“Night Train to Budapest Farewell Tour – Live 2014” – Henrik Freischlader

4 stars (out of 5)

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Lve 2014 TitleIt came as a bit of a shock last year when Henrik Freischlader announced that he was undertaking his farewell tour in support of the “Night Train to Budapest” album. To UK fans, the announcement seemed to come out of nowhere but whatever Henrik’s reasons are, you have to respect them and make the most of the fairly substantial legacy that’s already out there. As a parting shot, he’s pulled together some live recordings from the final tour for release as “Night Train to Budapest Farewell Tour – Live 2014” which is released on Cable Car Records on Friday March 27th.

I was quite critical of Henrik’s previous live CD, mainly because it was spread over four CDs and felt a bit unfocussed. “Live 2014” is very different. It comprises ten tracks on one CD and it’s all (apart from a small excerpt) original material. When you’re a supremely gifted player like Henrik, it’s tempting to throw in a cover as a crowd-pleaser but it can be a distraction; there’s none of that here. As you might expect from the title, songs from “Night Train to Budapest” predominate; “A Better Man”, “Everything is Gone”, “Point of View” and “Gimme All You Got” all feature, while there are two each from “Get Closer” (“Too Cool for Me” and “Keep Playin’”) and “The Blues” (“Disappointed Women” and “She Ain’t Got the Blues”) and one from “Recorded by Martin Meinschäfer”, the slow, powerful closer “Desert Love”.

As a closing statement from Henrik, it’s pretty good. The band are excellent throughout, Dirk Sengotta (drums) and Theofilos Fotiadis (bass) providing a solid platform for the melodies and improvisations of Henrik and Moritz Fuhrhop (keyboards). The songs showcase Henrik’s voice (very under-rated, in my opinion) and his guitar mastery across a variety of styles from the straight raucous blues of “She Ain’t Got the Blues” through the funkier “A Better Man” to the slow controlled power of “Desert Love”. He nails the fast stuff, but his mastery of the slow and soulful is complete; there isn’t a modern guitar player I would rather hear playing slow and emotional. Because this is a live set, the emphasis is very much on the playing (which is exceptional) and sometimes the songs and the vocals lose a bit of value. I would have loved to hear something from “House in the Woods”, which was a very strong set of songs. Maybe “Breaking my Heart Again”, a powerful song with a great vocal.

I’m sorry that Henrik has decided the band thing isn’t working for him but it’s good that he’s still involved in Cable Car Records as a musician , writer and producer. If the label continues to release artists as talented as Layla Zoe, Linda Sutti and Tommy Schneller, then he’s still making the world a better place.

“Night Train to Budapest Farewell Tour – Live 2012” is out on March 27th on Cable Car Records (CCR 0311-45).