German metal legend
AXEL RUDI PELL
will release album
‘The Ballads VI’
Diamonds And Rust
Dust In The Wind
Gone With The Wind
She’s A Lady
Room With A View
Fly With Me
As Blind As A Fool Can Be
I Put A Spell On You
Beyond The Light
pic by Kai Hoffmann
Ballads play a very special role in the history of rock music.
They document the emotional side of the genre and show that behind (almost) every rocker
s hard chest beats a soft heart. Secondly: Those quieter songs are being played by radio stations without rock-affinity – and are loved by listeners for their emotional depth. And thirdly: In an increasingly hectic world, ballads offer brief moments of pause, of reflection on the essential things in life. So it‘s no wonder that the ballad compilations of the Axel Rudi Pell Band are an absolute success.
Over 250,000 copies have been sold of ‘The Ballads I’ (1993) to ‘The Ballads V’ (2017) alone.
And nine (!) of the current Top-10 most streamed Pell songs on Spotify are ballads!
More than enough reason therefore, why fans of the Bochum guitarist and songwriter regularly push for a continuation of this release series.
On April 21, 2023 ‘The Ballads VI’ will be released on CD, double vinyl LP and as digital download via Steamhammer/SPV.
And – as expected – the release will come with a few small surprises.
Not only is ‘The Ballads VI’ the latest edition of the popular ARP ‘The Ballads’ series, but also the direct successor of the studio album ‘Lost XXIII’, which managed to rank 2nd in German sales charts in April 2022.
‘The Ballads VI’ comes with a total of 13 ballads “made by ARP”.
Five of them are brand new recordings, including two remarkable cover songs:
‘Diamonds And Rust’, a classic by American folk icon Joan Baez, which gains a new topicality with Axel Rudi Pell.
“As is well known, there is already a Judas Priest version of ‘Diamonds And Rust’, which of course has a much harsher sound, and a version by Blackmore
s Night with a medieval flair. My goal was kind of a middle ground between the two folky versions and the metal Priest adaptation. In my opinion, our version has that typical ARP flair.”
The same goes for ‘Dust In The Wind’, the biggest hit of American rock band Kansas. Axel Rudi Pell makes the song shine with a particularly intimate air: “We deliberately left out the drums to make the song softer and calmer. Our arrangement only features guitar, keyboards and vocals.” ARPs three original new ballads consist of two instrumental numbers, ‘Revelations’ and ‘Hidden Secrets’, and the vocal track ‘Morning Star’, which was originally meant as a candidate for the studio album announced for 2024.
“Our record company thinks it
s such a great song that we decided to release it early for ‘The Ballads VI’. Im especially proud of the guitar solo in the outro. It
s a legit ‘one-take’ that was taken unchanged from the demo.”
The other songs on ‘The Ballads VI’ are the quiet moments of the four previous studio albums: ‘Beyond The Light’ comes from ‘Knights Call’ (2018), the song ‘As Blind As A Fool Can Be’ from ‘Sign Of The Times’ (2020). The tracks ‘Shes A Lady’, ‘I Put A Spell On You’
and the Tony Carey cover ‘Room With A View’ previously refined ‘Diamonds Unlocked II’ (2021), while ‘Gone With The Wind’, ‘Fly With Me’ and the Lockdown single ‘Quarantine 1’ were featured on ARP’s current opus ‘Lost XXIII’ (2022).
In view of the new ballads compilation, Axel Rudi Pell sums up his growth as a songwriter and musician:
“Looking back, there is not a single ballad during the almost 35 years of my solo career that I need to be ashamed of, quite the contrary: some of them are still among my favourite songs today. At the same time, however, I have evolved as a composer. All that experience means you automatically become more mature and accomplished, a fact that ‘The Ballads VI’ undoubtedly shows. The sound of my new albums, too, is much better than at the start of my solo career in the late eighties. And of course ‘The Ballads VI’ benefits from this as well!”
AXEL RUDI PELL
will release on
the 15th of april 2022
his new album ‘Lost XXIII’
Lost XXIII Prequel (Intro)
Down On The Streets
Gone With The Wind
Follow The Beast
Fly With Me
The Rise Of Ankhoor
Johnny Gioeli – Vocals
Axel Rudi Pell – Guitars
Volker Krawczak – Bass
Ferdy Doernberg – Keyboards
Bobby Rondinelli – Drums
Picture: (c) Steamhammer / SPV
Only genuine thoroughbred musicians with substantial creative talent succeed in staying at the top of their game as long as Axel Rudi Pell has.
For more than thirty years, the guitarist and songwriter from Bochum, Germany, has released new albums at regular intervals with his ARP band.
Reactions from fans and media alike have been consistently positive while impressive record sales, high chart positions and ever-increasing audience numbers at his concerts and tours say it all.
From 15 April 2022, Pell’s latest studio offering ‘LOST XXIII’ – his 21st to date – will be available as a digipak, CD, double vinyl album, strictly limited box set and for digital download, as usual on Steamhammer/SPV.
