Piper Club 1968 [no label 1CD Traders Den: 15132]
Live in Rome, May 6, 1968 + a BBC show also from 1968? VG FM stereo?

Shockingly few recordings of the Julie Driscoll-Brian Auger Trinity circulate these days, beyond their regular studio output - a handful of video performances, a Berlin Jazz Festival set, and this, four songs from a May 1968 Italian TV performance at Rome’s Piper Club, and seven more drawn from BBC sessions. But what a joy it is. Although the sound quality on the live material is a little crunchy, versions of "Season Of The Witch" (truncated to a mere four minutes) and "This Wheel’s On Fire" highlight both the sheer dexterity of the musicianship, and the magnificence of Driscoll’s vocals.

The real meat, however, lies within the BBC recordings, hailing from sessions in May and October 1968. At the later of the two (presented first on the CD), two otherwise unavailable songs ("Old Jim Crow" and the old R&B stomper "I’m Not Talking") are joined by new takes on the singles "I Am A Lonesome Hobo" and "Road To Cairo," the latter taken at an almost funereal pace, and boasting a truly heartstopping performance from Driscoll. But it’s the BBC rendition of "This Wheel’s On Fire" that really catches the ear - spectral and swirling, it’s far more aggressive than the familiar take, and superior, too. Indeed, anybody who has ever contemplated the sheer injustice of the band’s so-short lifespan will find fresh cause for complaint here. The best of the records, after all, already suggested that the Driscoll-Auger Trinity was among the most innovative British bands of their era. These performances prove it. - Dave Thompson

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