(4 / 5)
If you were present at the Monsters of Rock Festival in 1980 or Bristol’s Colston Hall the same year, to see US rock band Riot do their thing, then you may wish to invest in this bumper six-disc box set, which captures the band live at both gigs. Plus four other shows in the USA.
Riot’s story is one of what might have been, and to some degree, a band being (or not) in the right place at the right time. What this six CD live collection does offer is unique, and often raw, insights into the growth and development of an influential hard rock and heavy metal band, as they graduated from small clubs in 1976 through to huge festivals in 1980.
Riot formed in 1975 in New York City, when Kon-Tiki guitarist Mark Reale and drummer Peter Bitelli teamed up with bassist Phil Feit and vocalist Guy Speranza. Recording a four-track demo, they added Steve Costello on keyboards, and were subsequently picked up by New York producers Billy Arnell and Steve Loeb, who owned the independent label Fire-Sign Records.
Adding second guitarist Louie Kouvaris, while replacing Feit with Jimmy Iommi on bass, they released their debut “Rock City” in 1977. But by 1979, on the verge of splitting up, they were thrown a lifeline by highly influential New Wave Of British Heavy Metal DJ, Neal Kay, who set about promoting Riot in the UK. The band issued second LP, “Narita” in 1979, at which point Kouvaris was replaced by their roadie, Rick Ventura.
Signing to major label Capitol Records, this subsequently led to a UK tour in 1980 supporting Sammy Hagar (from where the Bristol show recording here was taken), and eventually a slot at the legendary “Monsters of Rock Festival” at Castle Donington the same year, on a bill featuring Saxon, Judas Priest, Scorpions and headlined by Rainbow.
Mastered from tapes in the collection of the estate of founder member and guitarist Mark Reale, “The Official Bootleg Box Set Volume 1” captures the band at their formative, early club stages in 1976. Where much of their repertoire included songs by the bands that had influenced them, such as their covers on Montrose’s ‘I Got the Fire’, ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’ and ‘Rock Candy’, to UFO’s ‘Shoot Shoot’ and Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’, included among Riot originals, ‘Angel’, ‘Overdrive’ and ‘Tokyo Rose’. This six-disc set concludes with their aforementioned Castle Donington slot in 1980. Riot would release their most successful album, “Fire Down Under”, the following year.
The first two discs in this set were recorded at Red Foxx, New Jersey in 1976; first set and then second set. Disc three captures the band live at The Agora Ballroom, Painesville, Ohio in 1978. The fourth CD catches up with the boys two years later, in 1980 in Atlanta, Georgia for the first seven cuts, and then two songs from Boston, recorded on 20th September 1980.
The penultimate disc moves to the UK, and delivers nine songs recorded at Bristol’s Colston Hall on 22nd April 1980. The final set of the sic discs, catches up with the band at the famed Monsters of Rock Festival, at Castle Donington, Leicestershire; 16th August 1980, where the band played “Angel”, “White Rock”, Waiting For The Taking”, “Overdrive”, “Rock City”, “Road Racin’ ” and “Warrior” and in fine form.
The record company issue a disclaimer about the audio quality expectations, because the compilation is made up of bootlegs and various sources, but any Riot fan who has not got these recordings in their collection, will forgive and in fact, ignore any dips in audio quality, I am sure. Here is the “PLEASE NOTE” message:
“Whilst every effort has been made to produce the best possible audio, limitations in the material drawn from various, non-standard, and unofficial sources means that the quality may not be up to the standard usually expected. All tracks have been included for their historical importance, and to present an alternative anthology of RIOT live on stage from 1976-1980”.
By Sally Fox
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’