Ian Gillan's final solo outing before his second comeback with Deep Purple is possibly the singer's most rocking solo collection. Originally a European release, Toolbox finally appeared in North American record stores in 1997. The disc is hampered by its '80s production (complete with faux-Van Halen guitar licks and big reverb drum sounds) but Gillan's personality and dynamic performances preserve Toolbox's sharp rock & roll edge. Tracks like "Candy Horizon" and "Don't Hold Me Back" have more than their share of questionable lyrics, but Gillan's trademark screams easily overshadow any poetic shortcomings. Nothing can compare to the classic recordings Gillan was involved with in the early '70s, but among his second-tier offerings, Toolbox is definitely one of the best.
EMI's generous compilation of 100 tracks from its archive of recordings by Maria Callas makes a fine introduction to her legacy. Callas' voice isn't consistent throughout, but when she's at her best, it's easy to hear the musical and dramatic power that made her the most legendary opera singer of the 20th century. She is impressive often enough that it's not hard to forgive the performances that are less than stellar. The six-disc collection is intelligently organized, with each disc dedicated to a particular composer (or several composers) or a theme: Bellini; Donizetti and Rossini; Verdi; Puccini; French operatic heroines; and dramatic heroines.
Marking the 40th anniversary of Maria Callas’ death (16th September 1977), Maria Callas Live captures the legendary soprano in action on the stages of the world’s great opera houses and concert halls. Thanks to new audio remastering from the best available sources, this set reveals Callas’ compelling genius as a singing actress with a new truthfulness and immediacy. Containing 20 complete operas – including 12 works she never recorded in the studio – and five complete filmed recitals (with two different stagings of Act 2 of Tosca) on Blu-ray, Maria Callas Live is the indispensable complement to Callas Remastered, Warner Classics’ landmark collection of her studio recordings.