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Absolute beast of a live album - 93%

caspian, January 30th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2009, CD, Century Media Records (Remastered)

Man this is a good album. I'm not a diehard fan of live records or anything- often I tend to find them as basically being full of worse versions of studio recordings that were fine on their own. Tokyo Tales, however, seriously improves on most/all of the tracks, which is something I could maybe say about, I dunno, Unleashed, Live Shit and .. that's pretty much it.

I think it's the production, basically. For a band whom at this point I'd assume had a relatively limited budget it's a massive sounding record, and while BG have never exactly been lo-fi, the tunes sounds about 10x huger than the original. Everything about it is really hifi- you do have to wonder how many overdubs were done post the live shows- but it's still convincingly live sounding, and fuck it sounds massive. From the gloriously lyrical lead guitars, Hansi's super powerful vocals (definitely think I prefer him roaring to the chorus to Valhalla as opposed to Hansen), the very punchy drums, the obvious yet well-placed audience sounds and the massive rhythm tones, well, it's arguably the best live recording I've ever heard.

It's already been said, but yeah: Production's really important in a live album I reckon. As far as I can tell, what makes a good live album is that it captures the energy within songs that most studio recordings lack, while not sacrificing decent guitar tones, making sure the drums sound big, etc etc. ..And the big reason why this sounds so great is that it really delivers on both. There's enough of that live room reverb in the mix that gives you the joyously sweaty vibe of a quality live gig, and BG really beat the shit out their instruments throughout. In my opinion the Valhalla version here is the definitive one, this hugely energetic blast through a song that will ever be tremendously fun to listen to. Majesty's as huge sounding as it's ever been, Welcome To Dying just pounds away in speed metal fury, so on and so forth. It's a great setlist if you prefer the (relatively) more primal sounds of early BG as opposed to the more polished material and the unsurprisingly far weaker live album that arrived 10 odd years later. Just a feral energy throughout here- I'm kinda bummed Fast to Madness or Damned for All Time aren't here, just to increase the intensity even more. Traveler in Time and Time what is Time aren't exactly chilled out jams though- it's a real banger through and through.

Yeah, it's not perfect- Hansi sucks at speaking to a crowd, and there's a few points of crowd noise, interludes etc that stymie the otherwise breakneck momentum that's in pretty much every song. But jeez, most bands would kill to have a live set half this good, and very few bands have ever pulled off the mix of both easy, natural virtuosity and sheer energy that BG display here. Pretty much essential listening if you're a fan of the band and everyone else would be well advised to listen to this too.

*Quick addendum: I've ignored Barbara Ann, because it sucks hugely on a vast amount of different levels. I recommend burning a cd/ripping this/downloading this to your ipod and not including that track, just so you don't have to dive for the skip/mute/off button when it comes on. I don't think one throwaway track at the end of this album affects things too much though.

Legends in the making! - 84%

ConorFynes, May 26th, 2015

Really; could a more perfect setlist have been picked out for Tokyo Tales? While more is obviously involved in the making of a truly great live album, it's as good a start as any.

It's important to keep in mind that, at the time of recording their first live album over two performances at Tokyo's NHK Hall, Blind Guardian were little over four years since their debut, and just a few months following their fourth LP Somewhere Far Beyond. Even with some of their best work still a few years away, these guys had amassed an impressive host of material. Their gradual shift from speed to power metal had resulted in a string of incredible work; even the relatively weak Follow the Blind had a couple of amazing songs to offer; both of which are showcased on Tokyo Tales.

It is in spite of-- or, I should say, because of their up-and-coming youth on Tokyo Tales that makes this live album so good. You tend to see live albums in the rock and metal spheres released as a self-congratulating testament to some established band's past achievements. More often than not, live albums are approached as a safe commercial bet when a band is past their glory days. It's not as common for a band to release them in the midst of their creative peak, and rarer still for a band to release one when they're still on their way up. While there's a certain enjoyment is seeing an experienced band playing songs they have spent half their lives perfecting, there is greater satisfaction in hearing a band performing long before the comfort of success. Of course, hearing Tokyo Tales, you wouldn't get the impression they were still dismissed by some as Helloween's little brother in the West. Leave it to Japan to embrace quality and talent when they first hear it. Contrary to the usually reserved concert etiquette Japan are known for, you can hear the crowd chanting away to virtually every chorus and verse of their set.

