Ginger Wildheart - 'Kiss Alive II (Acoustic Live In Birmingham)' (Vinyl Junkie) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Rich Hobson   
Saturday, 11 February 2012 04:45

ginger-kiss-alive-2_full_sizeThe dreaded acoustic album. There are plenty of bands who have made them, but very few get away with capturing the necessary essence and atmosphere that makes for a truly great acoustic album, with many taking it as a reason to strip away the song's heart and just play a slightly edited, diluted selection of their back catalogue. So who HAS made a great acoustic album? Nirvana springs to mind. Foo Fighters gave it a good shot (though fell just short of "great" and instead wound up in the "good" camp, though in music terms that's the difference between 'Highway To Hell' and 'Razor's Edge' - the musical equivalent of being trapped in the "friend zone"). Whitesnake also hit the right notes with acoustic versions of songs like 'Give Me All Your Love'. The point is, many bands have tried yet so many have failed.

 

Many bands aren't Ginger Wildheart and co though are they?

 

You should by no means be a stranger to Ginger Wildheart by now if you are gracing these pages - the search function finds no less than 50 articles either about, or mentioning him - but if you are here's a brief summary. Ginger is good. Better than good, Ginger is great. And the only thing better than a Ginger record is a live Ginger record. And guess what? His 'Kiss Alive ii album' is an acoustic album.

 

Recorded at the Birmingham HMV Institute (obligatory shouts of I WAS THERE! Followed by continuous squealing) in May of 2011, the album was originally to be recorded solely for the Japanese market, however after a little persuasion Ginger agreed to release the record heer in the UK both at his December 2011 tour and now via the artist's official website () giving fans the chance to pick up an album which, if the live reviews were anything to go by, would be Ginger's most ambitious acoustic release to date (having 2 others under his belt, in the form of 'The Great White Monkey' and 'Potatoes And You', the latter of which is also available for free from his website).

 

The setting for the gig couldn't have been better, the Institute Temple Room (that night's chosen venue) was intimate but well stocked with fans for the evening's proceedings, and none of the sound or the intimacy is lost on this record. A quick glance at the track listing will be enough to please any fans familiar with Ginger's back catalogue, offering up Wildhearts tunes, solo singalongs like 'The Drunken Lord Of Everything' and the odd (and in the case of 'Hocus Pocus', a VERY odd) cover thrown in for fun, making it feel almost more like a friendly lock-in with mates than a show to close off the first leg of a largely successful acoustic tour of the UK's more intimate venues by an internationally renowned musician - but then that's Ginger all over for you.

 

It's worth noting that it's not only Ginger onstage for this show, here we have a 3 piece of himself, Wolfsbane member Jase Edwards and ex-Cardiac and one-time Wildheart 'Random' Jon Poole, quite easily the most eccentric man in rock not named Ziggy Stardust. Opening to the Wildhearts drunken sing-along 'Geordie in Wonderland', crowd participation is high as Ginger delivers the warm and rousing opening number.  Far from being just like many other acoustic records, which tend to lose some of the vibrancy and tone set by acoustic instruments, none of this is lost in the 'Kiss Alive II' recording, instead the mics capture every nuance of the music and the vocal duties being handed over to the crowd.

 

Following up 'Geordie' is 'Mazel Tov Cocktail', a song which you can't help but feel cheated about when you realise that it DIDN'T get released as a single, the song itself is perfectly suited to the acoustic setting with the crowd revelling in singing backing vocals, and you can almost hear the smile on Ginger's lips as he delivers each line of the song.

 

Another great thing about this being a live recording is the inclusion of Ginger's crowd interaction (or banter) at the start and end of certain tracks - it is this interaction which has made him so accessible and such a great live icon, and the fact it is captured on record just helps to build more and more of a rapport with him as the record plays through. Up next is the first of Ginger's solo songs to be played, 'The Drunken Lord Of Everything', a song which frankly only seems to get better and better with each listen, utilizing the harmonious sounds of 3 guitars in syncopation, the heartfelt delivery of the vocals and some of Ginger's greatest lyrics to date sum up the feeling of drunken single melancholy individual. "Like a needle to a junkie, I've seen all the worst you can do... But I'll survive another lonely day without you" is archetypal Ginger, both acknowledging the miserable nature of people's emotions at times whilst also offering up a reprieve. The song ends amusingly with the audience mooing (at the time their was stage invasion of roadies dressed as cows), which Ginger admits, "that will probably sound like booing on the record... thank god for Youtube eh?"

