"Passing time with the '82 vintage"
by Chris Groom
photos by Julia Revell, taken on the same tour (at Newcastle City Hall, 29th December 1982)

In the general scheme of things 1982 doesn't seem that long ago, but a lot has happened to this band in the intervening 22 years. When Lindisfarne took the stage at the Glasgow Apollo that cold December night the original five members had already been reunited for four years and after the initial success of the Back and Fourth album and 'Run for Home' single, had struggled to maintain that all-important chart momentum. As a live act, however, they were as potent as ever and this River Sessions album captures a typical performance and the atmosphere perfectly.

The opening number of the day was the appropriately named 'Start Again', with Rod's bass dominating the track, it also contains the first use of some synthesised effects on both guitar and mandolin - an unfortunate sign of the times, I'm afraid. Jacka tells the crowd "I hope we're going to warm you up, 'cause it's bloody freezin' up here", and leads the band into 'Love is a Pain' which may be a bit lightweight, but has an irritatingly catchy chorus - and was it really necessary to bleep Jacka's alternative title from the intro?

'Same Way Down' is a chunky rock & roll piece, one side of a (then-forthcoming) double A single and featuring a motif that crops up again and again in Hully's songs, "only passing time." Heard on 'Passing Ghosts' and 'We Can Swing Together', Alan was never afraid to recycle his lyrics and this line also turns up on the next track, 'Only Alone' from the Back and Fourth album. The 'Beatle-esque' harmonies are fine, but the two guitars seem at odds with each other. Jacka was regularly given a blues standard to show off his 'gob iron' technique and back then it was 'Bye, Bye Bird' - there were/are few better with a harmonica than Ray Jackson, but his best blues wailing of the night was still to come.

This version of 'Lady Eleanor' has a great vocal from Alan, but I'm not sure about the phasing-effect on the mandolin, while Si more than redeems himself on 'Nights' with some spot-on guitar work, a band performance proving once more that this should have been their next big hit single. Right song, wrong time, I guess. 'Make Me Want to Stay' is the pick of the '82 setlist, a lovely JAH ballad with Alan at the piano and restrained backing from the rest of the boys. Then it's time to pick up the tempo and introduce the crowd pleasers...

Note the roar that greets the opening bars of 'MMOTC' and the first of some top singing from the Scots crowd. Rod's trademark bass line slips and slides all over the track and it's Alan's harmony line that always catches my ear on the chorus. At the time, 'Run for Home' was their most recent success and as such, a big song in the running order. The Laidlaw/Clements rhythm section stamp their authority and really kick this one along. Strange how in later years I often thought 'Run' was surplus to requirements; but listening to the band here and the reaction from the Glasgow faithful, what wouldn't we give to be singing our hearts out in front of them one more time...

The 1982 'Fog' was the "Bo Diddley-beat" version, and none the worse for it. Jacka reads the 'banned' verse in his best BBC newscaster voice, (for clarity?!), but the Scots knew it anyway - both band and crowd having fun, fun fun. 'Clear White Light' is a real barnstormer, one of the best live versions of this classic on record. The harmonies are great, Jacka and Si's harmonica/ guitar duel really rocks and the crowd are fab - I'll bet there wasn't a single Scot left in his seat by the end of this song.

The '82 setlist throws up some interesting, almost 'forgotten' songs; back then the band were confident enough to follow the hits section with some relatively new material, by this point in the set the band are hitting top form and 'Never Miss the Water' sounds strong indeed. Alan even re-arranges his favourite line for this one, "...never think of time, 'til it passes you by"! Also good to hear 'Warm Feeling' again, a staple of the live set for many years and arguably Jacka's finest songwriting moment, I defy anyone not to sing along with this chorus.

The final pair deserve to be run together, Hully in full anti-Reagan, anti-Thatcher, anti-war mode for 'Cruising to Disaster' followed by a storming 'Stormy Weather'. All these years on, Alan's description of the White House as a "fortress to freedom, with a licence to kill" chillingly hits the spot... only the names have been changed. The intro to this finale conjures up an instant mind picture - Alan circling round the centre of the stage with that familiar loping gait, the Fender Strat (with everpresent CND sticker) slung low, almost to his knees, before stepping up to the mic to yell "look out..." as the band crash into the song.

The Lindisfarne River Sessions is an aural snapshot of a working band in their element - onstage and on top form - who would have thought 1982 was such a vintage year?

As if that wasn't enough, this package contains an added bonus. Whoever at River Records ( www.riverrecords.com ) unearthed this little gem deserves all the praise I can heap upon them (or a drink at the very least), for CD 2 is a 1976 studio session for Radio Clyde - six songs with just Alan Hull and a guitar, plus Alan and a piano - 'Angels at Eleven' - from '78. The sound is good and the impassioned performance is excellent. Something about 'Squire' always reminds me of Alan Price's soundtrack to 'Oh Lucky Man', while 'Peter Brophy', 'Picture A Little Girl' and especially 'Money Game' all sound crisp and fresh. 'Dan the Plan' is my current favourite - a great song, under-rated and much underplayed. It's a Tyneside tale with more than a touch of Lennon in the telling, but however much Alan cited John Lennon as a major influence, surely there is more of the Ray Davies/local interest in the Hull writing style.

The River Sessions series already have a number of interesting titles to their name, with Rab Noakes, Maggie Bell and Bert Jansch among them. With decent packaging and informative sleevenotes, it's worth keeping an eye on these guys - who knows what else they can pull out of the River?

        Chris Groom

note: click here for a review of the Rab Noakes River Sessions CD