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BBC Studio Three, Maida Vale, London
3 October 2006
Photo: GRTR's Pete Feenstra (right) who helped promote Walter Trout's current UK tour, with Paul Jones (left) and Walter Trout
With two sessions to complete for Paul Jones and Bob Harris, alongside two interviews and an question and answer session in front of a live studio audience, Walter Trout and his band The Radicals spent the best part of 9 hours at the BBC's Maida Vale studio 3 laying down a mix of first takes, and imparting anecdotes born of a 35 year career.
As he was later to explain to former Manfred Mann front man and current BBC Radio 2 broadcaster Paul Jones, Walter has enjoyed a full career as a session man with the likes of Canned Heat, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, Lowell Fulsom, Joe Tex, Percy Mayfield and perhaps most significantly John Mayall, before setting out on his own career. Along the way he has been voted into the top 6 Guitarist a Radio One Poll conducted by Bob Harris as well as being featured in The Top 50 all time guitar players by Guitarist magazine
To date, Walter has recorded some 15 albums in his own right while enjoying his greatest success with the current 'Full Circle' album on Ruf records. The latter is an all star line-up comprising artists such as John Mayall, Jeff Healy, Joe Bonamassa, Bernard Allison, Deacon Jones, James Harman etc who have punctuated Walter's expansive career.
Paul Jones (left) and Walter Trout
Photo: Pete Feenstra
The day was split into an afternoon session for the Paul Jones R&B show and an evening, 8 song set in front of a live studio audience for the Bob Harris show. To add a little frisson to the afternoon session it was agreed that Paul Jones would play harp and in the event add some of his vocals to two of the tracks.
Paul's producer and his team meticulously prepared the studio for the live session, only for their original plans to be slightly altered as Radicals keyboard player Sammy Avila spotted a beautiful old C3 Hammond in the corner of the room. 20 minutes later and with the helping hand of half a dozen or so people the beast was duly delivered on stage much to the delight of Avila who had been making do with something far less awe inspiring on the road.
As Trout and band tuned up, Paul Jones carefully place his amp on the side of the stage while looking slightly apprehensive about the session. He need not have worried as Walter bounded over and asked what he would like to play. Having been encourage by Walter along the lines of, 'we'll just jam the blues and see what happens' it, there was still a five minute hiatus as various suggestions were mulled over. At that point members of the band started to jam out 'Doowadiddy' much to the hilarity of the studio crew.
And so to work. After a few minutes spent discussing the break down of the song and tempo's, the collective musicians launched into 'Can't Help Falling Apart', a cut performed with Finas Tasby on the new 'Full Circle' album; Trout and Jones swap verses, Paul adds some earthy harp and Walter inevitably contributes a raucous solo. The studio silence at the conclusion of the song is only broken as the red light goes out, and by bass player Rick Knapp who rightly comments, 'Yeah, that had some good emotion'.
Keyboard player Sammy Avila revels in the following 'Working Overtime', the Jeff Healey cut from the new album, as he explores every key and glorious nuance of the Hammond C3 as the band rock out. It's soon time for the band to play a cut on their own, and Walter decides to play a shorter version of his John Mayall collaboration 'She takes More Than She Gives', and before you can blink an eye the band blast into an opening crescendo, and effortlessly complete the take.
After a minor hesitation over the lyrics, the band cut a second track with Paul Jones. Paul is by now centre stage, and performing as if in front of a thousand people, cueing in Sammy for another organ solo, and climaxing the song with a near falsetto.
Walter responds 'It felt good, I got all worked up.' It's still hard to believe that the ensemble is playing in front of maybe half a dozen people, but the sheer energy levels and quality of the solo's are everything you could ever wish for. Clearly the Trout and Jones axis has worked up some chemistry but all too soon it is over. A quick glance at the clock, and incredibly it's nearly 6 o'clock. Six hours have just flown past. Paul and Walter troop off for an interview and the rest of the band listen to the play back with smiles all round.
The evening session is in front of an invite only crowd for the Bob Harris show. Bob walks in beaming, clearly pleased to have the band in session. As with the rest of the day there is a quiet efficiency as everyone sets up gear for the evening session, albeit someone forgets to turn on stage lights on until half way through the first number. It's a minor blip as the rest of the evening is sheer bliss for the mix of competition winner's fan club members and media.
Bob Harris (left) on stage with Walter Trout
Photo: Pete Feenstra
Bob's producer sets the context of the night explaining what will happen before Bob himself brings his inimitable whisper to the front of the stage outlining how he first came to hear Walter. The music is punctuated by Bob asking Walter about his career, the recording process, and the music scene in general as Walter Trout & the Radicals deliver a broad sweep of their recent career. The set includes the gospel feel of 'Helping Hand' complete with Andrew Elk on bv's, the Canned Heat boogie style and Hooker influenced 'Love So Deep' from the 'Relentless' album, and surprisingly a resurrected early career 'Life in the Jungle'.
Perhaps the highlight of the whole day came with an intense rendition of 'Clouds on The Horizon', a number Walter Trout cut with Joe Bahamas on the 'Full Circle' album. He decided to play the two guitar parts himself, and unlike the post song silence of the afternoon session, the enthusiastic audience explodes, showing their appreciation for a true guitar master.
Earlier Walter fielded questions from the audience and explained to Bob Harris how it had always been his ambition to record with the musicians he had worked with and admired. On the evidence of both the 'Full Circle' album and this 9 hour stint at the BBC, Walter Trout has achieved one of his ambitions with real style.
Review by Pete Feenstra