Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado – Songs From The Road | Album and DVD Review

thorbjørnrisagercdThorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado – Songs From The Road

Ruf Records – 2015

CD – 15 tracks: 79 minutes; DVD – 18 tracks: 99 minutes

Another successful issue in the “Songs From The Road” series from Ruf finds Denmark’s Thorbjørn Risager live in Bonn, Germany, with an expanded band including horns and backing singers. Thorbjørn plays guitar and handles lead vocals, with Peter Skjerning on lead guitar, Emil Balsgaard on keys, Soren Bojgaard on bass, Martin Seidelen on drums, Peter W Kehl on trumpet and flugelhorn, Hans Nybo on tenor sax and Kasper Wagner on alto and baritone saxes; Lisa Lystam and Ida Bang add backing vocals. Thorbjørn wrote most of the material and there are three covers.

The sound and picture quality are first class throughout and give the listener the feeling of being right there in the room.  Thorbjørn sings in English with some trace of accent and has an extremely gruff voice that may not suit everyone’s taste but the band plays well across a range of styles.  Opening track “If You Wanna Leave” starts with Thorbjørn’s ringing guitar and Peter’s slide work while “Paradise” has plenty of backing vocal work from the girls.  “Drowning” changes the style with something of a French chanson feel emphasised by some great trumpet and alto work.  Peter’s slide gives a Delta feel to “Too Many Roads” and adds menace to the moody slow tune “China Gate” (written by Victor Young and Harold Adamson for the 1957 film of the same name). “Rock N’ Roll Ride” lives up to its title with pounding drums and keening slide before Peter switches guitars to join Thorbjørn on a choppy “High Rolling” which the horns sit out. The delicate ballad “Through The Tears” makes considerable demands on Thorbjørn’s vocal style but has a lovely horn and piano arrangement with Thorbjørn’s guitar solo at its centre.

“Long Forgotten Track” is a strange name for a song and it turns out to be an Americana style road song; “On My Way” is also quite a slow and melodic tune with slide from Peter but “All I Want” picks up the pace with a lively horn arrangement and swirling keyboards.  There are then two very well-known covers: Big Joe Williams’ “Baby Please Don’t Go” is given a relaxed and funky arrangement that works well; “Let The Good Times Roll” starts promisingly with an arrangement that reminds you of BB King’s, all blaring horns and rocking piano but unfortunately is extended to over 11 minutes with a protracted guitar duel which was probably more fun live than on record.  As an encore Thorbjørn returns to the stage to perform the stripped down ballad “I Won’t Let You Down” as a duet with Lisa with just the two Peter’s accompanying on guitar and flugelhorn; the full band then runs through a track with the most inappropriate title – “Opener” – which bears a strong resemblance to “Standing On Shaky Ground” before being introduced to the crowd by Thorbjørn and taking a bow.

In a very generously filled concert there are three DVD only cuts which had to be left off the CD due to time constraints: Emil features on boogie piano and Hans on tenor on a rollicking blues entitled “The Straight And Narrow Line”; “I’m Tired” is a solid shuffle with strong horns punctuating the tune which has some resemblance to the Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson song of a similar name, Thorbjørn taking the solo honors. The sinuously funky “Get Up, Get Higher” is aimed at the feet though it does not look like there was any space in the crowd to dance on the night!

For fans of the band this set will be a must-have; for the neutrals it gives the opportunity to both hear and see Thorbjørn and the Black Tornado in a full concert setting.

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