Maria Muldaur – Christmas At The Oasis (2010)

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If you’re seeing this and thinking, I didn’t know Maria Muldaur ever recorded a Christmas album, well, welcome to the club. The background here is that Christmas at the Oasis, recorded live at a 2010 show at San Francisco’s now-defunct Rrazz Room, was recorded for broadcast locally as part of a Christmas special. Ms. Muldaur never had any intention of recording a Christmas album (see her own notes below), but the producer kept nudging her, telling her how good the set was, and when she listened back, her reaction was, as she told Dan MacIntosh of Songfacts, “‘Oh, my God, that sounds fantastic.’ I have this stellar jazz band that I work with up here, and they were just smoking. And so finally I was pressured and persuaded on all sides to release it. So we did. I mean, we just went in there and tried to clean up the sound a little bit.”

An album could hardly have been lower profile than this. Initially sold only at her live dates, it then migrated to be a website-only purchase. Now, however, it’s available on Amazon as a manufactured-on-demand CD-R—whatever it takes to get it into wider circulation, because it’s one grand, swinging affair, as rollicking a Yuletide celebration as one could ask, with our gal cutting loose in splendid, attitudinous voice throughout and a powerhouse band kicking it behind her on some vintage holiday fare, including three chestnuts most associated with Louis Armstrong, as well as some evergreens from some of the female blues singers of yore she admires so much.

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But first, here’s what the lady of the hour has to say about this project in her liner notes:

Year after year, as the holidays approach, we are all inundated endlessly on every side by an onslaught of the same old sentimental, sappy, overdone, pedestrian Christmas tunes. Over the years, as an antidote to that, I have collected and enjoyed some wonderfully hip, swinging, humorous, irreverent Christmas songs by some of my very favorite artists in the Jazz & Blues idioms (Louis Armstrong, Louie Prima, Bessie Smith, Charles Brown, Victoria Spivey & Mabel Scott to name a few) and in the last dozen years or so, have performed this special collection of rare gems live on numerous occasions. Many people have delighted in these tunes and have suggested I record them on a Christmas album of my own, but for years I resisted the idea, as I saw just how very many artists of every stripe put out Christmas albums, and had decided that I would be the one artist on the planet who didn’t release a Christmas album!

Last year, much to my utter astonishment, an artist I consider to be the Hippest of the Hip, The King Of Cool, Bob Dylan, came out with his very own Christmas album, Christmas In The Heart, the proceeds of which were donated to the charity, Feeding America. “Now, there’s a cool idea–and a swell gesture,” I thought. But still, I resisted the idea. The second event was a Christmas concert I gave with my stellar band of top-notch Jazz musicians, which was recorded at The Rrazz Room in San Francisco for a special Christmas TV broadcast. The evening exceeded my every expectation. The band was rockin’ and swingin’ so hard, we all had a great time, and the audience just loved it! Many of them asked if a CD of the music they had heard would become available.

So……after hearing all the wonderful, spirited music on our live Christmas recording, and being urged on every hand to consider releasing our performance as a live Christmas CD, I finally succumbed, and have thrown my hat (my Santa hat!) into the ring, deciding at last to leave the lonely outpost of being the only artist on the planet without a Christmas album, and finally join the fun, and all my fellow artists, with a Christmas release of my own! We had a ball making this music and hope you will enjoy this refreshing collection of Christmas tunes throughout the Holiday Season!

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Indeed! She lets the band take charge at the outset with a Dixieland-tinged romp through Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” the first of many moments when musical director Jim Rothermel enlivens the proceedings with his spirited clarinet solos aided and is abetted in his efforts by the lively guitar work of Jeff Massanari. This sets the stage for Maria’s entrance, wailing “Well, lookee here, Jack, comin’ down the track, he’s got a rhythm in his feet, but nothin’ in his sack…he’s a boogie-woogie Santa Claus…” Yes, it’s Mabel Scott’s rousing 1948 take on Kris Kringle’s modus operandi in which Muldaur’s swinging vocal over the brisk shuffle beat is complemented by Massanari’s hot picking (funny guy, he even interpolates a snippet of “Jingle Bells” as he surges ahead) and a terrific bluesy fusillade on the 88s from John R. Burr. A lowdown “Christmas Blues” follows, with Rothermel’s bluesy clarinet embellishments setting the stage before Muldaur enters singing a low down “the merry bells are ringing today/but they don’t mean nothin’ to me/I hear the children playing today/but I’m as blue as I can be/ol’ Santa Claus forgot my address/that is something I can plainly see…” The whole shebang promplty jets into an overdrive Kansas City blues originally crafted by Jay McShann as “No Money No Honey.” Muldaur’s tackled this one before, on a 2000 Stony Plain compilation, Stony Plain’s Christmas Blues, backed by the Duke Robillard Band, but she’s even more freewheeling in her attack here and the band is right there with her. And for all the despair in McShann’s lyrics, Muldaur and company have a party with it.

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Anyone who’s followed Muldaur’s career knows of her sense of history, which is in full flower here. She may have been averse to the idea of cutting a Christmas album, but when she took the plunge (even if it didn’t start out as an album project, per se) she was going to pay homage to the tradition in her own way. “Sleigh Ride” is one example but that’s the band only. She offers a slinky, seductive “Santa Baby” (with a salty reading of the sentiment “think of all the fellas I haven’t kissed” that would surely impress Miss Eartha Kitt) during which Massanari crafts a an equally salacious guitar solo; a take on Charles Brown’s “Merry Christmas Baby” that has levels of sensuality and longing even its author and its otherwise most famous interpreter, one Elvis Presley, didn’t plumb, aided and abetted by Rothermel’s lusty alto sax and moody solos from Massanari and Burr; like “Sleigh Ride,” “Winter Wonderland,” which dates back to 1934, is an occasion for the band to bop through a delightful theme-and-variation attack, led by Rothermel’s sax but with equal time for Massanari and Burr to fashion fanciful statements of their own as well. She goes back to what is generally acknowledged to be the start of the blues Christmas tradition with a swaggering, multi-textured take on “At the Christmas Ball,” introduced in 1925 by Bessie Smith.

