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Samson: Mr Rock And Roll – Live 1981-2000 (4 CD)
What with this being the 40th anniversary of the formation of the band Samson, it's no surprise that there's been a whole host of reissues surfacing as the year has gone on, 2017 being rounded out by this four disc live retrospective. Featuring various musicians across a near 20 year span this set provides four previously available live selections from Paul Samson and his bands, two of which coming from Samson, one from Paul Samson's Empire and one simply under the name Paul Samson.
The first comes from Samson the band, Thank You And Goodnight initially released in 1985, just as the outfit were grinding to a halt. Not that this ten track outing shows it, Samson comprised at that stage of vocalist Nicky Moore, rhythm guitarist Dave Colwell (Bad Company) and the future FM rhythm section of Merv Goldsworthy on bass and Pete Jupp on drums. Recorded in Germany and The Netherlands in March and April 1984, this set covers the full gamut of releases and styles Samson had employed from their Bluesy 1979 debut through their Bruce Dickinson led NWOBHM era to the more straight ahead hard rock of the likes of the Don't Get Mad Get Even album. The band were in fine form, hammering out excellent versions of fan favourites "Vice Versa", "Mr Rock And Roll" and "Are You Ready" and certainly giving no hint that their demise was just around the corner. Added on to the end of this disc is the three track live EP, NWOBHM Live, "Red Skies", "Driving With ZZ" and the ever excellent "Riding With The Angels" given a thorough workout.
One year later and with Samson disbanded the guitarist was back in the game with Paul Samson's Empire, the Live At The Marquee album following on from the solo album (although, in the end, under the Samson moniker) Joint Forces. Joining Samson was Colwell – now also adding keyboards to the mix – and a new rhythm section of bassist Kev Riddles (Witchfynde) and drummer Mark Brabbs, while Sam Blue was manning the mic – a situation that wouldn't last much longer after the tour these recordings came from. Which is a shame, Blue a powerful focal point who worked well alongside Samson's classy guitar lines and riffs, while as a quintet the band locked in tight. Mixing a clutch of Samson tracks such as "Vice Versa" and "Earth Mother" with "Tell Me" and "Burning Emotion" from the 'solo' venture, the set is solid and varied, the more restrained approach from Samson on guitar alluding to the his on off love affair with the heavier music he was best known for. Three studio cuts were added to the original release and they are also included here, "Tomorrow" a pulsating slice of bluesy commercial hard rock, "Don't Turn Away" a more atmospheric piece, while "Stranger" almost falls into the early Whitesnake territory of strutting blues.
Third up is The Blues Nights, which arrived under the Paul Samson banner, a host of musicians presented on recordings that stretch from 1981 through to 1997. Comprised mainly of covers and revealing Samson's love of Hendrix (4 of the guitar innovator's tracks are faithfully reimagined here) and Peter Green, what comes across is not only how versatile Paul Samson was as a guitarist, but also how natural he sounded in this setting; although he still brought a heavy edge when required. Featuring only one Samson number in the shape of the slightly out of place heaviness of "Riding With The Angels" – even if it is bluesed up here – instead it's the likes of Fleetwood Mac's "Albatross" that makes its presence best felt, while "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" features twice, with the performances captured coming four years apart and revealing a different approach on both occasions; although both are still reverential of the original. Good though it is, for me this selection of latter day blues standards, lovingly handled though they are, quickly becomes the least exciting of the four discs. Maybe that's more to do with my preconceptions of what Samson should have been offering (a frustration that seemed to follow the guitarist himself as he flipped from style to style across the years), after all the performances themselves are fiery and full of heart and soul.
Live In London 2000 rounds the box out, Samson the guitarist reunited in his band with early Samson alumni Chris Aylmer on bass and Thunderstick on drums as the trio confidently straddle the heavier styles the band took on over the years, vocalist Nicky Moore again proving what an underrated vocal talent he long has been. The recording itself isn't exactly the polished set you might expect from a reasonably modern live release and yet if it's energy and passion you want then turn up "Test Of Time", "Turn Out The Lights", "Don't Get Mad Get Even" and "Tomorrow Or Yesterday" to experience a steamroller of rock, as it powers right over everything in sight. As ever Samson's guitar efforts are also refined, but the manner in which he combines an unmistakable touch and tone to the riff hungry rock monster he sounds like here, simply emphasises what a much missed guitarist he remains.
Just as eclectic as his wide reaching studio output, these on stage recordings from Paul Samson reveal a multi-faceted guitarist who could turn his hand to anything that took his fancy. Not everything here quite holds the imagination in the way you might hope, but as you travel through the ages, styles and band line-ups, the one constant is Paul Samson's guitar playing and how thoroughly jaw dropping it remains. Housed in a clam shell box, and with liner notes from Malcolm Dome that feature contributions from many of those who were involved along the way, Mr Rock And Roll is not only an interesting and at times captivating journey, it's also exceedingly well named.
DISC ONE: THANK YOU AND GOODNIGHT (1984)
1. BITE ON THE BULLET
2. INTO THE VALLEY
3. LOSING MY GRIP
4. VICE VERSA
5. LOVE HUNGRY
6. TOMORROW OR YESTERDAY
7. MR ROCK AND ROLL
8. DON'T GET MAD, GET EVEN
9. TEST OF TIME
10. ARE YOU READY?
LIVE AT MILDENHALL (1982) (3 TRACK EP FROM 'NWOBHM LIVE')
11. RED SKIES
12. DRIVING WITH Z.Z.!
13. RIDING WITH THE ANGELS
DISC TWO: PAUL SAMSON'S EMPIRE – LIVE AT THE MARQUEE (1986)
1. BURNING EMOTION
3. VICE VERSA
4. FIGHTING MAN
5. A MATTER OF TIME
6. AFRAID OF THE LIGHT
7. TELL ME
8. TURN ON THE LIGHTS
9. EARTH MOTHER
10. TOMORROW (STUDIO TRACK)
11. DON'T TURN AWAY (STUDIO TRACK)
12. STRANGER (STUDIO TRACK)
DISC THREE: THE BLUES NIGHTS (SLIGHT RETURN) (1981-1997)
1. LOUISE (1981)
2. VOODOO CHILE (SLIGHT RETURN) (1993)
3. RIDING WITH THE ANGELS (1993)
4. PURPLE HAZE (1993)
5. LOVE THAT BURNS (1995)
6. BLACK MAGIC WOMAN (1995)
7. ALBATROSS (1995)
8. HOT GIRLS (WITH THE RICHARD BLACK PROJECT) (1996)
9. THE CITY BURNS (With The Richard Black Project) (1996)
10. A FOOL FOR YOUR STOCKINGS (1997)
11. VOODOO CHILE (SLIGHT RETURN) (1997)
12. CHEROKEE MIST (With The Richard Black Project) (1996/2001)
DISC FOUR: LIVE IN LONDON 2000
1. TEST OF TIME
2. VICE VERSA
3. ROOM 109
4. TURN OUT THE LIGHTS
5. BRAND NEW DAY
6. DON'T GET MAD, GET EVEN
7. RED SKIES
8. EARTH MOTHER
9. RIDING WITH THE ANGELS
10. TOMORROW OR YESTERDAY
11. MR ROCK AND ROLL
Added: December 26th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Mr Rock And Roll at Cherry Red
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