Live At The Cambridge Folk Festival

Lindisfarne

BBC Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/12/1999

Live CDs are always difficult for me to like. I always find something about how they're recorded or mixed I don't much care for, and it spoils my enjoyment of the music itself; also, live CDs rarely capture the energy or vitality of being there. There are notable exceptions, but they're rare and few; most live CDs are a knockoff released when the band is being lazy but wants to stay on the charts.

Worse yet, this was a live CD by a band I wasn't familiar with, so I settled myself in with pen and paper and cycled through the tracks... and got a very pleasant surprise. Not only is this a good live CD, it's a CD good enough to make me interested in the studio work of Lindisfarne; it hooked me in wondering what else they could do. Rare praise, that.

Lindisfarne first appeared on the British pop scene in 1970 with their album Nicely Out Of Tune. Much like the Moody Blues, they were on hiatus from 1974 to 1978, and on their return recorded solidly until 1993. Highlights of their career include a 1971 British Number One album, nbtc__dv_250 Fog On The Tyne, 1978's Back And Fourth (with their only American hit, "Run For Home"), 1985's Sleepless Nights, and a 1990 British Number One dance reworking of their 1971 hit, "Fog On The Tyne", with British footballer Paul "Gazza" Gascoigne. In 1995, the tragic death of co-founder Alan Hull put some doubt on their continued existence, until 1998's Here Comes The Neighborhood.

Despite scraping through the eighties on a series of independent and small labels, Lindisfarne continued turning out solid work in their usual vein, a tracery of music somewhere between rhythm & blues-tinged rock, progressive, and acoustic traditional. Cambridge was recorded during this period; the first six tracks of the CD were recorded from a 1982 appearance, the second six from 1986. While being on a small label can be frustrating in terms of reward, it can also be liberating in terms of freedom to experiment; these twelve tracks show that Lindisfarne was and is still doing what they want to do, a band of Geordie rock and roll folkies who are just there to play the music.

The production on this CD is excellent. The percussion, often the bane of live CDs, is tight and smooth; the sound keeps its punch without being muffled. The vocals are well-mixed, although on one or two tracks (especially "Start Again", where the background singer was almost more prominent than the lead; a poor choice for the first track -- keep listening past it) I would have liked to have seen them punched up a bit. The harmonica and saxophone are crisp and biting, used to great effect on "I'm A Lover, Not A Fighter" and "Fog On The Tyne". "Winning The Game", originally released in the mid-eighties, has a very Camel-like feel, and "Lady Eleanor", from 1971, is soft and haunting.

The greatest praise must be reserved, however, for the standout version of 1978's "Run For Home". I'd never heard this song before... indeed, I'd never heard any of these before... but listening to the audience sing along with the song before Lindisfarne kicked in took my breath away, and the power, punch, and arch of the recording did nothing to diminish it. I don't know if the original is that good -- I'd like to find out -- but at that 1986 Cambridge performance, no punches were pulled.

Overall, this is an excellent introduction to Lindisfarne's work, an excellent live album, and a darn fun hour or so of live British folk-blues rock. It comes heartily recommended. Lindisfarne has gone a good 25 years without really ever getting the appreciation they deserved; we can't really change that, but we can enjoy them nonetheless.

Rating: A-

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© 1999 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of BBC Records, and is used for informational purposes only.