My Morning Jacket - Okonokos
Like the recent Wilco live album, Kicking Television, so to does Okonokos find a band in transition. A band at the top of their game live, but a band that is trying to shake off their original image and re-establish themselves as something more... With the greatest of ease, My Morning Jacket has achieved that with this collection.
From their reverb heavy and country influenced beginnings, MMJ have developed their sound with each successive release with the main man Jim James becoming a heavily sought-after collaborator and highly rated songwriter. Each new album finds the reverb being toned down but their music direction and influences getting bigger and more grandiose. Recent album Z saw them spin off in funky, keyboard driven directions that not even their longest serving fans could have foreseen.
Which brings us to Okonokos, recorded during their last set of live dates they won't tell us which gig this is as they wanted to make it mysterious, but it doesn't matter WHEN this was recorded, it's just amazing that it actually WAS. Every song on this double-disc collection breathes with an amazing fire and energy that I can only imagine a MMJ concert to be like (I've had tickets to see them twice but they've cancelled each time). It brims with James' vocal dynamics from his high pitched yowl to his low rumbling grumble whilst singing their grand and moving lyrics. Versions of Dondante, Gideon and It Beats For You are augmented versions of the originals, the added atmosphere allows them to breath in a manner you never thought possible.
The songs here are how MMJ sound now - there's little or no reverb on the vocals and the overly country-tinged musicality of their songs has almost disappeared. This is how a proper rock n roll band should sound: loud and proud. Run Thru sounds like a distant relative to the original recorded version, the drums thump and crash along whilst the guitars chime and force the feedback tinged chords back through a hazy atmosphere of electricity. They don't hide behind anything, the guitar solos standout especially as rapturous, eloquent noise that, with Neil Young mellowing with age, may well surpass his legendary fuzz-rock solos.
This album is an amazing listen and an incredible live document for a band that are finding influence, skill and music so moving and impressive that you long for them to go on and on. Like any good concert, once the band have finished they leave you wanting more.