John Mellencamp - Life Death Live and Freedom
If you are already a John Mellencamp fan – like me – you have most likely already purchased Life Death Love and Freedom - note not LIVE – when it was released and if you did, you will not find a lot of surprises here since many, although not all of the songs resurface here as live versions. So why the heck am I now extolling the value of such a similar cd of the same songs? Because John Mellencamp has a superb voice live – he’s passionate, earnest and making himself vulnerable - in a way that's so intimate, you can tell he doesn't do so easily and the listener feels flattered to be included - and that raises this album to the level of pure poetry. Mellencamp's intellectual side has frequently been dumbed down for some reason or obscured altogether (perhaps due to the rural-working-man persona he has sometimes cultivated) but the reality is that these songs – particularly on this record and particularly when sung live – are soul rending, poignant and thought provoking. The lyrics especially are swollen with angst, introspection and a refreshing lack of top dressing. With titles like Don’t Need This Body and If I Die Sudden Mellencamp serves up an unsettling midlife cocktail that many will find troubling to digest; however, John is not afraid to herald an entire series of both personal and social wake-up calls to the listener –both individually and as a nation. Also and not just as an aside the very excellent band members (Andy York: guitars, background vocals; Mike Wanchic: guitars, background vocals; Troye Kinnett: Keyboards, background vocals; the wonderful Miriam Sturm on violin; John Gunnell on bass and Dane Clark, percussion) are basically flawless and conform to his every nuance without hesitation.
The fact that he had a heart attack a few years back has no doubt played a part in John’s change of style and although this album has been dubbed maudlin by some, to do so, is to miss the point altogether: these are mature songs intentionally written not about the time worn topic of love going well – or badly – but rather, about life. It’s the classic blues credo of using music as a way through. Listen up. Oh and if you didn’t buy the first record? I think this is the better choice – the live performance is just so much more authentic. Click on the samples below to listen – you can even compare!
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