The Good: Good voice, Good songs
The Bad: Lyrics! Not the best demonstration of voice, Short
The Basics: While the alternate recordings of Avril Lavigne's songs are good, they're not enough to bother with the Avril Live Acoustic e.p.
Recently, I've been giving musical artist Avril Lavigne a chance (more on why in my review of The Best Damn Thing, here!) and I've been generally surprised and impressed, more than I ever thought I would be by her. Lavigne has a voice and a musical vision and yet she is frequently overproduced by her record label and those who produce her albums. Indeed, the prime fault with Let Go, Under My Skin and (to a lesser extent) Goodbye Lullaby (reviewed here!) was that the albums barely reveal even a hint of the voice Avril Lavigne actually has. So when I had the opportunity to pick up and listen to Avril Live Acoustic, I actually was looking forward to it.
With six tracks, clocking in just over 21 minutes, Avril Live Acoustic is a limited edition e.p. that presents six songs from Avril Lavigne's first two albums in versions that lack the production elements that might have smothered them on the album cuts. It's an interesting mix, wisely leaving out the overplayed "Complicated" in favor of some of Lavigne's b-sides. In fact, three of the tracks were singles and the other three are re-presented album tracks. There are no songs unique to this disc.
The other thing that is important to note is that none of the tracks truly reinvents the song being sung. They are simply acoustic versions of each song, lacking the electric guitars and other production elements. So, the sound of each song is a bit more stark; it's Avril, her guitar and backup Evan Taubenfeld. But none of the tracks is truly reinvented, so much as it's a less assembled sound.
"He Wasn't" opens the disc and it's a decent song to present live and without much accompaniment. Lavigne sings the song faithful to the original and it's a decent pop number about being disappointed by one's boyfriend. Lacking much in the way of musical accompaniment or production, the song sounds somewhat silly when she gets to the point of singing "We all have choices / We all have voices" ("He Wasn't").
"My Happy Ending" is perfectly rendered as a live, acoustic version. Sadly Lavigne and her mixer for this outing include the usual "live" noises, as if the listener would not believe this were a different track if it were not for the sound of the crowd. It's not as obtrusive as on the next track, but it's enough to be a problem. "My Happy Ending" is wonderful as a live, starkly produced song because it is about loss and without all of the sound backing it, the track takes on a truly lonely feel and it's almost enough to make one buy the album on the strength of its message and delivery alone.
Then there is the insipid "Sk8er Boi," whose lyrics are no better live and acoustic than they were on "Let Go" or the millions of times it was played on the radio. The live version clearly is live and with Avril, her guitar and her accompaniment, it sounds so dramatically different as to almost be a different song. It has a folksy sound and were it not for the still lame lyrics (I'm not sorry to say that her rhyming "boi" with "boi" just is irritating) this might be a good version of the song. It's still a better version of a still crappy song.
"Don't Tell Me," her first single from Under My Skin, which was the first track that made me sit up and think maybe there was something redeeming about Avril Lavigne is presented next and it's a fair rendition. It becomes less angsty in this version and I have to say that I kind of like the whole "I'm not giving it up" attitude when it lacks the . . . attitude. Lavigne seems less snotty and more assertive as a result of the lack of vocal production. And, you can actually hear her voice!
"Take Me Away" might be the superlative track of Avril Live Acoustic. On this song, we hear Avril Lavigne sing and she's got an impressive voice. When she plaintively cries out the refrain ("Take me away!") it sounds heartfelt and real.
But then, her voice can be heard remarkably well on "Nobody's Home," another track I've previously criticized for her lyrics. But wow, I'm humbled. Here, the vocal performance is real, the guitar work is wonderful and accompanies the lonely feel of the song perfectly. When Lavigne begins singing "She's lost inside. . . " ("Nobody's Home"), it's actually heartwrenching and sad. It's the only way to hear the song.
So, why am I not recommending this e.p.? First, it's short. It's short and for the effort one will have to go through to find it, it's not truly a value. Second, some of the lyrics are still as bad as in their original versions. Finally, while I definitely prefer these live acoustic versions (I could have lived with just acoustic, no need for the crowd noises), they do not truly reinterpret the originals or do anything extraordinary and different with the songs, so it's not really new so much as it is repacking. On the off chance that Lavigne's people are actually reading this review; when it comes time to assemble "Avril Lavigne's Greatest Hits," something like this as a bonus disc (without the "live noises" and with more tracks) would make for added value for a two-disc set.
Even I might buy that!
The best track is "Nobody's Home" (despite the rhymes) and while "Sk8er Boi" sounds completely different, the lyrics are still too lame.
For other albums by interesting female artists, be sure to visit my reviews of:
21 - Adele
South - Heather Nova
Highest Hopes: The Best Of Nightwish - Nightwish
For other music reviews, please be sure to check out my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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