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Sun Red Sun collection - 75%

worgelm, February 18th, 2007

Sun Red Sun was formed from the ashes of Belladonna, Joey Belladonna's solo band. Guitarist Al Romano recorded seven tracks (four of which he wrote with Belladonna) with drummer Bobby Rondinelli for a new band project . During the recording sessions it was suggested they get together with Ray Gillen to handle vocals, and demo tapes were sent to Gillen, who agreed to record with Romano. Bassist Mike Starr, fresh from his sting with Alice In Chains, filled out the lineup. But drummer Rondinelli got an offer and subsequently left to tour with Sabbath. Gillen flew down anyways and recorded with Romano, but after completing several of the tracks, he passed away just as the band was getting ready to start touring.

While the primary attraction for many folks to this cult/bootleg band is probably to obtain the last recordings of the late great Ray Gillen, people who track this collection down should know that there are only four original tunes with Gillen. Those four songs make up the first half of disc one, while vocalist John West (of Royal Hunt) and guitarist Al Romano split vocal duties evenly on the remaining four tracks. This disc was originally released as "Sun Red Sun" in 1997. The sound is straight-ahead meat-and-potatoes 80s American metal, containing some ever-so-slight sleaze-rock overtones, but also mixing elements of power metal and thrash. Its not a bad record at all for a debut EP, in fact the Gillen tracks definitely redeem the first disc and show a different, valuable perspective on the singer, who worked with Deep Purple, Badlands and Black Sabbath in his day. The last Gillen track "I Know A Place" is the most vocally interesting, alternating straight-ahead verses with a fantasy-metal chorus. Of the other four tracks, "Responsible," with its insistent tribal drumming, is the best. This track also features a guest solo from Savatage guitarist Chris Cafferty. The remaining two tracks are probably my least favorite, mostly due to guitarist Al Romano's competent, but faceless, vocal work. though "Deadly Nightshade" does alternate between an interesting middle-eastern theme and more basic metal riffing, like something the aforementioned Savatage might have recorded around _Hall of the Mountain King_,

Disc Two was originally released as "Ray Gillen 5th Anniversary Memorial Tribute" in 1998, repeats the first four tracks of Disc One, and includes some outtakes from the original Gillen sessions, including two additional takes of "Outrageous", and additional versions of "Hardlife", "Lock Me Up" and "I Know A Place." There's also a different mix of "Lock Me Up." A fine, brief instrumental, "The Final Curtain" closes the set . It wouldn't have sounded out of place on the first disc at all. While this additional material will no doubt appeal to more hardcore Gillen collectors as well as people interested in the creation of the original Sun Red Sun tracks. Other than the low-vocal take on "Outrageous" the vocals aren't drastically different between the final tracks and the outtakes. In fact the most interesting aspect of this disc are the heartfelt, but strange and somewhat rambling liner notes from guitarist Al Romano describing Gillen's final days - apparently, sensing Gillen was ill (he kept his illness very low-key until the end) he had the vocalist taking a strange daily regimen of shark cartiledge, wheatgrass juice and no less than 35 vitamins!

Disc Three was originally released as "Sun Red Sun: The Lost Tracks." After Gillen's death, at the behest of his manager at the time, guitarist Al Romano was persuaded to replace Gillen's vocal tracks with John West (who had coincidentally played with Badlands after Gillen's departure). So annoyingly enough Disc Three - again - repeats the first four tracks from disc one and two, this time with West on vocals, with a few additional SRS studio outtakes from the latter incarnation of the band, as well as two live cuts with bassist John Monte (ex- Mindfunk). The studio outtakes are mildly diverting, but mostly throwaway studio moments, such as "The Hawaiians," a six-minute conversation with an extremely friendly vaccum-clean saleslady.

My percentage rating mostly represents my opinion of the album/EP that is disc one. While the grouping of the three discs in one package is convenient, and its nice to have all of the original CD covers, discs two and three are mostly superfluous, and the fact remains all of the worthwhile material could have been fit on one disc with a little more time spent on packaging. Still its cheap, and authorized by Romano, (who appears with Starr on the cover) so its not a bad way to acquire all the SRS recordings.