Before going into Blind Guardian's live albums, I had been wondering how they took to approximating the lavish vocal arrangements without the help of overdubs. As it turns out, the audience does it for them! Although the roar of a possibly intoxicated audience doesn't leave quite as much room for intricacy as intensive in-studio work, there's a different sense of exhilaration to be felt from a 3800-occupancy hall chanting along to these songs along with Hansi. Whereas the crowd ambiance is usually a grating distraction on most live albums, here it truly benefits the effect of the music. Though it becomes more apparent with each listen that Hansi's stilted banter between songs is dreadfully awkward, hearing the sheer enthusiasm of the crowd is enough to make this downtime worthwhile on the album. I can't begin to imagine how inspiring it must feel for Hansi and company to hear a response along those lines every night they play!

It really deserves second mention that Tokyo Tales boasts such an impeccable setlist. Despite their significant shift of style over the course of four albums, these songs sound like they're meant to fit together in a single set. While I do enjoy the more all-encompassing experience of their Live 2LP released a decade later, I do think a lot of Blind Guardian's peak-era material became too dependent on studio trickery to be done full justice live. Nothing from the first four albums risks this shortcoming; the songs off Battalions of Fear and Follow the Blind were already blistering in their original form; even the relatively tempered Somewhere Far Beyond has the right sort of energy to work wonders live. Although I'm no fan of Follow the Blind, "Banish from Sanctuary" and especially "Valhalla" sound perfect; while I might have liked to hear "Run for the Night" or the title track off Battalions of Fear, the inclusion of the epic "Majesty" was a smart choice. Given that Tales from the Twilight World is my favourite album from the period until Nightfall in Middle-Earth, I'm delighted that so many cuts from that album found their way onto Tokyo Tales. "Lost in the Twilight Hall" was a highlight on the original record, and so it is here. Most of all however, I think their live rendition of "Lord of the Rings" steals the show. Blind Guardian's speed metal material might as well have been written with live performances already i mind, but "Lord of the Rings" was among their first attempts at a more sophisticated sort of arrangement. With the help of keyboardist Marc Zee, they give the song a rekindled brilliance, with one of the best vocal performances Hansi's ever committed to the recorded medium. It is conspicuous that a song as chant-worthy as "The Bard's Song" off Somewhere Far Beyond was excluded from the show, but considering that it's since become the most overplayed song in their repertoire, that might actually be a blessing in disguise.

While Blind Guardian made an exception in writing A Twist in the Myth with live performances in mind, the other albums they've done in the time since Tokyo Tales have been progressively more ornate and bombastic-- some might even say overproduced. Whatever the case, their studio albums have been generally incredible, and in spite of the obvious challenges of bringing a metal symphony to life each night, they've garnered one of the strongest reputations as a live act in metal. Even so; given the chance, I'd probably still have rather seen Blind Guardian play back in the day. They have incredible enthusiasm here on Tokyo Tales, and their audience matches it note for note.

Even better than the studio versions - 94%

Jophelerx, December 27th, 2011

In 1993, Blind Guardian were still pretty solidly in the speed metal camp, although they had begun to bring in some power metal influences in Tales from the Twilight World and Somewhere Far Beyond, and all of their first four other than Follow the Blind were pretty consistent speed metal albums; people had already come to recognize their catchy guitar harmonies and the powerful, unique vocals of lead Hansi Kursch. Even the drummer, Thomen Stauch, has some pretty unique drum lines in some songs; Blind Guardian stood out from the average speed metal pack in many ways.

That being said, with Tokyo Tales being comprised solely of song from the first four albums, with the slightly weaker Follow the Blind getting only two tracks, the track list is pretty solid. It opens up with "Banish from Sanctuary" (from FtB), which, although probably the weakest track here, still shows off brilliantly the talent of Hansi Kursch, who seems to sound even more powerful here than in any of the studio albums. However, the riffs in this song are pretty repetitive and boring, and although the chorus is extremely catchy, it fails to make up for the rest of the song, making me want to skip to the rest of the album. "Journey through the Dark" is just as awesome here as it is on Somewhere Far Beyond, an aggressive speed metal number with Hansi keeping up to par thorughout the entire song. In fact, most of these songs don't change much at all from their respective albums, expect for Hansi's improved vocals. The fun, slightly lower tier speed metal numbers "Traveler in Time" and "Goodbye My Friend", the blazing epics "Majesty" and "Lost in the Twilight Hall" and the solid power-metalish tune "Welcome To Dying" all sound pretty much the same.

