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THE BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA – DON’T MESS WITH A BIG BAND Live! (Review)

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51HVscJoJ6L. SL500 AA300 Earlier this summer, Surfdog Records made the announcement that they’d begun raiding the archives for some new releases of Brian Setzer live recordings – “some new, some old.” While live material from Setzer, his Orchestra, and Stray Cats has been released with relative frequency in the past, artists ranging from The Dave Matthews Band, to Metallica, Pearl Jam, and The Grateful Dead have proven that there’s an exceptional market out there for high-quality live recordings to be consumed by the most devoted of listeners on a regular basis.

With a loyal following known to go out of their way to check out Setzer’s live performances, the prospect of mining those vaults was more than intriguing, and with the release of DON’T MESS WITH A BIG BAND LIVE!, those hungry for something new from THE BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA have been delivered their first in a trio of BSO releases for 2010.

Recorded live during their 2009 Tour of Japan, this 2-Disc Collection packs 19-songs (nearly an hour and a half worth) into one classy digipack. Just like most Setzer performances, ‘BIG BAND’s set list is career-spanning, with hits from Stray Cats, BSO, and more, all seamlessly arranged to capture the experience.

Unlike the massive 2004 release THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION, which presented two complete shows from different eras of the band, this one is leaner and has a distinctly different feel.  In keeping with past intros that have included the themes to JAMES BOND or HAWAII FIVE-O, ‘BIG BAND starts with a cover of the classic theme from the 1966 BATMAN television series, which makes a perfect lead for “Drive Like Lightning (Crash Like Thunder).”

As always, the raw guitar work is impressive, presented free of studio-trickery and overdubs. The subtle nuances present in favorites such as “Sleepwalk” never fail to amaze, with each recording bearing it’s own distinct presence.

Setzer is an icon, and one of the few remaining purveyors of pure American rock and roll, jazz, and swing all rolled into one. DON’T MESS WITH A BIG BAND is a must-own for the diehards, and a great starting point for those who are just experiencing this music for the very first time.

Rating: 4.5/5

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