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Songs from Black Mountain

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Album Review

Live finally settle down — 15 years after their debut and ten years after the peak of their popularity — into a comfortable groove with Songs from Black Mountain, their seventh album and first for Epic/Red Ink. The quartet embraces the change in labels as a fresh start, moving away from the faintly desperate attempts at hard rock and grand statements that plagued the group's work since Throwing Copper and easing into quieter sounds and modest ambitions. Not that Live's leader, Ed Kowalczyk, has abandoned his signature spiritual pursuits; nor has the band departed from its U2-fueled anthems — but neither are nearly as heavy-handed in their attack as they have been in the past. There is a gentleness and genuine sweetness here, a warm mellowing of their signature sound that's appropriate for veteran bandmembers now in their thirties. It also happens to suit Kowalczyk's 12 new songs well. Unlike the tortured tunes that comprised the unsettled 2003 album Birds of Pray, the songs here are warm declarations of love, faith, and family. Sometimes they're filled with angst, sometimes they're sweet (and sometimes they still bear his typically overly earnest lyrics), but they're tied together by a soft, understated touch in both his writing and his singing — never once does he approach the vocal histrionics that could make some Live albums a little hard to bear — that constitutes a genuine new wrinkle in their music. It's the sound of the band maturing, and while it's certainly more laid-back than any of Live's previous records, that low-key approach feels right for the music on Songs from Black Mountain and helps make it one of their most consistent and successful records.

Customer Reviews

Live's Latest - Lots To Love

Live's latest CD, "Songs from Black Mountain", displays many of the talents and repeated themes of their frontman, Ed Kowalczyk. Much material has been written online about Ed's inspirations: the female muse, love, and water. "The River" is the current single and best example. They are valid themes, but sometimes can give the listener fatigue. Each song has a lot to like, but a few faults depending on how tolerant you are to these themes. The songs don't push any lyrical envelope, nor offer unique insights, but rather are relaxing and melodic. "Get Ready" is a good example, almost prayer or hymm-like, it repeats and just wants to offers positive vibes. I think it's similar to their previous CD "Birds of Pray" and if you liked the hit "Heaven" then "Love Shines" on this CD continues the same emotions. "Home" is somewhat topical about war, but tries not to take sides and keeps it positive in a desire to see the soldiers return. "Mystery" is a catchy number with strings. Live's website features some nice podcasting material, which I think demonstrate how the songs are constructed: Ed and an acoustic guitar out in nature. So don't expect another "Lightning Crashes" or "Lakini's Juice". More akin to Train, Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox Twenty, or Three Downs Down - as opposed to their previous 90s grunge comparisons. It's music your mother would like, which could be seen as good or bad depending on how hard you want to rock, or appear to rock to others. As a singer/songwriter I'd like to see Ed reach a little more, go deeper with less generalized lyrics and repeated themes. But overall I don't want to be too negative because it's a very enjoyable CD. For a similar but completely different (and sometimes perverse) example I'd suggest checking out Stuart Davis, who I think takes similar themes and runs with them in a comlpetely different direction. Hope my review was helpful, thanks for reading it.

The long, painful fall from 'White, Discussion' to 'Black Mountain'

I've been a fan since Mental Jewelry, and Throwing Copper is on my all time desert island list. Went to see Live in Denver last week with great anticipation and loved it - they always put on a killer show and rock out. Unfortunately, the new songs that sounded so vibrant in person (Show, Sofia) sound overproduced, flat and boring here. It's one thing to mature and soften your edges as you enter your VH1 years - it's another thing to lose that edge completely and come off sounding, uh, SAFE. Maybe someday we'll get a live Live record that truly captures their energy, attitude and edge that's sorely lacking from the past three studio albums...but for now, what a disappointment.

Not worth the copper

This is far from Throwing Copper. Though there are a few picks that I enjoyed, such as "The River" and "Love Shines" but the album itself lacks anything that Live had during Throwing Copper and Secret Semadi. I've grown up with these guys, and it is very dissapointing to see that they've gone the route of corny spiritual music. Ed lacks a lot of power in his vocals it seems, or at least there is some heart that is missing. It seems as if he doesn't really believe the things that he sings on this album. There is nothing along the lines of similar emotional distress or strength that we saw in "Lakini's Juice" or "T.B.D". Yet there aren't any calming, relaxing songs that matches to "Turn My Head", "Dance With You", or even "Overcome". I love Live, but this album shouldn't be a proud body of work to sit next to a legend like Throwing Copper.


Formed: 1988 in York, PA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Live rose to success on the strength of their anthemic music and idealistic, overtly spiritual songwriting, two hallmarks that earned the group frequent comparisons to U2. The group's roots stretched back to the early '80s, when future members Chad Taylor (guitar), Patrick Dahlheimer (bass), and Chad Gracey (drums) began playing together under the name "First Aid" while attending middle school in York, Pennsylvania. After losing an area talent contest, they decided to enlist singer Ed Kowalczyk,...
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