THIS WEEK I’M LISTENING TO...AXEL RUDI PELL The Ballads VI (SPV)
I can’t think of any other artist who’s released such a sequence of albums as this, but legendary guitarist Axel Rudi Pell’s ‘The Ballads...’ series is extremely popular with his fanbase, as indicated by the very fact that this is the sixth such release since the first ‘Ballads’ long-player appeared in 1993. The concept is fiendishly simple: work up a handful of soulful new recordings (in this case, five), some of which are covers, cull a number of elegiac outings from previous releases, and mix the lot together to create a cocktail of laid-back compositions which is part golden oldies, part new tunes, and all laid-back and emotionally supercharged.
photo: Kai Hoffmann
The album kicks off with a new short instrumental ‘Revelations’ which in turn gives way to ‘Diamonds And Rust’ played pretty much the way the Ripper-fronted Judas Priest delivered it, although with a lower-key ending powered by a soulful solo. A new ARP composition ‘Morning Star’ – originally earmarked for the band’s next album but brought forward for this release – a remake of the Kansas’ song ‘Dust In The Wind’ and a further instrumental, the wonderful ‘Hidden Secrets’, make up the five newly-recorded cuts. The rest of the running order has been drawn from the prolific guitarist’s recent releases. ‘Gone With The Wind’, ‘Fly With Me’ and ‘Quarantine 1’ all originally appeared on last year’s ‘Lost XXIII’, while ‘As Blind As A Fool Can Be’ and ‘Beyond The Light’ are drawn from 2020’s ‘Sign Of The Times’ and 2018’s ‘Knights Call’ respectively. Three other covers – ‘She’s A Lady’ by Paul Anka, ‘I Put A Spell On You’ (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) and ‘Room With A View’ (Tony Carey) – are all pulled from the 2021 covers album ‘Diamonds Unlocked II’.
Pell himself is of course one of the great unsung guitar heroes of the modern age, and his band – vocalist Johnny Gioeli, keyboard player Ferdy Doernberg, bassist Volker Krawczak and drummer Bobby Rondinelli – are themselves all virtuosos in their own right, so the performances are all from the top drawer. And, apparently, nine of the ten most streamed ARP tunes on Spotify are ballads, and, as any entertainer knows, you have to give the public what they want.
© John Tucker April 2023