Live - Songs From Black Mountain Review


24. Sep. 2006, 12:40

“I talk of revolution, you’d much rather brag,” sings Live’s front man Ed Kowalczyk on “White, Discussion,” the post-apocalyptic closer to 1994’s Throwing Copper. “I wanted a revolution, you said I was already free,” sings Kowalczyk on “Where Do We Go From Here?” from 2006’s Songs from Black Mountain. The juxtaposition of these two sets of lyrics best reveals the changes that have been taking place in Live’s music for the past several years. Ever since their debut album, Mental Jewelry, Live has made a career of asking questions, questions about war, peace, love, life, spirituality and society. Yet, starting with 1999’s The Distance to Here the first abstract set of answers began to appear in Live’s material. Songs From Black Mountain is the direct product of this process. Live has returned this time not with questions but answers, answers accompanied with a new musical style, indicating an impassioned approach to their work. However, these very changes are just as likely to turn away old fans are they are to please new ones.

The key potential problem with Songs From Black Mountain lies in the answers it provides. In almost every case the answer is “love.” In one sense this is logical outgrowth of the answers Live began to find in The Distance To Here. However, the problem is not the answer of “love” in and of itself, but rather a distinct narrowing of the use of the term. Within The Distance To Here the use of the term “love” was highly prevalent, used in ten of the twelve tracks on the album. Yet, the actual definition of the word love was a wide one. For example, “The dolphin’s cry” used the term love in the romantic/sexual sense, while “They Stood Up For Love” used the term in the sense of those who fought injustice out love of humanity, “Run To The Water” used love as a source of unity and in “Where Fishes Go” love was a principal all people returned to after winning the smaller fights in life. Now, on Songs From Black Mountain, the term love is used mainly in the romantic sense of the word. In the album opener and first single, “The River,” Kowalczyk draws a picture of a weakened man finding strength and healing within the arms of a women who sings soothingly “Let my lovin' ease your pain/Bring your burnin' skin to my river once again/I'll give you life.” In subsequent songs the idea of romantic love is further explored from different perspectives: “Mystery” examines the sense of wonderment generated by love and “Show” depicts the sometimes competing tensions within a relationship as the combination of opposing ideas like an “Angelic little devil” display how love can bring both joy and pain. The final song, “Night of Nights,” brings the exploration to an end as Kowalczyk sings, “Oh, so I give you my love/It's all that I have to give/Oh, I give you my love/And the life I have left to live” telling how love now has generated a life long commitment. While there are other examples and interpretations of love on the album, they tend to be far more limited. The problem with these answers is not that they don’t work, but rather that they don’t encompass enough. For fans who have followed the band for years, to find out the answer in many cases is simply love might seem like a letdown. The answers provided in Songs From Black Mountain aren’t necessarily a negative. For those that have found similar answers and believe this conception of love is indeed a solution will likely find much to like. Those who are looking for a different answer would be the ones most likely to be let down.

The other potential drawback is the album’s musical style. Songs From Black Mountain is Live’s softest album to date, with a laidback acoustic sound compared to the louder crashing guitars of Throwing Copper and Secret Samadhi. The album has a sound more akin to Train’s Drops of Jupiter combined with Live’s 2003 Birds Of Pray. As a result, many fans who enjoyed the sound on Live classics like “Lakini’s Juice,” “I Alone,” “The Dolphin’s Cry” might be let down. However, this doesn’t mean the album fails musically. Live is able to carry the new sound well. Songs such as “Where Do We Go From Here?” and “Wings” come across strongly and when Live chooses to experiment, as they do on the jazzy “Sofia” and the abrupt tempo changing “Night of Nights” the band is at its best. Those fans those also like lighter music like Train should also find much to like about Songs From Black Mountain.

The truth of the situation is that those who either partially or wholly agree with Live’s answers and also can enjoy a softer musical style will find much to love in Songs From Black Mountain. If you find yourself falling into that category than I would recommend picking up the album. If you don’t then I would advise listening to it in stores or from a friend first.

Grade: B
Changes in Both lyrical themes and general sound may alienate some fans, but many will find much to love.

- Originally published in Franklin and Marshall College newspaper, The College Reporter on September 11, 2006, which is located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Akzeptierte Übermittlungen
F&M College, Live fans, RockAdd, Gill St. Bernards


  • cooldrum

    Nice view of Live's overall message of their lyrics! I like Songs from Black Mountain but nothing is as good as the kick ass album The Distance to Here!!

    25. Sep. 2006, 3:33
  • Alfaddur

    My favorite albums are Distance to Here, Birds of Pray and Throwing Copper

    30. Sep. 2006, 14:55
Alle 2 Kommentare anzeigen
Sage etwas. Melde dich bei an oder registriere ein neues Benutzerkonto (es kostet nichts).