To make the wait more bearable for his fans, the first lead single ‘Survive’ (including video clip) will be released on 18 February 2022.
‘LOST XXIII’ is a very special album in Pell’s longstanding career, extremely varied, consisting of ten deeply melodic hard rock songs (plus intro) in typical ARP style, as well as a number of fast-paced highlights and surprising compositions.
Among the focal points is the title track with its chorus featuring Arabic scalesas Pell explains
“a longer, epic track that’s pretty characteristic of me”.
At the same time, ‘LOST XXIII’ sees Pell welcome a number of familiar faces, underlining his consistency both on a musical and on a personal level:
As on his previous four studio recordings ‘INTO THE STORM’ (2014), ‘GAME OF SINS’ (2016), ‘KNIGHTS CALL’ (2018) and the highly acclaimed ‘SIGN OF THE TIMES’ (2021), which made no. 5 of the German charts, plus the covers album ‘DIAMONDS UNLOCKED II’ (2021) and two live releases, the ARP band mark 2022 continues to consist of singer Johnny Gioeli, bassist Volker Krawczak, keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg and drummer Bobby Rondinelli (ex-Rainbow), a perfectly oiled hard rock machine that never fails to deliver Pell’s compositions outstandingly and at the same time enhance them with each musician’s own trademarks.
Even more enduring than his current line-up is Pell’s 33(!)-year collaboration with Steamhammer/SPV (in the 33rd year of his solo career!).
A real exception in a profession characterised by discontinuity and short-lived trends.
Not least ARP’s countless fans benefit from this reliability:
The ten songs (plus intro) on XXIII present the band in top form, with compositions that are among Pell’s strongest to date, be it a typical guitar riff number such as ‘No Compromise’, ‘Gone With The Wind’ which is based on a true story about a dog that waited in vain for a year on a train platform for its deceased master, the fast-paced ‘Follow The Beast’ with its NWOBHM references, or the ballad ‘Fly With Me’, which kicks off with an atmospheric piano part and goes on to create a haunting goosebumps atmosphere.
Not forgetting the classy instrumental ‘The Rise Of Ankhoor’ (Pell: “The title is a play on words based on the terms ‘anchor’ and ‘encore’”) and the stylistically as well as lyrically exceptional ‘Down On The Streets’ (scheduled for release as the second lead single on 25 March 2022) and ‘Freight Train’.
“Thin Lizzy and AC/DC could have had a finger in this particular pie,” Pell explains, tongue-in-cheek, adding: “Both songs are about life on the streets, about people who are homeless for various reasons and – in the case of ‘Freight Train’ – hop on trains in the manner of American hobos to travel across the country.”
Last but not least:
‘LOST XXIII’ ends with the instrumental bonus track ‘Quarantined 1’, which Pell had already recorded on his own at home in spring 2020 and presented to his fans on YouTube as a kind of “COVID support package”.
Bobby Rondinelli has now contributed proper drums for the album version, turning the song into a “real” ARP track.
‘LOST XIII’ was produced by Axel Rudi Pell, mixed by Tommy Geiger, mastered by Ulf Horbelt, and the mysterious cover artwork was once again designed by Thomas Ewerhard (Gotthard, Edguy, Sons Of Apollo, among others).
All that remains is to solve the little mystery of the album title.
“XXIII is the Roman numeral for 23 and stands for W, the 23rd letter of the alphabet. Which in this case is an abbreviation of ‘world’, so you could also call the album ‘Lost World’,
a reference to the currently pretty alarming state of our planet.”
He and his exceptional band will answer any remaining questions live on tour in spring and autumn of this year.
Axel Rudi Pell
new album ‘Diamonds unlocked II’
out on 30th july 2021
German hard rock guitar wizard AXEL RUDI PELL has finished recording and mixing his latest album “Diamonds Unlocked II”, set for release on July 30th 2021 on Steamhammer/SPV.
The successor to last year’s top 5 album “Sign Of The Times” is the follow-up to his 2007 cover recording “Diamonds Unlocked”.
Pell’s carefully considered decision not to release brand-new material for the first time in almost 15 years is mainly based on the ongoing pandemic and current restrictions on live concerts.
The 61-year-old explains that
“it makes no sense at all to put out new songs that we will not be able to perform live.”
But fans desperately waiting for a new studio album will have to acknowledge that this kind of solution is a pretty good one indeed!
PELL had been flirting with the concept of “Diamonds Unlocked II” for two or three years, and he’s also aware of the vast number of cover versions currently floating on the Internet, which he sees as a challenge.
Of course it depends on the selection and variety of the material, but first and foremost it is the transformation of each individual track that matters.
The result is so outstanding that PELL is justly proud of his latest offering.
“Without patting myself on the back too loudly – this is an album worth listening to from start to finish.”
Instead of delivering every single note so that it sounds exactly like the original, a cover album should, above all, be fun.
And entertain and inspire the listener, an audio algorithm which makes you get out the original versions or the whole back catalogue of the artists presented.
In this respect, “Diamonds Unlocked II” is an offer that no self-respecting hard rock fan can refuse.
