Left For Live

The John Entwistle Band

J-Bird Records, 1999


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


John Entwistle's bass work has a unique sound that is hard to miss. There's that distinctive thump-slap that rings out over all the other instrumentation and vocals that lets you know that "The Ox" is behind the four-string.

Of course, when he steps out of his role as the bassist for The Who, he often assumes the role of bandleader, as he does on Left For Live by The John Entwistle Band. And while the performances here are palatable, sometimes you can't help but wish you were listening to The Who instead of Entwistle's own ensemble.

Naturally, a generous helping of Who tracks helps to feed this urge, from the well-known ("The Real Me," "Young Man Blues") to the lesser-known ("Had Enough," "905"). The performances on these tracks are especially inspiring - so much so that if you had the disc on and someone came into the house, they might think you were listening to an unreleased Who live show. This is meant has high praise for Entwistle's bandmates - guitarist/vocalist Godfrey Townsend, keyboardist/vocalist Gordon Cotten and drummer/vocalist Steve Luongo.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Three things quickly strike me about Left For Live, though. First, I really wish the liner notes specified whether Entwistle handled the bulk of the lead vocals or whether they were shared throughout the band. There seemed to be enough variety to warrant the opinion that the duties were split.

Second, whoever mixed this album should be shot for burying Entwistle's pre-song comments so far back into the mix. I had to crank up the volume on my old JVC receiver to hear what he was saying, especially on the intro to "905" - and damn near blew out the windows in my office when the music kicked in. (Yeah, great way to impress the new neighbors.)

Third - I don't know exactly why, but the non-Who material tended to suffer in comparison. It's not that tracks like "Darker Side Of Night," "Success Story" or "Too Late The Hero" were bad, but it's hard to separate Entwistle the solo artist from Entwistle the key member of The Who when the music is so intertwined like it is here.

Unfortunately, some of the performances do suffer. "Under A Raging Moon" doesn't live up to its billing as a tribute to Entwistle's late bandmate, especially when a rather lackluster drum solo fills up half the song. Other tracks, like "Endless Vacation" and "I'll Try Again Today," just don't cut the mustard.

In the end, though, it is the tracks once recorded by The Who that save the day for Entwistle and company - and somehow, I don't think that was the original intention. Left For Live has its moments, and is sure to be somewhat pleasing to both Entwistle and Who fans alike... but this disc really is a sign of what could have been a solo triumph for Entwistle.

Rating: B-

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of J-Bird Records, and is used for informational purposes only.