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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Blood, Sweat & Tears: In Concert


1) Spinning Wheel; 2) I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know; 3) Lucretia MacEvil; 4) And When I Die; 5) One Room Country Shack; 6) And When I Die (reprise); 7) (I Can Recall) Spain; 8) Hi-De-Ho; 9) Unit Seven; 10) Life; 11) Mean Ole World; 12) Ride Captain Ride; 13) You've Made Me So Very Happy.

Well, at least they had the good sense to wait until Clayton-Thomas was back to release the ob­ligatory double live album — this way, all the hits are re-generated the way they are supposed to: even a non-fan of the C-T style like me will gladly acknowledge that having ʽAnd When I Dieʼ or ʽLucretia MacEvilʼ sung by the completely colorless personality of Jerry Fisher would have de­prived the experience of the smallest modicum of sense it could ever contain.

Anyway, In Concert, a non-US LP release (only issued in the States as late as 1991, under the alternate title of Live And Improvised), was culled from at least four or five different gigs that were played in the US and Canada in late summer and early fall of 1975, and, technically, were intended to promote New City, even though only two songs off that album were included in the tracklist (no idea how many were actually performed); the band lineup is essentially the same as on the studio album, except that George Wadenius, the guitar player, was halfway out, and is on some tracks replaced here by Steve Kahn, and on others by Mike Stern, who would go on to play with the band on the next two studio albums.

There is really not much of any substance to be said about In Concert. Whatever their flaws, BS&T are never anything less than professional — money-grubbers they might be, but nobody can say they don't work hard for their money, and the record proves it. The rhythm section is tight, the improvised passages at least try to be inspired, and, most importantly, the setlist nicely fluctu­ates between predictable, but worthwhile, hits and unpredictable excursions into tasteful jazz-rock territory: they give out energetic renditions of Chick Corea's ʽSpainʼ and Cannonball Adderley's ʽUnit 7ʼ, the latter as a tribute to the recently deceased performer. This is not my kind of music at all, really, but as far as my ears suggest, the performances should be pleasing enough for the general jazz fan, unless he's racist or something. Better this, at least, than covering the latest Bee Gees hits or still trying to grovel at the feet of Earth, Wind & Fire.

Occasional turn-offs do occur, and, sad to say, they are mostly the fault of Clayton-Thomas, who sometimes lets his hair down too much — for instance, turns the finale of ʽLucretia MacEvilʼ into blabbery mush (how many "talk to me, Lucy!"'s does it take to make us get the point?), or has a little too much fun with the audience at the end of ʽHi-De-Hoʼ (okay, so its anthemic chorus may be the perfect trigger for happy audience participation, but that is no excuse for turning it into sheer silliness). Worst of all, however, is that we get to hear David's take on ʽI Love You More Than You'll Ever Knowʼ — with all the throbbing pain of the original replaced with a Vegas-ap­proved schmaltz delivery, oversung, overscreamed, and even the lead guitarist somehow manages to transform the original wail into a pseudo-Page blues-de-luxe solo without any soul.

But on the whole, the experience is adequate: ʽLifeʼ, ʽRide Captain Rideʼ, the bulk of ʽLucretiaʼ and ʽHi-De-Hoʼ, the ubiquitous ʽYou've Made Me...ʼ — I do not see how these could be suscep­tible to serious criticism. Besides, ʽSpinning Wheelʼ gets an improvised fanfare-ridden passage in the middle, and ʽAnd When I Dieʼ is split in half with a John Lee Hooker cover and a Dave Barge­ron-led trombone jam — so they are being at least mildly inventive. All in all, In Concert might even be a good alternative to getting all the studio albums: in between the hits, the oldies, the improvisations, and the tributes, it captures the spirit of post-Kooper BS&T much better than any individual studio record, possibly with the exception of the 1969 one, and, several nasty flaws notwithstanding, deserves a thumbs up.

Check "In Concert" (CD) on Amazon


  1. I wonder who introduced the "happy audience participation" thing? For instance Smoke on the Water is begging for it and sure enough DP would do it at the end of the 80's. But even in the Coverdale years I don't know any example. Dio only discovered it in 1977 with Long live rock'n'roll. Queen has it on Live Killers; Now I'm here being a slightly older song this band might be a good candidate?

    1. There's lots of audience participation in R&B. Think James Brown's "Shout and Shimmy".