It all starts with the only original composition on the recording, a typical ARP intro entitled “Der Schwarze Abt”.
“I like intros which prepare you for the atmosphere of the songs that follow.”
Setting the tone is a blistering version of Sammy Hagar’s “There’s Only One Way To Rock” (1982), “a perfect song” where PELL uses Van Halen’s live version during the solo, playing both Eddie Van Halen and Sammy Hagar’s solos but in his own style.
His admiration of another guitar hero, namely Ritchie Blackmore, is no secret, so what we get is one of the most underrated tunes from the Ronnie James Dio-fronted Rainbow line-up:
“Lady Of The Lake” from the “Long Live Rock’n’Roll” album (1978).
“Rainbow never played that song live, for whatever reason. We chose the demo version from the deluxe edition and added some typical ARP bits.”
Then ARP goes on to surprise his fans with a great version of Paul Anka’s “She’s A Lady” (best known in Tom Jones’s version from in the 1970s).
The two Americans in the band, singer Johnny Gioeli and drummer Bobby Rondinelli, have become huge fans of the ballad, which has evolved into a straightforward rock number, although they were admittedly a little sceptical in the beginning.
And then back to the 1970s again with Geordie’s semi-hit “Black Cat Woman” (1973), brilliantly redone with plenty of new verve and combined with Brian Johnson‘s rerecording from 1989.
Tony Carey, one of Rainbow’s former keyboardists (and a friend of Axel’s), had a huge hit in Germany in 1988 with his classic soundtrack ballad “Room With A View”, which PELL has now adopted as if it was one of his own compositions.
Same thing with Chris Norman’s hit “Sarah (You Take My Breath Away)”, first out in 1987:
PELL has charted new territories, putting in fewer keyboards and more ARP drive.
One of the biggest surprises is without a doubt “Rock’N’Roll Queen” by British indie rock band The Subways (2005), a number you wouldn’t expect to find on an ARP record.
“I’ve always liked the song and happened to hear it on TV a few weeks back. We reduced the punk attitude a bit and turned it into a heavy rock anthem.”
There are plenty of versions of the Rolling Stones classic “Paint It Black”, however none of them refers to Deep Purple’s 1993 live version, as performed during Blackmore’s final tour.
“I needed to do this track in ARP style, so the Purple version fits perfectly.”
“I Put A Spell On You” (Screamin‘ Jay Hawkins, 1956) is the oldest number on the album, CCR’s version being the best-known adaptation.
“It’s influenced me big-time. I added a solo which was inspired by late Free guitarist Paul Kossoff. It’s my favourite solo on this record.”
One more highlight comes at the end:
a stomping, thundering heavy rock adaption of the ABBA classic “Eagle”, which sees ARP in top form and leaves fans hankering for the next studio album featuring original material, scheduled for a release in spring 2022.
We can’t wait!
01) Der Schwarze Abt (Intro)
“I´m always using short Intros to my albums. It gets you in the right mood to listen to the complete work. This one has nothing to do with the German movie of the same name, it´s a song I wrote myself.”
02) There´s Only One Way To Rock
“One of my favored Sammy Hagar tunes, wild and energetic! I also like the Van Halen Live version, but I didn´t want to compete with Eddie here, because there was only one Eddie Van Halen! R.I.P.”
03) Lady Of The Lake
“Very underrated track by the DIO fronted Rainbow. Melodic and mystical at the same time, always liked this song!”
04) She’s A Lady
“Written by Paul Anka, but best known by Tom Jones. Don´t know why, but this song follows me from the 1970ies on. Our version starts as a ballad and continues as a punchy Rock track.”
05) Black Cat Woman
“I grew up in the 1970ies and listened to Geordie too. Brian Johnson was a great vocalist even back in the days before joining AC/DC! There are 2 original versions of that track, so I decided to have the best snippets out of both!”
06) Room With A View
“One of my favorite Tony Carey songs. First heard it in a German TV movie and liked it from the start. Was a huge Hit back in the 80ies. Very strong melody!”
07) Sarah (You Take My Breath Away)
“What? Chris Norman… really? Yes!!! I always liked this song. It has a strong riff and a great melody!”
08) Rock `n´Roll Queen
“Heard the original song by The Subways a few years ago and liked it immediately! Being a little punky, but has a very catchy chorus. We transferred it to a more “Minor” ARP style attitude.”
09) Paint It Black
“Does this world really need another cover version? YES! Everybody knows this song by the Rolling Stones, which has a great melody and structure. I also liked the extended version of Deep Purple from their 1993 shows, so we combined both arrangements into a powerful ARP symbiosis!”
10) I Put A Spell On You
“The original done by Screamin Jay Hawkins is a bit weird to my ears, but people love it, because it´s that weird! I always favored the Creedence Clearwater Revival version over that original, so we did it close to that. For me this track has a special feeling and sometimes takes me back to the beginning of the 70ies.”
“One of my alltime favorite songs by ABBA. Great lyrical message for being “free”and a great melody!”