So many artists struggle to get their live sound down on studio records. That hasn’t been singer/guitarist Alastair Greene’s challenge. His 2017 Dream Train swings with the energy of a live show. But he finds another gear on the actually live Live From The 805.
The 805 is the area code of his hometown of Santa Barbara, where this generous 20-track, 1 hour and forty-minute album was recorded. When teams play well at home, the effect is often attributed to home cooking. Santa Barbara must have some kind of amazing food scene, as the trio rip through a tight, flawless set.
It’s interesting that Greene considers himself a guitarist first since he has a strong rock-and-roll voice that’s on full display here. His rock, blues, and even country numbers are all well-served by his steady singing, which is also mixed well. Being a guitarist in a trio—especially a guitar player with Greene’s chops—there’s a tendency for live shows to become guitar soloing showcases, with the vocal performance a distant afterthought. The pleasant surprise of Live From The 805 is its balance. The vocals are given just as much consideration as the guitar work, from both performance and recording perspectives.
And there’s plenty of guitar work. Greene’s trio takes advantage of the sonic space available to them. “3 Bullets,” with its Stevie Ray Vaughan-inspired guitar riff, which is catchy as anything, bounces along on a surprisingly clean guitar tone, before shifting into a fuzzy solo, Jim Rankin’s bass picking up the song’s slack. “Love So Strong” is another great blues-rock riff that begins with Greene’s guitar but shifts to Rankin’s bass for the guitar solo.
Greene also highlights his excellent slide guitar work throughout the set. “Down to Memphis” is driven by a huge slide riff, but also by a beat that would make the Red Hot Chili Peppers proud. “Shoe on the Other Foot” is also a slide-oriented song, although a little smoother and poppier. It’s also another showcase for Rankin’s bass.
Greene doesn’t handle all of the vocals. Chris Chalk, a frequent Greene collaborator, handles the lead on “First Born Son,” which could almost pass for a 1990s alternative song, with it’s huge, anthemic chorus and Rankin’s snakey bass riff guiding the song. Chalk’s presence pushes Greene’s voice on the harmony vocals, and it’s one of the set’s most dynamic, exciting songs.
This is an impressive album, but more guest moments like this might have strengthened the album. At 20 songs, it’s challenging to sustain interest and energy for that long. The easy fix would be to cut the run-time of the album, and it’s admirable that Greene didn’t want to do that to his fans. But hearing Greene sing with other people and maybe even jam with another guitarist, just for a song or two, would have lifted the album. However, just Greene and his band—specifically his wonderful interplay with Rankin—created an impressive document of their live show.
The Review: 8.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– The Sweetest Honey
– 3 Bullets
– Say What You Want
– Love So Strong
– First Born Son
The Big Hit
– First Born Son
Review by Steven Ovadia