Editor's Note: This review is part of a series of albums and artists nominated for the 2007 Blues Music Awards (full list of nominees). Nick Moss & The Flip Tops are nominated in the following BMA categories: Album of the Year, Instrumentalist of the Year- Guitar (Moss), Band of the Year, and Traditional Blues Album of the Year.
A friend and I have an ongoing debate about whether or not live albums should be considered for Album of the Year- type awards. He doesn't think they should. To him, distilling weeks and months of writing, arranging, recording, and mixing onto a round piece of plastic is far more worthy of the honor than a single night's work on stage. To him, an album is what is made in the studio. Concerts are great, but they aren't albums.
His reasoning is solid. I understand it. I also disagree with him. Music is, among other things, about a transfer of power and emotion. It is possible to transfer that power and emotion through a medium based on 1s and 0s, experienced alone or among friends, through headphones, earbuds, or subwoofers. Talk to any vinyl aficionado and they will tell you something is always lost in translation. In concert, there is nowhere for the energy to escape. When a performer is at the top of their game, the energy radiates from the stage until it fills the room and pierces everyone in it.
In the studio, producers and artists have countless gadgets and unlimited takes to make it all sound perfect. In concert, you get one take. Nail it, and you're the Stones in '72, Dylan in '74, Springsteen on the Darkness tour. Blow it, and you're Wilson Phillips. A live album may never be able to capture all of that, but when it comes close there is no question that one great night can be the musical moment of the year.
Before introducing Nick Moss & The Flip Tops, the crowd at Chan's is asked if they are ready for some Chicago blues. It takes only a few bars of the improvised "Eggroll Stroll" to transport this Rhode Island club halfway across country and back in time 50 years. A recording and performance like this are reminders the blues is not meant to be played in 70,000 seat stadiums or corporate arenas, but in smoke-filled clubs (while they still exist) where the band leader can still make eye contact with the front row of tables.
The lineup this night features Moss on lead guitar and vocals with regular Flip Tops Gerry Hundt on bass and Victor Spann on drums, and occasional Flip Top traveling companion Willie Oshawny on piano. For a handful of cuts, Hundt hands his bass over to Oshawny and picks up the harmonica. Guest Mike Welch adds some additional guitar on a few cuts as well.