Awake: The Best Of Live


Radioactive, 2004

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


With their commercial and critical fortunes flagging at the turn of the century, Live opted to release this 19-track collection, which spanned their first six albums and 13 years. It also featured the expected bonus tracks thrown in to entice fans, many of who jumped ship after 1999’s “The Dolphin’s Cry,” the band’s last true hit song.

The collection is fair, with the first nine songs coming from 1991-95 and the back nine covering ’97 through ’04, which amounts to about two songs per album from that era. Problem is, it’s not really a collection that needed to be this democratic, simply because V (2001), Birds Of Pray (2003), and most of The Distance To Here (1999) were not really that good. There’s a definite shift after the Secret Samadhi era of scaling back a bit but retaining the same serious, moody, big-hearted quasi-spiritual approach. Bigger is better with that kind of sound – ask U2 – and Live trying to be intimate and serious comes off a bit dull.

The thing is, the compilers really didn’t do a great job picking the best songs off those final four albums. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 V was far more interesting, quirky and lyrically adrift than is represented here, but it’s not one the band is particularly proud of, and tracks like “Deep Enough” and “Simple Creed” wouldn’t really fit the Serious Theme of this collection. But your mind will start to wander when you try to wade through the midtempo ponderings of “Dance With You,” “Overcome,” “Run Away,” and “Run To The Water.” Really, you’re better off checking out the individual albums and seeing what grabs you because, like many bands, many of Live’s best songs were not hits.

But for a time, the band did have several rock hits that ‘90s kids know and love, all of them from the classic 1994 disc Throwing Copper: “Lightning Crashes,” “All Over You,” “I Alone,” and “Selling The Drama.” Your best bet is to simply purchase this album first, then go from there, because as good as these songs are, there are many more on that album to rival them that could easily be here, especially “The Dam At Otter Creek,” “Iris,” and “White, Discussion.” For some reason, we get an edit of “Pillar Of Davidson” instead, which sounds too much like Live doing R.E.M. There’s also an unreleased Copper-era song called “We Deal In Dreams,” which is a nice collector’s item but a bit too similar to the band’s other work to really stand on its own, which perhaps is why it was left off the album.

The early Mental Jewelry cuts are solid, too. They are a bit muddy production-wise but boast some great slap bass work and rather frank lyrics about questioning spirituality. And of course, the excellent “Lakini’s Juice” from Secret Samadhi arrives halfway through the album, but sadly is one of the only two songs from that album (the other being the ballad “Turn My Head”). As with Copper, there are about three other songs from Samadhi that should have been here, especially “Graze,” “Ghost,” and “Heropsychodreamer,” which is the loudest and fastest this quartet ever got. One also could argue “Rattlesnake” should be here too because it was a minor hit, but as it’s a mediocre song with terrible lyrics, it’s not missed.

So what you have is a collection that hits the commercial but not the artistic high points of Live’s career, giving the casual fan all they really want and throwing in a Johnny Cash cover just because. Trust me when I say that Live was far more than this serviceable-at-best collection suggests they were.

Rating: B-

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