Handmade For Fans #4.
The fourth in the "Handmade For Fans" series is a real gem. It presents three concerts, two from 1981 and one from 1979, none of which have been bootlegged before (not in this quality anyway).
Disc one is taken from Ian's 1979 show at London's Hammersmith Odeon. This was recorded by BBC Radio 1 for broadcast and also pressed up on trascription discs for distribution to overseas radio stations. A pristine quality disc was located for this release, and has been neatly spliced with FBI (broadcast in the UK but not on the disc). Also included is an alternate version of Sons 'n' Daughters, which was omitted from the UK broadcast. Highlights of a strong set are a blistering Life After Death and a brutal Walkin' With a Mountain/Rock 'n' Roll Queen.
Sound quality and balance are both excellent. Hardly a crackle in sight and no need for treble-deadening noise reduction "tricks" (which more often than not spoil the sound rather than enhance it). It is obvious that a great deal of attention has been spent getting the very best sound possible.
Since this release, the Hammersmith show has been released in full as part of the massive Stranded In Reality set. As always, support the artist and buy the official product.
Disc 2 is altogether more mixed, taking its source from two 1981 USA radio shows, one from San Francisco's Old Waldorf and the other from New York City's Pier 84. This means there is some duplication of material between the two shows, but that doesn't detract from the listening pleasure. The performance is down a notch or two on tha Hammersmith Show, lacking as it does Mick Ronson's guitar playing (although Mick is, by all accounts, playing keyboards on the Old Waldorf show after Tommy Mandel was hospitalised in mid-tour). Indeed, to these ears, the Old Waldorf performance is a notch down on other performances on that tour.
But look at what you get - Lisa Likes Rock 'n' Roll (a song about Mick's daughter) and a beautiful medley of ATYD/Stone/Ships, all in sterling sound quality too. The Pier 84 performance is strong (it was filmed as well). Central Park 'n' West is strong, as is Just Another Night.
In my original review I wrote: 'At one time, Cleveland International were planning to release the full show on CD - maybe one day...' Well, they have... the show is now available on the 4-CD From The Knees Of My Heart set.
The disc closes with two non-LP movie soundtracks (since released commercially). Sound quality is excellent.
This 2-CD set is essential listening. A great deal of attention has been paid to putting together a first-class package. Sound quality is excellent throughout (if only commercial releases were always this good!). The initial packaging has been upgraded to a colour sleeve following feedback from early purchasers - indeed, it's the only thing I can think of to criticise. Unsurpassable.