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30 Years – Live From The Sunset Strip

Frontiers (2013)
Rating: 8/10

Southern California Blues rock veterans Great White have seen their ups and downs. From the heights of fame to the years of lawsuits following a pyrotechnics incident in 2003 at The Station in Rhode Island that killed 100 people, Great White has seen it all, and has persevered.

Band members have come and gone, and the band has even bifurcated into two entities, the Great White including long-term members Mark Kendall (lead guitar), Audie Desbrow (drums) and Michael Lardie (rhythm guitar), and Jack Russell’s Great White, led by the band’s former vocalist. But despite a turbulent career filled with adversity Great White celebrates three decades of rock with 30 Years – Live From The Sunset Strip.

From the first track it’s obvious Great White is still a great live band. Ironically, the band opens with ‘Desert Moon’, the same song they were playing when pyrotechnics set acoustic foam in The Station night club ablaze, and that ex-vocalist Jack Russell claimed they would never play again. Big drums lead into a bluesy intro that drips of classic AC/DC. Great White scorches through ‘Desert Moon’ like Chuck Berry driving a freight train. Former XYZ vocalist Terry Ilous fills the spot vacated by Jack Russell, and his gritty, Janis Joplin-esque voice was made for Great White’s music.

The crowning moments of Great White’s career came in the albums Once Bitten… (1987) and …Twice Shy (1989). Once Bitten… brought the band wide attention, and …Twice Shy was a major commercial success. Of the 11 songs represented on this release it’s no surprise that six are from this era.

‘Lady Red Light’ is a fan favourite from Once Bitten…, and its straight ahead, mid-tempo rock has a hard edge that found the band many fans in the metal community when it was released. The dirty blues of ‘Mista Bone’ from …Twice Shy is as full of testosterone as it was on the original recording, and the Angus Young (AC/DC) style guitar intro from Mark Kendall is a treat to listen to. This eight-minute extended version is fun, and shows some of the band’s personality.

Rather than stick with just the hits the band reaches as far back into its catalog as the Shot In The Dark (1986) album for ‘Face The Day’. The dark, bluesy guitar intro provided by Kendall and Lardie is spot on, leading to the beefed up classic rock sound Great White is known for.

‘The Big Goodbye’ from the sadly overlooked Psycho City (1992) album rocks with a Van Halen feel, and shows how some of the band’s best songs did not come from their most highly successful releases. Long time fans will be pleased by the song selections, representing the band’s accomplishments over the years, rather than just rehashing a greatest hits collection.

The set closes with the song that is still Great White’s most recognizable hit, their cover of the Ian Hunter classic ‘Once Bitten, Twice Shy’ that clocks in at over eight minutes. Hunter’s bluesy compilation comes to life in the hands of Great White, giving it a rock edge the original never had.

In the end it’s hard not to be surprised by 30 Years – Live From The Sunset Strip. This is one of the most perfectly produced live albums to come to my attention. The mix is clear, with each instrument having a strong presence. The result is like listening to the band goofing around in the studio. There’s an air of fun on this album, much thanks to Mark Kendall’s guitar noodling and Terry Ilouis’ engagement of the crowd.

30 Years – Live On The Sunset Strip is an excellent tribute to the legacy of a band that continues to defy the odds, and makes some damn good music.

Jim McDonald