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Great White: Stage (reissue)

In the music business the phrase ‘contractual obligation’ is usually a byword for a throwaway release not really cared about by band or label. That very fact my well explain why Stage by Great White, originally released on Zoom Records back in 1995, has long been out of print. Featuring two live sets corralled by the band’s early mentor and manager Alan Niven - who by this stage had acrimoniously split with Great White - Stage was one such album but unlike most label fulfilling requirements it found not just a band in fine form but also as record constructed by someone who, while estranged form the band in question, clearly loved the music they presented. Niven himself penned the liner notes (reprinted here) and while he acknowledges the rift between him and Great White, his affection and admiration for the band is clear to read.

Reissued by Cleopatra Records, this CD version (there is also a white vinyl) splits Stage into two logical discs - Stage One, an acoustic performance from 1994 in The House Of Blue Light in LA, and Stage Two, a fully electric show from 1993 at The Celebrity Theater in Anaheim, California. Both are excellent representations of a much misunderstood band who were wrongly lumped in with the arena/hair scene of the time - although they did somewhat conform to the image and their lyrics didn’t always help matters either - because Great White were, at heart, a heavy rock blues band inspired by Led Zeppelin. For those not armed with that thought, Stage One might be something of a shock, as a tight knit unit dig in deep to the rhythm and rock out a heartfelt set of songs that still make a mighty impression. Singer Jack Russell eagerly shows the whiskey soaked voice that still surprises through its ability to add a ceiling scrapping yelp on occasion as guitarist Mark Kendall brings some authentic soul to proceedings. Interestingly most of the material here sidesteps the band’s commercial peak, with only “House Of Broken Love” coming from the hit album …Twice Shy, while the cleverly reinterpreted “Congo Square”, “Train To Nowhere” and Small Faces cover “Afterglow” were originally featured on the follow up album Hooked. Instead the moving strains of "Sail Away” came from the album of the same name and proves here, as it did there, a highlight, as did “Gone With The Wind”. And with “Maybe Someday” coming from 1992’s Psycho City, if Stage One illustrates two things it’s that firstly Great White were an amazing live force in an acoustic setting and that their deeper cuts and albums undoubtedly deserve a second hearing.

Stage Two on the other hand presents a more straight forward Great White story. Firstly we get a Led Zeppelin cover, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”, which should be no surprise given that Great White have previously released a full live album of Zep-tributes. Thankfully their ability to do the material justice and for Russell to reveal a howl and scream that at least gets near to that of Robert Plant proves irresistible, but then so do the pure classics from the Great White catalogue - “Rock Me”, “Face The Day” and, of course, the Mott The Hoople cover that shot the band into the US top 5, “Once Bitten Twice Shy”. All of which show the relaxed but rocking character of this band to perfection. Add in the stellar “Old Rose Motel”, “Can’t Shake It” and “Love Is A Lie” and, as Niven himself says in the liner notes, arguably, the selection of songs on Stage is as good a collection of Great White as you’ll find anywhere as they leave little doubt of the blues dripping credentials they proudly possessed.

More famed for the tragedies, fall-outs and splinterings that marked the band’s latter years, Stage reminds us that Great White could seriously cut it live and both reinterpret other band’s material and their own with a style, grace and clarity that most rock acts who came to fame in the 80s would have sold their hairspray for. Replete with its originally Japanese only bonus cuts (“Gone With The Wind” and “Love Is A Lie”) this re-release is welcome indeed.

Track Listing
Stage One
1. Train To Nowhere
2. Sail Away
3. House Of Broken Love
4. Maybe Someday
5. Congo Square
6. Gone With The Wind

Stage Two
1. Face The Day
2. Old Rose Motel
3. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You
4. Rock Me
5. Can’t Shake It
6. Once Bitten Twice Shy
7. Love Is A Lie

Added: June 1st 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Stage at Cleopatra
Hits: 1316
Language: english

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