Eric Bell – Live Tonight…plus

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Thin Lizzy’s forgotten guitar hero returns in a bare-bones blues trio format, taped before an appreciative crowd. Curiously, the venue isn’t listed, although the album’s Swedish-only release in 1996 most likely points there. Angel Air’s reissue sweetens the pot with three tracks not on the original release. Straight-ahead blues is the game here. The gig opens with a rampage through “The Stumble,” whose 1966 recording featured Eric Clapton on guitar. Bell’s style is scrappier, but no less spirited, as he demonstrates on brisk strides through standards like “Baby Please Don’t Go,” “Oh Pretty Woman,” and “Things I Used to Do.” Being an Irishman also enables Bell to explore his own roots, as evidenced by a show-stopping slow burn through Van Morrison’s epic ballad, “Madame George.” Naturally, Bell revisits his Thin Lizzy days with a fiery demolition of the late Phil Lynott’s swaggering macho anthem “The Rocker.” Bell makes room for Lizzy’s rearrangement of the traditional “Whiskey in the Jar” — a song so radical it didn’t include a bass part, yet still graced the U.K. Top Ten in 1973, and soars just as highly here. The real surprise is why Bell includes just three originals, including the lovelorn lament of “Two Ships” and “Just to Get By,” a world-weary tally of life’s ups and downs. That neither track made the original cut is amazing. But that’s a minor point, especially since the music here is so crisp. Bell’s guitar is succinct and to the point, while bassist Tony Wooton and drummer Romek Parol lend appropriately unobtrusive support. (The Bell-written anecdotes, “Just a Belfast Boy,” are also delightful.) Pure blues fans and Lizzy devotees should find plenty to satisfy them here.

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