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The reason for the length of this review is that I considered that there are no other reviews for this album, or even for this band. (Bow Wow not included). This is Vow Wow’s only live audio release and it really cooks! Please carry on past the next paragraph for a song-by-song, this next paragraph is not really part of the review as such, but a little bit about the band, how I discovered them and availability of their albums.
I discovered this band thanks to their inclusion in a Japanese Metal compilation called ‘Japanese Metal Vibes’ and really loved their two song contribution (‘Shot In The Dark’ and ‘Nightless City’). However, their albums are incredibly difficult to get hold of anywhere in the world, and on internet auction sites the albums occasionally pop up and sell for ridiculously high prices. I actually found this album in a second-hand CD store (Rock-oriented) in Edinburgh, Scotland! I found their following album ‘V’ in Japan, but then found the British print of that album on CD in St. Andrews, Scotland! So if you luckily find any of their albums on CD anywhere, buy it, you won’t regret it! If you buy it but don’t like it (unlikely!), send me an e-mail, I’ll buy it off you!
1. Introduction ~ Beat Of Metal Motion - A grandiose introduction precedes the first song of the night, a medium-paced rocker from their first album under the Vow Wow name (of course, the band was previously known as Bow Wow). A cool opener, and the listener is immediately struck by how soulful and powerful the singer's voice is. Beautiful, graceful keyboard work in the second verse is an immediate highlight. The chorus is powerful, with harmony parts sung by other members of the band. The song is a good start to the album. A-
2. Go Insane - An unusual-sounding guitar riff starts this song off, and it is soon supplemented with atmospheric and intricate keyboard runs courtesy of the hugely talented Rei Atsumi. The chorus is great, very rhythmical, during the chorus the singer displays his considerable range while the keyboard plays an unusual melody behind him, adding a dimension of lunacy to the song, which is of course intentional given the title. The keyboard solo is great, Atsumi sounds at times like Rick Wakeman. Kyoji Yamamoto jumps in with his guitar solo, to good effect. A-
3. Doncha Wanna Cum (Hangar 15) - Given the slightly dodgy title, one could predict this to be a no-brains rocker, and you could say that it is by this band's standards. But of course, even the silliest song by this band is not to be messed with. The singer does a good job over an orthodox blues-type riff. This song has a good guitar solo, possibly the best so far in the album. The chorus is playful but some good backing singing saves the chorus. A solid song. A-
4. Guitar Solo (Snowflakes) ~ Pains Of Love - A nice guitar solo precedes the first ballad of the album, 'Pains of Love'. A beautiful song throughout, the second verse is my favourite, when the thick keyboard textures perfectly match the singer’s emotion. When the song gets heavy the singer displays a strong vibrato. His performance on this song in particular is extremely strong. The highlight for me though is the guitar solo. Perfectly structured, it is the first example of an intricately planned guitar solo on this album (the others were strong but sounded more improvised). Yamamoto really shines on this one! A++
5. Too Late To Turn Back - After an emotional ballad, the band gets the listener rocking again with a song that is comparatively fast by this band's standards. The song is solid, but the pre-chorus and chorus in particular stand out. This is, in fact, one of my favourites on this album although it’s not one of their most famous. A+
6. Mask Of Flesh (Masquerade) - This song is started off with a hammond keyboard riff. This gets the song off to a good start, and this is one of the fastest songs on the album. Great guitar and keyboard solos bring it together in the middle, but the chorus is the best part of the song. Very interesting melodies, and Genki Hitomi sings his heart out. A good way to follow ‘Too Late…’ and keeping the tension up. Loved the chorus. A+
7. Vocal Solo (Cry Me A River) - This is interesting. A jazz classic, sung by a hard rock singer? It sounds unlikely, but it's a pretty great version. He starts off a little bit shakey in my view (to be honest, that could be because he sings a capella and I’m not especially familiar with the melody in the first place), but once he gets into it it's a really great version. A+
8. I'll Wait A Lifetime - Great piano-like keyboard intro, and good singing. This, in my opinion, is one of the lesser songs on the album, but a good one nonetheless, especially the delicate introduction to the song. Once the song gets going it's more of a mid-tempo rocker, which is not one of the best on the album but still a strong cut. B+
