Ed Kowalczyk - 'Alive'

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Ed Kowalczyk - 'Alive'

New album by the "thinking man's solo artist”.

Following Kowalczyk’s recent acrimonious split with American megastars Live, ‘Alive’ sees their former singer step out as a solo performer with his first solo release. Firstly the title ‘Alive’ is obviously a thinly veiled slight at his former cohorts, who themselves have seen fit to regroup as The Gracious Few (Dahlheimer, Gacey and Taylor ex-Live plus Kevin Martin and Sean Hennessey of Candlebox). As with all things involving the extremely talented Mr. Kowalczyk, there is a heavy spiritual influence dominating proceedings. So obvious is it, it has often raised the question if Live were in actual fact a Christian band, just clever enough not to be openly tagged for fear of being limited to the secular circuit. On ‘Alive’ Kowalczyk’s writing and performance seem reinvigorated to the point where the eleven songs contained here offer an even fresher insight into what makes the man tick. It’s a personal album to a point, but brims also with thoughts and ideals openly, if not overbearingly proffered to the listener.

Tracks such as opener ‘Drive’, ‘Stand’ and current single ‘Grace’ see Kowalczyk up the ante and rock out freely, perhaps for the first time since ‘V’. ‘Drink’, co-written by Chris Daughtry, has chart stamped all over it, a combination of Daughtry’s ‘Home’ and Live’s ‘Heaven’ semi-balladry with power and panache oozing from every groove. For all Kowalczyk’s previous imagery pertaining to a higher power without actually openly stating it, perhaps with his new sense of liberation comes a new freedom to finally acknowledge his Christian stance as it is undeniable on tracks such as ‘Zion’, ‘In Your Light’ and ‘Just In Time’, all of which will have Live fans of old slavering and drooling uncontrollably with sublime melodies intertwined with jangling guitars, above which Kowalczyk soars and dips dragging the listener with him on an emotional rollercoaster of love, promise and hope. Closer ‘Fire On The Mountain’, and loathe as I am to say this, is ‘Lightning Crashes’ revisited just with a little more balls, with Kowalczyk’s thoughtful imagery once again playing tricks with the listeners perception of exactly what he is telling you. In fact it’s more a case of what the listener wants to draw from it, such are the various meanings and translations that can be drawn from it.

If Live indeed are no more, Kowalczyk still carries the flame for the ‘post grunge alternative’ favourites on a new journey not a million miles removed from what he has done for the past 20 years. If everything you read is to be believed, his request for $100,000 lead singer ‘bonus’ to play Pink Pop in Holland at the tail end of Live’s career was cheeky in the extreme, but personally if I were the promoter I would have considered it value for money, such is the quality and emotion that emits from Kowalczyk’s voice that few today can take you on a journey and make you feel happy, sad, hopeful, thoughtful, regretful and optimistic all in under 50 minutes.

I shy away from calling it a masterpiece, but it is no doubt one of the standout albums of the year that deserves to heard, not only for the power of the songs, but for what it might awaken in you. If Queensryche were once referred to as "thinking man's metal" then there can be no doubt that Kowalczyk is the "thinking man's solo artist”.

Kieran Dargan

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