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Muse - H.A.A.R.P CD (album) cover




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4.41 | 96 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Here I am rating this album after only having it for a few days, something I swore I'd never do. Worse, it's a live album, and I've never come across a live album as good as its studio counterpart. So, either the pills are no longer working, or there's something special about this album. I suspect the latter.

I purchased the contents of the double album (one CD, one DVD) from iTunes, and immediately found myself immersed in MUSE's intoxicating mixture of bombastic pop tunes and delicate prog sensibility. This band is the only progressive band currently producing No. 1 albums on the general charts, so whether you think they're any good or not, you ought to pay attention to them: they're influencing the shape of music.

This album serves as a Greatest Hits collection with an emphasis on their most recent album (as with all live shows). But what makes this CD/DVD set special is that in many cases the live versions are dramatically superior to their studio counterparts. This is particularly true of their earlier material, which was less progressive in its arrangement. These songs have been with the band longer, and they have experimented with many of them, pouring extra rhythms and keyboards over them, or giving them extended central breaks with grand piano or sfx to the fore. This brings them into line with their more recent material, much of which is - to my mind - pure prog rock. Highlights are 'Knights of Cydonia' - played as per album - 'Butterflies and Hurricanes' - an extension of the album version - 'New Born' and 'Stockholm Syndrome', both of which are much better than their studio counterparts. However, there isn't a weak song here. BELLAMY is a master of pacing a concert, so we are taken to the brink, then eased down into the depths, only to be raised up again repeatedly. Many of the songs sport new progressive arrangements, and if I've heard the rumours correctly MUSE may produce a full-blown prog album some time soon. Certainly if this live album is any indication they certainly have the chops for it.

I attended a MUSE concert in December 2007 - one of the very best concerts I've ever been to - and I can see why they continue to win awards for their live performances. Their energy, virtuosity and rapport with the fans must be the envy of other bands. This is communicated unequivocally on the DVD, which consists of twenty songs from their two-night performance at Wembley in 2007. After watching this, listening to the CD seems tame by comparison.

I understand that this band is categorised as prog-related, and is not seen as heartland prog. If what is meant by that is intricate symphonic epics or avant-garde experiments, then I concur. But if you want pure bombast, music that spits fire and performances that are always wholehearted and often excellent, this live album ought to be at the top of your shopping list. Track selection is excellent, sound quality is superb, and the video is a true and faithful representation of a night of sonic bliss. I've never enjoyed a live album as much as this - it replaces 'Live at Fillmore East' as my favourite live album.

russellk | 5/5 |


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