Scotland's Average White Band was hitting a commercial and arguably artistic peak in 1977 when they hit the stage at Montreux's Jazz Festival. This hour-long CD, culled from the DVD which includes three more tracks, shows the six-piece (with added percussionist Sammy Figueroa) in fine fettle, running through their hits, covers, and even an as yet unrecorded "Pick Up the Pieces"-styled instrumental ("Sweet & Sour" would later appear on 1978's Warmer Communications). Although most of the eight tunes are also included on 1977's live Person to Person, these performances are hotter and not edited together. AWB liked to expand songs, often past their breaking points, during concerts, which is exemplified here with 14 minutes of "Cut the Cake" (nearly quadrupling the time of the studio version with lengthy solos from each member), and another 12 on a cover of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine"). Some of it you had to be there for, especially the incessant "everybody get up" shouts of encouragement during the somewhat drawn-out "Grapevine," a tune that doesn't quite justify its extended length unless you were caught up in the concert excitement. But generally, this is a rollicking, funky, soulful gig from a band that clearly loved playing live and relished the improvisational sparks created in that environment as opposed to their more controlled but just as compelling studio performances. Hearing this gig in retrospect, knowing that AWB only had one more good album in them and were soon to fall from the public's graces (although decades later various musicians have continued touring under its moniker) with lackluster recordings that never captured the sheer exuberance of playing heard in this sparkling set, makes it even more valuable. One quibble is that with 15 minutes of CD time unused, at least one of those three songs edited from the DVD could have been added. ~ Hal Horowitz, Rovi

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