Unplugged and set apart from his bandmates, Dave Matthews is transformed from a fusion rocker to something of a fusion folkie. Indeed, this two-disc, two-man concert recording (cut in Iowa in the winter of 1996 and shelved... more » for nearly three years) posits the South African-born bandleader less as a Blues Traveler fellow traveler than a dexterous, jazz-inflected minstrel in the tradition of Tim and Jeff Buckley, Terry Callier, and Ellen McIlwaine. As with those considerably less-successful performers, multiplatinum Matthews is enticed to soar ever higher by his considerable vocal prowess. Ultimately, Matthews takes his tunes in dizzying directions because he can! All those exhibitions of elasticity have earned Matthews disdain in less-is-more circles. Here, however, more than ably complemented by frequent DMB guest and fellow Charlottesville, Virginia, denizen Tim Reynolds, Matthews virtually bursts through 23 tunes that leave his audience wanting more. They needn't worry: even his worst critics wouldn't accuse Matthews of being stingy when it comes to music. --Steven Stolder« less
Unplugged and set apart from his bandmates, Dave Matthews is transformed from a fusion rocker to something of a fusion folkie. Indeed, this two-disc, two-man concert recording (cut in Iowa in the winter of 1996 and shelved for nearly three years) posits the South African-born bandleader less as a Blues Traveler fellow traveler than a dexterous, jazz-inflected minstrel in the tradition of Tim and Jeff Buckley, Terry Callier, and Ellen McIlwaine. As with those considerably less-successful performers, multiplatinum Matthews is enticed to soar ever higher by his considerable vocal prowess. Ultimately, Matthews takes his tunes in dizzying directions because he can! All those exhibitions of elasticity have earned Matthews disdain in less-is-more circles. Here, however, more than ably complemented by frequent DMB guest and fellow Charlottesville, Virginia, denizen Tim Reynolds, Matthews virtually bursts through 23 tunes that leave his audience wanting more. They needn't worry: even his worst critics wouldn't accuse Matthews of being stingy when it comes to music. --Steven Stolder
"This release is a double CD set that chronicles a 1996 live show Dave performed with his old-friend and acoustic guitarist Tim Reynolds. The two met in C'Ville when Matthews was working as a bartender at Miller's. Reynolds, who has played on each Dave Matthews Band album, also has his own group, TR3. Dave and Tim first began touring together in 1993 when Dave decided he needed an outlet for his creative energies when he wasn't touring with the band. The duo started off playing small coffeehouses and theatres, and have since managed to keep their shows in somewhat intimate venues. These live shows don't have the festival, party atmosphere of the usual Dave Matthews Band concert. Rather, they are characterized by a quiet sense of respect for his music as art. This particular show was recorded Feb. 6, 1996 before a capacity crowd of 1,600 at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Matthews and Reynolds selected the Luther concert for the live album based on their own assessment of the performance, the technical quality of the sound, and the concert atmosphere.As I listened to these acoustic versions of some of Dave's best-known songs, it reminded me that the best rock n' roll albums are really just collections of great songs done in a rock style. If you don't have a great song that can stand alone, you really don't have much. And few artists today can write songs like this - songs which are just as at home acoustically as they are layered with production and a full band.The concert mainly features acoustic versions of well-known songs from Dave's albums: Tripping Billies, Jimi Thing, Satellite, Crash Into Me, What Would You Say, Ants Marching, etc. However, it also includes an interesting Tim Reynolds instrumental, Stream, as well as a few previously unreleased Dave Matthews songs like Deed is Done, Little Thing, and Granny, which he has played in concert for years but have never made it onto albums.This music is the perfect mellow soundtrack to a crisp, bright, fall day - perfectly suited to an autumn drive around the colorful Virginia countryside. The interplay of the two acoustic guitars reminded me at times of the pleasantly serene guitar music that characterized early Windham Hill new age recordings, especially on the sweetly sentimental version of Typical Situation. At other times, Tim accents Dave's style with more bluesy fills, as on their bouncy rendition of What Would You Say."
