Sunday 21 August 2016

#76 THE BLUE NILE - The Bottom Line, NYC. 1990 (Flac)

The Bottom Line
New York City
July 23, 1990

The Blue Nile have variously been described as adult alternative pop, dream pop, alternative rock, ambient folk and synth pop, all of these terms vainly try and box the group’s music into a particular genre. What can be said without any doubt is that in the 1980’s they released two absolute classic albums: A Walk Across The Rooftops (1984) and Hats (1989)

This show can be considered as part one of an unofficial trilogy of live recordings from 1990 (Manchester and Glasgow are the others) and is taken from either a soundboard or an FM broadcast. (lineage details included with the notes are vague)

The group began their first ever tour with dates in the USA before returning home for their debut UK tour in September, ending with two shows at the Royal Concert Hall in their native city of Glasgow.
The performance and sound quality of this recording is superb and while no live recording can ever compete with the recorded perfection of the two previously mentioned albums, this show comes pretty damn close. Of the fourteen tracks spread over the first two releases, eleven are included here, six from Hats and five from the debut album, A Walk Across The Rooftops, closing in fast on it’s 30th anniversary release date.

01. A Walk Across the Rooftops
02. Tinseltown In The Rain
03. Heatwave
04. Over The Hillside
05. Stay
06. Easter Parade
07. band intro
08. Downtown Lights
09. Saturday Night
10. Headlights On The Parade
11. Seven A.M.
12. Let's Go Out Tonight

Glasgow's unique but extremely slow-moving (four albums in 20 years!) Blue Nile has a wealth of creative depth, building atmosphere with lots of empty space and carefully controlled conflicting musical maneuvers. The title track of the trio's first album mixes strings, horns, drum and bass with a meandering, disjunct vocal for something like a blend of Robert Wyatt, Joni Mitchell and John Cale. Although A Walk Across the Rooftops isn't easy to love, at its most accessible point ("Stay," which actually has a chorus and more of a verse melody than the others), it's quite appealing.

Hats was five years in the making, but the band's relentless perfectionism paid off: the seven songs are as dense and moving as a midnight sky. With sweeping synths and the pristine click of electronic percussion, "The Downtown Lights" and "Over the Hillside" are moody like film music, while "From a Late Night Train" and "Saturday Night" are impressionistic vignettes that creep along in slow motion. There's hardly a guitar or live drum to be heard, but seldom has studio technology been used to such warm and personal results.

A vast seven-year gap yawned between the Blue Nile's second and third albums. During that time (part of which was devoted to the lengthy process of securing a new record deal), the perfectionists' only visible activities were one tour and three collaborations. They recorded a cover of Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" on Clannad vocalist Màire Brennan's Misty Eyed Adventures, a live British B-side with Rickie Lee Jones, and "The Gift," a song the threesome co-wrote with Annie Lennox for her Diva album; Lennox certified her satisfaction by including the Blue Nile's "Downtown Lights" on her Medusa collection.

Recorded (somewhat tellingly) in Los Angeles, Peace at Last is by far the atmospheric group's most diverse, accessible and fully realized work. Generally more upbeat and conventional than the first two, the album uses vastly different instrumentation — acoustic guitars, strings, even a gospel choir on "Happiness" — yet retains the group's distinctive melancholy, panoramic feel. The pop ideas explored rather clumsily on Hats are infinitely more assured here; while the horn-speckled "Sentimental Man" summons fearsome visions of Phil Collins, "Body and Soul" slithers brilliantly on- and off-beat, showing how thoroughly the group has managed to integrate groove into its sound. Although the unmistakable whiff of centrist tendencies imbues the proceedings — there's even a lump-in-the-throat Christmas ballad called "Family Life" — Peace at Last is a natural and dramatic progression.

Between Blue Nile releases, frontman Paul Buchanan lent his distinctive vocals to several outside projects, including Peter Gabriel's OVO, smooth jazz trumpeter Chris Botti's Midnight Without You and composer Craig Armstrong's The Space Between Us.

