The Decemberists, "We All Raise Our Voices to the Air (Live Songs 04.11-08.11)" (EMI)
If anyone ever needed proof that live albums have worth, they should check the marketplace: The Who's "Live at Leeds (Super Deluxe Edition)" now fetches $300 on the Internet. Still, despite the many classic live albums that have been released, they're often a mixed bag, and that's the case with the Decemberists' new 20-track collection from their 2011 tour.
PRO: The performances showcase a band with a remarkably broad vocabulary, even on stage. Arrangements include brass, saxes, guitars, organ, electric piano, pedal steel, violin, accordion, mandolin, harmonica and bouzouki. Lyrics include the words parapet, penitent, palanquin, moribund, rhapsodical and fontanelle.
CON: With nearly every song, the studio version is superior.
PRO: Frontman Colin Meloy makes amusing references to Keith Urban and Christopher Cross.
CON: He also indulges in you-had-to-be-there patter.
PRO: There are no drum solos.
CON: There's a glockenspiel solo.
PRO: It lasts only eight bars.
CON: Meloy invites audience participation. Then he does it again. And again.
PRO: The album ends on a good note -- actually all 12 notes -- as the band concludes "I Was Meant for the Stage" with blatty, squealing, liberating cacophony.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: The Decemberists aren't much for jamming, but on "All Arise!" they do get loose, with several band members swapping solos. These cerebral chamber rockers also enjoy a good hoedown.