An Example of Why Live Albums Are Better Than Studio Albums

Ah, another school year is upon us. Who’s excited?
Well, if it just so happens that you are not completely thrilled for your upcoming lectures and ominous essay-writing and test-taking, you can be eager for one thing: this column.
Prepare yourselves for investigations into heard-of and unheard-of talents that just might find you your new favorites. This brings me to the most important question of the day.
Do you know Jason Mraz?
If you do, it’s probably not in the way that you should. You probably mildly enjoyed but then tired of ‘The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)’ as it played itself out on Star 98.7.
Jason’s studio debut ‘Waiting For My Rocket to Come’ was decent. I was a fan and enjoyed the album, but after a couple of weeks of constant play, I began to grow weary, as we all do when we first get a new CD and after a few weeks or months fail to ever listen to it again.
But my roommate’s impeccable timing forever changed the way I might have felt about Mr. Mraz.
She and her family saw Jason perform at Lobsterfest a few years back and had purchased the simply titled ‘Live CD’ that was offered for sale. Her dad brought this CD with him to his next visit to our humble Irvine apartment, and the rest was history.
I don’t think I’ve listened to ‘Waiting For My Rocket to Come’ more than once or twice since that day, because ‘Live CD’ blew everything else out of the water.
‘Live CD’ was recorded at Java Joe’s in Ocean Beach, Calif. in 2001. Our friend Jason set up shop in San Diego after moving to California from his home state of Virginia. He was a frequent performer at Java Joe’s and moved up the chain to open shows for the likes of Bob Dylan and Jewel.
‘Live CD’ is all about Jason, his jazz-inspired overtones, his guitar and a percussionist named Toca Rivera, whom he met in his early Java Joe’s days.
Fifteen tracks of pure genius ensue. There is improvising, a beautiful voice and an onslaught of clever, unique lyrics. There is also an absence of the catchy pop hooks and choruses that are usually required by mainstream label releases. Still catchy, Jason’s live performances, as demonstrated by his live CD, do not require the structure of traditional songwriting. He also deviates from his own song patterns to mix it up with lyrical changes and unexpected instrumental detours.
Now, I know that at this point we all wish we could go back in time and pick up a $5 copy of ‘Live CD’ at Lobsterfest. Well, you can either order one at a slightly higher price from www.jasonmraz.com, or you can sample the fruits from his brand-new release, ‘Tonight, Not Again.’
‘Tonight’ is a major label release of a show Jason performed in Milwaukee in October 2003. The hordes of screaming girls in the audience put a slight damper on the musical experience (‘take off your pants!’ was one of the exclamations), but the bang is still worth the buck, especially considering the full-length concert on the accompanying DVD.
This just goes to show that many artists have much more to offer than their studio releases demonstrate. For example, a band by the name of Steel Train is so-so when you give its songs a listen online or from the CD, but their true ability to win over fans surfaces during their live performances.
The same can be said for the fabulous Maroon 5. I am just as sick of ‘This Love’ as the rest of you, but please remember that this is only a small nugget from the much larger scope of Maroon 5. The rest of their CD, ‘Songs About Jane,’ is solid, but their live shows and recently released live CD, ‘1.22.03.Acoustic,’ are even stronger testaments to the band’s abilities.
The moral of the story is that bands are often better than their studio release counterparts make them out to be. Despite the heavy demands of schoolwork, go to as many live shows as you can. This will give Jason and others a chance to prove their talents to you and often, especially in Mraz’s case, you won’t be let down.