Category Archives: Record reviews

Old or new, we set the the records straight with honest and informed reviews.

Grateful Dead. Cornell University. 8.5.1977

The recording has just been released via their own ‘deadnet’ website, although it has been doing the rounds among deadheads for decades.

So is the ‘official’ recording worth lashing out mucho dollars on, either in cd or vinyl form?  5 lps or 3 cds (it doesn’t quite fit on 2 cds.)

First up, I am a fan, but I much prefer the contents of their first sets (relatively short songs which included the occasional cover version) to the second set numbers (long jamming numbers, usually involving percussion sections).

I managed to cobble together most of the first set, with ‘New Minglewood Blues’, ‘El Paso’, ‘Deal’ and the like , with 17 minute versions of  ‘Not Fade Away’and ‘Morning Dew’ from the second set onto a single cd. Plus the ‘One More Saturday Night ‘ encore.

So ‘Scarlet Begonias’, ‘Fire on the Mountain’, ‘Estimated Prophet’ and ‘St Stephen’ fell under the editor’s knife.

The set seems to have garnered semi-legendary status and generally achieves nearly all 5 star reviews from deadheads. Me?  I own up to not listening to the bits I omitted but the rest didn’t jump out and assault my wedding tackle. My favourite GD lp was ‘American Beauty’, in fact one of my favourites by anyone!  And my favourite GD live number is ‘Bertha’. Neither of which featured here. ‘El Paso’ always seemed very cheesy,  but the lengthy ‘NFA’ and ‘MD’ were pretty good.

If you have never heard the Dead, this release won’t blow you away (in my opinion). But they weren’t one of the biggest outfits in the USA for nothing, so take advantage of their generosity in allowing tapers to roll , and find some downloads.

 

John Martyn Live at Leeds

Bit of a preamble first.  As a 17 year-old in Stockton-on-Tees, Saturdays were taken up by walking down the High Street. Clad in RAF greatcoat , with an LP under your arm . (But not me, no record player!).  But the no 1 record on the High Street in early 69 was ‘Tons of Sobs’, and a year later, John and Beverley Martyn’s ‘Stormbringer!’ was well in view.  In 1975 I got the chance to see JM, and a special guest! £1.75 a ticket springs to mind.

So, as it is close to the 40th anniversary of Mr Martyn’s legendary gig at Leeds, I thought I would do a brief review, and at the same time, completely trash a common misconception.  Not the erroneous date (October 1975), which is on my One World cd copy…that has been shown to be bollocks. Not even the revelation on the newer Deluxe double cd, which reveals that seemingly not all the original tracks on the lp were from Leeds.

No, the killer ‘problem’ is that every sleeve note, review and comment seems to indicate that Mr Martyn played on the same stage as The Who did 5 years earlier.  He didn’t!  Any one who tells you they saw the gig, and it was in the Refectory ( a la The Who), is…’confused’ at best.  John Martyn played in the much smaller Riley Smith Hall, at the other end of the building.  I know, because I definitely WAS THERE!   The comment that he played to a ‘packed house’ is just not accurate. Firstly, a ‘packed house ‘ in the Refectory would be the best part of 2000 people. No chance.  It wasn’t even packed in the Riley Smith Hall (capacity about 300), closer to 100 than the 10,000 who bought the lp and no doubt said they were there!

I can remember where I was sitting…yes, we all sat down on the floor in those days.  I can remember John Martyn’s patter being pretty rude and eventually just tedious. I can remember his summoning on Kossoff, and he stood a few yards to JM’s left. (Les Paul back in favour, new haircut?). I can remember about 10 blokes immediately rush forward to form a cluster  in front of him to watch him play.  His playing, of course, had lost that wonderful fluidity, and was pretty indicative of his Back Street Crawler days.  I reckon the reason why all these cd re-issues don’t mention it was the smaller hall is because there probably isn’t hardly anyone of the 100 or so crowd that actually bought the lp and the reviewers/ sleeve note writers didn’t know any different.  There are probably about 100,000 who reckoned they saw The Who ‘Live at Leeds’!

But, the cd itself.  If you have never heard John Martyn, but heard OF him, ‘Live at Leeds’ is as good a starting place as any. If you are expecting some Scottish folksinger, you will either be very disappointed or very pleased.  It’s probably the nearest I possess to ‘jazz’ ( plus Steely Dan), and is nigh on impossible to even begin to describe. ‘Hypnotic’, ‘mesmerising’, ‘ethereal’ there are not many adjectives that do him justice. Remember, his Echoplex machine was back in the 70s, you just have to realise it was one man doing all this. (Plus bass and drums).  Strangely, the copy I have could almost be a Danny Thompson solo disc, he is so high in the mix.

Because there are so many versions, you can pick up a cd copy pretty cheap at Amazon or Ebay. I haven’t heard the Deluxe issue, but risk a few quid of your Christmas money on one of the single cds.

Apologies to spoiling a lot of people’s ‘I saw John Martyn at Leeds University…’ story!

And if anyone tells you he bought a ‘John Martyn Live at Leeds’ T-shirt at the gig…!!

 

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Wishbone Ash. ‘Rocked up beyond belief’ 2CD.

To tie in with the recent hoohah regarding Andy Powell and Martin Turner regarding the name ‘Wishbone Ash’, I happened to find my copy of the above, still sealed, which I bought at Cropredy this year.  The title, a pun on the track ‘FUBB’ (F**ked up beyond Belief, in case you didn’t know) is accompanied by ‘Two decades of Live Recordings’ (70s and 80s, one decade per cd).

I paid the princely sum of £3.00 (brand new), and it looked to be great value for money. However, what it neglected to say on the outside is that the recordings are from the ‘Tracks’ series of discs…although it was mysteriously revealed on the inside cover. And who is the proof-reader at the record company (Talking Elephant)?! ‘Blownin’ Free'(sic)?!!  Anyway, minor complaints in view of the contents.

First disc has performances from the Mk2 line-up. Four out of the ten are from Argus, although no ‘Throw down the Sword’. The renditions are all very good, although ‘Bad Weather Blues’ might not really make the transition from live encore to hard copy too well.   The songs all demonstrate what a really good outfit they were.

Second disc is from the 80s and has a variety of line-ups. The ‘reformed’ line-up(s) is well-represented, with Ted Turner to the fore. ‘Living Proof’ is one of the best of the Mk 2’s compositions and gets a decent airing here.  The ‘Raw to the Bone’ line-up is featured too, but songs like ‘Underground’ and ‘No more lonely Nights’ are pretty average. A couple of rarely-performed songs and a final rendition of ‘Phoenix’ bring the collection to a close.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with Wishbone Ash, it is an excellent compilation to wet your feet with. The first disc, for me, outshines the second, and the set is a good representation of the first two decades of a group which seems to have been sadly become the subject who said what, did what and did what when.

(I have to admit to a Freudian slip, and of course apologise profusely, in recently calling a recent Wishbone Ash cd ‘Arrogant Self’ instead of ‘Elegant Stealth’ .)