The Spencer Davis Group

Mojo Rhythms & Midnight Blues, Vol. 2: Live 1965-1986

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One problem with many of the top British R&B bands of the mid-'60s is the absence of full-length concert documents of their work. The Yardbirds were lucky enough to leave behind Five Live Yardbirds, and the Animals had In the Beginning in the can, but most other acts from the Rolling Stones on down usually left us just a handful of tracks, if that. This 14-song CD fills an essential gap in the Spencer Davis Group's output, offering a baker's dozen live cuts from various stages featuring the band's classic lineup (plus a single concert track from their post-Steve Winwood incarnation), and every track here is essential listening. The four 1965-vintage cuts, apparently from a rehearsal at the Marquee Club, sound as good as any live rock recording of the decade and are highlighted by the best single track that Winwood ever left behind with the group, an early version of "Stevie's Blues" that features him scatting away in utterly unpretentious manner, which is followed by a driving version of "It's Gonna Work Out Fine"; then jump to the German television show Beat Club in 1966, and pounding renditions of "Keep on Running," "Sittin' & Thinkin'," and "Somebody Help Me" -- these are a bit on the lo-fi side, but there's no leakage on the instrument sound and one can cope with the slightly boomy ambience. The Finnish television appearance from later the same year also has a few sonic limitations but nothing impossible to deal with, and even the post-Winwood era version of "Dust My Broom" from the Empire Pool at Wembley in early 1968, featuring Ray Fenwick on lead guitar, proves well worth hearing. All show the group stretching out a bit on their established repertory and turning the instruments up higher than they would have in recording -- although it's interesting to note that, after the 1965 tracks on this disc (which predate the release of their first album by about a month), the evidence here shows that the band succeeded, better than most British R&B-based groups of the period, in capturing their live sound in the studio. This disc is a perfect compliment to the Polygram UK double-CD Spencer Davis Group anthology, although it can also stand on its own as a live best-of or an introduction to the group or to Steve Winwood's early career.

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