I’m not generally very big on live albums. I prefer hearing the music at it was performed and produced in the studio and committed to tape (or disc, or computer file) for all time.
Don’t get me wrong, I love going to concerts and hearing music performed live. But taking a live performance and pinning it down just feels wrong, like watching a DVD of a Broadway play.
So it’s rather odd that one of my very favorite songs by one of my very favorite artists is a live recording. This version of Ben Folds Five’s ‘Emaline’ was recorded at a place called Ziggy’s in August of 1995 and put on the B-side of the ‘Where’s Summer B?’ single, and it never fails to lift my spirits.
What’s funny is that I don’t really like the “official” version of the song, a sterile rendition that blasphemously features an acoustic guitar. I like the live version… this live version. For once I can appreciate that this is the next best thing to being there.
For some reason ?!, it won’t play on my laptop at work. Hmmmm. I can’t wait to hear it when I get home. Still, I appreciate what you’re saying about live versions vs. studio versions. One big exception for me is Cyndi Lauper’s cover version of Joni Mitchell’s “Carey,” a song I had never heard until I heard Cyndi sing it at a tribute to Joni. That is one of my favorite performances ever, largely because I remember the look on Cyndi’s face as she was singing and on Joni’s while she was listening. I’m still not entirely sure what the song is about, but it became an instant favorite. The only recorded version (that I know of) that exists of her cover is the live performance, which I was lucky enough to hunt down.
I’m also not a huge fan of live recordings, mostly because the production quality suffers. There are, however, some major notable exceptions including Talking Head’s Stop Making Sense, Joe Jackson’s Big World, Billy Joel’s Songs in the Attic, Elton John’s Live from Australia (at least a fair amount of it). A live album at its best is (a) well produced and (b) captures an intensity and emotion rarely found in a studio recording, where musicians often record with multiple tracks and not in a unified performance. So, to that extent, I disagree with Clay’s analoygy to watching a DVD of a Broadway show. I’m not sure I have actually ever done that or if it really exists, but I do know that the energy of a live play or musical can often be better than listening to the soundtrack or watching the movie version.
As for Emaline, is the you tube recording the same as the one on the B side? It sounds diferent to me (not as well produced). I do like the one sitting on my IPod, though I don’t dislike the recorded version as much as you clearly do.
The version is the same, but I put this one up on YouTube myself and I think I might have compressed it a little too much so it doesn’t sound as good. I like the recorded version OK, but I knew this one so well before hearing it that that one just fell flat for me.
I will second your appreciation for Stop Making Sense and Songs in the Attic, two albums I enjoy very much.
I don’t know if they put Broadway plays on DVD. I know they do it with opera (they even show them on movie screens, as Mom and Dad know!).
Yeah. this has always been one of my favorite recordings of them and this song. Their Sessions at W 54th features one of my favorite live moments of theirs too. Missing the war is so nervous and then wer they click, you can see it in their eyes. After that there are several amazing moments contained in that DVD. I miss Ben Folds FIVE.
Emaline is one of my very favorite songs, too, (maybe the most favorite!) and I like this perfomance of Emaline the most:
It’s not as “sterile” as the studio version and sounds natural to me (and I don’t mind the guitar since it fits well). I prefer it over the more slow-paced piano-only perfomances of Ben Folds solo as in in “Ben Folds Live”.