Chameleons - Live At The Gallery Club Manchester
This album proves their live credentials were sound. It comes from their earliest days, before they achieved any recognition outside the locality in which they originated, and was played before adoring fans at the Gallery Club in Manchester. Many of the songs from the first album which would set them as one of the finest bands of the post punk era were here. This is a rare chance to experience post punk classics before they were developed into the more refined studio versions.
The album is well worth getting if you can still get your hands on it. The atmosphere is as intense as you will find on any of their early studio albums. The only negative thing to say about it, and the only thing for which it is marked down, is the production quality. This is frankly appalling but that is really only to be expected. In an attempt to put right some of the faults, the (re-)producers have merely added a few more. There is precious little audience interaction for a start and while audience participation can get irritating on some albums, a live album should at least acknowledge the presence of the majority of people in the room at the time.
The main gripe with the production is that it features the guitars too much in the background and the bass too much to the fore, while the vocals have a tendency on occasions to drown everything else out. This could be problematic as Mark Burgess, while competent, was no vocal virtuouso. He does a pretty good job of holding it all together but a better mix would have improved the whole album immensely. That can be excused because it was recorded and mixed well before the band achieved the status which their albums afforded them, and as a result is a bit too raw and unrefined. Clearly, the recording was never intended to be released as an album but someone could not resist the temptation.
But don't let that issue put you off. This is how post punk bands sounded when they were just out of their punk roots. This is how indie music began in the UK, on the back of punk, but having outgrown the sometimes childish streak of nihilism which affected punk adversely at times. Post-punk became the unloved bastard brother of electronic dance and new romanticism, overlooked and neglected as record companies once again regained their stranglehold on what we are supposed to listen to and rejected anyone who would not conform to what they wanted. That the Chameleons never bent to their will is the reason why they were never picked up and given the status they surely deserved, but is also the reason why they left us such a great collection of records.
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