Review Rudown: Canned Heat, Average White Band, Paul Rodgers, Rockpile
This Review Rundown features looks at a number of classic sets from the vaunted Montreux festival, including reviews of releases from Canned Heat, Average White Band, Paul Rodgers and Friends and Rockpile, as well as a look at the latest from Andy Timmons.
Canned Heat - Live in Montreux 1973 (Eagle): Though Canned Heat get lost in the shuffle of their blues-rock contemporaries from the 60’s and 70’s (I.E. the Doobie Brothers, Allman Brothers, Free), but for those that might know or have forgotten, this band has some skill, and for an example of such, pop in their Live in Montreux 1973. They get some help from legendary bluesman Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown on four of the albums first five tracks (“Please Mr. Nixon,” “Worried Life Blues,” “About My Ooh Poo Pa Doo,” “Funky”), though the opening “On the Road Again,” sans Brown, isn’t to be missed. Brown’s presence is nothing short of spectacular as the timeless multi-instrumentalist lends his flair to live set, and as for the rest of Live in Montreux 1973, the band fare pretty well all by their lonesome. The 14-minute epic “Shake ‘N’ Boogie” that closes Live in Montreux 1973 is perhaps the album’s brightest spot, proof that Canned Heat was truly one of the best of their time. While they may have been overlooked decades ago, they don’t have to do now. Live in Montreux 1973 is a gem of a record. (www.cannedheatmusic.com)
Go Download: “On the Road Again”
Average White Band - Live at Montreux 1977 (Eagle): Though it may be an arguable point, the Average White Band was at the top of their game in 1977, both commercially and artistically. When they took the stage at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1977, it’s doubtful that any fan in the audience that day would disagree. Live at Montreux 1977 is a documentation and attestation of the bands heightened skill, and though the CD version features three less songs than its DVD counterpart, these eight songs occupy the better part of an hour. Live at Montreux 1977 gets right to business with the bands 1974 No. 1 hit “Pick Up the Pieces” and from there on in, the album only gets better, with a couple of cover tunes (“Work to Do” (Isley Brothers), “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (Marvin Gaye)) and some moments of sweet funk and jazz (“Person to Person,” “Sweet and Sour”). The penultimate “Cut the Cake” steals the show here, a 14-minute clip that clocks in at nearly four times the length of the studio version. It would have been nice to see the inclusion of the remaining three tracks from the DVD version of Live at Montreux 1977, but it’s still great to hear and to remember just how good the Average White Band once were. (www.averagewhiteband.com)
Go Download: “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
Rockpile - Live at Montreux 1980 (Eagle): Rockpile’s Live at Montreux 1980 is like opening a time capsule, shedding light on the short-lived career of British rock and rollers Rockpile, who formed in 1976 and only released one album in 1980, Seconds of Pleasure, only to break up shortly thereafter due to rising tension between band members Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe. Though they didn’t leave us with much, they did leave us with Live at Montreux 1980, recorded during the bands tour in support of Seconds of Pleasure. It’s hard to argue with Live at Montreux 1980 as a Rockpile release since it’s only the second official release from the band and first official live release, but the set list here is a bit lacking. Only one track from Seconds of Pleasure made its way into the set (“Teacher Teacher”), which is a damn shame due to how tremendous that record is. The majority of Live at Montreux 1980 is made up of solo material from Edmunds and Lowe, and while it’s not actually Rockpile songs, some of them still warrant a listen (“Switchboard Susan,” “Girls Talk,” “Queen of Hearts”). While Live at Montreux 1980 is not as good as it could have been, it just falls right in line with the history of this band, because Rockpile was never as good as they could have been either.
Go Download: “Teacher Teacher”
Paul Rodgers and Friends – Live at Montreux 1994 (Eagle): From Free and Bad Company to Queen, vocalist Paul Rodgers has been a part fronting many a band that hold a place in our hearts, and in 1994, when Rodgers took to the stage of the Montreux Jazz Festival, he went to work as a solo act, though he didn’t exactly come alone, hence the album title, Paul Rodgers and Friends Live at Montreux 1994. He called in many a favor his high powered list of friends on Live at Montreux 1994, as his backing band consisted of Neal Schon, Jason Bonham, Ian Hatton and Jason Smithson, while his set features performances from the likes of Brian May, Steve Lukather, Eddie Kirkland, Sherman Robertson, Luther Allison, Robert Lucas and Kenny Neal. Yeah, star power to say the least. Rodgers calls upon bodies of work from bands past, including a number of tracks culled from his time spent in Free (“Wishing Well,” “All Right Now”) and Bad Company (“Can’t Get Enough,” “Feel Like Making Love”). Rodgers take on Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” and Muddy Water’s “Hoochie Coochie Man” round out Live at Montreux 1994 with trumped up aplomb, making for two of the albums strongest moments. Live at Montreux 1994 is a reliable release that should feel more comfortable than anything else. (www.paulrodgers.com)
Go Download: “Feel Like Making Love”
Andy Timmons Band - Andy Timmons Plays Sgt Pepper (Eagle): First and foremost, Andy Timmons Band plays Sgt. Pepper is an instrumental album, which is good because there is no singer to mess up such iconic work as the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This is a release that should have even the most stringent of Beatles fans singing along. Timmons takes care of these Beatles classic tracks, which is something that really comes through in his guitar playing throughout. Some songs have a harder feel, which some have a nearly rockabilly feel, though perhaps the most interesting song that is “Strawberry Fields Forever,” which was originally intended to be released on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but was later released as a single, and then on the Magical Mystery Tour EP. Andy Timmons Plays Sgt Pepper is an excellent listen, and might just the year’s best instrumental release. (www.andytimmons.com)
Go Download: “When I’m Sixty Four”