Oh California. So much to answer for....

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Cardiff International Arena

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Cardiff International Arena

Oh California. So much to answer for.

The fact that [a]Lone Justice[/a] came out of LA rather than Arkansas might be a clue to why the end of this chronological compilation sounds so different from the start. Because [a]Lone Justice[/a] could have been contenders. But they ended up supporting [a]U2[/a].

From the song titles like ‘Drugstore Cowboy’, ‘Rattlesnake Mama’ and ‘Workin’ Man’s Blues’ you may correctly deduce that singer Maria McKee did not initially intend to end up on the soundtrack of Tom Cruise movies [I](‘Show Me Heaven’ on [/I]Days Of Thunder [I]- Soundtrack Ed)[/I]. Indeed, the first five, pre-debut album tracks here briefly threaten to do to country & western tradition what The Pogues did to Irish folk.

McKee might sound just a little too much like Bonnie Langford for comfort, but as the Gwen Stefani of her day she rocked some serious bells.

But the contrast is immediately seen on the sixth track, ‘Go Away Little Boy’ (remastered here by the one and only Bob Clearmountain, MOR legend), chunky, ‘good time’ country rock that would have perfectly graced [I]The Whistle Test[/I] then or VH-1 now.

Likewise, ‘Ways To Be Wicked’ and ‘Shelter’ merely sound like diet Texas. There are echoes of their initial energy elsewhere – ‘East Of Eden’ and the gospelly ‘I Found Love’ wail and growl like they actually needed to be said. But when you find yourself duetting with Bono on ‘Sweet Jane’ you have to wonder where it all went wrong… 8/10 for the first five tracks, for the rest