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Ash Grunwald

Ash Grunwald – Live At The Fly By Night (Live Album Review)

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Ash Grunwald – Live At The Fly By Night (Live Album Review)

As I listen to Live At The Fly By Night, I find myself captivated by the non-stop groove of Grunwald. This man certainly has bucket loads of rhythm to go along with what Ian McFarlane rightly claimed as a guttural resonant vocal styled somewhat after Tom Waits, Howling Wolf, Elmore James, and Robert Johnson. I couldn’t have described Grunwald’s musicality better myself and if you haven’t got a copy, you’ll find a wealth of information in McFarlane’s opus The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop.

Normally when I think of live albums, I have mixed emotions. Many are excellent, others are average at best. It really is a mixed bag. However, Live At The Fly By Night is one of the best live recordings I’ve ever heard. The mix, the dynamics, and the correct levelling of audience interaction make for a compelling listen that I’m certain you’ll love. While I can’t say for certain that some studio mastery hasn’t been applied here, I don’t care because the mastering is utterly perfect and showcases just how good music can sound if recorded, mixed, and mastered with care. 

Sadly, this release has never been issued on vinyl, but to be completely honest, the Apple Music stream, which this review is based on, is stunning with an incredible soundstage and tonality that gets you as close to vinyl as digital ever will. I can only imagine how good the CD sounds but I can assure you that you’re not missing a thing if you choose to listen to Live At The Fly By Night via Apple Music.

Intro helps to set the tone of the performance and while I’m not overly enthralled by the audience inclusion here, there is little doubt that the mix is perfect. The musical elements, and overall soundstage, really put you in a prime position to thoroughly enjoy the performance. If that rhythm doesn’t get you going, I don’t know what will. It is stunningly hypnotic and flows masterfully into Can You Find A Way.

Can You Find A Way is toe-tapping and head-bopping gold, with a guitar riff that will make you want to pick up the instrument. The distorted vocal is equally compelling and while other artists are unable to pull it off, Grunwald delivers it in a non-offensive manner that ensures it enhances the song and overall musicality. 

Skywriter is a great tune. The upbeat tempo and distorted guitar is simply stunning. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I love singing along to the chorus of Skywriter and playing my air guitar during that killer solo. 

Mojo is one of Grunwald’s best. Turn that volume up to 11; you can thank me later! 

Rosie has a brilliant vocal mix and flows perfectly in the live lineup. 

Fish Out Of Water is a moody track with a killer rhythm. I love it!

The Devil Called Me A Liar has a killer introduction but I find the song loses a little of its magic as it progresses. It isn’t bad, but if there is a B-side to be heard on Live At The Fly By Night, then The Devil Called Me A Liar is most certainly it.

1976 Coaster Van reminds me fondly of Chris Isaak’s Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing from Forever Blue; especially in the intro. 1976 Coaster Van is a solid track but I feel the spoken word element in the middle of the song detracts from the experience and the tempo speed-up makes it near impossible for the listener to stay locked into the groove. 

Just Be Yourself starts with a magical guitar introduction and continues with a fat bass track that is as relaxing as it is compelling. It doesn’t matter how still I try to make myself, the rhythm gets into your bones and your body will move even if you’re intent not to. Also, the tempo increase here, unlike 1976 Coaster Van, is perfect, ensuring that I don’t lose track of the rhythm. Returning to the slower tempo towards the end of the song is equally smooth and Just Be Yourself is arguably one of my favourite songs from the album; yes, even with the audience singing along towards the end. Again, the mix is spot on.

Money / Breakout has a magical intro. The killer rhythm will get you as will the lyrical style that is easy to sing along to. Money / Breakout is, without a doubt, an audible experience that you have to hear to believe. A stunning merging of two songs and this is without a doubt one of Grunwald’s greatest live performances and is arguably a fan favourite whenever played live. My only criticism is the slowing tempo at the end as it feels unnecessary.

Give Signs / Serious as the final track on Live At The Fly By Night certainly compels me to listen to the album again and stay within Grunwald’s growing catalogue of music. Sensational!

From start to finish, Live At The Fly By Night is nothing short of pure perfection. There isn’t a dull moment and as far as live releases go, this is up there with the very best that I’ve heard and as happy as I am with the Apple Music stream, I really want a vinyl release to add to the collection because that cover art deserves to be seen and held on the larger canvas. I love it!

Live At The Fly By Night is available on CD and iTunes.

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