Camper Van Beethoven – Greatest Hits Played Faster (Cigarettes And Carrot Juice (The Santa Cruz Years), Disc 5)

3 out of 5

Label: Cooking Vinyl

Produced by: Woody Nuss (recorded by)

An enthusiastic live set that’s somewhat watered down by the live mix and some skips-a-beat sequencing.

My opinion on live albums is pretty firmly set: I generally don’t see the point unless the on-stage version of a band / act is a unique beast, i.e. what you’re listening to actually stands as a separate album and not just watered down covers.  David Lowery, in Camper van or Cracker, wrangles together bandmates who put a lot of oomph in their playing, and have a catalogue with (for fans) a ton of notable tracks, so for the most part, any live recording can act as a greatest hits.  So while the ‘…Played Faster’ bit of this album’s title is a bit of a chuckle, the former part applies.

The live production makes the experience a bit wishy-washy, though: seemingly recorded from afar,  the tracks lose a bit of distinction unless everyone is rocking out.  So opener All Her Favorite Fruit gets lost in reverb, and the following couple casual folksters don’t do much to course correct.  The middle of the album picks up, with the second half of Eye of Fatima allowing everyone to shine and My Baby Just Got Out of Jail and Turquoise Jewelry sounding fully turned on and tuned in, the rock n’ roll elements cutting through the flat production.

In part because of this delay for things to kick into gear the sequencing feels a little off, but also because the way it wanders from Key Lime Pie to Telephone Landslide Victory and even up to an interesting take on an eventual Cracker song (James River) prevents the set from effecting a particular mood.  CVB sounds like CVB, but each album varies a bit in its mix of snark and seriousness; folkiness and pop.  …Played Faster feels like a roll-of-the-dice song selection; it’s the live experience of hearing your favorite song out of context and not getting the same pump from it.

So, no: This wouldn’t necessarily be the live show for converting new fans.  Then again, this was only sold as part of a box set, which is pretty probably just a fan purchase anyway.  A good document of the band at a certain time, and definitely committed with energy, even if the recording doesn’t do it justice.