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Slade: All The World Is A Stage (5CD)

Although they will probably be best known for their eternal Christmas hit, Slade really were a serious rock n’ roll act in every sense of that phrase before, during and after wishing us all Merry Christmas for the four hundred thousandth time. The band’s studio albums house a plethora of bona fide hits which were joined by some glamtastic anthems, a host of hard rocking romp-alongs and even the occasion burst of near heavy metal. However, it’s long been acknowledged that where the quartet really came alive was on stage, something undoubtedly borne out by this five disc set of Slade live from BMG that arrives under the title All The World Is A Stage.

In terms of music, what’s presented here makes for a tremendously rewarding collection, with two previously available live albums joined by a further three shows that haven’t seen the light of day - or at least not all of the songs presented here have. The absolute classic Slade Alive! opens the set’s account, this originally 1972 released but 1971 recorded album finding the then rough but decidedly ready band feeling like they were almost attacking the crowd head on, so challenging was singer/guitarist Noddy Holder as he cajoled the audience on side. It’s breathless stuff and while the band only had one real studio album to their name at this stage, the confidence in front of their fans showed the live work they’d already put in. Admittedly, only three songs here were written by any of the quartet of Noddy, guitarist Dave Hill, bassist/violinist Jim Lea and drummer Don Powell, but the cover versions are so suitably Slade-ified that you barely even notice.

Next up is the other previously available live album Slade On Stage (I’m guessing BMG couldn’t attain the rights to 1976’s Slade Alive, Vol II) which jumps forward a full ten years to 1982, although the show was recorded the year before at Newcastle City Hall. In truth, Slade sound like an almost completely different band when these sets are listened to back to back, the rough and tumble of Alive! nowhere in sight as a slicker, more 80s rock friendly attack bolts from the speakers. Personally I adore this era of the band, as Slade proved their mettle and then some with not just performances so accomplished that you can’t help but be swept up by them, but also an attack that seriously beefs up older tracks like “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”, the evergreen “Gudbuy T’Jane” and steamrollering “When I’m Dancin’ I Ain’t Fightin’” - the impromptu crowd sing-alongs to the latter of the three truly something to behold. Add in the heavy metal of “We’ll Bring The House Down”, where the band are just on fire - especially guitarist Dave Hill - and this is nigh on perfect stuff, and I make no apologies for saying I love this album.

Disc three chronicles an event that truly was a triumph for Slade, the band drafted in as last minute replacements for Ozzy Osbourne at the 1980 Reading Festival. By this stage Slade’s fortunes had dipped quite severely and in serious hard rock quarters they were seen as something of a joke. That a large proportion of the crowd at one of the UK’s biggest rock festivals of the time probably didn’t even know that Ozzy had pulled out of the show, never mind that he’d been replaced by the unfashionable Slade, should have spelt disaster, and yet the exact opposite turned out to be true. Noddy Holder once again proving that frontman-stage craft is worth its weight in gold to a band, although the other three quarters of the outfit clearly worked their arses off to snap victory from the jaws of catastrophe. Listening back to this set now, the crowd clearly loved it and in many ways this performance kickstarted an 80s revival for Slade that saw them become regulars on Top of the Pops all over again! From opener “Take Me Bak ‘Ome” through “Cum On Feel The Noize” to the band’s standard closer “Born To Be Wild”, this is scintillating stuff. And yet it’s also where some holes begin to appear in this 5 disc release. By my reckoning at least 6 of the tracks from this Reading appearance were released across 2 separate 1980 EPs, and yet not even all 6 of those are included here (alright, it’s only “Okey Cokey” that’s missing, but on the day the band performed 15 songs and only 11 (well, actually 10, because the crowd sing-song of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is listed twice) are part of this CD. Add in some clumsy editing (or maybe more accurately, some clumsy unfixing of previous editing) resulting in, amongst other issues, the spoken intro to “When I’m Dancin’ I Ain’t Fightin’” being repeated before “Born To Be Wild” - and while this disc remains really good fun, it’s not the jewel in the crown it should have been.

Slade Live At The Hucknall Miner’s Welfare (spelt with one ‘L’ on the disc’s card cover (although maybe it’s an authentic mistake from the original tape’s sleeve?) and two on the back of the clamshell box) takes us to a full 18 track set from December 1980. Now as far as I can tell this show has never been officially released in any shape or form and maybe it’s not too surprising that it therefore doesn’t possess quite the same recording quality as what’s come before, although in general it’s not too bad other than a few moments where the tape seems to have distorted. What’s even more apparent is that this is a much more ‘deeper cuts’ set than the greatest hits package the band played earlier the same year at Reading, with the likes of “Dozy Mama”, “Wheels Ain’t Coming Down” (which is fabulous!) and “Pistol Packin’ Mama” illustrating the huge amount of cracking fare this band had at their disposal. This is maybe the most basic sounding recording in this set, but it’s possibly the one that packs the strongest punch.

