Jeffrey Gaines- Jeffrey Gaines Live (Artemis)
review by Joe del Tufo

Track Listing

1. Falling Apart
2. I Know A Man
3. To Be Free
4. Dark Love Song
5. Love Disappears
6. Hero In Me
7. A Simple Prayer
8. Headmasters Of Mine
9. Praise Or Blame
10. Everything
11. Beyond The Beginning
12. Without You
13. A Change Is Gonna Come
14. Always Be

Philly area favorite Jeffrey Gaines has long been accused of sounding like an Elvis Costello clone, undeservedly. His songs are much closer to the heart, and he's more likely to come out and say what most artists are only thinking, for better or worse. After three largely uninteresting solo releases, Gaines has finally returned to form with his new live CD/ DVD.

With Gaines, I'm often torn between feeling like the guy is being emotionally honest, and feeling like he's just saying what he knows will make the girls all goofy. Landmark-Education-driven lines like "here in my security, I've put a limit on my self-potential and my possibility" from Hero In Me can sound forced and overdone. But lines like "I don't believe anybody, really can feel anybody else" (from the opening Falling Apart) belie a deeper, more profound lyricist- and a tortured one at that. In the end, all you can say about Gaines is that, for better or worse, at least his songs mean something. And that's a lot more than most of what's out there.

Highlights here are the rousing Headmasters Of Mine, the trite but emotionally intense Hero In Me and the timely anti-war ballad A Simple Prayer. Both cover tunes, Change Is Gonna Come and In Your Eyes, work very well for Gaines. What makes the album so impressive is the passion and attention Gaines gives to each track. There's not a bad performance on the disc, and some of these songs stood out on their respective albums. It's a consistently moving experience, this live album.

The DVD is incredibly well done. Using a multi-camera wide-angle shoot, it is visually interesting and frankly better than 99% of the live DVD recordings out there. Gaines' passion comes through nicely on the close-ups, and the crew does a nice job of always finding an interesting, dynamic shot. Shooting Gaines in widescreen is also a nice touch, as it makes the presentation more cinematic and gives the performance an added depth. In the end, I'm sure I will listen more than watch, but it's nice to have the option. The DVD adds the live staple In Your Eyes (the Gabriel cover) and Together, but unfortunately omits the passionate Headmasters Of Mine, Praise Or Blame, Everything and Always Be.

A note about the technology used here. This is one of the first CD/DVD hybrids. In a technology called DVD Plus, developed by the former Scorpion's producer Dieter Dirks (and who great lengths to stamp his umlaut all over it), this technology allows the buyer to play the CD on one side and watch the DVD on the other. Personally I'd much rather have two discs, especially since the DVD won't play in my Mac. But on a proper player it works fine- though it's a little confusing which side is which here, since it's the opposite logic of vinyl. Whatever. Enjoy the royalties, Dieter!

This is certainly one of the best live albums in a long time, made all the more surprising because it came from an artist who has been so ho-hum for such a long time. I haven't personally seen Gaines live in a decade, but do remember being suitably moved and entertained by his performance. Perhaps it's because his words ring more true in the moment, than in the studio; perhaps he's just one of those acts that are better live. Whatever the case, Jeffrey Gaines Live has everything a classic live album should, and then some. It is a vibrant, vital document of a performer letting it all fly.

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