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Friday, October 24, 2014

The Black Crowes: Warpaint Live

THE BLACK CROWES: WARPAINT LIVE (2009)

1) Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution; 2) Walk Believer Walk; 3) Oh Josephine; 4) Evergreen; 5) We Who See The Deep; 6) Locust Street; 7) Movin' On Down The Line; 8) Wounded Bird; 9) God's Got It; 10) There's Gold In Them Hills; 11) Whoa Mule; 12) Poor Elijah – Tribute To Johnson; 13) Darling Of The Underground Press; 14) Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye; 15) Don't Know Why; 16) Torn And Frayed; 17) Hey Grandma.

Oh, this is just too good to be true. But it is true — so, what is the next logical move once you have just released the worst (okay, one of the worst) albums in your career, passing it off as a «mature» product? Why, simple: release a live version of it — performed in its entirety. I mean, I could at least understand it if they did this trick for Shake Your Moneymaker or Southern Har­mony: at least those albums have had enough time to pass into some sort of legend. But War­paint, really? Has it instantaneously become such a «modern classic» that the world would say a big thank you to a second version?

So apparently, the Crowes had some kind of deal with Eagle Rock Entertainment, one of the big­gest rock video labels out there, to provide a concert recording for them — and, apparently, the idea was that, since they already had several live albums out, this one was to be in some way «special». Maybe they all bought the critical hype, or maybe they just thought that this additional promotion would help sell a few extra copies of the real Warpaint — whatever. The sore reality is that there is this extra live package now, DVD and CD versions of it, and, apparently, it begs for its own, independent, unbiased, and open-minded assessment.

Ultimately, I guess, it is impossible to make a bad thing good, but it is possible to make it a little more tolerable, and from that point of view, if I ever had to, in the future, I would prefer listening to Warpaint Live than to Warpaint Dead. The brothers add on a little grit in these performances, putting a tad more distortion on the line, and occasionally extending the songs to include longer and ever more fluent solos from Luther Dickinson — for instance, he goes completely roman­tically berserk on the slide guitar at the end of ʽMovin' On Down The Lineʼ, where his wild runs proudly stand competition with Derek Trucks. The overall sound of Warpaint was good — the overall sound of it played live is, in fact, even better. But there is nothing to be done about the songs. At heart, they were boring, and they still stay boring. Nothing to do with that.

It gets better and worse, though, on the second disc. Better — because, as a large appended bonus, the Crowes end their performance with a bunch of covers by famous «roots rock» artists, such as Clapton in his «Delaney & Bonnie» period of 1970 (ʽPoor Elijahʼ and ʽDon't Know Whyʼ), the Stones in their Exile period (ʽTorn And Frayedʼ), and Moby Grape (ʽHey Grandmaʼ). They still sneak in a couple of their own songs (including a really long, really tedious version of ʽBad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbyeʼ), but overall it's like a respectful celebration of past glories — and this is also what makes it a little offensive. It's as if they were saying, "Hey, all the great guys had their roots-rock phase, see? We too have one!" — which would be justified if they had at least one song as emotionally resonant as ʽTorn And Frayedʼ, which is not the case. They do a good enough job on the covers, and Dickinson once again goes into full-out astral mode on the slide at the end of the Stones' song, playing things of such complexity that Mick Taylor would not have been able to reproduce — except that ʽTorn And Frayedʼ is really all about the original vocals, and brother Chris' one-dimensional delivery totally fails to recapture or play upon the smiling irony of the Stones' approach.

In short, if you are a fan of the modern slide, do get this record for some totally stellar examples (it is a little uncanny, though, just how much this Dickinson dude and Derek Trucks sound alike, which begs for the question — do all these young guitar virtuosos tend to blend together or am I just being unnecessarily grumpy?). If you are a fan of Chris Robinson's beard, get the video — the camera loves it. And if you are a fan of neither, but are still reading this review, you're as crazy a reader as the reviewer is a writer. 

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