Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

January 13, 2013

Live ~ Awake: The Best Of Live (hits comp)

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Style: hard rock
Label: Radioactive
Year: 2004
Home: Pennsylvania

Members: Ed Kowalczyk ~ vocals/rhythm guitar
Chad Taylor ~ lead Guitar/b. vocals
Patrick Dahlheimer ~ bass
Chad Gracey ~ drums/b. vocals

Additional: Jon Carin, Jerry Harrison ~ keyboards
Michael Railton ~ keyboards/b. vocals
Doug Katsaros ~ string arrangements
Christopher Torn ~ slide guitar
Adam Kowlczyk ~ rhythm guitar/b. vocals

It's almost a shame when a band is known for a few MTV hits & that completely overclouds the magic of their music & what they are actually about. It's ashame when they are known for a song that doesn't necessarily reflect their catalog. Though, it happens more often than not. Live is one of these victims in my mind, though victim might be a misnomer. We know "Lightning Crashes" & a handful of other hits of vibrant seductive rhythms, but what can you tell me about the band outside their MTV moments? Do you know they might be one of the most spiritual bands out there, non-Christian rock that is? Fans do, but does anyone else? Lead singer & songwriter Ed Kowalczyk followed a guru for awhile, who supposedly helped craft their album Secret Samadhi, only to rebel when his daughter was born & make the response into a successful Dear John f-off album. Don't ask devotees what they really think of Kowalczyk ... smiling official responses even remain somewhat numb outside of declaring Kowalczyk's blindness to reality, as they tip-toe around their own issues ... & lack of some nice promotion from a mainstream rich figure ... & millions of people sing along to Kowalczyk's pain & delusions. If you don't believe me than ask yourself about these lines from "Heaven": "Get back your faith again. Another dissident, take back your evidence, it has no power to deceive. I believe it when I see it for myself. I don't need no one to tell me about Heaven. I look at my daughter to believe." Kowalcyzk never drops names, so I'm being nice too by not either ... having actually also followed that same guru & left, though for different reasons ... to give my own bias upfront, though it doesn't really effect how I hear Live just how I might interpret some lyrics or want to interpret some lyrics. But, name another band who has achieved the success of Live that have such a tidbit in their history? Let alone Live had already crafted their successful debut Mental Jewelry around the respected teachings of Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti. But, the secret of Live is that they craft music that is more than just religious & the casual listener might as much think it about surfing or gardening or the Green movement ... certainly its everything but the cliched love rock songs of their peers, while the music is this addictive rhythmic mix that sounds like the waves of the mind the song is describing. It is enchanting, poetic on all levels & at its most creative & experimental wholly spiritually with churning distorted guitars, heavily layered, against orchestrated thick textures & Ed's shouted & whispered tones. Yes, Kowalcyzk does have a message ... but its nice to hear a musician with something interesting to say. Though, George Harrison fans will say different, just my opinion. But, while Live chart new artistic ground they've also struggled like many bands with finding a specific sound that could break through into the charts, gotta make money regardless of whose feet you sit at, & maintain that chart success. It's a battle between some very intense lyrical honesty & trying to sound like themselves yet have success under the shadow of changing musical trends. It's caused them to move through a range of almost psychedelic music to much heavier territories to alt rock. They were in the shadow of grunge but not at all a grunge band, thus finding their footing was always difficult. The resulting catalog, for many, thus has some hurdles, perhaps even more so for the casual listening looking for that "Lightning Crashes" or "Rattlesnake" band. Their greatest hits collection Awake might not be the best album, but it provides a safe entry into the world of Live & hopefully inspires one to travel farther ... which is what a good hits collection is supposed to do, not being a substitute for buying the studio albums that that is what happens for many bands. The asset for Awake, for me, is that it's not actually a true greatest hits album. There's some successful songs & fan favorites left off. Something to get when you later pick up the studio albums, obviously. It sacrifices these hits to cull tracks from their whole career & not just the big albums. Thus, its less a greatest hits & more a whole catalog touch & go overview. So, for me, it provides a better introduction to Live beyond the MTV stigma. If you listen to this & don't like it, stick to the hits as you're not probably going to be a big Live fan. Don't worry about. Enjoy the hits. But, there's nineteen tracks here from their first of six out of so far seven albums ... it's hard not to find something you like. I would encourage fans to go beyond the MTV Live for some interesting musical diversions. Certainly, Live is one of the more fascinating bands out there, irregardless of how brief their actual time in the spotlight was. Though, if you're wondering where they are today ... they continue to perform though haven't put out a new album in a couple years. Though, Ed left in 2009 to pursue a solo career that has focused on the world of online only releases. As for any in that particular religious group that don't like my description ... not being a part of the group I'm not required to tote the party line, so my description is both how I interpret the situation ... if you don't like how people perceive you, well ... send me a rock album by someone in your group & I'll review it. Actually, I think I did with Swaybone a long time ago on this blog.

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