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Bernie Torme’s Electric Gypsies Scorched Earth [Live 1999-2001]

By Frank Meyer, Contributing Editor
Monday, December 10, 2001 @ 12:59 AM


(Retrowreck Records)

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Bernie Torme will go down in the annals of UK metal guitar hero history if only because the hardcore student know that he was the brief replacement for Randy Rhoads after the legendary ace guitarist tragically died in a plane crash, but before Night Ranger’s Brad Gillis stepped in (as documented by the live albumSpeak of the Devil). Bernie played one UK tour with the Ozz-man before parting ways. Tuff luck. Worse than that is that most people, even the die-hardest Ozzy fans, don’t even know it and would call ya a liar if you drunkenly blurted it out at a party.

Other little known facts here in the ol’ U.S.A.: Bernie also had a creatively titled band called Torme that featured a pre-L.A. Guns, post-Girl Phil Lewis on lead vocals. He also scores footnote points for playing in Ian Gillian's self-titled band Gillian, the British prog-rock band Atomic Rooster, and the short-lived band Desperado with Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider. Since then he has been re-releasing his old LPs for the digital age and cranking out new ones every coupla years. His last one, White Trash Guitar, was a solid barroom hard rock effort with plenty of his patented divebomb guitar explosions and fast as lightening solos.

Scorched Earth is an in your face, in the mix live collection of Bernie’s latest outfit, the Electric Gypsies, named after his most famous and best solo album (1983). Most of the material is fairly new, from White Trash Guitar or other recent efforts, including a rousing closing cover of the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant.” The opening number, “All I Want,” gets things off to a rowdy start with plenty of kamikaze guitar licks and blitzkrieg lead runs. “Ball & Chain” cops a T Rex riff and mixes it with a lift from Rose Tattoo’s “Scarred For Life,” resulting in a rockin’ little number with some big ol’ steel balls. “Ghost Walking” sounds like it could be off a Godfathers record or even a solo Michael Monroe album -- very European sounding hard rock. “Mystery Train” is probably the biggest departure for him as floats in same clouds as Pink Floyd, with its open musical passages, soaring ocean-wide leads, and pained lead vocals. For the most part though, what Bernie delivers is riff-driven ballsy hard rock with plenty of teeth-rattling leads. Tunes like “Star,” “Bad Blood” and “Golden Pig,” showcase these strengths suitably.

The only real drawback here is his limited vocal range. At times, like on “Star” or the VERY “Electric Gypsies-sounding “Chasing Rainbows,” the song fits his mid-range, nasely voice, while other times, such as on “Mystery Train,” the parts are simply out of his range and he sounds strained. Certainly though, his laser-sharp guitar work more than makes up for any vocal shortcomings.

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