"Don't Say No Just Say You Don't Know"

Kim Kirkpatrick: For most of my life I have been able to quickly "get it" with music. I could trust my judgement, and my initial reactions would hold true for me, even years later. I am referring to both an intuitive understanding of the music, and a spot on, immediate decision as to it's importance for me. Well, such things have changed as I have gotten older -- listening to music has become complicated.

My aging has increased the likelihood of rejecting new music; I mean honestly, I have heard a lot of it before. I am aware of my hair trigger rejection tendency and do my best to control it, but I can still swiftly and confidently confirm that I flat out hate something. I also still have immediate, blissful connections with some new music. What has changed with age is the increasing number of CDs and bands that I am not definite about, I can't commit too them or dismiss them easily. Music for me these days requires more of my time and effort to decipher on a personal level. If the music raises questions in me, has possible uniqueness within it, or shows a refinement (within a genre), then it deserves more of my time. At such a point I commit to the musical mystery, the undefinable pull of the music. I focus on the possibilities of the music, determined that further exploration will take precedence over that aging, close minded, "heard it before" guy creeping up within me.

I have experienced all of the above big time with Built To Spill -- it has been an extended battle that dragged out over 6-7 years. I started out viewing them as yet another quirky, clever band, with jerking melodies and a thin, brittle sound. My opinion to pass on them was also based on their cover art, the spotty material, and the irritating, up front vocals of Doug Martsch.The circle of friends around me who liked the band, who wanted me to hear and like them were all in their early twenties. Granted, they were open minded musically, we had made musical connections across decades, but the fan base's age bracket didn't help Built To Spill's case with me. I didn't fully dismiss the band, I hung onto a mixed CDR a friend gave me, his favorites across a few years of Built To Spill's discography.

Then in 2000 Built To Spill released LIVE, which had a twenty minute version of Neil Young's "Cortez The Killer". Now I have always been deeply into Neil Young, at the time I was busily scarfing up live material by him from around the world. Plus, "Cortez The Killer" was particularly close to my heart, almost a religious experience for me, especially a few times (not all) I saw Neil Young perform it. I had heard Built To Spill were "great" live and now they'd performed a 20 minute version of "Cortez The Killer". So, in spite of my general dislike of live recordings and my overall struggles with the band I bought the CD to find out what Built To Spill was up to (I kind of liked the cover too).

"Cortez The Killer" on LIVE absolutely stunned me, a performance I would never have believed possible by anyone other than Neil Young. Built To Spill's version carries all the power and beauty of any live Neil Young and Crazy Horse performance I have heard. Martsch's playing searches and explores the song's ethereal, timeless zone, using all of his considerable guitar skills and effects to reach the essence of the song's powerful beauty and emotion. Martsch creates the transcendent experience of "Cortez The Killer"; I had tears welling up in my eyes because of his playing, because of his feeling for the song's sad and lonely tale.

The insert for LIVE informs you Doug Martsch is on vocals and right guitar, Jim Roth on left guitar, with various other guitar work by Brett Netson. The left and right guitar separation is great for focusing on one or the other guitarist, plus it helps the listener experience the musician's interactions, and musical conversation. This recording is guitar heaven, thick with electricity, technique, effects, dynamics, and all of it serving the songs. The guitar playing is never in excess, and no one guitarist is mixed louder then another, even when soloing. LIVE is dense but has clarity, and all the musicians can be equally heard or isolated while listening to these recordings (the bass player and drummer are also worthy of your focused attention). LIVE is a combination of different performances but you'd never know it from listening. The selection and sequencing of the songs is flawless in pace and content, making Built To Spill's LIVE a complete and satisfying concert experience.

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