JERUSALEM - Dancing On The Head Of The Serpent (Legends Remastered)
Dancing With Heavy Melodic Boots (30th Anniversary Edition)
Everyone who has ever listened to or heard of Jerusalem knows about this album. Praised by many fans as their best collection of studio songs, Dancing On The Head Of The Serpent was, without a doubt, their “breakthrough” release in the United States. To many fans this material is also the most “familiar” set of songs Jerusalem produced because this album was released in Europe/Scandinavia (in English) in 1987 – a time when Christian rock and metal was exploding on the scene – and then again in 1988 in the U.S. (Refuge Records). For those who claim that this album was their first exposure to the band, I also am in that camp. Jerusalem’s sound had been evolving throughout the past decade prior to this release – classic rock, progressive rock, arena rock … and now the perfect blend of all of them. The formula for success with this album was rooted in over a decade of touring experience combined with the passion to have a greater impact in the scene for the sake of Christ. Anthemic rock – with a metal edge – was the ticket. The emphasis was on a larger than life sound, featuring these big, catchy choruses and chunky riffs laced with Reider Paulson’s (replaced Tibell on keys) 80’s synths. It was both commercial and yet more aggressive at the same time. The music was totally in sync with the times (circa late 80’s) and yet the lyrics marked a dramatic return to the more evangelical/in-you-face kind of approach that characterized the band’s early years.
The music speaks for itself, so there is not much I can say here to add to what this album has accomplished. And while the keyboards do date the songs to the era in which they were born, the music still moves powerfully and remains relevant in the current era. Did we need a new version? I think for those who want to hear a clear and amped up version of these songs – yes. And to complete the Jerusalem Legends Remastered series – yes. But for those who have never heard the European version, this set is well worth the cost.
Why Two Versions?
Retroactive Records, as part of the Legends Remastered series, has reissued this iconic album as a double CD set containing both versions (U.S. and European) with 12 page booklet with lyrics in a clear jewel case (in line with the other Jerusalem reissues in this set). I don’t know the exact reasons why this album was re-recorded for a 1988 release in North America, but this re-issue represents a “throw-down” of sorts between the two versions which is quite unusual. While everyone will have to make the comparison for themselves, I will try to make a few, hopefully useful, distinctions and then conclude with my preference.
First off, while I don’t think there is a huge difference between the versions, the subtle differences are recognizable. One of my criticisms of the original version I heard (that would be the U.S. version) was that the vocals have always had this “reverb” processed quality – probably to impart a more “live” sound to the music. I will say that the European version definitely sounds less “processed” with a more raw quality to the vocals and the instruments as well. With the exception of Can’t Stop Us Now, the albums which preceded this one enjoyed an organic/analog quality that is unsurpassed. It was sincere and spontaneous. The European version has, to some degree, preserved that more “rock’n’roll” tradition. Both albums are equally loud and sound vibrant. (see track listing below for comparison)
There are also more subtle differences present in the way Ulf sings some of the words in between the actual song lyrics. Some songs are similar, like the opening title, but others like “Rebels For Jesus Christ” are quite different. The U.S. version cuts out the opening instrumental completely in favor of a vocal chorus to open up the song. There are differences in the guitars in this song as well. You can also see this as reflected in the song length discrepancy between the two versions. The other songs that differ significantly in song length are “Catch The Devil, Catch The Thief,” and “Still.” Of course, the European version had the wonderful “Covered By Blood” included whereas that track has been added here to the U.S. version as a bonus track and was not part of the original Refuge Records version. Closing out with this track really made a strong statement and I always felt that “Still” was a bit too mellow as a closer.
So in the end, if you want the less “Elefante brothers-produced” version of this classic album, get this set – you won’t regret it just for the Euro version alone. I would have to say that after many listens, I prefer the European version – probably because I am such a fan of the first 3 albums and that earthy and less processed sound. I will conclude by saying that this complete set of Jerusalem remasters are well worth the investment and fans will find something to enjoy about each one. Thanks to Matt Hunt and Rob Colwell for their work in making this happen and in making the music Jerusalem (all of their albums) sound so good in 2018!
US Version (44:22)
1. Dancing On The Head Of The Serpent (4:08)
2. Plunder Hell & Populate Heaven (4:08)
3. Rebels Of Jesus Christ (3:19)
4. Listen To Me (4:30)
5. Woe, Woe … The Great Fall (3:25)
6. We’re Gonna Take Europe (3:40)
7. Come Higher (4:00)
8. Catch The Devil, Catch The Thief (4:41)
9. The Night When Revelation Came Into My Life (4:47)
10. Still (4:06)
11. Covered By Blood (3:40)
European Version (44:09)
1. Dancing On The Head Of The Serpent (4:03)
2. Plunder Hell & Populate Heaven (3:57)
3. Rebels Of Jesus Christ (3:42)
4. Listen To Me (4:31)
5. Woe, Woe … The Great Fall (3:22)
6. We’re Gonna Take Europe (3:36)
7. Come Higher (3:58)
8. Catch The Devil, Catch The Thief (4:33)
9. The Night When Revelation Came Into My Life (4:48)
10. Still (3:51)
11. Covered By Blood (3:47)