LIVE albums are always hit and miss, you get some that capture the essence of a concert while others sound like a band trying to hard. With 'As Real As It Gets' Northern Ireland hard rockers have sipped at the elixir of magic in delivering a live album that is raw, loud and balanced by power.
There has always been controversy about overdubs being added to live albums - the controversy over Lizzy's Live and Dangerous rumbles on to this day - but Million Dollar Reload have in the words of guitarist Bam laid this album out "warts and all".
Recorded at then Diamond Rock Club, and scheduled for release on December 17th, we suggest that you assure Santa that you have been very, very good in order to get this slab of rock in your stocking...
There is such a thing as being honest in your craft, whether a musician, a writer, of painter, and that honesty shines through on 'As Real As It Gets'. The sheen of carefully produced studio albums is replaced with an honest performance amidst a crowd intent on quaffing a pint or seven and rocking out. Listen to The Last Icon or Goodnight New York and you'll get what we're driving at.
However, it may seem a little ambitious for a band to release a live album after just two studio albums. In some respects this may be seen as a placeholder while Million Dollar Reload prepare for the next stage of conquest in the glorious madness that is rock 'n' feckin' roll.
And it all started with booze...as singer Phil Conalane explains:
"It all started at a late night drinking session after a show we'd done in Paris. Shooting the breeze and telling lies to each other in the hotel bar led to reminiscing about great live rock albums and recordings - Alice Cooper's live albums, Kiss, Maiden, the G'N'R bootleg at The Marquee amongst others. Alcohol fuelled bravado dictated that we should do one too."
Whether it was an idea that span out of control, or as mentioned above a placeholder for the band this is undoubtedly a slab of fine live music.
The sterility of some acts in the live arena is taken, stamped on and a firm boot delivered to any chance of shiny, happy people in plastic promises with plastic smiles neutering this recording.
Turn this up and you get the shivers that only a great performance can deliver; the shivers that you get when a favourite is given new life and dimensions.
We submit to the court of rock 'n' roll for judgement Broken. From the studio it delivers a superb power ballad, suffused with pathos and bathos before hope emerges like a warm zephyr on a summer evening. Live it grows in stature, the raw nature of the recording tearing every part of the musical and lyrical narrative apart and building it up; a harmonica show casing the blue roots before the chorus and guitar lines surge towards the eventual tale of a life reborn.
Let loose the likes of Tattoos & Dirty Girls, Smoke and Mirrors, and Bullet in the Sky strut across the stereo like Mick Jagger on steroids.
Part of that ambience comes from where and when the band recorded the album; the intimate surroundings of the Diamond Rock Club and as they prepare for their next studio release.
That is not to say that this album is not without flaws. The reference to Sebastian Bach resonates in Northern Ireland, but will not travel well. Also, the closer, a cover of the Cowboy Song (not available on the vinyl release) is stretched and strained even if an honest attempt to give an M$R spin this classic; best to say that this works when sampled with pints on board.]
Overall these points barely dent the excellence of this release; this is Northern Ireland rock delivered from the edge, on the edge, from a band leaping off the precipice and a crowd glorying in hard rockin' delight.
As Real As It Gets is released on December 17th exclusively from the band's website - www.milliondollarreload.com and their Facebook page either on double vinyl with gatefold sleeve, or in CD format.