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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Baker Gurvitz Army: Live


1) Wotever It Is; 2) The Gambler; 3) Freedom; 4) 4 Phil; 5) Remember; 6) Memory Lane; 7) People.

If, for some reason, you are still in the mood for more gurvitz-bakery, this extra release, also from 2005 and, seemingly, also from the post-Elysian Encounter tour, might do the trick. Unpreten­tiously called Live (or, as some sources put it, Live Live Live, or even longer, depending on how many times you spin around the CD cover), these are not remastered, but still good quality re­cordings that only partially overlap with Live In Derby, and thus, have some real appeal that warrants at least a quick reconaissance download (or even a certified purchase, although I am not even sure that the artists themselves get anything from these limited-issue foreign imports).

Anyway, there is at least one song here that is totally unavailable anywhere else — the introduc­tory ʽWotever It Isʼ, a jiggly hard-funk number, unfortunately, mostly keyboard-driven for the first half, but once Adrian finally steps in with burning solos, the groove starts unfurling, and by the fourth minute, the BGA are completely in their element. Then there is a rather faithful, and not very intriguing, rendition of ʽThe Gamblerʼ, and a somewhat more intriguing version of ʽ4 Philʼ which, as Ginger says, «starts off as it used to be, and finishes as it is» — that is, with a new section, now featuring life-asserting vocals from Mr. Snips, thrown in. Finally, the major addition to Live In Derby is the red-hot finale with ʽPeopleʼ — Baker-Gurvitzes are always at their most infectious live when doing fast stuff, and this here is no exception.

The stage banter tidbit to be associated with the album is Ginger's mid-show mumble about how «the police have said that they are gonna raid the place, but the stage is a sancrosanct area, so you if you all throw your illegal things onto the stage, we promise we'll look after them for you». Jud­ging by the average comprehensibility of the mumble, you'd think that quite a few «illegal things» had already landed on the stage by then — then you remember that it's just Ginger, and that he always talks that way.

If you are still in the mood for one more red hot gurvitz on your baker, keep in mind that there is more: for instance, Still Alive from 2008, featuring even more archival live stuff from the same tour, scattered on 2 CDs. There is a bit of good stuff there, too — such as an early, and quite im­pressive, live version of ʽHearts On Fireʼ, and the only official live version of ʽHelp Meʼ (which should really have been a stage favorite — I have no idea why they didn't do it in Derby). Oh, and during his stage banter bit, Ginger actually says «drugs» now instead of «illegal things». I guess that must be the difference between knowing you're being recorded for the BBC and not knowing you're being recorded at all.

But the whole thing still shows clear signs of being scraped together, since (a) the overall sound quality is much worse than on Live, and (b) there are no less than four separate drum solos, altogether add­ing up to about thirty minutes — and each of them sounds just like ʽToadʼ. To be sure, Ginger Baker was one of the most distinctive drum soloists in the business, but it's not as if the fifth minute of a ʽToadʼ-style drum solo is all that distinctive from the eleventh minute of a ʽToadʼ-style drum solo. Well, actually, the eleventh minute is usually louder than the fifth (that's just about the time when the drummer goes into full acceleration mode on each limb). But that, too, is sort of predictable.

Overall, it is always sort of a lottery — which one of the «lost legend» bands will be the next in line to start getting the let-it-all-hang-out treatment, particularly now that the task of digitalizing an archive recording and releasing it as a «limited issue» pressing has never been easier. In reality, nobody but the starkest fan should care about Live (Live Live), and nobody but the looniest re­viewer should care about Still Alive. Which should never detract from the fact that the Baker Gurvitz Army were a dang fine band anyway, both in the studio and live.

Check "Live" (CD) on Amazon

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