Classic Rock Review

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Ten Years After Recorded Live (1973)

25757From starling.rinet.ru

It may not be the best live album in the world, but it’s certainly in the race for one, together with a couple dozen other notorious records – although as of now, it’s been somewhat overshadowed by the even superior Fillmore East. However, if you can’t locate that archive release or are upset with the price of the double CD, I’d strongly recommend any TYA novice to start here (that is, if you’re able to tolerate speedy, but lengthy guitar jams; otherwise, you’d be much better off with either Ssssh or Space In Time, although I actually doubt that otherwise you’d be interested in TYA at all), especially because not only does this record stand as a ‘great live’ record, it also stands for a ‘greatest hits live’ record. Just look at the track listing!

It’s interesting, too, to compare this record with Undead. You’ll see how ‘huge’ they have grown – almost in every sense. From a secluded club scene to large arenas in major European capitals; from a homemade lousy equipment to the Rolling Stones mobile; from half-hour gigs to extended concerts; from half-obscure jazz covers to international hits; finally, from the raw, unpolished, even though mighty energetic tones to a well-polished, professional, intoxicating ‘wall-of-sound’. Just compare the two versions of ‘I’m Going Home’ on both records and you’ll see the difference. Some may regret the loss of that original ‘raw’ sound, but I say I don’t mind.

I like both albums, but Recorded Live is longer, has more songs and doesn’t have any embarrassments like the lengthy slow uninteresting blues of ‘Spider In My Web’ and the stupid drum solo on ‘Summertime’. Sure, it was recorded at a rather late period in the band’s career, when they were already almost spent creatively and on the brink of dissolution, but it is a well-known fact that live playing and “general creative state” are two absolutely different things. Live playing and its quality depend on quite a few factors, including, simply speaking, the particular mood of the band’s members on the day of the gig, which, in turn, may depend on the weather or the expression on that guy in the front row’s face. Luckily, most of the performances on this album were drawn from moments when the band seemed to be in relatively high spirits.

For the record, the album does feature a lengthy run-through of their most driving and famous numbers. Practically none of them are superior to the studio recordings, but none are inferior, either. On the other side, the live performance does give them a ‘spontaneous’ edge which might make them more suitable for some listeners. They kick off with ‘One Of These Days’ (wow! but somebody cut down that ending jam, please!), only to continue with the unforgettable riff of ‘You Give Me Loving’: what a wise choice from their worst record so far, and I don’t even mind that Alvin messes up the lyrics because they were so convoluted in the first place.

Later on, the band, as usual, breaks in some of the oldies, like ‘Help Me’ and ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl’. On the way, Alvin displays some cute little tricks, like showing his prowess at classical guitar (‘Classical Thing’), resurrecting the ‘Skoobly-oobly-dooboob’ ditty (‘Scat Thing’) and just playing the fool (‘Silly Thing’). The two highlights of the show are, of course, a terrific fifteen-minute version of ‘I Can’t Keep From Crying’, which is again transformed into tons of different things on the way, including even a few lines from ‘Cat’s Squirrel’ and even ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ – sic!, and ‘I’m Going Home’. The former also was the central point for showing Alvin as a ‘guitar experimentator’ – in particular, he liked to tune his guitar and play it at the same time, which sometimes resulted in a truly awful, ear-destructive sound which I kinda like nevertheless.

And the latter (‘I’m Goin’ Home’, that is) is predictably close to the Woodstock version, except that the various sections are interspersed in a different way and the drums are much more prominent. And damn the stupid audience that mars the opening chords with its silly applause! Otherwise, though, it’s simply a superb version: with all the ‘boo-boo-babys’ in place, and the old rockabilly classics medley in the middle. It does seem a bit worn off as compared to the Woodstock version, but you can excuse the guys: after all, the piece was like a stone around their neck, and it’s a wonder they were still able to do it with enough authenticity and patience.

For me, the only letdown on the album is the seven-minute ‘Slow Blues In C’. They should have left things like that to the Allman Brothers. But then again, it’s just a minor flaw in an almost flawless seventy-minute record! Be forgiving! This doesn’t sound like the Allmans at all! And I don’t have anything against the Allmans, I just don’t have a lot in favour of them doing similar things. They put me off to sleep. Berk. Ever heard ‘Mountain Jam’? How many times do you have to sit through these thirty minutes to dig it? Ah, if only everything these guys played were akin to their version of ‘You Don’t Love Me’… This record, on the other hand, is instantly amiable and friendly – and it features lots of guitar jams, too. But these kids are so frantic, so full of energy and they love the stuff they’re playing so much you’ll be sure to be caught in the fun. This is no Yessongs, either – just your basic love for dat electro guitar sound. And no ‘supergroup’ hype, either – they just play and they don’t give a damn.

I like it when a record doesn’t have balls.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Ten Years After Recorded Live | | Leave a comment