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Armstrong’s “Zat You Santa Claus” elicits a comical treatment with Muldaur vocally trembling at the thought that her late-night visitor might be someone other than Kris Kringle as the drums and sax heighten the element of danger lurking nearby. Two other Armstrong-associated tunes are occasions for the singer and her band to swing free and easy, “Yule That’s Cool” and “Christmas Night in Harlem,” and it could be argued that the delight the musicians take in these—from the way Muldaur plays with the lyrics and the soloists frolic through their spotlight moments—lends these performances a special buoyancy. For good measure, add to these treats the jumping jive the dramatis personae deliver on Louis Prima’s “What Will Santa Claus Say.”

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For her long-time fans, Muldaur has a couple of special treats. Those that go back with her to the Even Dozen Jug Band days may remember a holiday parody that irreverent bunch did with the Don Redman-penned tune “Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You,” first recorded in 1929 by McKinney’s Cotton Pickers. With a little lyric tweaking by Duke Ellington collaborator Andy Razaf, Nat King Cole cut it during his first session for Capitol Records in 1943 and in ’44 it followed Cole’s first hit, “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” onto the national charts. Muldaur doesn’t reprise the Jug Band parody here but simply digs into the tune’s deep lovestruck blues in a tender, medium-cool smoldering style with plaintive, atmospheric soloing by Rothermel (clarinet), Burr and Massanari enhancing the yearning mood. And then there is the title track, an on-the-spot rewrite of her breakout hit, the David Nichtern-penned “Midnight at the Oasis,” given a suggestive Yule twist—“let’s slip off to the North Pole…real soon…and kick up a little snow”—in which the camel is supplanted by Rudolph (“our friend…he’ll light up the way…come on, until the evening ends, ‘til the evening ends”), although she does retain, “I’ll be your belly dancer, prancer/and you can be my sheik…,” presumably because, well, prancer fits, doesn’t it? Who knew?

In the end, if Maria Muldaur simply had to be the last person on the planet to release a Christmas album, at least she made the wait worthwhile. Christmas at the Oasis is an instant swinging seasonal classic. (by David McGee)

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Maria Muldaur’s live Christmas set was recorded at the Razz Room in San Francisco in 2009. What a wonderful blast of Christmas cheer! The recording is technically excellent with Muldaur’s crack Dixieland band giving a new twist to these secular Christmas favorites. A swinging instrumental version of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” warms up the audience before Muldaur starts her vocal blast on “Boogie Woogie Santa.” Steve Allen’s “Yule That’s Cool” that Bette Midler recorded on her Christmas set Cool Yule sways delightfully. Louis Prima’s “What Will Santa Claus Say” bubbles delightfully. “Christmas Night in Harlem” sways relentlessly. “Winter Wonderland” jives with Jim Rothermel’s sax on the upbeat swing track. “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” has a blusey smoke-filled lounge feel, “I bought you a fur coat for Christmas & a diamond ring, big Cadillac car & everything.” The set concludes with Muldaur’s lyrical twist on her familiar hit “Midnight at the Oasis” which transforms to the title track, “Let’s slip off to the North Pole, real soon, and kick up a little snow.” This is not your religious Christmas record. This is a Christmas party that is as fun as it is addictive. Enjoy! (by Lee Armstrong)

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Personnel:
John R. Burr (piano)
Kent Bryson (drums)
Craig Caffall (guitar)
Ruth Davies (bass)
Jeff Massanari (guitar)
Maria Muldaur (vocals)
Jim Rothermel (saxophone, clarinet)

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Tracklist:
01. Sleigh Ride (Anderson) 2.58
02. Boogie Woogie Santa (Shaw) 5.03
03. Christmas Blues (Cahn/Holt)) 4.26
04. Yule That’s Cool (Allen) 3.55
05. Santa Baby (Javits/Springer/Springer) 4.46
06. What Will Santa Claus Say (When He Finds Everybody Swingin’) (Prima) 3.26
07. At The Christmas Ball (Longshaw) 4.39
08. Christmas Night In Harlem (Parish/Scott) 3.35
09. Merry Christmas Baby (Baxter/Moore) 5.07
10. Zat You Santa Claus (Fox) 3.40
11. Winter Wonderland (Bernard/Smith) 5.50
12. Gee Baby Ain’t I Good For You (Razaf/Redman) 5.47
13. Christmas At The Oasis (Nichtern) 3.46

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More from Maria Muldaur:

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Sting – If On A Winter’s Night (2009)

FrontCover1.jpgIf on a Winter’s Night… is the ninth studio album from British musician Sting.[10] The album is a collection of Christmas and winter-themed songs mostly written by others, including folk songs, madrigals and religious hymns from past centuries. Dozens of musicians appear on the album in various configurations, including jazz, folk and classical players.

It was released in most countries on 26 October 2009, on 27 October 2009 in the United States and 2 November 2009 in the United Kingdom. The album was released in several formats: vinyl LP, a single-disc CD, a limited edition CD and making-of DVD entitled The Genesis of ‘If on a Winter’s Night…’ in Six Chapters in hardback book packaging, an Amazon.com exclusive version, as well as various import editions (of note is the Japanese edition). The limited edition and Amazon exclusive both include bonus songs; the Japanese edition include them as well but adds “The Coventry Carol.” The album includes a reworking of “The Hounds of Winter” from his album Mercury Falling.

