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Various Artists – ARMS (Mid Valley MVR Special Sampler)

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ARMS (Mid Valley)

The more interesting concerts in the annals of rock history are those that are focused upon a specific charity or cause.  It is when different musicians play either on the same bill or in collaborations and many times produce unique performances that cannot be duplicated. 

Such is the case with the Action into Research for Multiple Sclerosis (ARMS) concerts in late 1983 in support of former Faces bassist Ronnie Lane.  Organized by Eric Clapton, the draw is the first time ever the three famous guitarists who began their careers with The Yardbirds would play onstage at the same time. 

Although they were not joined by other ex-Yardbirds Jim McCarthy and Chris Dreja, they were joined by a couple of Rolling Stones (Bill Wyman and Charie Watts) and others including Paul Rodgers (vocals), Kenny Jones (drums), percussion maniac Ray Cooper, Chris Stainton from Clapton’s band on keyboards, James Hooker (keyboards), Simon Phillips (drums), Andy Fairweather-Low (guitar), Ronnie Lane (guitar), and Tony Hymas (keyboards)

Reunion Arena, Dallas, TX – November 28th, 1983

Disc 1 (78:56):  Everybody Ought To Make A Change, Lay Down Sally, Wonderful Tonight, Rita Mae, Sad Sad Day/Have You Ever Loved a Woman?, Cocaine, Man Smart (Woman Smarter), Don’t Talk To Me, Watching River Flow, Worried Life Blues, You Are So Beautiful, Seven Days, Feelin’ Alright, Star Cycle, The Pump

Disc 2 (77:32):  Blue Wind, People Get Ready, Going Down, Prelude, Who’s To Blame, City Sirens, Boogie Mama, Midnight Moonlight, Stairway To Heaven, Layla, With A Little Help From My Friends, Goodnight Irene

Discs one and two cover the first Dallas show on November 28th, 1983.  This show was also released on ARMS’ Dallas 1983 (Heart Breakers HB-947-1/2) in 1999, but Mid Valley use a different tape.  The source used by Heart Breakers is very bright, clear and dynamic and runs at the correct speed.  Mid Valley’s is slightly more dull, emphasizes the bottom end, and runs about 2% slow for the first half of the show.  The pitch becomes correct about halfway through “Rita Mae.”  Mid Valley is more complete since it contains Bill Graham’s introduction at the beginning of the show (which is absent on Heart Breakers) and has more talk between songs.

The tape begins with Bill Graham running through the roster of musicians on stage before Eric Clapton begins the show with his cover of John Estes’ “Everybody Ought To Make A Change” from his latest album Money And Cigarettes.  “Lay Down Sally” ends with Clapton playing the melody to Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35″ and is followed by “Lay Down Sally.”

“Rita Mae” from Another Ticket makes a welcome appearance and includes a percussion solo by Ray Cooper in the middle.  Clapton even calls for the spot light on the percussionist.  After “Cocaine” he accompanies Andy Fairweather-Low for “Man Smart (Women Smarter).”  This is a calypso written by Norman Span in the 1930′s and was a big it for Harry Belafonte in 1952, but they play it closer to The Carpenters’ arrangement from 1977.

Clapton introduces Joe Cocker in an exaggerated French accent (“djoe Cock-er”) for a six song set.  After “Don’t Talk To Me” they cover Dylan’s “Watching The River Flow.”  “Worried Life Blues,” another heavy blues song follows before the soft and romantic “You Are So Beautiful.”

“Seven Days” is the next song and is the second Bob Dylan cover and third Dylan reference in the set so far.  This is a Desire era outtake that Ron Wood covered on 1979′s Gimme Some Neck.  The final song of Cocker’s set is a cover of the Traffic classic “Feelin’ Alright.”

Jeff Beck is joined onstage by members of his touring band Jan Hammer (keyboards), Fernand Saunders (bass), and Simon Phillips (drums) to deliver his style of fusion instrumentals. The first two songs, “Star Cycle” and “The Pump” are from his latest album There And Back.  On the Curtis Mayfield cover “People Get Ready” they are joined onstage by Fairweather-Low on vocals.

