Monthly Archives: February 2014

Lynyrd Skynyrd. Fort Lauderdale. 13.4.2013

As a companion to the last live review, featuring a 70s group (Wishbone Ash) with only one original member, here is a report on another , Lynyrd Skynyrd.  Pedants may say that guitarist Ricky Medlocke is an ‘original’, but other pedants may say that playing drums on a couple of songs that surfaced on the posthumous ‘First and Last’ lp isn’t really a qualification. Anyway…

April 13 2014 , and they are playing at a festival in Florida. Their set nowadays is only 80 minutes or so, and the slot in Florida meant an even shorter appearance.

They kick off with new song ‘Last of a Dying Breed’, which is a bit pacier than classic Skynyrd tempo. ‘What’s your name’ brings the audience back to the 70s and is followed by ‘Down South Jukin” from the afore-mentioned ‘First and Last’.  The familiar set continues with ‘That Smell’, where we are (not for the only time) encouraged to sing along by Johnny V Z.  His patter, for me, can get very tiresome though, and the ‘die-hard’ Skynyrd fans are asked to identify themselves.  It pretty much sums up the Skynyrd ethos these days, seeing themselves as a singalong party outfit rather than presenting themselves to a hushed reverent audience. (I would much rather listen to the people on stage, for whom I have paid the ticket, rather than listen to some loud bloke next to me. Is that wrong?!).

‘I know a Little’ is a staple these days, and we get more of Johnny’s standard stagefare, mentioning US troops abroad before requesting another participation on ‘Simple Man’.

Billy Powell was still tinkling away then, and the deaths of he and Leon Wilkinson have left Gary Rossington as ‘last man standing’ . (See above note re Mr Medlocke). When the group, featuring many of the ‘classic’ line-up, reformed in 1987 it included Artimus Pyle on drums. He left in ’91, and I seem to remember his instigating some sort of ‘action’ whereby there had to be 3 ‘originals’ in order for the name to be used? Please forgive me if I am mistaken though.

Anyway, back to the music, and it’s ‘Gimme Three Steps’, ‘Call me the Breeze’ and a gentle intro heralds ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. The inevitable ‘Freebird ‘ is the encore and that is it.

The Skynyrd machine keeps on rolling. The set is basically their 70s stuff plus maybe one or two from their current record. Like Wishbone Ash, they do occasionally flex their muscles in the studio, but I can safely suggest to Mr Powell that a Wishbone Ash ‘Christmas ‘ record a la Skynyrd should not be a number one priority!

I saw LS at Leeds University in 76 (with Rossington and Collins) and again a year later with 3rd guitarist Steve Gaines and backing singers.  I had bought the ‘1991’and ‘Last Rebel’ cds when we went to see them in 1997 in Manchester, and the stuff from ‘Twenty’ was good enough to encourage me to buy it.  Are their ‘die-hard’ fans people who would go to see ANY outfit with the name attached, or are they purists who don’t consider the current line-up ‘valid’?  The noise in Florida seemed to indicate the former.

Like many of their US contemporaries under similar circumstances (Pure Prairie League, Poco, Little Feat) they seem to have their comfort zone over there, and sadly they have little need to come across the pond.

So how would Lynyrd Skynyrd 2014 sound if they did a ‘Wishbone Ash 2014’ and performed their popular 70s double live lp in its entirety?!    Something for fans of LS and WA to mull over.

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Powell v Turner . Part 2 (Epilogue?)

So, after many years of acrimony in camp WA, Martin Turner posted a comment yesterday indicating he no longer wanted to pursue the action and just wants to get on with his life and his music.

Today, Andy Powell has gone into print to celebrate his ‘victory’.

Who has been the winner, in reality?  Mr Powell?  No. All the crap about protecting artistic integrity, safeguarding the ‘name’ and suffering from falling audiences due to ‘confusion’ with MTWA…bollocks. So will more people come to see him?  I reckon it will be the opposite. Has Martin Turner won in any sense? Not really, there are some small ‘pluses’ in the outcome.    The winners are, of course, the lawyers. Period.

I have bought Wishbone Ash lps, singles, cassettes, cds, T-shirts and badges for many a decade. I have probably more bootlegs than official releases, which indicates how much my investment has been. Therefore I like to think my comments are coming from a position of reasonable strength.

It is some years since I bought a ticket to see Mr Powell’s lot. It really irked me at Fibbers in York when his opening comment was about how ‘we used to play in places like this when we first started’. What a crass, insulting thing to say to the hardcore audience (150 at most).  Next gig was at the Leeds Irish Centre, where the set was top-heavy with ‘new’ material which was spectacularly unmemorable. Neither gig featured ‘Blowin’ Free’.

MTWA had recently played at Selby Town Hall. Very ‘sedate’ and low key. They later played at the Rhythm Festival, where the vocals were definitely a bit ‘iffy’.  However, the line-up was to see  some changes, and recent gigs have, for Her Ladyship and me, been a much better musical event than Mr Powell’s outfit.

I was quite happy to witness both groups, even though we have friends who are definitely in one camp or the other.  The whole concept of having to take what the judge says as ‘gospel’ seems strange.  When Eric Burdon contested John Steel registering ‘The Animals’ it was thrown out. However, Mr Burdon appealed and a different judge backed Mr B!  So it seems to boil down to what a particular judge thinks.