The title of the album is based on the novel If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino. (by wikipedia)

Booklet09AIt’s no secret that Sting is a serious man, so it’s only logical that his holiday album — his first new music since the Police reunion, not that it really matters — is a serious endeavor, thank you. No niceties for him, no comforts of carols; he favors formal over familiar, writing madrigals, not ditties. It is music made by someone who lives in a castle, which isn’t necessarily such a bad thing: the austerity is genuine, not affected, and the cerebral nature of the album is fascinating, albeit mildly so, as this is as sleepy as it is thoughtful. And it’s that thoughtfulness that does distinguish If on a Winter’s Night…; no other Christmas album exists in the head like this. It’s a holiday album for people who have never wanted to hear a holiday album, let alone own one. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

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Sting relishes a bleak and beautiful season:

Sting eschews the conventional approach to holiday releases – slap dash versions of jingle bell-dressed carols and reverential hymns-with-strings – with this shivery homage to the season of icicles and introspection.

In the liner notes he explains that the snowy season is his favorite, calling it “both bleak and profoundly beautiful.’’ He expertly captures that mood on this mix of traditional songs, lullabies, hymns, and a pair of originals.

The ultra-tasteful arrangements trot the globe from Gaelic revelry to Middle Eastern rhythms.

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The upbeat, bluegrass-tinged “Soul Cake’’ offers pleasant Dickensian undertones in the poverty-stricken-yet-jolly lyrics. The melancholic “Christmas at Sea’’ finds Sting setting a Robert Louis Stevenson poem to windswept music. He recasts the midtempo pop song “The Hounds of Winter’’ from his “Mercury Falling’’ album with layers of bass clarinet, melodeon, and cello into a ballad of exquisite wistfulness. As is the simple voice and guitar arrangement of “The Snow It Melts the Soonest,’’ with Sting exploring a ragged part of his voice perfect for the tune’s mournful tone.

The disc absolutely veers into stuffy corners, thick with overemphasized, Sting-ian portent, notably on the mannered spoken word passages of “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming.’’ And the more contemporary energy of a tune like “The Burning Babe’’ doesn’t mesh as well with its throwback peers.

But mostly, with its wintry hush and flurries of harmonies, the album evokes the title, a not unpleasant vision of contemplatively gazing out a window encrusted with frost in a thick Irish wool sweater drinking a steaming cup of cider. (by Sarah Rodman)

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Personnel:
Chris Botti (trumpet)
John Clark (horn)
Ira Coleman (bass)
Charles Curtis (cello)
Jack DeJohnette (drums)
Daniel Druckman (drums)
Chris Dudley (trombone)
John Ellis (clarinet)
Kenny Garrett (saxophone)
Chris Gekker (trumpet)
David Hartley (harmonium)
Daniel Hope (violin)
Bashiri Johnson (drums, percussion)
Edin Karamazov (lute)
Ibrahim Maalouf (trumpet)
Mary MacMaster (harp, vocals)
David Mansfield (dulcimer, guitar, mandocello, mandolin)
Melissa Meell (cello)
Dominic Miller (guitar)
Daphna Mor (recorder)
Leslie Neish (tuba)
Dean Parks (guitar, mandolin)
Marcus Rojas (tuba)
Bassam Saba (ney, oud)
David Sancious (organ)
Dov Scheindlin (viola)
Vincent Ségal (cello)
Sting (vocals, percussion, guitar, lute, snare drum)
Julian Sutton (accordion)
Kathryn Tickell (northumbrian smallpipes, violin)
Peter Tickell (violin)
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percussion:
Bijan Chemirani – Rhani Krija – Cyro Baptista – Daniel Freedman – Donald Hay
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background vocals:
Joe Sumner – Lisa Fischer – The Webb Sisters – Jasmine Thomas
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Stile Antico (vocal ensemble)
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MusicAeterna (strings)

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Tracklist:
01. Gabriel’s Message (Traditional) 2.33
02. Soul Cake (Stookey/Batteast/Mezetti) 3.27
03. There Is No Rose of Such Virtue (Anonymous) 4.03
04. The Snow It Melts The Soonest (Traditional) 3.43
05. Christmas At Sea (Stevenson/Sting/MacMaster) 4.37
06. Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming (Praetorius/Baker) 2.41
07. Cold Song (Purcell/Dryden) 3.16
08. The Burning Babe (Wood/Southwell) 2.43
09. Now Winter Comes Slowly (Purcell/Betterton) 3.05
10. The Hounds Of Winter (Sting) 5.49
11. Balulalow (Warlock/Traditional) 3.10
12. Cherry Tree Carol (Traditional) 3.11
13. Lullaby For An Anxious Child (Sting/Miller) 2.50
14. The Hurdy-Gurdy Man (Schubert/Müller) 2.49
15. You Only Cross My Mind In Winter (Bach/Sting) 2.35

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Steve Morse Band – Out Standing In Their Field (2009)

FrontCover1.jpgSteve Morse (born July 28, 1954) is an American guitarist and composer, best known as the founder of the Dixie Dregs; and since 1994, the guitar player of Deep Purple. Morse’s career has encompassed rock, country, funk, jazz, classical, and fusion of these musical genres. In addition to his successful solo career, he was briefly a member of Kansas in the mid-1980s. Most recently, Morse became a member of the supergroup Flying Colors alongside long-time bandmate Dave LaRue. (by wikipedia)

A solid effort from an outstanding trio – well worth a listen, especially for guitar enthusiasts!

I recently had the pleasure to see these guys on their brief 2009. It seems like Steve is so busy playing with Deep Purple and other acts that he rarely has a chance to tour with this trio. I was so blown away by their stellar performance that I decided to pick up this album (their most recent at this time). Although I’m a fan of Morse’s guitar playing, I preface this review by saying that I’m not that familiar with his previous Steve Morse Band albums. So, my opinions on this album are relatively uninfluenced by his previous works.

