Guitar Wizards DVD review
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whom I and many others think is vastly overrated, but to each his or her own: as always it's only my

This DVD has been put out by Classic Rock Productions and this may offer a clue to the roster of
musicians on it.  Although there is some archive footage on display, I strongly suspect that Classic Rock
Productions were keen to include some guitarists of whom they already owned footage, and to be honest
this may well be why Dave Brock appears, rather than this being Mick Box's personal choice.  The notes
on the DVD cover say "The leader of Hawkwind delivers the unique guitar sound at the heart of the space
rock machine", and that is very much how his appearance is pitched.  The format of this DVD is for Mick
to appear sat in a recording studio or similar, and introduce each segment in turn.  When it comes to
Dave's / Hawkwind's, Mick says: "Dave Brock is the leader of Hawkwind and it's his unique guitar sound
which is at the heart of that particular space rock machine. This is Dave and his band with sundry other
performers in a typically Hawkwind moment."

The Hawkwind segment cuts into Snake Dance from the Classic Rock DVD, with Dave playing eastern
scale lead guitar over a slow, measured backing.  He mutates this into some crossover lead / rhythm guitar
while Julie Murray, the blonde hippy ballerina is on stage, and then some crunching, riffing chords.  The
odd thing is that the guitar wizard himself is not really visible with the footage concentrating on the dancer,
with a bit of Harvey's keyboards thrown in along the way.  This lasts for 2 minutes, taking in some really
excellent atmospheric lead from Dave, before going into Night Of The Hawks, at which point Dave goes
purely into rhythm guitar mode, while sharing the lead vocals with Alan Davey, which does at least get
Dave onto the screen.  All the other band members get close-ups too (in fact this is visually one of the best
passages in the Classic Rock DVD from which it's culled).  Guitar aficionados finally get a proper solo
from the Captain at 5:24, which it must be said, is not a patch on his more atmospheric stylings at the start
of this segment.  There's even a close-up of the fretboard at 6:19 which will probably leave shredders
unimpressed as Dave is doing a relatively slow run down the scale at this point.

Bridgett Wishart comes on stage wearing white face paint to do that odd little midsection which I think is
to be found nowhere else except on the live 1990 recordings of Night Of The Hawks.  This damps the
proceedings down as the band play quietly behind her, and then build up again to close the number out with
all hands on deck.  It rather looks as though Bridgett suddenly gets fed up with it all, as she replaces the
microphone in the stand and walks off stage.  Perhaps this is the cue for the band to wind things up, which
they do by fading the instruments out, leaving just synth behind them as the footage ends with an
unfocussed close up of Simon House, under red lights.  And then we're back to Mick Box, fidgeting in the
studio.  He confines his observations to "well, that was certainly a bit different," and goes on to introduce
the next segment.

I may as well go on and look at the rest of this DVD, since there are some guitar players here that I
particularly like, and maybe other Hawkwind fans do too.  (Probably not the same ones, but never mind.)  
Mick Box sits in a recording studio, speakers and decks behind him, swiveling to and fro in a chair as he
amiably introduces first himself (as heaving reached "at least Sorceror's Apprentice level") and then the first
featured guitarist, Steve Howe of Yes.  This is someone whom I rate very highly despite some horrible solo
albums.  Steve explains the musical ingredients and the writing of 'Yours Is No Disgrace’ from 1970's
'The Yes Album'.  He demonstrates the guitar parts on his Gibson Byrdland semi-acoustic, which seems to
be unamplified and has some interestingly clanky overtones.  Each passage that he demonstrates is intercut
with some pretty ancient live footage of the same passage, where Mr. Howe's hair is notably blonder and
more luxuriant.  In fact the footage of him sitting and explaining the song is probably itself from some time
ago as he still has long hair.  (I think it's all gone now!)  He bears a passing resemblance to Simon House
(except our Si is much more handsome!)