There are a few minor changes, but they hardly detract from the experience. "Quest for Tanelorn features the chant in the second verse from the raspy Hansi, rather than the clean group chant we hear on the album - it doesn't sound as good, but Hansi makes it work without any major issues. On "Valhalla", all the vocals are sung by Hansi, rather than Kai Hansen, who was a guest singer for the song, but this actually fits better with the tight, almost thrashy riffs of the song. Finally, "Time What is Time" is missing both the intro and the outro, both of which were essentially acoustic interludes on the album. I have to say I'm sad to see them go, especially since I know they've done the outro on other live performances, but the rest of the song is perfect, and it doesn't suffer much from the omission.

My only other complaint is the absence of the dark, sprawling "Somewhere Far Beyond" from the setlist, which is easily the best song on the album of the same name, but nonetheless the selection of songs here is good, and the execution is excellent. The only song that you really want to skip is "Barbara Ann" which is pretty laughable, but thankfully not very long, as well as maybe "Banish from Sanctuary". If you're a fan of power/speed metal, or of Blind Guardian's early studio albums, be sure to get this, this is one of the best live albums of the genre.

Great collection of early songs - live! - 90%

Thiestru, June 12th, 2010

So a year after releasing their greatest album ('Somewhere Far Beyond'), Blind Guardian releases a live album featuring songs from every album they'd released until that point in time. Count me in!

First, I have to comment on the production. It's easily one of the best-sounding live albums I've ever heard. Every note is crystal clear. The balance is spot-on. It captures the energy of a live setting without the poor sound that usually accompanies it. Really, really excellent.

Now, the setlist.... No, it's not perfect, at least not for me. Only one song from 'Battalions of Fear'? That's really a shame, because I'd love to hear 'The Martyr' and the title track from that album. (I would say 'Run for the Night' too, but they already saw to that on the bonus track for 'Tales from the Twilight World'.) It's very hard to complain about the choices from 'Follow the Blind', since they played the two best songs from it. 'Damned for All Time' would have been nice, though. For the third album, 'The Last Candle' would have completely ruled. They made up for this later, at least. And finally, as another reviewer said, where the hell is 'Somewhere Far Beyond'? As far as I'm concerned, that's the best song they ever wrote and ever will write, and it was THE epic from the album they were touring for here, so it's really crappy they didn't play it.

Oh well. Now for the songs they DID play: they nail them. Flawlessly. For a band that shows so much technical ability on their studio albums, it's natural to wonder if they can pull it off life. Wonder no more. And not only that, but the spirit of the studio recordings is not only maintained but enhanced; the guys sound like they were really having a great time playing these songs.

Whether you're already a Blind Guardian fan or are just thinking about checking them out, this album is essential. Even though the 'Live' album covers many more songs, I always find myself coming back to this one. (Although that's partly because my 'Live' CDs are scratched all to hell.) 'Tokyo Tales' shows a band just reaching their peak; and because it's from relatively early in their career, you can hear them doing songs that tend to get neglected these days. Fantastic stuff.

Japan jumps on the bandwagon early - 75%

autothrall, January 8th, 2010

Like most musical artists/trends of quality, Japan had the good sense to pick up on Blind Guardian quite early in their career, importing them for live shows as early as 1992. Mind ye, this is back when almost no one knew who they were, and they had yet to become synonymous with the terms 'power metal' or 'Tolkien metal'. Tokyo Tales is a recording culled from two shows the previous December, at the Koseinkin and NHK Halls in Tokyo. Though it was still the early days, the band had already released four albums, so there was quite a wealth of material to choose from for the set, and they've put their best foot forward in some of the selections, with a few questionable entries.

The sound is crisp and powerful, reflective of the band's early status as an emerging speed/ power metal band with Hansi's fantastic, melodic vocal delivery. He's got all the bite of his better days, and here was also playing the bass guitar. The rest of the 'classic' lineup is present: Olbrich and Siepen on guitars, Stauch on drums, and Marc Zee guesting on the keyboards, with most of the band contributing the backing vocals as usual. Everything sounds level here, and I'll go as far as saying that Blind Guardian are one of the few bands I prefer live than in the studio (this will be a more pertinent fact in their later years. You can hear the hiss and roar of the crowd just right, but being a Japanese concert, it's not the overbearing, drunken response you get in a lot of other countries (which often freaks out some bands).

