As you know if you visit my site, one of my favorite bands is Needtobreathe. I have everything they have put out on vinyl and now I am going after everything they have released on CD (that they don’t have on vinyl). And the CDs I want the most are the exclusive fan club CDs they release each year.
If you join the Needtobreathe Insiders fan club (for $70 a year), you get a Live CD of tracks collected from the band’s live performances. (among other things such as a Needtobreathe Mug, a key chain and a free live track download ever month – that is 12 more songs or maybe the same tracks that will be on the CD, not sure yet on that). Needtobreathe actually records every show they put on so they have a ton of tunes to choose from. They have released 6 volumes and number 7 will be coming in December which I will get as I have now joined the club. I had never joined prior so getting my hands on these has not been easy as it is not cheap. I am looking for the right price and most of the time it is too high. I finally grabbed my first one at a price less than the membership fee which was Insiders LP Vol. 2 and now I got one even cheaper which is this release Vol. 5. Sorry we aren’t going in order, but we are going in order of when I receive them.
Who is Needtobreathe you may ask and I will tell you. Needtobreathe is a rock band from South Carolina who mixes rock, folk, southern rock, country and whatever else they like all with a great message or story to tell. Currently the band is…
- Bear Rinehart – lead vocals, guitar
- Josh Lovelace – Hammond Organ, piano
- Seth Bolt – bass, mandolin, percussion
Most of these recordings would’ve had Bo Rinehart who has recently left the band and touring drummer, Randall Harris, or former drummer Joe Stillwell.
This set is a collection of 14 live tracks from shows around the U.S. and Canada and let me tell you it is another fantastic Insider CD. The band spends some time with these and the production quality is amazing. They put as much time in to them as they would a normal studio album or live album release to the general public. The mix is done so the songs blend in with each other perfectly and it feels like a complete show although they are from different shows, different years and different band members in some cases.
The album kicks off with one of the best B-Sides they’ve ever done called “Cops”. This is one of the band’s most rocking tracks and the live version lives up to the greatness of the original version. I don’t know if the album could kick off with a better song. The next track up is a song from the debut album called “Quit” and although it is still a great live track, it does lack a little punch vocally of the original. Bear seems to be going easy. The band is completely re-energized with the next track “Girl Named Tennessee”. This is another high energy song and the band truly delivers as they are going all out for this one. The second half of the song transitions to a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and damn, the guys slay it. This would be a highlight of the whole disc for me right here.
The next track was written by Bo called “Haley” and it sounds like for his grandmother who was in attendance to see her grandsons play. Apparently she lied that she was 90 to get a good seat. The piano opening is simply beautiful and is really one of their best ballads. The band then goes in to the song “Prisoner” which oddly enough I don’t care for the studio version as I think the live versions are always better and no different here. A great rocking track and with a heavy drum beat and an overall killer sound. Then we get to the 2nd and final cover song on this release called “When the Levee Breaks”. You might know that song. It was originally done by this little band called Led Zeppelin, but they never amounted to much! (Ha!!!). Did they do the song justice? Yeah…they did a really decent job and they had a guest vocalist on the song named Matthew Mayfield who I believe was touring with them at the time. They turned the song in to a Needtobreathe sounding song and another rocked out track.
The next couple of songs, “Nothing Left to Lose” and “Signature of Divine” are great interpretations of the songs with nothing new added, but still solid tracks. Then you get to “Hard Love” and it really gets you moving from the opening keyboards to the whole Pop vibe, it’s catchy chorus and Bear’s vocals. “Something Beautiful” is listed as an alt version which is weird as it is a live version and live songs in their very nature are alternate versions. I think it is because they really did change it up in style and added a lot of harmony background vocals. It is nice, but I don’t know if I like it any better than the original, but I will take alt versions all day long.
The mandolin opening of “Won’t Turn Back” takes you back to their country roots and the lead on it sounds like Bo and not Bear (I know it aint’ Bear) which is cool he gets a song to sing as he doesn’t on the albums. This is a nice treat. “Rise Again” is mostly acoustic track with some nice guitar picking and then we get another acoustic track with “More Heart, Less Attack” and these two tracks back-to-back harken back to their acoustic live album which is something special to hear. The last song on the album is a piano version of the song “Be Here Long” which Bear wrote about his son. It is a touching and truthful song as we aren’t here for long so we need to grabbed hold to every minute we are here.
I will tell you right now, there is no score going to be given for this as this is something I can’t remove my bias from, but let me tell you it is utterly amazing and why I am trying hard to get these special releases by the band. And as I was writing this, another one came up for sale on eBay at the right price so I will guess you will read that review soon. That will give me 3 plus the 2020 version that I should get in December or January will be 4. Only 3 more to find! All I can say is, if you are a fan of Needtobreathe, these are must haves and let me tell you the band knows what their fans want and they deliver it!