Uriah Heep are up next, with some recent live footage, and parts of this are hilarious.  The Heep have
always seemed irredeemably naff to me, and they must have the world's portliest drummer...he's got more
chins than a Chinese phone book.  I've always had a soft spot for this band, however, and here they run
through Look At Yourself, with plenty of prog/metal crossover moments, Mick and the keyboard player
doing a number of unison / counterpoint lead runs together.  The Heep's current vocalist is stuck in a
1980's LA metal timewarp, but as always with this band, Mick Box rescues proceedings from descending
into self-parody.  He plays some sort of superstrat, mixing fasts runs with solid rhythm playing, breaking
out the wah pedal here and there, and cutting in with lots of trills and wails in a down-key middle section,
where it's really just him, some incidental keyboard and a bass drum beat to remind everyone that the band
is in the middle of a song instead of just putting out some aimless noises amid clouds of dry ice and
overblown stage lighting...this is great fun.

Jan Akkerman of Focus is featured next in an excerpt from something called The Night Of The Guitar
Show.  This is a brilliant segment, staying as far from heavy metal heroics as you can get.  Jan plays a big
semi, using it to push out lightning-fast jazz-funk chords and runs that are incredibly tight.  He's backed by
a young black rhythm section (two blokes who are probably better musicians than most of the people
whom this DVD is intended to feature.)  The bass player cranks out a steady stream of top-class slap bass,
and one very nice touch is when, after throwing out some distorted lead guitar runs, Akkerman returns to
the jazz chording and nods meaningfully to the bass player, inviting him to come out front and strut his
stuff in the spotlight.  Which he does, and the Dutchman is generous enough to play a supporting role,
locking in tight with the drummer (who grimaces periodically in concentration, never putting a foot wrong)
before coming back out with the bass player, to bring this number to a climax.

Tony Iommi appears for the first of his two slots, to explain the creation of the song 'Black Sabbath’.  
His initial revelations are of the "er, well, I just came up with this riff, see" variety, but there’s enough
archive footage of the Ozzy-era Sabs to make this a good one.  The reason I still like Black Sabbath after all
these years (I saw them live even before Hawkwind) is, I think, that they have a psychedelic edge to them
which is never picked up by their legions of copyists, and those genuinely inspired by the band (who after
all, have been credited with the invention of heavy metal).

The Dave Brock / Hawkwind segment appears right after Tony Iommi, and I've already described it.

Ronnie Montrose follows, and much to my delight plays his excellent version of the old Gene Pitney
number "Town Without Pity".  This was far and away the highlight of his late 70's "Open Fire" album - the
live version doesn't quite live up to that, lacking the gorgeous brass arrangements, and I’m afraid poor
old Ronnie makes Guitar Hero Mistake Number 1, by turning the middle section of the song into a slow
blues overlaid with tons of widdling.   He also cuts a faintly comical figure to my eyes, dressed all in white
with his hair receding at the front but long in the back and tied back in a fifty-something kind of way....he
is a Californian version of Francis Rossi.  Incidentally this clip is from The Night Of The Guitar show, like
the Jan Akkerman piece, and the backing musicians get no chance to shine.  This is All About Ronnie!

Steve Howe returns for more talking, this time about his song The Clap, which is an acoustic ragtime kind
of thing (he describes it as a Chet Atkins style number), again dating from 1970 and The Yes Album.  The
archive footage of him playing this live is probably from the same gig as that in his earlier segment.  Steve
grins his way through "The Clap" which sounds almost exactly like the original version (itself live).  Having
an acoustic song at this point in the DVD works well, leavening the dough a bit, and thus refreshed, we
await the next turn...  

...which is Robin Trower, another favourite of mine.  Again, it's a clip from this Night Of The Guitar thing,
and he rips through "Day Of The Eagle", the opening track from his unsurpassed debut album, "Bridge Of
Sighs" (1970).  One thing you can count on old Robin for (besides the Hendrixisms, here in abundance) is
the archetypal lead guitarist's facial grimaces.  He plays the main body of the song pretty straight, but when
it goes into the funereally-paced coda, he gurns his way through the string bending, hammer-ons and pull-
offs like a gargoyle suffering from dysentery.  Brilliant!

Ted Turner and Andy Powell may not be household names, but they're here for their stitch in Rock’s
Rich Tapestry, which was the invention or development of twin lead guitar.  They are of course part of
Wishbone Ash and play "Blowin' Free" from the classic album "Argus".  This is a recentish bit of footage,
with the band all getting a bit long in the tooth now, but I'm sure no Hawkwind fan could possibly count
that against anyone!  "Argus" is from 1972 I think, and was one of those albums that everyone seemed to
own, though being from a slightly later generation, in my case it was one of those that everyone who had
an older brother knew inside out.  It wasn't an overly heavy album and must have done a ton of business in
the USA, fitting in perfectly with the mainstream of 1970's American rock - though I think Wishbone Ash
are from Hemel Hempstead.  They play a pretty faithful rendition, lots of guitar soloing, and the band
manage not to look too ridiculous and can evidently still do the business musically.  They'd probably be
well worth seeing live.

