Kiki Dee - vocals; Jo Partridge - guitar; Toby Bias Boshell - keyboards; B.J. Cole - pedal steel guitar; Mike Wedgwood - bass; Pete Clarke - drums
A versatile singer, songwriter, lyricist, and actress, Kiki Dee has scored 10 hit singles over the course of a career now spanning four decades. Often credited as one of the finest British female vocalists, Kiki Dee has never followed any single path, singing pop, rock, soul, blues, disco, and world music, as well as issuing recordings in six different languages. Throughout her career, Dee has embraced musical diversity, which has freed her from ever becoming pigeonholed. As a result she has remained free to record and perform a wide variety of material. Her most famous song, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," was a duet with Elton John, which was released in 1976 and went to Number 1 in the U.K. Singles Chart and the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Dee's recording career actually began long before that when she released her first album, I'm Kiki Dee in 1968. Late the following year, she became the first white woman ever to be signed to Berry Gordy's Tamla-Motown label, for which she recorded the Great Expectations album in 1970. After limited international success, she was signed to Elton John's Rocket Records label. Her first album for Rocket, 1973's Lovin' And Free was produced by Elton John and featured a diverse range of material, from string laden ballads to a gutsy horn-infused version of Free's "Travellin' In Style." Kiki Dee's breakthrough occurred with the follow-up album, I've Got The Music In Me, where Elton John again helped Dee achieve stylistic diversity while getting to the heart of each song. This 1974 album remains her most popular recording.
It was during the American tour promoting the release of her I've Got The Music In Me album that this recording was made. Opening for Steely Dan at Robertson Gym on the campus of UCSB in Santa Barbara, this set captures the Kiki Dee Band in their prime. Dee had assembled a remarkable band for this tour which featured Toby "Bias" Boshell, a veteran of the British folk-rock band Trees as her musical director on keyboards. The group also featured ex-Joan Armatrading guitarist Jo Partridge, veteran Liverpool drummer Pete Clarke, bassist Mike Wedgewood, and B.J. Cole, one of the greatest and most widely respected British session musicians on pedal steel guitar.
Not surprisingly, Kiki Dee's set primarily focuses on material from the new album at the time, I've Got The Music In Me, although the title track is not included here. The set begins in progress, with the polished and well-crafted Bias Boshell song, "Step By Step." This is a fairly straightforward pop-rock number, but it is on the following song, composed by Kiki Dee herself, that her vocal abilities become much more impressive. This electric piano based ballad features tasteful accompaniment that continues to build throughout the song. Dee's vocal is front and center and is strong and emotive on this introspective ballad. "Sugar On The Floor, " another Dee original, continues in a similar vein, showcasing her vocals in a most positive light.
She continues with two more new album songs penned by Boshell, with a classic Lowell George number sandwiched in between. First up is the commercially geared rocker, "You Need Help," which allows Dee to belt out her vocals. An adventurous cover of Little Feat's "Two Trains" follows in a similar fashion. However, it is the next song, "Heart And Soul," that is the most compelling song of the set. Here, Dee is at her most soulful, her voice recalling both Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crowe at times. Kiki Dee closes her set with a highly energetic arrangement of the Dave Dudley truck-driving anthem, "Six Days On The Road."