The South Wales valleys and rock n’ roll are not usually associated with each other. But Stereophonics have melded the two to create a foundation on which to build their band. This foundation has stood the test of time, with Stereophonics being one of the most enduring and popular bands of the last few decades. Don’t Let the Devil Take Another Day, the recently released album by frontman Kelly Jones, provides a great synopsis of the career of this much-loved band, whose history spans the last 25 years. Reflecting the vast discography that the band possesses, Don’t Let the Devil Take Another Day is a lengthy album, clocking in at 21 songs. As a live album documenting stripped-back performances by Jones and his backing band, it offers a unique opportunity to experience the songs fans know and love in a different light that focusses on a level of intimacy that allows Jones’ ability as a songwriter and performer to shine through.
This feeling of intimacy is strengthened not only by the great faded album cover, which depicts a solemn-looking Jones in a dressing room with a guitar, but also by the album being interspersed with stories told by Jones about his and the band’s past. Musos will be impressed to hear Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Eagles, Bob Seger, and Dire Straits being referenced as influences. There’s even a story featuring David Bowie’s classic wit and what’s more, the album includes a cover of the great American songwriter Kris Kristofferson’s song Help Me Make It Through The Night.
As for the performances themselves, the album is truly inspirational in terms of live arrangements. There is nothing ostentatious about the performances, but this reservation is used as a tool to emphasise each instrument as it comes into the mix. The phenomenal backing band are obviously exponents of the mantra of quality over quantity, using their instruments sparingly to serve the song and performance. The songs draw you in with soft piano, guitar and vocals, rendering you transfixed, as small explosions go off in your body as a new instrument or melody slides into the performance, such as the pleasantly surprising arrival of horns in I Stopped To Fill My Car Up and Boy On A Bike.
The listener is made to wait until the end of the album for Jones’ reinterpretations of the band’s biggest hits. He sings Maybe Tomorrow with more languor than is heard on the studio version, while still managing to work the audience so they join in with the chorus. The album ends with a version of Stereophonics’ only UK Number 1 Dakota, that offers an all-band catharsis needed after a concert in which one invests so much and ensures the audience will have left wanting more and singing along to their favourites long after they left.