Manchester, England's A II Z weren't the first and surely won't be the last rock & roll band to issue a live album for their first attempt, but, as often is the case with this tactic, their introduction to the world via 1980s interestingly titled The Witch of Berkeley: Live ultimately backfired when it failed to capture the band on a truly transcendent night. And how could it, having been recorded on the cheap, less than a year into A II Z's existence using a basic eight-track mobile studio, and with no remix or technical fine-tuning to speak of? Obviously, all this not only served to reveal their label, Polydor's, minimal financial commitment to the group, but also arguably sealed their eventual commercial failure -- regardless of the quality of the music captured here. And that music, as it were, comprised of quite varied, if sometimes derivative, heavy rock fare of the sort typical to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal's less focused, tangential bands (see also Weapon, Trespass, and Praying Mantis). As such, dedicated enthusiasts of heavy metal's acknowledged "golden era" will undoubtedly recognize A II Z's solid interplay and above-average musicianship (second-rate sound quality, frequent blown clams and all) in the forceful attack of the title cut and "The King Is Dead," the surprisingly groovy swing of "Lay Down," and the even, textbook instrumental "Glastonbury Massacre." Subsequently re-recorded single "No Fun After Midnight" and the cryptically titled "Danger U.X.B." are a little too shamelessly Motörhead-inspired for their own good, and "The Romp"'s extended boogie workout (complete with audience participation section) clearly nicks the chorus from Black Sabbath's "Never Say Die," but there's much to love about slightly raw, but melodically driven semi-ballads like "Walking the Distance" and "Last Stand," which feature the same hallmarks (though not exactly the same high standards) of early Iron Maiden efforts like "Remember Tomorrow" and "Strange World." All told, the above will never have The Witch of Berkeley confused for a classic heavy metal album -- studio, live, or otherwise -- but, as hinted at earlier, provides quite a few kicks for serious collectors of N.W.O.B.H.M. obscurities.
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AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2