While they were never worldwide famous, hard rock band Riot have been able to gain a cult following amongst rock music fanatics over the years. HNE Recordings LTD, a Cherry Red Records owned label, have released a box set devoted to Riot’s live career. The Official Bootleg Box Set Volume 1 is an impressive release, as it features nearly five hours of music spanning across six discs- giving listeners the ultimate live Riot experience.
Originally formed in 1975 in New York, Riot have been recording and touring for a little over four decades. While the band went through changes in their line-up, guitarist Mark Reale kept waving the Riot flag until his death in 2012. The former members of Riot now tour as Riot V, paying tribute to Reale’s music. Earlier in September, it was announced that Riot would be inducted into the Hall of Heavy Metal History next year. Now signed to Nuclear Blast Records, Riot V are expected to release their next studio album in the spring of 2018.
This new box set focuses on Riot’s live career from 1976 to 1980. The six discs are packaged in thin cardboard sleeves, which are all housed in a high-quality cardboard clamshell-like jewel case sized box. Along with the discs is a booklet, featuring pictures and liner notes written by British metal journalist Malcolm Dome. The music in this set is sourced from tapes in the archives of the Mark Reale estate, care of Mark’s father Anthony Reale. With these coming from old sources, the quality of the audio isn’t always the best. If anything, the shows in this set are really here more for their historic importance, so keep this in mind when listening to the music.
On these six discs are six shows. Each show is a little different from the one before it, whether it be in the quality or the songs played. With Riot’s revolving door of musicians, the line-ups are also different. Aside from Reale, singer Guy Speranza appears on every disc. During this time period of 1976 to 1980, the band released their first two albums: Rock City in 1977 and Narita in 1979.
Below this is a short summary on each disc in the set.
Disc 1 and 2: Red Foxx, New Jersey 1976 (first set [Disc 1] and second set [Disc 2])
These shows some of the earliest Riot recordings ever released. This show was just one year before the band released Rock City. With this, the band does play a couple of covers- which are all good. The instruments sound distorted but it doesn’t sound like there was much of an audience here, which is neat. The second set is slightly different from the first, with some covers swapped out with different ones. Overall, these are really good early live recordings.
Sound quality: 6/10 (for both)
Overall concert: 7/10 for the first set and 6/10 for the second set
Disc 3: Ohio 1978
The 1978 show in Ohio is easily the weakest in terms of sound quality. The sound is very muffled and sounds like it was recorded by someone in the audience. Still, this isn’t a bad show. Despite the poor sound quality, the rough and raw power of the music is impressive. The songs that would soon appear on Narita are performed here, such as “49er” and “Kick Down the Wall.” With more original tunes under their belts, there’s only a few covers here- including Deep Purple’s “Highway Star.”
Sound quality: 4/10
Overall concert: 6/10
Disc 4- Atlanta, Georgia 1980 (w/ two songs from a Boston show in 1980)
This is a pretty good show. The sound quality is slightly improved, with the bass and drums standing out. Since the whole Georgia show doesn’t complete the disc, there are two songs from a gig in Boston thrown on here.
Sound quality: 6.5/10 (7/10 for the Boston show)
Overall concert: 7/10
Disc 5- Colston Hall, Bristol 1980
Of the six shows, this is the one that feels the most like a complete concert. Had Riot released a live album around this time, this is how the album would’ve followed. The sound quality has a bit of an echo but just focus on the music: this is a really solid show.
Sound quality: 6/10
Overall concert: 8/10
Disc 6- Monsters of Rock 1980
This show has been released before on the 1989 release Riot Live. Comparing that to this, the 1989 disc sounds like it was polished up and remixed in the studio. The sound quality here is more natural, making it the best sounding of the six shows. You’ll also get to hear what sounds like Mark’s backing vocals on a few songs.
Sound quality: 7/10
Overall concert: 8/10
Overall, The Official Bootleg Box Set Volume 1 is a great addition to the Riot discography. Given the rough quality of these recordings, I would recommend this set to those who are diehard fans of Riot. Given Riot’s cult status, I’m sure there are readers here who are not familiar with their music. If you’re looking to get into Riot’s music, I suggest picking up Fire Down Under and checking out their other music. For longtime Riot fans, this is a must have set. At $27, you can’t go wrong with this. If you enjoy this, keep an eye out for Volume 2– which is scheduled to be released on November 24.
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.