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The Witch of Berkeley (Live)

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Album Review

Manchester, England's A II Z weren't the first and surely won't be the last rock & roll band to issue a live album for their first attempt, but, as often is the case with this tactic, their introduction to the world via 1980's interestingly titled The Witch of Berkeley: Live ultimately backfired when it failed to capture the band on a truly transcendent night. And how could it, having been recorded on the cheap, less than a year into A II Z's existence using a basic eight-track mobile studio, and with no remix or technical fine-tuning to speak of? Obviously, all this not only served to reveal their label, Polydor's, minimal financial commitment to the group, but also arguably sealed their eventual commercial failure — regardless of the quality of the music captured here. And that music, as it were, comprised of quite varied, if sometimes derivative, heavy rock fare of the sort typical to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal's less focused, tangential bands (see also Weapon, Trespass, and Praying Mantis). As such, dedicated enthusiasts of heavy metal's acknowledged "golden era" will undoubtedly recognize A II Z's solid interplay and above-average musicianship (second-rate sound quality, frequent blown clams and all) in the forceful attack of the title cut and "The King Is Dead," the surprisingly groovy swing of "Lay Down," and the even, textbook instrumental "Glastonbury Massacre." Subsequently re-recorded single "No Fun After Midnight" and the cryptically titled "Danger U.X.B." are a little too shamelessly Motörhead-inspired for their own good, and "The Romp"'s extended boogie workout (complete with audience participation section) clearly nicks the chorus from Black Sabbath's "Never Say Die," but there's much to love about slightly raw, but melodically driven semi-ballads like "Walking the Distance" and "Last Stand," which feature the same hallmarks (though not exactly the same high standards) of early Iron Maiden efforts like "Remember Tomorrow" and "Strange World." All told, the above will never have The Witch of Berkeley confused for a classic heavy metal album — studio, live, or otherwise — but, as hinted at earlier, provides quite a few kicks for serious collectors of N.W.O.B.H.M. obscurities. [The 2006 reissue of The Witch of Berkeley by Majestic Rock Records doesn't advertise the fact, but actually represents a complete A II Z career anthology, pairing the original live LP with all three tracks from the subsequent No Fun After Midnight EP and both sides of their swan single, "I'm the One Who Loves You," notably featuring future AC/DC drummer Simon Wright.]


Born: 1979 in Manchester, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s

Manchester's A II Z (named after street-finder atlases, not, as charged by a few ignorant troublemakers in the press, a Nazi publication) was the beneficiary of very fortuitous timing, being formed by brothers Dave (vocals) and Gary Owens (guitar), Cam Campbell (bass), and Karl Reti (drums) just in time (late 1979) to be swept up by the initial, deafening hubbub surrounding the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Immediately signed, almost sight-unseen, by major-label Polydor, the group, whose raw but...
Full bio
The Witch of Berkeley (Live), A II Z
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  • 8,99 €
  • Genres: Rock, Music, Metal
  • Released: 1980

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