Midnight Choir

Passenger on a Train

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Recorded and released as a bonus disc in a series of concert recordings circulated by the passionate Walkabouts fan base (with the blessing of that group, happily), Passenger on a Train received some comment from Midnight Choir after the fact, the Norwegians having not given overt permission for their participation. It was an unfortunate gaffe but a worthwhile recording -- packaged to replicate the cover of the Amsterdam Stranded album, Passenger on a Train captures the group on a German date pulling the opening stint for the Walkabouts' 2000 European tour. Drawing mostly from Amsterdam Stranded but with tracks reaching all the way back to the self-titled debut, it's an excellent-quality audience taping that shows the band readily translating the rich intensity of its studio work to the stage. "Painting By Matisse" in particular is a stunner, nearly ten minutes of restrained intensity, while the minimal take on "Amsterdam Stranded," harmonica adding a final haunting touch, and the concluding "Bayview (Time Ain't No Friend)" are equally fine. With Terri Moeller again taking over drums as on Amsterdam Stranded and Chris Eckman on keyboards and vocals, along with Walkabouts touring violinist Annie Marie Ruljancich adding violin, it's practically a collaborative effort. The first album's "Mercy on the Street" both provides the opening cut and a glimpse as to how the band has transformed itself over time from skilled enthusiasts into a truly unique proposition. "Long Hard Ride" from Olsen's Lot is more evidence -- Flaata's husked spoken-word parts aren't something he would try on later records, having found another style more his own, though he still does a fine enough job here. As a worthy bonus, a take on the harrowingly beautiful "Death's Threshold Step #2" that the group performed with the Walkabouts during the headliner's set is included as well.