"Live at Wood Hall" is an exciting journey through Allison Crowe's concert repertoire, recorded with a simple clarity in the converted chapel of Victoria (B.C.)'s Conservatory of Music. Alongside more than an album's worth of original songs of love and hope, social and political conscience, and real beauty, Allison covers cherished favourites - including Ani DiFranco ("Independence Day"), Counting Crows ("A Murder of One"), Tori Amos ("Playboy Mommy"), Janis Joplin ("Me and Bobby McGee"), and John Lennon ("Imagine"). Colours in the artist's musical palette range from roots & blues, through folk, pop/rock, jazz and Broadway. There's even a tradtional Irish aire, "Believe Me If All (Those Endearing Young Charms)", sung acapella. Once again, Larry Anschell (Turtle Studios) captures the music on tape and Alix Whitmire designs the beautiful artwork/CD cover. " 'Music, man, that's where it's at'/ it is a religious line/ outside, the chimes rung/ an they/ are still ringin."
Tags: Allison Crowe, singer songwriter, rock, folk, jazz, pop, soul, acoustic, independent, alternative, contemporary, live, piano, guitar, lyrical, vocal, seasonal, holiday, Christmas, Beethoven, Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco, Counting Crows, Pearl Jam, Leonard Cohen, Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell, Chet Baker, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, John Lennon, Elton John, Bob Marley, Edith Piaf, Nina Simone, Fiona Apple
Here's what reviewers say about Allison Crowe's "Live at Wood Hall":
"Allison Crowe is the best thing to happen to 'Me And Bobby McGee' since Janis Joplin changed Kristofferson's lyrics".
Allan Showalter's '1 Heck of a Guy' blog ~ November 25, 2008
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
Allison Crowe: Live at Wood Hall
I'm behind on my current release reviews, but I must take a break to write about an older album that I love. Though there's really no way to convey through mere words how much the music on Allison Crowe's Live At Wood Hall moves me, or how I want other people to listen to and adore it as much as I do. Allison sings with such an intensity of emotion, it's easy to see why she's often quoted as saying "Why music? Why breathing?". She seems to feel her music more than anyone simply listening to it possibly could, and that kind of artistic passion seems extremely rare these days. Her voice produces the kind of chills that I only associate with a select number of singers.
Even the packaging of Live At Wood Hall is lovely. The interior flaps of the album cover and each of the two discs are painted with a stained glass window design, pulling apart and fitting together as a perfect picture. The album was recorded live during a two night performance in 2005 at Wood Hall, located at the Victoria Conservatory Of Music in Canada. In between songs, you can hear snippets of Allison's banter with the audience and the enthusiastic response of the crowd.
Like many of Allison's songs, "There Is" starts off the first disc of the album in a such a heartfelt and sincere tone that it can only call to mind classic Joni Mitchell. There are many moments on the two discs where Allison's voice seems to defy gravity, and the opening track is no exception.
"By Your Side" was one of the first original Allison Crowe songs that I ever heard. After her cover of "Hallelujah", this is probably the song that really captured my attention. On the surface it seems like a simple piano tune, but toward the end her voice soars up into an unfathomable note and holds it without faltering at all.
The cover of Ani Difranco's "Independence Day" begins slowly in a hushed and pretty tone, gradually growing into passionate anger and pounding piano. The upbeat music of "Sea Of A Million Faces" betrays the melancholy, longing, and desperation of its lyrics. The lyrics of "Bill" are quite funny, but the power of the vocals diverts attention from the comedy.
"Fire", "What About You", and "Whether I'm Wrong" are a few of many songs that showcase the unique and vast range of Allison's voice. Her pitch is particularly noteworthy on "Whether I'm Wrong", falling to its lowest depths and rising faultlessly to its purest heights.
"In Love In Vain" is soft and jazzy, with a purring lilt to the vocals. The cover of Counting Crows' "A Murder Of One" is fervent and dignified. The first disc is rounded out with Allison's beautiful and echoing acapella performance of the traditional "Believe Me If All".
