Why Michael Des Barres has only ever enjoyed fleeting glimpses of fame is one of rock’s great mysteries. The English toff had a charmed start to his career with London-based Silverhead, enjoying the patronage of Deep Purple and being signed to the band’s own Purple Records label. The loon-panted frontman and self-styled ‘swashfuckler’ then moved to Los Angeles and went one better with Detective, who were snaffled up by Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label.
The initial signs were very good indeed. If Zep were grounded in the blues, then Detective’s shtick came from soul music. Their self-titled debut (1977) was a total barnstormer, tracks such as One More Heartache and Grim Reaper rippling with raven-hearted Sunset Strip swagger.
With the band rushed into the studio to record a follow-up, It Takes One To Know One (5⁄10) also came out in ‘77 – and its hectic genesis does it no favours at all. In fact in detective (lower-case ‘d’) terms this is less Sherlock Holmes, more Inspector Clouseau. In the sleeve notes Des Barres describes It Takes One as a “mish-mash”, but that’s putting it mildly; the production is of the non-exploding kind, and cloyingly romantic songs such as Something Beautiful and Warm Love should never have left the interrogation room.
Thank God, then, for Live From The Atlantic Studios (8⁄10). Originally issued in ‘78 but never officially made available commercially until now, it provides positive proof that Detective had a live potency that was second to none. It’s a short, sharp, shock of a live set with songs from the first album at its spine, and provides the perfect book-end to Detective’s short-lived career. Case closed.