This is the taster version of the superb "People Places Pieces" triple CD live box set (which has been well reviewed by others on this site). So I would recommend the the PPP full monty, but if you're not sure then try this one first - you won't regret it. Hugh's three piece band bangs out some very energetic reworked classics plus some of his best solo work. This album gives a great introduction into the type of approach Hugh is employing these days, and would satisfy most Stranglers fans (i.e. the ones that can get over the lack of keyboards and appreciate the inspired fretwork that paints the old works on a new canvas). And the sound recording is excellent too!
With the kind of back catalogue HUGH CORNWELL possesses it would be stupid not to keep plugging away.
DIRTY DOZEN: LIVE is a pared-down version of a three disc release and comprises a sensible choice of both STRANGLERS and solo work. Utilising a three-piece setup of guitar, drums and bass ensures that the sound is simplified, yet hardly subtle. Far from it. Indeed, by jettisoning keyboards - an integral part of his previous group's make up - Hugh has made a bold (and cost-effective) statement...but it just about pays off.
DUCHESS is a rousing opener and sees The ex-Strangler in fine voice. Fortunately, the rest of the band can hold a note too, which is important given the chorus. FIRST BUS TO BABYLON is a melodic low-key number and an underrated solo composition; I first heard this in 2006, performed at The Cockpit, Leeds and despite the sound being a mess, it still managed to stand out by virtue of quality and sheer bloody perseverance.
Okay, so Hugh can cut it live in stripped-down form, but should there be such a heavy reliance on Stranglers material when he has on several occasions tried to belittle the band's place in history by distancing himself from his past? It's a contradiction that is bound to occur when audiences decline and returns diminish, I suppose. Still, even if PUTTING YOU IN THE SHADE (from the excellent album HI-FI) isn't remotely connected, it seems to sum up my take on the situation quite neatly. It's also a pleasingly retro-punk number.
Of the remaining songs, NUCLEAR DEVICE is good fun and the energetic performance succeeds in evoking happy memories of the original, despite some shortcomings. Clearly, there's no doubt that the band play well and play tight but songs that lack obvious keyboard doodlings don't always cut the mustard with human substitutions. To experience the essence of this (arguable) absenteeism, try whistling the Greenfield break in NO MORE HEROES. Dry-throated misery.
Reservations aside, this is a solid live album, worth owning if you're a fan of the man or a fan of THE STRANGLERS...if you're neither of these, however, then still take a punt because the rewards may surprise you.