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Formed seventeen years ago, it's quite remarkable that 'Live & Inspired' is Godsmack's first ever live album. And it's something they've sat on for a while as the recording is from a 2007 performance at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, thus their setlist only includes material up to the band's fourth studio album, 'IV'. I gather they originally recorded every show on their 2007 tour but when they eventually decided to release a live CD and listened to each of the recordings, they were blown away by the energy and flawlessness of the Detroit performance so what we actually have here is exactly as it went down that night. That means it's something of a rarity amongst live recordings as there's not one overdub - well, certainly a rarity for a show in its entirety to maintain such impeccability. As such, 'Live & Inspired' is as sincere a sounding live record as you'll ever hear and Godsmack's reputation for high energy performances translates well into just an audio format as their songs have a greater aural dynamism in these live versions than their studio counterparts.

Produced by the band and mixed by Dave Fortman (Evanescence, Slipknot, Anthrax), each and every song sounds rather fantastic with a well balanced, resonantly live vibe in the sonics and just enough crowd noise brought into the mix to provide an aura of live authenticity but without detracting from the music or marring the listening experience. And the presence of audience noise is evidently an important decision for Godsmack as the opening text in the CD booklet reads as a eulogy to their fans with full acknowledgement of the importance of their support over the years. And if you needed more proof of this unpretentious band/fan relationship then four pages in the booklet are filled with nothing but pictures of Godsmack members with random fans, and another two showcasing people's Godsmack-related body art in a plethora of photos.

Quite frankly, I'd recommend this release for just the live album itself but there's also the inclusion of a rather nice four track EP of covers. Even here the band claim fan motivation rather than a self-indulgent exercise of idol imitation. The inclusion of these cover versions (studio recordings, by the way, not live) are to illustrate that Godsmack themselves are fans so wanted to pay tribute to some of the bands and musicians who've inspired them (hence the 'Live & Inspired' title of this release?). Joe Walsh's 'Rocky Mountain Way' and The Beatles' 'Come Together' are solid, likeable versions but then we have their tribute to the mighty Pink Floyd in the form of 'Time'. A version that's surprisingly faithful to the original (despite truncating the intro and rocking it out from the off), it's actually one of the best Floyd covers I've heard in years. The guitars sound a little heavier than Dave Gilmour's but, nonetheless, they nail it. The fourth and final track on the EP is Godsmack's take on Metallica's 'Nothing Else Matters' which has been completely rearranged for piano/keyboards in a stripped-down version albeit Sully Erna has somehow managed to inject the song with even more emotional depth on a piece that's already inherently rich with compositional affection.

All in all, 'Live & Inspired' is an essential purchase for the established Godsmack fan and it even provides a good starting point in checking out the American alt-metallers for newcomers to the band. A snapshot of Sully and co. at their live best together with the bonus of four solid covers, two of which are mightily impressive, 'Live & Inspired' fills the gap nicely before Godsmack's next studio album (which, I guess, is one of the purposes of most live albums anyway).
Armoury Records
Album (+ EP)
Review by Mark Holmes
88:56 (Album + EP)
28th May 2012
MAIN CD: 1) Straight Outta Line; 2) Realign; 3) Awake; 4) Moon Baby; 5) Changes; 6) The Enemy; 7) Keep Away; 8) Speak; 9) Voodoo; 10) Batalla De Los Tambores; 11) Whatever; 12) Serenity; 13) I Stand Alone

BONUS EP: 1) Rocky Mountain Way; 2) Come Together; 3) Time; 4) Nothing Else Matters
"...a well balanced, resonantly live vibe in the sonics and just enough crowd noise brought into the mix to provide an aura of live authenticity but without detracting from the music or marring the listening experience."