In need of a spirited 2 CD set of scorching live melodic metal? If so, then look no further than this latest release from the always busy Axel Rudi Pell. Recorded in Germany on the bands Shadow Zone tour, Knights Live features over 100 minutes of vintage Pell, plus a few surprises.
One interesting aspect here is that there are only eleven songs performed on this set. That's right, eleven songs across two CD's. So as you can guess, the band stretches many of these songs to exceed ten-minutes in length, which is what you want to hear on a live recording. Pell reaches back throughout his career and huge back catalog for a satisfying set list that should please all his hard-core fans. The catchy "Edge of the World" and "Follow the Sign" from Shadow Zone are given royal treatment, as is the classic Pell anthem "Nasty Reputation." Johnny Gioeli has a powerful voice in a live context, as the former Hardline singer belts out Dio-esque melodies on the crunchy "Tear Down the Walls" and the near half-hour medley "Masquerade Ball/Casbah." Encased in this medley is a mercurial drum solo from Mike Terrana (Artension/Yngwie Malmsteen) which leads into a rousing (and too quick) cover of the Rainbow classic "Stargazer." Pell's Ritchie Blackmore/Uli Roth/Yngwie Malmsteen influenced guitar playing is quite refreshing to hear. Sure, he can rip with the best of them, but more often than not the guitarist sacrifices speed for melody, as he shows in his homage to Blackmore on an extended solo towards the end of this medley. His big, hook laden riffs charge up "Fool Fool", a strong tune from the Black Moon Pyramid album, which also sees Gioeli cover Jeff Scott Soto's vocal parts perfectly.
As strong as CD1 is, it's CD2 that really is the meat and potatoes of this set. Things get started with the epic "Carousel" off of the Oceans of Time album. This tune has a very late-period Rainbow sound, only heavier, and is highlighted by strong vocals and tasty guitar work, plus an extended solo from keyboard player Ferdy Doermberg. There's also one of my favorite tracks from the Magic album, the majestic "The Clown is Dead" ( a must hear for Blackmore fans), and two 80's songs, the heavy "Call Her Princess" , featuring ripping guitar/keyboard trade-offs from Pell and Doermberg, and "Snake Eyes." The latter is downright slow and heavy, thanks to some evil guitar licks from Pell. The set closes out with an upbeat version of "Warrior" from 1994's Between the Walls, that also includes a snippet from "Man on a Silver Mountain" by Rainbow.
Those new to Axel Rudi Pell can do no wrong by picking this 2CD live set up as an introduction. Be warned, once you do you'll probably be hooked and shelling out the cash for the rest of his catalog soon after.