Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax Volume 5

by TC

Hello Interworld.  It's husband again.  (Tired of me yet!?).

Sometimes in life, you just have to be honest with yourself and admit your mistakes.  In this blog post, I publicly admit to a mistake I made for a few years with regards to this album, Live Trax Volume 5.

DMB Live Trax Volume 5

1) Proudest Monkey »
2) Satellite
3) One Sweet World
4) Drive In Drive Out
5) Dancing Nancies »
6) Warehouse
7) Tripping Billies
8) Lover Lay Down
9) Rhyme & Reason
10) Exodus
11) Jimi Thing
12) Pay for What You Get
13) Two Step »
14) Ants Marching
15) Typical Situation
16) All Along The Watchtower

This particular album was released in May, 2006.  When it was first announced, fans immediately asked the question - "This is only 8 days after Red Rocks.  Why is this a Live Trax?  What a waste."

I made this same mistake.

At first glance, this show does look remarkably like the famous Live At Red Rocks 08.15.1995 album that all fans of the band know and love.  By my unofficial count, 12 of the 16 songs were on Red Rocks (One Sweet World, Exodus, Jimi Thing, and Pay For What You Get are the exceptions).  Red Rocks gets another feather in its cap because Tim Reynolds sat in for the whole set as well.  Although David Ryan Harris plays on a few tunes, he doesn't sit in the whole set.  The venue isn't as picturesque as Red Rocks either, being near Detroit, MI.  And, it's the EXACT SAME encore. There's no way this is as good as Red Rocks.  None.

Again, wrong, wrong, wrong.  I was WRONG.  (I can't emphasize it enough.)

First, this is a 1995 recording.  Remember from Live Trax 4 why that's special?  Multi-track recording didn't begin in earnest until 1996.  This is special in and of itself.  Second, in the release notes for this record, the crew noted this as a favorite of theirs from the early days.  If the crew says it was a good show, doesn't that mean something?  Third, David Ryan Harris. You're right, he's not Tim Reynolds.  He's David Ryan Harris, a VERY great guitar player.  Fourth, the set is basically a repeat of Red Rocks.  This shouldn't be a negative, it should be a positive.  That's a great album and a great set list - as is this.

Is it perfect?  No.  There are unfinished songs (Proudest Monkey, Drive In Drive Out, and Two Step) and two cover songs (Exodus, All Along The Watchtower) in the set.  But, the performances are, for the most part, better than Red Rocks (yes, I said it), and it sounds amazing.

The set starts with an under-utilized opener in my opinion, Proudest Monkey. This, and Satellite, have David Ryan Harris in the background with some unique noodling.  Both are standouts, besides Monkey's unfinished lyrics.  One Sweet World is next.  Two words - Leroi Moore.  He crushes the instrumental introduction solo.  The band is absolutely on fire at this point and it shows.  These early One Sweet World's were just a touch fast to me (I prefer it at 2000-2002's pace), but the instrumental at the beginning has never been better than right here.

However, the first dip in the set comes next, Drive In Drive Out.  The performance is good, but the unfinished lyrics are distracting.  That's okay though, because the next four songs make up for it.

The stretch of Dancing Nancies, Warehouse, Tripping Billies, and Lover Lay Down might just be what I'd give someone who says they either don't like Dave Matthews Band or don't like early Dave Matthews Band.  It's just that good.  This might be the best Dancing Nancies ever released, and Warehouse is smokin' right behind it.  This Tripping Billies has so much energy - and is, to me, better than Red Rocks.  And in Lover Lay Down, the saxophone has never sounded more tender than it does right here (perhaps with the 6.24.2001 version in close contention).  These four songs are all better on this album than they are on Red Rocks.

David Ryan Harris is back for the trio of Rhyme & Reason, Exodus, and Jimi Thing.  This is still my favorite Rhyme & Reason.  I don't normally care for that song, but this version is spectacular.  I fall in and out of favor with their cover of Exodus.  No doubt this is the best released version of it, but I'm not sure I can always call it a great song for me.  For a long time (until Live Trax 33), this Jimi Thing was my absolute favorite.  Jimi Thing, before 1996, is great, and this is another great version.  The outro with David Ryan Harris and Dave Matthews taking turns on guitar is bliss.  (Of course, this same outro also inspired the song Angel, which should be taken out back and beaten, but I digress). It's a good mid-set guest spot.

Rounding out the main set is a quiet Pay For What You Get (a welcome break in the action after Jimi), and then a driving Two Step into an Ants Marching, both of which are performed better here than at Red Rocks.

(Ducks from the keyboard to avoid being hit by flying objects.)

Say what you will...if this album had come out first, and Red Rocks later, I'm not sure we'd have the same depth of affection for the respective releases that we currently do.  Red Rocks HAD to be the first release, just with Tim and the small setlist changes, but this one was wisely retained for future release.

The encore is the same as Red Rocks and I won't debate anyone who says this Typical Situation is inferior to the Red Rocks version.  I will debate you if you say it's VASTLY inferior.  It's not.  They're close.  I do prefer this Watchtower to Red Rocks, though.

The sound on this one is spectacular.  It's brickwalled, unfortunately, but everything is relatively crisp.

Highlights FAR outweigh the low points on this release, and there aren't many low points.  Although it took a while to get into my collection, I hope this review has encouraged you to make it a part of yours sooner rather than later.  This is an easy 5 out of 5 stars.  I'd love to give it 6 stars, just because it was so unexpected that it was this good, but that's cheating.

Oh, and in case you've missed any of the previous posts and don't want to search through to find them, here's a quick summary of my reviews:
Live Trax 1: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 2: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 3: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 4: 3/5, skip
Live Trax 5: 5/5, purchase

Until next time...
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