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  Live By Request
Artist: Blondie 
Label: Sanctuary Records
Length: 14/56:42

The late '70’s brought forth a wave of bands that combined elements of rock, reggae, and a plethora of other genres together in order to sound like something new.  Bands like Television, The Ramones, The Police, and The Clash created a loud, discordant, yet somehow compelling force called punk. Spawned in sweaty nightclubs like CBGB’s, punk spawned many imitators, centered mainly around energy, three chords, and a DIY approach that has affected rock music for thirty plus years.

Another band that led the way during this time was Blondie.  Former Playmate Deborah Harry and guitarist Chris Stein grabbed a drummer and started writing.  Songs like “Heart of Glass” and “Rapture” became constants among radio listeners.  Thirty years after their formation, Blondie is back on the road.  “Live By Request” is a performance in New York City that is being released both on CD and DVD.

The band, consisting of Harry, Stein, Clem Burke (drums), and Jimmy Destri (keyboards),  is in fine form, playing standards like “One Way or Another,” and “Call Me.”  In some ways, this could serve as Blondie’s greatest hits album, with only one exception.  Harry’s voice is not up to par.  Granted, she is in her fifties.  But on songs like “Heart of Glass,” and most notably on “Call Me,” her trademark rasp is no longer able to reach the high notes that once characterized Blondie’s tone.

“The Tide is High” gets re-worked, into a slower, pop/reggae styled-tune. It works.  The bonus track “(I’, Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear” doesn’t fare as well, coming off somewhat like a GoGos outtake.  Still, the album serves as almost a time capsule piece, reminding us of the days when attitude and a few songs could take a band all over the world, if they were willing to put in the work.  It is a fun reminder of the days when some of us were young and brash, and swore we’d never have a desk job…

Brian A. Smith
3 October 2004



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