Live on Stage
There have been other Ruts live releases, but THIS one really captures the fire, skill and variety of what this group can attain and does attain each time they step onto a stage..hence you won’t hear a more electric and edgy live recording this year, from any artist.
I can pretend no neutrality on matters Ruts – I have known drummer Dave Ruffy and bassist Segs since the mid-70s, when James Asman’s record shop in Cannon Street ( I worked nearby) was THE place to hear new releases and hang out with other musicians. The original Ruts featured driven guitar man Paul Fox and their singer Malcolm Owen. The latter died early and just when the band were releasing a series of storming singles including ‘Staring At The Rude Boys’ and ‘Jah War’ and managing to make New wave albums which were up-to-date but not sloppy. At that time, only The Stranglers had a similar wide-ranging style however they were not particularly great live whereas The Ruts – and their buddies The Gas – could bring their punch and finesse to the stage. Fox died of cancer many years later.
By a strange twist of fate, a guitar-toting pal of mine from The Flying Sqad and other axe-rock bands, one Leigh Heggarty mentioned a couple of years ago that he was working with the Ruts guys, unaware that I had a long relationship and friendship with them. I got myself along to the first Ruts DC-reborn show I could and caught up with everyone.
To cut a long story short, the group are now back firing on all six, with Heggarty playing the Fox guitar parts BUT adding his own Wilko-soaked bite and blues spark where appropriate. After many years it is now possible to hear glorious versions of ‘BackBiter’, ‘Something That I Said’ and of course their own anthem ‘In A Rut’ at a venue near you ! Segs is singing better than ever and Ruffy who has in the meantime been in demand by Kirsty McColl, Aztec Camera, Waterboys and many other acts is as rumbustiously funky as ever. Especially on the reggae and dub rhythms that Ruts slip into but equally on the whipcrack rock numbers where a helter skelter beat rules. Add to that clean and economical basslines and Leigh’s smokestack lightning guitar figures and you have a live show worthy of the title.
‘West One’is still a haunting and atmospheric picture of our metropolis at night ; the irresistible skank of ‘Mighty Soldier’ hits home. The tender ‘Love In Vain’ is touching yet tough ; ‘It Was Cold’ is a menacing flanger outing, Heggarty wielding a Les Paul as opposed to his red Strat, used with his other ensembles. The underrated ‘Mirror Smashed’ is an incendiary cut, delivered with venom and relish. Here also, female vocalist ‘Nolara’ makes a fine contribution to the collection. Oh and they don’t omit the charging ‘Babylon’s Burning’….
In summary, this live set does full justice to the Ruts sound, every bit as vital and relevant as the group ever was. One can only cry ‘Hooray’…..