Stages: Performances 1970-2002 is one of the most cynical box set projects ever issued. While producers Neil Diamond and Sam Cole don't exactly offer untruth in their presentation of this five-CD live retrospective, they might as well have. For starters, this entire project seems like an excuse to issue a new double-CD live album from Vegas in December of 2002, and a live Christmas album (like anyone ever needed that to happen). The other two discs in this set are a compilation of live tracks, from "Lordy" in 1970 (easily the best thing here) to a cloying "I Believe in Happy Endings," from New Year's Eve 2001. The majority of the cuts from these discs come from Diamond's '80s and '90s shows and do not showcase him at his best.
After seven house-rocking albums for Alligator, Dave Hole moves to the Blind Pig label–America's other established blues indie–for this solid, if somewhat predictable, release. In certain respects, the journeyman Australian slide guitarist is comparable to stalwarts such as George Thorogood, since his discs are nearly interchangeable yet none disappoint. Both artists also rely heavily on well-chosen covers. The slide demon taps into tracks from obvious inspirations such as Elmore James, Slim Harpo, and Robert Johnson, along with rearranged tunes written by the far less obvious likes of Willy Deville ("White Trash Girl"), Ivory Joe Hunter ("Since I Met You Baby"), and even Buddy Holly ("Think It Over"). But Hole's originals are plenty sturdy, as demonstrated by the opening riff-rocker "Rough Diamond Child" and the atypically tender ballad "Yours for a Song." Still, it's the sizzling solos that drive these tunes, and Hole's scorching tone–something like a mix of James and Rory Gallagher–torches everything it touches.
Based somewhat more authentically on the Grimm Brothers' story of a young woman who is unliked by her stepmother
David Robert "Dave" Hole is an Australian slide guitarist known for his style of playing rock and roll and blues music. In 1990 he issued Short Fuse Blues which brought him to the attention of United States label, Alligator Records. Two of his albums have appeared on Billboard Top Blues Albums, Steel on Steel (1995) peaked at No. 13 and Ticket to Chicago (1997) reached No. 15. His sixth album, Under the Spell, appeared in April 1999 and won "Best Blues & Roots Album" at the ARIA Music Awards of that year. According to Australian rock music historian, Ian McFarlane, Hole "is the most acclaimed blues guitarist Australia has ever produced … courtesy of his unorthodox slide guitar style, his rousing live shows and a series of hard-rocking, roadhouse blues albums … yet it took two decades of slogging around the Australian touring circuit before the local industry sat up and took notice"…
While Neil Diamond's The Christmas Album is designed almost exclusively for his adult contemporary constituency, the vocalist still manages to light up most of the obviousness of these standards with his trademark gritty soul and flair for inflection.