Of the class of '77, the Fall seemed the least likely to survive. Fiercely independent, with a ferocious sound that contained little commercial appeal, surely the Fall were doomed to perpetual obscurity and swift oblivion. Needless to say it didn't quite work out that way; instead the group developed a rabid underground following that has remained by their side to this day. All of which makes this release particularly imperative, documenting, as it does, their appearance at the 1978 Deeply Vale Festival, one of the few recordings of their live performances to survive from this early period in the band's history. The tape quality ranges from poor to middling (hiss is present to some extent throughout), the sound is murky to muddy and notably thin (it helps to turn up the bass), and the tape literally runs out in the middle of a medley, bringing the CD to an abrupt end. Fans, however, won't give a fig about any of that, nor about the fact that even Marc Riley acknowledges the Fall were not "a particularly tight outfit" that day, because history was in the making, as the group geared up to break out of Manchester and take their music to the world. Mark E. Smith was in particularly ferocious form, his vocals swinging from a sub-spitting image Johnny Rotten to a hilarious attempt at an American accent during several of the intros. This early in their game, the bands' antecedents were clear -- they had the rage of the Stooges, the repetitive drone of the Velvet Underground, the dark cacophony of Siouxsie and the Banshees, and an occasional twist through the buzz saw pop of the Buzzcocks, all delivered up in a blaze of beats, a thrump of bass, a blizzard of guitar, and an angry swirl of keyboards. Punk fire, gothic gloom, and with a wondrously ramshackle approach to song structure, the Fall weren't entirely alone in their musical vision, but still they conjured up a sound so unique it enthralled millions for decades to come. Thus, even with all its flaws, Live at Deeply Vale is a worthy monument to their fiery beginnings.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene