If ever there was a band worthy of comparison to Spinal Tap, it has got to be today’s incarnation of Quiet Riot. As if the album cover didn’t already give it away, HollywoodCowboys is a bit on the amateurish side.
On their second (and now final) studio album recorded with former American Idol singer James Durbin on vocals (ex-vocalist Jizzy Pearl has now stepped back in to fill the spot once again), unfortunately what the band has compiled here doesn’t sound much better than essentially a demo recording. I was honestly surprised the band didn’t rush back in to re-record Durbin’s vocals with Pearl, much like they had done when Durbin replaced previous singer Sean Nicols on 2017’s Road Rage album.
All things considered, some of the songs found here actually aren’t that bad. Tracks like “Insanity” actually contains some fairly impressive guitar work, and “Hellbender” probably stands above everything else here. But the mix is still so off throughout the entire album, with the drums simply overpowering everything else. Perfect example; look up lead off single “Don’t Call it Love” on YouTube and see how many people agree with that exact same sentiment in the comment section.
I’m not the kind of person who enjoys being overly critical for the sake of being harsh, but I’m also not going to sugar coat things. I actually really dug Quiet Riot back in the day (one of the best concerts I’ve actually ever been to was a bill they were on with Skid Row back in 2006, a year before original lead singer Kevin Dubrow’s untimely passing), and I honestly sympathize with drummer Frankie Banali’s recent cancer diagnosis (and wish him the best with it). But there’s a reason why some bands from their era don’t maintain the same status as an act like Motley Crue. There’s also usually a fairly good (and dysfunctional) reason for so many rotating lineups in a band, and Durbin most likely wisely stepped down from his now former group.
Ever since the Dio Returns tour had first been announced there’s been an abundance of backlash from some fans calling it a ‘cash grab’ (I’d almost guarantee most of those complaining are the same people who went to see Bohemian Rhapsody when it came out last year, too). You can write tours like this off as such (it should also be noted that some of the profits from the tour are allegedly going towards the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund), or you can look at them the way I do; tributes meant to keep the memories alive of legends who rightfully deserve it. Ronnie James Dio was one such icon who I grew up admiring dearly, and unfortunately I was never able to see him perform live before his passing in 2010. The Dio Returns tour gives all those who never saw him the chance to finally experience his music live (and the last time I can remember looking forward to a tour as much as this much was probably when I caught the original lineup of one of Ronnie’s former bands, Black Sabbath, back in 2004).
Essentially, the band itself is one of two current versions of the Dio band that has been going for nearly ten years now (the other being Last in Line, with Vivian Campbell and Vinnie Appice at the helm) called Dio Disciples. This version of the band (which features Dio alumni Craig Goldy, Simon Wright, and Scott Warren) has been performing for years with multiple singers in place of Ronnie, including ex-Judas Priest/Iced Earth vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens, and former Lynch Mob singer Oni Logan, who were both there trading off vocal duties (along with live recordings of Ronnie when his hologram was present) when the band came through The Plaza Live in Orlando this past Saturday, June 1.
Jizzy Pearl’s current incarnation of Love/Hate opened the show, and I was actually looking forward to finally catching Pearl live as well after interviewing him for Rewind ItMagazine just last year (I found it strange however that none of the material from Pearl’s recent album that I interviewed him for made it into the set list). At this point, the club was still fairly empty, and the band received only a modest response. But still, they played with all their might on tracks like “Straightjacket,” “Tumbleweed,” “Spinning Wheel,” “Fuel to Run,” “Mary Jane,” and “Wasted in America.” A seemingly set up (and awkward) moment found the band being told to leave the stage before declaring they were doing one more song, which ended up being “Blackout in the Red Room.”
After Pearl’s set, there was a sort of calm before the storm as the crowd sat anxiously to finally see what awaited them (this was only the second night of the tour, after all). It was quickly revealed as Ronnie’s hologram made its introduction by way of “King of Rock and Roll.” From there, it was one amazing moment after another from beginning to end.
