Saturday, February 23, 2013

Recorded Live at Woolwich Coronet - The Damned

Recorded Live at Woolwich Coronet
The Damned
Cleopatra  CLP 2021

I bought this over the internet and was surprised and more than a little dismayed to find that this album comes with the paper insert above and a clear plastic record sleeve to hold it and the album (on green vinyl.)  You also get a patch and a little button, but I'd rather have a proper album sleeve, cheapskates.  The album contains the band's July 11, 1985 performance at the Woolwich Coronet in London.  Actually it has about half of the show, some of the missing tracks were released on the maxi-single of "Is It A Dream."  At the time the band was in its goth phase touring behind "Phantasmagoria" but this album sounds more punky than goth.  The band's line-up was Dave Vanian, Rat Scabies, Roman Jugg and Bryn Merrick with founding member Captain Sensible having recently departed for a solo career.  The record abruptly opens with "The Shadow of Love" off "Phantasmagoria."  The album has been edited to omit most of the applause and band banter between songs which I don't approve of.  Sometimes even the ends of songs have been cut off.  I prefer live albums to flow seamlessly.  The Damned reach back to "The Black Album" for a high energy performance of "Wait For The Blackout."   Next up is "Grimly Fiendish" from "Phantasmagoria."  It was my favorite song on that album and the live version is quite lively and punchy with a strong vocal from Vanian.  From "Strawberries" the band performs "Stranger on the Town."  For once Vanian's introduction of the song to the audience is not cut out, but there is an irritating edit in the middle of it.  This is my favorite cut on the album, the band kicks out the jams and it sounds like a live cut should sound, raw and exciting.  The side ends with "Smash It Up" off "Machine Gun Etiquette" which is my favorite of all their songs.  It retains the original mellow instrumental introduction section but I don't think it goes on as long as the studio version does before the rocked up part of the song kicks in.  It is very high energy and raucous, another high point on the record.  The B side opens with a cover of the Electric Prunes' "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night" which Vanian dedicates to the opening act, the Fuzztones.  The group increases the tempo of the song, making it more punk than psychedelic.  I prefer the original but it is kind of fun.  Another cover song follows with Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life" which is also speeded up a little.  It isn't all that different than Pop's version but it lacks the infectious groove of the original.  They return to "Machine Gun Etiquette" for "Love Song" with more noisy rocking out.  The band's debut single "New Rose" is up next and it sounds pretty much like it did in 1976.  The album concludes with "Disco Man" off the "Friday 13th EP" although the actual concert featured three more songs after it.  One of the band members jokes that it is the last gig of the tour and the band is splitting up and then Vanian says they are going to do "Disco Man" in "the Val Doonican way" and indeed the first run through of the song's opening verse is horribly slow like some Vegas lounge act.  Fortunately that is just a joke and the band shifts gears and delivers a high energy performance that ends the album strongly.  I enjoy this record and despite the shoddy packaging I'm happy I have it.  The sound quality is fairly good and the band's performance is exciting.  Still I'm not sure I'd really recommend it.  As a general rule live albums are only for devoted fans, casual fans ought to stick with the studio versions which in this case are uniformly superior to the live versions here.  Recommended to fans of the Damned who think "Phantasmagoria" was too slow and moody.

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