Erja Lyytinen’s fourth live album, Diamonds On The Road – Live 2023 was recorded Rytmikorjaamo, Seinäjoki, in West Finland, Erja Lyytinen’s homeland. “When playing live, you’ve got one moment to get it right, and then the moment is gone. There is no correcting stuff later “It is very raw and exciting to play and sing at the same time. The adrenaline runs through your body, and everything around you affects your performance,” she has commented.
That’s both apt and the truth, for what we are presented with across this two CD collection is very much a live recording without overdubs. The band is well versed in the songs they’re performing but there are many seat-of-the-pants moments, whether by the live sound is being transmitted across the stage, chance interactions between musicians or that leaping of into the semi-unknown via solos where you’re never quite sure how things are going to turn out, how an audience will react to it there in the moment, and just how different that might be when presented six months or more down the road on CD and DVD.
For those who’ve enjoyed the developing aesthetics of the lady’s more recent albums, as she’s evolved from Elmore James-inspired blues guitarist to someone who’s since been harnessing those skills into more polished hard rock territories they might find some of these tracks bearing down a little too much on the in-your-face rock ‘n’ roll, because it is live and that rawness is present. For those who appreciate that, there’s the added excitement value they’ll get. For six string fiends, there’s some devilishly inspired work to be heard, and I expect the DVD would offer further entertainment in that area.
‘Diamonds On The Road‘ itself opens CD1, initially a sharp staccato rhythm moving to a more driving blues rock sound in this ode to a doomed Gothic romance, where a baby’s been born and the father done a moonlit flit. Hardly cheery stuff to open a show perhaps, but then having just come out of a global pandemic, moods wouldn’t exactly be upbeat. The Stratocaster-wielded shrieking solo though, reminiscent in part to Mick Taylor’s work with the Stones, stirs the listener suitably in a good way.
‘Rocking Chair’ loses some of the subtly of its studio rendition, but if you’ve a good set of speakers we expect those waves of slide guitar are going to sound impressive. There was a touch of sexual innuendo in the dying embers of that last song and ‘Bad Seed’ lays it on thicker, sensual hard rocking riffs kicking in and dancing about, organ smoothing the way, drums taking no crap. A tad slower, with a little bump ‘n grind is the heavy blues of ‘Black Ocean’ spreading its wings now and again towards more melodic rock leanings, alongside an extended guitar solo that heads out into progressive rock territory. ‘Waiting For The Daylight’ continues that theme, with nods to both Rush and Genesis in its guitar instrumental excursions, beyond the main section’s broken chorded blues ballad format.
‘Väinämöinen Tuonelassa’ is folk metal with a little bit of vintage pot-head pixie Gong in there, on what we’re told is the tale of Kalevala, a shaman entering the underworld. You might not understand a word, but it comes across as epic, filled with dread and some impressive guitar and bass sounds along the way. ‘Last Girl’ races in with an urgency that recalls early U2 only to break out into some wide spanning heart-warming vocal choruses, though not as strong as the studio version. ‘Never Really Had You’ closes this CD, a slow jazz-tinted blues torch song with harrowing guitar wails and a strong vocal performance.
CD2 may feature less numbers, but it’s probably the one guitar fans will check out more. Sexual shenanigans return with ‘You Talk Dirty‘. Her keyboard making out like Jon Lord while there’s a rumbling of noise from the rest of the band before they rock and knock about collectively, instrumentally leading into the tumbling ‘Lover´s Novels’ with its crashing and colliding barrages of slide work, a more relaxed funky R ’n B organ solo, then the band cruising on the blues all the way to the end, followed by the boogie fest that’s ‘Wedding Day’, some of the humour inherent on the studio version doesn’t come across as well, but the extended slide work more than makes it a special day running the gamut of neo-classical rock, folk, showtime tunes, the blues and more along the way, and if that sounds like one of Richie Blackmore’s old party pieces, you’d swear they were playing a swing version of ‘Smoke On The Water’ near the end.
Lyytinen then imbues a cover Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Crosstown Traffic‘ with some post-punk energy – The first few bars are like an askew bluesy skiffle before you wonder if Devo are involved in the hardened psychedelic rock that ensues. The familiarity of the lyrics and Lyytinen’s own trademark slide guitar work ensure we don’t stray too far; the urgency of her guitar playing escalating two minutes in wherein there’s a somewhat sensual solo, then near the end, lest you think you’re hearing an interesting wah-wah effect, that’s actually a blooming kazoo. Yes, I think we need to check out the DVD for this track.
The anthemic epic that is ‘The End Of Music’ eventually calls time on this collection. Slow AOR-tinted, bitter-sweet glistening slow blues, it’s an emotional outpouring, her voice to the fore, guitar in a supporting caressing role for the most part, until following a melodic bass solo the six strings pull out into territories Gilmore and Beck laid the ground work in, and they know the route just fine, embellishing it with textures Lyytinen’s own, the whole thing winding towards an epic climax.
Songs old, new, borrowed and filled with the blues. While I prefer the more finished arrangements of a number of these songs in their studio recorded format, the extended live improvisations of Erja Lyytinen’s guitar soloing ably demonstrates how much she’s advanced as a player in recent years.
- Reviewed by Paul H Birch.
- Diamonds On The Road – Live 2023 is released via Tuohi Records and is available now (from here).
- Official Website / Facebook / Spotify / X / YouTube Channel
CD 1 Track list:
- Diamonds On The Road
- Rocking Chair
- Bad Seed
- Black Ocean
- Waiting For The Daylight
- ‘Väinämöinen Tuonelassa
- Last Girl
- Never Really Had You
CD 2 Track list:
- You Talk Dirty
- Lover’s Novels
- Wedding Day
- Crosstown Traffic
- The End Of Music