A II Z - The Witch Of Berkeley album review

Live and not so dangerous

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What do The MC5, Hüsker Dü and Jane’s Addiction have in common? Answer: all made their recording debuts with live albums.

In 1980, at the apex of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, A II Z joined that illustrious trio (as did Vardis, but that’s another story) with The Witch Of Berkeley. Record label Polydor persuaded the Mancunian hopefuls it would be a good idea to kick out the jams on their first full-length – but not at the Grande Ballroom, Detroit, but in the rather more prosaic surroundings of Hazel Grove High School, Stockport.

Polydor were obviously trying to grab a bit of NWOBHM success on the cheap, and it showed. A II Z had some tremendous songs – the title track, Danger U.X.B. and The King Is Dead are up there with the very best of the era. But the near bootleg quality of this recording did them no favours at all. So instead of arriving at a Park Lane penthouse, A II Z ended up in a back alley in Bermondsey.

This two-CD set includes the singles and B-sides, plus a BBC In Concert recording that shows the band’s mettle far better than the official album did.