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on April 11, 2006
I enjoyed this album as I do all LIVE albums, though it is my least favourite offering so far, if only because some of the songs sounded like they were trying too hard to be 'LIVE-like'...and because unlike most LIVE albums, this one does not read like a book; a progression of songs from one end to the other that tells a consistent story. Instead it seems more like a haphazard collection of songs written while on tour. However it is growing on me, song by song; or rather some of the songs are growing on me at different paces, unlike with, say,'V',where I dismissed the whole first half of the album at first blush, only to have it explode in my consciousness as a whole two listens later as a cohesive narrative of confusion and anger fading to hopeful Love.

For me, 'Pray's progression was of standouts like the powerful 'SHE' and the haunting indictment 'What Are We Fighting For?', then the creepers; the haunting ballad to Jesus, 'River Town' first crawled up into my psyche like a determined mouse and then ate away at my resistance bit by bit (I now absolutely ADORE this song!), then 'Sweet Release' struck me as wonderful. 'Run Away' was already a good road song, only improving with Shelby Lynne's backup/duo vocals n the Best Of version. 'Out To Dry', 'Like I Do', 'Lighthouse', 'Everytime I See Your Face' and 'Sanctity of Dreams' took a little longer, but I've found something to love in them as well, in that order. On the other hand, 'Heaven' has always seemed too radio-friendly to me, and the frantic 'Life Marches On', and overwrought 'Bring the People Together' were the ones that felt like they were trying too hard...the lyrics and melody just never seemed to match up in my mind. This inconsistency for me was the reason this could never be my favourite LIVE album; but then Ed calls it 'the sound of a band restarting its engines' here's hoping the progressionwill be smoother in 'Songs From Black Mountain'; an album that already sounds like it will have its commercialised aspects, but also flashes of the old introspective/spiritually inquisitive LIVE I love and treasure.

A lot of people (read: critics) slam this band for,(A) having an 'inconsistent recording history' (a criticism that only holds up in 'Birds of Pray' in my lexicon), or (B) being from the grunge era.

My rebuttal to (A) is: Too many folk in the music business can't seem to get past the biggest selling album disease; they compare all later efforts to the one that broke the charts. I personally wouldn't have remained a LIVE fan of this degree throughout the years if all they had done was release a 'Throwing Copper' clone every couple of years. I happen to LIKE the fact that LIVE gives the money-driven industry the finger and goes on growing and evolving--and letting their music evolve WITH their lives and ideas--without regard to trying to duplicate the public success of their best known effort. This rather punk ethos (for a solid rock band anyway) is called 'not pandering to the moneymen' and 'artistic integrity over public consumption'. The subsequent albums have sold well, though they haven't had the lucky timing that 'Throwing Copper' had to fit so well into what was happening in popular music at the time. Only jaded critics who care only about numbers would call these modest successes 'failures' only because they weren't 'Throwing Copper's with different covers. Far too many bands and artists have been murdered by their labels forcing or pressuring them to recycle, rerecord, and play the same stuff that won them accolades in their breakthrough efforts, regardless of whether they had since grown or changed; in the process losing that edge of anger or wonder or whatever it was that first captured the public imagination. LIVE has chosen to be comfortable with the fans that 'get' them rather than allowing someone to force them into an artistically stultifying mould for the sake of sales alone; this is called 'not selling out', and for taking that risk I applaud them.

As for (B): Though they happened to have emerged into the public eye in the same era as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, et al, LIVE never really fit the grunge model with anything but a tendency to ignore the interview and paparazzi angle of business (ie they refused to whore themselves out to the media, instead preferring to concentrate on the MUSIC, shocking though that may be!), and a wonderful sort of ambivalent anger at the socio-religious status quo. This anger was the reason many folk loved 'Throwing Copper', and dislike later albums, in which the anger has faded to a message of Hope and Unconditonal Love. If consistent anger without growth is what these folk are looking for, then obviously a band that grows and changes is not for them. And for those who call lead singer Ed Kowalczyk a Kurt Cobain wannabe; they have obviously never listened for a moment to the lyrics and melodic spirit of his songs anyway.

Which brings me to another main criticism of LIVE. Some folk are turned off by the overt spirituality of Ed's lyrics, calling it 'preachy'. Critics also slam LIVE for their lyrics, saying "if we wanted preaching, we'd go to church". But EddieK is not preaching; he neverdoes. What he is doing is sharing the most intimate moments of his life: the moments when the Spirit touched him and made him whole; and in knowing how that feels, how uplifting it is in a moment of confusion, I find these lyrics inspiring.

As a long-term Live fan, I find them life-altering; and in fact, this fourth album, 'Distance to Here', quite literally saved my life. Many I've spoken to feel the same way; for though Live as a band name is hard to 'google', the FriendsofLive are out there and being uplifted daily by the work the band, and EddieK with his lyrics in particular, do. They make the world better just by being in it...and by being willing to SHARE! If communication and understanding can save the world, then Live are right on the avant guarde, with U2, the Indigo Girls, and a few others.

So all I can say for those critical minds who find Live's lyrics 'pretentious and sentimental' and 'drippy softcore preachery'... for them I can feel only pity, for as far as I am concerned, the message of Love is one for everyone, if we can but let it in. If the lyrics don't speak to these people, fine; but they do speak to some of us; so deeply that they bring tears to our eyes. So the fact that these critics are arrogant enough tell everyone they meet not to bother listening long enough to make their own decision/connection (or not) with the music, to me, is a sin. Just because they got nothing out of it, doesn't mean we are all alike...thank God! Yes, we are all different...but Love is Love.

Thank you EddieK and Live, for lifting me up.
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on September 5, 2003
For me, Live have scored their Hat Trick with Birds of Pray. I would officially give this CD A 6-star rating, if I could.
After Mental Jewelry and Throwing Copper, Live's next 3 releases (Secret Samadhi, The Distance To Here and V) had offered shining moments of what originally got me hooked on their music. The albums, over all though, did not have the "staying power" of MJ and TC - both of which literally spent a number of months straight in my player. V, in particular, didn't grab me much at all - a sentiment many others in these reviews seem to share to one degree or another.
Now, I'm ecstatic to report that "Birds of Pray" will likely sit aside MJ and TC as a CD that will spend the coming weeks in my CD player. I am hooked. This release is, put simply, amazing. Live have recaptured - or at least returned to the energy and, dare I say, passion they conveyed on their first two releases. I'd say this one even leans a bit closer to Mental Jewelry than Throwing Copper - (a Very Good Thing in my opinion, as MJ remains my all-time favorite from Live).
Few male rock singers I've heard can deliver lyrics with such emotion as convincingly and potently as Ed Kowalcyk does. And, to me, this is his strongest and most consistent vocal performance since MJ and TC.
But don't let the praise end with him... The entire band delivers a solid, moving and overall stellar performance on Birds of Pray.
All in all, Birds of Pray is a fantastic release from a truly gifted band who has returned to their "sonic roots" and still clearly find those shoes quite comfortable.
I highly recommend this CD.
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on February 16, 2004
I have read (as of now) all 36 reviews of this album. Firstly I would like to commend ALL reviews (positive and negative) for being detailed, honest, and precise. Generally the same things are being said. So I wont reiterate that Throwing Copper and The Distance to Here are their best albums. You are all right about everything. anyone who actually liked the crappy "V" album will obviously not like this. Here's my 2 cents anywayz:
1. HEAVEN (A): Live as only Live can do. This is one of their best songs ever. Joins 'Dolphin's Cry'. Ed has grown in his beliefs. This is beautiful, and I appreciate it.
2. SHE (A): This song kicks butt! I love the rhythm. Was too short, however. This is shaping up to be a good disk. My personal favorite because it's so agressive.
3. SANCTITY OF DREAMS (B+): Another rockin tune. Sounds like any Live song. Still pretty good, though.
4. RUNAWAY (A): A great example of their slow melodies. This one is set for their 'best of' CD. Totaly stands out as one of the highlights of this album.
5. LIFE MARCHES ON (B-): This one is very Live also, but it's that sort of okay/annoying Live. I don't like the guitar riff.
6. LIKE I DO (A-): This seems to be the one everyone likes. There's a reason for that. This one is a throwback to Throwing Copper. I don't feel it is experemental at all.
7. SWEET RELEASE (A-): More classic sounding material. Another favorite because it just sounds so good! The mood established with the simple tabs are stellar.
8. EVERYTIME I SEE YOUR FACE (C+): This one feels a little out of place. Verses are fine, it's just the chorus that's too dancey.
9. LIGHTHOUSE (A): This one is popular. I love it! The verses attack you, and the chorus climbs- and climbs- very strong, very hard.
10. RIVERTOWN (A): Can this album get any better? Haunts a bit with the lyrics. The chorus then just straight rocks out! Traditional orchestration.
11. OUT TO DRY (A): Amazing vocals are showcased here. I thought it would sound too country when it starts, but this religious jolt is too good to not like. Great chorus.
12. BRING THE PEOPLE TOGETHER (C+): Rocks fast and hard like 'Stage' did in 94. But that's not the only thing these two songs have in common- they are BOTH out of place.
13. WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR? (A+): This one feels like the forced 'what's wrong with society' song that has become a band signature. Simple and not innovative. But it gets me everytime I hear it. Very strong- their best closing track ever.

Being a fan of Live since about 1994, I am of the few of my friends to still stick with them. I always thought they were a good band. But now, with this album, they have etched themselves as one of my favorites.
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on May 30, 2003
Let me start by saying that I am a true fan of Live - have been since Mental Jewelry was first released. I have bought every album within the first week of release, and have seen them in concert 5 times.
With that, I bought Birds of Pray expecting nothing less than the intensity and evolution that the last 5 have shown. With each new CD, Ed Kowalcyzk has grown a little, and become a little less cynical, but this new CD leaves much to be desired. They are making the decent into the all-too-often seen "Complaint Rock" category.
The album opens with "Heaven" an ode to his new family life, and the final good-bye to Ed's days of questioning the existence of God (which I personally liked about his previous songwriting - it had purpose and introspection). It should not have been the album's opener, but I understand why it was chosen, seeing as the album pretty much stays on that same listless note throughout.
Lyrics like "Ride a Harley through the heart of danger" and "I don't know who, who I am. I aint never felt like this before" turned me off immediately. He seems to have lost his touch on this one - they're tepid and lack any bite or imagination. Even on his gratuitous anti-war song "What are we fighting for" {which arguably should have been his best - his forte is anti-establishment lyrics} is mild and whiny. The chorus simply repeating "What are we fightin' for" - Personally, it sounds to me like he doesn't really care.
OK - so there are a few gems on the album - I enjoyed "Like I Do", "Run Away" and "Sweet Release" - they have the sustainability of tunes from the "Throwing Copper"-era, but that's it.
Hopefully #7 will redeem them. Thanks for reading :)
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on May 20, 2003
Live has always had a habit of making great records on every other try, the space between filled with decent records that didn't quite meet their potential. See "Throwing Copper," their second album, which was immensely superior to "Mental Jewelry," just as "The Distance to Here" was superior to "Secret Samadhi." Well, "Birds of Pray" is the band's answer to "V," and easily rivals their best work from the past, and perhaps even surpasses it. Gone are the mostly self-indulgent themes of "V," and the album's sometimes ill-fated Middle Eastern ambience. "Pirds of Pray" takes the band back to its roots, and its strengths, but subtitutes spirituality in place of "Throwing Copper" angst. I have been a devoted Live fan from day one, and I can safely say that this album is, nearly song-by-song, a complete triumph. It will likely do the impossible: please old Live zealots and create brand new ones at the same time. The group has lost none of its induviduality in spite of the new, more pop-friendly hooks, and has in fact matured considerably (especially when you compare this effort to their last). "Birds of Pray" is a fantastic album, period. I hope they've broken their 'every other record' curse this time around.
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on May 22, 2003
LIVE really seemed to get back on the right track after the experimental flop that "V" was. The songs are great, Taylor's guitars are driving alot of the songs, Gracey's trademark drums are as good as they were on "The distance to here", and Dalheimer's bass is.. present (its not bad or anything, i just dont know how to rate bass). The electronic loops were dropped, and it's only the raw rocking sound that is prominent on this album. Since I only bought this album yesterday, i can't write full reviews on all the songs. I will, however, mention my favorite ones so far: "She", "Lighthouse", "Sweet release" and "Like i do". They're all relatively fast, but they have that classic flow that made LIVE recognizable in the past. Kowalzcyk is still the powerhouse of the band, but the other members participated in the composition of a couple of songs, and Taylor provides backing vocals on some tracks. Also, Ed doesn't "squeal" as much as he did on "V", but pushes his vocals to the loud limit.
LIVE fans that were disappointed by their previous release (like i was) are going to be very happy with "Birds of pray". It's fresh, energetic and uplifting. I'm happy now :)
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on June 24, 2003
Birds of Pray, Live's 5th studio album since 2001's disappointing V, brings the band back to its guitar driven brand of alternative rock and more convincing lyrics which were both compromised (temporarily) at SOME points in V. Cheesy lines such as "I will go on like a soldier through the storms of love" in Like a Soldier from V are traded with more meaningful, honest, and simple verses in Birds of Pray: "I don't need no one/To tell me about Heaven/I look at my daugther and I believe." Perhaps what turned most people off about V was the inherent lack of catchy tracks..a staple of Live's sound. In Birds of Pray, songs such as Like I Do, Runaway, the first single Heaven, and perhaps the best song in the album Life Marches On, are anthems in themselves capable of making believers once again out of those who fell out during the V era. Although Throwing Copper is unarguably their best album, Birds of Pray, in my opinion, is Live's most warm and envigorating offering to date.
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on June 9, 2003
I must say I was a little skeptical at first upon hearing Live had released a new album. V was, in my opinion, not only their worst album, but not a very good album by any standards. However, having bought Birds of Pray I can safely say that my confidence has been fully restored. Simply, I think this is their best effort since Throwing Copper, and that's saying something seeing I loved Secret Samadhi. The album is MUCH more guitar-based than the lame ambience they tried on V and to a lesser extent on Distance, and this is really where Live excel. The songs Like I Do (track 6) and Lighthouse (track 9) are two of my favourite Live songs ever. Enough said. Admittedly there are a couple of songs on the album that show a lot of the "Distance" motif in them and are a little weak and lame (Run Away comes to mind) but all in all it is very, very good and a must for Live fans.
Forget about your skepticism, this is their second best album (and Throwing Copper is THE best album in musical history so that is definately not a slight on Birds of Pray).
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on May 20, 2003
I admit that I've liked all of Live's albums (even their much-maligned "V" album.) That admission behind me, I'll plunge into my thoughts on their latest work. I think that the most striking facet of this album is that it's their first one that does not contain any filler songs -- I didn't feel inclined to skip over any songs even upon first listening... If I had to attempt to define it based off of their previous works, I would liken it most to The Distance to Here... perhaps a bit less heavy, but sans sub-par songs (I'm being kind) such as Voodoo Lady and Sun.
The song "Lighthouse" is (IMHO) among the best songs they've ever written, easily holding its place amongst such songs as "Pillar of Davidson" and "We Walk in the Dream". "Lighthouse" is followed by "River Town", another very strong performance.
If there's anything to gripe about, it's that the 13 songs total only 44 minutes and change.. a bit short, but maybe that's because they cut out the filler stuff. :)
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on May 22, 2003
I just bought the new album and must admit that it was much better than I had expected it to be. I was very impressed the first time I listened to it. I was expecting it to be good but I think the boys really did their homework on this one.
Birds Of Pray is definitely a classic sounding +Live+ album with big guitar sound and emotionally charged rock songs that I am used to hearing from them. "Like I Do" is a definite stand out rocker on this album and my personal favorite. There are many songs on this one that could easily be singles. It is one of those CD's I could listen to straight through without having to skip over any songs. I am also happy they have strayed away from the keyboard and other frilly overdone sounds that I thought were way over done and just plain annoying at times. Mainly from their last album "V" which I was very disappointed in. But Birds Of Pray in my opinion will definitely rank up their with Live's best work right behind Throwing Copper, Secret Samadhi and The Distance To Here.
It will be a shame if it does not get the recognition it deserves because it is a truly great album. If you want to hear what good quality rock music sounds like than buy this album. I reccomend it to any Live fan or just a fan of good music in general. I think it is safe to say that Live is back!
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