Guitarist Chad Taylor of Live has recently revealed on his Facebook page the band were snowed in their studio during Winter Storm Jonus in York, Pennsylvania, which gave them an opportunity to write and record new music. However, currently there have been no plans revealed for a new release.
Live’s last album was 2014’s very underrated eighth studio album The Turn, which many fans considered their best effort since 1997’s Secret Samhadi. The Turn is also the band’s first album featuring Chris Shinn on vocals, replacing founding member Ed Kowalczyk who left the band in November 2009 in a seemingly bitter departure. Shinn was previously the lead vocalist of Unified Theory which also featured former Pearl Jam drummer Dave Krusen and Blind Melon members Christopher Thorn and Brad Smith.
“I’m going to stand right here/Scream like a baby/Call me crazy” sings Ex-Live lead singer Ed Kowalczyk in “Seven,” one of the standout tracks off his second solo album The Flood and The Mercy. Depending on how you feel about Kowalczyk, his music, and his former band Live, the lines either speak volumes on Kowalczyk’s personality or are unabashedly heartfelt and totally devoid of satire or irony (like much of Live’s music was in the 1990s in stark contrast to the spirit of the time-I mean even U2 were knee deep in sarcasm and irony at the time). Like U2’s lead singer Bono though, Kowalczyk often plays the role of polarizer. Most people either love or hate him-or love to hate him. Regardless of how you feel about him though, Kowalczyk has one of the best rock singing voices of his era, and can (even still) write one heck of an arena rock song. He proves this once again in nearly every song on The Flood and The Mercy.
Kowalczyk’s solo songs don’t rock as hard as some of Live’s did though. The opening riff to “Lakini’s Juice” (from Secret Samahdi-one of Live’s best albums) still stands as one of the best (or at least memorable) hard rock/grunge riffs of the 1990s, but one listen through The Flood and The Mercy demonstrates how much of Live’s transcendent sound and uplifting feel came from Kowalczyk and managed to balance out Chad Taylor’s riffs. The dynamic between Taylor (Live’s lead guitarist-and resident hard rocker) and Kowalczyk is what made that band so great. That balance is gone here though, sadly. Instead it’s all arena rock in the the spiritual vein of pre-Actung Baby U2. No where is this more evident on the aforementioned “Seven.” Kowalczyk’s spiritualistic rapture (sans hard rock licks) is felt in full force on “Supernatural Fire,” another of the album’s standout tracks. This track rocks a little harder than the rest though, almost like a later day R.E.M. song did (perhaps that’s more guest artist Peter Buck’s fault than Kowalczyk’s though). When Kowalczyk lets his guest guitarists cut loose a little, like on “The Watchmen’s Lament,” the songs on The Flood and The Mercy really soar. When the songs are composed of rather stock riffs and Kowalczyk’s, at times heavy handed, lyrics they have the tendency to slog instead of soar.
The album’s opening track, “The One,” suffers from this slogginess. Rather uninspired guitar work barely buoys Kowalczyk’s almost palpable enthusiasm and earnestness. The song sounds like it would have been more at home on Live’s rather uninspiring album V. It’s a shame that “The One” is the track to open the album. It might turn the casual listener off and cause them to miss out on deeper tracks like “Take Me Back” with it’s excellent guitar work and vocals. It’s perhaps the most complete track on all of The Flood and The Mercy. The U2-ish shambling of “Bottle of Anything” is another deeper track that should not be overlooked. Like “Take Me Back” it manages to capture everything that is great about Kowalczyk’s songwriting abilities without repeating itself or drowning the listener in blandness.
Like many of the best leaders of the 1990s best rock groups (i.e. Bono, Billy Corgan, etc) Kowalczyk remains a polarizing figure. Also like many of the best leaders of the 1990s best rock groups though, Kowalczyk remains one of his generations best front men/song writers. The Flood and The Mercy is filled with moments that remind us of this fact.