9. Keyboard Solo (inc. Arabesque) - A nice keyboard solo, with some nice effects-laden singing during 'Arabesque', backed up by a gentle strings sound from Rei. The solo itself is cool, it doesn't get boring. We can really tell that he is a great keyboard player, the melodies that he plays are very nice, his compositional skills are as exemplary as his playing abilities are. The solo sounds a little like one of Don Airey’s in places. It is just the right length too. It takes us nicely into the next song. B+
10. Sings Of The Times - A dramatic song, a rocker with a strong chorus and effective harmonies from the background singers. The guitar solo is nice, Kyoji shows off a common guitar solo device of his, an EVH-esque right hand hammered-on note incorporating a small slide. B+
11. Love Walks - Another ballad that turns heavy in the vein of 'I'll wait a Lifetime'. The chorus is emotional, if a little repetitive; although it's a good song despite the repetitiveness. The guitar solo is atmospheric, with Kyoji playing some Ritchie Blackmore-style Middle Eastern-sounding scales. The song stops halfway through, and then the singer lets rip with the biggest scream of the night, which takes us straight back to the riff. At this point the singer reminds of a more forceful Robert Plant. B+
12. Premonition - This is not a song but more of a intro for 'Hurricane'. Cool melodies from guitar and nice tight backing from the whole band, very majestic, and really gets the anticipation up. A-
13. Hurricane - A cut off the ‘Cyclone’ album, this is a real treat. A lightning-fast ascending guitar run over a descending keyboard- and bass-line introduces this song, and it gets straight into the heavy stuff. There is a guitar vs. keyboard battle that can only be described as exhilarating, it really gets me going, with a particularly cool octave-apart unison at the end. A+
14. Shot In The Dark - This was the first Vow Wow song I can remember hearing, and has probably remained my favourite out of all the ones I’ve heard so far. Firstly, the keyboard introduction is simple but amazing, and the percussive beats of the rest of band backing it up sound almost brutal. The drummer really keeps it together on this song, but the vocal melody is what really stands out. This is what keyboard-based rock really is about! The song is fast-paced through to the end, but has time enough for really special keyboard and guitar solo performances, including an insanely fast unison section at the end of the solo section. Expertly constructed song, and this live version is really good. A++
15. Guitar Solo (CCG) ~ You Got It Made - The guitar solo is more substantial than the previous one entitled ‘Snow Flakes’. It is cool, and cuts into the blues riff of ‘You Got It Made’. The crowd evidently know what’s coming, and with the introductory vocal ensemble part of ‘Gotta Keep The Pressure High!’, they do just that, keeping the intense pressure right on throughout this very cool song. I love Genki Hitomi’s singing on this one. Tasty guitar solo from Mr. Yamamoto, and the ever-so-flexible keyboard of Rei Atsumi backs the song up really well, using lots of different keyboard sounds to complement the speedy delivery of this very cool song. A
16. Nightless City - This is a great song to end on, as it’s a real Vow Wow classic. Energetic drums, faultless musicianship and great singing (still powerful, at the end of the long night!) mark a flawless end to a pretty much flawless live album. A rocking number, the chorus is rousing and emotional. The best keyboard solo on the album kicks you in the face over a heavy, snaking backing riff (credit to the rhythm section!). The guitar solo, introduced by a couple of dramatically-placed unison bends (I think is what they are), is also one of the best on the album. The backing singing is also great on this one, and Kyoji closes the song, and the album, out, with a second guitar solo. Very cool stuff. This song is actually in a shuffle rhythm (triplets), but it’s far from a laid back delta blues shuffle. One of the heaviest on the album (although not the fastest), it’s one of the best songs here, and a perfect closer. A++
All in all, there is not one single song on this album which I’d skip while giving it a run through. Nothing is perfect, but this album is damn close. Ahh, apart from one thing. The production, although good, could be more guitar-heavy, but I think that's more to do with the choice of tone by the guitarist, Kyoji Yamamoto. Otherwise this is a well-performed live album full of great songs, and especially good singing. Conclusion: Vow Wow really deliver live!