SteveMorse01Overall, this is a spectacular album. I highly recommend it for fans of instrumental prog, particularly if you’re a fan of excellent guitar work and funky bass lines. For fans of Liquid Tension Experiment and Bozzio Levin Stevens, this is worth a listen. There are a lot of standout tracks on this album, with only a few tracks that are rather unmemorable. This album is highly recommended for road trips! Now on to the track-by-track:

1) Name Dropping – The album kicks off with solid, hard-driving riffing with a steady beat. A running eighth note melody is doubled on the guitar and bass which sets the foundation for Morse’s soaring guitar playing. Keep listening, because the mellow, spacey bridge adds nice contrast later in the song.

2) Brink of the Edge – Eclectic and dynamic, this piece combines heavy sections with softer passages in a true Steve Morse sound. Awesome guitar picking, as you’d expect from the master, which is complimented by La Rue’s prominent bass lines including the quintessential slap bass solo near the end (not the last one you’ll hear on this album).

3) Here And Now And Then – One of the best on the album and the first song to catch my attention. It starts out very mellow with nice use of syncopation and stays that way for a while. It eventually builds momentum and develops into a nice rock groove at the end with some great guitar work over top. The solo work at the end reminds me of John Petrucci (who, of course, was heavily influenced by Morse)? a plus for you Dream Theater fans out there (especially if you’re an early DT fan, like me).

4) Relentless Encroachment – Not the strongest song on the album, but worth a listen. The song starts out a bit weak, but gets better part way through. After some rather uninspired riffing, it switches to a softer section, which is then followed by some good ol’ riffing in the style of King’s X, followed by some good guitar work (no surprise there!).

SteveMorse035) John Deere Letter – OK, OK? cheesy name aside, this is a decent song, though not one of my favorites (I go for the heavier stuff). Morse fans will know what to expect from the title. For the rest of you, take a listen to better understand why these guys are classified as “eclectic prog.” The song showcases Morse’s signature “chicken-pickin”style as he trades 4’s and 8’s with La Rue, who pulls out some quick fingered solos of his own.

6) More to the Point – Another decent piece, but, again, not the most memorable on the album. Good use of syncopation in the main motif. Perhaps one of the better songs on the album for cranking up loud and driving down the highway.

7) Time Junction – This song is neat just for the fact that it includes featured guest Kevin Morse (Steve’s son, I presume?). In fact, the song is credited as being written by Kevin and Steve Morse (the only one on the album not credited solely to Steve). What’s more, this is a pretty awesome song. It starts off a bit weak, but takes off pretty quick. If this is the start of a rock dynasty, then I’m looking forward to hearing what’s to come!

8) Unnamed Sources – A rather uninspired offering on an otherwise outstanding album. This song starts rather pedestrian in tempo with so-so guitar and bass work. Just before the 3 minute mark it shows the potential to shine when they crank it up to a riff that’s reminiscent of Carrier on Wayward Son (makes sense with Morse’s connection to Kansas). But this shining moment is short lived. After about 15 seconds they put the breaks on and never pick it back up.

9) Flight Of The Osprey – Hands down, best song on the album. This song caught my attention right away. It starts out with a brief Baroque counterpoint section but quickly shifts to a driving rock that carries us through to the end. My only criticism of this song is that I wish it would last longer and perhaps include more soloing.

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10) Baroque ‘N Dreams – An awesome piece that contrasts the rest of the album. This piece is bass and guitar only in a “classical” style that is at times dark, but always wonderful. Some nice flamenco-esque sounds find their way into the guitar line which is supported through much of the piece with a basso continuo from La Rue. No rock here, but awesome for fans of neo-classical (and good music in general).

11) Rising Power (live) – For those of you who couldn’t make it to their recent tour, here’s your 9 and a half minute consolation prize. This track is awesome and an excellent way to close out this album. You can really hear the energy they have on stage. This track has everything you would expect at a Steve Morse Band show: Romaine’s driving rock beat, La Rue’s funky slap bass fills (anyone who’s been to a show can attest to how essential these are? it seems like he spends half his time slapping!), and of course Morse’s versatile and precise guitar work. This song also showcases some great texture changes. Its got driving rock, spacey guitar-synth, bluesy breakdowns, the elongated buildup? not to mention great guitar and bass solos. If you can’t go to the show, this really is the next best thing. (by The Radiant Is)

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Personnel:
Dave LaRue (bass)
Steve Morse (guitar)
Van Romaine (drums, percussion)

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Tracklist:
01. Name Dropping (S.Morse) 5.00
02. Brink Of The Edge (S.Morse) 4.44
03. Here And Now And Then (S.Morse) 5.08
04. Relentless Encroachment (S.Morse) 4.56
05. John Deere Letter (S.Morse) 4.44
06. More To The Point (S.Morse) 4.29
07. Time Junction (K.Morse) 5.16
08. Unnamed Sources (S.Morse) 4.31
09. Flight Of The Osprey (S.Morse) 3.21
10. Baroque `N Dreams (S.Morse) 3.16
11. Rising Power (live) (S.Morse) 9.28

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Rigmor Gustafsson & Radio String Quartet Vienna – Calling You (2010)

FrontCover1At first sight this collaboration between two of ACT’s established artists seems an unlikely alliance.
Swedish singer Gustafsson has released a series of albums for the label, all the titles ending with the word “You” so in effect I guess this is her record. Gustafsson is an assured and soulful singer schooled in jazz but with an innate feel for the rhythms of popular song ( her album “Close To You” is a celebration of the music of Dionne Warwick). She is also a more than useful songwriter and wrote the bulk of the material on her 2007 release “Alone With You.”

radio.string.quartet.vienna won great critical acclaim when they first burst onto the scene in 2007 with their album “Celebrating The Mahavishnu Orchestra”. Their ingenious arrangements of the music of John McLaughlin proved remarkably successful both artistically and commercially and in 2008 the group released their second album “Radiotree”, a collaboration with Austrian accordionist and bandoneon player Klaus Paier. This time the focus was largely on original material composed either by Paier or by members of the quartet.

