By STEVE JOHNSON
Michale Graves, former lead singer of The Misfits and staunch supporter of the West Memphis Three, has led a storied career and is definitely not content with artistic mediocrity. Graves has historically been recognized as a aggressive punk rock artist, but has recently evolved into a phenomenal acoustic artist. This transition first manifested itself on Graves’ previous effort Illusions, which included tracks written by Damien Echols, one of the West Memphis Three. Illusions is an amazing album and one of Graves’ best, but his new live album Illusions Live/Viretta Park stands as the pinnacle of his career musically and may be one of the best live albums in recent memory.
Illusions Live/Viretta Park features 23 tracks, 17 of which were recorded live on April 24th, 2008 at Club Bourbon in New Port Ritchie, Florida during Graves’ Illusions tour. The 6 remaining tracks are demos that Graves recorded in Bucarest, Romania, where he was filming scenes for the upcoming film Perkins 14. While the demos are much more polished, the live recordings are exceptional and capture the true essence of being at a live show.
The live tracks are a collection of songs spanning Graves’ entire career. Classic Misfits songs that have been reworked acoustically and Graves’ newer material have been intertwined throughout the album, giving something for new and old fans alike. Vocally, Graves’ voice is superb and absolutely haunting. The acoustic guitar work on the album is top notch and is delivered beautifully by Graves and JV Bastard. While Graves’ performance is the heart and soul of the live tracks, the way in which it was recorded is amazing and is the best aspect of the album. The live performance was recorded directly from the sound board and includes all of the ambient sounds of a typical rock show. Included are sounds of people talking in the background, crowd reaction, and even the sounds of bottles being thrown into the trash. Listening to this album is the closest you can get to being at a live show without being there. While all of the live tracks are worthy of high praise, be sure to check out “Blackbird,” “Fiend Club,” “Ophelia,” and “Frost Bite.”
The demos featured on the end of the album are just as fantastic as the live tracks. These demos showcase Graves’ continued evolution into a musical style that fits him very well. The most notable demo is “Viretta Park,” Graves’ opus to his fallen hero Kurt Cobain. The song was written after Graves visited Viretta Park in Seattle, a refuge for heartbroken Cobain fans worldwide that is adjacent to Cobain’s former home. The track captures all of the sadness and happiness that Graves felt that rainy day he visited the park in Seattle. While “Viretta Park” is the best demo featured on the album, be sure to also check out the demos of “Blackbird” and “The Best of Me.”
Illusions Live/Viretta Park is a fantastic live album that showcases the talent of a highly underrated singer/songwriter. The album is highly recommended for all long-time Michale Graves fans. If you should happen to be new to the music of Michale Graves, this is a good place to start your collection.
THE VERDICT: 5/5