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Artist: The Richie Furay Band
There are only a few artists in music culture today whose name can conjure up an entire genre of music. For many of us who have moved through the last four decades the name, Richie Furay, is synonymous with country-rock. In a career that has met with success, triumphs, set-backs, stumbling blocks and ultimate redemption, rebirth and victory, Furay has stayed out of the lime light, but he was never far from the hearts of those who grew up on the music of Buffalo Springfield, Poco, Souther, Hillman Furay and his solo projects including the latter day gospel-praise albums. Today, Furay has returned to reclaim his place in the legacy of the music he helped to begin. With the release of 2006's Heartbeat of Love and the new 2008 follow-up of the Heartbeat tour, Alive_, he ably demonstrates his presence and then some.
In the early 70's, Poco released one of the best live recordings of the decade, Delivering. It was an album of high energy and rapid fire musicianship. With Alive Furay proves he's lost none of his enthusiastic edge for the song or his country-rock-Poco style roots. His vocal performance impresses in a way that makes it easy to envision a young Furay stepping out of a rock and roll time machine. His voice has lost none of its range, clarity and most important, depth of emotion, for the magic of the song. In some ways, Aliveworks as a bookend to the early Poco live recording.
Often live albums have tended to be less interesting performances of familiar songs due to the limitations of concert venues and the lack of spontaneity presented by continuously staged performances. They have also leaned heavily on familiar arrangements of career spanning songs. However, Alive is not so much a historical anthology of Furay's career as much as a celebration of it; while it demonstrates his relevance to today's music scene as well. Modern mainstream country music owes a great deal to Richie Furay.
To call Furay's band "The Richie Furay Band," is a completely accurate title. This is not a back-up band supporting Furay's talent. This band serves to create the sound Furay has built over the years. When the band breaks open the old songs and let them out of their musical scrapbook, the old songs come alive and are transported into the present with the added dimension of a raggedly glorious fury(no pun intended). This is the way songs like Neil Young's "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing," were meant to be experienced. Scott Sellen's guitar solo on this song is homage to both Stephen Stills high-end country feel and Neil Young's constant driving fuzz tone. He brings both sounds together for a celebration of and a tribute to Furay's iconic peers while releasing his guitar style into the mix. It's a solo that completely compliments and adds an urgency to Furay's vocal performance. The rhythm section of the band consisting of drummer, Alan Lemke and Scott Selen's son, Aaron Sellen, give Furay's music the foundation and the kick that perfectly drives and punctuates songs like "Good Feeling To Know." Special mention should go to Furay's daughter, Jesse Furay-Lynch, who certainly proves she has her father's pipes on both background vocals and two solo performances, most notably the premier recording of an early Furay composition, "Why, Baby." Throughout the performance she contributes to the energy and enthusiasm that has become Richie Furay's trademark.
The song selection for this album weaves the audience through Furay's career, not in chronology so much as in tone, texture and feel. The classic songs belong next to the new and there are just as much dynamics in "Forever With You," as there are in "And Settling Down."
However, the highlight of this album and what makes it worth the price of purchase, is the perfectly rendered medley of three classic Buffalo Springfield songs written by Neil Young and sung by Furay on the first classic Springfield album. Each song comes alive in a way that makes it hard to believe it's been over 40 years since they've been performed live. Although they are Young's songs it is only Furay who can remind us of the distinction of this material as originally recorded by one of the most important rock and roll bands in history. This performance proves sometimes you can go home again and find more there than when you left. In the same vein, Furay's classic, "Kind Woman," is given a blue-eyed soul, country reading. If the music industry and the Grammy don't have an ear for this song during the upcoming award season, then there is something terribly flawed with the industry establishment.
In a characteristically low-key and positive manner, Furay dedicates the final song, the inspirational, "In My Father's House," to his mother who passed away the night before this performance. It's a testament to the depth of Furay's faith, his talent and performing skills that he was to able to deliver a performance, which serves to demonstrate his music as, not only a 'good feeling to know,' but also a place of healing and comfort.
Even though he was enshrined
in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, it’s not every year that you
get a new Furay release, particularly because he now spends more time as
a pastor than as a musician. This live 2-CD set must be a highlight of
his career. One beauty of this collection is the way he brings out jewels
from his whole musical past. Starting with a couple of Poco tunes, including
the apposite “When It All Began,” he slides into a section of Buffalo Springfield
songs (where he noticeably picks up on Neil Young’s vocal stylings) and
bounces back and forward into his later, more faith-based, solo material.
(+ 1 tock if you are a country fan)