A new album with the “Lester Butler” name on the cover is a rare thing, but “Live at Tamines 1997” misses the mark for both hardcore fans and newcomers.
From the song selections, to the notes, to the packaging, so little care seems to have been put into this release. While a new disc could both satisfy and fuel Butler fandom, the release by RockBeat Records likely won’t find the audience to justify any more reissues.
IT’S OLD: The Tamines festival gig has been floating around bootleg circles for years. Most Lester Butler fans — this online and on early tape-swapping lists — have had this recording in their collections for years.
For them, there is nothing new here. Even a bonus track, “Automatic,” from the 1998 Moulin Blues Festival in Ospel, has been widely circulated and seems to be here just to fill out disc two.
IT’S DAUNTING: A double-album like this naturally costs more. That’s a barrier for new fans, who aren’t going to spend more for an artist they aren’t familiar with, and won’t commit to two discs of unheard live material from nearly 20 years ago.
The run times for this live show, helpfully listed on the CD’s back cover, would scare off even the most sturdy blues fan: 9:57, 8:47, 8:30, 6:17, 12:59, 10:39 …
IT’S LAZY: Though there are production and mastering credits, the disc is clearly bootleg-rific. The drums — especially the kick — are too high in the mix. The entire sound is trebly, with very little bass. The crowd participation, which usually helps justify a live release, is inaudible. Clearly, the recording was from a soundboard mix and was not meant to be heard in recorded format.
The laziness extends to the packaging.