The Appice Brothers are two of the greatest drummers in the rock and roll world, and have been for years. Each one of them has built up an amazing body of work, and the both of them remain active to this day. Older brother Carmine first came to fame in the latter half of the 1960s with Vanilla Fudge, but continued to remain relevant with bands like Cactus, King Kobra, and Blue Murder. He has even been in Rod Stewart and Ozzy Osbourne’s bands! Meanwhile, Vinny played with artists like John Lennon and Rick Derringer, but will always be best remembered for his work with Ronnie James Dio, in both Black Sabbath and Dio. To say these two are legends in the rock world is definitely an understatement to say the least.
In recent years, the twosome began working together, doing what they are calling “Drum Wars” shows, featuring the two of them, together on stage, complete with a live band. Having experienced several of these shows live, this fan was all the more pleased to see that the brothers were making an album of material culled from their most recent Drum Wars tour.
In addition to the brothers, the backing band on this release consists of vocalist Jim Crean, guitarist Evan Brosh, and bassist James Caputo. There have been no fewer than three Drum Wars tours, often with alternating band members, but this marks the first official release of any sort to emerge from the tours.
If you have seen any of the Drum Wars shows live in the last year or so, this CD is pretty much exactly what you would expect; more or less a straight port of one of their live shows, albeit with much of the “between song” dialogue removed to streamline the experience. I will be the first to admit this works better as a “live and in person” show than it does on a disc, but that is not to say fans of the Brothers Appice are not going to find something to enjoy here.
First of all, I will get out of the way the issues with this album. Many of the parts of the album that work great at a live Drum Wars show do not necessarily translate well to a live CD. An eight-minute-plus solo is great live and in person, when you have Vinny and Carmine pounding away, tossing drum sticks to one another mid solo and commanding the crowd. But as an audio only experience, this aspect tends to fall flat. Another prime example of this is during one of the lengthy solo segments where one of the brothers does an unusual drum solo using a portable drum with steel wires attached to a drum head (if this thing has an actual name, someone please tell me!), but just hearing it without the visual, you are robbed of this part of the experience.
Similarly, much of the show relies on crowd interaction, which is obviously not going to translate well to the “live CD” format. Hearing a hard rock take on Do You Think I’m Sexy is entertaining, but having the audience members sing the “chant” part back grows tiresome after hearing it multiple times on the disc. Likewise, the entire purpose of the “Flintstones” track was to have the brothers play the drum beats while the audience sings the lyrics to the theme song of the classic 1960s animated sitcom. It does not work on here because the dialogue from the Appice Brothers explaining this is missing and because, obviously, you are listening to a disc and not there, live and in person.
A number of reviewers have criticized the production of this release, as well as the decision to use vocalist Jim Crean on the tracks. I agree that the sound quality is a bit shoddy; there is no excuse for this considering how good live albums these days can sound. Similarly, while I do agree Crean is not the best vocalist for a number of these tracks, I am actually glad that the Appice Brothers opted to hire a vocalist who sounds distinctly different from the singers of the original recordings of these tracks; it does help to give the album its own feel. They could easily have hired someone to mimic Ozzy Osbourne or Ronnie James Dio, but we get someone on vocals that is not merely a clone of either one of them, and that has its advantages.
The release is not a total loss. It is interesting to get a live band doing something a little different, and revisiting so many different bands and artists that the Brothers Appice have been involved in over the years. As such, it comes off as something like a “Greatest Hits Live” CD with a few interesting twists. However, it should be clear by now that this show needs to experienced live, not on a CD.
In the end this disc merits a moderate recommendation, but you would be better off shelling out the extra few bucks for a ticket and going to see the real thing when it comes to your city or a nearby location. A live DVD of the release would have been better than an audio only disc; much of the experience is visual and interactive after all. That said, though, if you can find the release for a decent price, it will make for an interesting diversion.