-era war nuggets also on Live Evil, but then from the Dio years, there's the under-rated and indeed lightly ridiculed 'Country Girl' plus 'Slippin' Away', which Ronnie stylizes nicely, as he does on 'War Pigs' I might ad, with his Rainbow-style ad libs. One day someone is going to break it to the band that no one in the crowd wants to help sing 'Heaven And Hell' and 100% of poll respondents will also holler back in agreement that no one wants their 'Heaven And Hell' 14 minutes long. Another thing that comes clear with the comparison of then and now: this is a really exciting power trio, like Van Halen and The Who, with this sense that you can see into the guts of the songs as they nervously twitch along.
Vaughn is one of those soul-purifying voices that sends an AOR record sublime. He's best known for fronting the well-regarded Tyketto, but best loved in this camp for Waysted's Save Your Prayers. In any event, the plan for Traveller was to be more electric and stadium-chest-thumped than usual, and his all-English live band of late was up to the task. Still, this is closer to organic roots rock, and even hard new country than blasting AOR. Sure, electric guitar is everywhere, but it's politely woven in akin to Wild West Bon Jovi. The lyrics go to that same place of triumph over adversity, recalling similar anthems from AOR-era Kansas or REO or Shooting Star... get the mid-west theme? Good variety of speeds and arrangements, but for al the talk of an electric comeback, this is just a bit saccharine.