Unplugged, Līvi can rock just as hard

Live albums are an unusal entity in the rock world. They are intended mainly for longtime fans, who are looking to have the experience of seeing a band in concert contained in a recording. But Līvi’s latest, Spoku koks, is not just any live album. It is an acoustic live album by a veteran hard rock band.

The album is a re-release, but it is the first time this concert is available on CD. It is a recording of concert Līvi performed Dec. 16, 1994, in the Latvian Radio 1 studio in Rīga.

So can a veteran hard rock band still give a good concert, even if you replace their electric guitars with acoustic ones? If they are Līvi, the answer is a resounding yes.

As the liner notes indicate, this recording was meant to be a Christmas present for all the longtime Līvi fans, and what a unique present it is. Not only is the concert an intimate, acoustic show, but the song selection is interesting as well. Līvi chose to not play any of their big hits, but instead performed rarities and other songs that you would not normally hear them play.

In fact, of the 15 live tracks on this album, I had only heard six of these songs before—and to my knowledge, I have most every album Līvi have released, so there is quite a bit here that would be of interest to any Līvi fan.

The band members on this record are today’s members (Ainars Virga and Tomass Kleins on guitars, Jānis Grodums on bass guitar and Dainis Virga on drums) with the addition of since-departed vocalist Aivars Brīze.

One of the songs that I had heard before was not one orginally done by Līvi. They do a version of the old Pērkons song “Lakstugailis” (which can be found on Pērkons’ Dziesmu izlase #1 album) but with their own twists on the song. Līvi also have good interaction with the audience, as is heard here in the audience participation on the “Un tapēc rīt, vai aizparīt” part of the song.

Chronologically, I think this live album fits in right before their 1996 K.M.K.V.P. album, as Spoku koks contains live versions of two of the songs—“Meitene” and “Var jau būt…”—that would appear on this album. What is odd, though, is that one of the songs “Guntis ir muļķis patiešām” (which gets the award for funniest song title) is introduced as a new song, but is partly credited to Ēriks Ķiģelis (the former band leader who had passed away many years before) so I’m not sure how that is possible.

Also, being a Christmas concert, there are a couple Christmas songs as well. The only real “hit” on the record is “Eglīte.” That song is introduced with a bit of history: When the song was originally recorded in Soviet times, Līvi were not allowed to use the word “Ziemassvētki,” so they had to replace it with “Jaunais gads.” Now that that era has thankfully passed, they now sing “Ziemassvētki klāt.”

The other Christmas song here is simply called “Ziemassvētku dziesma.” It is a very mellow, yet catchy celebration of the season.

The album concludes with a great acoustic version of the song “Kad saule riet,” originally found on their self-titled 1988 album. Although this version is acoustic, it loses none of the power that the original “electric” version had.

There are two common problems that live albums in general have: either they sound too polished (due to post-concert studio fiddling with the songs, usually removing or re-recording of bad notes or vocals) or they don’t sound live at all (the live experience has two parts, the band playing and the audience reacting). I’m happy to say that this album has neither of these problems. Though there was inevitable studio tinkering with the show, it’s not much. According to the liner notes, the original release of this show was available the day after the concert, which is not enough time to redub vocals or guitar parts. In a few spots the vocals are a bit off or somebody plays a wrong note, but that is part of the live experience! Also, the audience is very much present on this recording. Though small, it is noisy and actively participates in many of the songs.

In addition to the live recording, two “bonus” tracks have been added to the CD: studio recordings of “Lakstugailis” and “Līviskā ziņģe.” Though it is nice to hear studio versions of these songs, they are not much different than the live versions. On some parts of “Lakstugailis,” Brīze sings as though he was in a great deal of pain—hope he’s feeling better!

On an unrelated note, this is one of the new releases from MICREC that has a reduced price tag. I purchased this record in Latvia for LVL 6 (a bargain compared to the price of other new CDs, often as much as LVL 10 or 11).

For longtime Līvi fans, this record will be a treat to listen to for all the rarities contained on it as well as for the acoustic performance. Casual or new Līvi fans will like this as well, as you don’t need to know much about Līvi to enjoy this release. The album also begins the celebration of Līvi’s 25th anniverary as a band. According to the MICREC Web site, 2001 will see the re-release of their older records as well. I think Spoku koks is a great way to kick off that celebration.


Spoku koks


MICREC,  2000

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area . Kaljo began listening to Latvian music as soon as he was able to put a record on a record player, and still has old Bellacord 78 rpm records lying around somewhere.

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