Live is continuing to grow into their ambitions, as "Love Shines (A Song for My Daughters About God)" indicates, but they remain invigorated on their seventh studio recording. They deserve some credit for that as they've b... more »een at this rock thing for awhile now, forming in 1988 and releasing debut Mental Jewelry in 1991. Although there's nothing as epic here as 1994's fist-pumping anthem "I Alone," Songs from the Black Mountain still reaches for the skies--or at least the back row of the arena. Frequently taken to task for their idealism and "preachiness," the Pennsylvania quartet isn't likely to convert any non-believers this time around. Then again, the very qualities that some find precious and silly, like brow-crinkling seriousness, strike others as passionate and spiritual. Live aren't taking any risks on this outing, unless the pro-soldier "Home" is considered a risk, but nor are they phoning it in. Well, not exactly. As always, Ed Kowalczyk sings it like he means it, but his songwriting relies too heavily on clichés and the occasional space-filling "Ooo baby" ("the River") and "Oh, yeah" ("Where Do We Go from Here?"). Rather, Live has produced a solid, respectable effort, which neither advances nor jeopardizes their cause. Can you say "holding pattern"? --Kathleen C. Fennessy« less
Live is continuing to grow into their ambitions, as "Love Shines (A Song for My Daughters About God)" indicates, but they remain invigorated on their seventh studio recording. They deserve some credit for that as they've been at this rock thing for awhile now, forming in 1988 and releasing debut Mental Jewelry in 1991. Although there's nothing as epic here as 1994's fist-pumping anthem "I Alone," Songs from the Black Mountain still reaches for the skies--or at least the back row of the arena. Frequently taken to task for their idealism and "preachiness," the Pennsylvania quartet isn't likely to convert any non-believers this time around. Then again, the very qualities that some find precious and silly, like brow-crinkling seriousness, strike others as passionate and spiritual. Live aren't taking any risks on this outing, unless the pro-soldier "Home" is considered a risk, but nor are they phoning it in. Well, not exactly. As always, Ed Kowalczyk sings it like he means it, but his songwriting relies too heavily on clichés and the occasional space-filling "Ooo baby" ("the River") and "Oh, yeah" ("Where Do We Go from Here?"). Rather, Live has produced a solid, respectable effort, which neither advances nor jeopardizes their cause. Can you say "holding pattern"? --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Familiar sound produces a love it or hate it disc for Live's
A. G. Corwin | 06/06/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Live are back with their new studio album, their seventh, entitled Songs From Black Mountain. Delivering another familiar slice of Live's version of modern rock, Black Mountain sticks directly to the formula that has worked for them on past albums like Throwing Copper, Secret Samadhi, and V. Patrick Dahlheimer's rollicking bass work and Chad Gracey's thumping drums combine tightly with Chad Taylor's strong guitar work to create a nice sonic palette that is both familiar and pleasing, but may be boring to some. Singer Ed Kowlczyk offers up more of his usual soaring choruses and spiritual lyrics, and the result is a familar sounding record.
The first half of the album is its strength. It kicks off strongly with a standard Live kick-off track entitled The River, a gentle opening that bursts into an anthemic chorus backed by strong rhythm guitar. Mystery is more of the same, but with some orchestral touches joining the guitar. Get Ready is acoustic based with lyrics like "the future is now, the past is gone forever" and a growled repetitive chorus of "get ready" that showcases Kowlczyk's vocals perfectly. Show is a typical arena rock song, starting off slow but delivering a fist pumping hard rock chorus. Wings is an upbeat rocker that weaves hard rhythm guitar work with spacey sonic interludes, with a strong harmony laden chorus "it could be the Waves.." The track Sofia is like a harder version of Santana, a slinky and funky ode to a woman, "Sofia I need you like a junkie needs a vein." A very cool track and my favorite on the record.
The second half seems to trail off in quality, like a marathoner getting exhausted close to the finish line. Love Shines(A Song For My Daughters About God) is an introspective track about religion and faith that is good but not remarkable. Where Do We Go From Here is a simple, cleanly produced, classic rhythmic rock song that is the strongest track on the album. Home is a good rock song that attempts to evoke the issue of war and the desire for peace, but falls prey to cliched lyrics. All I Need basically defies description; I can't decide to love it or hate it, but after more listens I'm leaning towards dislike. You Are Not Alone is just plain bizarre, and should have been relegated to a B-side. Closing track Night of Nights is full of random time changes, with no musical coherency allowed to build, ending the album on a down note.
Produced by Incubus and Hoobastank producer Jim Wirt, Songs From Black Mountain was recorded in only three weeks, which may have helped restrain most of Live's usual tendency to over experiment but supressed some of their energy. Every song clocks in around 4 minutes, for a shade over 42 minutes total. If you disliked Live before, nothing about this album will change that viewpoint. Fans seem to have a love or hate it reaction so far, with bland being a common adjective. To me its a consistant record rather than a bland one. Borrow a friend's copy first before buying, make sure its your cup of tea before dropping a Hamilton.
A.G. Corwin St Louis, MO"
Another stab in the chest
Jason | CaLiFoRNIA | 06/23/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The most apt way to summarize this album -- and it bemoans me to say this -- is that I have absolutely no inclination to play it.
I didn't expect a great deal after 'Birds of Pray', which I thought was hands down their weakest release. For what it's worth, I do find 'Black Mountain' to be one small notch above that album, but really that doesn't mean a thing if you got in my head and magnified the word associations I have with 'Birds'. I think I repressed all the Amazon-appropriate words for that review, so I'm pretty sure a clouded rage lingers around it.
