When T-Bone Burnett throws a party and invites friends and colleagues to attend, it is sure to be a rollicking time. The producer, who has helmed albums for everyone from The Bodeans to Robert Plant, did just that in October 2010 to benefit arts and music education in public schools. Dubbed the Speaking Clock Revue, Burnett and a collection of high profile artists took the stage at New York Cityâ€™s Beacon Theatre, and from these performances comes T Bone Burnett Presents The Speaking Clock Revue â€“ Live From The Beacon Theatre.
The performances culled for this release are well-defined and succinct, and the arrangement and backing exude a professional polish that you would expect from Burnett and his cohorts. This works well at times, particularly on Elvis Costelloâ€™s energized opener â€œJimmie Standing in the Rain,â€ Yim Yamesâ€™ smoky reading of â€œWonderful (The Way I Feel),â€ and John Mellencampâ€™s â€œTroubled Land.â€ However, others struggle with the format, and Gregg Allmanâ€™s â€œMidnight Riderâ€ and Neko Caseâ€™s â€œHold On, Hold Onâ€ feel truncated; the compositions begin and end in the blink of an eye.
Under the direction of Marc Ribot, the artists sound warm and in the present, and the collective of backing musicians clearly hone in on the texture and nuance of the compositions that they support. Musically, this is where The Speaking Clock Revue shines; however, the real stand-out on this compilation is the cause. In a time when arts programs are crumbling beneath budget cuts, Burnettâ€™s efforts are admirable and his host of talented friends is put to good use raising money and bringing recognition to the unquestionable need for music education for children.
T Bone Burnett Presents The Speaking Clock Revue â€“ Live From The Beacon Theatre is out now on Shout! Factory.