Album review: STREETWALKERS – Live At Rockpalast

Streetwalkers - Live At Rockpalast

Repertoire [Release date 24.01.14]

‘Streetwalkers – Live At Rockpalast’ is a CD & DVD audio-visual diary of the origins of a great live band. Originally called Chapman -Whitney Streetwalkers, the first Rockpalast concert shot in Koln on 25 March 1975 is a project in progress, while a later line-up with the simplified name of Streetwalkers, was filmed on 19 April 1977, and finds the band in their prime.

Where the first DVD finds the Chapman/Whitney axis exploring their way round a new a musical direction in post Family times, with Bobby Tench sharing some of the vocals with Chappo, DVD 2 finds the band at full tilt. Bobby is again in impressive form on guitar and vocals with Charlie doubling on lap steel, as the band seem happier with the new funky rhythm section bolstered by Brian Johnston on keyboards.

With Family having run its course, Chapman and Whitney decided on a song writing project with no immediate thought of a stable unit with which to tour. This led to an unwieldy octet before they stripped things down under the moniker Chapman- Whitney Streetwalkers with the Roger, Charlie and Bobby Tench front-line anchored by bassist Jon Plotel and later to be Iron Maiden drummer Nico McBrain.

The result was a loose aggregation with ragged and inspired moments counter balancing each other out.  ‘Walking On Waters’ was a song that the band had high hopes for and it’s the point when Roger to finally seems to relax as evidenced by the way he bashes his tambourine against the mic stand. But while songs like ‘Tokyo Rose’ don’t quite cut it and ‘Hangman’ struggles with a sluggish arrangement in spite of Chappo’s tonsil busting efforts, ‘Toenail Draggin’ offers glimpses of why it became a live favourite and is significantly moved up the set list 2 years later.

Surprisingly ‘My Friend The Sun’  receives an almost silent response as it is introduced, but charms the audience into a generous response, while the bulldozing ‘Burn It Down’ is a jammed out highlight, featuring Charlie slashed guitar lines as Chappo and Tench revel in shared vocals on a meeting they repeat on the show stopping ‘Burlesque’.

2 years later, the band boasts a new rhythms section of bassist Mickey Feat and drummer Dave Dowle, as well as better songs, with ‘Dice Man’ finding Roger at full throttle. He mercifully clings on to his mic stand just as he’s about to spear someone.  The crowd gives the band a great reception on a set that makes you wonder just why the BBC never took an option on any of this stuff in the 70’s.

‘Chilli Con Carne’ is another highlight with Charlie on lead guitar, Roger at his best and a great hook for good measure, while on the second take of ‘Run For Cover’ the band bristles with rocking intent.

The ‘first and second set take’ repeats are de facto bonus tracks and are included on both the DVD and accompanying CD’s,  as Roger cranks up the reprised songs in his own inimitable manner, actually taking to the stage on his knees.

‘Streetwalkers – Live At Rockpalast is an essential purchase for die-hard and 70’s rock fans in general. It’s also a lamentable example of how a great rock band lost its footing as the business opted for the easy returns of Punk. Their onstage frisson, hard riffs, funky undertow and Chappo’s brusque stage presence alone, would have blown away any safety pin wielding 3 chord wonders.

In the long run, the UK’s loss proved to be Germany’s gain. This well presented triple pack of previously unreleased footage is an overdue reminder of a great band that in retrospect became a conduit between Family’s eclectic music and Chappo’s rhythm & blues infused solo career.  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra 

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