Before I am judged to be totally pro-Martin, take a look at my review of the recent ‘Live Dates’ tour from Germany. On the whole I was positive, but if anyone thinks my comments about Mr Powell’s vocals being somewhat lacking are inaccurate, you are very welcome to further musical evenings with him. ‘Blue Horizon’ sounds like a bunch of 17 year-olds trying to be Wishbone Ash. Well, it certainly sounds like the post-2000 version, but a shadow of the 70s line-ups.

The recent coming together of 4 of the 5 ‘classic’ musicians is intriguing. OK, Steve Upton is ‘retired’ but how about them all having a night in Martin’s studio, performing ‘Live Dates’?!  One take, no messing. What will they be called? ‘Classic Ash’?  ‘Classic Ash play Classic Ash’?  Who could blame them?! As I have said elsewhere, Martin has more integrity I reckon.

I was hoping that Mr Powell would keep his own counsel and not crow about it. ‘V for Vindication. V for Victory.’  ?  No, ‘V for Very Sad and Deluded Individual’.

And given that AP is now 64, what happens when he retires? How far away will that be?  He has, no doubt, accrued a tidy sum since he became all things Wishbone Ash. I doubt if the other members’ incomes combined come anywhere near Mr P’s share.

And, surprisingly, I don’t begrudge him that!! He has kept the group going through thick and ( a lot of ) thin…it is just the fine detail that seems to be decidedly unpleasant.

Wishbone Ash. Cologne. 23.1.2014

The theme of Wishbone Ash’s 2014 is the 4oth anniversary of ‘Live Dates’, so how would the current line-up tackle it?  They start out with ‘Blind Eye’ (which wasn’t on ‘Live Dates’), with a surprisingly-animated lead vocal from Andy Powell. A ‘safe’ start, which blends into the title track from the new record ‘Blue Horizon’.  Vocals right down at the bottom of AP’s range, there is some trademark twin guitar stuff, but it it plods along like a brewery dray horse on the way to its final drop before retirement. (Sorry Andy, but only my opinion).

‘Big Issues’ from the last studio lp follows and then it is the ‘Live Dates’ section, featuring the classic intro to ‘The King Will Come’. It’s always been a great song, and tonight’s version is decent enough , as is the following ‘Warrior’.  No rest, straight into ‘Throw down the Sword’, also from ‘Argus’.  The solo at the end of it on ‘Live Dates’ is totally definitive and I’ve heard many a version in the years since. Sadly, AP has never matched it since (and at times it has been bloody awful!).

The lead vocals on ‘Rock and Roll Widow’ don’t particularly improve on the original but there is some good slide guitar on it.  Following the original order, ‘Ballad of the Beacon’ is next. It was never one of my favourites and tonight’s version has a similar affect on me. The Jimmy Reed blues standard ‘Baby what you want me to do’ follows, and Wishbone Ash (unlike some others at the time) didn’t try to forget who the composer was! Some more slide in evidence, and a pretty good rendition.

Next is ‘The Pilgrim’. Wishbone Ash line-ups various have usually done a good version of it, and tonight is no exception. I’ve always found those ‘Cleo Laine’ vocal bits annoying, which is why ‘Sometime World’ and ‘Vas Dis’ are sure fire signs of a toilet break for yours truly. ‘Blowing Free’ is regulation length and absolutely fine. ‘Jailbait’ didn’t lose anything (for me) when Ted Turner left and Martin Turner took over lead vocals (as on the live lp from Japan). Still a good singaclapalong song for those who want to participate.   ‘Lady Whiskey’ is ok instrumentally, but AP’s vocals don’t really bear up.

‘Phoenix’ brings the ‘Live Dates’ section to a close. The song was mothballed for a while when the original line-up reformed but was resurrected. Somewhat modified, AP does his best with a challenging vocal task, but the crowd are all behind it. The encore is another one from ‘Blue Horizon’ and the excellent song ‘Living Proof’ ends proceedings.

So how did they fare? On the whole, it was a success I feel. Andy Powell takes all the lead vocals, but then again he is head honcho in every department of the company. It seems ironic that one of the (alleged) reasons why Martin Turner ‘left’ in 1980 was the desire from the management for a straight-up lead vocalist. (I really don’t think Mr P would have been on the shortlist). Since then , there has been AP (with Claire Hammill), (they subsequently declined the opportunity to use John Wetton), Spam Spence, MT/TT/AP, Tony Kishman and Mark Birch, and eventually AP again. But how do you politely suggest to the ‘boss’ that maybe a change is in order? A few people tried it with Idi Amin and they were never seen again.

Value for money? Definitely, just short of 2 hours, it will be interesting how they approach their slot at Cambridge Rock Festival.   Given the tit-for-tat shenanigans that came with the ‘Argus’ reworking, I was imagining how Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash would sound doing ‘Live Dates’?! I don’t think Martin T is that petty to consider it.

Other dates in Germany have seen slight changes to the opening and closing songs, and I would recommend checking them out on the tour. The new numbers? I admire AP for trying to make new records but  would they be playing them in 40 years time…with a new line-up!?  I don’t think so, but I won’t be around to review it either. Also, how do those Wishbone Ash diehards who accuse Martin Turner of merely trading on past glories view the performance here of a DOUBLE past glory? A portion of ‘umble pie perchance?