Rick Berlin

Live at Jacques

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"The monster arrives in the dark," Rick Berlin sings in "Miracle," one of 15 songs recorded live at the notorious drag queen bar in Boston's Bay Village, Jacques. Located across the street from where the Cocoanut Grove nightclub burned to the ground forcing changes in laws, it is probably the only bar in New England with a midnight license. Captured here is the ambiance with veteran singer/songwriter Rick Berlin, whose Monday night performances at this venue rivals Little Joe Cook's work at the Cantab for longevity. It is amazing what one man can do with a voice, piano, and audience. "(I Like) Straight Guys" is humorous in the pitter patter piano and the effective vocal, ending with a climactic "honk if you love Jesus..." -- the "f" word (three letters, not four) trailing off in the distance. Berlin, formerly known as Rick Kinscherf when signed to Epic Records in the '70s with his group Orchestra Luna, is in total control with piano runs and a vocal sound moving closer to John Cale than Berlin's work with his fusion and hard rock bands ever displayed. Jane Friedman, who worked with Cale, also represented Rick Berlin at one point in time, and she's thanked on the disc, but the comparison between the two artists was never evident until Live at Jacques. The recording is excellent, with keyboards and voice spaced nicely, violin, harmonica, and backing vocals coming in on different titles. "Police Boy in Prague" is simply a title that may have been a bit much even for the CBS release when the band was known as Berlin Airlift. Then things were subtle, innuendo, and double entendre. Berlin compares a boy in Prague lying in his arms to a violin, as the violin plays behind him. This is Rick, as he sings in "Be Yourself," totally immersed in his art in an appreciative arena, dangerous music being generated in a dangerous nightclub. It's a far cry from the days when Berlin opened for Roxy Music or drew thousands of patrons into the Channel club, where his band was among the top draws. "I would rather have a fag for a son than a drunk for a husband," he sings in "Be Yourself." Berlin hasn't gone after the gay market as other artists position themselves. He is just performing because he has to, and producer Dan Cantor has captured the moment in all its glory.

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