The soft and soulful "Crayon And Ink" opens the second disc. It's another favourite of her original songs. "How Long" shows off the throatier side of Allison's vocals. "Running" is yet another strong vocal performance, with lyrics that foreshadow "Effortless" on This Little Bird. Allison names Tori Amos as one of her favourite artists and influences, and has covered several of her songs. Here she does a stripped down version of "Playboy Mommy", from Tori's From The Choirgirl Hotel album.
The lovely piano intro of "Disease" melts into a tune that is much darker in tone than most of her work. The song features some of Allison's best and most intense piano playing. Next is a live performance of the title track from the Secrets studio album. It's one of many songs that are featured on both albums. Secrets is another great album, though I must admit I prefer these live versions.
The album ends with a trio of covers. "I Dreamed A Dream" from Les Miserables followed by a cover of John Lennon's "Imagine", and Janis Joplin's "Me And Bobby McGee" for the finale. All three songs have been covered many times by both great and mediocre artists. Here Allison Crowe once again proves that there is no song too great for her powerful voice to conquer. Her vocals on "I Dreamed A Dream" are especially potent and moving. As with her cover of "Hallelujah", she seems to put every fiber of her being into the song and it's an awe inspiring thing to hear.
You can download more mp3s from the album here, and a ridiculously, wonderfully large amount of mp3s from all of Allison's releases here. But you're missing out if you don't buy this CD. It's the kind of album that is best heard as a whole, and one that you can really get lost in it if you give it full attention. And Allison is extremely supportive of music blogs and file sharing, so please support her by purchasing her albums.
Live at Wood Hall: CD Review
Sophia Gurley, The Ectophiles' Guide to Good Music (USA)
This is a two-disc recording of Allison Crowe performing solo over two nights. The recording quality is good, especially for a live concert. She mostly sings her own songs, but does a few covers, including: Ani DiFranco's "Independence Day"; "Bill" from the musical, Showboat; "In Love in Vain" from Centennial Summer (another Jerome Kern song); "Counting Crows' "A Murder of One"; and on the first night ends with the traditional Irish tune "Believe Me If All". The next night she covers: Tori Amos' "Playboy Mommy"; "I Dreamed A Dream" (from Les Mis); John Lennon's "Imagine"; and Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" (which has as much passion and power as Janis Joplin's version). The focus is always on her vocals, which drive songs into consistently powerful, passionate regions, even when she's singing quietly. Her own songwriting stands up well against the covers. She certainly has every bit of ability, talent, and passion she needs to have a long career.
Luna Kafé record review (Europe)
Canada - Full Moon 109 - 08/19/05
Live at Wood Hall
Allison Crowe's debut Secrets was an excellent record and, this double live cd sees the singer alone at the piano. The material is a mix of originals and covers.
Opener "There Is" sees her display considerable vocal firepower to a neat backing. Ani DiFranco's "Independence Day" gets a lovely reading. "Sea of a Million Faces" from the debut gets a jaunty musical reading. Crowe's singing of loneliness suits the backing oddly enough.
Two songs by Jerome Kern, "Bill" and "In Love in Vain" get inspired versions before disc 1 is over. What both discs prove is the sheer power of Crowe's singing. She can belt with the best of them, but she also knows when to hold back. Disc 2's version of "Imagine" could easily have
been over-sung but she lets the words resonate instead. Her take on Tori Amos' "Playboy Mommy" is another gem. "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables is heart-rending.
This record is as great as live discs can get and I think Crowe would be great to see for real.
Copyright © 2005 Anna Maria Stjärnell
"Live at Wood Hall": Album Review
Jennifer Patton, Delusions of Adequacy (USA)
August 16 2005
This time around, the ever prolific Allison Crowe treats fans to a double-disc live album recorded in March 2005 at Victoria, British Columbia's Conservatory of Music. Live at Wood Hall is a voyage through Crowe's concert repertoire and offers up plenty of original tunes as well as a wide range of cover songs in a variety of styles. Armed only with her piano and stellar voice, Allison Crowe delivers a performance of superb quality that belies her young age.
