Koln, 1977 [torrent 155621]
Live at WDR Studio L, Koln, Germany, Feb 3, 1977. Ex TV b'cast stereo.

Recorded during the sisters’ first European tour (the source, too, of a popular Old Grey Whistle Test session), Koln 77 is, sadly, not the souvenir you might be hoping for. A common complaint of the McGarrigles’ early live shows and broadcasts was that the studied intimacy of the records was lost on stage… too many variables, too many uncontrollable factors, too much of everything. And this is a perfect example.

We kicks off with a rambunctious "Swimming Song," made all the more delightful by a clearly unscripted sound effect that draws a chuckle from Anna. But a murky mix sees the instrumentation threaten to overwhelm the vocals, while the studio lights are clearly playing havoc with the band’s tuning - as the instrumental preamble to "Foolish You" makes clear. Later, a malfunctioning monitor makes a mockery of the sisters’ harmonies, and too much of the ensuing disc is spent discussing and attempting to repair the problem.

When it works, it’s a marvelous performance, running through great swathes of the then-current Kaye & Anna McGarrigle album, and highlighted by a fabulously fiddle-heavy "Kiss And Say Goodbye." But too much of it clearly doesn’t work, and the frustration onstage is quick to communicate itself to the listener. - Dave Thompson

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December 7, 2007