"It's great fun, with musical intelligence and lightness of touch to put some bigger name bands to shame." | Iain Cameron - Blues Enthused
Come on everybody take a trip with me, to a land where experience and enthusiasm are as important as youth and beauty; a land where hype and Spotify numbers take second place to wit and quality; a land, in fact, where more people recognise the charms of the Starlite Campbell Band.
Barely has the last chord died from Starlite Campbell Band Live!, and here are Suzy Starlite and Simon Campbell back with another collection of live cuts for your delectation and delight. It’s an unusual step, but what the hell – rock’n’roll don’t follow no instruction manual!
. . . Live! 2 observes one of the Laws of Good Live Albums though, by serving up more than just the bleedin’ obvious. Yes, there are a clutch of tracks from the duo’s two studio albums – predominantly the first, Blueberry Pie – but there’s also a selection of stuff from Simon Campbell’s 2011 solo album ThirtySix, and a clever two-fer-one cover.
‘Hot As Hell’ kicks things off, with Campbell snapping out a spiky blues riff and singing “I an’t got no sense of humour” – pull the other one, Simon – before Steve Gibson’s drums arrive to get a good shuffle going, and Jonny Henderson weighs in with piano to colour in the background before adding a sprightly solo, with Campbell pulling out a stride-like rock’n’roll riff to catch the ear in the background.
A different shade of blues is on offer later, with the slowie ‘Still Got Time To Be My Baby’, Campbell underlining his guitar chops, as firstly he parcels out some adroitly controlled licks, and then as he delivers an imaginative solo, full of subtle changes of pace, unusual angles, and tension and release.
Elsewhere that blues tendency is blended into a broader rock sensibility, as on the swinging ‘Brother’, on which organ and bass carry much of the backing, while Campbell adds subtle embroidery. Or the laid-back ‘I Need A Light’, which is a masterclass in arrangement with its cool bass line, slinky Fender Rhodes piano motif, and loosely rolling drums.
The swaggering ‘You’re So Good For Me’ is a showcase for Suzy Starlite’s excellent bass, first as she complements a crackling Campbell guitar solo, then in the foreground to the accompaniment of some discordant, donking guitar chords, with a stirring organ solo to follow. They pack a hell of a lot into four minutes here, including some enjoyably sly lyrics.
The title track of second album Language Of Curiosity takes things in another direction with its air of New Wave power pop electronica, with Starlite and Campbell doubling up on vocals over quick-stepping drums from Gibson, and some throbbing, wriggling bass. But while that may be indicative of their more expansive musical tastes, their rock’n’roll smarts are underlined by a couple of other outings. Controlled feedback from Campbell heralds the purposeful strut of ‘Peter Gunn’, the riff taken up by Starlite’s bass while Campbell scrabbles away over the top, including a couple of very Blackmore-ish licks before folding the tune into ‘Shakin’ All Over’ – nicely done, with wit and imagination. And Campbell’s own ‘I Like It Like That’ is a detonation of crunching guitar chords, rumbling bass and snapping drums, tense and urgent until the shivering pay-off to the chorus. It’s a ripper of a track, hinting at a Sixties rave-up vibe without ever quite going there.
‘Walkin’ Out The Door’ makes for a strong finale, with its walking bass line and ‘Green Onions’ organ, while Campbell adds flickering, shimmering guitar notes before kicking his solo into gear with distorted, nerve-jangling chords, leading to a warped, sci-fi like passage that eventually returns to earth for a shiverin’ an’ shakin’ conclusion.
. . . Live! 2 isn’t perfect. The sequencing of tracks could be better, the lightly funky ‘Sex Is The Key’ is filler, and some distracting between songs chat could usefully have edited out. But still, it's great fun, with musical intelligence and lightness of touch to put some bigger name bands to shame.
Iain Cameron - Blues Enthused