CD Reviews

Diamond Head - 'Live At The BBC' Hot

Added by James Gaden     September 09, 2010    
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Two-disc set featuring everything recorded and broadcast by the BBC by Diamond Head and presented in chronological order.

Isn’t it marvellous? You wait half your life for Diamond Head’s rarer BBC sessions to be officially released on CD, then like buses two come along one after the other.
Hot on the heels of last year’s superb budget-price anthology ‘The MCA Years’ comes ‘Live At The BBC’, a two-disc set featuring everything recorded and broadcast by the BBC by Diamond Head and presented in chronological order. So the first CD kicks off with the lads’ four track Friday Rock Show session recorded in October 1980 and first broadcast the following month. One of the best sessions ever laid down at Maida Vale studios, it combines blistering versions of ‘Lightning To The Nations’ and ‘Sweet And Innocent’ from the ‘Lightning To The Nations’ album with two (at the time) newies in the shape of ‘Don’t You Ever Leave Me’ and ‘Borrowed Time’, both of which would eventually be re-recorded for Diamond Head’s debut major label release (as indeed was ‘Lightning…’). So impressed were the band with BBC in-house producer Tony Wilson that Harris, Tatler, Kimberley and Scott persuaded him to produce their next single, the double-‘A’ side ‘Waited Too Long’/’Play It Loud’ as well as their first recording for MCA, the ‘Four Cuts’ EP.
Fast-forward a little under two years and Diamond Head found themselves not only signed to MCA but also second on the bill to Budgie on the Friday night at Reading, after Manowar had been stopped at customs for brandishing their broadswords in public, or something. ‘That was so good, that night,’ vocalist Sean Harris told me once; ‘Reading 1982 was about as good as it got for us.’ And it shows. The band are on great form, the set is despatched with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of entertainment and looking back now you have to question how it all went so badly wrong. The first time round, that is…
Over to the second CD, and the eve of their first major UK tour for MCA in October 1982 saw them at the Paris Theatre where a short 30 minute set was recorded (alongside Bernie Tormé) for subsequent airing; another great performance with Harris substituting ‘Such Is My Love’ for the more usual (and BBC-unfriendly) ‘Sucking My Love’, and a storming version of ‘Play It Loud’. The rest of the disc is taken up with the band’s 1993 performance opening for Metallica, Megadeth and The Almighty at Milton Keynes. Whereas it looked good out front and still sounds great on disc, the band was in its death throes (again) with guitarist Brian Tatler struggling with shingles and at odds with Harris who looked a right sausage sandwich dressed in a Grim Reaper outfit.
Whereas you can’t fault the musicianship, the songs, the performances or the band, you have to wonder whom this set is aimed at. It was the Paris Theatre show and the unreleased half of the studio session that made ‘The MCA Years’ such an important collection, and fans would have snapped that up when it came out. The Reading show is also in that set, and the Milton Keynes gig was originally released on CD as ‘Evil Live’ in September 1994. There’s always, always space in the racks for another Diamond Head archive release, but can we have something new next time around, please.

John Tucker

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