Thursday, 30 June 2011
It’s the week for catching up on long-time heroes. Both Leon Russell and Greg Allman first came to my attention in 1971. Leon through his recording work with Dylan; ‘Watching The River Flow’, and his central role at The Concert For Bangla Desh where the verse he takes in ‘Beware Of Darkness’ can still raise the hairs on my neck; and Greg through The Allman Brothers’ Fillmore East live album.
Tuesday found us at a charming BBC 4 show at the Porchester Hal; Leon taking part in a songwriters circle with Nick Lowe and Paul Brady. Porchester Hall is one of those large wood-panelled municipal halls that local government accountants would love to sell off, or the bureaucrats wish to modernise; a beautiful setting, very easy and very comfortable. A familiar audience; Jake Riviera and Peter Blegvad sat on adjacent tables across the row.
Almost on time the artists take the stage. Leon, no longer as mobile as he once was sits at the piano and he starts things off with ‘A Song For You’. It remains one of the loveliest of love songs; “I love you in a place where there’s no space and time” still arrests. He’ll go on to do as fine versions of ‘Tight Rope’, ‘This Masquerade’, and ‘Delta Lady’. Nick Lowe meanwhile essays ‘I Live On A Battlefield’, ‘Cruel To Be Kind’, and ‘Peace, Love And Understanding’ and Brady ‘Luck Of The Drawer’, ‘Crazy Dreams’ and ‘Steel Claw’.
As is the nature of these shows, and as Lowe explains while leaving the template and playing the new ‘I Read A Lot’, the songs are ‘catalogue’. This is partly because they’re all supposed to be telling a lot of stories. This doesn’t happen to begin with though and Brady’s the first to warm up, both in loquacity and in a willingness to accompany, but by the end they’re getting there.
Following a finale of ‘Mystery Train’ they return, and Leon tells a good tale about Dylan as a songwriting master, and recalls the Blue Rock Studio sessions of March 1971 that yielded ‘River Flow’ and ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’. He then plays a splendid reading of ‘It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry’ where the piano seems literally climbing to the ‘top of the hill’, and then a final ‘You Win Again’.
And that should have been it, except they’d had recording problems at the start of the evening so “can we do a couple of rounds again?” As that brings a second go for ‘A Song For You’ who’s to complain?
Posted by Nick Bob at 10:41