the Marquee

REVIEW: The Cult – Live Cult (Marquee London MCMXCI)

 

THE CULT – Live Cult (Marquee London MCMXCI) (Reissue)

This double live album was once the “Holy Grail” of Cult collectibles.  It was originally a limited release involving a confusion of two separate discs, mail orders and bonus CDs in some versions of Pure Cult.  Whatever, it’s been reissued (both CDs, the complete set) at retail…and now everybody can hear why The Cult went on hiatus at the beginning of the 90’s.  It’s just not that good.

Like almost all live albums, this one has its pros and its cons. To me, the biggest con is that The Cult had dug themselves into this vaccuous, stiff, homogenic, generic rock/metal sound. For example, the cuts from Electic, in particular “Wild Flower”, are robbed of all their energy and groove. The rhythm section was new, but did consist of the late, great Michael Lee (later of Page & Plant). But these were not the same guys who recorded Love, or Electric, in fact they had never played on a Cult album. Perhaps that is why these songs don’t sound like The Cult that we know, but some early 90’s rock metal hybrid version of The Cult.

Another con is that Astbury was pretty hoarse that night. However in a sense that is also a pro — the liner notes proudly state that there are no overdubs or edits, that this is “as it was” on that night. And I will take a genuine live album with a hoarse singer over any overdubbed live album, every single time. In fact one entire track (“Amplification Breakdown”) is dedicated to the space between two songs while Duffy gets an amp fixed!

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The track selection was adventurous, with lots of songs from Dreamtime and Love. “Brother Wolf, Sister Moon” is played live for the first time ever, according to Ian. They threw in a B-side (“Zap City”) and only a couple songs from their then-latest record Ceremony: They studiously avoided the too-mellow singles, and opted for lesser known rocking album tracks.

While this album was important as a document of a pre-hiatus Cult, before they reinvented themselves in 1994, it is a shame that the band was sounding so generically “rock” at the time, and little like the classic Cult. Perhaps that is why Ian and Billy felt like they had to reinvent themselves.

3/5 stars

More of THE CULT at mikeladano.com:

Weapon of Choice (iTunes exclusive release) + Capsule 1 + “Lil’ Devil” (double 12″ EP)

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REVIEW: Marillion – Early Stages (Official Bootleg Box Set 1982-1987) / The Highlights

This review dedicated to the great Uncle Meat.  Part 1 of a 2 part series!

MARILLION – Early Stages (Official Bootleg Box Set 1982-1987) (EMI)

This is the first of two Marillion Official Bootleg box sets.  The second covers the Hogarth years 1990-1994.  Mine came with an autographed print!

I listened to this box again over the course of a week.  I chose the car as the setting.  I’ve spent a lot of time driving to Marillion in the past (lots of great memories) so this setting works for me.  I enjoy loading long box sets onto my car MP3 player.  I did that recently with the 12 CD Deep Purple Bootleg Series box set.  As soon as I was done with that one, I dove into Early Stages.

I also acquired the recent compilation Early Stages: The Highlights.  Why, you ask?  Well, like many “highlights” packages, they usually stick on one exclusive song to get you to buy the same thing twice.  The bait is “Market Square Heroes” Fife Aid 1988, the final song of the final show with Fish.  OK, I’ll bite.MARILLION_0009

I don’t have a lot to say specifically about any of the concerts included in this box set.  There are a lot of songs from periods before they were recorded on albums, and that’s cool.  There are four different drummers on this set*, representing the rarely documented transitional periods in Marillion’s lineup.  The discs are all of great sonic quality considering the years they were recorded.  Fish is a great frontman, usually funny but occasionally serious, and always entertaining.

Here are some observations about some of the set’s highlights.  From The Mayfair, Glasgow, 1982:  “He Knows You Know” is not quite as slick as we’re used to, a little tentative, but no less powerful.  An early version of “She Chameleon” is quite different musically from what it would become, although the lyrics are mostly in place.

When you get to the Marquee show (December of ’82), Fish is especially talkative and sentimental.  The gem here is obviously “Grendel”, a song which never ceases to amaze me.  Fish’s expressive voice has me hook, line and sinker.  You’ll be treated to the complete workout of “Grendel” again in 1983 (Reading).  The 1984 Hammersmith concert has emotional classics like “Jigsaw” and “Cinderella Search”.  The real treat is an early version of the first track for the forthcoming album Misplaced Childhood; a track Fish calls “Side One”.  It’s an early version, the lyrics still not all the way there, and it’s missing the entire “Lavender” section.  But you can hear the shape of things to come.

Hey Uncle Meat! Who’s your favourite lyricist?

The box set closes with a late period show, and a big one:  Wembley, 1987.  A good chunk of Misplaced Childhood (all of Side One) and Clutching at Straws are presented.  There are only a couple oldies:  “Fugazi” and “Incubus”.  This is a slicker, more commercial-sounding band, much more skilled at writing complicated yet catchy music.

Of note:  there are a whopping 15 pages full of liners notes by one Derek W. Dick, aka Fish, and new cover art by Mark Wilkinson!  If that doesn’t sell this set, then nothing will.

5/5 stars

* Mick Pointer, John Martyr, Andy Ward, and Ian Mosely.  Only Jonathan Mover is not heard on this, although he is on the 6 CD Curtain Call box set.