As the snow comes down at the end of a very quiet Saturday, I figure it’s now or never to post a thread I’ve been pondering for a while.
Amylee‘s excellent Disco thread threw up an example of something that has frustrated me for over thirty years, namely the inability of some brilliant bands to capture their magic on record.
The culprits cited this week were Cameo; my go-to band (since the 70s) to demonstrate what I mean has always been Thin Lizzy, but tonight Matthew, I’m going to be . . . trip-hop, chillout, wouldn’t-harm-a-fly merchants Morcheeba.
Now I will admit that back in my cash-rich, child-free days, I would go to gigs and buy albums on a whim, and I wasn’t always rewarded for my investment. That’s how I picked up debut Who Can You Trust. There was something about that album that got under my skin more than, say, Massive Attack, Zero7, Distant Cousins, or even Portishead did. Trouble was, I couldn’t figure out what it was, and in follow-up The Big Calm I couldn’t even hear it. Oh it was pleasant enough, but I’d have had the tassles on my leather jacket ceremoniously ripped off by the HM Society for voicing that opinion out loud.
Nevertheless, I went to see them live in Leeds, and HOLY AXEHERO, BATMAN! The band generally, and guitarist Ross Godfrey in particular, blew me away. They ROCKED, MAAAANN! Why didn’t they sound like that on record? I went back to the albums when I got home, and w-e-e-l-l-l, yes, I suppose the evidence was there, but it was almost buried under the production. I tried for quite some time to convince friends and family, (even tried on RR once), but with no-one else I knew having seen them, and audio/video evidence of their live prowess pretty much non-existent, I got nowhere. I wrote to the band’s label, their management company; got nothing in reply. Eventually, after diminishing returns (for me) from their next couple of albums, I lost interest.
Well, they’re back, reunited with their early albums’ vocalist Skye Edwards. In fact, they’ve been back for a while, but who knew? I’ve only just caught up with 2010’s Blood Like Lemonade. And GUESS WHAT?!?!?
Er, no. Still the same problem. Hints of their ability to cut loose, but to start with, no more than that. Take Crimson from BLL: lyrically, a deliciously dark tale of love, jealousy and revenge, but musically, same old same old. Good, but … Have a listen though, please, because this is the set-up for my point.
OI! You still awake out there? See what I mean?
But the difference between my frustrations of a decade ago and now is that marriage made in copyright hell – cameraphones and YouTube. The audio quality still isn’t great, but get a load of this live version of the same song:
[Cut to the three minute mark if your patience is running thin here]
Now there’s a sound I’d kill to own a whole album of – Cave-black lyrics, soulful vocals, trip-hop sensibilities, but played in a blues-rock stylee. WHY DON’T THEIR RECORDS SOUND LIKE THAT?
GAH, THE FRUSTRATION’S DOING MY HEAD IN!