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Leonard Cohen

Songs from the Road

(Sony/Legacy; US: 14 Sep 2010; UK: 13 Sep 2010)

Review [23.Sep.2010]

5


Leonard Cohen
Songs from the Road


After Leonard Cohen’s ex-manager allegedly embezzled the majority of his life savings, the Canadian singer-songwriter ended his 15-year hiatus from the road and headed off on a tour that’s lasted now almost three years. What’s more, last year he released back-to-back live albums, Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 and Live in London. But the husky-voice lyricist’s catalog is so deep with gems it really doesn’t matter if he’s milking them for all they’re worth. On his latest live release, Songs from the Road, a CD/DVD combo that features cuts from performances everywhere from North America to all over Europe to Israel and just about everywhere in-between, Cohen shines throughout, but particularly on his performances of “Chelsea Hotel”, “Lover, Lover, Lover”, and “Bird on the Wire”. And by the time you reach the bard’s recital of “Hallelujah” from the Coachella Music Festival in 2009, there’s no question he’s still one of the most gripping performers still slugging it out on stage.


 

 



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The White Stripes

Under Great White Northern Lights

(Third Man; US: 16 Mar 2010; UK: 15 Mar 2010)

Review [21.Mar.2010]

4


The White Stripes
Under Great White Northern Lights


Following the 2007 release of their return-to-roots sixth album Icky Thump, the White Stripes embarked on a tour to play a gig in every single province and territory in Canada, “from the ocean to the permafrost”. The end result? The raucously epic Under Great White Northern Lights. Released as both a documentary and a live album, it’s a scorching survey of the Detroit duo’s live show. From opener “Let’s Shake Hands”, which lunges out from the speakers, grabs you by the jugular, and refuses to let go, to a surging closing rendition of “Seven Nation Army”, there’s barely a slack moment in the 16-song punk blues showcase. And though the band appears to be in top form on the album, a few months after their trek across the North American country, the duo cancelled the remaining 18 dates of the tour, with Meg White citing “acute anxiety” issues as the reason. Since then, while Jack White has become rock’s Zelig, Meg has all but disappeared. With luck, Under Great White Northern Lights won’t become the White Stripes’ swansong, but another chapter in their devotional tome to Bo Diddley’s essential rhythm.


 

 



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David Bowie

Station to Station: Special Edition (Live Nassau Coliseum ’76 Concert)

(EMI Music; US: 28 Sep 2010; UK: 27 Sep 2010)

3


David Bowie
Station to Station: Special Edition (Live Nassau Coliseum ’76 Concert)


By late 1975, rock’s great eccentric had already killed off a dizzying succession of guises—most notably his Ziggy Stardust persona—and was up to his second threat to permanently walk away from rock ‘n’ roll. Of course, the retirement talk was just another ruse, with the following year finding Bowie releasing Station to Station and returning as his latest alter ego, the Thin White Duke, “throwing darts in lovers’ eyes”. Reinvigorated by cocaine, Nietzsche, and krautrock, Bowie subsequently embarked on a globetrotting tour that garnered some of the best live reviews of his career. Packaged along with this year’s re-release of Station to Station is an account of one of those stops, Bowie’s triumphant performance at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Long a bootlegger favorite, the Nassau Coliseum show is a run-through of all of Bowie’s incarnations up to that point, seamlessly traveling through his space classics like “Life on Mars?” and “Five Years”, through his plastic soul years with “Fame”, to Bowie as an arena-rocker on “Stay”. At bottom, the Nassau show is a fantastic testament of the Duke’s prowess on stage before he shed that façade as well and moved on to Berlin to shake up his entire aesthetical approach, from top to bottom. 


 

 



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Otis Redding

Live on the Sunset Strip

(Stax; US: 18 May 2010; UK: 27 Sep 2010)

2


Otis Redding
Live on the Sunset Strip


Up until the release of this two-CD set, Otis Redding’s exquisite performances during a four-day residency at the Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood were unfortunately broken apart and littered throughout various live releases, including Otis Redding in Person at the Whisky a Go Go and Good to Me: Recorded Live at the Whisky, Vol. 2. On Live on the Sunset Strip, the last three sets of the April 1966 performances are finally presented in their entire chronological order. With a polished stage show that still displayed a go-for-broke swagger, it’s utterly mind blowing that Redding was a mere 24 years old when these performances took place. Backed by his own ten-piece road band led by saxophonist Bob Holloway (the Bar-Kays didn’t link up with the soul legend until 1967), Redding rips through his soon-to-be classic catalog and covers James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”, the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night”, and his live staple, the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”. On the whole, the Sunset Strip shows are an essential record of soul at its best.


 

 



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The Who

Live at Leeds: 40th Anniversary Super Deluxe Collectors Edition

(Geffen/Universal; US: 23 Nov 2010; UK: 15 Nov 2010)

1


Not only is Live at Leeds an essential document of the Who’s vehement live show, it’s also the band’s finest album. Recorded on Valentine’s Day 1970 at Leeds University in England, the original six-song LP showcased the band at their “Maximum R&B” primal best. The recording is at once a vital illustration of how their sound served as the blueprint for 1960s garage rock, and how it also laid the groundwork for punk and heavy metal. From the opening salvo “Young Man Blues” to the one-two punch that is the encore—a sprawling 16-minute “My Generation” and the amphetamine-fueled ride of “Magic Bus”—Nik Cohen wasn’t treading on hyperbole in The New York Times when he called it the “best live rock album ever made.”  To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the live opus, Geffen/Universal has released a Leeds cornucopia: the previously available show in its entirety on two CDs, a vinyl reproduction of the original six-track album, a seven-inch single of “Summertime Blues/Heaven & Hell”, and the Who’s subsequent show at Hull. Yes, Live at Leeds has been reissued a number of times, with more and more in-between song banter tacked on, and the latest release still places the setlist out of order (i.e., the Tommy set takes up the entire second CD, when in reality “Summertime Blues”, “Shakin’ All Over”, “My Generation”, and “Magic Bus” were played after the rock opera). But the shining nugget of the reissue is the Hull performance. Previously unreleased, the show was played the night after Leeds—and was the set the band originally intended to release as a live album—but technical issues, including the absence of John Entwistle’s bass lines on the reel recording, forced them to put out the Leeds show instead (his bass parts were pulled from Leeds to complete Hull’s first four tracks). And while Live at Leeds is the more extraordinary set of the two, Live at Hull is nearly as mesmerizing. Taken together, the recordings are some of the boldest statements ever made on the transformative power of rock music.


 


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