Album Review: Riot- The Official Bootleg Box Set Volume 2 (1981-1990)

Aaron ConnAlbum Review, Music2 Comments

Riot Bootleg Box Vol 2

Riot Bootleg Box Vol 2HNE have recently released a second box set devoted to the live career of New York/San Antonio hard rock band Riot. The Official Bootleg Box Set Volume 2 is another impressive release from HNE and Cherry Red Records, featuring a little over five hours of music on seven discs. Picking up where the first set left off, this second set goes from the years 1981 to 1990- a much wider year range than the first set.

In 1981, Riot signed a new record deal with Elektra Records and released their third studio album- Fire Down Under. The band’s first two albums, Rock City and Narita, were well received albums but weren’t the best in terms of production. With Fire Down Under, the band had made an album that had all the bells and whistles: the production was top notch and the band were in fine form in terms of songwriting.

RiotDisc 1- Manchester and Disc 2- Ipswich 1981 (Oct. 13 & 14, 1981)
In January 1981, Riot went on tour with English heavy metal band Saxon. The band had a loyal fan base in the UK, who are credited to having helped the band get out of their contract with Capitol Records- a label that showed no interest in releasing their music. The first two discs in this set are taken from two shows during their 1981 tour with Saxon. With this, the shows share the same set list. Both concerts are very good and it’s nice to hear the Fire Down Under songs in the mix now. As with the first set, these shows were taken from the archives of Mark Reale’s estate and remastered to the best of their ability. The sound quality for the Manchester show is very in-and-out while the Ipswich show sounds a little clearer.

Sound quality: 6/10 for Manchester, 7/10 for Ipswich
Overall concert: 7/10 for both (though the Manchester show’s quality can be distracting)

Disc 3- Ohio 1981 (Nov. 8th, 1981)
The third disc is another show taken from the Fire Down Under tour. Unlike the first two discs, the band played a longer set here. The sound quality here isn’t the strongest as it’s very grainy. Comparing it to the poorest sounding show on the first set (a show in Ohio in 1978), this isn’t as bad. In fact, this is a good show and I’m happy that there’s a longer set from the Fire Down Under tour here.

This is also the last show to feature original singer Guy Speranza. After the tour ended, Speranza not only left the band but retired from the music business. Speranza is thought to have left as he had gotten married and had grown tired of the music industry. Sadly, Speranza passed away in 2003 from pancreatic cancer. Prior to his passing, he had been living in Florida with his family- working as an exterminator.

Sound quality: 5/10
Overall concert: 7/10

Riot with Rhett Forrester

Riot with singer Rhett Forrester (center)

Disc 4- Long Island 1982 (July 1st, 1982)
With Speranza out, the band hired singer Rhett Forrester as his replacement Born in Georgia, Forrester was a slightly different singer from Speranza. Whereas Speranza had straight-up hard rock vocals (a la Sammy Hagar), Forrester’s vocals were a little more bluesy (a la Paul Rodgers). For this show, the band were on tour in support of the Restless Breed album- their first with Forrester. Most of the set list is made up of songs from that album, with a few Speranza tunes thrown in the mix. The sound quality is grainy like the Ohio show but this is manageable, possibly because the band were broadcasting this show for WLIR, a radio station in Long Island. Overall, this is another good show.

Sound quality: 6/10
Overall concert: 7/10

Disc 5- Staten Island 1983
By 1983, the band were at the end of their rope as they had been dropped by Elektra Records. The band were able to release a second album with Forrester, Born in America, on Quality Records. This show is taken from that album’s tour. While this doesn’t seem to be an entire show, the sound quality here is great. Drummer Sandy Slavin can be heard especially on here. The set list is a little more diverse here compared to the Long Island show, which is neat.

After the tour ended, the band couldn’t afford to go on much longer. With this, Mark Reale decided to leave the Riot name on the back burner for a few years and moved to San Antonio, Texas to start another band named Narita. Rhett Forrester would briefly rejoin Riot when Reale started using the name again in 1986 and eventually started a solo career. Sadly in 1994, Forrester was murdered after refusing to give up his car in an attempted carjacking by two men. While it’s been said the man who fatally shot Forrester was later killed himself, the motive behind Forrester’s murder remains a mystery.

Sound quality: 8/10
Overall concert: 7/10


The Thundersteel line-up of Riot, with singer Tony Moore (center)

Disc 6- Japan 1990
Mark Reale began using the Riot name again 1986, albeit with a new group of people. Fronted by singer Tony Moore, this new version of Riot released Thundersteel in 1988. While the name was the same, the band’s sound had changed. Whereas the Speranza and Forrester albums leaned more towards hard rock, the new Riot leaned more towards heavy metal. The last show in the set is from 1990 when the band were on tour in support of the conceptual Privilege of Power album. In terms of the sound quality, this is a great sounding show. The show itself is good, although very different in terms of the set list. With the exception of a few songs, the set list mostly consists of songs from Thundersteel and The Privilege of Power.

Sound quality: 8/10
Overall concert: 7/10

Disc 7- Demos
The last disc in the set does not feature a concert. Instead, this disc is devoted to demo recordings from 1980 made during the writing and recording process for Fire Down Under. While some tracks are interesting, there really isn’t anything special here. The quality of the demos here are not the best but again, it’s nice to have for historic purposes.

Sound quality: 5/10
Overall disc: 5/10

The Official Bootleg Box Set Volume 2
is a nicely put together follow-up to the first set. As with the first set, Volume 2 houses the CDs in a clamshell case package. It also comes with a booklet, which includes liner notes by metal journalist Malcolm Dome. Between the two sets, I find myself preferring the first one. The shows there were a little more interesting given that the set covered the time when Riot had only two albums. The second set is still good. Compared to the first set, the second one has better sounding shows and more music to offer. If you liked the first set, you should be happy with this one.

The Official Bootleg Box Set Volume 2 will be released on January 5, 2018.

Riot V, the reunited version of the band that formed after Reale’s death, were signed to Nuclear Blast Records earlier in 2017. Their next studio album is set to be released sometime in the Spring of 2018.

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Aaron ConnAlbum Review: Riot- The Official Bootleg Box Set Volume 2 (1981-1990)