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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Live Volume 1

  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Mar
Live Volume 1
Sounds like … straight-out ska meets alternative rock, the Supertones as you know them bestAt a Glance … it's exactly what you'd expect of a live album — the band's greatest hits, amplified by the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd, plus a special worship set placed in the mix.

The Supertones strike back yet again! It seems like nothing has been able to keep the O.C. Supertones down since their self-titled disc helped kick off the ska craze more than a half decade ago. They've built up quite a hefty national following outside of Orange County, California (their home turf and the inspiration for the initials in their name), and helped bring the genre to the forefront of both Christian and mainstream music. Together with groups such as Five Iron Frenzy and the Insyderz, the Supertones toured on a major level, often selling out big college gymnasiums and clubs. Their self-titled debut exploded with a raw yet defined attitude, while their follow-up, Supertones Strike Back, allowed them to reach the musical heights of comparable mainstream acts Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake. Even though ska was fading at the turn of the century, the group still sought to Chase the Sun on their next album, building off ska-core rhythms while adding a bit of alternative-rock and modern-pop influences.

The Supertones's most recent studio album, Loud and Clear, confirms their ability to evolve, thanks to the inclusion of rap-core influences. Material on that disc made a strong translation to the stage last year, as featured on the often sold-out Dance Party U.S.A. and Festival Con Dios tours. For this year's tour circuit, the band has compiled some of their most-loved tracks along with their moving worship songs, which have been a staple of their sets from the get-go. With Live Volume 1, the band wants to make it loud and clear they're not planning on slowing down anytime soon, nor do they want this project to seem like a simple greatest-hits recording. "Putting out a greatest-hits album is kind of weird," explains founding-member Tony Terusa. "I know it's not always like that, but often it says, 'Well, we've had our day.' So by doing a live record it's kind of like we're giving back some of the cool songs of past records in a different way than a regular greatest-hits anthology would allow us to do."

The band kicks off the generous 75-minute party with the straight-out ska fever of "Unite" followed by the "guaranteed to make you skank" (the dance associated with the ska movement) appeal of "Unknown." Soon after, they trade off between recent cuts and catalogue favorites. The fluid transitions show the group's improvement over the years. The slicing intensity of "Jury Duty" (from Loud and Clear) shows the Supertones at their tightest peak, while they're able to clean up "Adonai" a lot from the unpolished original. "Away From You" takes on a new flavor (originally found on their Chase the Sun project) thanks to the significant amount of audience participation.

However, on cuts such as "Away From You" and worship classics "Holiness" and "Open the Eyes of My Heart" the live album doesn't do the band's stage presence justice. As has been the case of many live projects released over the years by artists in all genres, merely listening to a concert without actually being there can diminish some of the power of the performance and the recording. Elements such as a captivated audience singing along to the songs listed above while bowing down in contemplative corporate worship can never be reproduced to their fullest on a recording.

On the flip side, other moments on this project make it a great keepsake for fans who may have attended one of the concerts, and the album will bring up to date fans who may have missed recent Supertones performances. Either way, Live Volume 1 is a reputable souvenir of a group destined to continue rolling in a winning direction, with their army of dedicated fans right behind them every step of the way.