Barb Wired Tour Vol. 2 (Empress Valley EVSD 203/204/205/206)
Barb Wired Tour Vol. 2 is the second of two volumes of Empress Valley’s ambitious nine disc compilation of important tapes from Ron Wood’s New Barbarians side project in support of his solo album Gimme Some Neck. Picking up where The Drug Dealer Tapes Vol. 1 (Empress Valley EVSD 196/200) leaves off, Vol. 2 contains four discs with another hour of the tour rehearsal tape along with two complete shows.
MGM Studios, Culver City, CA – April 13th, 1979
Disc 1 (55:13): Lost And Lonely, Seven Days, Breathe On Me, Buried Alive, I Can Feel The Fire, Am I Grooving You, Ain’t That Loving You Baby, Lost And Lonely
This fifty-five minute tape was previously pressed on Buried Alive (Vinyl Gang VGP-316) along with the Largo soundboard and is a very clear and enjoyable recording from the mixing desk. Ron Wood is joined by McLagan on keyboards, Stanley Clarke on bass, Bobby Keyes on saxophone and Joseph Modeliste on drums. Keith Richards wasn’t present during this rehearsal.
Like on the first volume, Empress Valley attribute this tape to the April 21st rehearsal at the Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. That rehearsal, of which no true tape has ever surfaced, was a run through for the following day’s Canadian National Institute For The Blind benefit concerts in Oshawa.
In fact this tape comes from the dress rehearsals on April 13th in Culver City, California. The sound quality is very clear and distinct with a touch of hiss present. There are some conversations heard buried deep off mic.
A full live arrangement of “Lost And Lonely” begins the tape with a long instrumental passage dominated by Bobby Keyes’ sax and Wood’s lead buried deep in the mix. A first attempt at “Seven Days” breaks down after two minutes. After some doodling on the organ, they attempt it again beginning with a slower tempo before speeding up.
The first take of “Breathe On Me” fades in and lasts less than a minute before breaking down and Wood coordinating the band, saying “Don’t quote me on this, but do you think that pitch should come there? The instrumental?”
There is half a minute of talking before they pick it up again and play a four minute run through. Feedback from the equipment audible and the sound engineers play around with the mix trying to find the proper level for Wood’s guitar. The third “Breathe On Me” is a two minute fragment from a later runthough which has some ear-piercing feedback in the middle (remember to cover your ears).
A short fragment of a rehearsal for “Buried Alive” follows beginning with Wood caught in mid sentence saying “I’ll do the last bit before we just broke down.” Six fragments of “I Can Feel The Fire” follow in various states of completeness. The band seems to have trouble with the instrumental breaks in the middle and spend most of their time working on that.
A two minute fragment of “Am I Grooving You” is followed by two attempts at the Jimmy Reed cover “Ain’t That Loving You Baby” totaling ten minutes. This never made it into any set list on their tour and sounds more like a rhythm exercise to get the band into a groove. The tape ends with a two minute fragment of another rehearsal of “Lost And Lonely.”
Knebworth Festival, Stevenage, England – August 11th, 1979
Disc 2 (71:58): Opening introduction, Sweet Little Rock’n Roller, F.U.C. Her, Breathe On Me, I Can Feel The Fire, Let’s Go Steady Again, band introduction, Worried Life Blues, Honky Tonk Women, Come To Realise, Am I Grooving You, Seven Days, Before They Make Me Run, Jumping Jack Flash
The second disc contains the complete set from the August 11th, 1979 Knebworth Festival where they supported Led Zeppelin on their final live performance in England. Empress Valley use a very good but slightly distant audience recording that was previously pressed on The Last Time (Hot Lips Records HLR-RS 009). It is complete except for a small cut after “Before The Make Me Run” and the tape running out ninety seconds into the encore “Jumping Jack Flash” cutting out most of the song.
Three months after the last show on the US tour on May 22nd in San Diego, the New Barbarians come back for this one off. Wood was able to reassemble the band except for bassist Stanley Clarke, who was replaced by former Faces bassist Phil Chen.
They played on the bill right before Zeppelin and were preceded by Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes, The New Commander Cody Band, and Chas and Dave. The tape begins with three minutes of the pre-set piped music over the PA and DJ Nicky Horne coming out to introduce the New Barbarians.
The Faces cover of the Chuck Berry tune “Sweet Little Rock N Roller” starts off the show as it did for all of the New Barbarians shows. “We didn’t have a sound check today but we’re gonna play for you rock and roll” Ron Wood says before the new song “F.U.C. Her.”
