First of all, if you haven't yet caught Danny's killer No Easy Way Out (here7)…well, ya gotta. It's a barnstormer, a soulfully riveting CD that comes on like a blistering blues hurricane sweeping all before its path. The disc easily made my Top 10 of the year for ALL genres, and I've been impatiently waiting like a kid in a candy store for this, a boogie-ing blues rave-up carrying forward everything contained in No Easy Way. Live, Brooks doesn't lose an ounce of the studio magic, as joyfully gritty and effervescent as one would most fervently hope.
The Rockin' Revelators back him solidly, especially the horn section -- just trumpet and sax but, man, do they make themselves felt!—even in the melancholy ballads ("Down on my Knees", etc.), where the New Orleans element is most naked. In this disc, Brooks makes no effort to hide his Christian conversion or the saving graces it has endowed him with. I'm always asked if, as an atheist and anarchist, that doesn't make me uncomfortable, and my reply is simple: "Jesus was one of history's greatest anarchists, admired by Erasmus, Paine, Jefferson, and others equally Humanist, and his example has been a constant reference in my personal anarchy." This sends the interrogater away thoughtful…and that's precisely the effect of Live at the Palais Royale. You have to consider what it means, despite innumerable ills, when religion can save people's minds and souls, especially as it restores an incredible musician like Danny Brooks to a height he might never have achieved without it. Makes one pause, doesn't it?
Live is a rollicking, boogie-ing, sweating, burning, hip-shaking display of pure unbridled energy with tons of grinning-like-a-cat sincerity. Brooks means each and every syllable he sings, earnest down to the soles of his feet, but that doesn't say that he can't have a damn good time, and, boy howdy!, doesn't the audience know it! They're floored between every cut. I've said it before and I'll say it again, though I know the utterance is sheerest blasphemy: this guy's work is as important as Aretha's drop-dead brilliant Amazing Grace, a back-to-Jesus 2-LP live masterpiece now ignored but a milestone nonetheless. For a full hour, Brooks sings and plays his heart out, never flagging, always pinning the needle at 10. Dig into the hardtack count-em-by-the-fours of Righteous Highway and rediscover what sent Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack, T.S. McPhee, and the Brit blues innovators to the woodshed in a John Lee Hooker delirium, emerging with the tastiest rebirth of the genre since Elmore.
The gospel element is undeniable in the backing vocals of Amoy and Ceceal Levy, as hip as the Staples, the Waters, and the great choruses in rock. More than once, Brooks unpins his cowcatcher slide, as does Papa John King, and Jerome Godboo's harmonica plays second fiddle to Danny's own, assuring that there's no lack of that beloved instrument either. In fact, there's not a second of this generous release that isn't full to the brim with everything a blueshound craves. Place it next to Bernie Pearl's Somebody Got to do It, and count yourself lucky that we got two such searing in-concert blues discs in a single decade.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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