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On “Calling You” the material is a mix of inspired covers from both the jazz and pop songbooks plus a smattering of original material from both Gustafsson and members of the quartet. The quartet’s line up remains unchanged with Johannes Dickbauer and leader Bernie Mallinger on violins, Cynthia Liao on viola and the extraordinary Asja Valcic on cello. RSQV break pretty much all the rules for a string quartet, playing pizzicato almost as much as arco and generating an incredible rhythmic drive, much of this due to Valcic in the proverbial engine room. The level of technical skill displayed by the players is astonishing and their arrangements, shared between Mallinger and Dickbauer, are always adventurous and colourful. No wonder the press release states that the group have “totally redefined the string quartet genre”. What is amazing is the ease with which the quartet dovetail with the voice of Gustafsson to produce something unique. It all sounds perfectly natural and what might have been a musical disaster area is, in fact, a huge success.

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The ensemble commence with a wistful,slowed down version of Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years”. The quartet complement Gustafsson’s voice superbly and shine in a spectral instrumental middle passage. The imaginative arrangement and Gustafsson’s delivery bring out the pathos in Simon’s lyrics. It’s a stunning version of the song.

RSQV know how to have fun as well as how to emote. The jazz standard “Makin’ Whoopee”, a tune Gustafsson has covered previously, gets the playful treatment complete with buzzing strings and scat vocals.

Gustafsson’s own “Goodbye For Now” could be a jazz standard and features the singer at her most flirtatious. There’s even the sound of whistling (Gustafsson presumably) over the sound of massed pizzicato strings.

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It’s back to the serious approach for Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “I Don’t Know What To Do With Myself”. Gustafsson’s yearning vocal brings out the sense of loneliness expressed in the lyrics.
The brooding string arrangement complements her perfectly and in it’s way this is just as radical an interpretation of the tune as that of the White Stripes.

By way of contrast Valcic’s “Fancy Nancy” is a joyous romp with Gustafsson camping it up above furiously sawing strings. It’s a bit throwaway but great fun.

The ensemble like to mix moods and styles and no two tunes follow the same pattern. Their version of Stevie Wonder’s “If It’s Magic” is achingly beautiful, Gustafsson’s pure vocal augmented by an unusually “straight” string arrangement. Immediately afterwards Richard Bona and John Legend’s “Please Don’t Stop” marks a return to the playful, flirtatious approach complete with finger snaps.

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Gustafsson’s album notes state that the group merely picked songs that meant a lot to them regardless of genre and classification. However they do seem to have a particular affinity for the works of Bacharach and David. A remarkable reworking of “Close To You” imbues the song with an ethereal sense of wonder, it’s fragile and vaguely Bjork-ish in spirit if not in delivery.

Johannes Dickbauer’s writing contribution is the haunting “Wherever We Go” beautifully delivered by Gustafsson above Dickbauer’s own arrangement.

Joni Mitchell’s “The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines” with music by Charles Mingus is an altogether more challenging piece of work. Gustafsson’s virtuoso vocal performance and Mallinger’s grainy, sometimes dissonant arrangement are hugely effective on the album’s most extreme piece of work.

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Bob Telson’s much covered title track from the 1987 movie “Bagdad Cafe” also works supremely well. Gustafsson’s singing and Mallinger’s arrangement conjure up the emptiness of the desert highways referenced in the song’s lyrics. I’m not familiar with the other covers by the likes of Celine Dion and George Michael but I’d imagine they pale in comparison to this.

“Nothing’s Better Than Love” is Gustafsson’s second writing credit. She deploys semi spoken hipster vocals and the playing by the quartet is typically sparky but it’s not one of the record’s most memorable cuts.

Given that the bulk of the songs covered on the album are the work of Americans Gustafsson redresses the balance with the closing item, a beautiful rendition of the traditional Swedish folk tune “Ack Varmland Du Skona”. Gustafsson sings in her native tongue, it’s a nice touch from a vocalist who has made herself so much at home in the American idiom.

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When RSQV took their Mahavishnu project on the road they won fulsome praise for the quality of their live performances. Together with Gustafsson they are currently touring the music of “Calling You” around Europe and it’s likely that further plaudits will be forthcoming. Listening to the album it’s apparent that this combination of voice and instruments should make for a hugely impressive live show.

The album itself is a highly impressive piece of work and as I’ve intimated it should work very well live. Whether it’s the kind of album that will remain a regular favourite after the initial sense of admiration/novelty has worn off I’m not yet certain but there’s no doubt that the singing and playing is of the highest order. (by Ian Mann)

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Personnel:
Rigmor Gustafsson (vocals)
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Radio String Quartet Vienna:
Johannes Dickbauer (violin)
Cynthia Liao (cello)
Bernie Mallinger (violin)

LinerNotes
Tracklist:
01. Still Crazy After All These Years (Simon) 4.31
02. Makin’ Whoopee (Kahn/Donaldson) 3.54
03. Goodbye For Now (Gustafsson) 3.16
04. I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (David/Bacharach) 3.57
05. Fancy Nancy (Valcic) 2.29
06. If It’s Magic (Wonder) 4.03
07. Please Don’t Stop (Legend/Bona) 4.03
08. Close To You (David/Bacharach) 4.16
09. Whenever We Go (Dickbauer) 5.24
10. The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines (Mitchell/Mingus) 4.42
11. Calling You (Telson) 5.04
12. Nothing’s Better Than Love (Gustafsson) 3.28
13. Ack Värmland Du Sköna (Tradional) 5.41
+
14. Calling You (Telson) 5.18

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Rigmor Gustafsson & Radio String Quartet Vienna07

Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood – Live From Madison Square Garden (2009)

FrontCover1.jpgLive from Madison Square Garden is a 2 CD/2 DVD live album by Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood which was released on 19 May 2009 by Duck / Reprise Records. The album is made up of recordings from Clapton and Winwood’s performances at Madison Square Garden in February 2008. It is Eric Clapton’s ninth live album and Steve Winwood’s first live album as a solo artist.

