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The Weavers were a folk act active during the 40's and 50's, famous for reinterpreting popular folk songs, and also for being blacklisted as suspected Communists.

Thirty years later, and one year before member Lee Hays died, they reunited at Carnegie Hall for two nights. And as much as I hate to gush, these four geezers - Hays, Ronnie Gilbert, Fred Hellerman, and the immortal Pete Seeger - managed to transcend every cliche of folk music, reunions, and old age, and make something closer to pure music than anything I've heard.

The Weavers' harmonies are full and joyous, enough to make a believer out of the biggest cynic, and that comes from a joy and a true belief in the material they sing. Their interpretation of "Wimoweh" is probably my favorite musical moment of all time - three voices, a guitar, and a banjo provide backup in a live setting, while Seeger crafts primal, wordless vocals that weave and dance around the chunky music, all building up to a stunning crescendo. I'd play that one 2-minute song for everybody if I could.

Individual personalities shine through: Hays the crusty, genial old man, Hellerman the introspective folkie, Gilbert the feminist champion, and Seeger the genius backbone.

There are several boring moments on the album, and several funny ones, and even more where The Weavers' dazzling harmonies bring the house down. It's clear the audience knows they're witnessing something special, the end of an era most of them knew nothing about.

There are great songs throughout: "Wimoweh"; a rousing rendition of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas"; Merle Travis' harrowing "Dark As A Dungeon"; and Seeger's funny lament on aging, "Get Up and Go". There's more energy in this album than on most rock albums, and more transcendent moments - I get even more out of it now than I when I was a kid.

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by Reviewer: Cosmic Ben

Posted: Thursday 27th Apr 2017 6:50 PM
Recent album review
Shaky (subtitled Green Door in Australasia) is an album of 50's-style rock'n'roll, enhanced with an 80's production, something that's quite effective at lending the material a degree of clarity and sparkle that's typically absent from original 50's recordings.

The track-listing for my Australasian version of Shaky is slightly different from the original release, which included the hit single "You Drive Me Crazy" as track [2], but for some reason that's been replaced by the rather undistinguished "Hot Dog" (3 stars).

The songs are a mixture of covers and originals - a generous fourteen tracks all told - five of which were penned by Stevens. Four of those make up the last four tracks on Side Two, and the best of them - "I'm Knockin'" (3½ stars) - sits comfortably amongst the other tracks on Side One.

But with Stevens' own compositions dominating Side Two, along with a couple of generic paint-by-numbers deliveries of "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down" and "This Time" - where the band sound like some aging cabaret act just going through the motions - all in all, Side One is where the better material resides, with most of Side Two rating at 3 stars.

That's because Stevens sticks to the more formulaic aspects of rock'n'roll songwriting, his themes revolving around the usual 'young love' and teen heartbreak, but his songs on Side Two aren't especially memorable tunewise, acting more as platforms for his backing band to display their chops, best heard on "Let Me Show You How" (3½ stars).

In fact, the backings are overall the best aspect of this album, most notably from B.J.Cole, who provides plenty of crisp steel guitar licks that lend a slight rockabilly feel to several tracks, and also Geraint Watkins on piano, who delivers some tasty honky-tonk fills as well, most notably on the Mickey Jupp-ish piano pub/rock stylings of "Don't She Look Good" (4 stars).

So it's the backing band that are the main attraction on Shaky, and - whilst Stevens delivers the material ably enough - given the emphasis on dance numbers, I'd have seen a future hosting rock'n'roll / nostalgia 'hops' in British seaside holiday camps beckoning. But as it transpired, Stevens clocked up something like thirty Top 40 hits between 1980 and 1987, establishing him as a star at least in the UK - not bad for what is really nothing more than a rock'n'roll revival act.

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by Reviewer: bluemoon

Posted: Friday 28th Apr 2017 12:49 AM
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