“Well, we made it. But not all together in one piece” Wood says before introducing Chen. “Breathe On Me,” the only song in the set from his 1975 solo album Now Look, is introduced as an “old song long since deleted.” Keith Richards sings the vocal for the Sam Cooke cover “Let’s Go Steady Again.” Wood introduces the band and brings to the stage Sugar Blue who plays harmonica on a scorching version of the blues “Worried Life Blues.”
Wood introduces “Honky Tonk Woman” as being on “permanent loan, this next number to lighten up the proceedings. You alright…we’re feeling good as well. We won’t hang you up for long. What time is it?” The opening notes are stretched out for an eternity it seems as they milk the tune for all it’s worth. “Am I Grooving You” from Wood’s first solo album is a heavy piece of funk and raises the level of the entire festival.
It segues seamlessly into the doom laden “Seven Days,” the centerpiece of Gimme Some Neck. “We don’t want to step on anyone’s toes” Wood jokes before Keith sings “Before The Make Me Run.” Horne comes back on stage to bring them out for a rowdy “Jumping Jack Flash” as the only encore.
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – May 7th, 1979
Disc 3 (78:03): Sweet Little Rock’n Roller, Buried Alive, F.U.C. Her, Mystifies Me, Infekshun, Rock Me Baby, Sure The One You Need, Lost And Lonely, Breathe On Me, Worried Life Blues, Band introduction, I Can Feel The Fire, Come To Realise, Am I Grooving You, Seven Days
Barb Wired Tour Vol. 2is the silver pressed debut of the Madison Square Garden soundboard. It is a somewhat flat and hissy recording with the audience sounding very far away. The tape fades almost two minutes into “Breathe On Me” eliminating the rest of the song and “Love In Vain,” “Let’s Go Steady Again,” “Apartment Number Nine,” “Honky Tonk Women,” the beginning of “Worried Life Blues” and a second cut before the encore eliminating much of “Jumping Jack Flash.” This show is scheduled to be officially released on Wood’s own Wooden Records which will hopefully have the complete show.
Wood’s own assessment is the New York show is the highlight of the entire tour. It is indeed a scorching performance before a wild audience. The first three songs “Sweet Little Rock And Roller,” “Buried Alive” and “F.U.C. Her” are delivered at a quick pace before Wood greets the audience, saying: “Well hello New York! It’s an extreme pleasure to be here. We got a lot of different kinds of songs for you tonight. Here’s another one completely out of left field.”
It’s a shame the tape is cut because “Worried Life Blues” sounds massive in this recording. The show hits a fever pitch with Clarke blowing out the bass speakers in “Am I Grooving You?” before the segueway into “Seven Days.”
The final song of the set is “Before They Make Me Run” which Wood introduces by saying “here’s a song the Stones never played live It’s off of Some Girls. So we’re gonna give you our renditioning.” The encore “Jumping Jack Flash” blows the roof of the Garden in what would be their final song played in New York. Hopefully if and when the official release comes out the entire show would be present but as it is this is a great document to hear.
Disc 4 (44:15) Before The Make Me Run, Jumping Jack Flash (MSG, NY, NY – May 7th, 1979). MGM Studios, Culver City, CA – April 16th, 1979: Lost And Lonely, I Can Feel The Fire, Let’s Go Steady, Worried Life Blues, Africa, Before The Make Me Run, Let’s Go Steady Again
The final disc of the Empress Valley New Barbarians collection are more recordings from the tour rehearsals in California which are also featured on Buried Alive(Vinyl Gang VGP-316). The tape runs approximately a half hour with runthroughs of more songs that would all be regular inclusions in the set except for “Africa” (aka “Hello Africa”).
This is a tune written by Guyanese musician Eddie Grant, who is most well known for his 1983 hit “Electric Avenue.” It incorporates motifs from the famous South African instrumental Skokiaan, written by August Musarurwa. The tenor sax melody was also used by Nico Carstens on “Die graskop polka.” It is a fascinating foray into international music and it is a shame they never played it live on stage.
The final two songs on the disc, “Before The Make Me Run” and “Let’s Go Steady Again” sound more like fully polished studio recordings rather than rehearsals. They may have been considered for release as a single at some point. Nevertheless, the two Empress Valley volumes were quite popular when first released since there are so few New Barbarians releases available.
The durations of the nine discs presents some of the best documents available for the era and give candid insight into developmental process of the band. Both volumes are packaged in jewel cases with a similar motif on the front cover and the identical live shot on the back. Except for the mistaken attribution of the rehearsal tapes this is a solid release worth having.