The Reigning Sound

Live At Maxwell's

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While this may not be the best live document of the Reigning Sound, it's a noble effort. The band was smart to release a live disc, because it flourishes on-stage. Often, the Reigning Sound's studio efforts struggle to blend the group's soft and rockin' sides, a balance that it typically strikes more easily live. A fireball of guitar rock, the Greg Cartwright-led trio runs through a selection of songs spanning its three LPs, as well as some of Cartwright's pre-Sound material such as "Bad Man." The group also dishes out some typically well-chosen cover songs, notably a stirring reading of Sam Cooke's "I Need You Now" and a wailing take on Isaac Hayes' "You Got Me Hummin'" (a song previously made famous by both Sam & Dave and Billy Joel's '60s rock band, the Hassles). The group deftly mixes elements of classic soul, vintage garage rock, and all-out pop in a way that explodes through the speakers with punk rock conviction. Of course, the downside of a show that's this lively is that it always runs the risk of going down in flames. While it never quite crashes, the album stumbles and sputters as Cartwright announces that he's broken three of his guitar strings, but will keep on playing anyway. Fans will likely admire his passion under pressure, but newcomers may turn off the stereo well in advance of the technical difficulty. Cartwright's voice is in shreds, and notes that are sweet on record are scratchy howls live. It's the sound of a band that spends a lot of time in smoky bars making fans happy, and ultimately this is a record intended for fans. The sound of happy concertgoers singing along with every line is proof of that. The group released a second, and arguably better, live effort in 2005. That album, Live at Goner Records, was recorded at the titular Memphis record store formerly owned by Cartwright. The shop is now headed up by Cartwright's former Oblivians bandmate Eric Friedl, aka Eric Oblivian.

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