Album review: LITTLE RIVER BAND – The Big Box (6 Disc incl DVD)

LITTLE RIVER BAND - The Big Box

The Store For Music [Release date 28.04.17]

The only problem with this welcome 5-CD/DVD boxed set is repetition.  In more recent years Little River Band have seemingly sought to reinvent their past with not a lot of new material.  (Some think also the band have “sold out” now to the US cabaret circuit).

A classic case in point is the song ‘The Night Owls’ which first appeared on their album ‘Time Exposure’ in 1981 (produced by the late great George Martin).  It appears – in various guises – on five of these discs if you include the bonus DVD.  Now this is a great song – one of my own personal favourites – but it doesn’t really benefit from the later, more upbeat arrangement which the band have now adopted.  This collection will have you evaluating – similarly – the merits of unbridled duplication.

Little River Band formed in Melbourne, Australia back in 1975 but these days only bassist/vocalist Wayne Nelson remains from an early 1980s incarnation of the band.  John ‘You’re The Voice’  Farnham was  in the band during the early eighties.  Very successful in their homeland they also conquered the US but internal wrangling and various changes in the late 1970s didn’t help continuity matters.  They at least co-headlined the Reading Festival with Thin Lizzy in 1977.

At their finest (the aforementioned ‘The Night Owls’, ‘Take It Easy On Me’ and ‘This Place’ for starters, ) they oozed AOR class and when in America – and as if to confirm their radio friendly credentials – they toured with the Doobie Brothers,  Boz Scaggs and The Eagles with whom they shared similarities.

Due I suspect to licensing issues, this boxed set can only be a snapshot of the band and really covers the last two decades.  (If you want earlier stuff ‘The Capitol Years’ upon which this box piggybacks is also available and covers six albums during the years 1979-86).

Several albums have been available previously via SFM including  Where We Started From and One Night In Mississippi.  The former is from 2000 and revisits former glories with some new songs whilst ‘One Night In Mississippi’ was recorded live in 2001.  Test Of Time is the only album of completely new material in the collection and dates from 2004 and of which ‘Old Money’ is a standout and the general vibe is sub-early Eagles.

In 2006 they saw fit to revisit and re-arrange former glories on Rearranged.  And then, in 2015, they re-recorded a selection of their best-known tunes – Revisited – but of course half the tunes had appeared on the previous release.  This does appear to be their most recent offering so at least gives an idea of their current sound and line-up  although their last ‘proper’ album was 2013′s ‘Cuts Like A Diamond’ on Frontiers Records.

Finally, this set is rounded off by a DVD celebrating the band’s 40th Anniversary.  The liner notes give the game away: ‘video footage recorded on various devices’ in late-2015.  It can only be enjoyed as a montage for the YouTube generation and not as a serious filmed account.

To be honest, this is a real mess.  It starts off with ‘The Night Owls’ (that track again) and the band with an orchestra but then switches to non-orchestra footage. Essentially they’ve synched up the orchestrated audio with random footage.   Just to confuse things further, the song ‘Clean The Water’ (proceeds to a charity The Wyland Foundation) appears to be a promotional video with no sign of an audience.  The song bears some resemblance to ‘This Place’.

The DVD is bolstered with the audio track (and new song) ‘Prodigal Son’ and an interview with band members which is actually the promo video for their album on Frontiers.

With the caveat that ‘The Big Box’ is not a definite account of LRB, it does reflect their more recent endeavours.  If it rightfully raises the band’s profile it also demands a more thorough retrospective which would more fairly represent their history and back catalogue.  Worthwhile, then, rather than essential.  ***1/2

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.


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