I always knew that I might have a live album on the list of my Albums of 2014 when I found out that Danny & The Champions Of The World were due to release a live album of the Stay True Tour.
Live albums have always had a historic reputation in the music world. Whether they are produced to record a historic event such as Woodstock or used to run out an artists contract or to showcase up and coming artists to larger labels, such as KISS ALIVE, every music lover will always have their favourite Live album.
For many years, my favourite album has been Jeff Buckley's Live At Sin E. Away from the production of Grace - Live At Sin E is just Jeff and his Telecaster. Showcasing his songwriting talent and that incredible voice Sin E is a model of simplicity.
It was my favourite until I heard Live Champs. This is now my favourite live album.
I have been lucky enough to see Danny & The Champs live twice while touring his latest album Stay True. And twice they have been totally electrifying.
Danny Wilson has to be one of the most honest performers in music today. Totally self effacing and engaging, he has the audience in the palm of his hand from the first song, which on the latest tours has been (Never Stop Building That) Old Space Rocket - the opening track of Stay True.
Danny has built an excellent band around him in the form the Champions Of The World (The Champs). Guitarist Paul Lush, Bass player Chris Clarke, Drummer Steve Brookes, Pedal Steel Player Henry Senior & Keyboardist/Saxophonist Free Jazz Jeff provide the meat to Danny's bones and are the best live band I've seen in many a year - comparable to Springsteen's E Street Band in my humble opinion.
With Stay True, Danny & The Champs have definitely found their sound and the live interpretations are just stunning. Now when I see a live gig, I do not want perfect recreations of the recorded music. What's the point of that? Stay in and play the record if that's what you want.
Many of the songs on Live Champs have been extended and it breathes new life into the recorded songs. On a record, the band is constricted to probably a maximum of 5 minutes a song but live they have they opportunity to explore the music to a much greater extent and they take full advantage of it.
The album sounds like it has been taken straight from the desk with very little production added at a later date. Again, that's how I like my live recordings with buzzes, clicks, feedback and mistakes.
Spread over two discs Live Champs captures Danny & The Champs at the top of their game. As a document of the tour, it is perfect. And the new songs that have been premiered live since this recording indicate that Danny is now riding on the crest of this new interest and optimism in his music. And they are VERY GOOD indeed.
Danny is a very funny guy and his banter with the audience comes across as both honest and reciprocal.
The older songs such as Henry The Van get a great response and with new treatments in this format it's like hearing the older songs for the first time.
Live Champs though belongs to guitarist Paul Lush. On the record Paul is very much a team player and his guitar work is sympathetic within the production. Live though, Paul is a different animal and takes the opportunity to showcase his sublime guitar work on the earlier mentioned guitar solos. He is never sounds flashy and never sounds boring. Very much in the mould of Steve Van Zandt or Nils Lofgren in the E Street Band.
Three of the tracks on the album Colonel & The King, Other Days and Restless Feet clock in at 12 minutes long and they are totally magnificent in their scope and magic. Exactly what I want from alive album.
By the time the band get to the final track, These Days, the crowd are really up for it and when Danny forgets the words, you can feel the love in the room as the band launch into their last song of the show and encourage a lot of audience participation. And Danny's last words on the album? - 'Let's have a beer' - and we did, cos that's the guy he is.
If you only invest in one live album this year - Live Champs should be the one. So go and put it on your Christmas list, right now. And make sure you get to a show when he releases the new album in 2015.
Twitter - @Dannythechamp