A Bridge to the past

Citadelle build a tower that spans the decades
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  September 19, 2007
CURVING PERCEPTION: Citadelle are great
with the lights out.

Anybody out there old enough to remember Burt Sugarman’s Midnight Special? It was a wondrous live-music show in a time of gratuitous lip-synching much like our own, running 90 minutes on NBC every Friday night after Carson got over. It’s only vaguely on the fringes of my memory, as it ran from 1973 to 1981 and I ain’t that old, but they’ve made a kick-ass DVD package as a retrospective and the performances they’ve gathered are extraordinary. Have you seen a young Tina Turner shake it? Do you realize how hot Stevie Nicks was? Did you know Neil Sedaka used to be pretty cool?

The show stands as a brilliant reminder that music used to be about the performance and the song. People played each other’s songs, songwriters had hits with multiple bands, and the sweat dripped off Al Green like he’d been hosed down in the green room beforehand—and all he did was sing.

Laser Bridge to Eagle City | Released by Citadelle
If you’ve seen Citadelle over the past year, you’re probably buying what I’m selling here. If there was any justice in the world, Burt Sugarman would come out of retirement (actually, he may be dead or something, as my research cannot verify he’s still alive) and launch a new program, just to put Citadelle up on the same stage that once saw Genesis play in 1974, along with Foghat, John Mayall, and Mott the Hoople. All of these bands understood that if a song is five minutes long, it’s because you’ve written three bridges and two different verse types, not because you’ve decided to go AB seven times. Also, there should be at least three instruments ripping solos, sometimes all at once. Plus, have a really warm guitar tone that’s as fat as your average American teenager.

Yeah, Citadelle, led by the multi-voiced Barry Burst, is psychedelic as hell, dripping with guitars, harmonies, organ, and thrumming bass on their new album, Laser Bridge to Eagle City. Unfortunately, they’ve yet again lost their drummer, so they’re not going to play a CD-release show, and Burst says the band will be moving to California in early October, so you’re not likely to see them again any time soon. The least you can do is buy the album at Bull Moose and give them a little moving money. It’s certainly worth a sawbuck.

Recorded by the band in their practice space using GarageBand (one of those easy-to-use Mac programs — probably Communist), the instruments can sometimes sound distant, and I’d have made some different choices with the mix, but there’s plenty to enjoy here, from fantastical lyrics to chugging garage blues to a crisp flute break in the opening of “A Winter’s Walk,” the disc’s first track. More of the Chris Wood (Traffic) variety than the Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull, you know that one), Burst’s piping follows wind chimes and tribal drums that finish in a jarring crash. It provides a melodic counterpoint to the low-end guitars and prepares the listener for vocals like, “Summer leaves on the ground/Darkness and winter walk hand in hand/And so the sun sets at every turn/ And so the candles fall, ever burnt.”

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