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Album Review : PRETTY MAIDS / MAID IN JAPAN

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When I first heard about the planned release from Danish hard rockers PRETTY MAIDS playing and videoing a concert in Japan showcasing the 30th anniversary of their classic “FUTURE WORLD” album from way back in 1987 I was more than a tiny bit excited.

Recorded in Tokyo in November 2018 the group decided to perform 2 special shows in a Country that has dedicated the last 3 decades to supporting the group. Vocalist Ronnie Atkins also adds that the band has never officially filmed any live footage from Japan so this I guess is a big thank you from the group. With no plans from the band to ever repeat the playing of “FUTURE WORLD” in its entirety then this CD / BLU RAY / VINYL is of even more significance.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J38MBUH1Wzs&w=560&h=315]

The first thing that struck me about the sound is just how perfect this recording is. Without sounding like a production geek this is so crisp and in your face with the crowd roaring away and keyboards, drums, vocals, guitars, and bass all standing out and nothing being murky or drowned out.

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Line-up:
Ronnie Atkins – vocals
Ken Hammer – guitars
Rene Shades – bass
Chris Laney – keyboard, guitar
Allan Sørensen – drums

“FW30” acts as the intro music with its dramatic classical touches and you can easily hear the crowds excitement as it slowly build and sequels into the powerhouse “FUTURE WORLD” with its upbeat fanatic drumming of Sorenson and those stabs of keyboards from the super talented Chris Laney gives it that extra spice.

With the crowd singing every note Ronnie Atkins takes the opportunity to do a call and response with the fans and were still on the first track. Such a perfect opening number setting the scene for what lies ahead.

“WE CAME TO ROCK” is a slower paced track but packs a riff and a vocal roar that could push the earth from its axis it’s a mighty slice of solid heavy rock with little touches and snippets of keyboards and a ball crushing guitar solo. The chorus is a real selling point being simple and affective and getting lodged in your head.

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“LOVE GAMES” has a more poppy rock feel to it and is a welcome attraction and showcases the full range of musical styles that PRETTY MAIDS can turn their hands to. I have to admit I really am enjoying this album and three songs in and its faultless a perfect trio to blast out your speakers.

“YELLOW RAIN” a song all about Vietnam has that familiar acoustic intro with once again the fans faithfully singing the words as is slowly builds and builds before all hell breaks loose with a balls-out scorching fist in the air sprint to the finish line.

The guitars are in your face along with the drums that just pound out that relentless sledgehammer beat. “RODEO” and the impressive “NEEDLES IN THE DARK” keep the momentum on overdrive before “EYE OF THE STORM” slows things up with its acoustic guitars and softer vocals. I just so enjoyed the way this song has so many elements within its 5 minutes duration, with some lovely synth work that add a floating touch to proceedings. Such a lovely piece of music and a welcome added bonus to this special set list.

“MOTHER OF ALL LIES” with its pre-recorded intro of ex USA president Bill Clinton and various other famous people telling lies to the world can’t help but raise a smile. This has Ronnie Atkins singing in a slightly different style showing a more commercial feel to another great track in the PRETTY MAIDS cannon. This song just seems to propel itself along with nothing fancy just a cracking toe tapping enjoyable rock song.

“KINGMAKER” with its double kick drums is a song that for me has been one of my so called modern day favourites from the group with its backing vocals and tribal feel to proceedings, a dark song with some marvellous lyrics and inspiring musicianship.

“LITTLE DROPS OF HEAVEN” is there in all its glory and just has to be performed in the live setting, not only is it essential but easily one of the best tracks the band have ever put their name to. Best way to describe the song is a semi ballad with some lovely lyrics and plenty of spaces for the Japanese choir to open their lungs and roar out the words.

Closing the album out is a rip-roaring version of “SIN – DECADE” with another raging tempo and thick keyboards blanketing the whole thing. Judging by the way this song is sounding the collective group are all just hammering away and to watch this song on BLU RAY will be a joy. Talk about save the best until last “SIN – DECADE” with its catchy words and tough sounding guitars leaves me wanting more.

When PRETTY MAIDS released “IT COMES ALIVE” in 2012 that for me was a superb live release and a welcome addition to my collection of the groups material, but I think they may have surpassed that album. “MAID IN JAPAN” has everything and more to keep the die-hard fan happy.

On a personal note both myself and the staff at Metal Planet Music want to pass on our best wishes to Ronnie after his recent health scare, and glad you kicked its ass into touch. Talking of kicking ass, this live album is a serious slab of enjoyment and if you don’t enjoy it then you don’t have a pulse.

Review by Steve Bruty for MPM

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