Friday, August 12, 2011


One of the best true bands of all time, with two excellent songwriters, three singers, and four ace players.  But the game was stacked against them, thanks to contract restrictions that wouldn't let co-leaders Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds record under the Rockpile name until nearly the end of the group.  So we've only ever had the one okay album from them, and there's never been a live one.  This release makes us old fans leap with joy.

Nick and Dave were best buddies in the late 70's, each emerging as a star in England, and at least a strong cult figure in North America.  They were central figures in New Wave, and also shared a love and talent for early rock 'n' roll.  Plus, they were both excellent producers and songwriters.  They teamed up on each other's albums, hit the road together, and formed Rockpile with ace drummer Terry Williams and guitarist/singer Billy Bremner.  Alas, contractually they were confined to different labels.  Barnstorming Rockpile shows left fans drooling.  When the legal mess was finally overcome, the Seconds Of Pleasure album was good, not great, and maybe the magic was over.  After all, these guys were used to their own way on albums, and compromise is never the best product.  The band and the friendship fizzled out shortly after.

However, like at every other show, the famous Montreux Jazz Festival had the tapes rolling when they played this Euro gig in 1980.  The Montreux releases are hit-and-miss, since sometimes the groups weren't that hot the lone night at the festival, and other times, the recording quality and mix was off.  Here, it's the latter problem; Rockpile are super, but the quality isn't as good as you'd hope.  The bass is way too loud, the rhythm guitar is often missing, the drums are basically cymbals at times, and Nick Lowe's mic needs to be louder.  Now, that's all too bad, but understandable, these shows weren't originally being recorded to be released, that was decided 30 years later.  Since it's probably going to be the only Rockpile official live disc ever, I say go for it, I can live with the flaws.

While the vocals are shared between Edmunds, Lowe and Bremner, Dave gets more here, it's more his show.  We hear his bigger hits, including Girls Talk, Queen Of Hearts, Crawling From The Wreckage, and even his old Top Ten number from 1970, I Hear You Knockin'.  Lowe does give us a sampling of his quirky pop, with So It Goes, Switchboard Susan and They Called It Rock, and the pair duet on perhaps their most-loved tune, I Knew The Bride, the best Chuck Berry song he never wrote.  The medium-sized hit from Seconds Of Pleasure, Teacher Teacher appears, and the group is super-tight, trading off leads, harmonies and solos.  Their three-minute songs fly by, and yes, I wish I was there, wish I had traveled some time to seem them, wish this disc was twice as long, but since I never thought I'd see it, this ain't nothin' but fine.

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