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February 23, 1994

Slideman Steps Out

Ronnie WoodRonnie Wood, Slide on Live (Plugged In and Standing) (Continuum 1993) -- Best known as a sideman with the Rolling Stones, Ronnie Wood returned to the studio in 1992 and released his first solo album in over a decade, Slide on This. Following his studio success, Ronnie gathered up his band and embarked on a world tour. The resulting album, Slide on Live, establishes that a live show need not be unplugged to be successful.

Ronnie may not be the most talented vocalist (or guitar player) in rock, but he certainly knows how to seize an opportunity when presented. Ronnie knocked around various bands in London in the early 60s before joining up with Jeff Beck in 1967 and releasing two albums (Truth and Beck-ola) that significantly influenced experimental blues rock.

After leaving the Jeff Beck group, Ronnie teamed up with Rod Stewart to form The Faces. With charismatic frontman Stewart and the distinctive guitar work of Wood, The Faces quickly achieved widespread success. Never one to turn down an opening, Ronnie moved on to the Stones in 1974: his first album with the band was It's Only Rock And Roll, and he's been rolling ever since.

On Slide on Live, Wood shows he's a skilled rocker, though his talents run towards the arena side. Joining Wood on this 13-song collection are guitarist Johnny Lee Schell; keyboardist Chuck Leavell; and vocalist and producer Bernard Fowler (who also saw duty as a backup singer on the Steel Wheels tour).

Slide on Live has an aura of excess to it; this is a big rock sound, as opposed to the Stones' Love You Live, which had a clublike closeness and intimacy.

Ronnie includes several chestnuts from his pairing with Stewart on Slide on Live, including "Flying" and a blues-drenched version of "Stay With Me." In addition to The Faces material, Slide on Live includes a Stones' cut ("Pretty Beat Up"), material from Slide on This ("Josephine"), and a solo instrumental that features snippets of some of Wood's best guitar work (including "Gasoline Alley").

However, Wood stands best with his own material, including an uptempo reading of "I Can Feel the Fire" and a pleasantly understated version of "Breathe on Me." Slide on Me is a solid hour of Ronnie Wood: though overblown at times, Wood shows that this old dinosaur still has life in him.

Paul is LIvePaul McCartney, Paul is Live (Capitol 1993) -- Since ending his 13-year exile from the concert stage in 1989, Paul McCartney has released some of the best albums of his solo career (including his fine Unplugged album). On Paul is Live, Paul offers 24 tunes recorded in Australia and the U.S. during his 1993 "New World Tour." The disc shows that this old warhorse isn't ready to be put out to pasture, and provides a maximum dose (77 minutes) for the money (one CD) of Paul and Co.

Let's face it. Paul's solo career peaked in the early 70s with his fantastic albums, Band on the Run and Venus and Mars. Though some may disagree, nothing since then has really measured up. However, once Paul decided to return to the old Beatles material, his gig found new vitality. Paul can't escape his roots, and should never have tried to.

Paul is Live is sure to please any Paul McCartney or Beatles fan. Included are many favorites, such as "Drive My Car," "Paperback Rider," and "Live and Let Die," together with cuts from a sound check and a cover of "Good Rocking Tonight." Paul's well-tested band features Linda McCartney on vocals and keyboards, Hamish Stuart on vocals and bass, Robbie McIntosh on guitars and vocals, Wix Wickens on keyboards and vocals, and Blair Cunningham on drums.

Paul is Live has an arena quality to it, but that's not bad per se: instead, it's an honest reflection of Paul's show. Paul is Live was recorded in front of huge audiences, and sounds like it. The quality of the recording is a testament to the skills of engineer and mixer Geoff Emerick, who was also the engineer for Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, and Paul's recent Unplugged album. Paul and Geoff happily resisted the temptation to return to the studio and overdub the disc, which leaves Paul is Live with the spark that should always be found on a live album.

The cover to Paul is Live was shot at the famed "zebra crossing" in front of London's Abbey Road Studios. The cover is a parody of the original Abbey Road sleeve: Paul is now wearing shoes, and the Volkswagen behind him (which also appeared on the cover of Abbey Road) bears a license plate that reads "51 IS" (instead of "28 IF" as on Abbey Road). Discussing the cover, Paul says, "there is absolutely no significance to the fact that on the Paul is Live sleeve, I am crossing with a dog, except that on this New World Tour, we are supporting animal rights."

While I normally can't handle an album that exceeds 45 or 50 minutes (come on -- how many bands really have that much good new material?), Paul is Live is the exception. Packed to the max with hits and favorites, Paul is Live is a bargain -- hats off to Capitol for fitting it all on one CD.

-- Randy Krbechek

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