Green on Red - BBC Sessions
Ultimately disappointing. With the mid-90s upsurge in all things American, folky and rocky (in that order), Green on Red, by then defunct, must have been cursing like good 'uns. Boat well and truly missed : Green on Red, with their raggedy take on bluesy, all-folked-up rockin', were surely born for the 'Americana' or 'alt.country' labelling that followed their demise.
Based around the duo of singer Dan Stuart and guitarist Chuck Prophet, they released their debut 'Gravity Talks' in 1983. It's follow-up, 1985's 'Gas Food Lodging' is probably their best-regarded work. Personally, I prefer their 1987 major label debut, 'The Killer Inside Me', a sprawling, impassioned cry from the American heart(break)land, a crazed howl, self-loathing and screeching guitar driving the scrappy songs. Their new bosses at Mercury must surely have wondered what on earth they'd spent their money on. Maybe they did some finger-rapping - 1989's 'Here Come the Snakes' was an altogether more generic affair. And then, as I recall, they kind of faded away. (Though they reformed briefly for some anniversary gigs last year.) I vaguely heard their last two albums but the titles point to the almost suffocating cynicism that had overtaken them by that point - both 'Scapegoats' (1991) and 'Too Much Fun' (1992) are dispensable.
This live collection is not quite dispensable but it's hard work to suck out the marrow. Standout for me is the towering 'DT Blues' where Prophet's epic solo takes the breath away. He does it again on 'Sun Goes Down' and brings to mind the similarly silky skills of Robbie Robertson - not a compliment I'd throw out lightly. Most of the other tracks are culled from various albums and recorded at the BBC's Maida Vale studios live on Radio 1 (this was the early 90s, remember. Richard Skinner, anyone ?) Dan Stuart's liner notes are informative but, my god, the guy has a jaded view of his band's history. There's cynical and then there's, well, just tedious and whiney.
Looking back, you can see why maybe they didn't inflame that many hearts. Stuart's voice was an acquired taste (like a shrill Gordon Gano) and, to be perfectly honest, they weren't the greatest songwriters, as this collection of live session tracks attests. If you do fancy checking them out, I'd see if you can get your hands on the now deleted 'The Killer Inside Me'.
To finish, an anecdote. This is true. I saw them just the once. Trent Poly, Nottingham, 1989. Before they came on I found myself stood behind the band in the bar. They were talking in low voices, conspiratorial. I sneaked up behind them and heard Chuck Prophet deliver his opinion of the few hundred fans who'd paid to see them : "Look at them, the f***ing sheep ..."