Graded on a Curve: Live LPs from Richie Furay, James Taylor and Carole King, and Graham Nash

The 2022 live concert season looks like it will shape up to be a vast improvement over 2020 and 2021, although as of this writing, the vagaries of the virus continue to complicate people’s lives and create uncertainties. Regardless of how the season plays out, it’s a good time to take a look at some of the better live concert releases that have arrived on store shelves. The live album doesn’t get the love it used to, but many excellent releases come out every year and shouldn’t be overlooked. All of the releases covered here, except for one, are available on vinyl and that one is also out on DVD. For this article, we will cover releases from artists primarily associated with the West Coast ’70s and singer-songwriter album genres.

First off, let’s start with Still Deliverin’ / Deliverin’ Again: 50th Anniversary Return to the Troubadour, Live In Concert, from Richie Furay from DSDK, available as either a two-CD set or a DVD. The Still Deliverin’ title refers to the live album Deliverin’ released by Poco in 1971, a group Fury founded. Furay was, of course prior to Poco, a founding member of Buffalo Springfield.

This live concert consists of two sets, recorded at the Troubadour in West Hollywood from November 16, 2018. The first set is a retrospective primarily of Furay’s non-Poco material, featuring two Buffalo Springfield and solo songs. The second set is a recreation of the famed live Deliverin’ album recorded at Madison Square Garden in 1971.

Furay really makes this material work well. Most of the songs here came from Poco, where Furay was joined by Jim Messina, Rusty Young, Timothy B. Schmit, and George Grantham. Through his sheer talents as a band leader and especially peerless vocalist, he comes up with one of the best live albums in memory. The set where Furay recreates the Deliverin album is flawless and a reminder of what a great band Poco was. Former Poco member and current member of the Eagles Timothy B. Schmit joins in on “Good Feeling to Know.” Poco was never really given its due and the merciless East Coast rock press gave them short shrift.

As for another show taken from performances from the Troubadour, let’s take a look at Live at the Troubadour from Carole King and James Taylor. This double-vinyl set consists of performances from 2007 that were originally available on CD and CD/DVD in 2010. The CD/DVD set is out of print. It was also released on gold vinyl in 2021, but that set is also out of print. This new double-album vinyl gatefold edition was released by the audiophile Craft Recordings label, was pressed on 180-gram vinyl at QRP, and was mastered by Bernie Grundman; the concert recording was produced by Peter Asher.

The track selection includes songs exclusively from Taylor’s self-titled debut album Sweet Baby James and Mud Slide Slim and the New Horizon, as well as from King’s Tapestry. Taylor and King are augmented by celebrated musicians Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar, and Russ Kunkel who have backed the two up and were Taylor’s touring band for years. There are also two songs here that both have recorded on studio albums: “You’ve Got a Friend” and “Up On The Roof.”

This is definitive live ’70s singer-songwriter music comprised of songs that are 50 years old and that sound fresh and poignant in this new live set. The superb sound quality brings these club performances to life and provides a rare intimacy missing in most music on the charts today. These songs, the singing of Taylor and King and their easy rapport makes for a one-of-a-kind musical experience and one that must be heard on vinyl.

Graham Nash, with his new album, Live, Songs for Beginners and Wild Tales, from the UK label Proper Music, takes a similar approach as the Taylor and King album. In his case, he goes back to his solo debut, Songs For Beginners, released in 1971 and his second solo album, Wild Tales, released in 1973, and performs them live. These two albums are flawless ’70s releases. While Songs For Beginners has always been highly regarded and was a big seller upon release, Wild Tales was a somewhat under-the-radar gem that got a little lost in the glut of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young solo and collective releases of the era. Nash had intended Wild Tales to be released in 1972, but the songs were raw, and varied in nature, then his first solo album and Atlantic Records delayed its release.

While Taylor and King may have primarily stuck to the instrumentation of their best-known backing musicians for the songs they performed, Nash enlisted an entirely new posse of musicians to somewhat update these songs for today and to play them live. However, even after only three days of rehearsals, these performances remain faithful to the original studio tracks. The package is a double-album vinyl gatefold release and comes from four shows recorded on a Northeastern US tour in September of 2019.

It’s thrilling to hear these two albums played in their entirety back-to-back. Hopefully, those people discovering these two albums for the first time—which could be many in the case of Wild Tales—will seek out the original vinyl studio albums as well.

Richie Furay, Still Deliverin’/Deliverin’ Again: 50th Anniversary Return to the Troubadour, Live In Concert
B+

James Taylor and Carole King, Live at the Troubadour
B+

Graham Nash, Live, Songs for Beginners and Wild Tales
B

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