The duo performed songs from their time in the band Blind Faith as well as selections from Traffic, Derek and the Dominos, Clapton’s and Winwood’s solo careers and some rock and blues covers. Their band consisted of Willie Weeks on bass, Ian Thomas on drums and Chris Stainton on keyboards.

Winwood and Clapton first crossed musical paths as members of the one-off group Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse in March 1966. They recorded songs issued on the Elektra Records compilation album What’s Shaking. Later they teamed up again in 1969 with the formation of Blind Faith, shortly after Clapton had left Cream. Blind Faith pioneered the fusion of rock and blues into tremendous studio and stage success. Despite critical and popular acclaim, the band was short-lived with only one album and a brief 1969 tour that debuted 12 July at Madison Square Garden and ended 24 August in Hawaii. Since then, Winwood and Clapton have remained friends but had only performed together a few times over the years; an occasional song at a charity event.

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In 1998, they both appeared in the movie Blues Brothers 2000 as members of the fictional blues group, the Louisiana Gator Boys (Willie Weeks was also a member). During Clapton’s 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival, Clapton and Winwood played six songs together including a few Blind Faith songs. After that successful experience, the two decided to collaborate again. The 2008 Madison Square Garden shows were the first full Winwood-Clapton concerts in almost 40 years.

The night before Buddy Miles died, a friend called him on his cell phone so he could hear Winwood and Clapton perform his best known song “Them Changes”. When they found out the next day that Miles had died, they dedicated the performance of the song to him.

On 11 February 2009, the pair announced a 14-city US tour that kicked off on 10 June 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. They were joined on stage by Chris Stainton (keyboards), Willie Weeks (bass), Abe Laboriel, Jr. (drums), as well as backing vocalists Sharon White and Michelle John.

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Live from Madison Square Garden was recorded from 25 to 28 February. The shows were recorded and mixed by James Towler, while the production was handled by James Pluta, John McDermott, and Scooter Weintraub with executive production by John Beug, Michael Eaton, Peter Jackson, and Tom Whalley. Most of the production staff were also involved in the recordings for Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festivals.

The art direction for the album and DVD was Ellen Wakayama with the design handled by Donny Phillips of the Tehachapi hardcore bands The Warriors and Machines, and photography by Danny Clinch. Phillips is one of the lead graphic designers at Warner Bros. Records, which the other two people mentioned also work for. The artwork was based on the taijitu, although the colours on the packaging were red and blue instead of black and white. (by wikipedia)

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Eric Clapton’s new millennium has largely been defined by collaborations with friends, beginning with a duet album with B.B. King following through with a Cream reunion and closing with tours with his former Blind Faith running mate, Steve Winwood. Clapton and Winwood did three concerts together at Madison Square Garden in February 2008 and the results were fruitful enough to spawn this double-disc album — along with its accompanying DVD set — and a moderately scaled 2009 tour. Live from Madison Square Garden culls 21 highlights from those three nights and spreads them over two discs, sequencing the songs so Traffic numbers alternate with selections from Blind Faith, Derek & the Dominos, blues standards, a handful of Clapton’s hits, and a heavy dose of Hendrix, who has no less than three songs here. That extended salute to Jimi is a good indication of the vibe here — this is a genuine shared co-billing with Clapton and Winwood trading vocals and solos almost equally.

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There’s not much ego here and not much hunger, either, with the two stars sliding into a relaxed groove that yields plenty of rewards. There’s a comfortable touch to their playing that’s greatly appealing, and the straightforward setting places the spotlight directly on their interplay. Clapton and Winwood might roll easy but they can still create some sparks, sometimes in unexpected places, such as the somewhat forgotten ’80s hits “Forever Man” and “Split Decision,” both which are highlights here. Ultimately, this isn’t an album of moments, but rather a sustained whole that finds Clapton and Winwood egging each other on to produce a wholly satisfying, if not quite surprising, reunion. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

Oh yes … this was a night, two legends came out to play !

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Personnel:
Eric Clapton (guitar, vocals)
Chris Stainton (keyboards)
Ian Thomas (drums)
Willie Weeks (bass)
Steve Winwood (keyboards guitar, vocals)

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Tracklist:

CD 1:
01. Had To Cry Today (Winwood) 7.47
02. Low Down (Cale) 4.10
03. Them Changes (Miles) 5.10
04. Forever Man (Williams) 3.33
05. Sleeping In The Ground (Myers) 4.50
06. Presence Of The Lord (Clapton) 5.23
07. Glad (Winwood) 4.13
08. Well All Right (Allison/Holly/Mauldin/Petty) 5.35
09. Double Trouble (Rush) 8.06
10. Pearly Queen (Capaldi/Winwood) 6.10
11. Tell The Truth (Clapton/Whitlock) 6.42
12. No Face, No Name, No Number (Capaldi/Winwood) 4.09

CD 2:
01. After Midnight (Cale) 4.45
02. Split Decision (Walsh/Winwood) 6.25
03. Rambling On My Mind (Clapton only) (Johnson) 4.01
04. Georgia On My Mind (Winwood only) (Carmichael/Gorrell) 5.05
05. Little Wing (Hendrix) 6.42
06. Voodoo Chile (Hendrix) 16.23
07. Can’t Find My Way Home (Winwood) 5.33
08. Dear Mr. Fantasy (Capaldi/Winwood/Wood) 7.41
09. Cocaine (Cale) 6.41

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Roger McGuinn – 67th Birthday Concert (2009)

RogerMcGuinnFrontCover1Roger McGuinn (James Roger McGuinn, born James Joseph McGuinn III; July 13, 1942), is an American musician. He is best known for being the frontman of the Byrds. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his work with the Byrds.

