The Wanderer

Jackie Leven

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The Wanderer Review

by Thom Jurek

Scottish singer, songwriter, and guitarist Jackie Leven has been issuing a series of live records through his fan club, the Haunted Valley, as a way of documenting his exciting solo gigs -- this one held a number of surprises -- between issuing studio albums on Cooking Vinyl. While The Wanderer is usually available from his website to the faithful in the fan club, it has been packaged here as a bonus disc in a Cooking Vinyl box set that includes his albums Forbidden Songs in the Dying West, Fairytales for Hard Men, and a 1971 album called Control. In addition to the deep price on the box, the Cooking Vinyl edition of The Wanderer features three bonus tracks making it a true bonus. Recorded impeccably, The Wanderer features Leven playing solo in the U.K., Scotland, Wales, Norway, Poland, Australia, etc. The set begins with a moving rendition of "Your Winter Days," and offers a stark meditation on loss and regret. It then follows with a gorgeous medley of "Newfoundland Blues"/"Some Ancient Misty Morning"/"Working Alone"/"Sex Tourist." Here we get a taste of Leven's ability to play the guitar as well as literally anyone on the planet, whistle, sing, play harmonica, and put across a series of tales as living moments from the center of his heart. There is no overt sentimentality in his songs, just emotional power. The real bonuses here include a complete reunion of Doll by Doll -- Leven's famed and simultaneously vaunted and hated post-punk band from the late '70s -- on "I Can't Afford to Care Anymore," and with Doll by Doll's rhythm guitarist Joe Shaw on "When a Man Dies." In all, this set is recorded better than the two previous volumes, and with the bargain of having the other three records in a handsome box, it pretty much pays for itself. [Haunted Valley reissued the CD in 2000 and included bonus material: there is a full-on band version of "Donna Karan" with Doll by Doll and the lovely Deborah Greenwood on vocals, the crazy poetic rant "So My Soul Can Sing," and a beautiful but loopy folk tune called "Mary Jane's Dog."]

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