Here is a lady who is no stranger to the pages of Bluesdoodles: we have waxed lyrical over her work that you can find via the search facility. In fact, I will borrow my introduction to her last album as the intro for this one…”New Yorker Sari Schorr served her apprenticeship in venues across her native city, culminating in a performance at the famous Carnegie Hall. She had some operatic training but, praise be, she decided to devote her formidable talents to blues and blues-rock. I first ’discovered’ Sari when I heard her cover of Black Betty off her first album, Force of Nature. So powerful was her interpretation of this classic that I bought the album and I am delighted to see that the follow up to that 2016 gem is now being released. Never Say Never is eleven tracks of heaven…two are covers, the rest by Sari and her writing partners”.
Drawing from that last release and from her Force Of Nature, we are now treated to Sari on stage on Live In Europe…not a particularly innovative title but it does what it says and shows this formidable vocalist on fine form and backed by an equally formidable and fine band. Culled from three nights on her 2019 tour we get songs understandably biased toward Never Say Never and some from Force of Nature, plus two ‘unplugged’ tracks from her BBC sessions. I can say straight away that I have only one complaint…live songs do not fade; they end and then the crowd applaud. A shame that connection is lost on a couple of these and I guess that it was easier to do this when stitching different nights together.
Anyway, solitary moan over…to the music and the opening delights of The New Revolution. The crowd applauds as the riff plays out and, already the whole band are in sync and on form and, although there is a strange echo deep in the mix of the vocals, Sari is very quickly on top form and this wonderful band often reminds me of Stone The Crows at their imperious best: a tasty and tasteful guitar solo adds even more sheen. After one of those weird fades, Demolition Man brings the swing and jazz into the mix with Sari delivering a performance that, to a questionable mind like mine, makes things happen! Mr Watts on Hammond is perfect in the backing and then produces a really rock solo that flirts with the melodies ingeniously; then we get the full range of the inventive guitar of Mr Wilson in a shiver-inducing solo…brilliant!
Ain’t Got No Money may be grammatically awful but musically it is another stroke of genius. It starts very Creamy and the guitar intro is pure class; as is the remarkable solo that employs bends, hammers and runs that I can only dream of achieving. The passion-filled vocals from Sari make for one of the most dramatic tracks on this fine album. Turn The Radio On is next and it loses some of the radio-friendly feel and becomes stronger in the live situation.
Damn The Reason is a soaring vocal demonstration where Sari pours on the emotion but never overdoes it. The band again is in perfect harmony with the vocal as they play impeccably throughout with some brilliant flourishes from Ash who then throws in a scorching if too short solo. Next up is the classic
I Just Want To Make Love To You…this oft-covered song has rarely sounded better and the snare/hi-hat intro builds to a clever interpretation of the melody on guitar. As Sari moves harsh(ish) vocal to sweet and innocent, my mind is off again. The funky backing works so well and the ten minute plus running time means we get a sweeping guitar solo that is pitched just right as single picked notes up and down the neck followed by pedal work and runs that add up to a glorious piece: add in the equally inventive journey of the vocal keys interplay and the keyboard solo itself and it is worth the price for this one track.
Thank You is another sweeping song that has blues-rock writ large: the keys and guitar are a real delight and even the sparse backing to the verses somehow fill the speakers. The autobiographical Valentina brings power and passion together in a lovely way…the piano and guitar are on point (especially the wah’d solo) and the vocal is so expressive. Back To LA had a bit of a country twang on the studio version before it moved into AOR territory: done live it has a little more bite even if it is a tad weak compared the dizzy heights of the rest.
The live on-stage songs end with the Sari version of Leadbelly’s Black Betty…now this was the song that originally put Ms Schorr on my radar and, mercifully, I am not disappointed with the live version…it has a majesty that, I think, Huddie would approve of. A slow build-up erases the (damn good) Ram Jam version and sounds like a different song altogether. The slower pace and sheer weight of the backing and then a true blues solo of craft and skill makes the whole thing a magnificent way to finish.
The last two tracks are the ‘unplugged’ BBC sessions starting with a version of her brilliant Bad Co cover: Ready for Love is piano and acoustic with Sari’s superb vocal interpretation of Paul Rodgers’ blues. Then a surprise: King Of Rock And Roll was just that on the original. The good news is it still works as the acoustic guitar has grit and the piano fills in behind. I still prefer the electric version, but this is still a stayer.
If only we could have got rid of the iffy fades and joined with the crowd and listened to her introductions…ah well, at least the music is first class.
In summary (and I am not being lazy, honest) I will repeat my précis from Never Say Never because it applies equally to this grand live album…”Take a vocalist of power, depth and the inherent ability to take you with her on a rollercoaster ride of emotions; add into the mix a band of such talent they would grace any stage…when forces such as these merge you get an album like this one.
Simply brilliant from start to finish… and the good news? It gets better the more you listen to it as the individual performances reveal themselves. If you love blues, blues-rock or rock you will adore this record”.
Bluesdoodles rating: Stupendous – Powerful lyrics, melodic riffs and one for repeat listening
- The New Revolution
- Demolition Man
- Ain’t Got No Money
- Turn The Radio On
- Damn The Reason
- I Just Want To Make Love To You
- Thank You
- Back To LA
- Black Betty
- Ready For Love
- King Of Rock And Roll
Sari Schorr: vocals
Bob Fridzema: organ
Ash Wilson: guitar
Mat Beable: bass
Roy Martin: drums
Steve Watts: organ
(The iTunes run on track was, inevitably, more Sari and the fully plugged and rocked up version of King Of Rock And Roll…but I did succumb to the preceding album and relished a lump of class 80s proggy rock from the undervalued Saracen: Heroes, Saints And Fools indeed!)