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SOUNDGARDEN – LIVE ON I-5 (Album Review)

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497125When the Seattle titans from SOUNDGARDEN reunited in 2010 for a string of live dates that included a stop at Lollapalooza in Chicago, many wondered if the band would keep it together, or make the reunion short-lived. After their career retrospective TELEPHANTASM went Platinum (a bullshit, label-inflated chart skewing by including the set with Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock), the waters were tested, and it was clear that even though demand didn’t exactly match the numbers in reality, listeners were hungry for more. While the band recently announced that they’ll be recording a new album this year, a sure-fire way to keep the interest flowing is to release a live album, and that’s exactly what we have with the release of LIVE ON I-5 (out March 22 via A&M).

Touted as an album that “captures the band at the top of their game” and presents “the rawness, spontaneity and magic that happens at live gigs,” only the first statement is true.

Compiled from a 1996 tour that took the band up and down the West Coast (on I-5), this isn’t a true live album at all. It’s a compilation of live tracks, cherry-picked from shows along the tour. It actually lacks the “spontaneity” of a true live show, because we’re not getting a real concert. Instead, we have a patchwork of performances that have been meticulously assembled in the studio to resemble a proper show. The audience is seamlessly mixed between tracks to make it feel like the real deal, but it’s nothing but audio trickery – something that’s plagued “live albums” for decades.

From a performance standpoint, the album rocks, even leaving a few flaws such as frontman Chris Cornell going slightly off-key and flat on “Head Down,” as if to keep that single-concert vibe alive.

While LIVE ON I-5 makes for some great listening, it makes me wish that the band would release a complete show at some point. SOUNDGARDEN: LIVE FROM CHICAGO would be a good start. Wishful thinking, or something that could happen?

Rating: 3.5/5

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