It's good to be recorded in front of a live studio audience
tropic_of_criticism | 12/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hearing this album, I only wish I had been live at Luther College. There's a spirit of playfulness and genuine fun about the performers which easily translates onto the CD and lets the listener know that these guys have the greatest jobs on the planet. You can tell, especially on tracks like "Little Thing" and "Ants Marching", that they genuinely love what they do. Not only do they frequently joke with the audience, but they take their music along decidedly frisky pathways. Their music soars with an improvisational ease in which Dave Matthew's voice is as elastic as Tim Reynold's guitar. I've read in other reviews that this album is, perhaps, only for Dave Matthews fans, but I would have to disagree. This is a fine album to start one's appreciation of Matthews. The connection they were obviously able to make with the listeners at Luther College is infectious: you can't help but like performers who were so entirely adored by their audience. Of course, it doesn't hurt that they're able to play like the devil harboring a speed habit, either."
Not a big DMB fan, but this set is fantastic!
B. Jorgensen | Long Beach, CA USA | 09/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having lived with two DMB fans, one of whom virtually worships the man and his band, I have been exposed to the vast majority of their tunes. I think they're talented, but between Dave's somewhat indecipherable vocals and the sometimes over-the-top instrumentation, I find that whatever message they're trying to convey often gets buried.
That being said, "Live at Luther College" is most definitely one (or two, if a two-disc set can't count as one) of the ten recordings I'd want with me if I were stranded on a desert island.
I'd give all but maybe one or two songs a 5-star rating. Even the "Christmas Song," which, subject-wise, isn't exactly my cup of tea, is just too perfectly executed to deny.
There are thousands of recordings that use electric guitar and of which I'm a huge fan, but if I had to choose, I prefer the purity of acoustic guitar. The use of acoustic guitars alone gives this set a huge edge.
And Tim Reynolds is a virtuoso--probably as technically gifted as many respected classical guitarists, but with an equally impeccable ability to reinvent each of Dave's songs so that they have every bit as much groove, humor, emotion, and force (and often more) as they did with his full band backing him up. Dave isn't half-bad either.
And while they take their guitars to the very limits of unplugged rock, Dave's voice is still able to shine through clearly, and I can actually understand what he's saying more often than not (I've actually memorized most of the album, although there are some areas where I still mumble incoherent phrases in conjunction with what seems to be coming out of Dave's mouth).
Virtually all of the power and emotion is generated by the musicians themselves, not by special effects or gadgets, and you can really feel what a memorable experience it must have been to attend that show."
YOU CANT FIND A BETTER CD....EVER!
Scott J Capodice | APO, AE United States | 01/14/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Untill about a year ago I really didnt know any of Dave's music. But I was introduced to Dave's music because I am an avid guitar player. I have almost all of Dave's cds now but this one by far is the one that I always find my self listening to. Dave's talent combined with Tim Reynolds' is just something that will just leave you speechless. And Tim Reynolds performance was unsurpassed by anyone I have ever heard. When you listen to this cd you can just float on the music and let it take you to a place that is so peaceful. But then again it can get you excited. This cd is a great cd for any mood you may be in. I listen to this cd many times a day. I really dont know why I have bought any other cds after I got this one. The performance by these two great musicians should be recognized widely which it is not. I urge you to buy this cd. You will not regret it, I PROMISE! And when you have experienced how great it is, share it with a friend and spread the word so one day these two wonderful musicians will receive the credit they deserve. Keep up the great work Dave and Tim!"
I only gave it five stars because I couldn't give it 7.
Zeb | 07/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I disagree with the "daveheads" who say that this album is only for true DMB fans. In my opinion, they are using their familiarity with Dave's material to play the underappreciated scholars and poo-poo the rest of the music world. I had never listened to much Dave Mathews, and what I had heard struck me as average if anything. I was out at a friends house recently and he put on this record. It was clearly Dave Matthews, but it was with an emotion and energy that I didn't pick up from his other recordings. Everyone should hear this album at least once, if not shell out the dough and buy it. Ignore the "daveheads" who have labeled this album "for diehard DMB fans only." Because Dave has produced superior work with Tim in concert only available to the public through obscure bootleg tapes is no reason to knock this album. It's one of the greatest acoustic albums of all time, and you don't need to be a lifelong fan of Dave Matthews to appreciate that."