Russell’s Beat Review

Mar 2020 Russell’s Beat Review

Super super-group?

CD: Blind Faith: Hyde Park‘69
London Calling

With a collective personnel in which former members of Traffic and Family joined forces with two musicians lately with Cream, an outfit that had been widely described as a supergroup, Blind Faith was effectively a super-supergroup.
Much anticipation surrounded the new band – comprising guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker from Cream, Traffic’s Steve Winwood on vocals and keyboards, and Rick Grech from Family on bass. The aggregation made a first appearance in June 1969 – in front of about 100,000 people at a free concert in London’s Hyde Park.
The nine songs they performed included renditions of all the six pieces that would appear on an eponymous Blind Faith album that was released a few weeks later, and was to prove the only LP in the ensemble’s brief time together.
It’s a show normally only heard in fragmentary form, so it’s a rare delight to hear the complete repertoire from that summer afternoon – running for nearly an hour, and with a set list incorporating original songs such as ‘Presence of the Lord’, ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’, ‘Sea of Joy’, ‘Had To Cry Today’ and ‘Do What You Like’, plus their treatment of ‘Well…All Right’ and ‘Under My Thumb’.
They’re delivered in an attractive raw immediacy, but critics pointed to something of a diffident feel to the occasion, saying the display was a bit low-key and didn’t really catch fire – finding it a pretty strange turn of events, given the band’s pedigree and self-evident pool of talent.
But Blind Faith had deliberately set out to be a very different proposition from the bombast of Cream, for instance – and perhaps it needed time before the group’s own qualities could be fully appreciated.

 

Glorious period

CD: Rory Gallagher –
Check Shirt Wizard: Live in ‘77
Chess/UMCMC

This June, it will be 25 years since the death of the Irish blues-
rock legend Rory Gallagher.
He was just 47 in 1995 when complications after a liver transplant abruptly ended a life notable for the decades since the late 60s when he’d delighted fans with a very special brand of invigorating excitement.
These two discs of previously unreleased live material are drawn from what was unquestionably a glorious period for Rory Gallagher and his band. And the performances from early 1977 – captured at shows in London, Brighton, Sheffield and Newcastle – certainly represent prime-time Gallagher.
Across a running time of more than two hours, they’re awash in Rory’s blistering guitar-play and his very distinctive vocals. A definitive line-up of his band is riding pell-mell at its frenetic peak – Rory himself in supercharged form, with Lou Martin’s rollicking piano, Gerry McAvoy irrepressible on the bass, and Rod de’Ath relentless at the drums.
The set list is largely made up of pieces from the 1976 album ‘Calling Card’ and the previous year’s ‘Against the Grain’ – both of which carried many of Gallagher’s best-loved recordings. There are also a few titles from some earlier studio and live LPs, in a package that places a lively acoustic sequence within the exhilarating high-energy dynamics of the ‘electric’ repertoire.
The originals and customised covers include a scintillating ‘Tattoo’d Lady’, a cartwheeling ‘Walk On Hot Coals’, and an impassioned ‘Edged In Blue’. Among the other Rory perennials are the likes of ‘Bullfrog Blues’, ‘A Million Miles Away’, ‘Moonchild’, ‘Out On The Western Plain’, ‘Going To My Hometown’, and ‘Country Mile’.
Inside a package also available in vinyl format are photos and reproduced images of tickets, plus contemporary reviews that deftly sum up the Rory experience and much acclaim from fellow musicians – not that the down-to-earth Rory was ever affected by that sort of thing.

 

 

Wistful

CD: Various Artists –
Tea & Symphony: The English Baroque Sound 1968-1974
Ace Records

At a time when much in music was becoming louder and heavier, there was a school of performers decidedly intent on sticking to more mature sophistication.
They’re the ones in the spotlight on a collection that showcases a range of groups and solo troubadours purveying recordings with a melodic but sometimes wistful and melancholic feel.
The classic Honeybus smash hit ‘I Can’t Let Maggie Go’ is easily the best-known song here, and is perhaps the definitive example of the trend. But with woodwind, strings and flutes making regular appearances, there’s a whole wealth of autumnal sounds to savour.
Across a running time of 78 minutes, the compilation’s 22 tracks celebrate the talented writers, arrangers and producers as well as the front-line artists themselves; alongside Honeybus, other recognisable names that jump out – not all of them principally for pop – are Colin Blunstone, Mike Batt, Clifford T Ward, Ray Brooks and Bill Kenwright.
The collated nuggets incorporate both LP material and singles – and when it comes to the latter, it’s hard to imagine that some of the B-sides on parade weren’t actually better than the A-sides they accompanied.
A booklet carries photos and information about the individual performers – although in a number of cases the provision of biographical details has clearly been a struggle!

 

Raucous renditions

CD: Lulu and the Luvvers – Live on Air 1965-1969
London Calling

In the course of one of the impromptu Brian Matthew mini-interviews that punctuate this exuberant two-disc collection of Lulu recordings for BBC radio, the chirpy singer says she doesn’t expect to be called Lulu forever, as it would sound “funny” when she was about 50.
Anyway, she’s 71 now – and still known as Lulu.
The chronological compilation – despite its title, it technically begins in the December of 1964, the year the 15-year-old pocket dynamo landed her first hit with ‘Shout’ – carries a couple of suitably raucous renditions of that particular song, plus some very lively and stirring visits to ‘The Boat That I Row’, ‘To Sir With Love’, ‘I’m A Tiger’, and ‘Love Loves To Love Love’.
There is a couple of duets with Georgie Fame and Alan Price, and the series of broadcasts – spread across about 90 minutes – also incorporates Lulu’s versions of ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You’, ‘Uptight’, ‘Call Me’, ‘I Love My Dog’, ‘Heatwave’, and ‘Higher and Higher’.
Of course the passage of time means it’s not always the Luvvers who are in attendance, and serious students of the pop scene will be disappointed that the information provided with the CD doesn’t include details of the various supporting musicians. But that doesn’t, of course, detract from the effervescent spirit of the radio sessions, and of their evergreen principal.