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Heard It All Before: Live at the Hifi Bar
Artist: Clutch 
Label: Issachar Entertainment 
Length: 29 tracks / 150:06 min 

Heard It All Before is a welcome album in that is the first live album to cover material from Clutch's last two albums, which, along with Blast Tyrant, are not only easily their strongest to date but are three of the best albums released by any band so far this century.  You heard that right.

It also opens with several songs by The Bakerton Group, Clutch's blues-jazz side-project that sounds, at times, like everything from the Edgar Winter Group to the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and really gives the band a chance to show off the evolution of their musical chops.

The live versions of "You Can't Stop Progress" and "Power Player"? from 2007's From Beale Street to Oblivion are everything one could hope for, capturing all of the hard rocking intensity and craziness of a live Clutch performance.  Also welcome are "10001110101," "Profits of Doom," and "Burning Beard," which were surprisingly absent from the band's set during its 2007 US tour (at least they didn't play them at the concert I attended).

One downside to a two-and-a-half hour, double-disc live album is that the band plays songs from its entire catalog.  As great as its last few albums are, some of its earlier work (e.g. Transnational Speedway League) is simply unlistenable—cookie-cutter punk metall with a lot of yelling.  As they gradually began incorporating bluesy hooks and Neil Fallon actually began singing in addition to his trademark preach-screaming, they turned into something really special.  You get the unadulterated dose of the new Clutch in their more recent studio work, but Heard It All Before throws too many bones to their old fans.

Another downside is that Fallon loses his voice early in the second set.  This problem is exaggerated further by the fact that the vocals are a little too high in the mix to begin with.  But at its current low price of $10 (available through the band's web site), Heard It All Before is certainly worth buying even for the first disc alone.  

Dan Singleton 
March 26, 2008 


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