Judie Tzuke

Road Noise: The Official Bootleg

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In the early '80s, Judie Tzuke represented the new face of the female singer/songwriter, at least in the U.K. -- gone were the acoustic guitar and pastoral affectations, and instead you got an artist whose lyrical introspection sounded a good bit bolder and more contemporary. Tzuke's music bore a certain resemblance to that of Sting and Peter Gabriel; like both those artists, her music had clear ties to the chops-intensive focus of progressive rock while throwing off the fantasy world whimsy that dominated prog's lyrical concerns in favor of something rooted more firmly in the real world, though not without stretches of wordy meandering. Tzuke's work was rock & roll for self-consciously smart people, but without the rough edges of punk or new wave and its numerous tributaries, which is where the brainy side of the rock audience tended to congregate after prog took a nosedive in the late '70s. Tzuke never made much of a dent on the American market thanks to a variety of record company problems, but she was doing well enough at home to release a double live album in 1982, still the hallmark of the successful rock performer at the time. Road Noise is subtitled "The Official Bootleg" and includes material from two May 1982 shows at the Hammersmith Odeon, as well as her appearance at that year's Glastonbury Festival (back when it was still a fundraiser for the Council for Nuclear Disarmament). As the title suggests and the liner notes insist, Road Noise is a warts-and-all live recording, supposedly without overdubs or similar post-production trickery, and the mix tends to favor one common aspect of live performances -- Tzuke's band overwhelms the lead singer much of the time, with the vocals sinking into the middle distance while guitarist Mike Paxman, drummer Jeff Rich, and Bob Noble on keyboards dominate the mix. The performances are solid throughout if a bit showy (the extended soloing on "Kateria Island" may have worked in front of an audience but here it gets tedious) and the set list offers a healthy cross section of Tzuke's early songbook (and her version of "The Hunter" may be the only thing she and Blue Cheer will ever have in common). But much like a real bootleg, Road Noise is for loyal fans rather than the uninitiated, and doesn't make for a strong introduction to Tzuke's work.

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