The overall focus of Allison Crowe's music is her voice and lyrics - and what a voice it is! Crowe has a strong and chillingly beautiful but decidedly feminine set of pipes, and it seems she can sing just about anything. There are plenty of ballads, including the anthem-like "There Is" and "Pray for Rain," as well a jazz ("In Love in Vain") and Broadway ("Bill, I Dreamed a Dream"). Although much of Allison's writing focuses on passion, hope, and love, some of Allison's originals, like "Whether I 'm Wrong" and "Disease" are infused with social commentary.
The cover songs on Live at Wood Hall are all well chosen to highlight Crowe's voice, and yet she still manages to give each a bit of personal spin. Allison gives Ani DiFranco's "Independence Day" a sense of urgency not found in the original, while her version of the Counting Crows' "A Murder of One" becomes more haunting and sincere. Her take on Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee" gets a refreshing spin on the piano, while Tori Amos' "Playboy Mommy" sounds completely at home with Allison's style. Still, perhaps the most breathtaking moment is the a capella rendition of the Irish traditional "Believe Me if All" that perfectly caps off the first disc.
With two full discs of material, there's a lot to digest on Live at Wood Hall, but for a concert recording, the album couldn't be better. The mix of originals and cover songs is well balanced, and the recording quality is so magnificent you could hear a pin drop. Such clarity puts all the focus on Allison's voice and piano playing without audience or other noise distractions. For the breadth of material offered and for the unique opportunity to hear Allison Crowe play live (since she doesn't have any US dates coming up that I'm aware of), Live at Wood Hall is a great bet for anyone who loves simply beautiful vocals and piano-based music.
Trevor Raggatt, Wears The Trousers (UK)
October 18, 2005
Live At Wood Hall
Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe's personal mantra adorns the cover of her latest album. That simple maxim is "Why music?" "Why breathing?", so personal is her connection with the music she writes and performs. This new record, her fourth in total, documents a two-night stand at the Robin & Winifred Wood Recital Hall in Victoria, British Columbia in March 2005, taking in twenty-three songs performed live in front of a small but fortunate audience. Crowe was born and raised on Vancouver Island in Nanaimo, a town with two prior claims to musical fame - firstly, for having a deep heritage in brass band music stemming from its coal mining history, and secondly, for being the birthplace of jazz chanteuse, Diana Krall. Fortunately, Allison Crowe has forsaken the former influence and, despite being a talented piano player and singer and sharing stages with Krall, has taken a different musical route and mines very separate sonic seams. Her piano playing often perfectly complements the mood of each song, whether she is tracing delicate arpeggios and melodies or delivering bombastic chordal backing.
This double-disc set amply demonstrates Crowe's profound skill both as a writer and as an interpreter of other peoples' songs, the performances dripping with emotion as she wrings meaning out of both the words and music. Her own compositions range from simple, tender love songs (There Is, By Your Side) to insightful social commentary (Whether I'm Wrong, Disease), and all are delivered in a contemporary style. However, it is perhaps her cover versions that are most revealing of Allison Crowe, and a diverse selection they are too, ranging from her personal favourites and influences (Tori Amos' Playboy Mommy, DiFranco's classic Independence Day and A Murder Of One by Counting Crows) to showtunes Bill and I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables, via the oft-covered Imagine and Me & Bobby McGee. It's the Counting Crows cover that really highlights her skills as an interpreter. Crowe strips the song back to its skeleton and delivers a performance that completely convinces. In her version, the refrain "All your life is such a shame, shame, shame/All your love is just a dream, dream, dream/Open up your eyes" is utterly divorced from the original's lightly hopeful interpretation, becoming instead a cry of pure despair from a heart that can see clearly the life which she is missing. It's a heart-rending tour de force.
