Listening to this CD, it's hard to believe that a 29-year old could have packed that much grit and experience into so short a period before being untimely cut down…just as national success seemed assured. Costello has a distinct way with his vocals, especially shown in I Get a Feeling—even more so in Bobby Womack's Check It Out, but it was that blazing guitar of his that really took the audience by storm. At His Best…Live is a collection of cuts from various gigs around the U.S., but the sound, which varies, is reminiscent of the old days in England, back at Klook's Kleek and other venues where John Mayall, Alvin Lee, and various modern bluesers plied their trade just before striding into the spotlight.
And that's precisely the feeling rendered here. Again, some of the recordings are a bit raw, but that only imbues the sort of edge and smoke that Costello was so adept at producing. When his lead lines tear through in The Battle is Over but the War Goes On, the contrast is well set, a bright light shining down upon the dusty corners, the dark side alleys, a searing shaft of luminance putting everything in its place. Of course, it didn't hurt that he had Matt Wauchope sparking up behind him in cuts like Peace of Mind, leaning into the organ for all it was worth.
Sean may be gone, the victim of an accidental drug overdose while suffering from bipolar disorder, but all this material is otherwise unreleased and joins his six previous discs, including a memorial retrospective, in the sort of immortality that only artists can enjoy. Many took to his lively ways—Susan Tedeschi, Levon Helm, Tinsley Ellis, and Jenni Muldaur among them—planting the guy firmly in their CDs for 15 years, and the catalogue of his own recorded work is now permanently engraved for blues lovers. You'd do well to check in and see why he, as Wikipedia and more than a few critics put it, was "renowned for his fiery guitar playing and soulful singing".
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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