January 19, 2014

Music Review: Michale Graves - Illusions Live/Viretta Park

Every once in awhile I come across an album that keeps me enamored with it in such a way that I can listen to it over and over all day and not get bored. It doesn't happen often. It happened with Warren Zevon's Genius greatest hits collection and with Mike Patton's Mondo Cane, there was also the soundtrack album for Once. Now it has happened with Michale Graves' Illusions Live/Viretta Park. A live album, no less! That's a first. There is something about this album that is just completely entrancing. It sucks me in and refuses to let go.

For those who are not familiar with Michale Graves, he rose to prominence in the mid-1990's as lead vocals for the reformed Misfits. He was with The Misfits until the year 2000 when he would leave the band. Since this time he has not stopped touring, recording, or writing. He has continues to recreate himself and grow as an artist beyond his horror punk roots and this live recording is simply brilliant.

The album is a mixture of songs old and new (as of 2008) and includes a few rearranged cuts from his time with the Misfits. Now, if you are expecting a high energy punk show recording you will be sorely disappointed with what you find here. This is a very singer/songwriter driven show featuring simply acoustic guitar and Graves' voice. The mix is masterful, bringing together this powerful, soulful voice and nicely executed acoustic strings.

The live recording was taken straight from the soundboard with no overdubs, whatever mistakes were present in the show are captured here. You also here all the crowd noise and reactions and interactions throughout the show, it all just adds more personality to what has quickly become one of my favorite live albums, up there with Zevon's Jump in the Fire. This is something considering my tastes have drifted away from live albums (if I get a live recording, I prefer concert videos).

Michale Graves has an amazing voice, powerful, rocking, yet still retains soulful emotion. I first heard it on The Misfits' Famous Monsters album, likely my favorite Misfits album. It has been great to rediscover him as a solo artist and one who is not afraid to unplug and strip down the performance to something as intimate as an acoustic set. He performs well, his voice soaring with heartfelt emotion and resonance, it is hard not to be drawn to his sound.

The release features the full 17 song set as well as 6 additional songs, demo recordings of a few of the songs that appear in the live set. These demos are also fantastic. They are more polished than the straight live cuts, but they are still presented acoustically and retain the raw emotion of his vocal performance.

Frankly, I am not sure what else I can say. If you aren't into this, there is nothing I can say that will change your mind, but I urge you to give it a chance. Michale Graves is an artist who has stayed true to his work, his style and his dedication is our reward. He has a voice that, while not “perfect” is one that brings a high level of honesty and emotion to the fore and that very often means more than any so called perfect voice. The person and the intention behind the voice means a lot and Michale Graves delivers.

Songs of note: "Blackbird," "Fiend Club," "Beware," "Butcher Shop," "Ophelia"

Highly Recommended.

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