Basically this is light, relatively asinine and completely disposable pop-rock. If it does one thing right, it's the regression to a more flowing pop-natured album than the rigid, static 'Birds'. In this sense I find the album's songs constructed quite a bit like the pop-ballads of 'V', which I never minded in the first place. Sorry to say, however, even the highlights on this album can't much compare to the highlights on that album. Very few of the songs on here are unlistenable -- and a few are really quite enjoyable -- but virtually all of them are pretty lifeless. It's the kinda stuff I except to hear when I'm at a grocery store, which isn't ALL that surprising because I heard 'Birds'' "Run Away" at the local corporate grocery store more times than I'm comfortable with. I mean, this is the band that I cherished with 'Mental Jewelry' and 'Throwing Copper'... raw, biting albums of energy and thought. For shame.
Again... there are some nice songs here. When I first saw the video for the album's single, 'The River', I'm sure my face mutated into a vile, disgusting alien of awkwardness for a split second. The song and video shot through my brain like a nasty tab of LSD. GOD DAMNIT -- why can't Live just write a mother f8)#@;ng rock album again? The video was a disgrace in itself, but the tone of the music was quite literally softer and more timid than I'd heard. And not like, in a sensitive, precious light; more like a weak, lame light. Whatever. This song ultimately is an accurate sign of what the rest of the album comes to be -- breezy, well-natured songs that sound like they could have come from a benign Christian Rock group. I.E. mostly utter sh*#.
Yeah so "Sofia" is a pretty rockin' piece. Ditto with "Where Do We Go From Here". I actually like "Get Ready", which I've already read some people lambast with satanic-fueled anger. The harmony between guitar, drums, and strings near the end of "Mystery" is one of the highlights of the disc... good stuff. But you know what? They're mearly good. The best song on here isn't as good as the worst song on any of Live's releases pre-'V'. Every song on the arena-rock oriented 'The Distance to Here' rapes 'Black Mountain' in a way that I'd turn my head if I had to bear witness to it. I mean, defiles. And sure, "it's a pop album", but you know what? I am a freakin' pop freak. LOVE good pop. ADORE great pop. This isn't good pop. 'V' in my opinion wasn't good pop either, but it was admirable enough for a band trying something new. This isn't pop music worth touching.
Whew. Basically, don't get it. Still love Live for their first four albums, and yet again, don't mind the maligned fifth, 'V'. So despite two bombs, 'Birds of Pray' and now 'Black Mountain', I still really do consider myself a Live fan. I just hope that, if they even do make another album, it gets........ better."
Fred | Chicago, IL USA | 06/21/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Even the most ardent fans of Live must admit that this is possibly the most lame effort the band has made in their entire career. Every artist/band has missteps in their career, and here it is in all its shining non-glory. The problem, though, is that releasing your most boring album at a time when your popularity is already pretty much in the cellar is career suicide. This is a time when a band should sound refreshed, re-energized and ready to play. Unfortunately, "Songs From Black Mountain" may be an indication that the boys just don't have it anymore. All the songs drone on with mediocrity, a lack of melodic hook and missing the raw energy that we've grown accustomed to hearing on every Live album. It sounds as though they've taken the unreleased studio throwaways from previous albums and lumped them together on this disc. This is truly a shame, as I have loved these guys since the beginning.
If you want a lesson on how to do it right, you need to turn to Pearl Jam. After a couple of mediocre, career-threatening albums, they came roaring back with a a re-invigorated and truly inspired effort. The public loves a comeback, and these guys did it right. They ended up debuting at #1 on iTunes and #2 on the Billboard charts. Their first single shot to #1 on modern rock radio. I was so excited to hear that both Pearl Jam and Live had new releases this year, only to be blown away by one and disappointed by the other.
Someone argued that Ed Kowalczyk's having a daughter may have dragged them down somewhat. Guess what? Lots of rock bands have families and still know how to write great songs. It's not Ed's daughter that is the problem here...it's Ed!"
A New Sound and Another Brilliant Album
Sam Y | 06/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It took me a couple days for this album to grow on me, but I have to admit, so did Throwing Copper. I stuck with it, gave it more listens, and now I'm addicted to it. Every time I get in the car, I have to play it. I think it flows better than any of their previous albums, and it's a great album to listen to from start to finish without skipping any tracks. That's how this album should be listened to.
The thing I love about Live is their ability to completely change their sound from album to album. Every new album is like a 180 from their previous, so you don't know what to expect. This one is more of a pop record, with more emphasis on songwriting, melodies, and flows. That was not a disappointment to me because I enjoy pop, and I know that Live will eventually release a heavy dark album in the future.
"Songs From Black Mountain" captures the acoustic sound, turning down Chad and Pat's guitars to bring out Ed's vocals and especially Chad's incredible drumming. The drums are all over the place in this album.. and you also notice new sounds with every listen. I've listened to this album every day since I bought it, and I'm still hearing new things I had never noticed before. Highlights of this album are the great music and melody in "Where Do We Go From Here?", the dramatic acoustic sounds of "Get Ready", and the haunting vibes of "Night of Nights".
All the songs are great, and just get better with each listen. Out of all 7 Live albums, this is currently my favorite."
Songs from Phil Collins
Edgy Eel | Indiana, USA | 06/26/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"No imagination and no creativity makes Live a dull band these days. Boring lyrics and boring guitar work make this record unlistenable. This is actually worse than V, which is incredibly bad. I will always be grateful for the great songs("Lakini's Juice", "White, Discussion", "Waitress", "Gas Hed Goes West", "Beauty of Grey") and great albums(Throwing Copper, Secret Samadhi, MJ, Distance)but I'm convinced Live's creative juices have run out. Giving this record more than 1 star just wouldn't be accurate. It happened to the Stones after Tattoo You and to U2 after Achtung Baby, so I guess it's normal to "lose it". Nevertheless, these guys put on a great show and hopefully I'll get to see them again soon."