Sunday, 10 August 2014

Danny and the Champions of the World - Live Champs Loose Music

For me the live and recorded version of a song has always been a separate entity. This has been re-enforced since the explosion of the video sharing age but every now and again the lines blur to showcase a quality transition from stage to disc. While you can never truly re-create the experience of standing in a cramped venue, sipping weak beer and immersing yourself totally into the sounds of the moment, a couple of album releases this year have crossed the floor with prestigious effect. Following on from Birds of Chicago’s fabulous LIVE FROM SPACE earlier this year, LIVE CHAMPS has achieved a similar job and done the next best thing to hosting Danny and the Champions of the World in a house concert. Of course a live album should never replace that experience of getting off the sofa and supporting live music so this album from my perspective should be used to (excuse the pun) champion the live UK dates for Danny this autumn.

March 6 2014 was a special date in the calendar of Danny George Wilson and by the sound of this double album those present in Camden’s Jazz CafĂ© were very privileged punters on the evening. Spread across two CDs and spanning 96 minutes, it is assumed that the entire gig was captured for posterity as Danny took the audience, and now those owners of a shiny new CD (or download if compact and convenience is your motive), on a Champions of the World 6 year journey. The critics (including yours truly) drooled over last year’s STAY TRUE and Danny’s evolution into country soul is featured here with the album contributing seven of the thirteen tracks to the evening’s entertainment. ‘(Never Stop Building) That Old Space Rocket’ has rarely sounded better and retains its usual show opening slot. ‘Cold, Cold World’ and ‘Darlin' Won’t You Come in From the Cold’ imprint the style deeper while the expanded version of ‘Stop Thief!’ has some great extended sing along parts.

Hare and Hounds Birmingham October 2013
Obviously being a live album, the band had licence to expand and interpret the songs in whichever way they saw fit with many of them taking on a greater length to cater for the magnitude of instrumental solos which are essential to savour the true feel of a Champs gig. Thirteen songs in an hour and half show is quite a low return in comparison to many live gigs experienced but the sheer passion Danny and the guys impart into each number renders the quantity meaningless. Danny never misses an opportunity to let loose the sax and keyboard talents of Free Jazz Geoff or the lead guitar solos from Paul Lush or some luscious pedal steel from Henry Senior Jr. He also values strongly the contributions of bassist Chris Clark and Steve Brookes on drums. For this gig, ex champs Hannah Lou and Trevor Moss join in the party as ‘Restless Feet’ brings the pre-encore segment of the album to a close.

For people new to Danny and the Champions of the World, LIVE CHAMPS does have a feel of a greatest hits compilation, though sadly or thankfully from the other viewpoint without the commercial trappings. Sparkling tracks such as the absorbing ‘Colonel and the King’ and the emotional irony of ‘Henry the Van’ highlight the more folk rock past of Danny but the guy is such a talented artist and soulful vocalist that he can excel in any format of roots music. Perhaps a stab at saving country music in the UK could be a possibility in the future.

As per usual this record is put out by the good folks at Loose Music and as was indicated earlier in the review, it is surely is an appetizer for taking in a Champs show later in the year. The live music fraternity of Birmingham have the luxury of a Saturday gig in a city centre venue in October and there is little excuse for not packing the place this time. Whether on a studio release, this LIVE CHAMPS album or in person, Danny and the Champions of the World are an essential band core to the alt country, Americana and roots music scene in this country and should be checked out.

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