Live music is slowly but surely making a comeback — until jackasses who can’t obey the rules screw it up for everybody again. In the meantime, enjoy July’s top live albums in alphabetical order. Just click on the cover picture to go to the original review page (where you should also be able to listen to the album in full):
You think Commander Cody’s story begins and ends with Hot Rod Lincoln? Think again. Singer-pianist George (Commander Cody) Frayne and his crew were one of the more interesting bands of the hippie era, fusing county, rockabilly, western swing, jump blues and more into an infectious amalgam that set the table for outfits like NRBQ. And while they didn’t write many of their own hits, they never met a classic cover they didn’t like — and couldn’t make their own. This two-disc set hosts a couple of dozen — from Good Rockin’ Tonight and Blue Suede Shoes to Jambalaya and Mama Tried — pulled to from a handful of swell 1970s gigs recorded and preserved by Grateful Dead soundman (and LSD manufacturer) Owsley (Bear) Stanley.
Deerhoof & Wadada Leo Smith
To Be Surrounded By Beautiful, Curious, Breathing, Laughing Flesh Is Enough
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Sharing its name with a line from Walt Whitman’s I Sing The Body Electric, the new live album captures the band of Satomi Matsuzaki, Ed Rodriguez, John Dieterich and Greg Saunier in peak form, and culminates in a thrilling five-song collaborative set with legendary avant-garde jazz trumpeter/composer Wadada Leo Smith as part of New York City’s Winter Jazzfest at Le Poisson Rouge.
Maybe you can’t go home again. So what? You can still grab your guitar, head down to the bar and play one more awesome show with your old bandmates. And hopefully, somebody will record that sucker and release it as a live album so everybody who owns and cherishes all your criminally underappreciated southern indie-rock band’s albums can savour one more blast from the past — and cross their fingers that maybe you and the rest of the crew will make one more studio album before you drift apart again.
Some things are just impossible. For instance: I defy anyone to listen to Memphis power trio Dirty Streets without hearing echoes of Steve Marriott and Humble Pie, Rod Stewart and The Faces, or even Chris Robinson and Black Crowes. Likewise, there’s also zero chance you can listen their aptly titled new live album Rough and Tumble (actually the applause-free audio feed from a recent hometown TV performance) without getting down and rocking out to their raucous balance of British blues-rock and southern soul — complete with all the shimmering slide lines, wah-wah pedal licks and raspy wailing required by the rock ’n’ roll rule book.
I am sure even Jerry Garcia had his off nights. But this wasn’t one of them. Joined by nimble, melodic bassist John Kahn, The Grateful Dead singer-guitarist and spiritual leader is in fine form, masterfully delivering a strong, confident acoustic performance divided between Dead hits, solo fare, Bob Dylan covers and blues classics. What more could you want — aside from the next night’s equally outstanding but slightly different show (which is apparently included in the two-disc version).
Van Morrison. Ray Charles. Mose Allison. Georgie Fame. James Hunter. That’s a pretty impressive roster. And now you can add another name to that list: Nick Waterhouse. The California singer-guitarist traffics in the same brand of old-school R&B, soul and jazz — complete with fingerpopping grooves, pulsing Hammond organs, gruff horns and honey-flavoured female backup vocals. Cool, swinging and nostalgic without feeling hokey or ironic, Live at Pappy & Harriet’s is clearly the next best thing to being there. Except you don’t have to worry about the cover or the two-drink minimum. Cheers.