An Old School Live Album
It's a sad but well known fact that modern music is lacking the great live albums that bands used to put out. Sure, one or two have managed to fight their way through the cracks over the years but generally we are no longer in the golden era of live albums that send shivers down your spine and transport you to the darkness of a great gig where it seems your favourite band are playing all the songs you love just for you. That was until now. Step forward My Morning Jacket, a band that have recaptured the past, who have shunned the need for the 'Live At Leeds' or 'Live From Earls Court' albums that usually go with the territory but who have instead released a colossal double disc live album called simply 'Okonokos'. This is not the normal "let's release a live album for the hell of it" offering, Okonokos is much more. Chronicling MMJ's back catalogue from the obscurities that only hardened fans will know, to the stunning inclusion of tracks from their previous album, 'Z', Okonokos showcases the brilliance of MMJ for the faithful and hopefully the new recruits alike.
Having been likened to Neil Young and more recently labelled as the American Radiohead, MMJ are a band that cover a vast amount of musical influences in their work, making them a band that you are never going to be bored of. From country folk to sparkling pop, from the old fashioned rawness of rock to space-aged funk and even taking in a glimpse of reggae, Okonokos lays bare all of MMJ's wide ranging musical offerings with such a degree of perfectionism you would swear that this is a studio album. Thankfully though it is not, as little snippets of soul start to wriggle their way through providing the collective unity that can only be achieved with a live performance. Just the simplicity of cheers or clapping or the everso slight note sung off key reinforces the raw liveness of the album, opening up another dimension to the songs. And that is exactly what Okonokos does, it breathes new life into MMJ's back catalogue, giving a new spin to the tracks and leaving you in awe. 'Dondante' and 'Steam Engines' transform into eleven minute epics, jam packed with screeching guitar solos that could easily nestle amongst a Pink Floyd number simply for the sheer size both songs build to. Heading the other way entirely is 'Golden' with jangly guitars and soulful vocals that provide an air of intimacy with a clear cut southern edge poking out from amongst sounds that seem to have blown off the dry prairie, missing only a clump of tumbleweed for authenticity. And this is the wonder and glory of MMJ's live act. Not content with punching their audience between the eyes with the boldly colossal epics, these Kentucky boys also like to strip everything back, creating an atmosphere of intimacy to stand in stark contrast to their other grand gestures.
Amongst the epic and the intimate MMJ also throw in rock classics, brimming with a rawness of country and laden with dirty rock beats these tracks add the extra oomph to the album. 'One Big Holiday' carelessly shimmies past with a southern rock mentality that immediately charms and grips before leading into 'I Will Sing You Songs' which flaunts howling haunting synths that are matched equally by Jim James' primal howl to produce a slice of mesmerizing grungy sleaze rock for all to embrace. However, it is left to 'What A Wonderful Man' to both summarise and steal the album, laying down a road-weary vibe laced in a ragged rock suite, 'What A Wonderful Man' is doused with such a 70s rock vibe it does everything but strap you on a Harley and send you down route 66.
For fans of MMJ, Okonokos will give them the chance to truly relive the wonder of their band's live act. For those new to the Kentucky outfit the time has come to question why you haven't got on board this tour bus before and welcomed a true old school rock band to your ears. New or old though, Okonokos will leave you with one thought alone; when's their next gig, for this surely is a band to see before you are summoned to the big gig in the sky.