Oddly, from there we are whisked back 5 years to 1975, meaning that the discs’ running order takes us, in terms of performance, from 1971 to 1981, then August 1980, December 1980 and then 1975, causing any sense of continuity to go out of the window, although you can obviously listen to the discs in any order you fancy. However, that odd chronological choice isn’t helped by neither the track listing on the box, or the booklet, actually detailing when any of these shows were recorded, although it’s obviously easy to work out the Reading show’s history. In fact, the booklet, great though it looks, doesn’t contain any information whatsoever other than the basic track listing. There’s no band bio, no detail at all about the new shows included, or the original two releases, and neither is there any obvious input from anyone in the band, although they are thanked alongside, well no one else, in the credits. That said, the photos in the 16 page booklet are excellent, but even they don’t come with any information about where the snaps were taken. All of which is more than a little disappointing.

Anyway, the final disc maintains the high standard in the bit that really matters most - the music - with the impressive overall lack of repetition of songs from show to show a real bonus, although obviously some fan favourites do appear more than once. Here we get the likes of “OK Yesterday Was Yesterday”, “Them Kinda Monkeys Can’t Swing” and “How Does It Feel” fuelling an excitable audience as the band promoted their then new film and album, Slade In Flame.

Yes, there are some glaring issues here and at a time where these type of sets usually come with lengthy new essays, previously unseen pictures and new band insight, I’ve actually knocked a full star off the overall score of All The World Is A Stage for what feels like a simple lack of effort. Harsh maybe, but not even giving the dates of the shows included is pretty much unforgivable. That all said, the music and the performances contained within what is, admittedly, a cracking looking set makes this a no-brainer purchase for Slade fans everywhere, but what is a nice little release really should have been an all singing, all dancing Slade essential. Sadly that’s not quite the case.

Track Listing
Slade Alive!
1. Hear Me Calling
 2. In Like A Shot From My Gun 3. Darling Be Home Soon
 4. Know Who You Are
 5. Keep On Rocking
 6. Get Down And Get With It
 7. Born To Be Wild

Slade On Stage
1. Rock 'n' Roll Preacher 
2. When I'm Dancin' I Ain't Fightin' 3. Take Me Bak 'Ome
 4. Everyday
 5. Lock Up Your Daughters
 6. We'll Bring The House Down
 7. A Night To Remember
 8. Gudbuy T'Jane
 9. Mama Weer All Crazee Now 
10. You'll Never Walk Alone

Alive! At Reading (New Audio)
1. Take Me Bak 'Ome 
2. When I'm Dancin' I Ain't Fightin' 3. Wheels Ain't Coming Down
 4. Somethin' Else Medley 
5. Bass & Violin Medley
 6. You'll Never Walk Alone
 7. Mama Weer All Crazee Now
 8. Get Down And Get With It
 9. Merry Xmas Everybody 
10. Cum On Feel The Noize
 11. Born To Be Wild

Live At The Hucknall Miner's Welfare Club (New Audio)
1. Dizzy Mamma 
2. Night Starvation
 3. Take Me Bak 'Ome
 4. Wheels Ain't Coming Down
 5. Lemme Love Into Ya
 6. Everyday 
7. Somethin' Else
 8. Purple Haze
 9. Pistol Packin' Mama 
10. Keep A Rollin'
 11. When I'm Dancin' I Ain't Fightin' 12. Gudbuy T'Jane
 13. Get Down And Get With It
 14. You'll Never Walk Alone 
15. Mama Weer All Crazee Now
 16. Merry Xmas Everybody
 17. I'm A Rocker 18. Born To Be Wild

Live At The New Victoria (New Audio)
1. Them Kinda Monkeys Can't Swing 2. The Bangin' Man 
3. Gudbuy T'Jane
 4. Far Far Away 5. Thanks For The Memory (Wham Bam Thank You Mam) 6. How Does It Feel
 7. Just A Little Bit
 8. Everyday 9. OK Yesterday Was Yesterday 10. Raining In My Champagne 11. Let The Good Times Roll
 12. Mama Weer All Crazee Now

Added: September 10th 2022
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: BMG Online
Hits: 827
Language: english

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