Anyone who has followed Switchfoot since their beginning as a three piece in the late 90's will know that this group of guys have always embraced their fans and have never forgotten their roots. So it should come as no surprise to any of the band's listeners that their new iTunes Session digital release contains a heartwarming selection of more recent Switchfoot tunes, as well as a couple golden oldies.
A quick look at the EP will cause some fans of the band to do a double take. Right after the opening live in-studio rendition of their current hit, "The Sound (John M. Perkins' Blues)" is an update of the title track from their 2000 album release, Learning To Breathe. It's a song that is sort of a pinnacle moment in the band's underground years on Re:Think/Sparrow Records, and to think they'd even consider to include it ten years later on an 8-song live studio project is rather remarkable. With that said, the new Switchfoot iTunes Sessions gives alternate takes and updates via new recordings done live inside a studio. Anyone who has seen the band live in recent years can expect the same kind of energy and approach to the songs as they may have heard performed live in person. But on iTunes Session, there's no crowd noise and the production is clean, but captures the Switchfoot live vibe well. Where fans of the band who picked up the Deluxe Edition of Hello Hurricane last fall already heard live in-studio renditions of "The Sound" and "Mess Of Me" (although those recordings were actually slightly better and clearer), the real bonus gems here are getting updates of "Learning To Breathe," "Daisy," "Only Hope," and "Your Love Is A Song," the latter of which was also on their 2009 album.
The other thing that adds to the live feel of the project is the fact that, these days, fans are likely to hear such a random set list at a Switchfoot show. Here the guys pull a track from an album from 2000, their 1999 release, New Way To Be Human ("Only Hope"), two from their 2003 breakout record The Beautiful Letdown ("Meant To Live," "Dare You To Move"... which was also on Learning To Breathe), another from their 2005 album Nothing Is Sound (the album closer, "Daisy"), and three from their most recent project (Incidentally, the only albums not represented are the 1997 debut, The Legend Of Chin and their 2006 record Oh! Gravity.). The end result isn't a best-of, but somewhat of a retrospective and fan appreciation project. It's is a fun listen, and the artistic liberties they take with some of the songs (which, again, are much like what you might hear if you saw the band perform these live for an audience) helps these songs stand out from their original recordings and even, in some cases, breathes a little new life into them. "Dare You To Move" is an example of one of the tracks that gets a slightly edgier treatment and sounds especially strong in this batch. While the band doesn't change "Learning To Breathe" up much, it offers a good mix of the classic feel of old school (pre-mainstream and when they were a trio) Switchfoot and a modernized update for it. The quintet offers yet another version of their biggest hit, "Meant To Live," giving it a similar dramatic intro to how they've been playing it live in recent years. Fans will enjoy having this version in recorded form to enjoy among their Switchfoot recording collection (that is, aside from the multiple live bootlegs the band has independently released before). To conclude the track list is a pair of ballads, starting with a beautiful rendition of "Only Hope" which sounds gorgeous with a lush string accompaniment and 2010 production values. It's quite the Switchfoot oldie to include here and it's also a great worshipful selection for such a high profile release. Lastly, Hello Hurricane's "Your Love Is A Song" makes for a grand finale and the band gives it a nice rock ballad feel to take the album out with another worshipful moment.
In the end, Switchfoot's iTunes Session is a surprise treat for longtime listeners of the band and a nice appetizer to tide fans over for whenever they decide to release their next full-length project (which is supposedly Vice Verses, hopefully sometime next year). While the production sounds good, it isn't the highest quality in-studio recording you'll hear, but Switchfoot pull off the tracks masterfully and the song selection alone is worth checking this one out.- Review date: 9/2/10, written by John DiBiase of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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