Asylum Street Spankers

Pussycat Bootleg Series, Vol. 2: Live Rarities 2000-2004

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While the Asylum Street Spankers have recorded a number of fine studio albums, their real strength is as a live act, and this collection of performances recorded at a variety of venues between 2000 and 2004 documents their charm and chops, and makes a strong case for their virtues. It's sometimes hard to tell how far this band's tongue lurks within its collective cheek, especially when the group takes on novelty tunes like "The Pussycat Song" or covers Nine Inch Nails with a mandolin and a banjo, but the Spankers' updated take on string band blues and jazz is invariably performed with skill and no small amount of enthusiasm -- and with a live audience to urge them on, they pull out the stops on these numbers. Christina Marrs delivers one hell of a lead vocal on "Got My Mojo Working" (and she's no slouch on the musical saw, either), Nevada Newman's guitar work is excellent throughout (dig his stylistic impersonations on "Since I Met You Baby"), the group covers Cozy Cole's pop novelty "Topsy" and turns it into a functional jazz number along the way, and the Spankers' collective enthusiasm for alcohol ("Whiskey Love Song") and reefer ("Smokey Dokey") is established without making them sound like fools in the process. While many of these takes are audience recordings later passed on to the band, the sound quality is generally quite good, and this is certainly worthy of standing alongside one of the Spankers' "real" live albums; while this won't change the mind of anyone who lacks a soft spot for the Asylum Street Spankers and their occasional "wink and nudge" tendencies, if you're already a convert, you'll like it fine.

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