Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Miles And Erica – Live 2010/11

I've been pondering how to open this review for a few days; I'd had the notion of copying my old mate Paul Cornell who is just starting to embark on his now traditional 'Twelve Blogs of Christmas' and challenging myself with a similar project, since that would both get the creative juices following where they've been a little stagnant in recent months and allow me to plough through (in the nicest possible way) a number of records that have been backlogged for review over the last few weeks. I'll be honest with myself and realise that such an undertaking would be doomed to failure around day three – or certainly day four if tonight was a starting point since, well, Friday night is drinks night and not blogging time – but my notion was to kick start it with this review, on the basis of the 'First Day of Xmas ... an album with no 'space rock' connection at all'. Then I'd very cleverly connect up the album with the principle thrust of the blog by noting Miles Hunt and Erica Nockall's cover version of 'The Day The World Turned Dayglo' (listen to it here, it's fantastic), posted on Soundcloud in response to the most untimely passing of Poly Styrene and argue that since it's a cover of a song originally recorded by X-Ray Spex that qualifies for a mention as X-Ray Spex were as much a space rock band as they were a punk band ... sort of. Ah, it's the sort of nice-but-woolly argument that would go hand-in-hand with suggesting that Hawkwind were a punk band because of 'Urban Guerilla'. It raises a smile at the thought, but it's not quite right.

I'll try again. I know I get visitors passing through because of my book on Mike Scott & The Waterboys, so there's an 'if you like that, you'll like this angle' available. And, of course, there's the wonderful bit on Erica Nockall's website where she's noted as being sponsored by Vivien of Holloway dresses and Maya Hansen Corsets ... I adore that, it reminds me of the fabulous credits in The Persuaders! ('Lord Brett Sinclair's suits by Roger Moore; gowns by Total Look of Debenham'). Lovely stuff!

Ah, really, no angle needed though. This album landed out of the blue a few months back, kindly sent after I'd reviewed Miles and Erica's most recent solo album and their terrific, heartfelt, Shared 1 & 2 anthology releases in the pages, variously, of R2 and Record Collector. I'd looked around for a print magazine to cover this new release in but that didn't work out and it's been sitting on my desk since (apart, you understand, from the times its been in my car) glaring at me for not telling people about it because it's a really enjoyable release, a marvellous snapshot of two great musicians at a certain point in time, and just ought to be mentioned around, really.

Miles and Erica are, of course, key members of The Wonder Stuff aside from recording and touring as a duo but in it's in that duo formation that these live cuts have been taken. What's great about this collection is that it really feels like a performance in your living room; loads of chat and exposition from Miles, cleverly sequenced as individual tracks (all deprecatingly entitled 'blah blah') so that you can smile at them on first listen, enjoy their growing familiarity on the next few run throughs and, sorry Miles, skip them when you want to cut to the chase of these delicious guitar and violin acoustic deliveries. I guess no artist wants to be compared to their peers and contemporaries, each wants to stand aside from the rest and stand out as unique, but let's go back to that 'if you like that, you'll like this' and hopefully I'm on safe ground since I know, from a piece he wrote for R2 a while back, that Miles is a great admirer of Mike Scott, and by making the analogy and drawing the comparison it's to say that there's times here where they have the righteousness and attack and gusto that Scott and his fiddler musical comrade Steve Wickham have delivered so well over the years both in The Waterboys as a full line and where The Waterboys just means Scott & Wickham.

But, look, comparisons very well meant aside, this is a live album that is exactly what it describes itself to be, live and alive in all senses of the words; it's vivacious, inspiring, engaging and dynamic; it makes you wish you'd been there. It's full of fire, Milo talking about throwing away his television not "in a fit of rock and roll behaviour as you might imagine" and leading into his damning of the 24hour news channels with 'Stay Scared, Stay Tuned' or talking about his passion for open-mic pub nights that turned into the Shared recordings – the project is on the backburner at the moment but they've done an admirable job in pushing exposure for musicians deserving of greater recognition so please go along to their web page – or the strangely life-affirming and grin-inducing 'Plans In The Sky'.

So, no angle needed, no reason for excusing or explaining the appearance of this record 'out-of-synch' with the other music written here; just a chance to shout out about a record I really enjoyed this year, a little regret that I didn't get to write about it in print, and here's to next year when as I understand it, Erica's first solo album will be appearing and a year when I'd very much hope to experience first-hand the live experience that Live 2010/11 recounts.

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