Robert Palmer - lead vocals; Freddie Wall - guitar; Jerry Wiener - guitar; Steve Robbins - keyboards; James Allen Smith - keyboards; Pierre Brock - bass; Leo Damien - drums; Jodi Linscott - percussion; Greg Carroll - backup vocals; Sylvia Cox - backup vocals
After performing for several years in various blues, soul, and jazz bands, in 1970 Robert Palmer joined the jazz-rock outfit Dada, where he first worked alongside singer Elkie Brooks. The band lasted barely a year, after which Palmer and Brooks teamed up to form the British rhythm and blues band, Vinegar Joe. Palmer shared lead vocal duties with Brooks, as well as played guitar, releasing three critically acclaimed (but commercially unsuccessful) albums for Island Records between 1972 and 1973. When Vinegar Joe folded, Island Records signed Palmer as a solo artist, based on his strong stage presence, soulful voice and youthful good looks. In New Orleans the following year, with Little Feat founder Lowell George in the producer's chair, Palmer recorded his debut solo album Sneaking Sally Through the Alley. With Lowell George on guitar and backed by the funk-fusion masters, The Meters, the album not surprisingly had an overt Little Feat/New Orleans vibe that struck a chord with American listeners and it soon hit the charts in the United States. His first single, a cover of Little Feat's "Sailin' Shoes" also charted in the US bringing him greater American exposure than ever before. Palmer soon relocated from London to New York City, where he began work on the follow-up album Pressure Drop, which would fully establish his solo career. Featuring Motown bassist extraordinaire James Jamerson, the album was infused with a soulful reggae vibe that gained him even greater recognition, prompting him to assemble an outstanding touring band.
Recorded at Middletown Connecticut's Wesleyan University in the fall of 1976, a school renowned for its esoteric music-related programs, this performance captures Palmer and his outstanding band during the key 1976 time period, before an audience that truly appreciated his unique stylistic blend. Traveling with a nine-piece band that featured two guitarists, two keyboard players, two backup vocalists as well as a propulsive rhythm section, this was an exciting time to catch Palmer in performance. His band was capable of a wide range of styles, ranging from rock, R&B, soul, jazz-fusion to reggae, blurring the edges between them and creating a very compelling brew. Not surprisingly, the show focuses on a hefty selection of material from both of Palmer's 1976 albums, Pressure Drop and its follow-up, Some People Can Do What They Like.
From Pressure Drop, Palmer performs propulsive takes on the Toots Hibbert penned title track, as well as "Give Me An Inch," "Fine Time," and an expansive vamp on "Work To Make It Work," which showcases every band member with impressive solo spots. An equally excellent choice of material from Some People Can Do What They Like is also featured here. In addition to the title song, this set also includes "Hard Head" (here paired with "Pressure Drop"), "What Can You Bring Me" and his current reggae-inflected single "Man Smart, Woman Smarter," a song the Grateful Dead would later adopt into their permanent repertoire.
This all leads up to the set-closing medley that kicked off his debut album, beginning with Little Feat's "Sailin' Shoes," transitioning directly into his own "Hey Julia" and concluding with a rousing and extremely snakey take on "Sneaking Sally Through the Alley." This recording captures Robert Palmer at the peak of the early phase of his solo career, when this eclectic mix of musical styles was fresh and thoroughly exciting. This is a prime example of Palmer's soulful voice and undeniable stage presence captivating an audience and gaining him well-deserved greater recognition. All of this music is fused with a loose New Orleans R&B/funk groove, seasoned with a healthy dose of reggae that is undeniably infectious.