 

Following on from this is the first cover of the evening, The Replacements' 'Answering Machine' is delivered perfectly, and there's a depth to this version of the song, which seems to strip away at the original (think about Johnny Cash's cover of 'Hurt'). It's not all seriousness and lovesickness however and the next track, a triple medley of 'Hocus Pocus' by Focus, the 'Taxi' theme and the Wildhearts much loved cover of the 'Cheers' theme, with a cheeky 'White Riot' cover thrown in the middle to really catch you off guard. Letting Jon Poole take the vocals, 'Hocus Pocus' almost perfectly sums up his musical abilities; a mixture of hilarity, genius and that subtle dash of eccentricity that is somewhat out of this world. The track is sure to amuse anybody that sticks it on and is more addictive than a crack covered Oreo. The 'Cheers' theme is, as ever, a great addition to the set and even in its acoustic form it has boundless amounts of energy to help prick up your ears, and the chucking in of the chorus to 'White Riot' will never go amiss whoever ends up playing it, the crowd once again gladly taking over the vocal duties.

 

'In Lily's Garden', a classic from back in the Wildhearts 'PHUQ' days evens the mood back out again, and sounds as sweet as it did at first release way back in 1994, with the added intensity that is apparent in a well delivered acoustic show.  Continuing with Wildhearts releases (although another cover, this time of the band The Icicle Works) the next track is 'Understanding Jane', opening with a lengthy and amusing anecdote concerning Glastonbury, Acid and The Cure (never a winning combination...) this song is yet another cover that is perfectly adapted for the live acoustic setting, with a catchy and anthemic chorus that could even get Ebenezer Scrooge humming under his breath.

 

Onwards and upwards to the 2nd half of the show, and here Ginger introduces the personnel now onstage with him, which by now includes Willie Dowling of Jackdaw4, and the band head straight into the next track, a Wildhearts classic from 'The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed', 'So Into You', which also has a snippet of XTC's 'Making Plans For Nigel' performed by Jon Poole nestled away neatly within the song's structure. Following this is an oldie from the 'Earth V's'. era, 'Miles Away Girl', which is yet another singalong classic you can't help but feel that if he weren't a victim of circumstance Ginger could be igniting singalongs to entire stadiums - though the man himself may feel differently and even prefer the intimate settings he (and we are) is familiar with. Tucked away secretly within this track is an impromptu cover of the Grease classic 'Summer Nights', which the crowd quickly pounce on to fulfil vocal duties.

 

From old to new, and another song that feels like it should have been a single, the fantastic '(You Took The) Sunshine From New York# from the Wildhearts last release 'Chutzpah!' this song seems perfectly suited to the acoustic setting and once again garters some crowd participation. Ever the music fan himself Ginger then opts to cover Cheap Trick's 'Surrender', and with his delivery you could be forgiven for mistaking this for a Ginger or Wildhearts song, being insanely catchy, and technically pleasing to the ear.  Ever the humble frontman Ginger then takes the sidelines to give over vocal duties to Givvi Flynn, gives us a perfect rendition of the Clam Abuse era song 'Unlucky In Love', a song which is one part country ballad and two parts dark humour delivered in the perfect atmosphere to keep the record travelling smoothly.

 

Another Wildhearts classic follows the perennial set favourite '29 X The Pain' hits all the right notes to get the crowd singing along at full lung splitting capacity, something which is continued for another 'Earth V's'' song, 'Loveshit' which loses none of its groove delivered as an acoustic strum rather than a heel tapping rock 'n' roll number. Finally we come to the closing song, a real fan's favourite to close out the night on a high, and this comes in the form of 'I Wanna Go Where The People Go', a song which never loses its punch never mind how many times you hear it live or otherwise.

 

As of right now (February 2012) Ginger has expressed the view that it'll probably be "a very long time" before he does an acoustic tour again, however with this CD capturing him and his merry men in all their glory, it can at least fill the void until the next time Ginger decides to dust off his acoustic guitar and get intimate with his audience. The record delivers Ginger at his friendliest, most intimate and catchy best, and with a stellar supporting cast of musicians behind him and the ever-confusing eccentricities of Jon Poole to keep listeners entertained, this record is without a doubt a must have item for any fan of the great titian one.

 

Now bring on the Pledge ya buggers!

 

'Kiss Alive II' is available at (http://www.atmoapparel.co.uk/stores/thewildhearts/official_ginger_cd_kiss-alive-ii-acoustic-live-in-birmingham_gingr32.html)