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Live in the 20th & 21st Century is not the first collection of Marshall Crenshaw in concert. The Wild Exciting Sounds of Marshall Crenshaw follows collections titled (with equally sardonic wit) My Truck is My Home (Razor & Tie, 1994) and I've Suffered For My Art...Now It's Your Turn (King Biscuit, 2001), among others. Culled from a variety of sources over 1982 and 1983 in New York, Boston and Passaic, N.J. and packaged with a lean economy that matches the music, this two-CD set functions as both a sequel to its predecessor and an updating of the Michigan native's more recent live work.
The sound quality mastered by Erik Carlson is only slightly less consistent than the musicianship, itself top-notch in terms of both singing and playing. Accordingly, the welcoming warmth of the ambiance in the various roomsincluding many from performances for radio stations Crenshaw mentions in his self-effacing liner notesmatches the fluidity of an an ensemble. Comprised of the bandleader and chief composer on guitar and vocals, siblings John and Robert Crenshaw on drums, percussionisms (sic) and vocals, plus Chris Donato on bass and vocals, it's a quartet that reminds of the timeless nature of rootsy rock and roll pop material on the order of "Something's Gonna Happen."
Like that cull from his eponymous debut, most material on Live in the 20th & 21st Century consists of Marshall Crenshaw originals and, as included on the first compact disc, is notable for the prominence of selections from his unfortunately much-maligned sophomore album Field Day (Warner Bros, 1983). Yet shorn of the Steve Lillywhite studio production, material like "Whenever You're On My Mind" and "Monday Morning Rock" evoke classic early Beatles as vividly as numbers from Marshall Crenshaw (Warner Bros., 1982), like "Mary Anne." Then there are things like the cover of Elvis Presley's "A Big Hunk O' Love" or Al Green's "Here I Am," where the ringing guitars and harmony singing sound equally effortless: the simple beauty in the guitar/bass/drums/voice format could not be more evident.
The reaction is much the same when hearing of the second disc here to, most of which was recorded during one 2014 show with Crenshaw's road warrior partners the Bottle Rockets. With those four men in tow on touring sojourns from 2011 through 2019, the frontman continued to do justice to his own compositions ("What Do You Dream Of?") as well as those of others (the backing band's own "Kit Kat Clock" and Richard Thompson's "Valerie"). Still, there's sometimes a sense of background singing lacking, in "Live and Learn," for instance; skeletal arrangements such as those featuring lap steel otherwise add muscle not present on the earlier performances.
The sixteen cuts compiled by Marshall himself (with label personnel) are no more unified or much less vigorous than their ten counterparts of later vintage. And while the rapid-fire progression of cuts on CD onenone extend past the five minute durationdoesn't allow for much more extended improvisation than on the other compact disc, there are flashes of brilliance: rightfully indicative the one-time co-star of Beatlemania is no slouch as a guitarist in his pithy picking during "Got A Lot O' Livin' To Do."
Continuity within The Wild Exciting Sounds of Marshall Crenshaw: Live in the 20th & 21st Century places this archival title right in line with its aforementioned companion pieces. As such, it is one of the more memorable entries in Crenshaw's bountiful discography.
Monday Morning Rock; Try; Brand New Lover; There She Goes; Something's Gonna Happen; Here I Am; Whenever You're on My Mind; Mary Anne; A Big Hunk o' Love; Rockin' Around in NYC; I'll Do Anything; Our Town; Cynical Girl; Got a Lot o' Livin' to Do; Someday, Someway; What Time Is It?; Passing Through; Something's Gonna Happen; Walkin' Around; Kit Kat Clock; Live and Learn; What Do You Dream Of?; I Don't See You Laughing Now; Calling Out for Love (at Crying Time); Television Light; Valerie.