Dave Edmunds

A Pile of Rock: Live

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Given his legendary penchant for studio fanaticism, it's easy to overlook Dave Edmunds' abilities as a live performer and guitarist par excellence. A Pile of Rock: Live should fix that. Recorded live at the Central Café in Gävle, Sweden, in October 1997, A Pile of Rock: Live is a rollicking blast of three-chord napalm -- and confirmation that, on a good night, the reclusive pub rock legend can be a supreme live entertainer. And make no mistake, this recording captures Edmunds on a good night. A very good night. Backed by Swedish rock traditionalists the Refreshments -- Mikael Finell (saxophone, acoustic guitar, backup vocals), Joakim Arnell (bass, backup vocals), and Niklas Aspholm (drums) -- pianist extraordinaire Geraint Watkins, and ex-Rockpile guitarist Billy Bremner, Edmunds straps on and tears the roof off. Musical highlights are many, including a swinging version of Mickey Jupp's "Standing at the Crossroads" (featured on Edmunds' criminally neglected 1994 release, Plugged In), a bluesy instrumental rendering of the Beatles' "Lady Madonna," and a string-abusing "Sabre Dance." As good a performer as Edmunds is -- and he's in peak form here, both instrumentally and vocally -- the secret weapon is the personnel backing him up. The Refreshments are well-known in Sweden as a top-notch trad rock outfit, and they fit Edmunds' brand of classic, Chuck Berry-inspired rock & roll to an absolute T. Throw pub rock giants Bremner and Watkins into the mix, and you have a serious rhythm machine -- a machine operating at scary efficiency on tracks like Fleetwood Mac's "Stop Messin' Around," Dion's "The Wanderer," Fats Domino's "I'm Ready," and the Berry standards "Sweet Little Rock 'n' Roller" and "Let It Rock." This is roots rock at its best: The band is tighter than a kettledrum, and when he chooses to come out front and solo, Edmunds throws off lightning riffs with an assuredness that's no doubt sent many a cocky hotshot back to the drawing board. Though it's arguably a little heavy on classic covers, and the liner notes don't include much performance information, A Pile of Rock: Live is the best representation of Dave Edmunds the live performer. With a better song selection and more energetic performances than either King Biscuit Flower Hour or I Hear You Rockin', it is the place to start for understanding the live essence of one of rock's last true believers.

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