Frank Black And The Catholics – Live At Melkweg Expanded Edition (3LP Set)

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As part of their 2001 Dog In The Sand tour, Frank Black And The Catholics stopped by Amsterdam on the 24th March for what proved to be an explosive show and luckily the tapes were rolling to capture the magic. Originally released in truncated form in 2002, Live At Melkweg now gets the deluxe treatment and is bolstered by 18 previously unreleased tracks to present that gig in its complete glory.

There’s nothing quite like the warm sound of vinyl when cranked to earth-shaking volume and the six sides of Live At Melkweg offers plenty of opportunity for that. Raw and visceral, the band gets straight down to business with a parred-back ‘Velvety’ and it’s an instrumental that perfectly encapsulates The Catholics’ modus operandi with wonderfully chugging guitars and drums that are busily being pounded to dust. However, they really hit their stride with the following ‘I Love Your Brain’. First appearing on their Pistolero album (and recorded straight to a two-track), in the live environment it becomes far fuller and throws its weight around like a bar-room brawler. Frank Black & Co packed an impressive 38 tracks into their set, so there’s very little time wasted and each song is fired off with urgency with ‘The Black Rider’ (originally by Tom Waits) somehow mixing British vaudeville with Latino rhythms and the result is suitably surreal, adding to the overarching carnival feel that permeated the evening.

When it first hit the stores, Live At Melkweg was hindered by a thin, reedy production but that’s been rectified by Thaddeus Moore’s new remaster. While you won’t find the music acting in strange new ways, ‘Gouge Away’ is given a thud that was previously missing while Frank Black’s wonderfully raspy vocals on ‘John The Revelator’ now sound like those of a demented preacher, which is a rather good move. Fans of Live At Melkweg’s first issue needn’t fret because nothing major has been tampered with; everything that makes a live show so special is here, from the odd bum note to the walls of Fender-on-Marshall feedback. There’s been no tinkering with history here and Live At Melkweg captures Frank Black And The Catholics in a perfect preserved time capsule.

With some jaw-dropping guitar work, ‘So Hard To Make Things Out’ is an arresting experience and you can almost see the audience explode along with the song’s frantic mid-section. Of the unreleased tracks ‘Hermaphroditos’ is a definite highlight with its Rolling Stones swing, along with the Springsteen-on-speed ‘Robert Onion’. The original issue of Live At Melkweg had a strange stop-start, almost disjointed feel and the additional tracks restore the concert’s tracklisting and subsequently it flows far smoother. Frank knows exactly how to piece a set together and this list works to maximum effect with slower tracks nestling next to faster for optimum dynamic range. Likewise, the encores now have greater impact and ‘If It Takes All Night’ is a far superior closer.

Featuring tracks from Pixies, Catholics and Frank Black eras (plus several choice covers) makes this an ideal sampler for the casual fan, whilst the unreleased cuts will have the aficionados salivatin in anticipationg. Both of which makes Live At Melkweg an essential purchase and a win-win.

Track List:

Side 1:

  1. Velvety
  2. I Love Your Brain
  3. Men In Black
  4. Fiddle Riddle
  5. The Black Rider
  6. Mr. Grieves
  7. Steak ‘N’ Sabre

Side 2:

  1. Calistan
  2. Blast Off
  3. Gouge Away
  4. John The Revelator
  5. I’ll Be Blue

Side 3:

  1. Skeleton Man
  2. Hermaphroditos
  3. Six Sixty-Six
  4. All My Ghosts
  5. Monkey Gone To Heaven
  6. So Hard To Make Things Out

Side 4:

  1. Llano Del Rio
  2. The Holiday Song
  3. Some Things (I Can’t Get Used To)
  4. 21 Reasons
  5. Every Time I Go Around Here
  6. Fu Manchu

Side 5:

  1. Robert Onion
  2. I’ve Seen Your Picture
  3. Dog Gone
  4. Headache
  5. Dirty Old Town
  6. Bullet
  7. Nimrod’s Son

Side 6:

  1. You’re Such A Wire
  2. I Will Run After You
  3. Dog In The Sand
  4. Where Is My Mind?
  5. Oddball
  6. Dancing The Manta Ray
  7. If It Takes All Night

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