After the break-up of the Byrds, McGuinn released several solo albums throughout the 1970s. In 1973 he collaborated with Bob Dylan on songs for the sound track of the Sam Peckinpah movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid including “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”. He toured with Bob Dylan in 1975 and 1976 as part of Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, cancelling a planned tour of his own in order to participate. In late 1975, he played guitar on the track titled “Ride the Water” on Bo Diddley’s The 20th Anniversary of Rock ‘n’ Roll all-star album.

In 1977, he released an LP titled Thunderbyrd, which was also the name of his contemporaneous band. Other members included future John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and Fleetwood Mac guitarist Rick Vito, future Poco bassist Charlie Harrison and drummer Greg Thomas.

In 1978, McGuinn joined fellow ex-Byrds Gene Clark and Chris Hillman to form McGuinn, Clark and Hillman. The trio recorded an album with Capitol Records in 1979. They performed on many TV rock shows, including repeated performances on The Midnight Special, where they played both new material and Byrds hits. McGuinn’s “Don’t You Write Her Off” reached #33 in April 1979. While some believe that the slick production and disco rhythms didn’t flatter the group, it sold well enough to generate a follow up. McGuinn, Clark and Hillman’s second release was to have been a full group effort entitled “City”, but a combination of Clark’s unreliability and drug problems resulted in the billing change on their next LP City to “Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, featuring Gene Clark.”

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Since 1981, McGuinn has regularly toured (primarily playing clubs and small theaters) as a solo singer-guitarist.

In 1987 Roger McGuinn was the opening act for Dylan and Tom Petty. In 1991, he released his comeback solo album, Back from Rio, to successful acclaim. It included the hit single “King of the Hill,” written together with, and featuring, Petty.

On July 11, 2000, McGuinn testified before in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on downloading music from the Internet that artists do not always receive the royalties that (non-Internet based) record companies state in contracts, and that to date, the Byrds had not received any royalties for their greatest successes, “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn, Turn, Turn” – they only received advances, which were split five ways and were just “a few thousand dollars” per band member. He also stated that he was receiving 50 percent royalties from MP3.com.

RogerMcGuinnHe was also part of an author/musician band, Rock Bottom Remainders, a group of published writers doubling as musicians to raise proceeds for literacy charities. In July 2013, McGuinn co-authored an interactive ebook, Hard Listening, with the rest of the group

Roger McGuinn has used the Internet to continue the folk music tradition since November 1995 by recording a different folk song each month on his Folk Den site. The songs are made available from his Web site, and a selection (with guest vocalists) was released on CD as Treasures from the Folk Den, which was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2002 for Best Traditional Folk Album. In November 2005, McGuinn released a four-CD box set containing one hundred of his favorite songs from the Folk Den.[9]
Personal life

When he originally started with the Byrds, he used the name Jim, which he thought to be too plain. McGuinn became involved in the Subud spiritual association in 1965 and began to practice the latihan, an exercise in quieting the mind. He changed his name in 1967[10] after Subud’s founder Bapak told him it would better “vibrate with the universe.” Bapak sent Jim the letter “R” and asked him to send back ten names starting with that letter. Owing to a fascination with airplanes, gadgets and science fiction, he sent names like “Rocket”, “Retro”, “Ramjet”, and “Roger”, the latter a term used in signalling protocol over two-way radios, military and civil aviation. Roger was the only “real” name in the bunch and Bapak chose it. While using the name Roger professionally from that time on, McGuinn only officially changed his middle name from Joseph to Roger.

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McGuinn married Susan Bedrick in 1963; however, the marriage was subsequently annulled. From December 1966 to November 1971, he was married to Dolores DeLeon. A fellow adherent of Subud, DeLeon changed her name to Ianthe in 1967 before reverting to her original name after the dissolution of their marriage. With DeLeon, McGuinn fathered two sons, including filmmaker Patrick McGuinn. Immediately following their divorce, McGuinn was married for a third time to Linda Gilbert in November 1971; this marriage also ended in divorce in June 1975.

McGuinn left Subud in 1977, the same year that he met his fourth and current wife and business manager, Camilla; they married in April 1978. Since that time, the McGuinns have practiced evangelical Christianity.

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A registered member of the Republican Party, McGuinn donated $2,000 to the Ben Carson presidential campaign in 2015 and refused to endorse Donald Trump. He also opposed Florida Amendment 1 (2016) (an initiative pertaining to the solar energy industry, of which McGuinn is a longtime advocate) and endorsed Florida Amendment 2 (2016) (a medical marijuana legalization initiative). (by wikipedia)

And here´s a damn good solo concert from 2009,which was broadcasted by “Deutschland – Radio/Kultur)

… Oh yes, this man has to tell many stories and hast to sing many songs … because he was a very important part of the US Folk-Rock history.

Such a beautiful sound, such important lyrics ! An album in a very pensive mood.

Recorded live at the Pfandhaus, Köln, Germany, July 13, 2009
excellen broadcast quality

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Personnel:
RogerMcGuinn (vocals, guitar, banjo)
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Camilla McGuinn (vocals on 26.)

