XL Live

-123 Min.

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XL Live Review

by François Couture

With three albums under their belt and a growing following, Zdenek Bína and friends decided to try something more ambitious, like a European tour of 15 dates with a version of -123 Min. twice its usual size -- "XL" indeed. And so Bína, Fredrik Janacek, and Martin Vajgl (the group's core trio) recruited percussionist Milos Vacik, keyboardist Zdenek Zdenek, and flute/sax player Michal Zácek to give old tunes a new twist. The result is quite successful. -123 Min.'s songs were already laced with elements of soul-jazz and Latin music. This instrumentation allows these traits to come out of the woodwork. "Won't Get Higher," a track off their previous album, sounds eerily like vintage Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, while "Holes" and "Amy" (also first released on Home?) gain a lot from the extra pair of percussive hands. The live recording is pristine, emphasizing the group's tight grooves and Bína's soulful voice -- one of the warmest, most sensible rock singers this side of Michael Hutchence. The set consists for the most part of songs from Home? (but sadly, no "Seven Ways to Heaven"). Try and Shooba Dooba, the group's second and first CDs, are represented with one song each. Two previously unreleased songs round up the track list. "Dada Blues" is an average blues jam, probably a fun time for the musicians to stretch out on-stage, but a low point on the record. The other new song is the fabulous "So Tre Ma Po," the only track sung in Czech. Written specifically for this six-piece incarnation of the band, it delivers an unexpected highlight and sets high expectations toward the group's next studio release. If you like this kind of ageless soul-rock, give this album a try. It offers a perfect introduction to the band.

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