In 1975, when musician Neil Innes and comedian Eric Idle created a short filmed sketch about a fictional rock band for the British TV series Rutland Weekend Television, they almost certainly had no idea they were starting a joke that would still resonate almost 40 years later. But Innes and Idle's short Beatles parody "The Rutles" led to two television films, a pair of albums, and a loyal cult following prompted by the fact Innes (a former member of the Bonzo Dog Band, a satirical rock band who were favorites of the Fab Four), wrote songs that were clever parodies of Beatles classics but also fine pop tunes in their own right. In 2014, Innes set out on a British concert tour under the Rutles banner, joined by musicians Ken Thornton (guitar), Mark Griffiths (bass), Mickey Simmonds (keyboards), and John Halsey (drums). Live + Raw was taken from recordings of the U.K. live dates, as they performed songs from the two Rutles albums; the album also includes "Imitation Song," a new studio track from Ron Nasty (Innes' John Lennon-inspired character in the films). The performances aren't "raw" so much as they're lively and spirited, and while the recording captures the ambience of a pub gig, it also makes clear Innes and his crew were quite good at re-creating the ambience of the decades-old Rutles recordings on that night, and in this context, it's easier to appreciate the very real songcraft that Innes brought to the Rutles' music. While it's no substitute for Innes' superb studio recordings of this material, Live + Raw shows that these songs work well on-stage, and this is a good listen as well as a good laugh.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming