Cracker – Hello, Cleveland! Live From The Metro

4 out of 5

Label: Cooking Vinyl

Produced by: Roger Heiss, Timothy Powell (recorded by)

note: I don’t own the separate album, rather the version included as the second disc of the special edition of Forever.  But they’re the same thing, y’all.

Live albums should exist for a reason.  Like, your band plays live gigs; this does not guarantee that live is the best way to experience your band, which obviously then suggests that a recording of a live show wouldn’t be the best album.  But somewhere along the line we equated seeing the performance with being something superior, and then for the locals that never got the chance to see their favorite performers in this superior setting, well, here’s a live album.  And I guess people enjoy them…?

But I maintain: That recording should exist for a reason.  You’d better bring it, live – you’d better prove the ‘superior’ maxim – and even better, you should show me something that I don’t own on another album.  Doesn’t have to mean a new song, but embellish a bit.  Add back in that excess that some wise producer had you cut out.

Cracker might not do the latter – these tracks are pretty much exact matches for their recorded versions – but they more than accomplish the former.  Stepping through songs from all their albums up to the time of this recording (1999, so Gentleman’s Blues), the band gives audible evidence of their musical and lyrical skill and hook-writing abilities that’ve kept them active for plenty of albums and years.  The crisp recording (although keys-heavy tracks like The Good Life come off a little flat) showcases the oomph that the albums can sometimes lose behind the production, amping up tracks that are a little quieter on album.

Opening with some of Gentleman’s Blues best tracks (which is good to hear, as I always felt that was an underrated disc), the set then reaches back to their debut, Kerosene Hat and Golden Age.  At first it seems like they’re playing it safe, choosing only the hits, but no: Its more that the majority of Cracker’s output is actually damned iconic.  They all sound like hits, especially performed with such energy.

Closes out, of course, with a cover of a cover: Pictures of Matchstick Men; CvB’s classic take on try Status Quo jam.