Brinsley Schwarz was like an Anglo version of Big Star in that it’s often credited with sparking the evolution of cutting-edge rock in the 1970s, and yet never achieved widespread success. Founding member guitarist-vocalist Brinsley Schwarz and keyboards player Bob Andrews would bring much of what they perfected with this group to their work in Graham Parker’s critically backing band The Rumour. Bassist-vocalist Nick Lowe and guitarist-vocalist Ian Gomm would move on to successful solo careers.
The 13-track Live Favourites comes from a show recorded at The Top Rank Club in Cardiff, UK back in 1974, with Schwarz, Andrews, Lowe, and Gomm, along with Pick Withers (later in Dire Straits) filling in for regular drummer Billy Rankin. Recently released on the English indie label Mega Dodo as a limited-edition 180 gram black vinyl edition, Live Favourites serves as an entertaining introduction to a band that reportedly felt more comfortable whipping up a party on stage than recording in the studio.
“Happy Doing What We’re Doing” perfectly describes the Brinsley Schwarz approach, with Lowe’s slinky bass and Andrews’ festive organ playing leading the way. It’s a simple but fun song about the joy of playing music, much like Todd Rundgren’s “Bang On The Drum All Day.” The soulful "Hooked On Love” and “Surrender To The Rhythm” might have been exactly what Parker had in mind when he was putting together The Rumour, while “Country Girl” taps into Country and Western music.
The band charges through Lowe’s "What's So Funny About Peace, Love And Understanding?" with harmony vocals and keyboards that differentiate it from Elvis Costello's better-known version. “It’s Been So Long” feels more like the original Elvis, while “You’re So Fine” and a cover of the standard “Trying To Live My Life Without You” have a good-time rock and roll feel. The aptly named “Honky Tonk” is a bluesy tune about playing in music joints, while “Hip City” bounces along with horns and energetic guitar playing.
I was recently informed by John at Mega Dodo that the label has sold all of its copies of Live Favourites. He suggested people check out Ian Gomm's website. It does look like Mr. Gomm is offering a CD recording of a 1974 Brinsley Schwarz performance at The Top Rank Club. Maybe he has some vinyl copies as well.