12 tracks / 60:52
Sometimes bands release live albums when they have not recorded anything new in a while and they need to get something new on the market quickly. This is not the case with Zoë Schwarz Blue Commotion’s new live disc, I’ll Be Yours Tonight, which is has been released hot on the heels of their Exposed disc. They had no plans to make a live album at the time, but the opportunity arose and it turned out wonderfully!
I’ll Be Your Tonight is Blue Commotion’s fourth album in three years, and their first live release. It was recorded last November during a show at Richard Dunning’s “Tuesday Night Music Club” in south London and there are twelve songs in this set, all of them Koral and Schwarz originals, with the exception of a single cover from Billie Holiday.
This United Kingdom-based band is led by Zoë Schwarz on vocals and Rob Koral on guitar; their fellow members are Pete Whittaker on the Hammond and Paul Robinson on drums. On this evening they were joined by Si Genero on the harp and backing vocals, Ian Ellis on sax, and Andy Urquhart on trumpet. This line-up results in a very rich sound as they throw down an hour of the blues with a healthy injection of jazz, soul, and rock.
Blue Commotion’s set kicks off with “Your Sun Shines Rain,” a blues rocker with crunchy guitar, pointed harp accents, and a touch of cowbell in the intro. From this song forward you will hear why they decided to burn this show to a disc: the mix is well balanced and the band is obviously having a good evening – they are tight as a drum. Zoë also has a stellar evening as her vocals are strong, and her voice is one of a kind. It is tempting to compare her sound to other famous lead singers, but on further reflection her unique tone, diction, and inflection truly make her voice unique (in a good way).
For the second track the crew dispenses the sole cover, Billie Holiday’s “Fine and Mellow,” and they gave this jazz standard a thorough rearrangement. They cut the tempo way back, added some blues, and gave Schwarz room to breathe her uncommon interpretation of the tune. The extra time and space adds a new dimension of drama to what is already a really heavy tune. The band can change moods in a heartbeat, as shown by their quick segue into “Let me Sing the Blues,” a countrified blues rocker. Pete Whittaker shines on his Hammond (with an awesome solo!) and Si Genero turns in a tasteful performance on the harp and joins in on the vocals for the chorus.
This group has a lot of depth and can carry off most any genre, and they include a lot of them in this show. One example of this is the plaintive jazzy blues of “We’ll Find a Way.” This slow song of loss and love is howled with true emotion, with an unexpected crescendo into a dramatic power ballad midway through. Then on the next track, “Say it Isn’t So,” they band unleashes a full force soul review with horns galore. These kinds of drastic changes from song-to-song could kill the momentum of an album, but this playlist was carefully sequenced, and the final result fits together very well.
After the heartfelt and soulful (though unconventionally rocking) gospel tune, “Beatitudes,” the band closes out this set with “Take Me Back.” Blue Commotion burns the club down on this one with Robinson’s jackhammer drums, Koral’s killer guitar work, and a little call and response from Si Genero. This was a cool way to finish things up, and it certainly leaves the listener wanting more.
If you want to see Zoë Schwarz Blue Commotion play live, you had better make your way to England, as all of the gigs on their schedule are at clubs there, but hopefully someday they can be lured to the States with some sort of festival or blues competition. In the meantime, you might want to think about picking up a copy of I’ll Be Yours Tonight, as it is the next best thing to being there.