Live At Wood Hall easily holds the listener's attention throughout its near 110-minute duration, but whilst it has certain claims on the status of masterpiece, it is perhaps a flawed one. Although Crowe's vocal ability and accuracy are beyond reproach (her use of portamento to attain certain notes is exquisite and has a hugely powerful effect that she wisely resists overusing), there are moments where she fails to reach the odd high note. However, this is completely forgivable in the live context of the album. Larry Anschell's production and engineering serve to give a transparent and intimate document of the concerts - this is no ProTool'd and AutoTuned plastic pop opus but a real musician creating a real performance. Where Crowe's tuning is a little errant, it is not because of a lack of ability, but rather because raw emotion seems to overwhelm the technical aspects of the delivery. Another nice technical touch is that all of the applause and intros are recorded as separate tracks, thereby allowing the listener to edit them out with some nifty programming if they so wish.
The greatest difficulty with Crowe's singing is perhaps most obvious on the Jerome Kern/PG Wodehouse showtune, Bill. While hers is a magnificent interpretation, bringing the song slap bang into the 21st Century, it also over-emphasises her extraordinary vibrato, a technique that is usually used subtly to bring additional depth to a performance. However, when Crowe switches that internal button, it is anything but subtle. Very rapid, deep and with a "square-wave" quality, she turns it on and off like a tremolo effect pedal rather than fading it into sustained passages. On initial listens, this can be rather distracting - too often I was listening to the vibrato rather than the music - but subsequent auditions lessen the shock of the new. A flaw, true, but not a fatal one!
Overall, Live At Wood Hall is a worthy document of a pair of extraordinary performances. More than that though, it's an album that suggests that this young woman from an obscure mining town in Canada is only at the beginning of a long and successful career.
Amy Lotsberg, Collected Sounds (USA)
August 9 2005
If you've been a reader for this site for a while, you know that I've reviewed Allison's music many times. She is on the first artists ever showcased here and as it turns out, in some instances I've been the first reviewer to review a certain CD or song. So she's definitely a Collected Sounds favorite. I'm not really sure that I can say anything new that I haven't already said about Allison. She's amazing.
This recording gives us a chance to see what Allison is like in front of an audience, how she interacts with them, and how she still does not miss a note. That voice is just as crystal clear and spot on as it is on any studio recording.
One of my favorites moments is her cover of Ani DiFranco's "Independence Day". She actually does quite a few covers here. Many songs by Jerome Kern, a Counting Crows tune, John Lennon's "Imagine" and something for
you bluesy rock folks: a cover of Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee" and her voice is perfect for it. Funny, I can't stand Joplin (I know, you want to take away my Female Musician Evangelist card), but I like it when Allison is doing it, even though she sounds very much like Joplin. Go figure!
But most of the other songs are written by Allison and they're just as good, if not better than the covers. My favorites are: There Is, Sea of a Million Faces, Whether I'm Wrong, Crayon & Ink (which was also on a previous release)
This is a great way to get acquainted with the lovely Allison Crowe if you are not already. If you are, well, then you will have to have this to round out your collection.
STOKEDFISH'S CD AND MOVIE TIPS (Switzerland)
Artist: Allison Crowe
Album: Live At Wood Hall
Label: Rubenesque Records LTD
Review: This is a double cd of Allisons Live at Wood Hall Victoria Conservatory Of Music (Victoria B.C. Canada) show on the nights of March 24 and 25 2005. It features 14 of Allison's originals, I especially like the song Disease with its beautiful dreamy piano line at the very beginning, but also By Your Side, Pray For Rain, Immersed and Whether I'm Wrong. Well, it's all good. Alley covers some songs too, for instance Tori Amos' Playboy Mommy, Ani DiFranco's Independence Day and John Lennon's Imagine. She has an excellent voice and is one of the most promising and overlooked artists out there. She also did a great cover of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, not featured on this cd. Allison definitely deserves some more attention. Check her out and enjoy!
Highlights: Disease, By Your Side, Pray For Rain, Immersed
Comparison: Reviewers say Alley is similar to Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan, but well, I don't know...best just buy the cd, you won't regret it, seriously
Copyright (c) 2005, stokedfish