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Tracklist:
01. Introduction (in German) 1.20
02. My Back Pages (Dylan) 2.15
03.  Mr. Spaceman (McGuinn) 2.25
04. Pretty Boy Floyd (Guthrie) 3.09
05. You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (Dylan) 2.50
06. Well Well Well (Camp/Gibson) 1.59
07. Ballad Of Easy Rider (McGuinn/Dylan) 2.19
08. Wasn’t Born To Follow (Goffin/King) 1.48
09. You Showed Me (McGuinn/Clark) 2.19
10. All I Really Want To Do (Dylan) 2.15
11. Chestnut Mare (McGuinn/Levy) 6.18
12. American Girl (Petty) 2.27
13. King Of The Hill (McGuin/Petty) 3.10
14. The Trees Are All Gone (McGuinn/C.McGuinn) 3.40
15. Interview (with German voice over) 2.48
16. 5D (Fifth Dimension) (McGuinn) 2.56
17. Lover Of The Bayou (McGuinn/Levy) 2.25
18. Just A Season (McGuinn/Levy) 3.45
19. The Bells Of Rhymney (Seeger) 3.50
20. Turn! Turn! Turn! (Seeger) 3.55
19. He Was A Friend Of Mine (Traditional) 2.28
20. So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star (Hillman/McGuinn) 2.44
21. Eight Miles High (Clark/McGuinn/Crosby) 5.12
22. Mr. Tambourine Man (Dylan) 3.15
23. I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better (Clark) 1.47
24. Chimes Of Freedom (Dylan) 3.06
25. Happy Birthday (crowd) 1.15
26. May The Road Rise To Meet You (Traditional) 2.46
26. Don’t You Write Her Off (Hippard/McGuinn) 2.49

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I dedicate this entry to a good girlfriend of my wife,
she died today and she was only 57 years old:

Summertime – the sun would shine
We’d lay across the field
Sheltered in the shadow of a tree
We’d write our poems to take along
To sing out on the road
And you would always sing this song to me

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your land
May the rain fall soft upon your face until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand

Autumn leaves would change our trees
To colors on the ground
Swirling patterns beautiful to see
I’d lay my head down on your lap
I wouldn’t make a sound
nd you would always sing this song to me

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your land
May the rain fall soft upon your face until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand

Through the winter days our tree
Would shiver in the wind
Waiting for the warning touch of
Spring I’d hold you in the firelight-
We’d stare into the flame
And this is what you always used to sing

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your land
May the rain fall soft upon your face until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand

Status Quo – Pictures – Live At Montreux (2009)

FrontCover1.jpgIn July 2009 the Pictures live tour landed at Montreux in Switzerland as part of the world famous festival. The band delivered a blistering set of hits and classic tracks from across their career including no less than 18 UK Top 20 hits. This Pictures tour setlist has been hailed by many cognoscenti as the bands best ever.

Status Quo. What can you say? They evolve and adapt with the times. You can’t really say any vintage was a golden age as they’re all solid gold. This is a truly superb gig, marred only by the fact that, at this point, they’ve too much good material to fit into a single set. Not impressed with the extras, but what extras can you put into a concert DVD anyway? I’m not going to deduct stars for not doing the impossible.

The sets are basic and movement around the stage is limited. Quo has always been like that. They’re highly skilled musicians, they can play blazingly fast, their voices have held up better than they have for many rock/boogie groups, but if you’re looking for Queen-style theatrics or Iron Maiden’s operatic drama, you won’t find it here.

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Quo are under-rated, under-watched and under-appreciated in their domain. If that domain appeals, you can’t go wrong with this. It’s ok to like other music as well, diversity is good. (by Jonathan)

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This is Status Quo on a top notch concert. the setlist is pretty neat and the sound quality is a great example of how a concert must be produced. Each member of the band show us what is Rock n Roll about, and every camera shot last enough to feel the “live” vibe. Just get comfty, turn it up and enjoy. (by Angel)

And yes … “Pictures Of Matchstick Men” is a great psych song !

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Personnel:
Andrew Bown (keyboards, guitar, vocals)
John Rhino Edwards (bass, vocals)
Matthew Letley (drums, percussion)
Rick Parfitt (guitar, vocals)
Francis Rossi (guitar, vocals)
+
Bob Young (harmonica)

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Tracklist:

CD 1:
01. Opening 1.15
02. Caroline (Rossi/Young) 4.45
03. The Wanderer (Maresca) 2.44
04. Rain (Parfitt) 4.51
05. Don’t Drive My Car (Bown/Parfitt) 4.06
06. Mean Girl (Rossi/Young) /Softer Ride (Lancaster/Parfitt) 5.49
07. Beginning Of The End (Rossi/Edwards) 4.22
08. Is There A Better Way (Lancaster/Rossi) 4.11
09. Proposing Medley 11.03
09.1. What You’re Proposing (Rossi/Frost)
09.2. Down The Dustpipe (Groszman)
09.3. Little Lady (Parfitt)
09.4. Red Sky (David)
09.5. Dear John (Gustafson/MacAulay)
09.6. Big Fat Mama (Rossi/Parfitt)
10. Pictures Of Matchstick Men (Rossi) /Ice In The Sun (WildeScott) 4.36
11. The Oriental (Rossi/Edwards) 4.58

CD 2:
12. Creepin’ Up On You (Edwards/Parfitt) 4.59
13. In My Chair (Rossi/Young) 3.18
14. Living On An Island (Young/Parfitt) 2.47
15. In The Army Now (R.Bolland/F.Bolland) 4.07
16. The Killer (Drum Solo)
17. Roll Over Lay Down (Rossi/Lancaster/Coglan/Young/Parfitt) 5.58
18. Down Down (Rossi/Young) 5.55
19. Whatever You Want (Bown/Parfitt) 5.04
20. Rockin’ All Over The World (Fogerty) 4.43
21. Junior’s Wailing (Pugh/White) 2.06
22. Rock’n’Roll Music /Bye Bye Johnny (Berry)

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