Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

DVD: Stryper ~ Greatest Hits: Live In Puerto Rico

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: hard rock, Christian rock, heavy metal, glam
Label: MVD Visual
Year: 2006
Home: n/a

Concert location: Puerto Rico
Year Recorded: 2004
Length: 72 minutes
Bonus Features: bonus archival footage from 1989 of: "Keep The Fire Burning", "Always There For You", "Rockin' The World" & drum/bass/guitar solos

Members: Michael Sweet ~ vocals/rhythm guitar
Oz Fox ~ lead guitar/b. vocals
Tim Gaines ~ bass/b. vocals
Robert Swett ~ drums
Brent Jeffers ~ keyboards/b. vocals (not in bonus footage)


Most people know Stryper as the 80's glam metal Christian rock band formed in 1983 that dressed in yellow/black, didn't cuss or throw out the devil horns & handed out Bibles & took prayer breaks during their shows. David Bowie took a prayer break during A Concert For Life: A Tribute To Freddie Mercury, wore bisexuality on his sleeve with his androgynous costumes & lived in a swirl of drug addiction ... & was an iconic superstar overnight ... while Styper has lived on the fringes of rock only briefly allowed into the mainstream, primarily because of their visual bumblebee appearance, but generally held at arms length because of their 'odd' behaviors. How interesting from a sociological perspective how 'bad' & 'unchristian' behavior make one famous while 'good' behaviors are an eighth plague. Though, existing primarily in the world of Christian rock means Stryper has never been hounded by national music trends that have killed so many bands as Christian bands tend to not have the same expectations of trend following held against them. So, perhaps, its lucky that they don't get mainstream acceptance because it's allowed a band to continue long beyond when many of their peers hit their prime, broke up, reunited & now struggle with quasi-nostalgia tours with replacement members & low album sales. The 80's Stryper was a glam metal band seemingly not that much different from most other 80's hair rock bands & even less different if one ignored the non-death lyrics & the lack of anything malicious or over-the-top metal in their live shows. Today they've largely done away with a lot of the over-the-top color-coding & mass amounts of hairspray, let alone all the stage prancing & endless guitar soloing ... the result being a much stronger & more entertaining band allowing their individual talents to shine much stronger & not requiring the assistance of arena flash. The Live In Puerto Rico DVD would be the last tour until 2009 with bassist Tim Gaines whose thick & pounding Geezer-esque basslines are a definite reason to check out the later day Stryper. He was always good but it often got lost under the flash in the earlier days. The rhythmic intensity he adds is irreplaceable & addictive to watch. Bonus tracks include a live bass solo from 1989 but, like the other bonus track solos by drummer Robert Sweet & guitarist Oz Fox, the clips are too short & is unnecessary when you have a chance to watch him for the entire show. Laying down a great rhythm is lost in a solo. Michael Sweet isn't the most distinctive singer around, as some songs show the thinness of his voice, but he's got his fans as he was asked to join as a co-lead vocalist in Boston. A couple things of trivial note include the fact that the drummer plays with his kit facing the side so the audience can see him better, let alone wearing a hat that completely falls over his head a few times. He's also wearing a yellow/black jacket ... which is actually a fan jacket from Japan's baseball team the Hanshin Tigers of Osaka where I lived for some years as the logo on the back reveals. Obviously he threw out his old 80's costumes. Sadly, the keyboardist gets no solo closeup time until two shots in the sixth song "Caught In The Middle". A common plague to rock keyboardists whose sounds and face are ignored but yet contributions deserving more. Watching this concert I'm reminded of so many hair metal bands that once they did away with the onstage prancing, big hair & gimmicks on some level they seemed to become more interesting musicians, let alone a lot heavier in their musical styles. It's like the energy got refocused. Though, I'm the first to say that I love the dress-up & it was what got me interested in rock as a boy. Also, when you can't hide behind a wild costume or eye-make it changes how one acts on stage. One has to, seemingly, actually perform. The result may not be as exciting at times & it does tend to show musical weaknesses but a great band is a great band no matter what they do onstage. In 2004 and still today Stryper are more of a heavy metal band than 80's hair/glam rockers. It's almost ashame they've become known as a Christian band as that stigma will alienate many listeners. Stryper's 2009 album Murder By Pride is a grunge/heavy metal inspired highlight of their career that isn't that much stereotypical Christian lyrically or at least no more noticeable than when Metallica sings religious songs. Bonus footage includes clips from a 1989 show from the In God We Trust Tour with the band in a prime year for hair metal & their own career, though they've changed so much between 1989 and 2004 it's hard to see the same band in the two parts but it is. Sadly, they sound too much like their peers of the time while their yellow/black attire & black pants end up now being a bit reminiscent of Spinal Tap. Glam rock has dated itself well. The quality is a bit poor & poor lighting doesn't help. Essentially, the bonus clips come down to being, for non-fans, an interesting comparison of how a band changes over the years ... from pretty boys to hard rockin' adults. And, it shows how much they've improved with age.

Track listing: Sing Along Song
Makes Me Want To Sing
Calling On You
Free
More Than A Man
Caught In The Middle
You Won't Be Lonely
Reach Out
Loud And Clear
The Way
Soldiers Under Command
To Hell With The Devil
Honesty
Winter Wonderland

1989 bonus footage: Robert Sweet drum solo
Keep The Fire Burning
Always There For You
Rockin' The World
Tim Gains bass solo
Oz Fox guitar solo



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