Ritchie Blackmore is the next guitarist to be featured, but the main point of interest here is to see the
archive footage of Deep Purple playing live in 1970 (what a pivotal year that seems to have been) - they do
“Speed King" and had Ian Gillan on vocals at this point of their career.  They seem to be playing in the
middle of a TV studio with a remarkably inanimate young audience arranged all around them.  The bandâ
€™s lank and/or matted manes contrast with the beehives and short back-and-sides of the audience,
reminding us that this was right at the cusp of the 60's and 70's - a very exciting time, musically, and
there's a freshness about this performance which comes through despite the laughable visuals…which is
not meant to be a pointed insult.  Pretty much everyone in 1970 would look ridiculous now.  

Tony Iommi closes out the main part of the DVD, this time explaining "Paranoid", as something he wrote in
ten minutes during his lunch break during the recording sessions for Sabbath's second album.  Again,
there's more 70's live footage, and it reminds me of a comment once made by journalist Allan Jones in the
Melody Maker: "He's a showman of considerable limitations, is our Oz".  Ozzy is in one of those ridiculous
fringed white jumpsuits and scuttles crabwise across the stage when he can’t think of what else to do.  
Of course, this same journalist also crossed swords with Mr.Iommi himself, likening him to a Gypsy
violinist.  The result was "a viciously split lip" when Tone made his displeasure felt in a subsequent
interview.  I must buy a live Sabbath DVD.

The DVD has an extra feature called The Future, which features Bryan Josh of Mostly Autumn.  This band
seem to me like a Heart for the 21st Century - Heather Findlay is a lead female vocalist with long wavy
hair, rings, bangles and flowing hippy dresses.  Years ago one learned to avoid romantic entanglements
with girls who looked like this as they tended to be extremely emotionally unstable :-)   I went out with just
such a girl  who was "psychic", but not enough to foresee my disappearance.  As for Bryan Josh, he
seems well suited to the role of leading a band who cite acts like Genesis, Supertramp, Pink Floyd and
Fleetwood Mac as their influences.  Their video, which makes up this extra segment, mixes live footage
with monochrome shots of them standing in front of oak trees as moody winds stir their flowing tresses â
€˜neath overcast skies, etc. etc.. I'm slightly surprised to see that people are still doing this kind of thing.  
Given my own superannuated status, I'd rather listen to the originals, but this is decent AOR in a 70's style.

Well, this DVD is certainly not worth buying for the Hawkwind bit alone, since all of it is to be found on
the Classic Rock: Hawkwind DVD - but I enjoyed it for the opportunity to see some old school guitarists,
some of them in their dotage, doing what got me into rock music in the first place.  The back cover
laughably claims "These are the men who shaped the face of rock guitar" (er, what about Jimi Hendrix,
Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and even Pete Townshend?) but actually, they're the ones who
Classic Rock Productions has some footage of, I suspect.  Still, it's great fun for anyone who likes 70's
Left: the front cover, and yet another commission
for Mr. Rodney Matthews!

This newly-released DVD is presented by Mick Box
of Uriah Heep, and is as you would expect, a
collection of clips of great lead guitarists.  The
reason I bought it and am reviewing it is that one of
these guitarists is Dave Brock - rather remarkable
for someone whom Doug P once described as the â
€œanti-guitar hero", which I think is right.  The
main point of interest for me is to see how Dave is
presented in the company of musicians such as
Steve Howe (Yes), Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath),
Jan Akkerman (Focus), Ronnie Montrose, Robin
Trower, Andy Powell and Ted Turner (Wishbone
Ash), Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple), Mick Box
himself, and, in a nod towards younger practitioners
of the art, Bryan Josh (Mostly Autumn).

One thing almost all of these musicians have in
common is that they are underrated.  Mick is a
prime example, surely one of the heavy metal
greats, but his name is not a household word in the
way that Jimmy Page's is.  The exception here that
proves the rule is probably Ritchie Blackmore,