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Samson - Live At Reading '81 review


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Band: Samson
Album: Live At Reading '81
Release date: 1990

01. Big Brother
02. Take It Like A Man
03. Nice Girl
04. Earth Mother
05. Vice Versa
06. Bright Lights
07. Walking Out On You
08. Hammerhead
09. Riding With The Angels
10. Gravy Train

Can you hear the Hammerhead over Reading? I bet the audience could as Samson played their set on the famous festival in 1981. 1980 - 1981 in fact was a period for a small glance at fame for the quartet formed by Paul Samson (who died of cancer in 2002), founding father of the band that carried his surname. The reason for success, if you can really speak of it, may not only have been the extraordinary playwise and style mix of the band, that is counted into the genre of NWOBHM, but the fact that Bruce Dickinson earned his merits in these two years as the vocalist.

The Reading festival that had been played also by Iron Maiden in the early 80's was a famous playground for bands that could catch the audiences attention and as Samson kind of warped through an experimental phase with Bruce Dickinson (called Bruce Bruce at the time) that brought not only NWOBHM sounds, but also bluesy tunes like 'Vice Versa' or rock stuff like 'Nice Girls' they were kind of a good match to play there. A not always straight songwriting, a not very straight production/ or sound quality and the mentioned mix of styles give this live appearance it's soul. When you hold the 1990 release of it in your hands, regarding the imprinted interview with Bruce Dickinson you kind of have the impression of a funny piece of a live recording, with a true spirit, very enjoyable if you don't mind. If you do you may keep your fingers away from this one.
The material that comes from the albums 'Head On' and 'Shock Tactics' that both featured Bruce Dickinson on vocals is a total contemporary piece, for the reason that NWOBHM was in my opinion a movement that lost it's direction and thus made it as a genre of itself, hanging somehow between bluesy rock n' roll and straight metal. Definite recommendable songs are 'Hammerhead' my overall favourite Samson track, as well as 'Riding With The Angels', 'Nice Girl' and 'Earth Mother'. Not satisfying is the fact that 'Too Close To Rock' didn't make it onto the record, but I don't know if it was even a part of their set. The most dislikeable song is 'Walking Out On You'. The intro can be called responsible for this, which is an experimental catastrophy of almost four minutes and the real beginning of the song goes under in noise.
In whole I'm content with the live record, the musicians know their stuff, especially Paul Samson has some brilliantly played solos, i.e. on 'Bright Lights'. Thunderstick and Chris Aylmer play along very well and the last song 'Gravy Train' conains solos by them all, ok the bass solo is a bit messed up. The flaws are the feedbacks on few of the songs, the ten song shortness of the record, the mistakes on the interview and the missing 'Too Close To Rock', which is a very good song. Do you care? If so then have a listen with 'Head On' and 'Shock Tactics' rather than with 'Live At Reading 81'.

Written by Pierre Tombale | 03.08.2004


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