After another eight-year pause, the Blue Nile finally returned with High, abandoning the more organic trappings of Peace at Last in favor of the lush, synthesized feel of Hats. High is the first Blue Nile album that makes no significant stylistic advance over its predecessors but the best moments are true to the band’s essential qualities. (The lesser moments suggest its signature sound could ossify into formula.) Buchanan’s characteristically bittersweet lyrics return to familiar themes: the drudgery of the workaday world and relationships both good and bad. "Because of Toledo" stands out in part due to an arrangement that is little more than acoustic guitar and Buchanan's voice. "Broken Loves" deftly delineates a difficult father/son relationship while expending a fair amount of musical energy running in place. "She Saw the World" and "Everybody Else" make more focused use of that energy. "I Would Never" and "Days of Our Lives" recapture the languid grace of earlier songs like “Over the Hillside.” But the title track's lyrical search for transcendence is undercut by a prosaic chorus."I Would Never" was released as a CD single, with cover art depicting three straw hats. The single adds two tracks that predate A Walk Across the Rooftops. "I Love This Life" brims with youthful enthusiasm in strong contrast to the often complicated grown-up concerns of their later work. "The Second Act," an early B-side previously unreleased on CD, shows a developing band that hasn't quite arrived at its signature sound.

Since the release of High, Buchanan has continued to collaborate with other musicians: he sang on Aqualung's Memory Man album and co-wrote a song on the 2010 Magnetic North release. His vocals are also featured on "Sleep" from Texas' 2006 Red Book album.

Buchanan returned in 2012 with Mid Air, a solo album of elegiac ballads. While many of these short songs (most clock in under three minutes) are individually excellent, they are too much alike to make it a strong album. Buchanan is a master at creating a mood of ephemeral beauty, but the arrangements vary little: he croons gently over simple piano accompaniment that often traces the melody line, while synthesized sweetening fleshes out the sound. The Blue Nile used this approach fruitfully on tracks like “Easter Parade,” “Because of Toledo,” and “From a Late Night Train,” surrounding them with contrasting fare. Mid Air cries out for similar variety, but only the lovely orchestral instrumental “Fin de Siecle” breaks form. This particular whole is not greater than the sum of its parts, beautifully wrought though the parts are. “Cars in the Garden” and “I Remember You” are among the high points. The 24-track edition contains several alternate versions, including a pair of remixes credited to Blue Nile’s Robert Bell. (Trouser Press)


  1. Black Sabbath to the Blue Nile!

    No one can complain about a lack of breadth here at 100 greatest bootlegs, can they? Thank you.

  2. Thanks! This is my first exposure to these lads. Will check it out.

  3. from one extreme to another but as Dylan would say "it's all good"

  4. What a wonderful, wonderful treat this is!! I had no idea that there was any other live material out there, other than the 1990 Free Trade Hall (Manchester, England) recording. A heaping spoonful of thanks to you for offering.

  5. Your welcome, there are four recordings that I know of from the 1990 tour. An FM broadcast by BBC Radio Scotland from the final Glasgow show and an earlier Aud from Chicago.

    1. I have more recordings, but the band won’t approve a release! The main one bootleggers seem to be looking for is a live performance on KCRW in Los Angeles, which was amazing.

    2. The Glasgow shows were amazingly triumphant... I had to step in and mix the entire UK tour when the FOH mixer who was recommended did not get the group at all..we jettisoned him the night before our first gig..and I took all worked out !!

    3. Just wish I went to see them around this time, Steve.
      One of my favourites of the Dylan official boots is Vol 10 I have the original album, the sound and mix you and Steve did for this release caused many fans of Bob to seriously look again at this overlooked period. Superb work

  6. I was lucky enough to be at one of the Glasgow shows - through the good fortune of a friend's date bailing at the last minute and getting her fantastic seat. IIRC they were the opening concerts at the Concert Hall and might even have been their first shows in their hometown!

    Anyway, I have somewhere, a cassette of the show I was at. The one I got was run off from the master tape by a friend who was working in Radio Clyde on Xmas day - they were broadcasting the show that day. I'm not sure if you're mixing up the RC with RS or there's two recordings of the Glasgow shows.

  7. The Glasgow show notes I have says it's from a Radio Scotland broadcast, the uploader may have been mistaken or it may be from a later broadcast. It has some cuts between songs, slight hiss but still a quality listen with a bit more atmosphere than NYC.
    If your tape is taken from the master maybe you will get someone to transfer it someday to digital and share. I'm sure it would be a nice upgrade to what circulates.

    The Blue Nile were indeed the first to play at the newly built Royal Concert Hall. They also performed in their early days well before the debut album at Saints and Sinners, better known now as King Tut's.

  8. I'd need to find it! Its in a box somewhere. I recall the atmosphere being something special at the show because it was the first hometown show since they became a legend in Glasgow and the opening of the Concert Hall - the venue really suited them, the sound was superb.

    I still sometimes see Paul Buchanan about the West End!

  9. Gentlemen (basement67 and Steve Mc):

    Your exchange is whetting my curiosity! 'Twould be most delighted to hear more of the always sublime Blue Nile.

