Live In Europe, eh? There’s a title to conjure with. It's perhaps not the best idea for any blues rocker to invite comparisons with one of Rory Gallagher’s stage-striking offerings. But happily, while I’d never expect them to reach the heights of the check-shirted one, Sari Schorr and her gang do acquit themselves pretty well.
It helps of course, that Schorr enrolled some crack musos in the enterprise, and when they get a groove on they make a big, fat punch-packing sound that’s captured with admirable clarity by the mix. So when they get to grips with some quality songs, with Schorr’s powerful, dynamic vocals hitting the mark, the results are more than satisfying.
Take ‘Demolition Man’ and ‘Ain’t Got No Money’ for example, both from her first album A
Force Of Nature. The first of these is a loose-limbed, swinging chunk of soulful bluesiness that suggests Whitesnake in their pre-1987 heyday, with Stevie Watts’ organ tootling away in his typical Sixties Booker T fashion, Ash Wilson getting down to some seriously bluesy guitar wailing, and La Schorr herself delivering a suitably sassy interpretation of the lyrics. The latter is mildly funky, with Roy Martin’s drums slipping in perfectly behind the beat while Mat Beable’s bass bubbles away augmenting the groove, and Wilson scatters spiky guitar licks and accents around. Schorr again captures the mood of the song perfectly with her vocal, and Wilson peels off another grabber of a solo for good measure, full of wiry tension.
|Sari Schorr - powerful, dynamic, and suitably sassy|
This is the kind of the vibe that they excel at, and there’s a goodly proportion more of it that I’ll get to in a minute. What does it for me rather less is the glossy Diane Warren/Desmond Childs AOR strand in her writing. That kind of stuff was all well and good in its 80s/90s day, and Schorr’s songs ‘Turn Your Radio On’ and ‘Back To LA’ are serviceable enough, but to my mind they’re not on a par with the rest of the material served up here.
So let’s eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive, and say that their strutting, swaggering, ten-minute take on Muddy Waters’ ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’ is a cracker, all the way up from its tush-shaking-beat-and-pulsing-bass roots. Wilson’s fuzzy riffing builds the mood early on, and Schorr’s vocal is all-woman assertive until the band drops out for her to deliver the title line in breathy, slinky fashion. Watts and Wilson get plenty of room to shine again, the former venturing hither and yon with great tone, and the latter getting imaginative in an outing that carries the odd whiff of Ritchie Blackmore before entering into squealing wah-wah mode. All told it’s fresh and funky and lip-smackingly good.
They can rock plenty too, as on the brooding verses and fierce choruses of ‘Damn The Reason’, the intense chorus and tough riffing of ‘Thank You’, and the uptempo ‘Valentina’, on which Schorr whacks it out like Maggie Bell over drum-tight backing that includes spot-on harmonies and pounding bar-room piano.
And then there’s ‘Black Betty’. A work song so old it pre-dates the twentieth century, never mind the frothy 70s Ram Jam version, it opens with Schorr crooning moodily over pinpricking guitar notes, before breaking out into snarling, raging vocals and crashing guitar chords, over mountainous foundations. It’s Sari Schorr’s tour de force, and this rendition does it justice.
To help you come down after that, there are a couple of acoustic tracks recorded for the BBC tacked on at the end, bonus track fashion, in the form of ‘Ready For Love’ and ‘King Of Rock’N’Roll’. Both are good, but the first is totally on the money, delivered by Schorr like she’s a female doppelganger of Paul Rodgers, over perfect, delicate piano and gently strummed acoustic guitar.
Live In Europe might have been better if Sari Schorr had another studio album under her belt on which to draw. But it captures the live experience of a bloody good band and a powerhouse singer who know what they’re about. It may not be a classic, but it’s vibrant and entertaining and it gets the job done, often with a bit of panache. Can’t say fairer than that.
Live In Europe is released by Manhaton Records on 6 March.
Tour dates in Europe and Britain, starting on 6 March, can be found here.