Danny & The Champions Of The WorldDanny & The Champions Of The World
Album: Live Champs!
Label: Loose
Tracks: 13

Danny George Wilson first came to my attention as the leader [with his brother Julian] of the band Grand Drive who started out in 1997 and who made six albums. In 2007, Danny formed a new band, Danny & The Champions Of The World whose name is based on the title of Roald Dahl's 1975 book "Danny, The Champion Of The World".

Danny & The Champs have made four studio albums, the most recent of which was the critically acclaimed "Stay True".

Now, Danny & Co. are about to release a live album [on a double cd] titled "Live Champs!", which was recorded at The Jazz Cafe, Camden, on 6th March 2014.

Danny's intention in recording a live show was to capture the raw passion and energy of the band as they tore through a selection of songs from their albums. All of the thirteen tracks are originals and were written by Danny, with one co-write with David Burn ["Been There Before"].

Danny plays acoustic guitar and sings, whilst the Champs are :- Chris Clarke [ex Rockingbirds] on bass and vocals [he also mixed the album]; Paul Lush [electric guitar];Steve Brookes [drums];Geoff Widdowson [sax, organ, percussion and vocals]and Henry Senior Junior [pedal steel guitar].

If you are not familiar with Danny & The Champs' music, I would best describe them as being like a country-tinged Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The term "Americana"is bandied about a lot these days but Danny & Co. play "Americana" music in its purest form. In other words, they take the basic elements of American music [country, soul, blues and rock and roll] and seamlessly blend them together.

The album kicks off in fine style with Danny's "[Never Stop Building]That Old Space Rocket" which tells how a 14-year old Danny and his father hitchhiked to see a show by The Fabulous Thunderbirds with Jimmie Vaughan at which "something inside my soul was born" according to Danny. This cracking track features some great Allman Brothers-style guitar from Paul Lush, a tremendous sax solo by "Free Jazz"Geoff Widdowson and tasty pedal steel from Henry Senior Jr. [who received tuition in this difficult instrument by the legendary BJ Cole].

I was also particularly impressed with the extended [eleven minute] track "Colonel And The King" on which the band really stretch out with inventive solos from Paul, Henry and Geoff over the rock steady rhythm section of Chris Clarke and Steve Brookes.

Of course, no matter how good a band are [and this one is very good], they need a strong frontman /singer and in Danny they have just such a person. Just listen to Danny's vocals on, for example, "Darlin' Won't You Come In From The Cold", a delightful Dylan-ish country-tinged ballad and you will see what I mean. Danny describes this song as "my favourite".

The second half of the show starts, appropriately enough, on the second disc and begins with the Springsteen-ish "Other Days". Fans of The Boss will, no doubt, enjoy this track.

The second half of the show builds on the promise of the first and Danny and the band take two well-deserved encores; the aforementioned "Been There Before" and the final song "These Days", during which Danny forgets the words!

Clearly, both audience and band had a great night at the Jazz Cafe back in March as evidenced by this excellent live album, which does what Danny intended, that is, to capture the raw energy of the band's live show.

Danny & The Champions are touring throughout the country in October. Catch them if you can because, on the strength of "Live Champs!", they put on a great show.

Peter Cowley

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