Songwriters Circle 1999 [no label 1CD Torrent: 53237]

Live at Subterania Club, London, July 9, 1999, a BBC broadcast. VG+ FM stereo. Very harsh and trebly. Raw and messy transmission

Warnings about this album’s lack of quality should be taken with a very big pinch of salt. The performance itself can occasionally seem disheveled, but the sonics themselves are fine. Besides, the headlining trio is so peerless, and the song selection so exquisite that what’s a bit of treble between friends?

Each performer is effectively playing solo, prefacing their selections with a brief spot of story-telling - Hynde, for example, opens her account by recalling a fan who used to hang around outside soundcheck during the Pretenders’ first tour, before falling into a lilting "Talk Of The Town"; Cave is coyly amusing about "West Country Girl"; only Cale seems unwilling to chatter, although he does preface "Fear" with a few words of revelation.

Only once do the three come together, across Cale’s "Ship Of Fools" (present here as both a rehearsal snatch and a full performance), but the strength of the evening remains undiminished by the lack of supergrouping. And, again, it sounds great. - Dave Thompson

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