Sandwiched between their two studio albums, Live Hypnobeat Live is The Woodentops in peak form, recorded live at the Palace Theatre in Los Angeles. Drawn mostly from their first album and a couple of early singles, here the band take them at break-neck speed, one song blurring into another over a relentless groove. Stripped of the marimba, accordian, trumpet, strings etc that filled in the spaces on debut LP Giant, this is how these songs were meant to sound. But rather than pulverise you, it is a sound that just makes you want to move. Everything revolves around the highly caffeinated bass playing of Frank De Frietas which barely lets up from beginning to end. With the bass carrying the rhythm, this allows drummer Benny Staples to play rather than just hit the drums.
Well Well Well kicks things off with mainman Rolo McGintys frantically scrubbed acoustic guitar, the band builds the song through a series of crescendos punctuated by feedbacking electric guitar. Then we’re straight into Love Train, guitarist Simon Mawby tearing it up like Cliff Gallup on the early Gene Vincent records. Both Mawby and keyboard player Alice Thompson are great throughout, leaving space if necessary, every contribution elevating the sound. As Travelling Man turns into Get It On Rolo announces “Yeah were off now”. There’s no turning back now. Like James Browns first Live at The Apollo LP it is clear there is going to be no let up.
Good Thing (one of the most perfect pop singles of the eighties) provides something of a breather, until it too builds to an incredible climax, Rolo preaching now “Rave ON, Rave ON!” complete with heavenly na-na-nahs and a surging key change. Everything Breaks and Move Me bring this breathless album to a close too quickly, and the only option is to play it just one more time.
The Woodentops were a band that should have thrived during the Indie-Dance years that were just around the corner (Why had been an early Ibiza club hit). Unfortunately they were unable to take advantage of the shift in musical tastes that should have embraced them as much as the Happy Mondays. (TT)