Monday, August 30, 2021


On the surface of it, Crenshaw's a one-hit wonder who peaked with his first album, and didn't live up to the hype. 1982's self-titled debut hit the charts, "Someday, Someway" made the Top 40, and every publication and reviewer loved his retro-pop mashup and glorious hooks. But the followup, Field Day, didn't have another hit single, there were complaints about producer Steve Lillywhite's colossal sound and Warner Brothers lost interest as the 80's closed.

However... that's the surface story. In reality, the fans who stuck with Crenshaw were still rapidly in love with his records, and have followed him with cultish devotion, giving him a solid life on the road and in the studio ever since. Crenshaw's an expert on classic rockabilly, rock 'n' roll and '60's radio hits, and has fused all the best of American guitar rock, British beat music and studio production into his individual style. Every song he makes is filled beginning to end with glorious chord changes, fantastic harmonies and catchy, memorable choruses. Each album he's made has more of the magic for those on the lifelong quest for the perfect pop song. 

It really is music for those who like to both rock and enjoy the songwriting craft. Take for example this gem from "Cynical Girl": "I can tell right away from the look in her eyes/She harbours no illusions and she's wordly wise." 

This generous two-disc live collection features a batch of cuts from his original band, featuring his brother Robert on drums and Chris Donato on bass, from those early exciting showcases. It has all the favourites from his first two albums, plus some dynamite covers that showed the group's versatility. Two Elvis covers (when nobody was covering Elvis), "Got A Lot Of Livin' To Do" and "Big Hunk O' Love" prove his fan smarts, and his version of Al Green's "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)" is a left-field surprise. There's a ton of energy, lots of guitar (from the lead singer no less), and as Crenshaw says, "It sounds like kids having fun."

The second part is a Crenshaw-curated crawl through the rest of his career, deep cuts from various periods and bands. The also-revered Bottle Rockets appear as the band on six of the songs, fellow believers in the beauty of dynamically-arranged rock. And stripped down to solo with guitar on "Passing Through," you get to hear how gorgeous those melodies are. The only time I've seen him live was solo, and it was just as rewarding. Heck of a guitar player too. There have been a couple of other Crenshaw live albums, but this one's the winner, for scope and overall excitement.

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