Listening to Hansi between songs can be awkward, especially his monologue before "Journey Through the Dark", but at least the track itself sounds blistering and exciting, with the same intensity it emits in the studio version. "Banish from Sanctuary", "Valhalla", "Traveler in Time", "Welcome to Dying" and "Time What is Time" are also favorites on this recording, each sounding as if it were truly written for the stage. The band also performs "The Quest for Tanelorn", "Goodbye My Friend", "Majesty", and a rousing version of "Lost in the Twilight Hall" to close out the album. But wait, Blind Guardian have also deemed to include a live edition to their cover of Barbara Ann...which is as expendable here as it was as a studio idea. It's not that the band cannot handle the song, as this is complete with blazing piano solos, tight backing vocals, etc. It's just...lame?

Now, I'm not a man who usually cares for or purchases live albums; those few that I own include the likes of Live After Death and Unleashed in the East. But Blind Guardian is such a good live band that collectors and fans who 'couldn't be there' would probably do well by purchasing this output, especially this and the 2003 Live album. Tokyo Tales sounds pretty good, and I often listen to some of these versions of the songs in place of the studio counterparts (especially for material off the first two albums), except of course the dorky cover which could have been omitted on this release in favor of another great original.

Highlights: Banish from Sanctuary, Journey Through the Dark, Valhalla


Excellent live performance! - 80%

Nhorf, October 7th, 2008

Tokyo Tales is an excellent live recording, showing Blind Guardian at their peak. When this piece was recorded they had just released Somewhere Far Beyond and so the setlist is filled with lots of blazing speed metal tunes (if you're a fan of their latest albums, for example Nightfall, I'm afraid this album isn't for you, friend!). Every record they've released (circa 1993) is present and I'm more than glad that they decided to throw in some of their most obscure songs, like "Time What is Time" and "Valhalla"!

As for the performances of the musicians, the songs are all performed tightly and flawlessly and are generally even faster than the studio versions. Hansi Kurch delivers a marvellous vocal performance and the guitar work is also excellent, the solos are all played accurately and so are the riffs. “Banish from Sanctuary”, the opener of Follow the Blind starts things off, with its thrashy riffs and raw drumming. A clear highlight. “Traveler in Time” is also worth mentioning, benefiting from the crowd interaction (that intro sounds killer live, indeed) and so are “Valhalla” and “Majesty”, two of the best tracks out of their first two albums (thanks for advising me about the mistake, mjaeltbrand!). I miss Kai Hansen's screams on the former, but the song sounds great nevertheless. Finally, “Time What is Time” is the last highlight, I'd just love to hear this underrated gem live, really. The only real problem I have with the setlist is the absence of "Bard's Song - in the Forest", but well, that's a minor issue, all in all.

Closing the concert is the Beach Boys cover, “Barbara Ann”, an excellent choice, in my opinion, it's just hilarious to hear those guys playing a song like that. Anyways, an excellent live album, highly recommended to every fan of the speed metal-era of this excellent german act.

Best Moments of the CD:
-the intro of “Traveler in Time”.

Excellent live Blind Guardian - 92%

OSheaman, August 19th, 2003

This is perhaps the best chance you'll have of hearing all of Blind Guardian's old Speed Metal music live in glorious Tokyo (home to at least one live CD from almost every metal band in existence!). If you have always preferred early Blind Guardian, this is the album for you.

It's worth noting that this is some of the best early 90's production of a live album that I have ever heard, which indicates that these bad boys had a few bucks to throw around even before they became Power Metal. All of the sounds are crystal clear, especially Hansi Kürsch's voice, which, as we all know, is the most important part of Blind Guardian. Blind Guardian's early classics are pretty much all on here--Banish from Sanctuary and Welcome to Dying are probably the two best ones on here. The crowd is great and is very excited--they're always enthusiastic and they erupt with cheers at all the right points. Perhaps best of all is the fact that Hansi doesn't speak to the crowd in German like he does in other live albums, so you understand what he's saying at all times (assuming, of course, you speak English!). This album is very fun to listen to and is definitely worth the money to get.

And the Barbara Ann cover is incredible. It's just like the original Beach Boys version . . . it's classic music. And pretty damn funny, too.