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Chris Barber: Can’t Stop Now (European Tour 2007)

Notwithstanding the parenthetical subtitle and the boldface claim in the press release that this album was “recorded live during his European Tour in 2007,” Can’t Stop Now is a grab-bag of Chris Barber recordings, the bulk of which were recorded at British concerts in Newport in February 2006 and Buxton in November 2006, with a couple dating back to the 1980s. The title song, apparently inspired by the 76-year-old Barber’s reply to Eric Clapton’s query about how long he could go on performing, appears to have been specially written by Graham Lyle and Richard Simmons, and is the only track to date from 2007. Boasting a throaty Barber vocal, it starts things off in something of a pop style that is continued with a 1986 or 1988 (the annotations are contradictory) performance of the Barber original “Music From the Land of Dreams.”

Thereafter, the Big Chris Barber Band or a six-piece subset of it reverts to Barber’s usual British trad-jazz style, combining Dixieland with American folk and folk-blues. The latter styles come to the fore during a three-song mini-set featuring British singer Andy Fairweather-Low, who seems to be channeling Lonnie Donegan for this outing. The album concludes with two of the band’s warhorses, “Ice Cream” and “Petite Fleur,” followed, oddly enough, by a version of the big-band standard “Big Noise From Winnetka” that devolves into an extended bass-and-drums improvisation from Vic Pitt (hence the title “Pitt’s Extract”) and John Sutton. The album has more the quality of a stitched-together mix-tape than a coherent collection, but that doesn’t keep it from touching all the bases of Barber’s music and providing plenty of enjoyment along the way. There’s no reason to stop if you’re still having this much fun.

Originally Published