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Gray Matters - 2017 - "Live In Concert"

(73:45; Gray Matters)


TRACK LIST:                  

1. Digging in the Dirt 5:14
2. You're the Voice 4:39
3. Conviction of the Heart 5:22
4. Miracles out of Nowhere 5:55
5. Green Tinted Sixties Mind 3:13
6. The Storm 4:33
7. Message in a Bottle 4:50
8. Africa 4:42
9. Close to the Heart 5:23
10. Curse My Name 6:31
11. I Want You Back 4:34
12. A Thousand Miles 3:25
13. A Touch of Evil 6:28
14. Ain't Nobody 4:10
15. Jolene 4:46


Melanie Mau - vocals
Martin Schnella - vocals, acoustic guitar
Niklas Kahl - percussion
Fabian Godecke - drums, percussion
Stephan Wegner - vocals, acoustic guitar 

Prolusion. Just where the band Gray Matters end and the duo Melanie Mau and Martin Schnella begin is a fact I'm a bit unsure of, especially as this CD appears to at least originally having been sold as a product of the band Gray Matters rather than as an album by the aforementioned duo. But whatever may be the case, "Live in Concert" is to my knowledge the only album by Mau and Schnella to carry the band name Gray Matters as the recording artist, and was self released in 2017.

Analysis. As the album title clearly states, this is a live album, and here we find Mau and Schnella and accompanying musicians / band members performing a set where the music is acoustic based, which is pretty much the name of the game for the Mau & Schnella partnership, and where the material performed one exception aside consist of cover material. Just about all the songs here are rearranged to a lesser or greater degree, and as usual with Mau and Schnella in command the vocals is the element that elevates this performance on album, and presumably on stage when it was recorded too. The vocals are executed with a total control over pitch, tone and intensity, where the lead vocals as well as the vocal harmonies sit tight and right all along. This is excellent stuff, with beauty and emotion delivered with an elegant ease by performers that appear to really love what they are doing. Not all the songs covered manage to rise to the highs of the original versions. That will be a given for the majority of cover albums whether made in the studio or recorded live. Partially for subjective reasons, with the original version being a treasured memory, partially due to the more limited arrangement choices available for an acoustic version of a song. By and large the versions here are successful and solid though, and for those not overly familiar with the originals I wouldn't be surprised if some of these cover versions would be described as someone's favorite take on the song. For my sake I find their version of 'Jolene' to be a clear highlight here, and I guess part of the reason for this is that this version of the song probably isn't all that far removed from how the original was when it was composed, as well as this song being one where the vocals are a vital ingredient in the first place. One of those songs carried by the vocals, and this obviously suits a band where the vocals are the most impactful asset of a high quality ensemble. An ensemble that on this album has been captured at what sounds like a really high quality live performance.

Conclusion. While the content of this album as seen from a strict progressive rock point of view may be of limited interest, those with a taste for acoustic music and folk music will have a field day with this album. Those fond of excellent quality vocals used in an acoustic and folk oriented setting in particular will have a really good time with this album, especially if live performances are of particular interest. In addition I'd say that it's worth the listening time to experience the acoustic takes of the fourteen songs covered here, and that the one original that adds the track count to fifteen is on par in quality with the rest of the songs here. In short: This is another solid product and production from the Mau and Schnella creative partnership.

Progmessor: February 2023
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Gray Matters


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