"You don't need no friends/Get back your faith again/You have the power to believe" advises lead singer Ed Kowalczyk on "Heaven", the opening track off Live's 6th album Birds of Pray.
Adding "I don't need no one to tell me about heaven/I look at my daughter and I believe." It's an unapologetic affirmation of personal belief and is emblematic of the ambitious lyrical scope of the album. Marrying essentially reflective, 30-something lyrical concerns with suitably more mature musical textures the album maps Kowalczyk's struggle to make sense of the forever altered American Dream, post September 11. While those epic anthems, ardent power ballads and almost melodramatic vocals remain, throughout they're tailored towards a more downbeat mood in line with the singer's introspective themes.
Radio ready rockers like "She" is an infectious, impassioned romp where guitars cut and slash as drums rollick along while vocals soar in soft to loud then soft again melodramatic splendour. In contrast, acoustic ballads like "Run Away" are all jangling guitar and organ stabs that spawn a heart tugging string driven thing that's just asking to chart. While forthright odes to the comforts of married life and especially parenthood ("Life Marches On", "Like I Do") may make the more cynical listener squirm in front of their home stereo, there is something unmistakably appealing about such openly elegiac sentiment. When Kowalczyk croons about believing in "The Sanctity of Dreams" you're prepared to overlook the overblown arena rock rifferama.
Yet finally, this is hardly metaphor heady stuff, with an over-emphasis on the literal message of "Bring the People Together" and "What Are We Fighting For?" hindered by trite lyrical observations as much as an all too familiar middle-of-the-road adult contemporary rock mood. Unfortunately on repeated listening songs such as "Lighthouse" and "Out to Dry" are condemned to sound boring. They don't really take the listener to a higher place or any altered consciousness. Maybe it's just that Live aren't that obsessed with packing their albums with a string of epic singles a la Throwing Copper (1994) or V (1998) anymore. Ultimately, the emphasis on constructing a concept album means that devotees should dig it, but Birds of Pray isn't likely to convert anyone.
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