Pell, Axel Rudi - The Wizards Chosen Few

Year of Release: 2000
Label: SPV/Steamhammer
Catalog Number: SPV 089-72072
Format: CD
Total Time: 150:29:00

The Wizards Chosen Few is a 2-disc compilation of Axel Rudi Pell tracks. Pell's been around awhile, so he's not a stranger to fans of heavy guitar rock a la Deep Purple, but I have to admit to a certain lack of familiarity on my part with Pell. But, I've liked Deep Purple, mainly their earlier stuff, so I've also a certain affinity to this stuff, and like quite a bit of it. Kinda thought this kind of rock went away when Deep Purple got less bluesy and more metallic (e.g. Perfect Strangers; this was my first DP album). One non-musical observation, the ARP logo looks, oddly enough, like a more recent ELP logo (cf. Live At The Royal Albert Hall).

Pell started out writing children's and chart music, but by 1971 Deep Purple changed that, leading him to form Steeler in 1981, which also included Volker Krawczak (bass). In 1989 Pell left Steeler to go "solo," issuing Wild Obsession as his debut.

On The Wizards..., Pell's 12th release (when you include one live disc and two ballads compilations), there are also two brand new tracks, "Broken Dreams" and "Ghosthunter," which were recorded this past August; a medley track taken from the soundboard of the 1998 tour ("Burn/Purple Haze/Call Her Princess"); a bonus track; plus a remixed version of "Hear You Calling Me," which originally appeared on the debut album Wild Obsession. Vocalist Charles Huhn, the first of four to work with Pell, sounds quite a bit like Brian Johnson of AC/DC and by extension, Bon Scott, though the music is more Judas Priest.

The two new tracks fit in well with the rest of the material, especially "Broken Dreams" which opens the album. The line up for those two is: Pell on guitars, Johnny Gioeli on vocals, Ferdy Doernberg on keyboards, Volker Krawczak on bass, and Mike Terrana on drums.

Each of Pell's 11 albums are represented here including last year's The Masquerade Ball and the 1995 live Made In Germany. Pell has gone through a number of personnel in the past 11 years as well. Jeff Scott Soto is the most represented vocalist, though current vocalist Gioeli has only been with Pell since 1998's Oceans Of Time so that he appears on 8 of the 19 total tracks means he's still well represented. Soto appears on 7 tracks, Rob Rock on 2 and Huhn on 1. "Still I'm Sad" appeared on the Holy Dio Tribute, which I think was fairly recent, so may also feature Gioeli or Soto. Of disc one, the only track that leaves me cold is the "Call Her Princess" section of the above mentioned medley...well, aside from the instrumental parts, where the band jams. Mainly the music is mid-tempo bluesy hard rock, but Pell shreds on "Total Eclipse (Opus #2 Allegro E Andante)" where he duets with Helloween's guitarist Roland Grapow, previously only available on the Japanese version of Magic. There is a bit of stage chatter, trying to get the audience pumped for the medley track that precedes this, but except for an electrifying bit of "Purple Haze" and the jam, fails to muster the kind of heat that they are trying to generate. "Total Eclipse" generates that kind of fire and would be lethal live.

Like disc one, disc two also focuses mainly on the latter half of the catalogue. Only "Eternal Prisoner" predates 1995 on disc one, and only the three latter tracks ("Nasty Reputation," "Land Of The Giants," and "Hear You Calling Me") represent the first part of Pell "solo" career. There is a live version of "Snake Eyes" here, which while a version of a track from his first album, dates from 1995. The live version of "Mistreated" (a Deep Purple track from 1974's Burn) is nearly fifteen minutes long, and it along with "The Clown Is Dead" (12:10), "Casbah" (10:03) and "Magic" (9:22) make up the bulk of the disk. It's funny, the guitar part in "Mistreated" kept making me think of "When The Levee Breaks," until we reach the solo.

Those familiar with Pell may well wonder whether buying this compilation is worth it for the few tracks that aren't on a Pell album (or, in the case of "Total Eclipse," not on all versions of the album)...well, I'll have to leave it to you to decide. I think, as I said, the new material fits in with the rest and doesn't seem out of place, which also may be like saying they're nothing new. I did find it odd, and perhaps no so coincidental, that the chorus of "Carousel" has this as its refrain: "...carousel of broken dreams..." and that the track immediately follows the new "Broken Dreams." The first few listens I didn't realize that they were two different tracks. It wasn't until I got down to the focused listen that I noticed they weren't.

Those who aren't familiar with Pell but have enjoyed Purple and other blues-rock bands of this ilk will find this a good introduction to Pell, I think, though weighed heavily on more recent material. The ballads are somewhat cliched, but then ballads tend to be anyway. I prefer the latter stuff, as it happens, meaning most of disc one (except as noted above) and most of disc two (through track 6). The material with Rock on vocals ("Nasty Reputation," and "Land Of The Giants") ... well, he's got a good voice, I just have never really been much for the shrill screamers. Of the two, I like that latter better, as Rock's a bit more restrained.

Disc One: Broken Dreams (6:20) / Carousel (8:00) / The Masquerade Ball (10:40) / Ghosthunter (6:01) / Oceans Of Time (7:45) / Still I'm Sad (4:36) / Come Back To Me (6:50) / Burn-Purple Haze-Call Her Princess (Soundboard Live '98) (13:08) / Total Eclipse (Opus #2 Allegro E Andante) (3:39) / Eternal Prisoner (7:31)

Disc Two: Fool Fool (5:19) / Casbah (10:03) / Snake Eyes (Live '95) (6:21) / Mistreated (Live '95) (14:49) / Magic (9:22) / The Clown Is Dead (12:10) / Nasty Reputation (8:35) / Land Of The Giants (8:35) / Hear You Calling Me (4:57)

Current Lineup (as of Feb 2001):

Axel Rudi Pell - guitars
Volker Krawczak - bass
Johnny Gioeli - vocals
Ferdy Doernberg - keyboards
Mike Terrana - drums

Wild Obsession (1989)
Nasty Reputation (1991)
Eternal Prisoner (1992)
The Ballads (1993)
Between The Walls (1994)
Made In Germany (1995)
Black Moon Pyramid (1996)
Magic (1997)
Oceans Of Time (1998)
The Ballads II (1999)
Masquerade Ball (2000)
The Wizards Chosen Few (2000)
Shadow Zone (2002)
Knights Live (2002)
Kings And Queens (2002)
The Ballads III (2004)

Genre: Melodic Metal

Origin DE

Added: February 11th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 759
Language: english


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