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VARIOUS (Classic Rock Productions) (2004)
Time to shake out the greatcoat and the joss sticks...prog rock lives again

Classic Rock Productions have produced a series of these compilations, all featuring a plethora of top prog rock and covers by Rodney Matthews, all making for essential packages.

That said, there’s a definite feel of 'This is what we’ve got', the collections limited by who’s already signed to the CRP roster.

International Classic Rock Festival (CRL1110) was several concerts over 5 days, recorded in London and New Jersey, and features 16 tracks.

Highlights are Uriah Heep and Asia, and the opener 'Easy Livin’' is a true classic. The whole band are on fine form, and Trevor Bolder proving one of hard rock’s finest bassists around. Does Mick Box ever stop grinning?

There’s also Mostly Autumn, Caravan and Karnataka, among others. Focus were a fine band in there day, but it’s largely Van Leer, the lack of guitarist Jan Akkerman does detract substantially. (****)

Progressive Rock The Ultimate Collection (CRL 1505) is a an 11 track affair, featuring more of the same. Some of the tracks (ELP’s 'Barbarian') are vintage, and worth checking out by fans, while others are more recent recordings.

Uriah Heep are onstage with former member Ken Hensley, and we also get lengthy workouts from Rick Wakeman, Focus, Family, Curved Air, Barclay James Harvest and Soft Machine. (***)

The Guitar Wizards (CRL1158) is a collection of guitar track snippets (rarely the full track), introduced by Mick Box.

In the cases of Steve Howe (Yes) and Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) we also get interviews and demonstrations in the studio of how they came up with the riffs.

The vintage Sabbath and Uriah Heep material are true gems, and Mick Box does show what an underrated guitarist he is.

The Deep Purple live cut from 1970 is great, but Blackmore’s probably the man most would want to see interviewed. Overall the material is excellent but clearly inconsistent in what they could licence or who they could interview. Great fun all the same. (***)

These DVDs aren’t too expensive and, although lacking in booklets or extras, are a great introduction to some great music and do feature some true gems too.

Review by Joe Geesin

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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