Well this is exciting: Mason Jennings released a live album two weeks ago AND I HAD NO IDEA. On Sunday I happened to notice a friendâ€™s facebook status about how much he was enjoying “Masonâ€™s new album” and I was like “huh?” So I looked, and there it was â€“ Mason Jennings, Live at First Ave. So naturally I bought it and gave it a giddily thorough listening.
It leans heavily on his newest material (all but one track from Blood of Man shows up here), and much older material (like songs from â€˜98 to â€˜04). In fact, a beefed-up â€œBe Here Nowâ€ is the only song to show up at all from Masonâ€™s two records between 2004’s Use Your Voice and last year’s Blood of Man. This isnâ€™t too surprising, since heâ€™s playing with the same band he toured with after Use Your Voice: Chris Morrissey and Brian Mcleod (this is the unbeatable incarnation of Masonâ€™s band that was documented on the Use Your Van DVD â€“ a personal favorite). Of the new stuff, itâ€™s genuinely great to hear full-band versions of these more rockinâ€™ tunes, especially songs like â€œCity of Ghostsâ€ and â€œLonely Roadâ€. â€œThe Fieldâ€ is perfect (that song is flat-out made to be played live), and it’s a revelation to hear “Sing Out” without that awful Incubus-like distortion that mars the studio version. I could have traded in some of the newer songs for some older favorites (â€œJackson Squareâ€ or â€œThe Mountainâ€ perhaps?) – but thatâ€™s a small qualm, especially since there are some other great surprises on here. First of all, we finally get a recorded version of â€œLonely Computer Screenâ€, a great song that originally showed up on the aforementioned Use Your Van DVD, and has since disappeared (oddly Mason introduces it here as â€œnever been played liveâ€â€¦ maybe he meant since 2004?). Then two really old songs show up, â€œBornâ€ and â€œGrow Old With Meâ€ â€“ two favorites of mine from Masonâ€™s old Cave bootlegs that are floating around the internet. To get a taste of how Masonâ€™s live sound has changed over the last 12 years or so, hereâ€™s one of those Cave recordings of â€œGrow Old With Meâ€ along with the version from Live at First Ave.:
mp3: Mason Jennings – Grow Old With Me (live at The Cave circa 1999)
mp3: Mason Jennings – Grow Old With Me (live at First Ave. 2010)
from the album Live at First Ave. (buy it here)
The disc ends with a bang with â€œBlood of Manâ€, â€œRebecca Devilleâ€ and â€œGodlessâ€ (so great). Sadly, thereâ€™s not a ton of improvisation throughout the show – aside from a little slide guitar over some songs and an amazing breakdown on “Blood of Man”, most of these songs sound a lot like their studio versions. But I might just be picking that out because Iâ€™ve been listening to a lot of live Zeppelin lately, so take that for what it’s worth. Overall the album is a ton of fun, and a great addition to any Mason fan’s collection.
NOW THE REALLY EXCITING NEWS: Masonâ€™s releasing another new record later this month! Itâ€™s going to consist of older material re-recorded by Mason with just his voice and guitar, a la 2002â€™s Simple Life (one of my all-time favorite Mason records). Itâ€™s going to be called The Flood, and itâ€™s going to be awesome. Just wait. You can read some more background on Masonâ€™s website, then check out these old recordings from The Cave around ’99 or so. Itâ€™s a good bet the first song will show up on the album (duh), but the next two are just hopeful on my partâ€¦
UPDATE: According to Bird Wings Beat, The Flood will now most likely drop in November. Cross your fingers.
mp3: Mason Jennings – The Flood (live at The Cave circa 1999)
mp3: Mason Jennings – Bhikku (live at The Cave circa 1999)
mp3: Mason Jennings – Flight Path (live at The Cave circa 1999)
Tags: Mason Jennings