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STEVE ASHLEY Live In Concert

STEVE ASHLEY Live In Concert
Dusk Fire Records DUSKCD102

This CD records just under an hour of a much longer concert that took place on 12 th March 2006 at Cheltenham's Bacon Theatre to celebrate Steve's 60 th birthday. He first began this singing and songwriting lark in his teens, so you won't need a calculator to tell you that he's pretty much got the hang of it now. Having said that, this wasn't just another gig - with the artists' roster numbering about 30, and the material spanning forty years it's not the hassle-free, laid-back way that I intend to spend MY 60 th birthday.

Having said that, I burst with admiration for this record. Steve really does sound relaxed, seeming to relish the opportunity to switch from performing with his very first collaborator (Dave Menday of Tinderbox), then with Ragged Robin and Robert Kirby's delicious string arrangements from the sensational early albums. Then we get the funky horns and rhythms of the Steve Ashley Band with selections from the Demo Tape years, neatly capped by the only solo track, a new song called 'Ships Of Shame' written to highlight the appalling horror of Britain's continuing Trident nuclear submarine programme. Then it's time for a selection from the wonderful Family Album, although 'I'm A Radio' opens the album with its all-too-appropriate adaptation: "I've been on the go for almost sixty years.". The final track is similarly appropriate - the relatively new 'Say Goodbye' (aka 'The Apple Song'), here brought to even more glory by a brand new string setting from the faultless Mr. Kirby, performed by a specially convened 6-piece "orchestra". Fairport, on the other hand, are permanently convened, so it's no surprise (but nonetheless a joy) to hear them popping up and down throughout.

Dusk Fire have all the track and personnel details as well as a purchasing opportunity on their website, so I would advise you to take advantage of them forthwith. The recording quality is superb, thanks in no small part to Martin Mitchell who mixed the sound. If it was half as good in the hall on the night as it is on this CD, then the journo who called the gig "one for attendees to brag about and absentees to mourn" has it spot on. I know I'm mourning. The CD does help, though.

Alan Rose

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This album was reviewed in Issue 71 of The Living Tradition magazine.