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Fish - Toiling in the Reeperbahn CD (album) cover





3.09 | 26 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars This is one of the first brace of five "official bootlegs" that Fish kicked out of the door in a hurry when he was setting up his own record label, following his departure from Polydor. Needing to make money quick, and realising that bootleggers were making a tidy profit off illegitimate copies of shows, Fish decided to put out some sets with cheap- and-cheerful artwork which would beat the bootleggers at their own game.

However, Toiling In the Reeperbahn is the only one of those sets which sounds like an outright bootleg. The others all come from proper soundboard tapes; this does not, it was recorded by an open mic set next to the mixing desk, which means that there's a lot of mix issues (and intrusive audience noise) which simply can't be corrected for in post-production. At points Fish seems outright overwhelmed by the crowd.

This is a real shame, because it's a show from an interesting part of his career. We're still in the wake of Internal Exile's 1991 release, but the set list is rather different from the three late 1991 shows released in this "official bootleg" series (these being the shows on For Whom the Bells Toll, Uncle Fish and the Crypt Creepers, and Derek Dick and His Amazing Electric Bear), or from the BBC show collected on the second half of the Complete BBC Sessions 2-CD set.

You see, this is "Toiling" In the Reeperbahn because this comes from the Hamburg leg of Fish's "Toile Tour" - a string of shows he did in 1992 in small nightclub venues. Fish had several reasons for doing this. First up, money was tight. Second - and exacerbating the first problem - Internal Exile had underperformed on release, and that meant both Polydor and Fish himself were having doubts about Fish's continued viability as a solo performer. Add in both business complications when Hit and Run Music, who'd been handling the publishing rights to his material, and personal bereavement when his good pal and long-standing manager Andy Field died early in the year, and you can understand why 1992 was a rotten year for Fish.

Under the circumstances, a club tour would have made a lot of sense. Smaller audiences lend themselves to a more intimate atmosphere, which could have helped Fish get back to his roots and rediscover his confidence. Touring small venues involves less expenses upfront, but can still earn you some money. And with the Suits album taking a while to percolate (indeed, it'd keep developing for some two years after this release), a club tour was a good way to give some of the new material a bit of a test drive - and indeed there's renditions of songs from Suits here which Fish completists will salivate for, especially since Raw Meat comes across very different here than it does in the studio version.

This being the case, there's a lot of reasons why a Fish collector might be interested in this release from a historical perspective - more so than they would be in, say, the three late-1991 live bootlegs (where if you've got one of them, only a true completist would feel the need to get the other two). Unfortunately, the combination of the ropey recording setup and some technical issues towards the start of the show means that only those collectors will find that much value here.

If you're fascinated by Fish's slow, agonising crash out of the world of the major labels and into the independent territory where he has sank or swum ever since, I can see why you might be excited by Toiling In the Reeperbahn. At the same time, it's just not a very pleasant live show to listen to - both on a technical level, and in its snapshot of a frontman in somewhat desperate professional and personal circumstances - and the vast majority of listeners will get more enjoyment out of more or less any other live Fish release.

Warthur | 2/5 |


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