Monday, May 21, 2012

Godsmack Thrives Live And Inspired

Massachusetts’ favorite son Sully Erna and Godsmack have released the first live CD in the band’s 17-year history. Live & Inspired was recorded during the band’s 2010 tour, but sounds as fresh as it does familiar.

The original concept was to pick songs performed in various cities along the way, but 80 percent of the disc was ultimately recorded at the Fox Theatre in Detroit because of a very lively and engaged audience. The band, already well known for their powerful live performances and ravenous fan base, made the right choice because Live & Inspired captures the energy of their shows without compromise.

An uncompromising live album is just what the band needed. 

The 13 tracks selected are mostly band staples from their studio albums, including The Enemy, Voodoo, and Whatever. All of them continue to be the cornerstone of their live shows.

Unfortunately you won't find any songs from Oracle, but that’s not by choice. The band didn’t have any recordings from Oracle when Live & Inspired was recorded.

There is still plenty to highlight from the album, including Whatever, which plays better live. I Stand Alone, a song that the band contributed to film The Scorpion King soundtrack, is also nothing less than explosive. It's a fan favorite; the most played active rock song in 2002 for a 14 weeks.

Speak, a song written by all four band members, shows their cohesion as a group, and showcases the work of bassist Robbie Merrill and guitarist Tony Rombola. Rombola recalls how Speak first came together.

“While on tour with Metallica, Robbie, Shannon (Larkin) and I were jamming in the dressing room," he says. "Sully popped his head in the room cause he really liked the riff we were playing and he pretty much wrote the melody and finished the song right then and there."

Of course, no live album would be complete without Batalla de los Tambores, which is a drum battle between Erna and drummer Shannon Larkin. Erna spent 20+ years behind a drum kit before forming Godsmack, and it’s clear that his timing and chops are just as strong as ever.

"Live & Inspired is our way of saying 'thank you' to all of our fans for believing in us throughout the years, and helping us to become a great live band,” said Erna. “Along with this ass-whooping set live from Detroit Rock City, we've also included four cover songs of our favorite hits in the past to show you that, we too, are simply just fans that appreciate nothing more than good old fashioned ass-kicking rock 'n' roll! Enjoy!"

Erna is referring to a 4-track bonus disc featuring covers of Rocky Mountain Way, originally performed and made legendary by Joe Walsh; the Beatles’ Come Together; Pink Floyd’s Time; and Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters.

The tracks were selected because they in some way inspired the band. And all four do the originals justice, particularly the passionate Nothing Else Matters and Time, in which the band stays true to the original with Erna sounding remarkably like David Gilmour.

All in all, there isn’t a weak link on the track list. Produced and and recorded by Godsmack, the album also benefits from mixing by Dave Fortman (Slipknot, Anthrax) at Prism Sound Studios in Acton, Massachusetts; and mastering by Adam Ayan at Gateway Mastering in Portland, Maine.

Another interesting aspect of the album is that Godsmack showcases how they relish their roles as fans and understand and appreciate their own fans. With Live & Inspired, fans not only participated during the live shows but were also invited to share photos for potential inclusion on the CD’s packaging. Photos include the band on stage, posing with fans, and tattoo close-ups.

 Godsmack Live & Inspired Rocks 9.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

When some bands release live albums to tide over fans (and record companies) in between studio albums, the result is lackluster. But that's not the case here. Live & Inspired holds its own as one of the finer live albums over the past few decades.

Filler it is not. But those itching for a new album anyway can look ahead to 2013, when the band is anticipating the release of its next album. The band recently wrapped up a 20-city tour with fellow Massachusetts rockers Stained. Godsmack has confirmed their participation in Shiprocked, billed as the “ultimate rock music cruise vacation,” for November and December.

They’ll share the bill with Five Finger Death Punch, Fuel, Filter, Sevendust, P.O.D., Black Stone Cherry, Lit, Geoff Tate, In This Moment, and Gilby Clarke. The 4-day cruise sails from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Key West, Florida, and Nassau Bahamas.

Live & Inspired is available from iTunes. Live & Inspired [2 CD] is also available from Amazon and you can find it on Barnes & Noble. This is one of those cases when digital is cool, but the physical set is well worth it.
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