For Live's new album, The Distance to Here (Oct. 5), the emotive rockers are returning to the straightforward, anthemic sound of their earlier albums, according to singer Ed Kowalczyk.
The adjustment comes in the wake of slower sales and lukewarm critical response to 1997's experimental Secret Samadhi.
"We really worked hard to bring out the innocence of our first record on this album," Kowalczyk said at Woodstock '99. "To me, it's like we've just given birth."
The album's first single, the stark, minimalist power ballad "The Dolphin's Cry," already is receiving extensive radio play, charting in the top five on the Rock, Alternative and Active Rock charts of Radio & Records.
"That's really good for a song that's only been on the charts for five weeks," Cyndee Maxwell, the magazine's rock editor, said. "This is one that stations just jumped on."
Other tracks include "Run to the Water," "Sparkle," "Facing Ghosts" and "Dance With You."
San Francisco station Live 105 (KITS-FM) reports the dark, driving single has been in their top-10 request list for three weeks.
Tony Rivera, a sales manager for Tower Records in San Francisco, says his store has ordered a healthy but not overly optimistic 300 copies of the new album. Asked how he expected Distance to sell, Rivera was cautious: "[Three hundred copies is] a pretty nice start, but we just have to wait and see how it does."
Live have again employed Talking Heads guitarist Jerry Harrison as producer. He produced Live's debut, Mental Jewelry (1991), and the band's most successful effort, Throwing Copper (1994).
The York, Pa., band began in the early '80s with middle-school friends Chad Taylor (guitar), Patrick Dahlheimer (bass) and Chad Gracey (drums) playing under a series of different band names. Vocalist Kowalczyk joined later, and they began playing as Live in 1988.
Mental Jewelry was based on the writings of Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti. With the success of Throwing Copper and the singles "Lightning Crashes" and "Selling the Drama," Live cemented their position in the top echelon of alternative-rock playlists.
"So much changed in our lives after Throwing Copper, I think ... Live was becoming comfortable and happy being a big band," Kowalczyk said. "We're a totally different band than the band that played in '94, but we've retained our love and our passion as much as we had back then. So I think that people will be pleasantly surprised with our growth."
Regarding the new album, Kowalczyk said, "It's happy, but it's still intense. ... It just comes from our experience over the last four or five years, and how we feel. Like we've really come full circle. As a band, we're still just as strong as friends as ever.
"I'm happy," Kowalczyk continued, "but I'm intense about bringing a message of peace and love and understanding to a generation dominated by a nihilistic, 'dust-in-the-wind with-the-Internet-in-our-back-pocket' attitude about life. I think it's time to change that and to bring about more of that expansion consciousness in the lyrics of our music, but then I'm welcoming anything that comes along."