Depeche Mode

Songs of Faith and Devotion Live

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On the face of it the oddest release of Depeche Mode's career, and one of the oddest in rock ever -- a mere six months after the release of the original Songs of Faith and Devotion, a track-for-track duplication of the album from the accompanying tour, culled from a variety of dates in Europe and America. Beyond the souvenir value, though, it's a question whether there's enough going on to warrant further investigation. Admittedly, the general strength of the album obviously matches the original, with top-flight songs for the most part, though falling apart a bit near the end. When it comes to the live presentation adding or taking away anything, it's a mixed bag. David Gahan, it later transpired, did this tour completely out of his head on life-threatening combinations of alcohol and illegal drugs (he eventually attempted suicide a year after the tour's conclusion, but thankfully didn't succeed, and has now kicked his habits); while the various performances don't sound totally flawed, his voice feels distinctly more ragged throughout in comparison to 101, losing the more careful subtleties of the studio versions. Musically, while nearly everything matches the originals, various changes appear at points -- to counteract accusations of simply serving up preprogrammed songs without deviation, perhaps? Regardless, the striking, sweeping introduction to "Walking in My Shoes," with a ragged but right orchestral sample, and the wordless soul/gospel wails concluding "Condemnation" add to the songs' effect, while other songs like "I Feel You" and "In Your Room" have an extra oomph live. But ultimately, only the most committed Depeche-phile will really need or want this -- more casual fans will do just fine with the studio Songs alone.

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