The Groundhogs | Live At The Astoria – CD/DVD Review

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The Groundhogs were one of the preeminent British blues-rocks acts of its day.
As Live At The Astoria, a new DVD/CD package, attests,
the band, which includes original guitarist/vocalist Tony ‘TS’ McPhee,
bassist Eric Chipulina and drummer Pete Correa, can lay out spacey jams as well
as funk grooves — all within that tight British blues-rock tradition from
whence the band was born. This is the only live visual recording these guys
have ever made commercially available, and it is a piece of history not to be
missed.

Opening with a nice superimposed intro with McPhee, the show is shot with a
few simple camera angles on the tiny Astoria stage. The band runs through “Shake
For Me,” a chunky “Eccentric Man,” “3744 James Road”
(the best tune here), “Split Part One And Two” (the centerpiece
of the show), and several other numbers. McPhee is from the Rory Gallagher, no-frills
school of electric blues, employing an open-handed fingerpicking style that
makes his playing pretty damn unique. Though he apologizes in the introduction,
claiming he was sick at this show, McPhee’s singing voice also serves him well.

Live At The Astoria really points the spotlight on McPhee. A guy
who has been at this as long as he has really should be showcased. Watching him play, you feel the sweat of the Astoria audience and realize you’re
witnessing a living legend on electric guitar — a guy on par with Peter
Green and Eric Clapton. Not to make light of Chipulina or Correa as they are
every bit Groundhogs as any other past members — but this show is really
all about McPhee. The CD portion of the package mirrors the DVD’s audio
so you really do get two great documents of this night. Live At The
Astoria
doesn’t have any booklets, pictures or DVD extras, but you
wouldn’t expect that from a stripped-down blues rock trio like the Groundhogs.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.


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