A pair of Sabbath-era classics in the form of “Mob Rules” and “Children of the Sea,” sung by Owens and Logan, respectively, followed before Ronnie’s image made its way on the screen again for the classic Dio tracks “The Last in Line” and “Holy Diver.” After Owens belted out one more Dio classic (“Stand Up and Shout”), the stage was cleared for a drum solo by Wright, which was a tribute of sorts to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
A tagged-team rendition of “Don’t Talk to Strangers” by Owens and Logan followed before more Dio/Rainbow classics began making their way into the set, including “Rainbow in the Dark,” “Egypt (The Chains Are On),” “Gates of Babylon,” and “Invisible” (another duel effort from Owens and Logan). Goldy then treated the crowd to a guitar solo before a couple more Rainbow tracks (“Catch the Rainbow” and “Stargazer”) preceded an unforgettable version of Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” (which briefly segued into the classic “Man on the Silver Mountain”).
Owens and Logan then took the stage along with Ronnie’s hologram to close out the night on an epic note with “We Rock,” and finally (after a short reprieve) “Neon Knights.” The only thing I might have changed (other than include tracks like “Time to Burn” or anything off the Sacred Heart album in place of some of the other chosen tracks in the set, but that’s just my own personal taste!) would have been to market the tour itself a bit differently; even though the hologram does indeed play a prominent role, there’s so much more to the entire show than just that. Still, every person in attendance that night seemed to be in agreement of just how well-executed this show truly was.
After the show itself, my wife/photographer and I were extremely lucky to be invited backstage, where we were able to briefly meet and talk to every member of the band, as well as Dio’s own former wife, Wendy. It was apparent that this tour was a collective labor of love from all those involved, and the feelings resonating backstage were that of celebration, and triumph. And as far as all the closed-minded critics of the tour go, to quote Aesop; “The ignorant despise what is precious only because they cannot understand it.” I think if Ronnie were still here today, he would fully approve of what is being presented on stage in his honor right now.
For over three decades, Jizzy Pearl has been the “go-to” guy of sorts in the LA metal scene. Over the course of his career, he’s fronted Love/Hate, LA Guns, Ratt, Adler’s Appetite, and Quiet Riot (just to name a few). And if that’s not an impressive enough resume, his latest solo effort, All You Need isSoul, just dropped last month. Pearl’s momentum could not be any stronger right not, and he recently took the time to speak to Rewind It Magazine about it.
When asked how Soul compares to his most well known work in Love/Hate, Pearl says, “Well, I’m the guy that’s still playing Love/Hate’s music, so of course I’m sort of remembered most for them. But I think if people dug that band, and the Blackout in the Red Room record and so forth, then they’ll dig this new one, because it is very Love/Hate-ish, and does sound similar.”
The first single from Soul is the in-your-face anthem in the form of “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone.” When asked if it was aimed towards anyone specific, he says, “Sometimes when you write a song it doesn’t have to be specifically about one person. You could maybe say it’s just a collection of observations, and I think almost everyone can identify with that.”
Prior to his latest solo endeavor, Pearl had joined Quiet Riot as lead vocalist in 2013. Over the course of his three years with the band, he recorded on their 2014 album 10, before deciding to leave Quiet Riot. When asked why his time was so short-lived in what seemed like such a good fit, Pearl simply says, “Well, I did it for a few years and it was fun, but it went as far as it could go.”
Among his many unforgettable moments over the years, one that still sticks out to many is the time Pearl actually crucified himself on the famous Hollywood sign in 1992. I couldn’t resist asking him how he feels looking back on it now; “Well, when I look back on it, I’m glad I didn’t fall to my death [Laughs]! It’s funny because nearly every time I do an interview, I’m asked about it. So it is sort of an iconic moment that I’ve come to embrace, and I’m able to appreciate the fact that I did something crazy that people still remember.”
Pearl will be hitting the road starting next month in the U.K., but be sure to keep an eye out for any and all upcoming U.S. dates, which are sure to be added in the near future.