  10. Thanks for this, thebasement67! Just found the blog. Steve Mc, I hope you're digging through boxes as we speak! :)

  11. AMAZING !
    Thank you very much.

  12. Just listened to it and am astonished these 25 years later. Plus I can hear myself laugh at one of Buchanan's remarks between tracks! My soon to be wife was with me along with my best friend and his nearly wife. Everyone in the crowd was music business people. Suzanne Vega was at the table beside us. Beautiful night in the tiny Bottom Line. Saw John Martyn there a month or two later.

    1. Great memories, sounds like a fabulous venue to see a band, judging by the many great boots that have been recorded there.

  13. Just found your site by accident and was overjoyed to find this recording here. Superb mix and sound quality. Many thanks for uploading this.

  14. I saw this same tour in August (I think) in London. It was a very personable and memorable performance.

  15. Steve Mc and your comments re the Glasgow piqued my curiosity as I have two live tapes, buried for years in a box which I have taken out and had a listen to just now. I thought they were different shows as one is from R1 and the other from Radio Scotland but both are in fact the Manchester Free Trade Hall concert from "Autumn" 1990.

    The Radio Scotland one was broadcast just after New Year 1991 and has an interview with Robert Bell and they wish each other Happy New Year and refer to a single to be released on January 7th. (I recall one of them has the drop outs that Steve referred to but haven't gone all the way through the yet.) I can't see them having broadcast two separate shows within a week so I think the uploader has made the same mistake as I did until I checked properly.

    Based on the sound quality I think the R1 show is slightly crisper and might have been a direct broadcast whereas the Radio Scotland one would be a live tape broadcast. Or it could be down to Dolby which for some daft reason I used, must have been about the only time I ever did. The quality is pretty marvellous but I was recording using an audiophile's dream of a tuner, the Creek 3040, the only competition at the time to the £1000 Naim.

    I would love to digitise it and upload it along with other stuff I recorded at the time, mid 1980's. You mentioned in another post someone who'd been out of the loop for many years and I am in the same boat, having moved away from Rock music for a long, long time. I taped over a lot of my live broadcasts (ouch...) but I still have a few, was listening earlier to the Sugarcubes, Saints, Cure at Glastonbury 86, Bunnymen Liverpool Jan 88, Waterboys Glastonbury, 86 I think, Smiths Kilburn 86. Not sure how common these are but I am pretty confident my recordings will beat any others out there. I also have some nice stuff I traded for at the time from another guy who got good stuff, Gun Club, Husker Du, Magazine, etc, and a BIG heap of The Chills.

    1. Anon, your comment was stuck in the spam folder - because you had mentioned other websites in your last two paragraphs (the ones you asked to be edited).

      Certainly if you have recordings that you wish to circulate online then I can accomodate a series of guest posts by you. You will receive full credit anonymously or with a name of your choice.

      As for transfering to your PC the audio can be digitised by various means. One way is to connect a CD recorder to your seperates cassette deck and record as two files a side and b side. These can be upped as a cdr rip and I can edit and split the tracks. The other option is to connect audio leads between your audio amplifier and pc or laptop. There is plenty info on converting audio to digital on the net.
      At present I don't have a decent cassette deck for transfers or I would have offered to do it for you.

      Thanks for an interesting email. Pleased to hear you are getting back into music after a break.

      As for Manchester I don't have a recording to compare.

      You can contact me direct via the email address on the RH side, see the About Me box

  16. Thanks for the compliments. I helped set all of this up in Bearsville NY rehearsals for a month and did sound on that first tour supporting Hats. There have been several bootlegs and i have no idea where they came from. My board tape mixes are public on “7am” on the “Saturday Night” CD single as well as the “Flags and Fences” video documentary, but this sounds like a “board tape”. It was awesome to be a part of and The NY Times review of this show said something about my work. I’m very proud of this run:

  17. Well deserved Robin. It must have an incredibly exciting time for you.
    Apparently there were over 1000 shows recorded at the Bottom Line during its 30+ year history. So yes board tape sounds right.
    I see you were namechecked in author Allan Brown's book 'Nileism The Strange Course of The Blue Nile' He mentions the Manchester & Glasgow shows in the bootleg section. The broadcasts are of two different shows in these cities. I A/B'd them recently and his book backs up my original thoughts. These two shows originate via BBC broadcasts, one on a pre-FM transcription disc. The other from the Bottom Line board recording. Insert applause here...
    Thanks for your work and you have every right to be proud of such an inportant part of musical history.