(c) 2020 Independent
- I'm Alright
- Lady Red Light
- Desert Moon
- House Of Broken Love (Intro)
- House Of Broken Love
- Big Time
- Mista Bone
- Save Your Love
- Rock Me (Intro)
- Rock Me
- Once Bitten, Twice Shy
Michael Lardie--Guitars, Keyboards
Audie Desbrow--Drums, Percussion
Great White has released yet another live album, the Kendall/Lardie/Desbrow version of the band's second such CD in the past 8 years (the other being 30 Years - Live From The Sunset Strip). Why? One has to believe it is the simplest and safest way for the band to introduce yet another new lead singer, with Mitch Malloy now attempting to fill the role of Jack Russell following the ousting of Terry Ilous, who fronted the band on their last two releases, 2012's disappointing, Elation, and their last studio effort, 2017's Full Circle.
Live starts off with "I'm Alright", a track from the Full Circle album that featured Ilous (XYZ) as the lead vocalist. I'm not really sure why the press materials for this album pitch this as a "new song", since it was actually released 3 years ago, unless it is because the rumored next Great White record, with Malloy, will repackage this song as a single. Regardless, "I'm Alright" is actually a pretty good, straight-up hard rock song, and the band sounds like it is having fun with the track. Malloy is energetic and interacts with the Kentucky crowd in a few places, and this live package is off to a great start, except for one thing...this song doesn't sound like Great White, and is a track virtually nobody knows...
The band moves on from this newish song with three classic tracks, and the crowd is probably going, "Oh...okay...I know THESE songs...", with "Lady Red Light", "Desert Moon", and "House Of Broken Love" rolling out back-to-back-to-back. "Lady Red Light", in particular, sounds really strong musically, and again, Malloy does a really solid job of handling this Great White signature song. I have to be honest here in saying that I think this is the best I have heard Kendall's version of the band in a live setting...ever. "Desert Moon" also really sounds strong here, and there is more energy and oomph to the band than I have heard on any post-Jack record, so perhaps Malloy has brought something to the band that the more laid back Ilous simply couldn't add to albums Elation, Full Circle, or his live Great White album, the previously mentioned 30 Years Live from the Sunset Strip. Following a completely pointless intro (thankfully you can skip it), even "House Of Broken Love" sounds strong from a musical standpoint, and Kendall's solo is very nicely performed, but here is where Malloy falters a bit. The man gives it his all, to be sure, but he does not have the type of vocal style that Jack Russell has which takes this song from really good to absolutely great. Malloy sings the song pretty well; Jack Russell owns the song.
Malloy introduces "Big Time" as another new song, which of course it isn't, because again, this song was released three years prior as the lead single from Full Circle. Once again, the fact that this isn't a classic Great White track actually saves the song in this live setting because Malloy can feel free to attack the song as best suits his vocal style with no expectation of sounding like Russell. My complaint about this song is the same one I had when I reviewed that album a couple of years ago: it sounds like a blatant rip-off of THEIR OWN SONG, as even the most casual fan will be able to pick out the same guitar riff and drum pattern in "Big Time" as was used in the classic "Face The Day" from the Shot In The Dark album. The sin of laziness excused, the song actually comes off pretty well live.
"Blues" is simply an instrumental blues jam that focuses largely on Kendall's guitar playing, and it is done very well, to be honest, and doesn't suffer from being bloated or overblown, clocking in at just under 2:30 total.
The album wraps with four straight songs from the band's heyday, and once again Malloy does an admirable job on the rockers, and struggles by comparison on the ballad, and especially on the band's best-known song. "Mista Bone" is done very nicely, and "Rock Me" is handled better than I imagined it would be, although there is an obvious difference in not only vocal approach and delivery style, but also pitch in the vocals here. It's not a deal breaker, but for longtime fans, it is definitely noticeable. "Save Your Love" is another big, signature ballad for the band, and once again, try as he might, Malloy simply can't muster the emotional power that Russell still cranks up in the live setting on this song. Again, Malloy isn't terrible, he's just not Jack Russell. Unfortunately, Malloy really sounds out of his element on "Once Bitten, Twice Shy", coming across as tired-sounding (maybe he was tired by this point) and he seemed to be reaching for notes in a couple of places while sounding flat in others. The band itself even sounds a bit flat on this radio classic, especially at the outset, where the tempo seems a little bit slow, although the energy picks up when the second verse kicks in. The crowd participation section is handled well enough, and Desbrow gets after it pretty hard on the last runs through the chorus and closing out the track.
There are some glaring omissions from the set-list if you are a true Great White fan, but for casual fans, the tracking here is passable. No "Rollin' Stoned", no "Angel Song", no "Face The Day" or "Stick It" or "Big Goodbye" or "Call It Rock N Roll"...all are songs that certainly could have/should have found their way into the live set, in my opinion, especially "Rollin' Stoned" and "Call It Rock N Roll". I can understand not wanting to expose Malloy with another big power ballad like "The Angel Song" or "Old Rose Motel", but I have to admit to being surprised by the omission of at least a couple of the songs I listed here.
The production/mixing/recording of this live album is generally solid, although there are a couple of fairly harsh edits between a couple of songs, but sometimes not much can be done about those kinds of issues. I would have cut out both intros, personally, as neither one adds anything to the song that follows, and both just take up time that could have been given to another song. The mix is surprisingly strong, with Snyder's bass being very easy to pick out on multiple tracks, which is not always the case on live records. The backing vocals are also pretty good, which can again be a glaring issue on live albums from just about any band you can think of, so that was a nice little bonus here.
So, do you need to own this record? Nope, not unless you, like me, are a Great White completist who has to have everything the band has done. It's pretty pricey to own, for one thing ($30 for the CD/DVD set, $35 if you want it autographed...plus an additional $5.00 S&H if you live outside the US), and there are better versions available of all of the classics...with Jack singing, no less. So unless you really want a live version of "I'm Alright" and "Big Time" with Malloy singing them, you can pass on Live and not feel like you are short-changing yourself in any real way regarding Great White.
In the end, this isn't a terrible live album by any stretch. This version of the band sounds more energetic than I have heard them in some time, and Malloy does a good job of interacting with the crowd and keeping the show moving along. He also does himself a service by NOT trying to sound like Jack, because he...and anyone else....is destined to fail in that capacity. The problem for me is always going to be the fact that this version of Great White, while featuring three members of the "classic" line-up, will always sound like a cover band, regardless of how talented the lead vocalist is. It happened with Ilous, it happened with Jani Lane (seek out a YouTube video of Jani fronting the band if you never have), and it happens again here with Malloy. He is a GREAT singer, no doubt....
...but he ain't Jack Russell...
If you want to order the CD...or if you want to track down a copy of Full Circle, both can be purchased here.
Rating: Overall, not the hot mess I was expecting, but still not what I want from Great White. Rock this to a 6, with the lack of several classics...and no Jack...holding this effort back a good deal.