Though they only recently became a worldwide hit, these five boys are no newcomers. They have been gigging and recording for years. Jesse, Adam, Mickey and Ryan were in a band called Kara's Flowers from the mid 1990s until '99, when they formed Maroon 5 with new member, guitarist James Valentine.
The mostly live acoustic gems on this CD were recorded on the 22nd January 2003 at New York's Hit Factory club, over two years before their Grammy win. The sleeve notes say this (fairly profitable) EP is a thank you to the friends and fans that stuck with them over the years before they became famous. Sincere or not? Who cares. The music shows that Maroon 5 are a quality band, not a just-add-beer rock-pop stunt.
Many live albums end up being sloppier and louder versions of a band's music. It's a pity many don't carry large red warning labels saying: "FOR FANS ONLY"
Acoustic, by contrast, is a delicate, quiet live set, and the recording captures the intimate atmosphere of the venue. It shows that the great, hit-making production on the studio-made Songs About Jane was hiding nothing but their unusually relaxed musical timing, and many beautiful subtleties.
Against Adam Levine's punctuated, soulful vocals, Jess Carmichael's piano wanders off in perfect whimsical counterpoint. The prominent bass and jazzy hand-beaten drums are wonderfully balanced against each other. You can taste their separate flavours in the clever mix. The catchy, meaningful (and now familiar) songs shine through. With lyrics like "This love has taken its toll" "the sex she slipped into my coffee", and the erotic bitterness of "Harder to Breathe", Maroon 5 confirm that they're here to write about real people, and occasionally real romance. There's no "I will love you forever" stuff, and that's a nice change.
Sadly, they don't stick to playing their own songs. In an attempt to pad Acoustic, which contains only seven tracks in total, five of which are Maroon 5's, Levine makes a mistake by covering Lennon/McCartney's "If I fell in love with you". He does this without warning the band, fluffs the modulations from key to key and getswhiney. The final song is an immature version of AC/DC's "Highway to hell", recorded in Germany, and it doesn't fit into the set at all. This may be a live album, but they really should have stuck to what they are good at. Making us pay to watch their singing lessons is not at all cute.
Despite the self-indulgence of the last two tracks, the lovely first five tracks make Acoustic a must have for fans of Maroon 5, Amos Lee and other bluesy, soulful, high quality pop.
- Jean Barker
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