MUSIC REVIEW: 'Fools Face Live At Last'

I saw Fools Face open for John Hiatt in Madison, WI in 1982. I had their two vinyl LPs, Tell America and Public Places on the Talk label. Fools Face did not disappoint, putting on a galvanizing fifty minute show.

They have now released a live record, Fools Face Live at Last (Talk, 2005) that is among the greatest rock recordings ever made. The recording is superb, the audience is electric, and the music itself is timeless fist-pumping power pop, song after song after song.

I have seen the Rolling Stones, McCartney and Wings, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Santana to name a few, and I have sought live recordings of all of them. Live At Last ranks with the very best, apart from the reasons stated above, precisely because they are a relatively unknown band from the heartland. The record’s unexpected nature only enhances its greatness.

Like Duke Ellington’s legendary Live at Fargo, 1940, this recording captures master musicians at the height of their powers.

“To Be Someone” leads with poignant bittersweet power chords like those used by their Midwestern brethren the Hawks and Spooner.

“American Guilt” should be the national anthem. It has a massive hook and invites sing-alongs. “Cherokee persuasion, Navajo town, got my reservation for the burial ground…Tell America her heart is in the right place, tell America be sure not to hate, tell America to move at her own pace, tell America it might be too late…when push comes to shove and we don’t have love…”

Guitars foam and snarl throughout. Listen to the guitar break on “Diamonds and Pearls.” It gave me a nosebleed. “Land of the Hunted” is a masterpiece of propulsion combining the urgency of 20/20 with the musical sass of the Buzzcocks. Brian Coffman and Jimmy Frink repeatedly hit an exquisite harmony that would have pleased the Everly Brothers. The recording was made in 2000 when these guys were in their forties and fifties. For anyone who loves rock this record will plunge you deep into your youth for sixty minutes.

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