Upon listening through their catalog, I remembered how influential they had actually been in my life. They really aren't the greatest band, and certainly not in my top 10 favourites... but their music (specifically the early-middle stuff) always remained a constant during my youth. I can't even begin to tell you how much I practiced drums to their second and third albums.
Mental Jewelry, their first album, was kind of "meh." It was redundant and certainly not that well produced. The band had yet to really find their sound, but the sound they did have, they stuck to in each and every damn song.
Skipping quickly onto their next album, Throwing Copper, this was definitely their most famous album, and it solidified the band as one of the standards of the 90's. Most everyone simply remembers Live as "the band that did Lightning Crashes."
There are quite a few other good songs on Throwing Copper, but in my opinion they didn't become a "good" band until Secret Samadhi came out in 1997.
Very clearly their darkest album to date, both artwork and musically, it was also one of their most creative efforts. Personally, I still can't find much of anything wrong with the album and listening to it brings back some happy memories.
Although many people regard that as the peaking point of Live, I personally think it was their next album The Distance To Here that really was the high point in the band's career.
The entire album had a far more free and happy sound than their prior albums, using many different forms of spiritual and religious allegory. I call it the "we went to India, and now here's an album" effect that has permeated many artists from The Beatles to Alanis Morissette. I guess they just sounded more enlightened and peaceful than before.
Somewhere between The Distance To Here and their fifth album V, I guess the lead singer became friends with trip-hop artist Tricky, because not only did they appear on each others' albums, but Tricky is pretty much everywhere on V.
This resulted in V being the most unique album by Live, and their last really good one by my standards. Far more guitar-heavy than before, it was a pure rock album from start to finish, while still keeping a lot of the Eastern (and Middle Eastern) influence of their prior release.
"Forever May Not Be Long Enough"
After that, they've had two albums, Birds of Prey and Songs From Black Mountain, that I call "wonderfully mediocre." Having grown up since their genesis, Live essentially developed into more of an adult contemporary sound.
Much like albums from bands like Pearl Jam (which I tend to enjoy more, to be honest), hearing new music from Live usually brings about a feeling of familiarity and a thought of "Oh yes, Live. I like Live. Ahh, I remember this."
I guess the band started having real problems around the time of Birds of Prey. Most of the band wasn't fond of the direction the vocalist/songwriter was going, and wanted a return to the rock sound they used to have... among many other more serious issues (money and contract types of things) which led to a lawsuit a couple years ago. It was announced last year that the band has reformed with a new vocalist and would be working on a new album. This is bound to change the core sound and lyrical style of Live completely, and it could be either really good or really bad. I guess I'll just have to wait and see...
In the meantime, I'm just going to wish them well, hope for the best, and enjoy their music occasionally... Just probably not much off their first or latest albums.