On the Fall leg of Jars Of Clay's 2006 Good Monsters Tour, the band teamed up with PreSonus to provide them with a 24-mic live recording setup to create the Live Monsters EP. The seven-track Live Monsters is just a piece of the band's 2006/2007 live performances, featuring not only some of their most aggressive music to date but also six of the twelve tracks featured on their most recent studio album, Good Monsters, in live form.
In 2002, the band made their feature-length live video debut with 11 Live and followed it up in 2003 with the half-live, half-studio audio phenomenon Furthermore. The two-dozen microphone audio setup used for Live Monsters gives the listener an in-the-audience feel with immense clarity and a fantastic live experience that showcases the band's incredible musical capabilities. From the harmonies to the impressive guitar work from Steve Mason and Matt Odmark, everything is captured with near immaculate clarity leaving the only problem with Live Monsters being that it's only seven tracks long (despite clocking in at just over thirty three minutes, which is actually longer than some artists' studio albums these days).
If you attended a Jars show in the Fall of 2006 or get to one sometime this year, you're likely to hear any or all of the songs featured on Live Monsters. Besides capturing the raw rock energy of the passionate "Work," the pop sensibility of their recent hit "Dead Man (Carry Me)," and the emotional, epic display of the powerful ballad "Oh My God" and its appropriate follow-up "Surprise," the disc also features the album's poppy title track and the folksy "There Is A River." An early edition of this project was made only available through the band's live shows and website and it featured two alternate tracks. Instead of "Good Monsters" and "Surprise," the record featured a live rendition of the Good Monsters b-side "Love Me," which was previously only available in studio form as part of an iTunes-only downloadable EP. Also, their popular Julie Miller cover "All My Tears" previously opened the seven-track project. For anyone who's heard the early version of Live Monsters, it's evident that both tracks are surely missing here. Nevertheless, both versions of this wonderful live collection close with the Africa crisis inspired "Light Gives Heat," a song the band has been closing each show with recently.
There's little to complain about with the near-perfectly composed Live Monsters, despite the mixed feelings regarding song choice between its release versions. As with most live recordings, one might expect a half-hearted, rough bootleg, but instead Live Monsters is as professional in sound and execution as it gets.- Review date: 4/15/07; adapted 9/3/07, written by John DiBiase
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