Blaine L. Reininger has released 10 solo albums and another dozen with TUXEDOMOON since they started out together in San Francisco's 1977. This collector set of tunes on LTM dates back to a pair of concerts in Brussels in 1986, with Reininger fronting a pick-up band of some quality. Previously released on Les Disques Crepuscules, the collection has been remastered and extended with six more tunes. Five of the extras are from the original shows, and the closing number "Mystery and Confusion" has been added from a gig in 1987 (the '86 version being unusable).
The extraordinary thing about this recording is its freshness and relevance. You can hear all the Bowie, the Scott Walker, the (later-to-become) Jeff Buckley passion for European high art. But the escape from the denim stink of rock and roll into something magical, romantic and liberating is much more compelling and more convincing than in others from the New Romantic persuasion who had gone before. The sparse instrumentation is not shackled by the state-of-artness that puts such excruciating date-stamps on the likes of Duran Duran or Tears for Fears.
The (newly added) introduction has a hint of the active pickup bass of early 80s bass playing, but it’s utterly dominated by an exquisite violin tune of antique and Middle Eastern vintage. Random percussion and a very exciting final crescendo give it an "Oh My God! what's this gig going to be like?" start to the set. If this is the warm-up, we're going to be in for something special.
And so it transpires. 28 years later it really doesn’t feel like rock archaeology at all. If this stuff turned up in your toilet venue of choice next weekend, you'd be drooling. Reininger's voice has Marc Almond archness with Righteous Brothers soul and operatic range and colour. His ravishing violin playing comes in when it’s needed, but is never brandished like a freak show or stunt.
"Volo Vivace" and "Night Air" are stunning. "The Birthday Song" is a bit more 80's pop video backing track (maybe). But "What Use?" is big and bouncing and "Uptown" is a magnificent 14 minutes 38 of extended improvisation and emotional incitement to set the dullest hearts ashiver. Daniel Wang's spectral trumpet and Reininger's vocal agility create something terrifying and moving that must have been one of the many influences on Buckley's later escapades. There are strong Tom Waits parallels (lifts?) too. And if I'm mentioning Tom Waits at all, then we're obviously taking this very seriously. Eventually the open shape shifts into a severely riffed Duane Eddy section that makes the blood race as it bludgeons its way up hill to massive emotional proportions before breaking up into fragments of George Benson's "On Broadway".
After the carnage of "Uptown" the exceptional tune of "Broken Fingers" is probably the only thing that could have followed. It is stunning, with long-term collaborator Alain Goutier doing strong vocal support and that sumptuous violin breaking every heart in the building.
Tracks 8 through 12 are possibly lesser objects, but they approach stellar proportions nonetheless. "Ash and Bone" is as poignant a song about a band breaking up as you will ever hear. I don;t suppose that this album is going to be top 40, but it would make a real plunder chest for any contemporary band on the look-out for fresh ways of upping the pop/rock ante. It would also sit very well in any serious collection that doesn’t already know about this stuff.