IN THE DOCK - Hugh Cornwell (Track Records)
I only saw The Stranglers once, which was on their second Australian tour in Adelaide at the Apollo Stadium. They were very tight, Hugh was amusing, Jet Black was suitably metronomic and I had a stiff neck afterwards from looking sideways. Heard Cornwell live with a band in 1998 at the LA2 in London and while I enjoyed it I can’t remember much, probably due to the effects of alcohol. Jet Black drifted by in the audience at a LA2 Damned show around the same period. Subsequently, Hugh popped up playing on Roy and H.G.’s Norwich TV program.
Despite this small exposure to The Stranglers live, mainly through lack of opportunity, they are in fact one of my favourite bands. Of course, fans vary in their opinions as to the best work of any band. Some Stranglers fans regard the first album “Rattus Norvegicus” (1977) as the only true punk album, some include “No More Heroes” (1977) and so on, up to the obsessives who include every single grunt put out by every past and present member as the music of spheres. And there a lot of obsessive fans.

I regard “Aural Sculpture” (1984) to be the last good studio album although there were odds and sods on later albums that were OK. Plus Hugh’s album “Wolf” (1988) was OK. Hugh Cornwell left the band in 1990. Based on the law of diminishing returns, I never purchased anything that did not have Hugh on it, although I did listen to one of the post-Hugh Stranglers albums at a friend’s and thought it forgettable. As in I forget which album.
Anyway, John McPharlin thought that as I was the only person he knew who actually owned a Hugh Cornwell album, I’d be the one to review a Cornwell live album. I thought I’d also briefly review the official band bio “No Mercy” (1997) at the same time, having scored the book as a Xmas present from my friend Nic.
Hugh, having been banged up three months for being in possession of various “gifts” from fans in 1979, thus augmenting his “hard” man image, continues to mine this aura for album names (“Guilty” 1997) with this release “In the Dock” (2003). At least it shows more imagination than the title of the internet album “Solo” (1999) which was Hugh, er, solo. I thought a name play on drugs and his background as a biochemist would have been worth a shot.
Normally I avoid live albums like the plague. Kim Deal had a line about “unplugged” I agreed with but can’t remember exactly… something about Nirvana using amps unplugged. So I approached the task of reviewing this live album with some trepidation, although I do have a live Stranglers album “Live X-cert” (1979) which I really do like.
This lot was recorded a few years ago in Leicester – see here for details of tracks and so on. I worked in Leicester for a few months while commuting from Fitzrovia. It’s the home of Thomas Cook, under whose bronze gaze it’s wise to be wary and avoid the tramp shit on the way to and from the station.
Generally the performance is quite good and the recording, while a little hollow at the start, is not too bad for a live gig, with the adoring audience thankfully mixed out except for the breaks between songs. Given the performance format it’s OK to try and impro some of the sounds from the originals but the “dubba dubba dubba” he sings in place of the original keyboards for “Golden Brown” sounds a little like something the Swingles would improvise on the Two Ronnies. After their cover of  “Peaches” no doubt.  And he does have a tendency here to attempt a few weird vocalisations that end up being a bit jarring. Apart from these quibbles, some numbers are quite good acoustic versions of Stranglers and solo material.

The CD includes a few poor quality Quicktime format video tracks from “Solo” that are OK to listen to but of such tiny size that they are annoying to try and watch. - Frank McEwen

1/2 for me because acoustic versions must die for obvious reasons like they are tedious and generally it means the person doing them is so obnoxious or big headed they can’t keep a real band together

for a fan of the Stranglers and acoustic music