For many rock historians, the 1980s officially ended when Nirvana and Pearl Jam were burning up the charts in 1991 and 1992 and major labels started signing alternative rock acts left and right. Although 1990 and the first part of 1991 still felt a lot like the 1980s, Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's Ten suddenly made the 1980s feel like a distant memory. For some rockers, however, the 1980s never ended -- and German guitarist/songwriter Axel Rudi Pell's unwavering commitment to pre-'90s-style metal and hard rock is evident throughout Best of Axel Rudi Pell: Anniversary Edition. This 79-minute CD spotlights previously released material from Pell's Johnny Gioeli era; Pell hired Gioeli as his vocalist in 1998, and Gioeli received such a favorable response that Pell was still using him 11 years later in 2009. It isn't hard to see why Pell's followers have welcomed Gioeli's participation; Gioeli's Jon Bon Jovi-ish vocal style has been perfect for Pell's pre-'90s mindset, and he is an obvious asset on hooky selections like "Strong as a Rock" from 2004's Kings & Queens, "Carousel" from 1998's Oceans of Time, "Edge of the World" from 2002's Shadow Zone, and "Tear Down the Walls" from 2000's The Masquerade Ball. Although Pell's own songs dominate Best of Axel Rudi Pell, this collection also contains two covers from 2007's Diamonds Unlocked: Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" and U2's 2000 hit "Beautiful Day," both of which become more hard-rocking in Pell's hands -- and even though "Beautiful Day" was very much a part of alternative pop/rock culture in the early 2000s, Pell has no problem making the tune sound like a 1970s-1980s pop-metal anthem. But then, Pell is so thoroughly grounded in headbanger music of the 1970s and 1980s that he could probably make Britney Spears' "Oops, I Did It Again" sound like an outtake from Kiss' Destroyer album. Although hardly the last word on Pell's solo output of the 1990s and 2000s, Best of Axel Rudi Pell is enthusiastically recommended to casual listeners.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson