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A Good Listen, But Don't Start With This One
on March 25, 2004
The Saw Doctors are one of the best and most underrated bands in business today, one of the few remaining practitioners of the mainstream pop/rock tradition that goes back to the Beatles and the Beach Boys, but with a distinctively Irish sound and varied influences ranging from Irish folk music (most obvious here on Joyce Country Ceili Band and Hay Wrap) to reggae (on display here with I'll Be On My Way). There's really no good reason why these guys aren't international superstars, and if anything, they're even better live.
That being said, while this CD is a fun listen if you've already got their studio CDs and have heard them in concert, I wouldn't recommend this as an introduction to the band or its live sound. The sound quality is very raw and muffled, so nearly nothing sounds as good as either the studio versions or hearing them live. Davy Carton's voice definitely sounds better in the studio.
I'd also quibble a bit with the song selections; the album is heavy on selections from their classic compilation "Sing a Powerful Song," but it leaves off the hip-hop-flavored hard-rocker Villains, which is the one Saw Doctors song that sounds most improved in concert, as well as Galway and Mayo, the live uptempo version of which (with Leo's 'football' monologue) is quite different from the original and thus should have had priority on a live CD. (You can also debate the exclusion of the chills-inspiring World of Good and the rollicking live favorites Tommy K - also much more upbeat than the studio version - and Do Ya Wanna Play My Guitar).
Live in Galway is a good, fun listen; it does capture the band's gleeful rapport with the crowd, the revised, guitar-heavy versions of Green and Red of Mayo and I Useta Lover, and the bedlam of the set-closing Hay Wrap. But if you're just starting off with the Saw Doctors, I'd recommend Sing a Powerful Song, with Songs from Sun Street and Play it Again Sham! also essential.