Live has sold more than 20 million records including two albums reaching number #1 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart (Throwing Copper and Secret Samadhi). Now after making music together for more than half their lives, touring their way around the world, Songs From Black Mountain marks a new beginning for the original four members of Live.
Live is continuing to grow into their ambitions, as "Love Shines (A Song for My Daughters About God)" indicates, but they remain invigorated on their seventh studio recording. They deserve some credit for that as they've been at this rock thing for awhile now, forming in 1988 and releasing debut Mental Jewelry
in 1991. Although there's nothing as epic here as 1994's fist-pumping anthem "I Alone," Songs from the Black Mountain
still reaches for the skies--or at least the back row of the arena. Frequently taken to task for their idealism and "preachiness," the Pennsylvania quartet isn't likely to convert any non-believers this time around. Then again, the very qualities that some find precious and silly, like brow-crinkling seriousness, strike others as passionate and spiritual. Live aren't taking any risks on this outing, unless the pro-soldier "Home" is considered a risk, but nor are they phoning it in. Well, not exactly. As always, Ed Kowalczyk sings it like he means it, but his songwriting relies too heavily on clichés and the occasional space-filling "Ooo baby" ("the River") and "Oh, yeah" ("Where Do We Go from Here?"). Rather, Live has produced a solid, respectable effort, which neither advances nor jeopardizes their cause. Can you say "holding pattern"? --Kathleen C. Fennessy