THE BAND: Ed Kowalczyk (vocals, guitar), Chad Taylor (lead guitar), Patrick Dahlheimer (bass), Chad Gracey (drums & percussion). Hometown: York, PA.
THE DISC: (2004) 19 tracks clocking in at approximately 77 minutes. Included with the disc is a 7-page foldout containing song titles/credits (no lyrics), band photos, what songs came from which albums, a quick paragraph on each album from Kowalczyk, and thank you's. This compilation follows the band from their 1991 debut through "Birds Of Pray" in 2003. There is an additional 2-disc release (the CD with music, and a DVD with interview and videos) also available. Label - Radioactive Records.
ALBUM REPRESENTATION: Mental Jewelry (3 songs), Throwing Copper (5), Secret Samadhi (2), The Distance To Here (3), V (2), Birds Of Pray (2), Unreleased (2).
COMMENTS: Outside of "Throwing Copper" (1994), this "Best Of" compilation might be all the Live you need. It absolutely hits on all the highlights of each album. Tracks 1-3 find the band in raw form from "Mental Jewelry"... singing and playing like they had something to prove. "Operation Spirit" and "Pain Lies On The Riverside" were the standout songs and worthy of inclusion here. Tracks 4-8 are from "Throwing Copper" - easily their biggest and most recognized tunes. "Copper" had so many great songs - and Kowalczyk never sang with such conviction. The melodies were most importantly... memorable. And then Kowalczyk shaved his head and went Zen on everyone. For me, "Secret Samadhi" (1997) was the start of the decline for Live. "Lakini's Juice" was my favorite track from this one because of the weird guitar chords. "Turn My Head" was the other good tune from "Samadhi", but the rest of the album was a mixed bag at best. Kowalczyk singing about spirit, his Holiness, angel wings, birds and dolphins crying in the near future was losing audiences. Not to mention the music just not being that strong - outside of a few tracks on each album - all of which are here on "Awake - Best Of Live". The Distance To Here" made some waves but quickly lost steam and fell from the charts. Their fifth album "V" (labeled as "experimental") was trashed by most major music mags. "Birds Of Pray" was a semi return to form, but once again garnered mixed reviews and almost no FM-airplay. The unreleased "We Deal With Dreams" was an extra song from the "Throwing Copper" sessions and is a nice inclusion here. Live's remake of Johnny Cash's "I Walk The Line" is nothing out of the ordinary, but still respectable. Missing are a few personal favorites (but by no means essential) - "Iris", "Top", "White, Discussion", "Ghost", "Voodoo Lady", and "Graze". This is a fantastic disc because it has the band's best songs over their 1st dozen years ALL in one place. Despite Live's 2nd half fall from the charts, this is a stellar introduction to the band (5 stars).