The Call Livepick-of-the-monthThis band had fans in high places and rightly so. This celebration captures their spirit well.

Lightyear / Label Records
CD:  14 tracks, 75 mins
DVD: 81 minutes + Bonus / Dolby Stereo 2.1 / 16:9 aspect ratio

When you can get Peter Gabriel and Simple Minds' Jim Kerr on backing vocals, you're special. That's what The Call did on their classic 1986 Reconciled album, as well as having Robbie Robertson guest on guitar. And they were special; Gabriel once reportedly called them, "the future of American music."

Bassist and front man Michael Been had a passionate approach to his music, fuelled by his faith, and the urgency of his emotions lit up that disc. In his later years, Been became roadie to his son Robert's band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and it was while working in that role that Been had a fatal heart attack in 2010. BRMC probably sold more albums, but those who discovered Reconciled in their formative years will see its emotional clout as far more important than many other discs which enjoyed more financial success.

This tribute, with Been almost seamlessly taking on his father's role, starts off with two great anthems from Reconciled. "I think of you... I look for you... Lord, I need you everywhere I go," he sings on "Everywhere I go," a declaration of dependence. Then comes a great teeth-gritted anthem of resolute faith. Accompanied by chiming bell-like keys and some sliding bass licks, on "I Still Believe (Grand Design)" he affirms:

"Flat on my back out at sea, hoping these waves don't cover me
Lord, I'm turned and tossed upon the waves.
When the darkness comes, I feel the grave,
But I still believe, I still believe.
Through the shame and through the grief,
Through the heartache, through the tears,
Through the waiting, through the years,
I still believe, I still believe,
People like us in places like this
Need all the hope that we can get."

At the other end of the set, a stripped back solo account of "You Run" adds to the exhaustion and personal angst of the lyrics.

In between, the celebratory "Let the Day begin" with its big chords and slide solo is always enjoyable. It's like God smiling on his creation early in the morning. "Floating Back" has a very '80s bass riff, but these pieces generally sit at the grungier end of Indie rock and straddle enough sub-genres to still please a range of listeners.

Initially, the disc probably suffers a little from comparisons with the original studio work, but after a few plays, the power of these songs returns. Huge audiophile and Tollbooth favourite Michael Pritzl mixed and mastered this one. At times the sound can appear a little mushy, but actually the instruments are each picked out clearly. If anything leaves you wanting to crank the sound up further, it's more because guitarist Tom Ferrier eschews the heavy riffs that some of these understated songs could easily take. Been draws the shapes of these aching, tautly constructed works with a muscular bass and Ferrier seems happy to colour in between these lines.

The DVD (complete with behind-the-scenes footage) features the same full set from Los Angeles' intimate, smoky Troubadour club, together with a few bonus tracks. Unpretentiously, it captures the atmosphere created by an enthusiastic crowd, who are clearly thrilled to be able to re-live these songs.

It's hard to tell whether this will bring in many new admirers, but Call fans will surely appreciate this suitably impassioned swansong.

Derek Walker

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