My relatively low rating of The Ballads III is not so much a criticism of the music contained within, but more a reflection of the general uselessness of such a compilation. I find love song "greatest hits" albums by artists ranging from The Beatles to Peter Hammill to be particularly offensive because they serve little purpose but to be played in doctors offices and waiting rooms. Secondly, there's something faintly condescending and phony surrounding these "romantic" compilations: "Sweetheart, I know you don't like heavy metal or anything else I listen to, but these are love songs!" It's particularly alarming to think Axel Rudi Pell has two other volumes of The Ballads to his name.
For those not in the know, Axel Rudi Pell is a German guitarist firmly in the Ritchie Blackmore mold. The Ballads III quite successfully emulates the mellower moments of Rainbow circa Bent Out of Shape or Straight Between the Eyes. Vocalist Johnny Gioeli at times sounds so much like Joe Lynn Turner it's frightening. Many power ballads from recent Axel Rudi Pell albums are here, such as "Heartbreaker", "The Line" and "Forever Angel".
I suppose one of the main selling points of The Ballads III is the inclusion of three tracks otherwise unavailable, including an acoustic take of "Forever Angel" and a surprisingly effective and nearly Pink Floydian cover of Rainbow's "The Temple of the King". Though the new version of "Forever Angel" is fine, it's a little redundant to include the same song twice on one album.
While The Ballads III serves its purpose in compiling 70 minutes worth of soft rock, my advise is to check out one of Axel Rudi Pell's many studio releases, such as The Masquerade Ball or Shadow Zone. He's a wonderful and sadly underrated guitar player. As for the CD under review, file under: for completists only.
- Don't Say Goodbye (new recorded song)
- Forever Angel (acoustic) (new recorded song)
- The Temple of the King (new recorded song)
- The Line
- Sea of Evil
- The Curse of the Chains
- All the Rest of My Life
- Forever Angel
- The Temple of the Holy
- Under the Gun