Let it Fly 
Artist: The Choir 
Label: Tattoo Records 

Live albums are frequently disappointments.  They seldom capture the energy of the actual events, and they're usually dubiously produced--failing to reach the polish of studio efforts.  My expectations for Let it Fly were particular low since The Choir is not much of a live band in my estimation. Sure, their albums are highly  recommendable, brilliantly crafted works of musical art, and their brand of alternative, moody music should seemingly translate well to stage.  Nevertheless, any time I've seen them in concert I've never come away being ecstatically impressed.  (For that kind of an experience, you'd have to catch their friends, Adam Again, one of the best live bands of our times.  Although, to The Choir's credit, their 1996 Cornerstone appearance was decidedly solid.)  As it turns out, however, Let it Fly is a live album worth extolling.

 The Choir literally let this one fly.  They are undoubtedly aware of the sonic faults of this album: some failed or uninspiring moments, lack of clarity and energy, muddled mix in spots, etc.  But contrary to their usual pitch for perfection, they've  uncharacteristically released this less than perfect piece as a heartfelt thank-you to their adoring fans.  It was recorded at five different venues during their notable Free Flying Soul tour:  

  •  Penn State University, University Park, PA
  • Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI
  • Babes, Austin, TX
  • Evangel College, Springfield, MO
  • Christ United Methodist Church, Dayton, OH.
Yet, it was seamlessly brought together into a whole that is indubitably greater than any of those individual concerts.  One assumes, after all, that they picked the best cuts they could find.    

Not all of these songs are presented here on equal footing.  Some are fairly rote renditions perched precariously on the precipice, while others genuinely soar to the heights you yearn for The Choir to take you.  Commendable cuts include: "Yellow Skies," "Consider," "Kissers and Killers," "Sad Face," and "About Love" which generate the necessary energy and/or capriciousness. Sadly, otherwise dynamic songs such as "Restore My Soul" and "Circle Slide" never quite hit the top of the mountain, but struggle somewhere along the slopes.  The finer moments, however, are enough to sustain the CD.   

Most of the material is collected from their most celebrated CD's, Speckled Bird alias Kissers and Killers offers two tracks, Chase the Kangaroo loans two songs, and Circle Slide, of course, supports five songs. Regrettably, Free Flying Soul is represented by only one and a half songs ("Sled Dog" is curiously included as an interruption in "Circle Slide"). "Beautiful Scandalous Night," which originates from their first At the Foot of the Cross album, is an excellent inclusion that features Derri and a guitar in a simpler fashion than their music usually demands.  It's a highlight.   

With the power of Enhanced CDPlus technology, fans are also treated to whimsical interview bits, a delightful video for "Sled Dog," concert footage of "Weather Girl," and some snapshots of the band's offspring et al.  These extras certainly help make the purchase of this CD even more palatable.   

Another added bonus is the between-song-banter.  While the guitars are tuned, the chit-chat provides a welcome glimpse into the band's sublime sense of humor.  Discussions range from their esteemed popularity in Japan to posturing about their put-on pretentiousness.  I'd rather not let you in on the jokes, so you can appreciate them fresh for yourself.  The quips are kept to a minimum and add rather than distract from the overall experience.  And, of  course, there is the obligatory band introductions: 

  •  Derri Daugherty sang and played guitars.
  • Steven Hindalong (You can call him Skinny) played drums and sang some.
  • Tim Chandler pounded bass.
  • "Buckeye" Dan Michaels played Lyricon and sax.
  • Wayne Everett (formerly from The Prayer Chain) played percussion.
  • Bill Cambell (of The Throes) played guitar. 
The six of them play well together and certainly help flesh out a sound that easily makes their 1996 tour together the best Choir tour to date.  

In the liner notes, The Choir bestows "special thanks to you who know the words and sing along.  Your faces keep us venturing out."  This one is clearly for the fans, yet the neophyte might also find an introduction of sorts here. The Choir is one of the nicest group of guys you'll ever meet, with sincere hearts seeking to love their Savior and Lord with the creation of their particular brand of moody modern rock.  When they are  happy, they are really happy (see Wide Eyed Wonder) and when they are melancholy, you share their pain.  They may be less precise and polished in a live setting, but their talent for writing exceptional songs is still abundantly evident.  The Choir's revering fans keep coming back for good reason.  Let It Fly is one respectable roosting place along their way.   
 

By: Steven Stuart Baldwin 

1 clock2 clocks3 clocks(Four tocks if you can access the CDPLUS features.)