2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Yes, it could have been great, but I wasn't just disappointed - I was appalled,
This review is from: Cities Of the Heart (Audio CD)As one of Jack Bruce's greatest fans I bought this soon after its release as a so-called limited edition. I paid quite a lot of money for it, and I've resented it ever since. It's not just bad, it's terrible, and that's coming from someone who had identified strongly with Jack, and had kept faith with his work since 1968. I had even described him in the 70s as the 'young Beethoven of rock' - because that's what he was then, for anyone with a wide range of cultural reference, with no competition from anyone else: Lennon/McCartney had been the Mozart until the Beatles broke up, and James Brown as ever was the Bach. In fact Jack Bruce had been the only hero of rock for me for thirty years but with this concert I felt my belief and critical support had finally been completely betrayed.
Suddenly with this set, ironically by far the best recorded of any of the live concerts on CD, all the annoying occasional idiopathic features of his performances, both vocally and on bass, assumed grotesque proportions that could no longer be explained away or excused. Jack has been described as a Jekyll and Hyde character by Ginger Baker and I'm afraid this does make some sense in terms of his singing persona. It's as if some demon is contending for his soul since he can go from the extreme of noble authenticity with his clear ringing voice on the one hand to the coarse and vulgar inauthenticity of his down and dirty bluesy 'black' voice or excessive nasal whine on the other. The former was a quality unique to Jack in the whole of rock, the others are all too common.
When I bought it the thing I was looking forward to most was 'Never Tell Your Mother She's Out Of Tune' since I had noticed that it was included for the first time in any of his concerts, the obvious reason being that only for this 'birthday concert' did he have the brass section needed. So it was with some excitement that I took the set home. Unfortunately although the ensemble produces an interesting syncopated variation on the rhythm of the original recording on 'Songs For A Taylor' it is Jack himself who disappoints because he does not attempt the octave jumps, which are so essential in this number. Without them there isn't the passion or intensity that is what is so special about Jack Bruce when he is on good form. I find it nowhere else in rock music, only unconvincing over-the-top expressions of rage and frustration, or versions of the demonic. I have to go to opera to find the same degree of commitment to real passion - it comes with the territory there because of the mechanics of voice production.
Rather than buying this birthday concert I would recommend the Rockpalast DVD (although this contains some disappointing performances of most of the Cream numbers) or 'Live at the BBC 1971-1978' boxed set, or the earlier mono release of the same 1971 BBC concert. The same material as in the Rockpalast concert can be heard, with better performances and sound, in the Denver concert available under many titles and on many labels.