Strange Behaviour Image © Immrama Records 2004

Strange Behaviour

album review

More Karnataka Reviews

The Storm*
HLC Rotherham 2000
With Mostly Autumn HLC Rotherham 2001
Mean Fiddler 2001
Karnataka In Concert DVD*
With Sleeping Giant Aylesbury 2002
With October Project 2002
Classic Rock Festival 2002
Delicate Flame Of Desire
The Brook, Southampton 2003*
Robin 2 Bilston 2003
With Mermaid Kiss Stourbridge 2003
Karnataka Live In The USA DVD

* includes indepth interview

Review and HTML © Stephen Lambe and Russell W Elliot 2004
Photos © Stephen Lambe and Chris Walkden 2004
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Last updated: 15 May 2004

Strange Behaviour (Immrama Records (UK) KTK CD 004), 2004) is a superb two-CD live album by the acclaimed Welsh alternative rock band Karnataka. Fronted by vocalists Rachel Jones and Anne-Marie Helder, Karnataka are frequently reviewed at Musical Discoveries and their latest offering finally captures the band's live sound as it was meant to be heard and is a vast improvement on their two DVDs inferiorly produced by Classic Rock Legends. Our album review below is accompanied by a review of the band's debut 2004 live performance at The Limelight Club in Crewe supported by Mermaid Kiss (feature).

Strange Behaviour. One of the best things about seeing Karnataka live is their continuingly revolving set list. No two gigs are ever the same, and this superb album represents the well over two hours of live material they presented during their UK tour in November 2003. The band have selected the best performances from the tour during the compilation and production of this stunning album.

The double album brilliantly presents the band's live sound, perhaps with Jonathan Edwards' keyboards mixed a little higher than found on the studio albums and even in some of the gigs, but all the other aspects of the band's live performance are here. Firstly, at last Rachel Jones’ voice is given full justice on a live recording. Her voice cuts through the mix like a knife coated with honey and she is in fine form throughout. Secondly. Paul Davies' guitar, rarely at its best on the studio projects prior to Delicate Flame of Desire is here magnificent. The live renditions of material from The Storm and Karnataka does it justice previously unachieved. It is at times hard rocking, at times deeply melodic, and other times it reveals epic sweeps of sound.

Thirdly, this is the first recorded work to fully explore the contribution of Ann-Marie Helder. Her flute, providing vital colour on "After the Rain," "Heaven can Wait" and "The Storm" in particular, and her magnificent backing vocals throughout, are a revelation and her importance to the band shines through.

As one would expect from an album made during the tour to support the band's latest studio project, it presents all but one of the tracks from Delicate Flame of Desire. They are faithful renditions in the main, but fans of the band will be interested to hear the stripped down vocal arrangements on these versions and some may even prefer them. Aside from this, the album presents a great collection of songs from the first two albums. The improved sound quality of the songs from the first album will please many, as will the splendidly rearranged version of "The Storm."

We have always been admirers of the bands’ policy of road-testing new material, and there are also two previously unrecorded songs to savour. These include the delightful "These Dreams are Over," which the band played regularly throughout 2003, and the superb and intense "Talk To Me." An album highlight, its eastern flavour suggests Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." There are also two hidden tracks after a gap following "Out Of Reach" -- the rarely played "Run to You" and the ever popular "Shine," which no live Karnataka project would be without.

After two good DVDs with sound ruined by Classic Rock Legends, it is wonderful to report that Strange Behaviour is a magnificent live album, and is highly recommended to all fans of the band. If further provides a convenient "best of" for those looking to dip their toes in the water for the first time. The double CD includes attractive artwork with eighteen pages between the covers including great photographs and a lovely introduction by Jerry Ewing of Classic Rock magazine. The outstanding production of these live performances certainly makes this an essential album. Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham and Russ Elliot in New York

The Limelight Club, Crewe. Mermaid Kiss supported Karnataka's debut gig for the Spring 2004 tour on 09 May 2004. After the technical problems the band struggled with at Stourbridge before Christmas, it was good to see Mermaid Kiss perform in the slightly more relaxed environment of The Limelight. The band played eight songs including an encore to an enthusiastic response, especially from a number of the Karnataka faithful, who seem to have taken the band to their hearts. It is pleasing, also, to report that the songs work very well played live without the additional help of a lead guitarist. For instance, new song "Circles of Fire" is developing in power and emotion despite the additional crunch provided by the electric power. In fact, the band chose, controversially, to leave a guitar solo on their backing tapes.

The star of the show remains Evelyn Downing, whose flute playing and distinctive vocals dominate, while Andy Garman, Jamie Field and the inevitable yet tasteful backing tracks provide atmospheric instrumental support. They played: "Breathing Under Water," "Mermaid Kiss," "Take it all Away," "Soundchaser," "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," "Like Water," "Circles of Fire," and "Write My Name in Stars." This slide show has additional photos taken by Chris Walkden at the concert.

Evelyn Downing
Evelyn Downing
Image © Stephen Lambe 2004

Rachel Jones
Image © Stephen Lambe 2004

One of the things we love about Karnataka is that they often have a surprise in store, and their spring 2004 tour of the UK seems to be no exception. The first was evident before they had sung a note with an edge to their stage clothing rarely seen before. The theme tonight was black and red, with Rachel Jones sporting jet black hair and red PVC trousers, while Ann-Marie Helder was almost unrecognisable, with her new punky hairstyle and clothes and fender telecaster. Ann-Marie, further enhancing her role in the band, now plays very competent rhythm guitar. Ian Jones had replaced his usual bandana with the woolly cap seen a few times before, while drummer Gavin John Griffiths sported a crew cut!

Paul Davies and Ian Jones
Paul Davies and Ian Jones
Image © Stephen Lambe 2004

Jonathan Edwards
Image © Stephen Lambe 2004

The set had certainly had a make over, too. Excellent new rocker "Breathless" replaced traditional opener "Time Stands Still," and there was another new song on display, "Fallen Angels." Aside from that, the band remained as lively and entertaining as ever, playing songs old and new from their large available repertoire, including a revived “Run to You" from their first album and personal favourite The Storm.

Paul Davies remains remarkable, his guitar now high in the mix and contributing even more backing vocals, while both Ann-Marie's flute playing and vocals are even more confident and up front. The set closed with the splendid "Out of Reach”, and they encored with the two impressive new pieces from the last tour and live album, "These Dreams Are Over” and a slightly reworked "Talk to Me." This slide show has additional photos taken by Chris Walkden at the concert.

Anne-Marie Helder
Image © Stephen Lambe 2004

Paul Davies and Rachel Jones
Image © Stephen Lambe 2004

Karnataka's complete set list included: "Breathless," "After the Rain," "Crazy," "Dreamer," "Heaven Can Wait,"I Should Have Known," "Delicate Flame of Desire," "Fallen Angels," "Run to You," "Must be the Devil," "The Right Time," "The Storm," "The Journey," "Out of Reach," "These Dreams Are Over" and "Talk To Me." It is encouraging to see that the band continue to move forward. This was a superb performance once again. Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham

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