Review by Brian McGowan
Trademarks don’t always happen by design. Chickenfoot’s subverted peace sign has now become instantly recognisable, despite its jokey beginnings. The significance of the vowel free album title is unclear though. And initially, going by the track listing, the album content is confusing, but all becomes crystal after reading through the booklet.
Side A: Four tracks from “III“, recorded live on the 2012 “Different Devil” tour.
Side B: Five tracks, Live rarities and B Sides, all recorded live, September 2009.
The album follows hard on the heels of last years ’III’ (their second studio album). When you’re hot you’re hot. Experience tells us super groups have a tendency to implode, so you’ve got to make the best of it while you can.
The “Side A Side B” conceit informs you about Chickenfoot’s music before you hear it. Classic Rock enthusiasts, students even, who still aspire to the greatness of Led Zeppelin and the satellite bands who orbited their world, including Hagar’s first headline band, Montrose. Indeed, Hagar seems sublimely happy submerging himself in the band ethic; less a front man, more a sideman.
But for most, Satriani, liberated from the discipline and convention of instrumental guitar music, was the revelation in Chickenfoot, creating the kind of dynamic with Hagar, Anthony and Smith that most bands only dream of. That said, his freeform jamming style, which often zoned in on an indestructible groove, too frequently tipped over into indulgence. And for many, his solos – postmodern freakouts – became too uncomfortable to truly enjoy.
And for much of ‘LV’ it feels like recording started in the middle of a jam that has already been running smoothly for hours, even days. But when strong melodies emerge – taking the form of four of the stronger songs from ‘III’ – the Satriani/Hagar song writing axis clearly wields a hard rock grenade that just keeps exploding, beginning with the strutting, Stonesy ‘Lighten Up’ and ending with ‘Something Going Wrong’, the band’s bruising meditation on Global warming. All four – the stomping ‘Big Foot’ and the erotic desperation of ‘Last Temptation’ are sandwiched in between – sound tougher, heavier than they do on disc, and that’s one of the beauties of performing live.
Of course, it’s the “live rarities and B sides” that will create interest. ‘LV’s “Side B” neatly opens with ‘Oh Yeah’, a song that “started as a jam session, turned into a song and is now back to being a jam session”.
It also featured as the first single from the band’s weaker debut album and is clearly a distant relative of Hagar’s work with Van Halen.
The other four tracks, ‘Down The Drain’, ‘Turning Left’, ‘My Kinda Girl’ and ‘Learning To Fall’ are all also taken from the band’s self titled debut release.
Live, they all run into each other like they didn’t notice the lights had changed, often degenerating into a ill considered stew of jagged rhythms and indiscriminate yells, where coherence and pacing are not allowed to interrupt the band’s on-stage party.
A game of 2 hlvs then, maybe one for fans only. Still, four great talents, one slightly disappointing album.
Now, where did I put my ‘5150’ CD…?
6 out of 10
- Lighten Up (Live In Chicago)
- Big Foot (Live In Seattle)
- Last Temptation (Live In Seattle)
- Something Going Wrong (Live In Boston)
- Oh Yeah (Live In Phoenix)
- Down The Drain (Live In Phoenix)
- Turnin’ Left (Live In Phoenix)
- My Kinda Girl (Live In Phoenix)
- Learning To Fall (Live In Phoenix)