life's live liabilities
My general feeling is that live music should be live and recorded music should be just that: recorded, in a studio, with all the tricks and whistles that make an album sound good. Hence my typical avoidance of live albums. Recently, however, I've made some exceptions to that rule, with mixed results. Here are my thoughts on recent live album purchases:
1. Wilco, Kicking Television: Live in Chicago
I listened to this two-cd set for a good 2/3 of the ride to Kingston, across Connecticut, and back down to DC last weekend. What I learned from that is that 1) there are still albums that can hold my interest for more than two listens and 2) "Ashes of American Flags" is the perfect song to listen to when driving through New Haven, Connecticut. The album comes as close to capturing the experience of seeing Wilco live as is possible, I suppose. Worth the investment.
2. KGSR Broadcasts Volume 13
Every year, I don't plan to buy this because I remember that I hated last year's edition. But every year, I look at the track listing and break down and get it. And then the whole cycle of regret starts again. This year is no exception, although I don't regret having the live versions of Steve Earle's "Home to Houston" and Buddy Miller's "Worry Too Much" that were the reasons I bought the album in the first place. A pleasant surprise has been the Neville Brothers' beautiful "Rivers of Babylon." But all in all, it's not worth your $15, unless you're a completist sort. In which case you probably listen to KGSR too much to begin with.
3. The Old 97's, Alive and Wired
The Old 97's taped this album back in June over two sweltering nights at Gruene Hall. I was lucky enough to be there on the first night and the show rocked. Unfortunately, the album doesn't fully capture the evening's frenetic energy, or the effect of the heat on the band and the audience. Pass on this and get yourself something new and interesting for Christmas.