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“Live” – Jake Shimabukuro (Review)

Jake Shimabukuro’s new “Live” album has just become my one of my favorites. It is well known that Jake puts on a heck of a show, and that feeling was captured very well on this CD. The 17 songs presented on this album were recorded in different venues from Japan to New York by a very talented crew. The quality of sound that was coaxed from a Fishman Matrix pickup blew me away. You might think that for doing a live album Jake would have chosen to use a mic, but you can hear the nuances of the pickup in every song – well done!

It’s fun to listen to this album and hear the different reactions between the Japan and mainland audiences. In Japan everyone waits for at least five seconds to make sure the song is over and then “clap, clap, clap…”. On the mainland in cities like Chicago and New York he barely stops playing and the place goes crazy.

There are four new original songs on this album: Trapped, Piano-Forte, Five Dollars Unleaded, and Yeah.

  • Trapped is probably the best sounding track on the album. Jake really cycles through the tones on this song. It has a jazzy Latin feel – the perfect way to set up the rest of the album.
  • Piano-Forte is a take on the soft classical feel. Check out Dominator’s version – he did a very nice job on it.
  • Five Dollars Unleaded is probably my favorite new Jake tune. The repetitive verses lead up to one of coolest bridges I’ve heard.
  • The crazy intro on Yeah is fun because you can barely tell where the beats are hiding. This is really a fairly smooth song. I would have thought that with a title like “Yeah” a huge strum fest like Crazy G was awaiting, but no. There is plenty of strumming, but Jake keeps his ’ukulele under control.

While those new songs are exciting, this album has plenty to offer in the way of new arrangements to keep the old songs fresh.

  • Orange World is one of my favorite Jake tunes and I really like the muted/banjo sounding verses and almost comic fills that were added. The fast strumming outro seamlessly blends into Wes On Four. In
  • Sakura Sakura the fear of silence was taken on. I was very impressed at how well Jake handled all of the spaces and kept the crowd quiet during the whole performance.

In press releases it was said that this new version of Gently Weeps could be Jake’s best. While it was a lovely performance, I still think that the Youtube version holds the crown – that was a special place in time.

An interesting addition to this album were the “Talk Story” segments. There were only three “Talk Stories”, and at 12, 30, and 61 second lengths it wasn’t enough. Cool idea, but I want to hear more next time.

All in all this is a phenomenal album, Jake‘s best yet. The ‘ukulele virtuoso chose a great selection of his best live material. But the sound! Man, the sound quality is just awesome – the best part for me.

5 stars