Beck delivers a sublime version of the song which he would later record for his next album Flash with Rod Stewart on vocals.  His set ends with the standard “Going Down.”  At this point there is a loud cheer which a local review thought was for Beck.  As good as it was, in reality the audience caught a glmpse of Jimmy Page on the video screen to make his first public performance in America in seven years.

The first three songs of Page’s set come from his work on the Death Wish II soundtrack from the previous year.  Since Paul Rogers replaced Steve Winwood on these dates they play “Boogie Mama” from his latest solo album and afterwards Page says, ”we’d like to play now a number now that Paul and I are working on.  But we’ve never played it before anybody.”  It was called “Bird On A Wing” but would be recorded later as “Midnight Moonlight” for The Firm’s first album.

This is basically a Led Zeppein outtake from the Physical Graffiti era called ”Swan Song” with vocals and elongated passages from Page’s “White Summer” improvisations throughout the years.  An instrumental version of “Stairway To Heaven” follows (with Page asking if anybody remembers laughter) with Clapton and Beck joining in after the “fanfare.”  The set ends with a full band version of “Layla” and with two encores:  “With A Little Help From My Friend” and Ronnie Lane singing “Goodnight Irene.”

Reunion Arena, Dallas, TX – November 29th, 1983

Disc 3 (75:27):  Everybody Ought To Make A Change, Lay Down Sally, Wonderful Tonight, Rita Mae, Sad Sad Day/Have You Ever Loved a Woman?, Cocaine, Don’t Talk To Me, Watching River Flow, Worried Life Blues, You Are So Beautiful, Seven Days, Feelin’ Alright, Star Cycle, The Pump, Definitely Maybe

Disc 4 (76:42):  Blue Wind, People Get Ready, Going Down, Prelude, Who’s To Blame, City Sirens, Boogie Mama, Midnight Moonlight, Stairway To Heaven, Layla, With A Little Help From My Friends, Goodnight Irene

The tape for the second Dallas show is on discs three and four.  Compared to the first night, the taper was closer to the stage and produces a much clearer recording with wonderful atmospheric tape although there is noticable tape hiss.  The music is complete with minor cuts after “Watching The River Flow,” “Star Cycle,” “Midnight Moonlight,” and “Layla.”  Graham again introduces the band before Clapton’s set.

It remains unchanged from the first night but “Sad Sad Day” sounds much tighter.  Clapton shouts out the chords during the improvisation.  ”Man Smart (Women Smarter)” is dropped so Clapton introduces Cocker (again in mock French accent) after “Cocaine.”

Jeff Beck’s set comes off much better as well.  Beck himself introduces “The Pump” saying “Thank you very much indeed.  Anybody see the movie Risky Business?  This is from that movie.”  Because his was the shortest of the three sets he adds ”Definitely Maybe” from 1972′s Jeff Beck Group to the set.  The emotional jazz instrumental is one of the best songs of the evening.  The tape becomes a bit muffled during ”People Get Ready” sounds muffled.

Again the biggest ovation of the show is reserved for Page as he takes the stage.  The PA is messed up and the guitar is buried way down in the mix during “Prelude,” not being fixed until about a quarter of the way through “”Who’s To Blame?”

Paul Rogers introduces his song by saying, “You don’t know it but you will at the end” before “Boogie Mama” and Page invites everyone to join in on “Stairway To Heaven.”  The three guitarists take turns during “Stairway To Heaven” and “Layla.”  “With A Little Help From My Friends” is the first encore with Page duplicating the guitar riffs he recorded for the single fifteen years before.

Despite the low-key nature of these shows they were a tremendous artistic success.  Lane was impressed with Texas enough that he moved to Austin soon after these shows because he felt the climate would benefit his health.  He remained there until he passed away in 1997.

The tapes are good with fascinating concerts and since this is only the second release of the first, and the debut of the second, are recommended.  Mid Valley are very lazy with the packaging though.  The discs are housed in two double slimline jewel cases with the exact same artwork.

The only distinction on the outside is the sticker on front.  There is no track listing or any other relevant information.  It would have been better to issue this in a basic fatboy jewel case with artwork that has a picture from the show.  But we get anime instead.  Nevertheless this is a recommended title.

CMR Music Store

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

Various Artists - ARMS (Mid Valley MVR Special Sampler), 3.0 out of 5 based on 6 ratings

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