MY MORNING JACKET: OKONOKOS

By Chris Pacifico

The whole idea of a live album can be a bit tricky for all bands, especially for a great band like the Kentucky boys of My Morning Jacket. Let's face it - out of all the groundbreaking artists of the past 40 years who've cut a live one, about 90 percent of them seem to be sub-par. And no, the live downloaded Phish and .moe bootlegs that you listened to in your college dorm while sucking on a glass Jerome Baker piece don't count. Sure, the concerts at which they were recorded must've been enjoyable for the fans, but it can be very taxing when attempting to capture the essence of what it's like being there as a concertgoer in that exact moment. A double-disc album, Okonokos was recorded last November during a two-night stint at The Fillmore in San Francisco, while touring in support of their latest release Z, which was on many critics' year-end top ten lists. Okonokos exhibits the majestic semblance of MMJ's live shows and proves that they are not a jam band but instead a band that just knows how to jam.

Disc one's opening salvo, the bubbly "Wordless Chorus," warms up the album with front man Jim James' falsetto-laden "ahhhs" and "whooos," then segues into the creaking "It Beats 4 U." The first two tracks sort of taxi the runway for the disc, but it is with the epic "Gideon" that it truly takes off and sounds like James is singing all alone at the peak of a mountain in a deserted land, trying to establish contact when he hits that high note. Any listener who has had the privilege of witnessing a live MMJ show knows that "One Big Holiday" is among their most empowering live numbers and tells the seasoned music aficionado that My Morning Jacket was made for the era of vinyl, when the dual onslaught of guitars from James and guitarist Carl Broemel hits the listener's ears.

Also on the set list is the early Elton John-ish "What a Wonderful Man" with a tad of a baroque tone and "Off the Record," which begins with some rock-steady dub funk before gliding into some ambient martini lounge space pop. Drummer Patrick Hallahan makes his presence felt when "Lay Low" comes around with his thudding and reverberating bass drum tremors before the extended electric guitar overdrive is throttled.

Whereas the first disc showcases MMJ's raw energy, disc 2 exhibits their more somber and bittersweet side. The first two openers are among the band's chilliest and moodiest songs in their catalogue. Its maiden ditty is the eleven-minute crescendo "Dondante" with James' elastic bellowing and a rather mournful saxophone infusion provided by Broemel as Bo Koester's keyboard licks just outright fizz on "Run Thru." It is with this disc's tracks that most of the fans probably had their lighters in the air and became utterly mesmerized. A My Morning Jacket show wouldn't be the same without a hypnotic barn-burner, and they provide one no less than stellar with the upbeat, down-home Kentucky feel of "Dancefloors."

One of the many aspects that can render a live album a turkey is the sonic augmentation given to it post-concert. However, it seems as if mixer Michael Brauer (Paul McCartney, Coldplay) and the album's mastering by veteran Bob Ludwig (Tool, Nirvana) have done with Okonokos what Tom Down did in 1971 for the Allman Brothers on At Fillmore East and what his counterpart Bob Johnston did in 1968 for Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison. He's captured the entire essence of the band's live synergy and the dexterity among the crowd regarding how they connect with the music. With Okonokos My Morning Jacket has established the precise middle-ground that exists between studio album and live album, which always rings true no matter what format you hear them.

JamBase | Louisville
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[Published on: 10/5/06]

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Comments

Shenny starstarstarstarstar Thu 10/5/2006 11:01AM
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Shenny

Perfect review. I was at the 6/12/2004 Bonnaroo show and it changed my life forever. This disk explains to the masses that this band is “magic” live and not another fad.

Buy this disk, if you love it; download the 6/12/04 Bonnaroo show.

Was anyone else there?

Jim James was so good that god played with the band. Anyone who was there knows exactly what I am talking about.

nathanjrod Thu 10/5/2006 11:48AM
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nathanjrod

"And no, the live downloaded Phish and .moe bootlegs that you listened to in your college dorm while sucking on a glass Jerome Baker piece don't count. Sure, the concerts at which they were recorded must've been enjoyable for the fans, but it can be very taxing when attempting to capture the essence of what it's like being there as a concertgoer in that exact moment."

***********

Geez. That kinda came out of nowhere.

I like MMJ and have heard nothing but good things about the new album. I don't think that your lack of appreciation for Phish makes MMJ's release any better.

You kinda lost me at that point.

mcarroll starstarstarstarstar Thu 10/5/2006 02:51PM
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mcarroll

It is not really a comment on Phish or moe.'s music, just the thousands of shitty sounding bootlegs from their concerts recorded onto a minidisc don't exactly qualify as a good live album. This album SOUNDS fantastic. It is everything I expected, given MMJ's usual attention to detail, and I agree that it ranks up there with the classic live albums. I cannot wait for the DVD.

andvon starstarstarstarstar Thu 10/5/2006 03:27PM
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andvon

I saw them at roo 04, it was my second jacket show--the first was with about 50 others at a small club in omaha, ne. The best thing about the jacket is that no matter how many people are in the crowd, they go just as nuts. I'll also be seeing them 2 nights in a row in dallas come november--can't wait!

zachph7 starstar Fri 10/6/2006 08:33AM
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zachph7

"And no, the live downloaded Phish and .moe bootlegs that you listened to in your college dorm while sucking on a glass Jerome Baker piece don't count."

Is the writer of this even out of college, I think after english 101 they would know a line like that really hurts their credability.

Good album for sure, poor review.

FreeHawk starstarstarstar Fri 10/6/2006 09:36AM
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FreeHawk

I was there Shenny, also there for the 'o3 and 'o5 shows.my first impressions of seeing them live was damn this band is like the beach boys and old ronnie van zant era skynyrd if they had a nephew, then the irie echo in J.J.'s voice made them stand out. I hope these guys stay a band thats going to be around for a long,long time. Always get chills when seeinng them live.

mcarroll starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/6/2006 11:07AM
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mcarroll

"Is the writer of this even out of college, I think after english 101 they would know a line like that really hurts their credability."

You may want to work on your spelling and grammar skills before making an "english 101" comment like that.

eck675 starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/6/2006 09:59PM
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eck675

MMJ is for sure one of the best bands around these days, and this disc(s) really captures their live show in a good way. It has a lot of extended jams that gave there songs a little something extra. But if only the DVD would come out sooner. PURE bliss.

theivywall starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/9/2006 09:54AM
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theivywall

"You may want to work on your spelling and grammar skills before making an "english 101" comment like that."

I believe the proper word usage would have been "such as" rather than "like" betwixt "comment" and "that". It should be noted, however, that I derive my grammatical perspective from the Saussurian school of linguistics.

...but HEY, this is know time to squablle and knit-pick over menial matters such as semantic righteousness! Let us celebrate this latest release from this grand Lousivillian band of magic minstrels.

dmbariola Wed 11/8/2006 11:40AM
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dmbariola

shenny, i have not been to bonnaroo but i downloaded the 2005 show from bonnaroos website and it was amazing. the 2004 bonnaroo dvd however is what got me hooked on the band. now im obsessed, im seeing my first live show in knoxville nov. 10th anyone going to that also??