Robert Gordon

Greetings from New York City

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As concert documents go, this is an interesting body of work, showcasing highlights of Robert Gordon's live set from across about a decade of shows, most of them featuring Chris Spedding on lead guitar (but three tracks with Danny Gatton). Not only is all of it bracing, but there are even a few surprises, beginning with the opening track, an Elvis Presley-influenced rendition of Graham Gouldman's "Heartful of Soul." It demonstrates just how hard a time Gordon must have had dealing with the British Invasion at the time -- he obviously saw some of the music sympathetically (or he wouldn't have had this number in his set a decade and a half later), but also in completely different terms from its actual practitioners (indeed, he must've seen it in terms a lot like Elvis saw it, from the upper reaches of the music business). But he does make the song work as a Robert Gordon number, and from there he's on much more familiar territory, his voice surging and pulsing in front of some killer guitar by Spedding (and superb bass work by Tony Garnier or Rob Stoner) all over repertory associated with Marshall Crenshaw, Johnny Burnette, Don Covay and Wilson Pickett, and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, no less. Whether he's rippling through "Undecided" or reinterpreting the Miracles' "One More Heartache," Gordon and company just sweep you along with his energy and charisma, plus some moments of surprising finesse and subtlety. What's more, it's a pleasure to return to this record again and again, just for the flow of the performances -- which is, to be fair, something of an illusion, but a valid one, as this album is assembled from a decade's worth of soundboard tapes. The quality is surprisingly consistent, though the later recordings with Gatton do have more presence to the rhythm section. And while it must be conceded that Danny Gatton's playing is the leanest and meanest here, that means no implicit fault on Spedding's part -- he just articulates the notes slightly better, but with a little less raw power; it's kind of the difference between hearing George Harrison play "Blue Suede Shoes" and hearing Carl Perkins play it; neither one was going to fail an audition in his respective milieu. In any case, if the amount of live Robert Gordon out there on major labels or reissued by Bear Family isn't enough for you, or you want to hear some of the range he really got into in his work in his classic period, this album is for you.

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